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Spring is Here, Are You Ready?

0 Spring Cycling Tips

It is hard to believe that we are in the last week of April and May is knocking on our door. I don’t know about you, but other than #30daysofbiking I haven’t done much in off-season pedaling to be ready for the long miles this season. In order to stir up some internal motivation, here are some tips to jump start your spring cycling.

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Tips to Get You Rolling After a Long Winter

12 Get Ready for Spring Cycling

It is currently mid-March in Colorado and the weatherman is giving us more good days than not. I don’t know about you, but  I’m itching to get back into a rhythm of riding. What that really means is I’m trying to build back up the confidence of being on a roll and feeling the comfort of routine.

Sorting out the kinks after a long winter can be a challenge, but don’t let it trip you up or keep you from being excited about blue skies and two wheels! Here are the tips I’m taking over the next week to be ready for spring and many of miles with my bike before the weather is picture perfect.

1.) Get your bike ready

This could be a full service tune up or simply pumping up the tires, lubing the chain and giving it a once over. Either way, get your bike ready for that next warm day!

2.) Get yourself ready

This weekend an action item on my to-do list is to sort out my bike clothing. This includes being ready for some not so perfect days, but knowing where my gloves, shoe covers and possibly rain jacket is. That way I’m not searching for my left glove 15 minutes before my group ride is supposed to leave!

3.) Short trips are better than no trips

If you need motivation, ride to the coffee shop or friends house. Your first rides back on the bike don’t need to be epic, they need to be easy and familiar.

4.) Motivate yourself

Maybe you need a new gadget for your bike, or maybe you need to outline your cycling goals. Either way, put a carrot in front of yourself and bring on the motivation!

5.) Do it

Seriously, just get on your bike. You’ll thank me later.

Go Fartlek

2 Fartlek Cyclocross

Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training. The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. It differs from traditional interval training in that it is unstructured; intensity and/or speed varies, as the athlete wishes. (Source: Wikipedia)

The art of exploring is why I fell in love with biking some 18 years ago. The ability to just go find new places and adventures on my bike without the demands of school, sports practice or home life. It was a great escape and something I think we all forget as we grow up.

This past Monday when Emily and I got back from our weekend in the mountains I hopped on my bike and went for a fartlek, or Fartlick as my iPhone calls it. The goal was to blend in different speeds, try new routes and see how my knee felt on the single speed. The result was great, I enjoyed myself and found new trails near my house. An elevated my heart rate also showed me that my knee isn’t ready for the single speed just yet.

Do you implement fartleks in your training or weekly rides? What do you find?

I find new places to take photos, time to beat up on the pedals and needed bike time without a Garmin or HRM. During big training blocks I often find my best power over time results as I’m just getting in a groove with out focusing on the Garmin.

Now, go fartlek. Take a friend if you can!

Photo Disclaimer: I lost my bar ends on the ride, they will be replaced ASAP!

4 Tips for a Successful Family Bike Ride

7 Family Bike Ride

What do you think of when you envision riding with your entire family? The dream is that you will all be in a state of family bliss, riding along together at the same pace, wind at your back, kids smiling, and lots of family bonding.

The reality is that while that can happen, you need to plan and work at it. And don’t be discouraged when the first (or two or three) rides seem overly rough. As you all fall into a routine it will get easier and it will be fun.

Assuming you are already an avid rider I’ll spare you the most basic of bike riding tips. But here are four things to consider before you set out with the entire family.

Do the Prep Work

If you are an avid cyclist you are probably good about maintaining your bike. But don’t forget the kid’s bikes or trailer. Basics include proper tire pressure, functioning brakes, and a lubed chain.

You also need to prepare snacks, possibly toys or books for a trailer ride, baby wipes, drinks, and more snacks. Don’t underestimate the power of snacks on a bike ride. And a bike ride might just be the perfect time to allow a treat if the going gets tough. I swear by energy chews like Honey Stinger or Clif Bloks for both fuel and mental incentive when my son needs extra motivation.

And check their helmet for fit and safety. Don’t be one of those parents with a $200 perfectly fit and adjusted helmet while your child has a cut up foam mess – half hanging off his head.

Alyssa, a mom, and cyclist from Salt Lake City swears by helmets with visors. “I cannot tell how many skinned chins, skinned faces, and skinned noses we have bypassed by that silly visor taking the fall.”

Take the Proper Gear

Trailer and kids bikes can (and will) break down during rides. Be prepared to fix not only your bike and theirs. If you are not 100% comfortable with emergency bike repairs, bring the gear so someone can help you. In addition, bring along some step-by-step instructions so you can walk yourself through a repair if nobody is around. Check out Hero Kits for an affordable all in one tool and instruction kit.

Tip: If you don’t have a small tube for your kid’s bike you can use your full size tube in a pinch. On a recent ride my son forgot his 24 inch tube and got a flat. I used my 29 inch tube. It got us through our ride and back to the car.

Adjust your Attitude

Family Bike RideNancy Sathre-Vogel biked from Alaska to Argentina with her two boys so she knows a lot about family bike rides. Her #1 tip is to never doubt your child. And it’s true that they are often capable of so much more than we think or give them credit for. I have often thought a ride was too long or too hard for my son only to have him breeze through it and want to go farther. Of course the other side is not doubting her when she says she is too tired or not in the mood. Try to leave your goals and plans on the back burner and listen to your kids. (Insert bridge.jpeg in this section)

Think about the Destination

For adults a ride may be about the journey and exercise but for kids it’s often about the destination. Tanya who writes a family blog called Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies says, “riding for the sake of riding may work for some kids but for others, riding to a playground, a duck pond, a big bridge, or even ice-cream shop just might be the incentive they need.”

Personally, our most enjoyable and memorable rides have been to a destination. Pick somewhere they love and the ride will become part of that enjoyment.

Family Bike Ride

Image Credit: Tanya Koob

So what are you waiting for? Okay, maybe for the snow to melt depending on where you live. But why not start to plan your next cycling adventure as a family.

Jen Charrette is a blogger at Velo Mom where she discusses family cycling, wellness, training and racing.

Bicycle Practice

19 Bicycle Practice

As humans grow older it is easy to forget that we aren’t perfect at everything and we must try new things, or practice old ones, to continue to grow. Cycling adults know this to a certain point. If you aren’t good at climbing, go find a hill. If you are trying clip in pedals for the first time, practice on the trainer first.

The apparent things, that are new or rusty, are easy to practice. The learning curve is quick and you see improvement which keeps you motivated. There are other things such as flat fixing, group ride etiquette, or eating healthy, that come slowly or aren’t practiced at all until you are in the moment.

We don’t think of eating healthy as something you practice. You’re either doing it, or you are failing. You practice fixing a flat when you have a flat. The only time you ride in a group is on the Saturday morning anger-fest, and you are doing everything you can to hang on.

I encourage you to take this new month and practice a bit more

Practice is how I’m viewing my first few cyclocross races, and I will be putting in my schedule to practice cyclocross specific drills one day during the week (outside of racing) through ‘cross season.

Find a couple friends that you trust and practice pace lines on a friendly stretch of road. Ask your friend that is a billy goat on climbs to take one ride a month to help make you a better rider, in return if you are a better mechanic or descender – you pass on your skills.

What skills on a bike, or in life, could you practice a little more?

For me it’s climbing, cooking and patience. All three are things I plan on practicing a good amount this month. Hopefully the practice becomes habit and next month I can practice something different, or take these three things to a higher level.

3 Women’s Saddle Recommendations

24 Saddle Recommendation Header

The question of “What is your favorite saddle?” is a very popular question in tweets, emails and in shop conversation. It is also probably one of the most user specific question around bike fit. My bits are not built like your bits, my seat bones are not the same width as your seat bones but I can give some generic feedback of my “go-to” saddles for women.

Pro advice: Make sure you check your saddle measurements prior to swapping out any of these seats! This includes height, and the distance of where your sit bones are most comfortable on the seat to the handlebars. Every seat will be different but these are good x/y starting points to measure off!

The Most Popular Women’s Saddles I Recommend

 

Fizik Vesta

Fizik Vesta

 

If you don’t know where to start with a new seat, start with this one.

When swapping out bike seat during a women’s bike fit this is normally the first seat I try. The channel through the middle section allows some relief on your girly parts and the wider sit bone area on the back of the seat keeps you well supported. This saddle was once on 100% of my bikes but as my handlebars went lower I had to switch to something with a flatter front to back profile and not a drop in the middle.

Tip: Make sure the area where your sit bones hit is level!

 

 

Specialized Ruby Pro

 

 

Specialized Ruby Pro

If your handlebar is lower than your saddle height than try out the Specialized Ruby. The relatively flat back area of the saddle and flexy middle section allow for a leaned over position. This saddle doesn’t have a ton of padding some if you are relatively upright it may be a bit too tough for your sit bones.

Tip: This saddle does come in different widths, so make sure to get your butt properly sized!

WTB Deva

WTB Deva

This seat is a bit narrow so if you are on a super upright hybrid or mountain bike the saddle may not support you properly. Saying that, this saddle has been a goto for cyclocross season for many years due gel inserts in the firm and pretty flat surface.

Tip: This saddle is not as tall as many others. You may need to move your seat up significantly.

(Yes, I like white saddles. It always makes a bike look faster in my humble opinion!)

Bicycle Shopping: The Three Common Styles of Bicycles

16 Bicycle Categories

So you are in the market for a new bike, but you don’t know where to start? You aren’t alone!

When customers walk in to my bike shop starting their hunt for a new bike one of the most important things I ask is this: “where do you want your bike to take you?” In upcoming articles I will help you answer that question and continue to empower you in cycling. Today’s article is focused on breaking down the three most common styles of bikes and what their most broad use is. These styles or categories are: Road, Mountain, and Hybrid.

When I quickly count on my fingers the different styles of bikes that most good bike shops carry, I come up with 14 (I promise I only have 12 fingers). 14 categories of bicycles to confuse you, overwhelm you and lead you down different avenues, maybe even putting you on the wrong category so that you never ride that new bike hanging in your garage. These 14 categories don’t even include the different kinds of mountain bike wheel sizes, fat bikes, or thoughts of road bikes.

Today, we’ll be using wide strokes to paint a picture of bicycle types that can be helpful as you start your hunt for a new bike.

Road Bikes

Trek Road Bike

These bikes have round, drop, handlebars. If you haven’t been on or near a bicycle in a while then you may refer to these as a “10-speed.” They are efficient,  fast, and tend to have a more leaned over and “aggressive” feel (but not uncomfortable.) They are meant to be comfortable for the long ride, and have many different sub-categories for different uses. Triathlons, gravel races, bike touring, and so many more things can be under this category. A solid road bike that doesn’t have parts you will be replacing within the first season of heavy riding normally starts around the $1000 range.

Mountain Bikes

Mountain Bike

These are widely popular as they are the all terrain vehicle of bikes. Knobby, fat, tires that allow you to roll over things and go on various terrain. Most kids start off on these, and they can be found in many department stores so they are often the “gateway drug” to bikes. Your everyday bicycle shop mountain bike is between $350-650. Anything under $500-650 is probably not meant to go truly mountain biking, but instead plays the part for when you go down dirt paths, gravel and off pavement. A sturdy “single track worthy” mountain bike normally starts around $800.

Hybrid Bikes

Hybrid Bicycle

Though I’m a pretty performance oriented cyclist, the hybrid is my favorite category of bikes. This category is what will get folks out of the gym, off the treadmill or better yet, off the couch! The hybrid is decently efficient on the road, but normally has an inverted tread to allow for some sand and hard packed gravel riding. The fit is a bit more upright, feeling more comfortable to the rider going <2 hours. While there are extreme hybrids costing $2k with disc brakes, carbon forks and features similar to a road bike, rather these bikes normally start around $350-500 for a nice sturdy, comfortable bike with parts that will last. The hybrid is a bike that any cyclist should have in their garage for grocery getting, bar hopping and greenway cruising. There is a chance you’ll grow out of this bike when you decide you want to go further on the road, or hit more aggressive mountain bike trails. That is okay, the hybrid will always have a place in your collection.

Ladies Night, a Guest Post

12 Michelle beer handups

I belong to a newborn bike team that was formed by a popular LBS as a way to bring more cyclists into the sport. I’m one of three women on the co-ed team and, through sheer terror that I will lose any fitness and no longer be able to keep up, I’m the most consistent woman on the group rides in town.

It’s certainly not because I’m the fastest. Not even by a long shot. I’m a forty-two year old mother of teenagers that only started riding anything more than a commuter bike in 2010. I believe in cycling for transportation and for health. I think cyclocross is the greatest sport ever invented and, someday, I hope not to crash my mountain bike every time I get on it. In other words, I’m just an average chick that likes to ride a bike. Yet I can’t seem to convince many other average chicks to join me out there.

I think it has to do with the fact that it’s intimidating to be a woman in a group of very fit guys. And when I say very fit guys, I’m talking about the fastest cyclists in our community. Nice guys, but very fast. Most of the group rides we do have a “catch-up” segment that allows the group to re-form before moving on down the road. I’m usually the last one in, or next to last if I’m having a good week, and often a few of the guys will swing around to accompany me to the end. This is what keeps me going. I love these guys and, though I hold things up, they always encourage me. Still, I will do just about anything to not have to be the one to ask them to dial it back a bit.

And they are guys. Though we may all keep a Lady Schick in the shower, cycling is a very testosterone oriented sport. With the one-up-manship, crude language and large amount of spitting, it’s hard to convince a girl friend that pedaling a bike for two straight hours in a harrowing pace line is sane, let alone fun.

I think women have a place here though. All of these guys have wives or girlfriends that only want a bit of encouragement to get them regularly riding. There are plenty of women in the LBS glancing at the zippy new road bikes, but talking themselves out of it because they have no one to ride with. Well, dammit, I’m going to do something about this. I’ve learned from the best how to be encouraging and supportive and it’s time I pay it forward.

March 2013 will see the start of a new Weekly Women’s Ride in our community that is fun, inclusive, and all female. No intimidation to keep up with the guys, no worries about how those funny shorts look, and no spitting. We will ride for the sheer joy of the wind in our faces and for the happy-hour margaritas we will consume when we’re done.

But I’m not done with the guys. As the year progresses, maybe I can convince one or two of the women to tackle the Thursday night group ride with me. Then, a few weeks later, maybe someone will try Tuesday Night Worlds. If I’m really successful, there will be a group of women enjoying cyclocross with me in September. The crowning achievement, however, would happen when another woman and I get on the front of the November gravel ride and we hear a masculine gasp from the back say “Can you gals slow it down a bit?”

Michelle Windmoeller Michelle Windmoeller first learned to ride in 1977 on a used gold chopper-style bike with a wicked banana seat. Since then she has toted schoolbooks, kids, household furniture, and, literally, a commercial kitchen sink on her bike. Based in Columbia, MO, Michelle owns Blue Cypress Solutions and writes about health and wellness issues. She officially invites you all to join her for a long, leisurely ride in Missouri sometime. She’ll bring the PBR. Photo Credit: Kate Woodard