I work at a bike shop, generally behind the scenes. But every Sunday I get to work out in the shop and I really love it. My very favourite type of customer is the woman who hasn’t ridden since she was young but has decided it’s time to take the plunge and get back on the bike. It’s so exciting for me because cycling is not only my job but it is my lifelong passion and I know something that this woman doesn’t yet know – cycling is about to change her life.
So, what are my tips for women new to or returning to cycling? What advice can I give you and what gear do you really need? Here are my top five:
1. Invest in a good saddle
No doubt about it, you won’t get far if you can’t sit down. Most bikes come with a generic type saddle because it is near impossible to design one saddle alone that caters for all bottom shapes. Whether you’re buying a saddle only or a whole bike, make sure the shop you buy from will let you try and exchange saddles until you find the perfect fit. You’ll be amazed how different each saddle feels. There are lots of models and lots of shapes in a range of widths. Enjoy road testing them all!
2. I’m not finished with bottoms yet
Your rear is likely to get sore when you first start riding. A good saddle will go a long way to protecting this very sensitive area but you can opt for even more protection with a little padding. There’s a reason why so many cyclists wear padded nicks you know! Now, not everyone is comfortable in lycra or even nicks but, happily, there are other options. There’s a great range of padded shorts available, designed initially for mountain bike riders. They tend to have a lot of room in the legs and the all-important padding is really not visible. The cheaper option is to wear a couple of layers of bike shorts but, believe me, they’re not as effective as a bit of cushioning down there.
3. Don’t buy an off-the-shelf bike from a department store
A bike needs to fit your body and off-the-shelf bikes come in very few sizes. The components (including the saddle) are generally cheap and mass-produced and they won’t last long. Plus, if something goes wrong with your bike (and it generally will after a few weeks) most bike shops won’t service or repair it. Go to a bike shop and talk to someone who knows bikes and cycling who can sell you the best option to suit your budget and your cycling plans.
4. Don’t skimp on a new bike
Every woman I have ever sold a bike to wants to skimp on themselves while (in many cases) hubby is riding around on a much more expensive, shiny new steed. I often hear the comment “I don’t ride enough” (to deserve a better bike) from female customers. Well, here’s my response to that: if you buy a bottom level bike it will probably sit in the garage and rust and you will wonder why you didn’t enjoy the riding experience. The biggest benefit offered by a better bike is pure pleasure. Sure, the parts last longer but, more importantly, it will ride better and every time you get off the bike you will be looking forward to getting back on again.
5. Get some gloves
This is the most important piece of clothing you will own. Hands can get cold even when it’s warm outside plus a good pair of gloves will save your hands if you do have a spill.
Janie Rix works at The Cyclery in Lonsdale St, Braddon. They stock Specialized bikes which Janie loves because they have models specifically designed for women because, as she says “Women aren’t just little men.” Janie knows there aren’t many women working in bike shops so she prides herself on being able to really talk to women about their needs and narrow down the models to find a bike that really suits each customer.