Posts Tagged ‘road cycling’

Interbike: A First Look at Specialized Women’s Bikes

September 29, 2010

The Specialized Women’s 2011 bicycle line is very impressive indeed.

Specialized has rethought bike design for women in a three dimensional way; this makes their mountain bikes particularly easy to handle in all types of terrain.  The Specialized MTB bikes I tested are light enough to Manipulate and maneuver,  but  have a weight distribution that made it easy to keep  “tires to the ground”.

For Women’s road bikes, the Amira will be the bike to look out for. This is their premium bike for women. There are a lot of details that make the Amira stand out (it has all the earmarks of a really fast bike). One look at the geometry and you can see how nothing compares. It’s also sexy as anything.

If you are a fan of Specialized already, you need to try one of their 2011 bikes.  But if you’ve had questionable results with their Women’s geometry bikes from previous years (hey, I wasn’t always a big fan), then you really need to try the 2011 series. Specialized really went back, did their homework, and found what really works for Women’s geometry; and in this 2011 line up, it  shows.

In the coming weeks I will have separate reviews of 2011 Women’s Specialized bikes, including:

Myka – A 29er Women’s Hardtail Mountain Bike, with entry level pricing (warning, this bike could make mountain biking addictive).

Safire – Women’s All Mountain Bike (a dream to ride in 2010, with some interesting changes for 2011)

Era – Women’s Cross Country Performance Mountain Bike (2011 line adds a budget conscious carbon fiber level).

Amira – Women’s Premium Road Bike, redesigned again ( the delight is in the details).

Dear Girl,

October 29, 2008

This was an email I received about one month ago. I think it shows two things: 1-How painfully serious the subject of saddles and chamois can be, and, 2-how determined women are to overcome these obstacles and stay on their bikes.

Dear Girl,

I returned to road biking this year after many years of mountain biking and I have been suffering a slew of issues including a very painful bartholin’s cyst and urethritis. I underwent surgery and several uncomfortable procedures and I am now starting to suffer urinary problems again. I never had a single problem in all the years I was mountain biking. Are there any fit issues that are more related to road riding that I may not be aware of? (I am planning to get a bike fitting with a physical therapist in town who specializes in biking issues)

Any further insight would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you A., for being concise, and letting other women know that they are not suffering alone; these problems are more common than you think. Girls, if you are having symptoms like these, please seek help from a doctor, hopefully one who understands repetitive female genital sports injuries. Working with a bike fitter who specializes in women can also help prevent reccurance of these issues.

The problems that you are suffering can be from a number of different contributers, probably a bit of each:

1. Your position on the bike

2. Type of saddle

3. Type of chamios (or lack of)

The short answer is, yes, women who ride road suffer more from saddle issues because of the very different position on a road bike. You are probably leaning much more on your clitoris/urethra causing compression and friction. These two factors will cause pain and irritation and can eventually lead to UTIs, saddle sores, Urethral Symdrome (Here’s a link, if you are not sure of the symptoms of Urethral Syndrome), and (as you know) a slew of other issues. The solution then, is getting the pressure off of the clitoris and urethra.

1. Your position on the bike

It is important to understand the difference between mtb and road position. When you’re on a road bike, your position and weight distribution is very different than a on mountain bike. Much more weight is put on the front end, because this creates stability on the road. Typically, 55% of your weight is on the rear end, 45% is on the front end. This is in comparison to 70%/30% split for MTB. That means that your weight is tilted further forward on the saddle, so unless you have a saddle and chamois that keep the majority of your rear weight on the sit bones, you’re likely to suffer from compression.

I hope it is obvious that exactly where your saddle is positioned on your bike means EVERYTHING. So, when you set up your saddle, try the first “neutral position” for women, which is 0-5mm forward from neutral, and the saddle nearly level, with the nose pointed down “one click” (typically 1-3 degrees).

2. Type of Saddle

The saddle that you used on your mountain bike may have worked beautifully on your more upright position. But on your road bike, you need to lean down more (to get into the drops for example) on the front end. The single biggest advancement for these women’s issues has got to be the split saddle. If position properly, it will let the girly bits have a space to to breathe, preventing compression, heat build up, and excess moisture (remember that we are talking about a part of the body that is lubricious). Since switching to a properly fitted split saddle, gone are the UTIs suffered through twenty years ago. It is however, extremely important to get a saddle that fits your sit bones; for a few years I had a split saddle that was way too wide for my sit bones and this caused me to inch up on the saddle, putting the cut out where it wasn’t doing any good. The wide nose also caused thigh rub, which led to saddle sores in the bikini line. So it is important to have your sit bones measured, and to try out the saddle (many saddle brands now have demo programs, through local bike shops), so that you make sure it fits you properly.

3. Type of Chamois

So humble, this piece of technical equipment, that people often take it for granted. But not wearing chamois, or the wrong type of chamois can cause irritation by improper placement of stitching, and build up of moisture again causing problems. So what’s the right chamois, for road riders? Of course it depends upon the individual, but the chamois that I’ve had the most success with has been a split chamois, or one that has the mirror image profile of the split saddle. This is why I like Etxe Ondo clothing so much. They use a split chamois made by an italian company called Dolomiti, and it is simply the best for me. It is, however, expensive (Etxe Ondo) and you may not ride long enough distances to merit the cost vs. benefits. But there are many chamois brands that have a split, and it is a matter of determining which chamois works best for you, and you’re riding circumstance. Other women have had much success with chamois that has air holes, which increases air circulation through the area and thus reduces moisture build up ( an example is Louis Garneau). This combined with a split saddle, may solve issues for many. Generally, the more time you spend in the saddle, the more you should invest in the quality of your chamois. For serious road riding (over an hour or two), I always recommend some type of chamois, preferably with some chamois cream.

By the way, so far, the results from the “saddle problems” survey for women are as follows:

Women, are you happy with your saddle/ chamois combination?

Yes, I am happy. I hardly ever have soreness, even after a long ride. 30%
I have problems, because I’m leaning on my clitoris, causing swelling, irritation, and soreness 23%
I have problems, because I get UTIs or Urethral Syndrome 11%
I get saddle sores on my bikini line, even though I wear chamois, and lubrication 10%
My sitbones are constantly sore 10%
I have problems, because I experience chaffing, and or rubbing 8%
My thighs rub the sides of my saddle, causing sores and/or chaffing 4%
I have saddle problems (as a woman) not mentioned here 4%

So 70% of the women surveyed have some kind of painful saddle/ chamois issues.
If you experience pain either in the clitoris or urethra, would you please answer one more question?

What kind of Saddle and Chamois combination do you ride?

I ride a saddle and chamois WITHOUT a split down the middle 50%
I ride a split saddle, but chamois has no split down the middle 33%
I ride my bike WITHOUT chamois 13%
I ride a saddle without a split down the middle, but chamois WITH a split 2%
BOTH saddle and chamois have a split down the middle 2%

So half of the women surveyed who have problems, ride a saddle/chamois combination with no split down the middle.

83% of the women who have problems do not ride a split saddle.

94% of those who have problems, do not have split chamois.

(Results are still early, but the trend suggests that the advice above is is pretty solid).

And for those whose sit bones are sore, you are in the right bike position, but (my guess is) something in your set up is too soft for you, like maybe gel in the saddle or chamois. Try something with less give in it, more density (NOT thicker), either in the saddle, or the chamois.

Coaching with an Injury

September 1, 2008

it kinda looks like I was misdiagnosed back in July, because the same ankle just got re-injured a couple of weeks ago. I find out next week what’s really happening, but until then, I’ve had to lay off of the hills for myself. The ankle is bad enough that, doctor’s orders, I have to back out of the MS ride. What a harsh year this has been for me, as a rider! Oh well, la forta del destin….
So, last week I took my riders on a tour of Stunt Rd., with a couple of hill intervals afterward. Stunt is basically a chug-a-long road, about 3 miles at ~6% grade, so just wonderful hill training ground.
This past Saturday, we wanted a flatter, longer course, so we rode PCH together. What a great ride! We practiced some formation riding, and holding momentum through rollers, as well as, (of course), riding in high speed traffic. Traffic on PCH is definitely a challenge, and not one to be taken lightly, but certainly worth the effort for the beautiful scenery, by the shoreline. I’m delighted by the way my clients are coming along, facing their fears, and improving all around. I think this is turning out to be a particularly good series, even with the “gimpy” coach!

Road Bike Review: Blue Competition R-C6

November 20, 2007

October 2007
Blue Competition R-C6, 2006
Small, as ridden 15.9 lbs
Rider 5′ 4″, 120 lbs. , inseam 30.5″

I admit that I did not want to like this bike.
I definitely didn’t want to fall in love with it, but that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t want to like it, because I’d never heard of the brand, and because I wasn’t sure about the idea of mixing frame materials. I was worried about reliabilty of the brand, the quality, and of course the feel. For the reliabilty and quality part, I was happy with their lifetime warranty. I also noted well that the Sutter home-Colavita Women’s race team ride Blue. And what does it feel like? Amazing. The R-C6 is a very tight and fast bike. It is a light, nimble, happy bike.

Last year, when I signed up to ride Aids LifeCycle 6, I realized that I would need a bike that was a little more forgiving than my 1985 Centurion Ironman, built as a fixed gear. I used to race in triathlons many moons ago, so I love a tight, aggressive position. I started testing bikes, and found that for me, road bikes with “women’s geometry” were mostly unsatisfying, uncomfortable and way too upright. NOT ONE was spry or crisp in its handling. I demo’ed some men’s bikes, and had a bit more luck (I did like the System Six by Cannondale, but found that it was out of my price range). Enter Blue Competition R-C6. A friend of mine had recommended this bike to me and arranged a demo, so I was lucky enough to ride it for a few weeks. But it didn’t take more than a few rides to fall in love with it.

There is no doubt that the R-C6 is built for speed. The first century I rode on it was the Tour de Palm Springs, in February. There was one section of the route, that had a road with a pretty clear shot; straight, with small hills and mostly downhill. I took off with a few others, and pushed as hard as I could to see just how fast I could get on this bike. My max speed at the end of the day was 58 mph. I knew that I was going over 40 mph at some points, but thought that surely 58 mph was so kind of anomoly of the computer. I’ve since found that these speeds are typical and easy to obtain on the R-C6. Thankfully it is also a point and shoot bike, so it is VERY easy to handle, very easy to control.

So how does it handle on the climbs? I’m well impressed and think it makes a fine climber’s bike. On longer climbs I love to vary in and out of the saddle climbing, and occasionally when out of the saddle, I really torque the bike. Though I’m fairly lightwieght, I’ve been able to feel softness in the bottom bracket of other bikes by torquing the bike while out of the saddle, but not the R-C6. I wasn’t sure that I would like the aluminum bottom bracket on this mostly carbon bike, but the execution of design has made me a true believer. It proves to be strong and stiff, with absolutely no give when torquing the bike. It just feels crisp. Of course, this isn’t purely the bottom bracket; it is also the result of good use of materials, and geometry of the bike frame itself.

But the way that it absorbs chatter, well that was the best surprise. Let’s face it, I live in earthquake country, so the roads here are never particularly good. As a result, there’s lots of potential for road chatter, the vibrations you feel as a result of rough road. I have felt the results of road chatter particularly well after a century; usually next day I feel a dull ache in my contact points. I was shocked how this just was not so with the R-C6. What a difference a bike makes! In June I rode in Aids LifeCycle 6, and could not believe how good my contact points felt each morning. This means so much to me, because I want to do more multi-day charity rides, and my Blue R-C6 will help me achieve that goal.

I’m very happy to say that I’ve owned this bike for around ten months, and I adore it. I would highly recommend this bike to any woman who likes a tighter more agressive bike. It is an absolute pleasure to ride.

Blue Competition at Interbike
Blue Competition had a crew at Interbike, so I had the opportunity to test two 2008 bikes: R-C8 (the new even better version of my road bike), and their carbon mtb XC Carbon. Although I did not have the oportunity to ride nearly as many bikes as I would have liked at Interbike’s Demo Days these two bikes would probably be 2 of the best in show for me. I must , however, state that the reason why I could not ride many of the mtb demo bikes was because I was way too small for most mountain bikes, including those with supposed “women’s geometry” even in size small. I’m average height.
Blue’s geometry won out, once again because they have a bike with a shorter effective top tube, and make a bike small enough to fit me. Did I mention that I’m average height? Well, Blue gets that.

Riding the 2008 XC Carbon
Most of the manufacturers right now are missing the mark when it comes to both comfortable geometry, and weight of the bike.The Blue XC Carbon is very lightweight so it is easy to handle, and is an ABSOLUTE DREAM to manipulate. As a woman who doesn’t have a great deal of upper body strength, I found it a great relief to not have to “heave the bike around”, but rather be able to “place the bike” where it needed to be, both front and rear. I would say that this has as much to do with frame weight and geometry of the bike as fork weight and rake, and Blue did a wonderful job with all of it; this adds up to a bike with great balance and a sweet disposition.

Peek at the 2008 R-C8 ( this is next year’s version of my bike)
This bike felt like I was riding a blade. carving up a road of black ice. They’ve made some nice changes in the shapes of the carbon tubing (particularly on the fork), and this has made a nice difference in the way that it handles; it’s more fun. I only had a chance to take it around the block a few times, but loved the feel of it.

Check out

Buy the R-C6 Here

Buy the frame here

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