04/02/2013 | 1 comments
Cycling is a world full of joy and wonder. Riding along a path, road or trail can be an addictive, almost out-of-body experience. But a badly set up bike or the wrong clothing can make things a bit uncomfortable.
Here are some cycling basics that every woman should know to stay comfortable on longer rides, and especially to avoid the two most common sources of discomfort: saddle and neck & shoulder pain.
Wear a good pair of cycling shorts-and no underwear
Cycling shorts are the single most important piece of cycling clothing, but they are an odd bit of clothing by normal standards. The pad on the inside of the short, known as a chamois, might not look like it will do much, but it makes a world of difference.
Resist the urge to wear undies beneath your cycling shorts. This is a major no-no. The chamois is a technical piece of equipment, and it needs to be against your skin to do its job properly. Plus, underwear can cause chafing, and that will make you walk like a cowboy. The only people who look good walking like a cowboy, are cowboys.
Saddle comfort: the unicorn of the cycling world
Contrary to popular belief, there IS such a thing as a comfortable saddle, but it can be tricky to find the right one for you. The issue is that arses are like snowflakes: no two are alike. For this reason, someone’s perfect saddle might not work for you.
These days, many manufacturers make saddles that are different widths, and retailers have sizing devices to help you determine what you need.
Don’t worry, there is no nudity involved in getting measured for a saddle. Find a local shop that can get you sized, and understand that you might have to try more than one saddle until you find the right one.
Women are not simply smaller versions of men
It’s all in the hips, ladies. Our pelvic structure doesn’t just make possible the ‘beautiful miracle of childbirth’ (cough), it also results in our centre of gravity being in the lower back.
Men carry their centre of gravity up higher in the torso. If you ride in the same position on a bike as a man, then you are most likely going to suffer from neck and shoulder pain.
Fortunately, resolving neck and shoulder pain is not difficult to do. Having a qualified bike fitter assess your position on a bike will help you eliminate the discomort that women suffer much more than men. Make a bike fit a gift you give to yourself, and cycling will become a lot more comfortable.
Expand your shoe collection with a good pair of cycling shoes
Trainers are not the best shoes to wear while riding a bike. They allow your foot to flex too much while riding, and this can cause problems all the way up your leg, and into your hips.
Cycling shoes have a rigid sole, which provides a stable platform for your foot. You’ll still be able to walk normally, and you’ll get better power output when you are mashing the pedals.
Switch to clipless pedals
If you ski, then you’ll already be familiar with the concept of clipless pedals. This setup allows your foot to connect to the pedals on a bike.
There are several advantages to using clipless pedals: your feet are held in the right place on the pedal; you can put out a bit more power and they’re a lot easier to use than the old-style clips and straps that old-time cyclists used to attach themselves to pedals.
There is also usually some fear over the idea of using them. Almost everyone has experienced the ‘zero speed fall’, where you just forget to unclip. This is a rite of passage for every rider, and usually happens in the most embarrassing way possible. To avoid it, practice clipping in and unclipping while leaning against a wall or table, and then while riding slowly in circles, till it’s second nature.
Learn to fix a flat tyre
There are two types of riders in the world: those who have had a flat, and those who haven’t had a flat YET.
There really is no such thing as a flat-proof tyre, so it’s inevitable that at some point in your cycling life you will have a puncture.
As a matter of personal safety, everyone should know how to fix their own flats. Your local bike shop should be willing to walk you through the steps. Once you’ve practiced a few times, it will be second nature.
At the very least, have all of the necessary equipment you need to fix a flat on your bike. Someone might be able to help, but their bike might not be the same kind as yours. Have a seat pack with the right tube for your tyres, some tyre levers, and possibly a gas-canister inflation device.
We’re not talking about an urban style of jigging from the ’80s here, we’re talking about making sure your brakes are easy to use, so that you are in more control of your bike.
The distance between the handlebar, and your brake levers is known as ‘reach’. On most modern brake setups, the reach is adjustable, so you don’t have to stretch to your fingers to reach the levers. If you are better able to grab the levers, you’ll be able to actuate your brakes more effectively, and thus have better control over your speed.
Ask your local bike shop to help you either shim your road bike levers, or dial in the levers on other types of bikes.