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Category Archive: Lycra cycle clothing
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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 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.
A small side benefit of starting this blog (and letting a few people in the cycling industry know about it) is that I’ve so far received a few products to review so I want to disclose that up front. You might think that compels me to say great things about every product but luckily for me the Netti kit I was sent is really nice so it’s easy to say nice things without it being seen as biased.
The Netti brand has been around for many years and most cyclists associate it with high viz clothing for commuters, and in the past that’s probably fairly accurate but the brand has been reborn with a new range that I believe is divided into three levels – commuter, elite and performance. The kit I received fits in the elite range. They even have a new logo.
When I first started riding I had just a few items of cycle clothing and I wasn’t too fussed about what they looked like or even how they performed. Now, three years on I’m much more focused on both the appearance and the function of my cycle wear. So I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt in the past three years about dressing for riding from head to toe. I’ll start at the toes and work upwards.
They may seem unimportant but if you’re going to spend many hours wearing them, they need to be comfortable and look good as well. Most of the time I now wear proper cycling socks that cover my ankles but don’t come too far up my leg. I used to wear ankle socks that just peeped over the top of my shoes but I find the proper cycling socks more comfortable because they are fairly thin. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t wear shorter socks on a really hot day. I also wear the same socks in winter because my long knicks go over the top of the socks and seal me up so no draught gets in.
If you’re going to ride a road bike you need to wear road bike shoes with cleats that clip into your pedals. I did this from day one and have never looked back. I have a few friends who started out with sneakers and pedal clips but they have all moved to clip-in shoes. I was really nervous when I first started wearing clip-in shoes and I fell off a couple of times but I’m really happy I took the plunge. I’ve just got some new road shoes which are lovely S-works road shoes (stay tuned for a review soon). My original ones were Shimano and lasted me for three years and I’ll now keep them for my wet weather riding. In winter I wear shoe covers that look a bit like booties that cover my shoes and ankles. In cooler weather I wear toe covers on my shoes to stop the cool breeze coming through.
Whether you wear bib knicks or non bib knicks is a personal decision.
However there are two things that I think are non-negotiable if you want to be part of the crowd. One is that you should wear knicks, rather than shorts or gym pants, and secondly you shouldn’t wear any underwear underneath them. They are designed to be worn without undies and as long as they are not see-through it should be fine to do so without causing offence to your fellow riders.
When I started riding three years ago I did what most people do and headed for a bike shop and bought the cheapest plain black knicks I could find. These were comfortable, affordable and served me well. As you would expect they weren’t bib knicks. At the time I probably wasn’t even aware that bib knicks existed and if I was, I thought they were for experienced riders.
My conversion occurred when I had the opportunity to order some bib knicks that were part of my ride uniform in the First Data team to complete my second JDRF ride in January 2010. Phillip suggested I give them a try and I suppose because they didn’t cost me anything I thought, why not?