Posts Tagged ‘women’s cycling’

Three-Peat World mtb Champion Rebecca Rusch talks with “girl meets bike”

October 2, 2009

You should know Rebecca

Rebecca Rusch is an incredible mountain biker. Yes, she is a crazy adventure racer, but she’s also dominated Women’s Endurance Mountain Biking for a while. Recently, she won the 24 Hour Solo World Mountain Bike Championship (for the 3rd year in a row) then just three weeks later, won the Leadville 100.  This is the signature of a true champion: the ability to extend their peak season and win. And her wins over the past eight years have been staggeringly good. So my number one question isn’t for Rebecca Rusch. It is for sports news and cycling news outlets. My core question is:

Why isn’t Rebecca Rusch more well known? Why isn’t the media making a HUGE fuss about her? Isn’t this a great role model for your girls?

Girl Meets Bike Meets Rebecca

I have to wonder if my questions showed Rebecca how much I’m NOT a “reporter”. Each one seem to take her slightly off guard, and at first I wondered if she understood why I was asking such “different” questions. But after a few, she got it.  It’s because, when talking to women riders who aren’t necessarily racers, they have VERY different questions from those being asked of her, in Pro journalism. As we sat down outside of Interbike’s Specialized booth she welcomed the more fancy free questions of a “girl meets bike” interview. What I found in Rebecca was a warm and approachable woman, with a passion for sharing the biking experience with other women. Truly, she is a valuable role model for getting girls on bikes.IMG_0485

Girl Meets Bike: How many bikes do you have? Do they have names?

Rebecca Rusch: “Ha, just like shoes, you can never have too many.” Counting for a sec, then “Eight. I think…some have names, others haven’t earned one yet.”

GMB: Which is your favorite?

Rebecca Rusch: I’m favoring the 29er at the moment, that’s the one I rode in the Leadville 100.

GMB: Oh (that’s a rather tall person’s bike, so I asked) How tall are you?

Rebecca Rusch: 5’7″

GMB: Ah, so you can fit a 29er without much problem.

Rebecca Rusch: Yeah, it fits me fine.

GMB: How does it ride?

Rebecca Rusch: Smoother, faster on doubletrack; good for a course like the Leadville 100. But I also love my Era, Specialized’s Women specific model.

GMB: I noticed that your bike has a Bike Pure Spacer on it. Why did you join Bike Pure?

Rebecca Rusch: They approached me, and I liked what they represent. That is, that they concentrate on praising the clean riders of the sport. It’s a very positive message.

GMB: Is doping a particular problem for women’s mountain biking given that upper body strength plays an important role in mtbing?

Rebecca Rusch: I haven’t really seen that, but the prize money is so low for women, that it just wouldn’t be a consideration.

GMB: Is doping likely to become an issue as Women’s Mountain Biking becomes popular?

Rebecca Rusch: I hope not, but I don’t think it’s likely.

GMB: Why Not?

Rebecca Rusch: Because [both monetarily and health-wise], it’s expensive, and it’s not worth the payout.

GMB: What would you say to a U23, or teen that is considering using EPO, CERA, or other kinds of drugs to enhance their performance?

Rebecca Rusch: NOTHING, absolutely nothing, is worth your health.

GMB: What about the issues of Pay Equity? Many of us have heard the argument that women’s racing doesn’t attract enough women, and so the purses should be comparatively lower than the men…

Rebecca Rusch: I do understand the dilemma that promoters are in, but  lower payouts for women is not the answer. An example (of pay inequity) is The 24 Hours of Moab race. The first place woman came in well before the second place man. But second place man got $2600 while the first place woman got only $600. The fact is, it is just as expensive for women to train for a race as men, and the fees to enter aren’t lower. The solution is, have the same payout for first second and third place women, and less payout or no payout beyond that. Women don’t need payouts for tenth place.

GMB: That makes a lot of sense.

GMB: Now, moving on to things more personal:

what’s your favorite saddle, chamois, chamois cream combination?

(She laughs, at first. I realize how I’ve just asked a question completely out of left field, and something a normal journalist would NEVER ask.)

Rebecca Rusch: Well, the saddle has got to be the Toupe, which is a Specialized men’s saddle. Chamois is the BG chamois in the higher quality Specialized women’s shorts. And for Chamois Cream, I use Beljum Budder with a little Noxema (yes, like in Grandma’s medicine cabinet) mixed together.

spec chamtoupebeljum budder

GMB: What’s your favorite outfit off the bike?

Rebecca Rusch: Flip flops, definitely ; with Bermuda shorts.

GMB: What’s your favorite outfit, on the bike?

Rebecca Rusch: My Team kit (her specialized uniform). I’m proud to wear that.

GMB: So Specialized has been good to you, as a sponsor…

Rebecca Rusch: Yes, they’re very supportive of their women riders. They’ve done a lot for women’s fit with BG (Body Geometry) , in both bikes and clothing. I’m very picky about who I choose to sponsor me. I have to believe in the products I use.  Specialized has been a good match for me.

GMB: Do you think women ride differently than men, given that our size, proportions and strengths are different?

Rebecca Rusch: I certainly see a difference in the attitudes of riding between men and women. Men have a more gung-ho ride-it attitude. For me there are some things that are easier and faster to walk, particularly in a race.

But yeah, women ride differently than men. Women ride with more grace and finesse…

GMB: As opposed to “brute forcing” through it?

Rebecca Rusch: Yes.

GMB: Do you think it’s helpful and important for women to ride mountain together, so that they can get visual cues of how to ride certain obstacles and trails?

Rebecca Rusch: Yes, If I’m out riding with other women, we like to stop and figure out how to ride the obstacle.  Sometimes just seeing another woman do an obstacle makes you think, maybe I can do that too. How did she do that? Then you figure it out together.

GMB: So you really appreciate your rides with other women.

Rebecca Rusch: It’s different. It can be more fun. Guys can be competitive, like trying to get me to “race” on a casual ride. But when I’m out riding with the girls, it’s about fun and connecting with my friends. Some of my best rides have been on my Cruiser with friends.

GMB: What’s your favorite trail and what do you do to maintain it?

Rebecca Rusch: I would say the Perimeter trail on Mt. Baldy (Sun Valley ski resort mountain) is my favorite, because I can do the ride from my house, climb 3300 ft of single track to the top on one side of the mountain, then ride down 3300 ft on sweet, rolling single track down.  Takes less than 3 hours and is a killer climbing workout and great descending skills.

I help maintain my local trails through the Wood River Bicycle Coalition. Wood River Bicycle Coalition is our local cycling organization that works on everything from safe routes to school to mtb trail development.  I recently helped put on two short track races that raised money for them to build two pump parks in the valley.  Local sponsors and companies such as Smith Sport Optics as well as a ton of local athletes are involved.

Many thanks to Rebecca Rusch for this interview.

More About Rebecca Rusch

Recently, Rebecca signed with KT Tape, that excellent Kinesiology Tape I reviewed a while back. KT Tape is sponsoring a promotional ride in Central Park, so if you live in New York City, YOU have the chance to ride with Rebecca Rusch!!! Lucky dog! Details about this event are on blog at http://rebeccarusch.wordpress.com/. Her blog is a good read, and maintains the same approachable experience that I had with her.

More about Rebecca Rusch’s career, articles with “REAL” cycling questions, video and other stuff here:

Rebbeca Rusch at I am Specialized

Best At-A-Glance stats: BikePure.org

She talks to VeloNews about Cape Epic HERE

Cool Specialized Video about Cape Epic, an amazing opportunity, in the form of a race, HERE

Two great video interviews of Rebecca Rusch:

CyclingDirt.org

BikeRumor.com

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Best Bike Products for the Power-Full Person: the 2009 Review

September 11, 2009

I may not have had the best racing year in 2009, but it’s been a great learning experience nonetheless. I worked hard training through periodization, and in spite of a rocky start managed to make some gains in my speed and power. In order to do this, I did what I always do to advance my knowledge base: I read. I’ve discovered some great books this year which helped me tremendously as an athlete, and I think will make me a better coach. I’ve admired and used Coach Joe Friel’s methods for quite a few years, but I’ve added to this, a mix of well written easy to follow books which I’m reviewing today, for your enjoyment.Here now, are my impressions of the iBike, the books I used, and a few bike related products that helped turn me into a Power – full person.

iBikeAero

iBike Aero Power Meter

This is the first year I used power as my gauge rather than heart rate training, and I agree with many other coaches, it makes a great difference. This meant that I had to buy a power meter for the first time, something that I didn’t think I was going to able to afford, but I’m here to tell you that is I indeed possible to do power training on a budget. I also read accompanying books which helped me to understand how to use the power meter in the most efficient way. I chose is an iBike Aero for my power meter, because it was the lightest and most affordable way to enter into the world of Power, that is, using watts/kg as my gauge. Unlike many other power meters, this cool little unit uses air flow through the head of the unit, combined with cadence and wheel speed to measure power. And since I’d been using a Garmin 305 for the past few years, I didn’t even have to change sensors, since the iBike can read data from the Garmin sensors (bravo, iBike; way to compliment, rather than compete with those wonderful Garmin GPS units).

I chose the iBike unit because I didn’t want to pay “double the price” for “triple the weight” units such as the CycleOps PowerTap. Though PowerTap is the professional’s “meter du jour” (and for good reason), I simply could not afford it, nor did I want to have to use a special hub (which is FAR heavier than mine), just for data. And, since the sensors for the Garmin were already on my bike, seemed the logical and frugal way to go. I chose the top of the line AERO, because it provides wind data relative to the ground or rider, and that’s important if you live in a windy area. This unit cost $800, but iBike make several units that cost a fraction of this, starting with a $200 unit. But even at $800 for the top of the line Aero, it’s still half to a third of the price of most other power meters.
Set up for the iBike was easy, and with the help of their youtube video, I was on my way to power analysis, in a few minutes. The first month of gathering data was interesting, and it truly showed me that my method for “base training” was flawed without power analysis. I was going out too hard, working on too many hills too soon, and burning out a bit, even before my season got started. On days where I thought “it’s just me, I’m just tired” and would normally have just pushed harder (NOT the thing to do in Base), but still kept within the same “heart-rate zone”. But I was able to see clearly with the iBike Aero that it was the wind pushing me hard, and that I needed to ease up in order to get the true Base workout that I needed. Because of this, I had my best base training year, EVER. The “proof of the pudding” was that my speed improved, this year, and as someone who’s  been a bike hack for a while (20+ years), that’s tremendous. If I had to pick out the one piece of equipment that made the biggest difference in my training this year, it would be the iBike Aero.

N.B. the iBike Power Meter is just that, a power meter, NOT a GPS unit. If you want a great GPS unit, consider the Garmin 705, the next generation up from my 305. The 705 can even sense the iBike data, and combine it with the GPS data to give you a full picture of your workouts. This is particularly useful if you using Training Peaks your data analysis, an EXCELLENT athletic data analysis website. I DO NOT recommend the Garmin Connect website. Garmin used to have a great association with MotionBased.com which gave you the full spectrum of data, but this year they decided to go it on their own, and dropped important data analysis tools which left their customers well, a bit high and dry (I can’t even retrieve my old data in full). If they ever improve their website, I’ll be the first in line to use it, but until then, I choose to pay a pretty penny for Training Peaks, rather than get half data.

Books

IMG_4294

Training and Racing with a Power Meter
by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan
Let’s make this simple: I could not have improved my speed this year using a power meter, if I had not read this book. Allen and Coggan have written a nearly flawless book that has everything you need to get started and train with a power meter. Their methods are clear, and the language is easy enough for most people to understand. The chapter “Using Power to Change your Workouts”, changed the way I think as both a coach and rider. If you have a Power meter of any kind, you owe it to yourself to get this book (or at least make your coach read it 😉 ).

Base Building for Cyclists
by Thomas Chapple
As someone who hates “base training” but understands the need for it, I really appreciated this book. I must admit that sometimes I felt the book title should have been “Nothin’ but Base”, because Chapple labels what I would have called the “build” period as “late base” but I suppose that’s my own “base” prejudice. There were times when I thought, “oh c’mon ANOTHER week of base?” but still held true to his principles, and became a faster rider for it. Truly this was an invaluable book for me this year, and generally, a good read for any racer, or rider who has a goal of doing longer, faster rides. It won’t teach you how to ride, but it will teach you how to train smarter, and that’s exactly what it’s suppose to do.

Nutrient Timing
by John Ivy Ph.D and Robert Portman Ph.D
I WISH I had known about this book in the beginning of the season! This year I made an unsuccessful attempt to gain some muscle mass: I thought that if just gained some weight, it didn’t matter if it was fat weight or muscle weight, because eventually it would all turn to muscle since I workout /ride so much.  OMG, wrong wrong wrong!!!! Although I paid attention to my nutritional needs, just like a comedian TIMING is EVERYTHING. This book is now my go-to book for when to eat, what to eat, and how to think about nutrition. I suspect that, with this book in my quiver, next year I will be a force to be reckoned with, even if there’s less of me (again).

And, if you really want to geek out, and get all the force and momentum cycling equations (without working through pages of equation on your own), then Bicycling Science by David Gordon Wilson is the book for you. I warn you, it’s a dry read, but if you’re truly a a science nerd, you’ll be used to it.

Bike Related Products

kt

KT Kinesiology Tape (aka ‘lil’ pink spiders for you and me).
I am THRILLED to have discovered KT Tape this year. Ever since my snowboarding accident in 2003, I have been plagued by a number of injuries that still haunt me today. Enter KT Tape. Just before I went out on the RAAM as crew, my shoulder began hurting again. I’d been turned onto KT TAPE by one of my Twitter friends, Hilary from Outside Media (aka @outsidehilary on twitter) and thought I’d give it a try, but really didn’t expect it to make much difference. After all, it’s “just tape”, right? WRONG. KT Tape held my shoulder down and back, and allowed the flare up to heal, even though I was hauling heavy items, then sitting still in the van for many days (normally that’s a brutal combination for this injury). When mounted properly, the tape lasted 4-5 days, and performed better and longer than the tape I was given in Physical Therapy, back in 2003. Janet Christiansen, solo rider for the RAAM (who I was crewing for), also tried some on her knee and was also quite impressed. When I got home, I used KT TAPE on my knee and calf, and found that the weakness in that knee was, well, just gone.  KT TAPE is one of those products that, while I hope I never need it, do not ever want to be without it again; it will always be in my medicine cabinet, just in case.

Compression garments, for long distance riding
My first experience with compression garments came when I decided to try Etxe Ondo’s Sbaren bibs. As much as I have loved this brand, I balked at trying anything compression because I could never get passed that first impression “that can’t be comfortable”. But then I realized that if I was going to try an ultra-distance race, then it was high time I took the advice of Ultra veterans and try compression. Well, it works; it reduces vibration in the muscles, it’s comfortable, and most importantly makes a BIG difference in recovery the next day. I tried a few weeks of compression, and now I love it! Janet also tried compression this year, in the form of socks, and it helped her quite a bit in helping to prevent edema in her calves.

AW09multiweb

Action Wipes
Saddle sores suxOr, and they can stop a good training regimen cold, and take you off your bike for days, and sometimes, weeks. But saddles sores are preventable if you know the key element that causes them: bacteria. And what can save you from bacteria? Action Wipes!!! When you can’t get to a shower immediately after a ride, use an Action Wipe for a thorough aromatic cleaning, and it will be happy trails all the way. Plus Action Wipes are washable and reusable, which is awesome for the environment.

Is It Time for INTERBIKE Already?

September 1, 2009

In the spirit of getting back to business

It’s that time of year again. Just like in the fashion world, September is January for those in the bike industry. All year long, companies that work for and with all things bike, have been battling it out for what will be the next coolest thing. Every year,the next coolest thing is revealed to a captive audience of bike geeks at Interbike. In a few weeks, the amazement and wonder of Interbike(1) begins.

Yep, I am a Bike Geek, and I impatiently await the marvels that will be set before me. What wonders will they reveal this year? Will the trend of recognizing women riders continue? It would be wonderful if it did. Only a few short years ago, the business of Interbike was, well, a bit sleazy IMHO. Set in Las Vegas, it was easy to ignore the call for “real” women riders products, in lieu of the easy out for most of the bike industry, which was that, if you want to call something a women’s product, just “shrink it, and pink it”. Gone is that ABHORRENT practice! These days, the bike industry is finally realizing that if you want to make money, you NEED to cater to the other (nearly) half of the cycling population(2). NO ONE has recognized this better than Rich Kelly, marketing manager for Interbike. In the couple of years since he took over Interbike, he has helped change, not just the mood of the convention, but indeed the biking world itself, from an “old man business” community, to a fresh young hip, and girl-friendly place to be. It’s amazing and wonderful how much the industry has grown (up), and Interbike (via Rich Kelly) has been a wonderful contributor. Nearly gone are the “booth babes” of the convention (those are girls who are usually Vegas showgirls, and have NOTHING to do with bikes the rest of the year). In their place, is a far more palatable type of pulchritude: actual women riders, and venders, buying and selling things to and for women. There’s even a little sorority of sorts that has form by way of the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition luncheon. I always seem to get grounded and have clearer, more set goals after meeting with these dynamic women.

Plus, once again this year, we will have an amazing “urban cycling” fashion show put on by Momentum Magazine. Here’s what it looked like last year:

Grafton 3/4 Sleeve Jersey- You had me at Wool/ Silk Blend

Grafton 3/4 Sleeve Jersey- You had me at Wool/ Silk Blend

Luna's Merino Wool Pro Sweater

Luna's Merino Wool Pro Sweater

So what am I looking forward to seeing? Well, the first thing that to comes to mind is LUNA cycling clothing; yes, the yummy Luna Bar company has now launched their own clothing line for women. And who better, really. They’ve been paying good attention to women’s physiology for a long time, and have built up a great reputation, by way of their awesome, some years unbeatable racing team, the LUNACHIX. These women know how to ride, and I have no doubt that the LUNA gets plenty of chamois/cycling clothing opinions from their often winning roster. No doubt, they’ve come up with something interesting. (HINT- I got a glimpse of the wool/silk blend gear at Sporteve early this year, so I KNOW it’s gonna be good).

Road tires, and Wheels: There have been leaps and bounds in the technology of them round things. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for lightweight riders (those under 150lbs). And when I say “they” I mean that I want to see everyone’s gear. I have no loyalty to any brand right now, save my Michelin tires. So Wheelbuilders and tire companies better bring it ’cause I wanna see, and I’m listening.

More to come as Interbike nears…

(1) Interbike is the annual international conference for the bike industry.

(2) Women now make up ~47% of all cyclists. That’s up from ~44% two years ago. From Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN) June 1, 2009 issue, P 26.

How it all went terribly pair shaped….

August 27, 2009

I won’t be doing the Furnace Creek 508 this year because I ran out of money. That’s the short explanation. The long explanation is that the combination of the economy tanking, and three major financial blows in one month killed any plans I had of  doing the Furnace Creek 508; all of a sudden it had become way too expensive, and out of my reach.

It’s hard to plan for something like this, and then have it pulled from under your feet. I’ve been working on doing a major race/ fundraising event for about a year. Every bit of training effort that I had went into this. But, all in the same month, my dog got bitten by a nasty off-leash dog costing us a fortune in veterinary bills, then our garden had major erosion control issues (threatening the integrity of our house) and then our SUV blew up, which was suppose to be the follow van. When I realized that I’d have to rent a “follow van” for about 5 days, that was the breaking point. It was like trying to tap blood from a stone.

In the end, all the money that I had for The 508, just wasn’t there, and then some. I’m behind the eight ball at this point, trying to make the best of things, to come back from this, but it’s going to take some time, certainly more than I have for this year.  I am heartbroken. I really wanted to do this, or at least do the fundraiser, but I don’t even have the money for that.

Another hard part about this: my training was going really well! With the exception of a bizarre soreness that I’ve been feeling over the past few weeks, my power/mass has been improving steadily. What a bummer to be all dressed up like this, with no place to go.

Then there’s the weight that I added specifically so that I could start cranking out the watts as I lost it. Ugh, now I have to lose those pounds by diet, rather than extra work and cycling.

It’s embarrassing to have your whole year’s worth of planning time and effort crushed like this; without a steady direction of where to go what to do next, I feel like a fish out of water. Indeed this has been my beautiful disaster.

On the other hand, I’ve often said that what doesn’t kill you makes an interesting story, so I’m hoping that in spite of a lack of fun 508 tales I should still have enough from my adventures as a coach, bike fitter, and bike clothing retailer, and RAAM crew member, for a fascinating book called “Girl Meets Bike Book”. For the next little while, I’ll be writing my little heart out, trying to create a book that will inspire you, yes you, to get on your bike and feel joy, get exercise, and save money too.

PLUG,PLUG, place to shop:

I’ll also be opening my online store again, and I’m selling some of last season’s goods HERE. I’m selling incredible stuff at an absolute bargain right now, so pick up some deals now, while you can (and help a girl get back in the saddle, financially).

Tales from the Lack of the Peloton: Janet

July 15, 2009

It’s hard to explain what I experienced, what I saw in the Race Across AMerica; but here’s a tale of something I saw in Janet Christiansen, the solo racer I crewed for on the RAAM.

I’ve played with this blog a bit.  I hope it still reads well.

Upon a bit of reflection, I realize that what I witnessed in Janet was the ultimate in raw will and determination.
But also something more.
When there was nothing left, there was determination.
And when I say nothing, I mean riding non-stop for days and days and days, and every once in a while you get to stop, and maybe sleep a bit, but mostly, as in 21 hours a day you are riding; that kind of nothing left.
But there was always, the determination, the drive to move forward, even when exhausted beyond compare.
Janet forged ahead.

Mostly, she did not complain, but occasionally had a cursing fit. Interestingly, it has recently been found that cursing can be a type of pain reliever, and she did indeed, go through pain (Endnotes 1,  2).
One rarely comes across this breed of human, for surely no human would put herself through such hardship, such challenge, such pain; and for what?
The Honor?
No, no, wasn’t that. It is, in fact, most probably a lot closer to exactly not that.
What was it that kept her out there?
Raw will?
What gave her the fortitude, the tenacity to move forward through bone-aching exhaustion and pain?
(Will someone please let her get some sleep?)

Stories of the other riders unfold.
So many more of them then you’d think.
Not many women though.
And for these Ultra-endurances-athletes, the ultra-cyclists,
for them the RAAM is the Holy Grail;
for soloists, the end all, be all race.
It is The World’s Toughest Bicycle Race.
Yes, it is.
Really. It is.

Start: Oceanside, California
End: Annapolis, Maryland
3,016 Miles
ONE Stage

And each person’s reason for being there is very different, very interesting. And each rider’s experience was unlike anything else that’s ever happened, even if they’d done the RAAM before.
This is what EPIC means.

There is no prize money to be won, nothing but some chance at doing something very special, something that few have the capability to do. No wait, make that very few.

janet 1janet 2janet 3

janet 4Janet is a smart individual. She’s a natural born problem solver and practical to the core. She cycled well through the bad weather in New Mexico,
the corn fields Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio,
where rain and thunder and lightning and hail caught up with her in the dead of night.

janet 5janet 6
She’d been asleep for over three hours.
“don’t let her oversleep. She gets three hours a night.…”
“…and hail is the only thing that stops her.  Otherwise, she’s on the bike.”
That was the advice I was given.
It was my turn to wake her. I was amazed and delighted when she arose immediately and with purpose. There it was again, that vibe of someone who was about to do something absolutely extraordinary. Without much coaxing, she was out of the van (where she slept), and on her bike.
I was watching her at a time where she had figured out “a system” for herself; she’d found her rhythm. And in the quiet, still, dark, rolling hills of Ohio,
Janet rolls her ride again…and again…and again.
janet 7janet 8

Endnotes:

“…cursing may ease pain..”

1.  Web MD:  http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20090713/go-ahead-and-curse-it-may-ease-your-pain

2.  Reuters:   http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE56C3WX20090713


What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes an Interesting Story

May 22, 2009

I spent a few days out in Palm Springs, to ride a desert area and try to get used to the climate as part of training for the Furnace Creek 508.  Though most of the training was uneventful, there was one ride where a few things went awry. I should have had a lot more water and Endurox BEFORE I went out; that was my main error. But hey,  what doesn’t kill you, makes for an interesting story. And this kind of failure is an important learning experience for me.

Training in The Heat

I got out  late in the day, but it was just as well: how else can I know if I’m ready to stand the desert heat and dryness of Death Valley unless I just go for it? Well, I sure did. I got out at around 9:30am, by which time it was already 102° F. The ride out to Desert Hot Springs by way of Indian Canyon was rather intense. The speed limit is around 50 mph, but thankfully most of the way, there a good shoulder. The wind was intense once I turned west. That wind tunnel there is my least favorite thing to ride, which is why I rode it. I don’t remember the road being quite that rough, but wow, Desert Hot Springs roads are rough. It was tough being out there all by myself, mostly because I felt very unprotected from cars, but I seriously needed to train like that.  Most of the ride was OK, but at almost exactly mile 40, I got exceedingly hot. My head was burning up inside my helmet. I checked the top of my head to make sure it wasn’t actually on fire. Then I realized that I had gone a bit too far on the road I was on: I wasn’t exactly lost, but I was disoriented. Then the nausea set in. Okay, I recognized this as Heat Exhaustion. It’s so true that knowing the problem is often the first step towards a solution. Thankfully, I came across a grocery store, a Ralph’s with a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf inside. I went in, sat down and had ice cold water (great idea), bit of a frozen soy latte (bad idea) and  bagel (good idea). Then I realized that I had my iPhone on me and bang, knew exactly were I was. I was lucky that day to meet some very nice strangers; the girls at the Coffee Bean counter were very sweet. I chatted with them for a little while, partially to figure out where in the Desert Cities I was, and partially to see if I could hold a conversation coherently. I also chatted with a local guy who rides and, quickly figured out what happened. I seemed alright so I went on; after all, I only had another 15-20 miles.

Only? Yeah, um ah, no. I went on to ride in some of the worst heat-plus-wind-plus-dry I’ve ever experienced. I’m usually not one to slow down or pull over, but I did both several times in these last miles. It was 112°. The goal then was to make it the rest of the way, on my own, but safely. It was one of the toughest 60 milers I’ve ever done. But I did it on my own, and safely; in spite of everything, I did alright. I had a massage the next day with a skilled local; this helped to flush out any toxins and prevent a whole world of pain. I can’t begin to talk about the benefits of a proper massage after an intense workout.

I’m happy to see that I’m changing as an athlete, as I get older; I’m getting a bit wiser, in that I’m reading my bodies’ signals better. Rather than just pushing on (which is my instinct), I stopped to evaluate myself.  I realized that “Plan B” was in order: getting into the shade somewhere, with my bike, drinking cold water. “Plan C” consisted of taking a cab back to the motel. I’m happy that it never came to that, but was willing to make that happen, if necessary. This shows a maturity and discipline in my training that I didn’t have fifteen years ago.

How to choose a good saddle for yourself – girl’s version

December 11, 2008

Finding the perfect saddle for yourself can be a daunting task, particularly for those of us who are sensitive in the nether regions, aka, girls. I don’t know how boys feel in the saddle, because I don’t have those parts. I have girly bits with double the nerve endings, pointing in exactly the wrong direction when it comes to a bicycle saddle. BUT, thank our lucky stars, technology has caught up with our bits. The shapes and varieties that are available for women were great in 2008, but will be even better in 2009. Oh no, more variety, more choices; how the heck do you choose?

Well, here ya’ go. This is all the information I can muster, along with a few recommendations for brands and models.

If you are sitting on a saddle that fits, you should feel the majority of your weight on your sit bones, and you should feel supported around the sit bones and through the labia. There should be no weight at all on the clitoris or urethra. So you should feel weight on the sit bones and only support everywhere else on the saddle.sits-bones

1. Find some way of measuring distance between your ischial tuberosities.

Your Ischial Tuberosities are your Sit Bones. This is the place where you want the majority of your weight. The more upright you are on your bike, the more weight is on your saddle, therefore sit bones. So start your perfect saddle search by answering these three questions:

  • How upright is your spine on this bike?
Specialized Jett Saddle

Specialized Jett – Best Saddle Redesign

  • What kind of riding will you do with this bike?
  • Will you be wearing some kind of chamois on this bike (or what kind of clothes will you wear)?

The more weight you have on your sit bones, the more padding you need at that point on the saddle. Not a lot more, just enough. A good example of getting this design right for women, is the Specialized Jett (pictured). They’ve redesigned the Jett this year, to include more padding directly under the sit bones, and have also taken away excess volume on the side to reduce thigh rub. They also got rid of the annoying seams that used to encircle the sit bone pads, which used to rub and wear out clothing, and felt quite uncomfortable without chamois. This is an excellent update for this particular saddle, and shows that Specialized is willing to listen when they find out something is wrong with a part of their design. For such a large company, I’m well impressed. This saddle is excellent for road riding, mountain biking, track, and touring. It comes in three sizes, so get your sit bone width measured at a Specialized dealer, to find out your size. For commuting, which is very upright, choose something with a bit more cush, all around.

2. If you’re a girl, admit that you are a girl and get yourself a split saddle.

I’ve had a survey up for a while, and it is clear from the answers that those who lean on their clitoris because they do not have a split in their saddle WILL in some way experience discomfort. Maybe not for a while, but eventually your body will shift sitting position off of the clitoris to avoid leaning on nerve endings. This subtle shift in bike position can cause a HUGE host of problems that seem to have nothing to do with your saddle, such as numbness in the toes and fingers, pain in the front of the shoulders, and lower back issues. Of course saddle related problems also occur, like thigh rub, sit bone pain, pain or aching in the labia and surrounding tissues. For these reasons, (and because I’ve fit enough women successfully), I’ve become convinced that a split saddle is the way to go for women.  The exception to the rule is commuters, who might be so upright and in such inappropriate clothes that the split in the saddle would not make a difference. For such women, my premier choice is a Brooks saddle, from England. These saddles also come in varying widths (do NOT assume you will fit a women’s saddle) so you can definitely find the saddle for you. The thing that distinguishes the Brooks saddle is it’s fine leather, which you can think of as forming a hammock for your buttocks. The leather can be tensioned to be more or less supportive, and after a while the leather breaks in and comforms to you buttocks, giving you an extremely comfortable ride. Just keep in mind that these saddle don’t work as well if you lean forward while riding (as that will put pressure on the clitoris). If you sometimes lean forward, but like the idea and comfort of leather you might try a Selle Anatomica (pictured).

Selle Anatomica
Selle Anatomica

3. Make sure that the cut out and shape of the saddle fits you.

Saddle brands have different shapes to their cut outs, so you’ll just have to look around to find what really suits you. Most saddle companies and bike shops these days have saddle demo programs, so that you can try their shape and style. An example of an unusual cut out is the 2009 Selle Italia Lady. Pictured below, it’s easy to see the differences in the cutout, between the 2008 model, pictured first, followed by the redesigned 2009 model.

Old Selle Italia Lady
Old 2008 Selle Italia Lady

2009 Selle Italia Lady Redesigned
2009 Selle Italia Lady Redesigned

As you can see, the back of the cutout is more open, which will lead to better airflow. Less volume in the center is probably more comfortable, but I’d be interested to hear how ladies who have been dedicated to the old shape will feel about the new cutout. By the way the shape of the old 2008 Selle Italia Lady, is very similar to the Classic Terry Butterfly. That is, the old SI Lady has a Y shape, like the Butterfly, while the new one has more of a T shape, so like the Specialized Jett, trimmed for less thigh rub. One non-plus thing I noticed about the 2009 model; it has stitching in the thigh area that may prove to be a problem. It may not, but the stitching was definitely raised enough to annoy a “Princess and the Pea” like moi. Ladies, if you get this saddle, please tell us how it is! Kudos to Selle Italia for trying such an innovative and different design.

4. If you love your saddle, don’t change it. But always be open to better design.

I admit that I have a personal preference for the Terry Damselfly, which is a classic performance  saddle for slim sit bone widths. I love it for road, track, and cyclocross (though the nose is a bit long for cross) . For my commuter bike, I use the slightly fluffier men’s Terry Fly Carbon, because the carbon rails make for a dreamy comfortable ride when I’m not wearing chamois. For my mountain bike, I use the Specialized Jett 130, which has a very similar shape to the Damselfly.

Terry Damselfly
Terry Damselfly

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.
A.H.

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.

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!

Preview: Spend Fifty Miles in MY saddle…

October 16, 2008

As a “girl on bike” for over twenty years, this piece of Equipment, the humble saddle, has changed my entire relationship with my bikes, and will always continue to do so…

I started road cycling when there was no such thing as a women’s saddle, or even a split saddle (I mean, this was before the invention of Lycra), I remember VIVIDLY, the pain of the saddle. My solution back then was to get a man’s saddle , tilt it all the way down, have aerobars, and lean heavily on my arms, or sprint out of the saddle. There was no resting place for the weary, on this set up. Even though it helped, for me it was the split saddle that changed everything. The design finally relieved my number one complaint about riding a bike, that is, that it’s hard to train for long hours in the saddle if you have to lean on 8000 nerve endings and your urethra. Those were painful days with lots of swelling, chaffing, saddle sores, Urethral Syndrome, and UTIs. ALL of those things interfered with my training schedule, as an athlete.

So when the split saddle came along, I was thrilled because (yippy-yi-o-ka-ya…) It solved most of the crushing “girly bits” problems. Unfortunately, it made thigh irritation worse, because the nose was wider than on non-split saddles. For some unknown reason, this wide nose design was much worse on the new-fangled “women’s saddle” . I still don’t understand why it took most saddle companies until 2009 to figure out that MOST women (yes, even the skinny ones) have fat pads on our inner thighs. But enough complaining, because (YEAH!!), they finally did fixed that as well. Over the past five years, I’ve gotten closer and closer to finding “the one”. I look forward to trying some major designs changes, such as making the saddle more T-shaped and less Y-shaped (thus giving our inner thighs some space). There are some interesting shapes coming up, and I look forward to hearing about as well as feeling some actual design improvements…

This is a preview to an Article I want to complete for the December issue of “girl on bike”. Ladies, if you have a saddle that you want to RAVE about please put it in the comments here, or write to lisa@girlmeetsbike.com.
Thanks.


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