Posts Tagged ‘how to’

Column: How to Shop for bike-ish things: girl’s version

October 17, 2008

This is a preview of a new column. Article and photos to come in the November issue of Girl on Bike Online Magazine.

Lesson One: Clothing

Say What?!

I know, some of you girls are saying to yourself, “Please, I KNOW how to shop for clothes. I don’t need any help in that department.” But times have changed in the cycling industry; new technology has developed in fabrics, stitching, and construction. Seriously folks, it’s a whole new ballgame. So unless you’re a “clothing technology fanatic” like me, you don’t spend much time reading and testing. Let’s face it; testing can be fun, but constantly reading about tech stuff is not everyone’s cup of tea. Fortunately for you, I’ve read all the dry technical stuff with all the details, and I’ll be constructing a regularly featured column of things you’ll need to know about cycling clothing, plus stuff you’ll want to know (like when you can get a good bang for your buck, and what looks and feels fabulous). Plus for those who want to, you can remain lycra-free.

Here are a few hints about how to shop for bike clothing, for girls shopping around in a store or bike shop:

  • Is the fabric soft?

A lot of us don’t think about this, but it’s true; women have softer skin, so we need softer fabrics. Plus we don’t have an extra layer of protection in the form of hair all over our bodies, the way that men do (generally speaking). So the bottom line is that we need softer fabrics, and even closures should be softer (I avoid scratchy Velcro).

  • Turn the garment inside out. How is the stitching?

Be careful for overlock stitching in sensitive places. The longer the trip, the more important stitching becomes. A three-point junction of stitching shouldn’t feel like an annoying knob.

  • How is it constructed? If it is a technical garment, is it constructed in 3-dimensional “bike position”?

While the garment is still inside out, lay it down on a flat surface. Is it hard to figure out how you’d fold this thing? That’s 3D clothing. While commuter clothing can have a two dimensional construction (it lays flat), road, track, and some mountain biking clothes (rule of thumb, anything with chamois), is better off with a 3D cut.

  • Try on the garment, but don’t just try on the one garment. Take the time to pick out the full outfit: top, bottom, and jacket).

Trying on a full outfit will give you the true feeling of how it will ride. Don’t look in the mirror first. Rather, sit down, or squat down into bike position. If you mountain bike, shift around a lot, and feel for seams that rub you. Roadies should imitate “the drops position”; the garment should fit best in this position and it should not ride up.

  • OK, now look in the mirror

Seriously, cool or dork, whatever you feel comfortable with, own it. C’mon now, we’re still women. If we don’t feel great about the clothes we’re wearing, chances are we won’t wear them. So pick out “the look” for you but pay attention, to the fabric, stitching and construction first, so that you can get girlie in front of the mirror. And have fun with it; it’s shopping, after all!

How to Test a Road Bike (girl test)

September 24, 2008

I wanted to respond to a question I was asked, namely “How do I test out a road bike, when I’m only allowed about 15-20 minutes on it?” So here’s what I look for, with little time allowed.

How to test a road bike

First thing, before you test it out, make sure the bike is adjusted for you. That includes:
1. Saddle height and tilt, and fore/aft adjustment
start out with the saddle in a neutral fore/aft position, tilt for testing should be almost horizontal, with the nose pointed “one click down. Seat height is generally about 85% of your inseam.
2. Handlebars should be absolutely level. Sometimes guys tilt the handlebars upwards for women because they think it will make it easier to ride; they could not be more wrong. You will not be able to reach the brakes while in the drops, and when going downhill at a fast speed, this is downright dangerous.
3. Have them put on your own pedals if you have them.
4. Make sure your fingers can reach the brakes easily, both on the hoods, and in the drops.
5. Test the brakes, quick release skewers, and shifters, before you take it out, as a safety check.
6. Check the tires and make sure they are pumped to the right psi for you.
7. Always wear a helmet.

So now the bike is ready to go, and your out of the parking lot. Here’s how you test it.

1. Take it on a flat road for about 1/2 mile. You should be able to settle into a comfortable position while on the tops, on the hoods, and in the drops. While in the drops, switch into a higher gear and sprint (stand up slightly, move your weight forward, and try to spin the pedals as fast as you can). The rear end should stay stable. It should not feel uncontrollable or unwieldy.
2. Take it on a sharp curve. If the bike is a good match for you, you should feel confident going into the curve, and comfortable taking it at a reasonable speed, rather than slowing down to a crawl.
3. Take it on a slight incline, and go on the hoods, or on the tops. This should be a very comfortable position, like something you can ride all day long.
4. Take it on the steepest downhill that you feel comfortable with about 1/4 mile long, and go into the drops. Your index fingers should be on the brakes. Tuck down (boobs to the top tube), and try to make yourself as aerodynamic as possible. The bike should pick up speed quickly, and easily. This should be a fun and comfortable position, and the front end should be rock solid stable, and easy to control.
5. Now turn around and go up the hill. Change to a gear that you can climb “out of the saddle” with. The bike’s geometry should allow you to climb out of the saddle for at least 20 strokes easily, and you should feel like you can really get over the front end, without the back end feeling sluggish, or fishtailing. If the front end is too high, it will be uncomfortable to do this, and you will consistently feel like you are behind the front end; it will feel like the bike is forcing you to sit down. For carbon bikes, the bike should not feel mushy when you push down on the pedal; if it does then the frame is too soft for you, and you’ll waste energy in your stroke.

If the bike feels good on all of these tests, chances are, you’ve found a good bike for you.
Do you have a method I’ve left out? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Happy testing girls!!!

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