By Victor Jimenez
This article first appeared in Endurance Magazine
1. Avoid Problems by Addressing Fit First
Think of bicycle fit the way you would shop for shoes. First you would measure to know what size to try then you would shop for styles and colors. Before you go shopping for a bike get a professional bicycle fit to determine what size bike will work for you. Then you will be empowered to shop intelligently for a bike that really fits, not just a men’s bike painted with feminine colors. The right bike can have an amazing affect on your motivation to ride.
Improve your cycling with proper bicycle fit
Typically women have problems with the reach to the handlebars being excessively long. This causes all sorts of bio-mechanical and comfort problems. Women will end up with sore shoulders, neck pain, and the pressure on the front of the saddle will be unbearable.
Discomfort leads to poor performance.
If you are not comfortable you won’t be fast and you will have a hard time spending hours in the saddle. Aches and pains should come from a good hard work out not from a poorly fitting bike.
A professional bicycle fit will help you get more comfortable and optimize your power. A specialist bicycle fitter will evaluate your history and goals and adjust your bike to accommodate your body specifics. Most fitters will have a special fitting bike that they can adjust to an optimal position and then transfer the position to your existing bike. It’s an involved process and takes about 2-4 hours. Many women will discover that their bike is sized incorrectly for their bodies.
2. Buy a Bike Designed for a Women’s Body
Most bikes are designed for men. Until recently the bicycle industry has practically ignored female cyclists. Selection and design is improving, still many of the so called women specific bikes are not much more than window dressing. They paint the bikes with a feminine color and put on a women’s specific saddle and call it done.
Women need bikes that are designed to fit women
Most women should have a bicycle frame that is completely different from a men’s bike. Women generally have shorter torsos and longer legs than their male counterparts of the same height. When you put a woman on a frame designed for a man it is almost certainly going to cause problems. A properly sized and adjusted bike will allow you to make the most of your training.
3. Work on Strength Training
Women generally have lower muscle mass especially in the torso and upper body when compared to male counterparts. Incorporating off the bike strength training into your cycling routine will greatly improve hill climbing ability, sustained higher speed riding, and help keep you riding injury free.
Climb faster and more efficiently
Strength training also helps with overall comfort and efficiency on the bike. The focus of the exercises should be on the core and upper body. A strong core is vital to any cyclist as it is the base of power production on the bike. One of the best ways to stick with a strength training routine is to sign up for a group class.
Yoga, Pilates, and Kettlebell classes are excellent for cyclists
Group classes in Yoga, Pilates, and Kettlebell are excellent off the bike training. These are fun and the group setting will give you some accountability to keep you motivated. It is important that you don’t over do it. Spend between 10 and 15 percent of your total training time strength training. The extra time you spend on strength training will pay big dividends especially when combined with high cadence (rpm) pedaling.
4. Learn to Pedal at High Cadence (rpm)
Cadence is the most important and hardest technique to learn for most cyclists. The biggest benefit from high rpm pedaling is muscular endurance. Once you master this technique you will have a much easier time climbing hills and will be able to ride farther and faster with less effort.
Cycling should be a fun and pleasurable sport. Many women have trouble with cycling because of poor bicycle fit and positioning. The solution is to get a professional bicycle fit to determine the appropriate size, then shop for your bike based on fit. Women should also spend about 10% of their training time focusing on strength especially on core strength. Group classes such as Yoga, Pilates, and Kettlebell training are great supplements to your training. Incorporating higher cadence pedaling into your cycling will naturally help you become a smoother more efficient pedaler.