Living your fantasies can be quite nerve wrecking. After finding out that I actually can run, I immediately became overly ambitious. My dad used to do sprint triathlons and that endurance challenge had stayed with me. Because if my dad can do it, I can do it. In fact, anyone can do it. My dad, a natural born anti-sport jock will immediately agree, I’m sure. Besides, doesn’t everybody knows how to swim, bike and run?
I already had running gear in abundance and swimming hardly requires extra gear. However, with cycling it’s a totally different game. The pr boys and girls from the triathlon union will tell you that you don’t need a special bike to compete. Right. Like my mom bike will do. Nope. I’m in need of a road racing bike.
What was I thinking? Those flimsy tires! That pose with your nose bent to the steer! Those pedals that lock you onto your bike! And it only got worse. Once I got over my initial fears, I was confronted with a sport dominated by men who will scare the hell out of you with road racing speak. I persevered though and now I’m the proud owner of a road racing bike. For the fit girls who are looking for a low impact endurance work out (running injury, anyone?), I have some tips and tricks to wash the cycling noob right off of you.
- Read in on cycling
It’s a man’s world, cycling is. Almost every website and nearly all books on cycling are geared towards men. That means a lot of attention to technical specifications and macho performance and gory details on raw balls and taking a leak while cycling. Note to male author: women are biological unable to urinate while cycling. More importantly: we don’t want to. Ugh! Fortunately, this blogger put together a list with English books for female cyclists. Dutch fit girls who are interested should definitely take a look at Vrouw en fiets. Two female cyclists combine practical information with humorous stories on their biking experiences. I love it!
- Go see a bike specialist
Whether you want to buy a new bike or a second hand one, get familiar with what you’re looking for. Most bike specialist will offer a free fitting, so you’ll know your frame size. The size of your frame depends on your inner leg length. Because women mostly have longer legs relatively to their body, you can’t rely on standard size guides that are based on male proportions. On top of that, just as in jeans, sizing differs per brand. So you are better off checking the bikes in person!
- Find a women’s bike
Duh. Obvious right? But I want to make it clear that a women’s specific bike is more than just “Pink it and shrink it.” In a women’s specific bike, all geometry is made to fit a woman’s body. For example, relatively longer legs means relatively shorter upper body. With male bikes the distance between the saddle and the steering pen is often too long for women. It shifts your center of gravity uncomfortable forward, giving you less control and less comfort. And who likes less?
A women’s specific bike also had adapted handlebars. The width of the handle bars is smaller, echoing the width of women’s shoulders. The brakes have smaller react to our smaller hands won’t cramp up. Finally, the curve of the handle bars is smaller so it’s easier to move from touring mode to racing mode.
Don’t forget the saddle! With women’s wider hips a specific saddle is most important. Check the rear part of the saddle: is it wide enough to fit your sit bones onto the saddle? Some brands offer a saddle with room in the middle for your honeybuns. Check what your body fits best.
If you’re big enough, a small men’s bike could fit too. If you’re tiny like me, you may even check out youth bikes.
- Know what you need
The features of your perfect first bike completely depend on for what you’re going to use the bike for. Will cycling be your new number one sport? Then you definitely want to invest in some proper gear. Is it a work out on the side? Then a (second hand) bike with cheaper parts will do the trick just the same. Here’s a checklist what to look for when buying your first racing bike:
- Aluminium frame, optional: carbon fore fork and/or rear fork
- 30 speed cassette (3×10), preferably Shimano 105, SRAM Apax of Rival. Or 22 speed cassette (2×11) when choosing a Campagnolo speed group, preferably “Veloce”.
- Saddle with ample room for your sit bones, optional with room in the middle.
- Handle bars with grip at shoulder width
And my personal must have:
- it has to look good
A good looking bike makes your new work out even more attractive. That is an important feature too!
- Show me the money
So how much will this new work out set you back? I’ve spent hours on Craigslist and Ebay and this is what I’ve come up with:
- An intensively used bike, over 5 years old – 50 to 200 euro
- An intensively used bike, up to 5 years old – 200 to 400 euro
- Under used bike – 500 to 800 euro
- New bike – 500 to 1200 euro
Don’t spend it all yet! You’ll be needing some other must haves before you can pop your cycling cherry:
- Pedals (I thought it was crazy that they don’t come with your bike standard, but it’s true!) – 50 euro
- Cycling shoes to fit onto your pedals (another weird thing) 50 – 100 euro
- Helmet 40 – 80 euro
- Cycling pants 50 – 100 euro
And then there are your nice to have items like bottle holders, bottles, saddle bag, spare tires, emergency kit, jersey, wind jacket, gloves, sun glasses, shoe covers, arm sleeves and leg warmers and a cleaning kit for your bike. Good luck on finding your bike and have fun cycling!