The Increasing Popularity Of Cycling On Malaysian Roads And Trails Has Also Seen An Increase In The Number Of Women Taking Up Cycling As A Sport, Recreation Or Hobby. Cycling Malaysia Looks Into What A Lady Rider Needs To Know.
Most weekends see local roads, bike lanes and trails filled with cyclists. During the working week, it is becoming more common seeing a few riders on their daily commute to the office, with panniers or a backpack containing working clothes. The fact is, an increasing number of women picked up cycling over the past few years.
For many, it is a way of keeping fit, of losing that extra weight, or of participating in a competitive sport. In some cases, because their children or spouse have taken an interest in cycling, some mums take up cycling to make it a family activity or sport. Others use a bicycle to get to the corner shops for daily necessities.
Whatever the reason, cycling is a sport that knows no gender barrier, only a rider’s determination and fitness being the deciding factor. All that is required is a bicycle, and the necessary safety gear. Taking up cycling can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it, depending on your reason for cycling, budget and interest. While the bicycle itself is a simple machine, getting one that fits your body and needs is important. A badly fitting bike will probably result in a poor cycling experience, and probably put you off riding altogether.
The ladies’ bicycle
Ladies-specific bicycles have been around for decades. If your intended purpose is for a simple bike that you can use for commuting and running errands, a ladies’ bike will have a lowered crossbar, or top tube. In many cases, the top tube is done away with altogether, making it easy for a lady to mount the bike without having to swing her leg over the seat. The chain guard is likely to be enclosed, to prevent oil and grease from the chain staining clothes. The seating position will be fairly upright as per the casual riding nature of the bike.
A fair number of ladies have taken to riding folding bikes, or ‘foldys’, as they are popularly known. The small wheels and ‘cute’ nature of the foldy make them attractive to ladies, and they are easy to store and manage. Their cute nature doesn’t take away from the fact they are just as capable as full sized bikes, and for many households, a bike that can be folded up and stored away is a plus.
The one thing many ladies complain about while cycling is seating comfort. Aside from first ensuring that the bike fits you correctly, the saddle is an important component of the equation. A saddle, which is set too low, or too high, will cause chafing and pain. Overly padded saddles do not promote cycling efficiency and comfort, although they may seem comfortable at first. There are many female specific saddles in the market, which take into account the wider seat bones and different anatomy of ladies. Saddles may include cut outs or softer padding to accommodate the softer tissues of the female anatomy.
Control while riding is important, and this means choosing handlebars that fit. Typically, men have wider shoulders than women, and this means choosing the right handlebars. While not as critical for mountain bikes or road bikes with flat bars, racing bars need to be sized correctly for women to prevent back and neck strain, and ensuring that hands can reach and control the brakes and shifters. Controls should be set in a position where the rider can reach and use them without bending the hands and wrists at unnatural angles.
Is size important?
Many manufacturers also produce a range of road and MTB frames designed specifically for women. Is it important that a lady ride a female specific frame? The answer is both yes, and no. The important thing is fit, and riding a women’s specific frame means the bike will be more likely to fit you, with minimal adjustments. This includes avoiding overly short or long stems, along with things like top tube reach and Q-factor (bottom bracket width) playing a part. Women are different physiologically from men, and frame designers recognise this. But, everyone is different, and if you feel comfortable riding a men’s frame, which fits you properly, there is nothing wrong in doing so. The best option, of course, is to invest in a proper bike fit.
This will determine your exact body measurements, and ensure the perfect frame fit. A properly fitted frame will mean that you can ride in comfort and without pain, and without straining the joints and muscles, while remaining in full control of the bike.
While you can ride a bicycle wearing almost anything, women’s specific cycle clothing will make riding comfortable. Jerseys have women’s specific cuts, design to accommodate and flatter the female figure. Shorts are especially important, with padding designed for the female anatomy, to provide proper comfort and support while preventing chafing. Gloves will also be sized for the longer fingers and smaller palms of women. Women’s cycling shoes will have narrower fits and higher arches.
Road craft and riding safety skills are essential for any cyclist’s survival. Whether a newcomer to cycling or a seasoned veteran, it is always good to practise and refine riding skills on a regular basis. There are ride schools available, which teach bike handling and control skills, and many regular riders are happy to share tips and tricks. For women, riding with a buddy is common sense safety, and a group of cyclists is mutually supporting.