Women’s Cycling

How about some VINTAGE mtbchick? Here are some of our original posts from the old mtbchick.com web site! (We’re talking like 2003!)

Some Quick Tips for Your First Race!

  • usually Beginner races are short enough that you won’t need to eat during the race. If you know the race is going to be over one hour, you might want to have a couple of gels in your pocket (always drink water right after eating a gel!) Gels are super concentrated and need water to help you digest.
  • Try to use a sports drink – something with a few calories to keep you hydrated and to keep your minerals up.
  • Drink every chance you get. Do not wait until you are thirsty! If you become thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
  • Drink water before the race to ensure you are hydrated- also 2 days before the race try to not get dehydrated! (Drinking too much water alone can led to hyponatremia, which is caused by overdiluted blood, meaning you don’t have enough sodium un your body- so drink Gatorade or a similar drink as well as water!)
  • Carry some tools and flat repair kit (spare tube/levers/air). Know how to use them… Learn today about how to change a flat!
  • eat 2-3 hours before the race if possible. The rule of thumb is 200 calories per hour before the race you eat. in other words, if you eat 2 hours before the race, eat 400 calories. A small amount of protein and some carbs. low in fat if possible. (often i eat a bagel with cream cheese or chicken and rice or stir fried rice with fresh tuna).
  • beware the fight or flight syndrome… you will have to go to the bathroom about 100 times before the race. this is normal. even for pros!
  • Warm-up. Take 20-30 minutes to get warm. Use your time to preride the course as a warm-up. Or ride around, do a couple of sprints to get your heart rate up, and then spin around to keep your muscles warm.
  • Race strategy. Don’t start out too hard so that you bonk- or lose all your energy right away. better to follow someone and try to hold on to their wheel if possible. What i like to do in smaller races is tag on to the fastest person- unless i know i can beat them. then i just take off. But don’t pace yourself too much! You should be working pretty hard! mtb racing is hard!
  • It is common to have this thought during a race: “what am i doing here? i should just drop out. this hurts too much” ignore that thought. it is part of mtb racing!!!
  • have fun- laugh at yourself when you make mistakes- it’s not a life or death situation!!
  • Cool down, stretch and recover after your race. Be sure to get a recovery drink or food in right away to replenish all the lost nutrients, etc! Follow with a massage, too!

Mountain bike racing is really an experiential learning situation, and the learning really never ceases. Most of all, it’s fun, so just do it and have some fun!

Demystifying Cycling Clothing, Part 3, Shoes

Women’s specific this and women’s specific that- how to find your way through the muddle of women’s specific cycling clothing… like Shoes!

Do you need to buy women’s specific cycling shoes? Once again, it depends! Women’s specific shoes are typically narrower than the men’s shoes, and also typically are avaiable in smaller sizes. The key to finding the right shoe? Try them on. Shoes should fit snugly, but with room in the “toe box” or the area around your toes. You should not feel your toes touching the sides (too narrow) or the end (too small) of the shoes.

If you are in-between sizes, and half sizes are not offered, or if the shoe is just a little too wide, try a custom footbed. Custom footbeds will eliminate any kind of alignment problems you may have- and not know about- and reduce the likelihood of knee injuries caused by overuse.

Women’s Specific Bicycles and Equipment: Deconstructing the Myth, Part 1, Clothing

There has been a tsunami of women’s specific bicycles, women’s specific bike components, women’s specific saddles and more in the past couple of years. One thing for sure, women’s specfic sells. But how do you know that what you are buying is really women’s specific, or if you really need women’s specific cycling equipment? Let’s look at a few of the products out there, made specifically for women and you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth it for you.

1. Clothing. One thing i always buy in women’s sizing is clothing. In cycling, it ususally means a better fitting top, in proportion with the female frame. While some women’s jerseys are just smaller versions of the men’s, the shorts, are where you need to use serious scrutiny. Many women’s shorts are merely men’s shorts, maybe with a shorter inseam, and a much smaller-too short waist. The problem is that women have more width to the quads, fuller hips with a small waist. Men’s shorts have small “leg holes”. This does not work for women. It is simply not comfortable. Of course, one of the biggest problems with women’s cycling clothing is that it is made for tiny people. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t find clothes to fit. Try junonia.com for 14+ sizes.

The bigger issue than basic fit, however, is the chamois (pronounced “shammy”). This is the pad inside the shorts that is integral to a comfortable bike ride. Many men’s chamois have a terry pad in the front. This is extra bulk that can cause discomfort to a female cyclist. Many women’s chamois are narrower in the center, and wider in the rear to accomodate for the women’s wider seat bones. The chamois should be treated to help prevent yeast infections. Let’s review:

1. Go to the local bike shop and try on shorts, make sure they feel good all around and that the chamois is not too bulky. it is better to buy in person than to buy online when it comes to clothing, if you have a choice.

2. Scrutinize the chamois… Castelli makes a wonderful women’s specific chamois, and their clothes are made for women, really!

3. For women’s sizes 14+, go to junonia.com for a great selection!

Women’s Specific Bicycles and Equipment: Deconstructing the Myth, Part 2, Frames

There has been a lot of hype of late around women’s specific bike frames. How do you trudge through that hype and get to the truth?

1. Let’s face it- all people are proportioned differently. Some men have short torsos and long legs, while some women may have long torsos and short legs- the opposite of the norm. So perhaps a women’s frame will fit most women better than a regular bike frame, but certainly not all women. And chances are, there are a few men out there who would fit better on a women’s specific bike- but wouldn’t buy it if it has flowers on it, or says on it “women’s specific”, am i right???

2. Each bike company uses its own geometry to construct a bicycle frame. This means that some bikes may fit you better than others. The geometry of the bike refers to the angles that are used to create the shape of the frame. Some frames have longer top tubes, while some have longer chain stays, and so on. SO- different geometry fits different people.

3. Many women’s specific bikes are made only for smaller women. If you are 5’5″ or over, chances are you’ll be on a regular bike no matter what.

4. Another consideration- many women’s specific mountian bikes are set up too high in the front end to be good for mountain biking. This position is not aggressive enough for safe mountain biking. If you feel like you are on a beach cruiser when test riding a women’s specific bike, then it is probably not the right geometry for mountian biking.

5. Many pro women race on regular bikes and have superior fits.

When looking for a new bike, I cannot stress enough- TEST RIDE!!!! Find a bike that fits you right.

*Women’s Specific Bicycles and Equipment: Deconstructing the Myth, Part 3, Saddles 6.mar.04

Ahh the choices in saddles. Women’s saddles are all the rage now, and for good reason. Men’s saddles are typically very narrow and very hard- made to fit a man’s narrow hips. For those of us with a wider hip – it’s more comfortable to have bit wider of a saddle. But there is a fine line between comfortable and ceasing to function as a mountain bike saddle. Here are some tips:

1. Most women’s saddles are too wide. So wide that when you try to move behind your saddle, which you will do while mountain biking, you can’t get there because your thighs get caught on the saddle.

2. Cut outs are prevalent. They only work if they are in the right place.

3. Saddles with too much cushion can cause a lot of rubbing, making some nasty saddle sores and swelling from chaffing. (of course this can also be caused by your shorts).

4. Men’s saddles are typically too long tip to tail.

Look for: not too wide, but not so narrow your seat bones don’t have a place to rest, a cut out that fits your parts and not too long.

Before you buy: sit on it! Go to the shop and try it out. Do not buy it if you can’t try it out first in the store.

A comfortable saddle may cost you over $100. Spend the money. The more comfortable your bike is, the more you will ride, the happier you will be!

Demystifying Cycling Clothing, Part 1, Shorts

Yes, you need a pair of bike shorts. Bike shorts for women are designed to have no seam down the middle of the shorts; a seam would cause massive rubbing and chaffing and pain. 6-panel means the shorts are made of 6 vertical panels. 8-panel means just that. The difference? Comfort. Noticable? Varies form brand to brand. I recommend trying on shorts before you buy.

Avoid basic Lycra shorts as they will wear out more quickly. Also avoid anything with cotton in it for outdoor riding. this is fine indoors/Spinning, but the cotton/lycra shorts do not hold up well for mountain biking. If you feel uncomfortable in tight shorts, look for baggies… a pair of casual shorts with a bike short inside for comfort! the best of both worlds. Don’t be afraid to spend $80 on a pair of shorts. It’s well worth the money, as shorts last for years if they are taken care of properly (line dried).

One important note about bike shorts. Get out of them as soon as your ride is over. Change in the parking lot? Yes! If you have trouble doing this while sitting in your car, take a sarape or a large towel with you, wrap it around your waist, and pull your shorts off without anyone seeing you. So why is it so important to get out of the shorts? Yeast infections. The moisture from sweating produced from riding your bike can fester into an infection fairly quickly. So don’t stand around! Change and get cleaned up as soon as you are able.

One more thing about cycling shorts. You are not supposed to wear underwear under you r shorts! Underwear can move around causing discomfort and chaffing. This may be a strange concept to the neophyte, i know it took me a while to get used to… but once you try it, you’ll agree.. it’s a lot more comfortable, and that is how the shorts are designed. Yes, you’ll feel naked at first, but just think of how sexy that is!

Demystifying Cycling Clothing, Part 2, Gloves

Gloves are a necessity for the cyclist, whether a mountain biker, casual rider or road rider. Besides protecting your soft, beautiful hands, gloves provide cushion for your palms, as well as preventing blisters and sore spots from holding the handlebar.

Here’s the scoop on women specific sized gloves. If you have small hands- they work great. Many women still prefer to use a men’s size small simply because the women’s gloves are someitmes way too small! The fingers are generally very short, and the glove itself is narrow. this is a piece of clothing you must try before you buy!

Fingerless v. full finger. When mountain biking, there is no reason to not have a full finger glove. A full finger glove provides prtection for the entire hand. When mountain biking, you may have to brush up against small branches and bushes- so having that added protection is key. Of course, in the event of a fall- you also want that full protection- unless you like getting dirt and rocks and leaves wedged into the finger of your fingerless gloves!

Gel padding? Gel is the new rage in the pads of gloves. I highly recommend gel padding as itprovides the best comfort for all kinds of riding. The Pearl Izumi full finger gel-lite gloves are long time favorite gloves of mine. The gel lasts for years, and doesn’t smash down like other types of padding. Avoid gloves with no padding- like some full finger gloves, especially ones used for BMX.

Bike Buying Part 1

Don’t be fooled, ladies, bike buying is not as hard as you think! In this day and age, you may find female salespeople in the bike shops, and even the guys have finally learned how to talk to women. When I first began working in a bike store, there were very few women in the business, and the ones that were in the bike shops likely wanted to be men and acted like it anyhow. But now, you can go in armed with kowledge and leave with a good feeling that you made the right decision.

Here are some rules for bike buying:

1. Wear the right shoes! Do not go to a bike shop to buy a bike wearing heels or platforms. If you do, be sure to try on some cycling shoes while you try out the bikes. I had many women come in to the shops to buy a bike while wearing heels. This is silly. The right shoes are the shoes you expect to wear while cycling, whether it’s running shoes or cycling shoes.

2. Know your inseam! This is a good measurement for bike fitting, and you may be asked before you begin looking at bikes. How to measure: wearing sock feet, stand back against the wall and hild a book in between your legs, press it lightly against you and make a mark on the wall at the highest point. then measure from the mark to the ground. This is you proper inseam measurement for bike fitting. It is basically the length of your leg.

3. Go low on actual bike price. If price is an issue, you must choose the lower priced bike for this reason: there are many add-on accessories that you must have, including a helmet and a pair of shorts! Figure you will be spending on average $100 in addition to the price of your bike.

4. Forget color. Don’t worry about the color of your bike. Pick a bike that fits your body and your pocketbook. If you get hung up on color, you may not end up with the right bike.

5. Choose frame over parts. If your decision comes down to a better frame or better parts, choose the frame. Parts wear out and can always be upgraded. Frames stay around for a long time and are expensive to replace.

These are the first basic things to know before heading down to the bike shop. We’ll be back later with more hints! (tonya)

Bike Buying Part 2- your first bike + tips for everyone buying a new bike!

Find a bike shop. You may have to spend $300 – $500 on your first bike. This sounds like a lot. Why so much? A bike, like a car, is an investment. You want a bike that will last- and one that is durable for what you want to do with it. Up to $500- you can get a great durable bike. When you begin to go over $500, you do begin to get into features such as lighter weight and racing type components, and shocks with more travel – better shocks altogether.

Here are a few more rules for bike buying:

1. First decide “what do I want to do with this bike?”. Bike path? Mountain biking? Road riding? Racing? (you get the idea!!)

2. Stand Over Height: Take the bike, and wearing the shoes you will be riding your bike with, stand over the bike. You want to be in the middle of the top tube with your feet flat on the ground. There should be, for a mountain bike, 2-4″ between your crotch and the top tube. Nothing more, nothing less. The shop employee may ask you to lift the front wheel. Allow him or her do to their thing, but you know you need 2-4″. Let the employee know if the bike is too tall or too short.

3. BEFORE you test ride, be sure that the bike seat has been adjusted properly for you. Ask that the bike be put on a “trainer” so that you can get a good fit before you ride around. A trainer is a device that the rear wheel of a bike locks into, essentially making it a stationary bike. The front wheel should be lifted so that it is even with the rear on the trainer to get a proper fit.

4. Be sure that you go to at least 2 bike shops to get a different perspective.

5. Have fun!

Bike Buying FAQs

1. Do I need a women’s specific bicycle?

Not necessarily. Amazingly enough, there are many men out there who will fit on a women’s specific model just because the geometry is usually better for short people in general- men and women alike. Getting a good bike fit is important. And a good bike shop will fit your bike to you using a stationary trainer ( a device which holds the rear wheel of a bike on a resistance device, enabling you to simulate bike riding indoors) or a Fit Kit, or a similar method that makes sure the bike fits You, not to make sure you fit the bike!!

And about those old-style girls bikes with the parallel top tube and down tube- forget it for mountain biking. These are great bikes for women who only ride on bike paths, but keep in mind, the design is ancient and was originally made so women could mount the bike easily, with skirts of course!

2. What are the differences between different brands of bikes?

The main difference between different bike companies, and even the differences between different types of bikes is the geometry, or the angles of the tubing used to make up the bike. Other differences may be the materials used for the tubing- such as aluminum, steel, thermoplastic, carbon fiber, titanium, etc. There are subtle differences between all of these materials, and choice is largely personal preference.

Price differences occur because some bikes are made in the USA (like Cannondale bikes) [ed: not anymore, keeping in mind this was written in 2003!] while most bikes are made in China, which obviously makes them less expensive. Price differences also occur because some bikes are made of higher grades of metal (aluminum) or are specified with better or higher end components.

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