Cycling is the pathway that has led me to a world of inner peace, physical strength and a positive shift in self-worth and appreciation. I am sure it has done the same wonders to many. Riding is addictive, an almost out-of-body experience when done with the good company, on beautiful trails, in comfy clothing and on a well-maintained bike. However, being a woman rider is slightly different compared to men and there are many things that, if not taken care of, could make riding uncomfortable and a sore experience.
Here is some useful riding advice that every woman rider must be aware of in order to make riding fulfilling and comfortable, slowly build up to building longer rides in terms of both distance and intensity, and reduce chances of developing pain in the neck and shoulders in the long run.
- Wear a good pair of padded cycling shorts
Cycling shorts can make or break a ride. Believe me. They will definitely feel uncomfortable for the first few times but once you get used to it, you will refuse to ride without it. Look for one of a good brand. For beginners and intermediate riders , B’twin brand from Decathlon is not a bad choice. Don’t underestimate the soft padding on the inside, known as a chamois. It will make a world of difference that you will come to know once you adopt the shorts. A wise piece of advice here is to resist the urge to wear the regular underwear beneath your cycling shorts. You may feel odd in the beginning but will get used to it soon. The chamois will offer the much-needed comfort. Additionally, the underwear can cause chaffing and rashes, and immense irritation, itching, and pain, when it rubs against the skin on one side and the chamois on the other.
- Saddle comfort
You may have to look around half the earth before you can find the saddle that gives you the right position and comfort. A saddle that is perfect for your friend might make your glutes sore after one ride. Also, saddles that are comfortable for men may not be so for women, for obvious reasons. If you have the luxury of getting yourself measured for the right saddle size, seize the opportunity. If not, go to a local cycle shop and try a couple of saddles before you find your true riding mate.
- Experiment to get the right riding posture
Men and women are structurally different and there is a whole lot of science behind it. Our pelvic structure results in our center of gravity being in the lower back, whereas for men the center of gravity is higher in the torso. Riding in the same position as a man will most likely land you with neck and shoulder pain. Hence, take the time to evaluate your right posture and if required seek help from a qualified bike fitter who can help you assess your position.
- Invest in a good pair of cycling shoes
Running shoes, though used widely, are not the best shoes to wear while riding a bike, as they allow your foot to flex too much while riding increasing the possibility of developing cramps and muscle pulls. Cycling shoes have a rigid sole that offers a rather stable resting place for your foot and also go a long way in improving your performance on the pedals.
- Learn basics of bike maintenance and fixes
Being able to fix a flat tire, clean the chain or fix the saddle alignment are some basics that every rider must be acquainted with. Sometime or the other you will have to deal with a nasty puncture or leak with no help available. Preparing for it is a good idea and given you total control over the situation. Having a tool kit handy underneath the saddle is a must, especially if you are riding alone or on unfamiliar terrain. Knowing the basics could be lifesaving at times.
- Control your brakes
Again as women differ in size from men, having an overall smaller frame, they also have hands, palms, and fingers that are smaller in size. Hence, it important to adjust the position of the brake so you don’t have to stretch your fingers to reach the levers. Customizing and adjusting your bike to suit your frame, built and comfort is very necessary and plays a vital role in enhancing your performance and minimizing chances of injury.
- Riding on your periods
The idea of cycling on “those days” of the month may freak a woman. But it is not as hard or as comfortable as it may seem to be, you are prepared well. It is all in the mind. You can trust me on this. Regular pads could easily be the worst choice for cycling, as thy cause a lot of chaffing and rashes and are simply not meant for this purpose. More appropriate would be to get used to tampons or the more advanced menstrual cups. You may take some time getting used to the new devices but once you do, riding on your period will no longer be a frightening thought.
- Stretching and simple exercises
Although a rider’s calf an quad muscles are powerful sources of strength, the core muscles—abs and lower back—are the most vital source that powers all movement, including the pedal stroke. Since our bodies are made differently and certain parts of our body take more strain while cycling, compared to men, it is all the more important to devote few minutes to stretch and relax our back, pelvic and core muscles before and after a ride. Some must-do exercises include, deep breathing, glute bridges, boxer ball crunches, hyperextensions and plank among others.