Empowering women in cycling

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A Carbon 29er for Women from Specialized

2 2012 Specialized Fate Womens 29er

2012 Specialized Fate Womens 29erIn the past year 29ers finally hit the women’s niche of the market.  Locally I have only been able to put my hands on the Trek versions of the women’s 29ers.  After the test ride and looking deeper at the geometry I wasn’t sold. The bike didn’t ride well, but that was one brand trying their hand at the women’s 29ers. Specialized has had their own cross country recreational women’s 29er line out as well, the Myka. The line has several different models, from 26 to 29, including two different levels of the 29er hardtail.  Now, Specialized wasn’t the first company to the original 29er market – they were actually very slow about the movement. They must really love the bikes, and what 29ers can do for women (I Told You So) as they have released a couple new lines of 29ers for women, including a carbon hardtail.

The Fate – Women’s 29er carbon mountain bikeSpecialized Fate Women's 29er

Some of the details: Performance fit (race ready), 80mm travel, and a higher level of components. The Fate will be available in stores in September in two models: the Comp and the Expert. Each will come in three sizes: 15″, 17″ and 19″. Pricing is not yet finalized, but is expected to come in between US$2000-3000. (Details from CyclingNews)

Depending on the level you’ll see the spec of something of the following:  Roval 29er wheels, Renegade 2Bliss tires, XX chainrings with custom gear ratios, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and Specialized saddle, handlebar, stem and post. (Details from BikeRumor)

The Jett – Women’s 29er aluminum mountain bike

The Jett’s full details haven’t been released but this is what we found over at TwentyNineInches. M4 Aluminum (2nds from highest grade in Specialized library) and the same performance fit as the Fate. The exception will be rack mounts.

What is Specialized doing different with women’s 29ers

You’ve heard my rant about the wacky geometry that Trek’s 29ers possesed. I haven’t seen Specialized by the numbers, but they are doing some custom things to their new line.

First is a “women’s designed carbon layup”  which I am questioning to their product managers but it is an interesting thought. From there Specialized teamed up with Rock Shox for a custom fork.  At the 15″ size the offset of the fork is different, it goes to 51mm. Finally the headtube is as shortened as much as I have seen especially with the integrated headset that most production 29ers are using now.

From Bike Radar‘s Q & A

Hughes said Specialized has noticed that women have been slower to adopt 29ers than men. Part of the reason is that many shorter women believe they are too small to fit on a 29er. And in fact, looking at the geometries of bikes like Specialized’s popular Stumpjumper hardtail 29er (for which the smallest size is a 15.5″), that observation proves true for many women although possibilities for smaller female riders vary by manufacturer and model.

The Fate’s geometry will naturally position female riders lower and longer than they would be on the Myka. For example, on the 15″ Fate, a 10mm shorter headtube drops the front end of the bike, an 8mm longer top tube puts women in a longer, more racing-oriented position while 17″ and 19″ Fates have 20mm shorter head tubes. With 6mm shorter chainstays for all sizes, the Fate also climbs better and ends up with a shorter wheelbase (14mm for a size 17, for example) for quicker handling than the Myka.

One of the biggest issues encountered during the design process was addressing toe overlap, a common problem on smaller bikes, especially those with shorter wheelbases. To address this, the small 15″ bikes were designed with a 51mm fork offset while the 17″ and 19″ frames will feature the standard 46mm offset.

What does “Women’s Specific” 29ers mean for you?

The jury is still out.  The folks that have given feedback thus far are Specialized branded racers. I have a message out to Lea Davidson, who races for Specialized, for more specific questions from her last race on the bike.  These bikes were designed for those that like a lower front end, but want the benefits from a 29er.  The Myka is their recreational bike that will suit more women off the bat, but for the women wanting to push themselves further and faster or perhaps used to the Epic or Titus Racer-X the Fate is for them..  Finally, I am simply excited that a company like Specialized is seeing the women’s market big enough to design a new carbon line around it.

Once I know more, you’ll be the first people to know!

 

First Impressions: 2011 Specialized Myka Expert Women’s 29er

2 Women's 29er MTB

For the past month the women behind Bike Shop Girl have been test riding the 2011 Specialized Myka Expert 29er. Getting our own first hand impressions of how Specialized does women’s 29ers. Along the way this has also allowed us to try out the Specialized 29er tires, Specialized Riva saddle and Rock Shox “Specialized Womens Tuned” fork.

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Women Bike Mini-Grant Awards

0 Women Bike

I realize this is very much a repost of a press release, but the idea is killer and each program is unique. Do you think you could use any of these ideas in your community?

To seed and support this growing momentum to encourage women from all backgrounds to become engaged in bicycling and the bike movement, the League of American Bicyclists’ Women Bike program has awarded $7,500 in small grants to innovative, model campaigns in four cities.

WE Bike NYC
Engaging Latina Women Through Bilingual Outreach and Resources
$2,000

Breaking down barriers for women cyclists, WE Bike NYCrealizes the importance of creating a space where new riders feel welcome and understood. “Engaging Latina women is done by creating accessible resources where these women can literally and figuratively see themselves — or people who look like them,” says Liz Jose, a bilingual organizer and founder of the group. “Our goal with this grant is to create outreach and educational materials in print and online that encourage Latina women to join the bicycle movement. By compiling existing Spanish language resources as well as creating new, downloadable documents, the work created under this grant will create a model for language inclusiveness for groups across the country, as well as materials such as a Spanish-language ‘Fix-A-Flat’ book featuring Latina women and a Spanish-language ‘Club Pack’ that can be used to begin work in local communities.” Learn more about WE Bike NYC.

Women Bike PHL (Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia)
Girl Scouts on Wheels
$1,500

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s Women Bike PHL campaign is working to get more women and girls on bikes in Philadelphia. Their innovative “Girl Scouts on Wheels” project is developing and promoting a Biking Basics patch, as well as offering Bike Rodeos and Learn-to-Ride classes to Girl Scout troops. “I was a Girl Scout for 10 years, and know from experience what a positive impact that organization has on youth,” says Katie Monroe, Women Bike PHL coordinator. “If we’re serious about getting more women riding, we need to start young — and Girl Scouts seems like the perfect platform for educating and inspiring girls to get pedaling. It’s also a powerful national network, so ideally this partnership between bike advocates and Girl Scouts could be replicated around the country.” Learn more about Women Bike PHL.

We Are All Mechanics
Scholarship Program
$1,500

A women-owned and operated initiative since 2003, We are All Mechanics has been teaching bicycle maintenance courses to women in the Madison-area community for 10 years. The grant from the League will enable us to offer scholarships to women who would otherwise not be able to participate in our Basic Bicycle Maintenance Course,” says Ali Dwyer, a co-founder of WAAM. “Participants in our Basic Course report that they are excited to share what they know with others, and they report riding more often, for more reasons, and with more confidence after taking our course.Our successful program, and our original materials will serve as a model for other programs and bicycle educators.” Learn more about We Are All Mechanics.

 

Marin County Bicycle Coalition
Women on Wheels in Spanish
$2,500 
(Special Smart Cycling grant)
Marin County Bicycle Coalition’s Women on Wheels was developed in 2011 to provide classes for women to ride together and provide other shared information. “The classes are designed to help women gain the confidence and skills they need to ride a bicycle for errands, to get their children to school or for recreation,” says MCBC’s Wendi Kallins. “With this grant, we’ll be able to offer these classes in the low income, predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of the Canal area of San Rafael – and make the curriculum for Spanish-speaking women available to other communities around the country.” Learn more about Women On Wheels.

 

National Women’s Bicycling Forum: March 4th

2 National Women's Bicycling Forum

On March 4th, 2013, timing around the National Bike Summit, the League of American Bicyclists are hosting the second annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum. I asked Carolyn, Director of Communications at the League of American Bicyclists, some follow up questions to learn more about what the League has planned for this Forum!

About the National Women’s Bicycling Forum

Join hundreds of fellow advocates and enthusiasts who are working to engage more women in bicycling at our next Women Bike event! Register now for the second annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum on March 4, 2013 in Washington, D.C.!

With a theme of “Women Mean Business,” this all-day event will showcase women leaders and entrepreneurs in the bicycle industry and highlight the economic impact and rising influence of women in the bicycle movement. (The Forum will end before the start of the National Bike Summit.)

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

With an opening keynote address from Georgena Terry, break-out sessions, lunch plenary, networking and so much more, the Women’s Forum will be an opportunity to learn, connect and network with advocates and leaders from across the country who are working to close the gender gap in American bicycling.

Both women AND men are encouraged to attend!

A Recap of the First National Women’s Bicycling Forum

Carolyn: The first National Women’s Bicycling Forum was really a toe in the water — it was a first attempt to bring the discussion about gender to the forefront and gauge the interest and trajectory of where that conversation could take us at the national level.

First, we tried to pour a number of different perspectives into a two-hour panel. With incredible speakers like Elysa Walk (GM of Giant Bicycle USA), Marla Streb (former world mountain bike champion) and Veronica Davis (founder of Black Women Bike DC) some incredible insight floated to the top — but it was crystal clear that tackling “women in bicycling” is NOT a single conversation. It’s an ocean of content!

Secondly, the response was a tidal wave. We packed the room with more than 300 people, all of whom were just buzzing with excitement and ideas and energy to keep the conversation going. So the take-away was simple: A two-hour forum is just the first drop in a really big bucket. In September, we expanded to a full-day event with more sessions with more specific content, like family biking and marketing to women. In 2013, we’re expanding and sustaining that effort with a full-time program, so we can compile and create new resources, share stories and work on targeted strategies to increase the number of women riding, in between these killer events.

What are the Main Reasons the League is Putting Energy into this Forum?

Carolyn: The Women Bike initiative is really part of a more big-picture effort by the League to change the face of bicycling — or better represent and include the voices of the many diverse communities and people who ride. Clearly, since we’re 50 percent of the population, we need to engage more women if we want to mainstream / normalize bicycling as a means of transportation (like we see in European countries) and recreation, too. And it’s not just about equity in numbers — our voices our powerful. Women are role models for the next generation, decision makers for their households, persuasive political constituencies and ingenious entrepreneurs. Bringing more women into all aspects of the bicycle movement, from lobbying on Capitol Hill to designing product at major bicycle manufactures, is in everyone’s best interests.

What is the Second Annual Forum Focused On?

Carolyn: The second annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum on March 4 in Washington, D.C. With a theme of “Women Mean Business,” we’re focusing on how the industry and retailers are working to close the gender gap and highlighting efforts that are changing the culture of cycling in new and innovative ways.

The speaker line-up is off the chain: Georgena Terry, Jacquie Phelan, leaders Red Bike & Green, reps from industry leaders like Specialized, Giant and ASI; editors from Bicycle Times and Momentum; the founder of Cyclofemme; the woman behind the nation’s largest bike share systems… and so many more. And we mean business when it comes to making this event accessible to all. Bring your kids: We’ll have free childcare. If the $85 registration fee is a barrier, apply for a scholarship.

2012 Raleigh Bicycles Women’s 29er Mountain Bikes

0 2012 Raleigh Eva 29 Comp

This is part of a series of short posts releasing the new 2012 Raleigh Bicycles women’s line. Everything from 29er mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, more carbon and women’s cyclocross bikes. I’ve got the scope, but we can thank Raleigh’s Sally on this one.

2012 Raleigh Eva 29er Women’s Mountain Bikes

You are hearing it here first, two models of 29ers for women from Raleigh for 2012. Yes, another large bike manufacturer seeing that women like 29ers too.  Each model of the Raleigh Eva 29 will be available in three sizes, Sm, MD, LG, with women’s geometry (waiting for geometry chart.) Both bikes are mid to entry level but a great place to start for Raleigh. Once I see the geometry I’ll give more feedback! Raleigh did get the brake rotor size right. 180mm front rotors and 165mm rear rotors on both bikes.

2012 Raleigh Eva 29 Comp $1,050

2012 Raleigh Eva 29 Comp

SR Suntour 80mm fork with lockout. A mix of Shimano Deore and Alivio in 9-speed and Tektro Draco Hydralulic brakes.

2012 Raleigh Eva 29 Sport $770

Suntour XCR 80mm fork with lockout. Shimano Alivio 9-speed and Hayes Mechanical disc brakes.

Preview: 2013 Giant Anthem X 29Er 4 Women’s Bike

9 Review Giant Anthem X 29er 4

A long time ago I wrote an opinion article on why I didn’t believe women’s designed 29ers worked. Designers were being pushed so hard to get things to market that the result was lack luster, and in my opinion these bikes often handled like crap compared to their non-women’s designed brothers. The front end was flip-floppy, unless you had a crazy short stem and wide handlebar. While this works well for the true mountains, it doesn’t work well for women just learning how to mountain bike. Fast forward a few years, more experienced designers, brands with patience and maybe some more knowledge. Now you have women’s bikes that don’t have crazy head tube angles and carry well in switchbacks up or down. Thus, inspiring confidence and excitement to carry momentum through the trails.

Meet the 2013 Giant Anthem X 29er 4 Women’s

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Why Women’s Specific 29ers Don’t Work

27 Women's 29er Geometry

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to test ride on a local trail a few women’s specific 29er mountain bikes.   As I had mentioned in the past I was very excited about this new idea of women’s sizing  in 29″ technology but that is where my research ended.

The idea of fitting smaller individuals (men or women) on to the larger wheel technology has been something that I’ve had hopes for.  A few years ago when the 650b movement started I was completed behind it for that reason.  The 26″ wheel, to me, is not the solution for everyone based on how they ride and where they ride.  People deserve options, an example of this is why 3″, 5″, 7″ and 9″ suspension systems exists.

Back on topic, riding women’s specific 29ers

I didn’t have the ability to check saddle fore and aft, saddle to handlebars or any specifics other than seat height.  Now that my disclaimers out of the way….

The bike didn’t handle well.  I don’t know how else to say it….   The geometry of it all doesn’t make any sense.   Take a normal size 29er, keep the wheel base the same length and shorten the top tube.  What you get is a very slack, very flip flop, very slow handling bike thanks to changing the head tube angle to something that would mimic a 5″ travel “all mountain bike”.

Women's 29er Geometry

To a point I understand why they did this.  Shorter top tube to fit women with shorter upper bodies.

My Opinion : How to fit women on 29ers

My bike fit is 140% female.  I have a super long inseam and super short upper body, even my arms are short.   This is my take on fitting my own personal 29ers.  Longer top tube than I would ride on a 26″ bike, and an inch shorter stem. My effective length from saddle tip to handlebars hasn’t changed, but how I achieve it has.  My handling is changed to make up for the bigger (heavier and larger) front wheel and often more raked out fork.  Faster steering is achieved with the shorter stem and my front wheel isn’t tucked up under me either.

Your Bike, Your Opinion

Fitting mountain bikes is a very dynamic effort. It’s not as straight forward as fitting someone on a road bike.  You take everything that you know from fitting road bikes, tie in your own mountain bike experience and then tie in the person RIDING the mountain bikes own feedback.   Test ride, try out things, and repeat.

Depending where you ride, how aggressive you ride, and your own body type (size, shape, fitness, strength &  flexibility) every bike will fit you different.  A bike out of a box most likely won’t fit you.  How the mechanic that built the bike probably won’t be how you need it to fit.

The above feelings about how the 29er women’s specific bikes rode is my own experience, I ride aggressively, I push my bike and body every time I’m out riding.   The handling of the bike was too slow and did not excel for technical riding.   Inquire with your local bike shop, talk about bike fitting and your own needs!

WABA’s Women & Bicycles Program

2 Women And Bicycles

WABA (Washington Area Bicycle Association) is putting together an education and outreach program to get more women on bikes! While the program is still in the infancy it seems they have obtainable goals and mission to begin with. I’m excited to follow along with what WABA is doing and how these efforts can be duplicated elsewhere.

From WABA….

Why is getting more women on bikes a critical cause?

  • In 2012, women represented just 22.7 percent of cyclists on the road in D.C. According to DDOT, that’s a slight drop since 2011.
  • In Women on Wheels, April Streeter writes, “New bike commuters are overwhelmingly male. Data reviewed by researchers John Pucher and Ralph Buehler show that almost all of the recent growth in cycling in the united states recently can be attributed to men between 25 and 64 years old. Pucher and Buehler found that cycling rates are just holding steady for women, and have fallen sharply for children.”
  • Our women’s bicycling forum identified three top barriers for getting women on bikes: safety (fear, safety concerns, inexperience/confidence, harassment), logistics (facilities, time commitment, weather, gear, money), and perception (misconceptions, double standards, and professionalism).
  • We aren’t the only group at work! Through Women Bike, the League of American Bicyclists is working at a National level to encourage women to facilitate solutions on the local level.

How is WABA going to fix these problems through the Women & Bicycles program?

  • Ten “Roll Models” will be selected to mentor women in their friend, family, church, and work groups
  • Roll Models and mentees will be invited to a series of bike meetups, group rides, and workshops that will mix practical advice and conversation about how to incorporate cycling into one’s lifestyle with socializing and low-key hanging out.
  • Non-participants will be kept abreast of the program, so they’ll learn more about the issues facing women on bikes and be inclined to encourage their friends and family to bike, regardless of gender.

We don’t want to sit around and talk about what’s discouraging women from biking, so we’ve created a program centered on peer-to-peer encouragement, information, and experience through events.

Want to learn more? Visit WABA.org

2012 Raleigh RX Women’s Cyclocross Bikes

1 2012 Raleigh RX 1.0 Women's Cyclocross

This is part of a series of short posts releasing the new 2012 Raleigh Bicycles women’s line. Everything from 29er mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, more carbon and women’s cyclocross bikes. I’ve got the scope, but we can thank Raleigh’s Sally on this one.

Want to know how I can tell you with 100% certainty that the bicycle industry is finally valuing women? Two things, women’s 29ers and women’s CYCLOCROSS bikes. Yes, it is old news (other news sites scooped it a couple weeks ago) but I need to share with you one of those things that I am so super excited about. Two, yes two, women’s cyclocross full bicycles from Raleigh Bicycles in 2012.

This could be do to Raleigh’s Sally having a girlfriend these days and realizing the needs of women. Maybe Raleigh’s Sally needs the shorter top tube and taller head-tubes that women’s bikes have to offer. Raleigh is taking a stand for cyclocross in 2012 with 8 models for cyclocross and I am proud of them for stepping up.

2012 Raleigh RX 1.0 Women’s Cyclocross $1,650

2012 Raleigh RX 1.0 Women's Cyclocross
Aluminum frame, EC70 carbon cross fork and BB30.  SRAM Apex & Rival 10 Speed.

2012 Raleigh RX Women’s Cyclocross $1,100

2012 Raleigh Women's Cyclocross Bike

Same frame and fork as the 1.0 but stepping down to Shimano Sora 9 speed.

Photos from Bike Rumor

Stealing the photos from BikeRumor.com

2012 Raleigh RX Women's Cross Bikes
2012 Raleigh RX Women's Cross Bikes

Q & A : What Makes a Bike a Women’s Bike?

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Question : What Makes a Bicycle a Women’s Bicycle?

This is a broad question with  long answer so maybe take a seat.

In the old days…

Masi Soulville Mixte 7Many women rode their bikes with skirts (much like they rode horses side saddle.)  When bicyles were designed for women they came out with a dropped top tube design.  The most popular of these were the “mixte” or step through.  The design is still carried in many lines.  Personally I think it is much easier to get on and off a step through frame, though some people don’t like the look.  Another advantage of the step through is for tight clothing, or tight hips.  I have successfully sold step through bikes in black or grey to gentleman with bad hip joints.

For a very long time this step through design is all women rode and men had a diamond frame with taller top tube.  Even now many people visit bike shops and shop for bikes based on this very traditional thought process.

Modern time and modern designs…

These days bikes are designed differently.  Most mid to high end womens bicycles have many other features that make them womens, and almost none of them are a step through design.

Some key thoughts going into the designs of modern womens bicycles :

  • Most women have longer legs over longer upper body.  This makes so when they ride a traditional “squared” geometry, their seat is too high and length or top tube of the bike is too long . Making for a very stretched out, painful, ride.
  • Women come in all sizes, but often smaller sizes than men.
  • Most women have narrower shoulder width than men, which means narrower handlebars.
  • Most women have breast or chest to worry about when getting into a more aggressive fitting.  This also means more weight on the upper body.

Details by Bike…

Road bikes have a couple key differences :

  • Shorter top tube of the bicycle. I touched on this above but many women have longer upper body and shorter legs.  A shorter top tube allows them the length of the bike they need without needing to raise the seat on a smaller sized bike.
  • Taller head tube.  A taller head tube allows the bikes front end to sit up higher. This allows for a more upright fit, if you decide, and less weight on your hands and more on your rear.  It also makes it so you don’t have to rock your pelvic bone and hips so far forward to get the proper fit alignment on your back.
  • Womens seat. These seats tend to be shorter, wider in the back and a medically designed cut out to relieve pressure.
  • Narrower & shorter handlebars. Women tend to have narrower shoulders, so they need a narrower handlebar.  Another thing a womens handlebar addresses is the “reach” down to the drops.  Womens tend to be shorter, so easier to get into an aggressive position.
  • Different steering angles.  When you shorten or lengthen a bike, it changes the handling.  Many manufactures have fixed this by changing the angle that the fork and seat tube sit at.

Mountain bikes carry many of the above differences plus some extra :

  • L2010 Trek Fuel EX 5 WSDighter weighted suspension.  Suspension works two ways, coil or air activated.  With air you can easily change the feel of suspension with a shock pump.  With coil if you are below or above the recommended weight for that coil, you need to replace it.  Many womens mountain bikes if they come with coil suspension are set up with the lighter suspension coil.
  • Lower stand over.  Allowing women to feel more confident on the bike.

There are many other things I can talk about in this topic, which in the future I plan to, but for now try to read through everything above and let me know your questions.  Many things have to do with brand specific designs and thoughts.  One thing that happened when womens bikes first hit the market was an overwhelming feeling of “fru-fru” and that the product managers just didn’t get it.  The bikes were mostly pink or baby blue and hit some of the above design thoughts but not all.  They wanted to put a band aid over the issue.  Granted, I partially feel that the band aid is still there for many but hopefully it is slowly being pealed off.

Next in this series will be  “Do I Need a Womens Bike?” question.  If you have questions or comments about that topic please let me know.