Bicycling Tips For Women
Bicycling is one of the most rewarding ways to get fit while having fun. Whether you’re new to biking or have been riding since you were a kid, there are several points to consider to help make your biking experience more comfortable and safe.
The number one reason for cycling discomfort is riding a bike that doesn’t fit properly. If you’re new to biking or looking to upgrade from your old bike, Mike Wodyn, fit specialist at Trek Bikes in Madison, Wisconson suggests taking a look at bikes that are specifically designed for a woman’s body and offer the following features:
- Handlebars that are narrower.
- Brake levers closer to handles bars.
- Saddles that are wider in the back and narrower in the front with hollowed out center.
Mike also recommends having your bike professionally fitted to your body if you have the following problems during or after a ride:
- Knee pain
- Neck pain
- Low back or shoulder pain
- Numbness (hands, feet or pelvis)
- Poor biking posture (slumping or a too upright back)
Depending on your problem, slight adjustments in stem length and angle, seat height, position and style, or pedals can help remedy the discomfort and prevent muscle pain.
Don’t underestimate the importance of finding the right seat for your body. Women generally need a seat that’s a bit wider in the back to align properly with the pelvis and allow the “sit bones” to provide support. Keep in mind that a soft bike seat isn’t necessarily the best choice, as the lack of firm support can lead to the development of hot spots and numbness even after a short ride. Also, a too soft and springy saddle doesn’t maintain a constant distance between your pedals and can cause excessive bouncing, disrupting your pedal rate.
Bike clothing is designed to protect your body from friction and enhance performance, and has come a long way from the old, bulky padded shorts. There are great new wicking fabrics that keep your skin dry and cool, and shorts and pants designed for a woman’s body with thin gel liners for riding comfort. Avoid wearing cotton-it absorbs sweat and holds it next to the skin, decreasing your body’s ability to evaporate and cool.
It pays to invest in a pair of bike shoes as their stiffer soles prevent foot pain and numbness and increase your pedaling efficiency. Always wear padded biking gloves to protect your hands during a fall and to provide a firm grip and absorb road vibration.
The single most important piece of biking gear is your helmet. Your risk of severe head injury is greatly reduced in an accident or fall by the simple addition of a well-fitting helmet. Make wearing your helmet a habit for every bike ride, just like buckling your seat belt every time your drive. To make sure your helmet is providing the best protection possible:
- Replace your helmet every four years or after a fall.
- Never leave your helmet in a hot car-the direct sun and heat breaks down materials.
- Properly fit your helmet. The front of the helmet should sit just above your brows, and the straps should be snug enough so you can’t push the helmet up or down.
- Never use someone else’s old helmet.
Nothing will ruin a ride faster than having a flat or breakdown mid ride, so make a habit of going through the following checklist before each ride:
- Check tires for proper inflation and for any cuts or debris embedded in the tires
- Look for loose nuts, bolts and spokes
- Clean and lubricate the chain
- Inspect your headset and wheels for wobbles
Buy a small bike pouch that you can fasten to the back of your seat to store everything you need to fix a flat (patch kit, tire remover levers, tube). You should also pack energy bars, plenty of water, sunscreen and lip balm, a lightweight shell, ID, cash and trail pass. It’s not a bad idea to include a cell phone if you plan on biking alone in case your bike breaks down and you need a pick up.
So, get out on the road and fun on your bike! If you’d like to find other bikers to ride with, consider joining one of the local biking clubs or take part in weekly rides posted at your local bike stores.