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Road Bike Maintenance

Bike Fitting: What women need to consider for a bike fit

Delving into the world of bike fitting, Janet Birkmyre, editor of BikeEnvy has already explored who would benefit from a bike fit. Janet with the help of experts from The Bike Whisperer, Romero Performance and CycleFit now focuses her attention on bike fit issues that are specific to us women.

What issues does the female form raise for bike fitting? Image by lululemon-athletica via Flickr.

Are women more likely to suffer from poor bike set up in the first place?

Julian Wall, Director and co-founder of the London based bike fit specialists, CycleFit, believes that because everyone is unique, a ‘one-size’ (or even several sizes) fits all’ approach will never suffice. However, in their opinion, women have been particularly poorly served by the cycle-industry.

Wall explains, “The ‘shrink it and pink it’ approach to bike design is naïve, in that it assumes women are mini-men with selective colour-blindless. It is incredibly insulting and very poor biomechanically.”

And according to CycleFit, women were less likely to tolerate pain – typically we either seek help or quit the sport, which seems a pity when there is so much female friendly help at hand.

CycleFit also believe that the more limited options for female cyclists are a result of the evolution of the bike industry.

“The vast majority of designers, engineers and indeed the cycling industry are made up of men, so it is easy to imagine how equipment could have evolved slightly towards working best with male physiology.”

This does not necessarily mean women will not fit ‘off-the-shelf’ bikes, just that it may be more tricky to get the geometry right.

Rebecca from Romero Performance, a World Champion in both cycling and rowing sees the gender issue in a slightly different light.

“The human body is so diverse that many people, both male and female are riding sub-optimally. However, I think awareness of the technical and biomechanical issues of bike riding, and the benefits of bike fitting are lower among women than men.”

Happily, Romero believes this is changing for the better, as participation by women in cycling increases.

Female specific bike fit issues

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that all of the specialists we talked to agreed that the most common bike fit issue for women is saddle comfort – I guess that’s the area where it really is different for us women!

However, if you suffer in the saddle department, help is definitely at hand. Rebecca informed us “with more women’s specific saddles available, it’s getting easier to find a saddle to suit.

“Quite often though the problem isn’t the saddle itself, but the way the bike is set up, which forces the rider to distribute their weight unevenly or in the wrong places.”

It’s often the saddle that needs the most attention at a bike fitting for women.

For the bike fitting guru Scherrit Knoesen, who runs The Bike Whisperer saddle issues can be exacerbated by a miss-match between rider and frame or components.

“On average, women are more likely to be long legged and short torso’ed (proportionally) and this doesn’t suit long and low road bikes. You only have to look at the options and you will see that there is a limited choices of light, well spec’ed short and high road bikes.

“In a more upright position, a women’s sit load is on the sit bones, which is good, there is not too much to bruise. However, as they roll forward into a more aero position, the pressure moves forward and here the issue is pinching and bruising.”

To tackle this very female problem in a scientific way, CycleFit have invested in training a female member of staff in gebioMized pressure analysis technology, which shows real-time pressure distribution across the saddle. This allows them to recommend female-specific saddles with far more accuracy and expertise than ever before.

We’ve got a whole host of articles that can help you find a suitable saddle, click through on the links below to read more:

How to: Choose a saddle

The saddle comfort equation

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