by Jacqui Snyder
When you shop for a bike it is important to ensure you get a bicycle designed for a woman. Our bodies are a different shape than a man’s, plus we face different physical challenges. For efficiency and comfort, our equipment, clothing, riding and training techniques need to be different as well.
We have longer legs, shorter torsos and are overall smaller than men. Our bikes should be designed accordingly. We need smaller frames to provide stand-over clearance. Often mountain bikes are more comfortable as they have lower top tubes. Since our torsos are shorter, the top tube should also be shorter. With longer legs, the ratio between the top tube and seat tube should be different, offering longer seat tubes.
Moving your seat forward would seem like a reasonable fix for the shorter reach, but if you are not in the right position you run the risk of straining or damaging your knees. Ensure that your knees do not hang over your toes when sitting in the seat with your feet at 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock.
Many companies like Terry Bicycles, Trek and Specialized have bikes that are designed specifically for women. Always purchase from a reputable retailer who is known for bicycle fitting. For maximum comfort ensure you have a seat designed for a women (our sit-bones are further apart).
If you already have a bike designed for a man, there are some things you can do to help fit it properly. Buy a shorter handle-bar stem so you don’t have to reach so far. This will alleviate back stress from stretching too far. Get narrower handlebars so your arms are not held too wide when you ride. This will provide greater shoulder comfort.
If you are purchasing a new bike, ensure that the frame is not too big for you. A man’s bike might be too large for your upper body even if it fits your lower body.
There are many other considerations for women related to cycling. The City of Toronto offers a Cycling Freedom for Women Course through their CAN-BIKE program. It is the drivers ed of cycling taught by women for women. Go to http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/canbike/index.htm for details of locations, dates and course content.
CAN-BIKE is offered in many major Canadian cities. You will find links on your cities’ website. Feel free to contact me for other women-specific resources such as women’s bike repair programs and cycling camps.
ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations
Jacqui Snyder is an avid sports-person, trained Chef (George Brown College graduate; trained in Switzerland and England), foodie, people-person and traveler. She is a certified CAN-BIKE instructor and has cycled for as long as she can remember. Jacqui runs ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations, organizing skiing, cycling, and hiking vacations.