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A Women's Guide to Road Riding!
Cycling is a great way to get in shape, make new friends and, most importantly, have more fun! Here are some woman-to-woman tips to make your cycling adventures fun and successful.
Get the Right Bicycle Having the right bike makes riding even better! We have many styles to choose from and are happy to point out the differences so you're sure to find one that's perfect. First, it will help if you think about how you plan to ride your new bike. Do you want to cruise the bike paths for a little exercise? Are you signed up for a local charity ride? Are you looking to trade your commute by car for one by bike? Knowing the answers to these questions makes finding the right bicycle much easier.
We can help you with the next important question, too, which is what size bike you should get. Just swing by the shop in some comfortable clothes (since you'll sit on some bikes), and we'll take a look and help you find the right fit. Keep in mind that while many manufacturers now make bikes specifically for women, not all women require these models and you may fit a standard one just fine. This is because the parts, such as the saddle and handlebars, can be easily adjusted or changed if needed (we'll help you with that, too). Once you hit the road on the right, perfectly fitted bike you'll be amazed at how comfortable and in control you are and how much more fun riding is.
Accessorize! You might be tempted to ride in basic athletic shorts, a T-shirt and running shoes, but genuine cycling clothing is so much more comfortable, safe and practical you should really give it a try. Start with a helmet. All of ours pass all the safety standards, so choose the one you like that's in your price range and most comfortable. Helmets have gotten so airy and light you probably won't even know you're wearing it.
It's also a great idea to not ride in regular shorts, but to wear a good pair of cycling shorts instead. This is because basic cut-offs or gym shorts have seams inside that can cause chafing and numbness. True cycling shorts (available in different styles from baggy to spandex) breathe to keep you dry, offer padding for comfort and are seam-free so there's no chafing.
Many are made with antibacterial fabrics, too, and some have pockets. Find a pair that fits like a second skin and remember that your skin is the only thing you wear under them (unless you choose to wear cycling-specific underwear, which is as seam-free as the shorts).
Equally important for comfort is riding on a saddle that fits your anatomy correctly. Sometimes the seat on your new bike will fit perfectly, sometimes not. When a seat doesn't feel right you should try a new one. Keep in mind that most women's saddles are designed to fit a wider pelvis, so if you have slim hips, you may want to consider different men's saddles, which are narrower. It takes a while to get used to new saddles so try it for a few rides before deciding if it's right.
Other important accessories include cycling gloves, which have padded palms for additional comfort and protection, cycling eyewear that blocks glare, UV rays and airborne debris and cycling jerseys that wick and breathe to keep you dry and comfortable plus usually include pockets for carrying essentials like your I.D., energy bars and cell phone, and all in an easily accessed location.
As you ride more, you may also want to consider cycling shoes. Unlike running shoes, these have stiff soles to keep your arches from collapsing when pedaling, which keeps your feet from getting sore and tired. We have a great selection of women's clothing and accessories and are happy to help you find just the right gear.
Practice Makes Perfect When you're confident in your ability to shift, brake, turn and ride in a straight line, you'll have less to worry about when you're riding on the road. And the best way to tune these skills is to practice them in a safe location like an empty parking lot or smooth grass field. Ask some friends to join you to make it more fun. Pacticing basic shifting and braking and getting on and off smoothly is easy when there's no traffic and you'll improve a lot with some repitition.
Next, we recommend setting up a mini obstacle course you can ride around avoiding the hazards, working on your slow-riding balance and control, then gaining speed and stopping short to work on your emergency stopping, too. These are essential skills no matter where you ride. Practice riding in a straight line while glancing over your left shoulder as if you're looking for traffic, too (try not to swerve off your line when you look back). Another good drill is to put your water bottle on the ground and then try to pick it up as you slowly ride past without getting off your bike or putting a foot down. Drills like this will help you develop better handling skills and riding near traffic and flying down hills will feel natural and safe.
Know the Rules of the Road Another key way to improve your confidence and safety riding in and around traffic is knowing the rules of the road and your responsibilities. One of the most important safety rules is to always ride with traffic and never against it. Another is to follow the same rules as drivers because cyclists and motorists are the same under the law.
Be sure to ride predictably and defensively, signal your intentions and give yourself plenty of time and space to maneuver, too. Pay attention to your surroundings and you won't be caught off guard. For example, if you're aware that a car is passing you'll be ready should they suddenly turn right in front of you cutting you off.
Some riders like to use a mirror to keep track of things behind, but even if you use one you should also always look and listen for cars. Sometimes you'll need to take over the middle of the lane, such as when you approach a stop sign or make a left-hand turn at an intersection, so give yourself room and be assertive!
A great tip when you want to explore unfamiliar roads, is to drive them first to see what kind of traffic they have and use the car's odometer to find out how far you'll be riding. And, if you see other cyclists on those roads, it's a good sign that you've found a popular and safe cycling route you'll enjoy.
Be Prepared! Because you can easily ride long distances on a bicycle and run into varying weather and conditions it's important to be prepared for anything. Check the weather before you head out (not just for your town but for where you're cycling to, also) and choose clothing that will keep you dry and warm. The best approach is to dress in layers so you can cover up if it's cool and remove layers and tuck them in your pockets or pack once it warms up. And, keep in mind that in cool weather there's a wind-chill factor and it'll be colder once you're cruising along. Be sure to bring enough outerwear to stay warm.
Another important part of enjoying rides is eating and drinking enough so you don't run out of energy (cycling burns calories quickly). Even on short rides it's important to stay hydrated, so bring a bottle filled with water or sports drink if you prefer. On longer rides you should carry water and/or a sports drink and gels, fruit, your favorite snacks and/or energy bars for refueling.
Other things we recommend include your I.D. in case of emergencies, and a little cash or a credit card for those coffee or ice-cream emergencies. A small lock is another handy item. It won't offer high security but will safeguard your bike while you go in to use a restroom or pickup a drink. Carrying a cell phone is important, too. If you encounter something unexpected, like an afternoon rainstorm you'll be able to call for a ride home. And, if you're going out near dusk or dawn, be sure to have a front and rear light for safety. It's also the law so it could save you a ticket.
Lastly, eventually you'll get a flat tire, so always carry a pump, spare tube and tire levers on every ride. Some riders find it helpful to write down instructions for fixing a flat to carry with them when they ride. If you're not sure how to do it, we're happy to explain and set you up with the correct pump and tube for your bike. And, it's an excellent idea to practice flat fixing at home so you can do on the road when the time comes. It's easy once you know how.
Ride with a Group One of the best ways to start road riding and enjoy it even more is to join a group or club. Some clubs offer "no drop" rides, meaning the group stays together for the entire ride. These kinds of rides are a great way to talk with other cyclists like you to learn tips and tricks and practice riding with a group. Plus, you'll make new friends for sharing riding routes and swapping cycling stories. We can help you find local cycling clubs that suit your style of riding. Or get some friends together and start your own riding group!
We hope these tips and suggestions help you enjoy cycling and achieve your goals. And, remember that there's no such thing as a silly question! Please feel free to contact us anytime you have a question and we'll be happy to help!