By Sam Aplin
Whether you’re shopping for the bicycle itself, or the range of accessories to dress, check out our top 10 purchasing points providing the opportunity for women to grow their interest and participation in cycling.
1. The Bicycle Boutique
Walking into a bike shop can be an intimidating experience. It often appears to be a male dominated environment where women feel the need to ‘know what they’re talking about’! Some shops display a selection of Hi-Viz wear accompanied by a matching pink jersey and shorts to satisfy the female taste, but compared to the vast array of men’s kit, choice of gear for girls can seem scarce. Almost an afterthought, perhaps?
Others however, have recently started to cater specifically for women’s apparel, creating a more comfortable environment to ask questions, seek advice and shop ‘til you drop! Girls like to look glamorous on a bike, and why not!
A greater choice of women’s high-tech fabrics and the latest performance wear in a range of colours and stylish cuts is starting to stock the shelves, encouraging the growth of women on two wheels. The variety of disciplines to partake in attracts different personalities, some of whom may be the ‘catch me if you can!’ or ‘mud mayhem in the mountains’ adventure types who prefer the practical approach - women need pockets too!
So, whether it’s the weekend wanderer, road racer or muddy mountain biker scene that’s the attraction, dress to impress and ride that bike in style!
2. Pink for Girls, Blue for Boys?
You like the look of this season’s ‘mean machine’. You test one at a bike ‘demo day’, perhaps. It’s much lighter than you’re old bike, you roll seamlessly round the corners, the tree roots are flattened as you fly up the tricky ascents, and you’re rapidly falling for your new partner-to-be. However, you have to come to terms with the fact that the ‘Ladies XS’ size you’re after only comes in pink.
‘Pink is for girls’ is a view women are often faced with when purchasing a bike. Certain frame sizes, particularly the more petite XS builds, are limited to certain bike brands. A combination of these two limiters can create a near impossible purchase for the less girly-girls who might be after something a little less feminine and flowery...
Look again! Some manufacturers have cottoned on and produced bikes that come in “compact” sizes which cater for the ‘petite’ cyclists, rather than entertaining the idea of women-specific builds. This means a wider variety of choice in brands for the female (and petite male!) cyclist, accompanied by aesthetics to suit.
Whatever your colours of choice, show that personality on the outside, and ride with pride!
3. Get those rubber gloves on girls!
Start simple – no pressure! One washing up bowl, one sponge, some water, and a pair of good old fashioned rubber gloves - No need to lose those nails!
Portable pressure washers can strip a bearing clean of grease and grit, but power isn’t everything girls. It can also strip the bearing from the bike and freeze the freedom of motion on a cold wet winter’s night, especially in such sensitive areas as the handle bar stem or bottom bracket. Rest assured, rust will ruin the beauty of your beloved bike, handlebars will no longer hang a left or a right, and those brakes may not beat the bush at the bottom of that hill. But fear not! It’s nothing that the warmth and comfort of a handy hairdryer on those split ends can’t cure!
There are many clever cleaning products on the market to care for that mucky frame or squeaky chain. Simply spray on some cleaner and degreaser to un-clog those chainrings and cassettes, apply a little oil for that smooth sensational spin, and watch those wheels win as if you’re spinning gold straw like the daughter of Rumpelstiltskin!
Take just ten minutes of your time to spruce up your steed, show off that shine, and reunite your satisfied self with a spectacular and sparkling clean speedy machine!
4. The “P” Pose ...
Flapping around fixing a puncture is far from a pleasurable experience. Perfecting this procedure is all about position, patience, perseverance ... and most importantly, personal records!
Remember ... don’t panic!!!
Plant yourself in the “P” pose like a pretty road-side pansy, and pop out that repair pot from your pocket like a pro. Assume a sumo squat position (‘sit on a toilet seat’!), rest the tyre on your thighs, use your thumbs to pinch (don’t punch!) and peel the rubber away from the rim of the wheel, then let the kit commit to the rest of the fit!
Changing and pumping up a tyre is simple and easy with the right tools for the job. Pick your puncture repair kit from the many options on the market and you will blossom with confidence when your wheels need some wind.
Two top tips:
- Test your tools in ‘training’ – know how to use them before you have to!
- Trying a track pump but too light for flight? – Get those feet off the ground girls and give your whole body a workout!
Be prepared for that puncture...
Keep calm and under control, and you’ll soon be ready again to rock ‘n’ roll!
5. Problems “down under”? Ditch your underwear!
Yes - Saddle sores can be a nuisance. Waddling around like you’ve wet yourself after a long ride can be a little embarrassing – especially whilst attempting to waltz elegantly into your mid-ride cake-stop shop for that well-earned chocolate éclair! But don’t let a chaffed groin, upper leg or butt get the better of you girls. The best treatment for that painful problem is prevention, so put the pleasure back into your ride by considering these simple solutions.
- Sit up and get set up on your saddle correctly. Too high and you’ll be forcing unnecessary pressure reaching for those pedals. Too low and your body will suffer from insufficient support from the legs.
- Get yourself a good pair of padded seamless cycling shorts, and get rid of your underwear! There are plenty of saddle soothing shorts on the shop shelves, so shoot down to a cycling store and get those bottoms friction free!
- Slather yourself in chamois cream. Slip on and slide your shorts over a well-oiled rear, and you’ll soar seamlessly under the sun as you sink into your soft saddle.
Don’t let a sore bottom stop you pedalling with pride – sit on that saddle and smile!
6. Suit your saddle
Beautiful bottoms are like fingerprints: everyone is different and deserves a delightfully divine design. Delve into a saddle designer’s tool box and you’ll find dozens of shapes and textures including variable density foam and bases with tuned flex for a feminine feel. Saddle discomfort can destroy your dream machine, but fortunately the days are gone when females had to put up with suffering on men’s misshapen missiles.
Some women’s specific saddles introduce a cut-away to relieve pressure on soft tissues, whereas others have an area at the nose with softer padding so you can pedal without pain. Many manufacturers provide their dealers with devices that measure your sit-bones, so whether it’s for endurance, racing, or all-round adventure comfort, take advantage of the expert advice on offer.
Avoid a saddle voyage of discovery, cut your journey short and try before you buy! Some shops now have demo programs where you can borrow before your bottom breaks. So when that special shiny saddle that’s glistening on the shelf catches your eye, take it for a spin, then swap it for the next until you’re sure it’s the seat that suits.
Find the Cinderella saddle that fits and sit on it ‘til your bottom’s content!
7. Say something a thousand times and you’ll start to believe it ...
“Sorry guys, I’m slow up the hills, I’ll see you at the top”.
“I’ll ride at the back. I don’t want to slow anyone down”.
“I’m racing, but my goal is just not to come last”.
Women often employ a form of self-preservation in group riding or racing situations, volunteering information that not only lowers other’s expectations, but depletes their actual capabilities too. Say it enough times and you’ll trick your mind into thinking it really is true! Such an apologetic approach shapes the perception of the media on women’s cycling, eventually reaching retailers and influencing kit and clothing.
Ladies, if you’re determined to don the devils flame of fire-y red and bad-man’s black on your back, show them what you’re made of!! Stick that hard hat on your head, believe in that body, and burst out buds of confidence as you embrace the energy and take pleasure in pinching the pack with that punishing pair of pedals!
So, let’s try that again...
“See you at the top guys, I’ll start queuing for the coffee while I’m waiting ...”
“Sit on my wheel ... if you can”.
“I’m gonna give them hell!”
... Remember, say something a thousand times and they’ll start to believe it too.
8. Crack open that can of spinach!
“You look sweet, talk about a treat...?”
Does your shopping list lack lush green to fuel the machine? Do you find yourself whizzing four wheels through the supermarket at full speed with steam streaming from your ears, wondering where this sky high energy level hides when you’re wearily wilting on two wheels? Well ... wander to the west wing where the lush legumes and washable spinach are welcoming you to warmheartedly walk their way. Worry not though, beauties... instant Popeye biceps that swell to three times their normal size in a split second are not inevitable.
Iron intake is important, especially for women. Accompanied by high levels of Vitamin C at mealtimes, iron absorption rates from other foods will increase. Just remember, ditch the caffeine when downing this duo – save your cuppa for your cake-stop!
Whether it’s nuts, fish, leafy green vegetables or meat that wets your appetite...
“Any old iron, any old iron, any, any, any old iron [will do!] ...”
So sing your way through the supermarket to upper ‘iron status’! Your superhuman-self may sink into that soft saddle but it will also cease that sweaty scent and send you sailing skyward like an indestructible supercharged shooting star.
9. One ... Two ... Pee!
Concentrating on the crisp and dewy beauty of the lovely landscape becomes a chore as your bladder feels like it’s about to burst and your eyes start to water. The desperation to stop for a call of nature intensifies and there is no convenient toilet in sight! You scan the sparse scenery and realise you can no longer pick a road side pee-tree and linger quietly like an aluminous lubricated lemon under a weeping willow, watching cautiously for any wandering walkers while you water the local flora and forna.
Quick! Pull up your pants! Mr Forest-Farmer has raced up the road in his tractor to stop in the precise spot you’ve picked to pee...
Lose time and run off-road to find a discreet place to maintain your dignity... Or, crack-on and let nature take its course like the pros because soaking your saddle and staining your shoes is fantastically fast when time is ticking. However, splash out on some toilet-friendly shorts with clips, zips, flaps or straps and you could protect your prickle-free bottom from the public whilst keeping those pedals pumping.
So when it’s time to linger ladies, look ... listen ... lift a leg ... and let your kit keep you on the move!
10. Accessorize your eyes
Peering over the peak of a pretty pair of sunglasses as if you’re sat sucking on a Malteser or two on a sun-lounger reading your monthly magazine, will start to strain your sun-beaten eyes.
Many shops now sell stylish women-specific cycling sunglasses, so you can still seek out that sun-kissed look while protecting your eyes with a pair of polarised polycarbonate plastic frames and a ‘wrap around’ fit that sit more securely on your face. Finding the perfect pair can take a few shop-stops, but with a good selection, a changing room and a mirror, your eyes will gradually become clearer - you may pick the pair that’s dearer, but when the wind whistles across your feminine facial features, your eyes will no longer water, protecting your pupils against those pesky flying creatures!
Fed up with fogging up? Flirt with a pair of anti-fog curved lenses that fit hand-in-hand and accessorise that fabulous feminine frame. Swap those interchangeable lenses as the light levels change and choose a lens colour to suit the conditions ... and most importantly your clothes!
So don’t end your ride blinded up a donkey’s backside – accessorise your eyes and get shot of those flies!