The subject of bicycle helmets seems to raise all sorts of issues. Should they be compulsory? Do they actually save riders from head injury? Well I’m not here to debate all that, but I thought it might be helpful to provide a few tips on buying the right helmet for female cyclists.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think helmets should be compulsory, just like I don’t think seatbelts should be in cars. My thoughts around this subject are more to do with the ‘nanny state’ idea than anything else. I believe that we should take personal responsibility for our own safety and those of our children. That’s not to say that I don’t wear a seatbelt or a helmet, but it should be my choice, not some faceless politicians.
But I’m a law abiding citizen and in the country in which I was born and choose to live bicycle helmets are compulsory, so I obey the law and wear one. Just to clarify one point, if helmets were not compulsory I would still choose to wear one while riding my road bike, particularly on the road but I would like to have the choice not to wear one when I’m undertaking a more leisurely style of riding and not riding on the road.
I work in a bike shop so sell helmets on a daily basis and I often get asked by my customers (both men and women) – How does it look? And I usually answer – Like a helmet! So anyone who thinks they look really good in a helmet is probably kidding themselves. They don’t look great but they serve a purpose.
When I first started riding about five and a half years ago I understood the need for lycra clothing, but I set out to buy the cheapest I could find, and at the time I thought this was okay. The result was that I look pretty ordinary and worse still my new lycra clothing didn’t fit properly, plus it certainly didn’t last the regular washing it required.
I soon learned that I needed to spend a bit more and be more discerning about the lycra clothing I chose to wear.
Fast forward to now and I’m very conscious about how I look in my riding kit, how it fits and how it washes.
So it’s been a pleasure to try out some of the items from the new Velocio range of women’s cycling kit. I purchased (albeit at a discount because I’m writing this review) the ‘Paint’ short sleeve jersey, signature bib knicks and light long sleeve jersey.
The range is the brainchild of Australian Kristy Scrymgeour who among other things is the owner/manager of women’s pro cycling team Specialized-lululemon. Kristy told me about her new venture when we met up in January when she was home in Sydney for her summer break.
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!
Specialized Ruby Expert saddle
Finding the right saddle should be a high priority for all female cyclists. I’m a strong advocate of women-specific saddles, like I am of women specific bikes, because women have very different anatomy to men and therefore have very different needs. The good news is that if you buy a women- specific bike then it will already be fitted with a women’s saddle so you’re already part the way there. I was really lucky that my Specialized road bike came with a saddle (pictured) that suited me and I’m still using it, two and a half years later.
One potential area of discomfort for women is caused by putting pressure on the front of your private parts. The soft tissue at the front really isn’t meant to be bear weight. We have sit bones, aka ischial tuberosities, for that job. But on a bike, in a bent-over riding position, your body weight is shared between the two sit bones and the pubic bone in the front, which means there is pressure on the soft tissue (the perineum) at the front. Read my previous post on secret women’s business for a few other tips on how to look after that area when riding.
I confess that I know very little about wheels so when my friend and fellow bike rider Tegan Cox offered to write a guest blog post I coudn’t refuse. Over to you Tegan……..
Wheels. Bikes come with them so why do they need any further consideration? I know when I started riding a bike I didn’t have an opinion on what went on beneath me. Then I started in triathlon and the bike bling in transition was clear indication that wheels are not just for turning and keeping your face off the ground.
Most entry-level bikes come with solid but somewhat heavy wheels that are not necessarily performance orientated. You might look at going for a more expensive, lighter wheel if you want to find some speed and time advantages, make going up hill easier.
For triathlon and time trialling you might look for a deeper rimmed wheel for improved aerodynamics, which may (or may not in my case) deliver speed advantages and improved efficiency.
Or you might just want something that looks and sounds awesome.
My dream bike – S-Works Amira comes in a 44 cm size
I’m a relatively short woman at 160 cm (5 foot 3 inches) but I’ve met quite a few female road cyclists who are shorter than me and one of them mentioned to me that she and other short stature women have trouble finding bikes to ‘fit’.
A lot of people are dubious about the whole women’s specific bike concept and question whether it’s just marketing hype but I’m a real believer in the philosophy. Read my past posts on this subject and make up your own mind. From my perspective the women’s specific bike becomes more important the shorter you are, so women who measure in at 5 foot or below should really consider a women’s specific bike. Thankfully plenty of bike manufacturers have responded to the short end of the market and many produce 44 cm bikes.
To give you an idea of the sizing Specialized produces a sizing chart which suggests that a 44 cm Dolce, Ruby or Amira (the women’s specific road bike models) will suit a women who is 143-152 cm or 4”8’ to 5”0’.
Women who love cycling also love getting presents from Santa that reflect their favourite past-time. Here’s a few ideas for the female road cyclist in your life.
S-Works women’s road shoes
Specialized has recently launched new S-Works road shoes for both men and women. I have the predecessors and they’re great. The new ones are lighter and look even better. The retail price is $450 and they are available only at Specialized dealers like Ashfield Cycles.
S-Works Amira SL4 Compact
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:
- Merckx EFX-3
I was thrilled when David Cook of Clarence Street Cyclery asked me if I’d like to ride the new Eddy Merckx women’s specific road bike and write a review for my blog. It’s my very first bike review so don’t be expecting any technical talk or voice of experience.
For benchmarking purposes my own current road bike is a 2011 Specialized Amira Expert which has a full carbon frame and the gearing is full Ultegra. I really love my bike but I also jumped at the opportunity to ride a different bike for a week and certainly didn’t regret this decision.
The Eddy Merckx name is synonymous with cycling and racing and they claim that this bike is designed with racing in mind. So they have incorporated ‘Female Race Geometry’ where the angle of the seat tube is kept as close to proper racing angle as possible, the top tube is made shorter and the front head tube is made larger.
The bike which I’ve just returned to Clarence Street Cyclery was an Eddy Merckx EFX-3 women’s specific road bike. It has a full carbon frame and the gearing is Ultegra. If you want all the technical specifications then go to the Eddy Merckx website . It retails for $3,999 which seems to be fairly comparable price in the marketplace.
I know a lot of men leave their Christmas shopping to the last minute. I’ve had first hand experience of this for the last 20 years so to help you guys out here’s a few tips for last minute Christmas gift ideas for the female riders in your life.
All road girls like proper road cycling gloves that are made for women’s smaller hands. My favourites are Specialized BG Gel women’s gloves (size small for me in case any of my family or friends are reading this). You can buy them at Specialized dealers like Ashfield Cycles or Northside Cyclery.
I also have a pair of Bontrager (made by Trek) that are also nice. I bought these at Clarence Street Cyclery women’s store.
Socks are a great stocking filler and the only socks a women would be happy to find in her stocking are special road bike riding socks like my favourites from Specialized.
I don’t recommend you buy just any socks and pop them in the stocking. Socks are definitely not regarded as a great gift by women under normal circumstances.