In July, we celebrate Le Tour de Femmes, the first women’s Tour de France in over a decade. If you’re feeling inspired, it’s a great time to get on your bike – whether it’s for the first time or the first time in a long time. Find out what you need to get started…
When the last women’s Tour de France took place there was little in the way of female specific cycle clothing or bikes. Bike shops were male dominated environments and women riders needed to make do with smaller versions of the clothing and tech that male riders were using. Thankfully, that has now changed. There is a wide range of kit to suit every style of rider shape, size and taste. Here are some tips to help you choose the things you need to enjoy your cycling…
Choosing your bike
Not everybody needs a gender specific bike, but for some people it can be beneficial. If you are quite short, for example, you may find that the typical range of bike sizes doesn’t go small enough to accommodate you.
Female specific geometry focuses on having a slightly shorter top tube, meaning a shorter reach to the bars, to make allowance for women having different body proportions. It can be interesting to compare bikes with different geometry and test ride them. Choose the bike that fits you best rather than deciding based on whether it is aimed at female riders.
Some models may have exactly the same frame geometry but have different parts on the female specific version, such as a women’s saddle.
Generally, women have narrower shoulders so benefit from having narrower handlebars, while smaller hands require the brakes to be positioned slightly differently. This helps to ensure you are in a comfortable position to confidently steer and brake, making bike riding a pleasure.
Choosing your saddle
There are numerous solutions to saddle comfort. Finding the right saddle – whatever your comfort issue – is largely down to trial and error. You need a saddle that fits with your own unique soft tissue presentation.
There are some general rules of thumb for female saddle choice. Firstly, your saddle offers best support when its width correlates with the width of your sit bones. This can be measured in a bike shop as it doesn’t necessarily relate to how wide your hips are. Secondly, women tend to prefer a shorter and wider style of saddle than a male rider would use. Gap saddles, ones with a cut-away section in the middle designed to relieve pressure, can work for some women, but not all. For some, the sensitive areas fit within the gap. For others, their tissue folds overlap the gaps, actually increasing pressure.
Ask if you can try some saddles before you buy. Just sitting on a saddle for a few minutes will let you know if it is ‘wrong’ but a saddle that feels right for a few minutes can become less comfortable during a long ride. It can be a frustrating process. So much so that when you find a saddle that works for you – buy two!
Padded shorts are an essential for all cyclists, even if you are only riding short distances, they will make a real difference to how comfortable you feel. Padded shorts are designed to be worn next to skin (no knickers!) and be seam-free to avoid chafing or rubbing.
Shorts come in two styles; those that finish at the waist and ‘bib’ shorts, which have a body or broad straps to hold them up. Bib shorts are in some ways easier to wear as there is no restrictive waistband or pressure on your stomach, but they can be more complicated for toilet breaks.
And everything else
You’ll find everything from shoes, to gloves, to helmets and glasses are now available in female specific versions. Having smaller and narrower sizes can help some women riders to find kit with a better fit but it is far from essential if the ‘standard’ sizes and colours suit your body shape and tastes. For an outstanding selection of women’s cycle kit and accessories – along with brilliant advice from other female riders – Velovixen.com is the site to visit.
Watch the best in the world
Don’t forget to tune into Tour de Femmes 2022 from 24th -31st July and watch the best female racers in the world battle it out in the mountains of France. It promises to be one of the most exciting and inspiring female cycling events ever seen. Share your experiences of the race plus any female specific kit you really love on our social channels.