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When you live in a country like Australia it is pretty difficult to avoid heat and sun exposure while you’re riding your road bike. The summer sun can be pretty fierce so here’s my tips for handling it.
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Ride early and late
I do most of my riding early in the morning. There are a number of reasons for riding early but one of them is definitely sun exposure and heat. You’ll also avoid traffic if you ride early in the day. But if you can’t ride early in the morning then try a twilight ride to avoid the sun.
Make sure you carry at least one full waterbottle on your bike, if not two. You can buy insulated bottles like the ones I use from Camelbak. I fill them up with fridge-cooled water before I go out and the water stays cool for hours. If you’re going on a long ride (more than say 60 km) then you should consider a sports drink in a second bottle. This helps with hydration but also energy. There are always places to stop and refill bottles, particularly on organised rides.
Obviously the most important thing to get into road cycling is a bike but there’s also a few other items that will enhance the experience for any budding roadie, both women and men.
A road bike
You can spend any where from about $800 to $20,000 on a road bike, even cheaper if you opt for a second hand or low quality one. However, like all manufactured items in our modern world, you do tend to get what you pay for, so stretch your budget just a little and you’ll enjoy the riding experience much more. I suggest you consider spending at least $1,500 (that’s Australian dollars) on your first road bike. For that you’ll get an alloy frame and entry level gearing like Shimano Sora and Tiagra or perhaps a mix of Shimano 105 and other options.
My first bike was a Jamis brand bike and cost me around $1,500. It served me well for about two and a half years before I decided to upgrade to a carbon bike. I’ve still got that bike and occasionally ride it out on the road, or more often on my indoor trainer.
I wrote about the subject of dressing for riding in cooler weather in April last year and while this post is not dissimilar, I’ve changed a few items and habits in my cycling wardrobe and I’m happy to share my updated preferences.
Firstly, I need to stress that I live in Sydney, Australia and we enjoy a temperate climate which affords me warm summers, and cool (not really cold) winters. I know many of you live in climates where you frequently experience sub-zero temperatures which thankfully I’ve never experienced on my bike so I won’t be covering that subject here.
I thought it would be useful to share with you how I cope with my cool winters and the autumn and spring temperatures in between.
Firstly, it’s important to still look good and be colour coordinated. In my first cycling winter I just threw on whatever seemed warm and I must have looked a mess. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you need to lose all sense of style!
Ride early and late
I do most of my riding early in the morning. There are a number of reasons for riding early but one of them is definitely sun exposure and heat. You’ll also avoid traffic if you ride early in the day. But if you can’t ride early in the morning then try a twilight ride to avoid sun exposure.
Last Friday I headed to Melbourne to visit the Ausbike Expo which is the annual bike industry trade show which this year featured hundreds of new products and services for the Australian bike industry.
I spent all day working my way from stand to stand asking the eager participants if they had any products specifically designed for female cyclists or products they believed would appeal to women. Quite a few people steered me towards anything pink but I quickly explained that while pink is popular with some women cyclists it doesn’t appeal to me and I know many of my readers agree.
So here’s a few highlights of the show:
I’ve been asked this question by quite a few of the men who I ride with. They, like me, love cycling so much that they want to share its many benefits with those closest to them. So here’s a few tips that might help. Please excuse the stereotyping and generalising.
Be patient and understanding
Women generally approach activities like cycling differently than men. It starts early in life and patterns are set. If you cast your mind back to your childhood you’ll recall that if you were a boy and rode a bike then you probably did some daredevil stuff like riding off jumps or at the least rode around for hours on end with your mates. Girls on the other hand tend to amble along, not ride as far, generally don’t take risks and stop for a chat. Sound familiar?
So when adult women start riding a bike again they generally don’t have too many fundamental bike skills other than being able to balance. That was certainly the case with me. As I said, I’m making some generalisations here.
So if you’re a man trying to encourage your female partner to ride a bike then you need to be patient and understand that she’s probably not very confident or even competent on the bike. Don’t expect her to want to jump on a road bike, and hit the closest road for a 50 km sprint around the neighbourhood. Let her dictate the pace at which she progresses. For example, if she’s not keen on clip-in shoes to begin with then encourage her, but don’t push her into it. Perhaps it’s better to start with flat pedals and running shoes and progress to clip-ins. But keep that pedal spanner on hand if she changes her mind though.
I’m very lucky that I live in a place with a temperate climate which affords me warm summers and cool (not really cold) winters. In researching for this blog post I read about dressing for sub-zero temperatures which thankfully I’ve never experienced on my bike so I won’t be covering that here.
I thought it would be useful to share with you how I cope with my cool winters and the autumn and spring temperatures in between.
Firstly, it’s important to still look good and colour coordinated. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you need to lose all sense of style.
The secret rests with layers. Things you can take off and store in your pockets if you get too hot. The easiest way to test if you’ve got too much on, is if you’re already warm before you start your ride, you’ll be hot within a short period of time. You should be cool rather than cold before you start so you’ll be just right when you’re in the middle of your ride. Also, don’t forget to factor in the outdoor café at the end of the ride.
Now I have to confess up front that I don’t commute to work so I’m not an expert on the subject but I know many other cyclists, both men and women who do and I thought it would be valuable to put a few tips together.
However I do think that commuting to work by bike is an option that many women should consider. Women tend to approach cycling differently to men (please excuse the stereotyping) and that includes bike commuting. A lot of men treat commuting like a race and constantly attempt to outdo their previous times and those of other riders. On the other hand women tend to treat it more like a practical way to get to work and are more focused on safety than speed. So naturally women have a few ‘special’ requirements.
To me it’s all in the planning. Here’s a few tips I’ve compiled to get you started.
A little known fact about me is that I have three university degrees (and am currently undertaking my fourth). One of them is a MA in history which I completed many years ago at Sydney Uni just for fun. History, and in particular social history has always fascinated me. I came across a wonderful description of women who took up cycling in the Victorian era and the challenges that their attire brought.
“What shall we wear?” is a query rising from every channel of woman’s life: for upon each occasion we must be suitably clad to enjoy its peculiar benefits. This is especially noticeable for such exercise as bicycling, for, in this case, it is not only a matter of appearing well, but the health, the comfort and safety demand a carefully selected costume and equipment. From The Ladies Standard Magazine, April 1894
Also from the same magazine came a letter from a reader that described in detail the problems women faced when riding a bicycle in restrictive clothing. If I was compelled to go back to wearing a skirt on my wheel, I would give up cycling…. I shall never forget what I suffered with my arm, all the fault of my skirt. Some friends and I were riding one day last summer against a very heavy wind, when it caught my skirt and wound it around my pedal, throwing me. The rapid gait I was going caused the force of the fall to break my arm. It laid me up six weeks; then it was I decided to wear almost any other costume, but never a skirt, and declared if ever I recovered the use of my arm, I should wear bloomers; and truly glad I am that I did so decide, for never in the years of my experience as a bicycle rider have I derived such pleasure from cycling. I climb hills impossible before. It has increased my speed just double. I fear nothing from teams or roads, for if I slip I light on my feet. With my bloomers and heavy undergarments, leggins to my knees, a corset waist, and in cool weather a double-breasted box coat, which amply protects me from chilling, I enjoy my riding.
When I first started riding a little over three years ago, many of my non cycling girlfriends would say to me “You must get such a sore backside after riding so far on that little seat”. But the truth is that it wasn’t my bum that was sore but my more vulnerable ‘girl bits’ that really suffered when I first started riding. After three years I’m pleased to say that I rarely get any soreness or pain down there so I assume I’ve just ‘hardened up’ so to speak.
I also noticed that not many women spoke about this problem that plagues so many of us particularly when we start riding, so I thought I’d write a blog about what I’ve learned. There is one exception and that’s a cycling girlfriend of mine who said to me not long after we’d met “Does your fanny hurt from riding?” and of course my answer was a resounding yes or at least sometimes.
In her book Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling: Everything you need to know, Selene Yeager explains that the tender tissue of the vagina (let’s call a spade a spade here) is sitting precariously close to our outsides so can suffer easily from tenderness and once aggravated it will “pipe up pretty loudly”. She recommends high quality, women-specific bike knicks that have a moulded one piece chamois and you don’t wear undies underneath them. She also suggests a women’s specific saddle which is wider to support a women’s pelvis and usually has cut-outs to relieve pressure where it counts.