Calling all women – Here’s 10 reasons you should take up cycling

Gong 2013 #3I like to think of myself as a bit of a cycling evangelist. That doesn’t mean I give regular sermons about cycling but through this blog, my job and other social occasions I love the opportunity to share my love for cycling with others, particularly women. So here’s 10 reasons why you should think about cycling. They are in no particular order (just the order they jumped into my head). The initial list took me about five minutes to write so you can see that I’m completely enthusiastic about this subject.

1. Fitness

Please note that I haven’t called this point ‘weight loss’ because that’s not what it’s all about. Fitness is a key benefit of cycling. I’m in my forties and I’m fitter than I’ve ever been in my life. I also weigh more than I did before I started cycling five years ago, but I’m actually leaner as a result of all those hours on the bike.

2. Café visits

This is one of my favourite benefits. All the road cyclists that I know go to the café after a ride. This means you get to have a good chat and you get to eat yummy food because you’ve just ‘pre-burnt’ your calories. I don’t actually drink coffee (because I hate the taste of it) but I don’t let that stop me being part of the café culture. Hot chocolate doesn’t look that different!

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The Skinny Lattes – getting more women on bikes

Skinny lattes editedI first heard about the Adelaide-based women only cycling club, The Skinny Lattes a couple of years ago but it wasn’t until now that I made contact. I previously profiled a women’s only club based in Austin, Texas in the US, a country where I’m sure there are plenty of women’s only clubs. However, The Skinny Lattes is the only one I’m aware of in Australia (please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about that). I recently caught up with Belinda Bramley who is the Club Secretary and one of the founding members.

When was the Skinny Lattes formed?

The Skinny Lattes Cycling Club was formed in 2002 by three girlfriends Felicity Laing, Lynette Collins and Belinda Bramley who recognised a need for a women’s specific cycling group.

How many members do you have? How do you join?

Currently we have 90 members. We don’t search for members – they find us. You contact the club via the website, and then we chat with potential new members and if we sound like the right club you join via the Cycling Australia Website.

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An exciting year ahead for women’s cycling

ParisEver since I started writing this blog (about two and a half years ago) I’ve been following the women’s pro peleton. Prior to that, I have to admit I only followed the men’s, mostly because it was easily accessible with lots of TV and media coverage. Over those two and a half years I’ve learnt how to find information about the women’s tour and I think that 2014 is going to be big year for the women, and here’s a few reasons why.

UCI Women’s commission headed up by Tracey Gaudry

Last year Australian former pro cyclist Tracey Gaudry was named as one of three Vice Presidents of the UCI. That followed her earlier appointment as the President of the Oceania Cycling Confederation. That gives her two big roles and I’m sure she’s up to the challenge.

A new Women’s Commission of the UCI has also been formed and has already met for the first time to start planning its work.

I was lucky enough to meet Tracey at a forum in January and will be interviewing her in the next month or so for an upcoming blog post.

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How to find the right saddle for women who cycle

My saddle choice - Specialized Oura

My saddle choice – Specialized Oura

For me it’s a no brainer that women need different bike saddles than men. Nowhere on the body is it more evident that women have different needs to men, than in the area of the body that makes contact with the bike seat, known as the saddle.

The saddle is the key contact area of the bike. It takes most of your weight and therefore it is crucially important to having a comfortable seat.

If you buy a women’s specific bike then chances are it will already be fitted with a women’s specific saddle but it’s not necessarily the right one for you. My recommendation when you buy a new bike is to try the supplied saddle first, but be prepared to change it if it proves to be uncomfortable.

In my experience, everyone will feel a degree of discomfort when they first start riding a road bike because it’s a new activity and your whole body needs to adapt. However, if after a month or so you are still uncomfortable then you should seek help.

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Don’t be left out, there are plenty of road bikes for short women

S-Works Amira is available in a 44 cm frame size

S-Works Amira is available in a 44 cm frame size

About this time last year I wrote a blog post about road bikes that are specifically built for short women, and ever since my monitoring has shown that this is a really popular topic. So I thought I should update the information for all you shorties.

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 extra small road bikes.

To give you an idea of the sizing Specialized produces a sizing chart which suggests that a 44 cm Dolce, Ruby, Alias or Amira (the women’s specific road bike models) will suit a women who is 143-152 cm or 4”8’ to 5”0’.

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A women’s guide to selecting the right bike

As a keen roadie I’m quite biased towards road bikes, but I’m also well aware as a person who sells bikes that a road bike is not every women’s perfect bike, so here’s my quick summary on a few options you could consider when buying your ideal bike. It’s by no means exhaustive.

Road bike

Amira Pro Race 2014I had to start with my personal favourite! The road bike is a fast and light machine and as the name suggests it is best ridden on roads, or at least on bitumen or paved surfaces. It’s skinny tyres will not last long on other terrain.

To me it’s just a pure pleasure to ride my Specialized Amira. It’s a women’s specific road bike which means it is designed for women and that’s not just about pretty colours. Specialized women’s road bikes are designed to meet the needs of women and that includes the frame geometry, saddle, handlebar width, gear/brake reach and compact gearing and cranks. Lots of people, and particularly bike shop owners trying to clear last year’s stock, will tell you can ride any road bike, but I’m a great believer in women’s specific road bikes and I’ve written a few blog posts on this topic previously.

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How to improve your hill climbing with hill repeats and circuits

Hill climbingHill climbing is definitely one of my weaknesses as a rider and I continue to work on them and slowly improve. I’ve previously written about hill climbing technique and for this post I’ve borrowed the words of the expert on hill climbing drills. Thanks again to Women’s Cycling in Canada for allowing me to reproduce these words of wisdom from Diane Stibbard. Womenscycling.ca is definitely worth a look for a range of interesting articles on technique, products reviews and more. Over to Diane……

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Tips and etiquette for riding in a group

14When I first started riding about five years ago, I was terrified at the idea of riding in a group of people. Every time someone rode close to me I’d move as far away as a could, but over time I’ve grown used to riding in closer proximity to others. In fact, I’ve noticed that the more experienced the other riders are, the closer they are likely to ride beside you, and on the whole this is pretty safe.

So I thought it would be useful to share a few things I’ve learned. This is not a definitive guide and I’m sure there are others both in Australia and around the world who do it differently but these tips will help get you going.

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My visit to the National Road Championships

The women in action

The women in action

I’ve just returned from a fantastic weekend in country Victoria to watch the National Road Cycling Championships.

It was my first visit but it most certainly won’t be my last. What a fabulous event. It was very professionally run by Cycling Victoria/Australia – the weather was perfect, the crowds not too large and the cycling was awesome.

We flew to Melbourne rather than choosing the 10 hour drive south and met up with my cycling enthusiast brother-in-law who drove us up to the goldfields district. He also organised for our free accommodation at his sister’s place near the racing so not only was it a fun weekend, it was a pretty cheap one as well.

We arrived in Buninyong in time to watch the men’s under 23 road race on Saturday morning followed by the women’s race in the afternoon.

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Motivate yourself with a few women’s cycling videos

This week I’m sharing a few videos I’ve found on You Tube that I thought other female cyclists might find motivational, eduational and entertaining.

Tiffany’s Top Ten Tips for Female Riders

Specialized-lululemon Get Into Cycling

Anna Meares takes Gold in London 2012

Evelyn Stevens: From Banker to Pro Cyclist

I hope you enjoyed them. There are plenty more on You Tube on a myriad of topics so search for your own topics of interest.

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