Part II of our Beginner’s Guide Series (Read Part I HERE)
I was recently asked, What it was like as a women trying to navigate the road race scene?
First of all, Gear. Lots of bike shops and cycling gear manufacturers are coming around these days, but for a long time the theory was, “shrink it and pink it.” I am not a fan of pink: “My beef is when it’s crammed down my throat . . . when it is the ONLY option . . . when it is assumed, because I was blessed to not be burdened with a Y chromosome, that I will automatically be attracted to the sugary Disney princess pallor…” (You can read more about pink HERE.) Please note: there are many, many options for women today in cycling gear and clothing- more every year – beyond the colors of sherbet.
When it comes to visiting a bike shop and buying a road bike, asking questions about cycling supplies, or seeking help for a repair, I strongly recommend finding a shop with female staff. For a lot of women, the intimidation factor can be a barrier: “So, the time had come. Over the past decade I’ve darkened the doors of many local bike shops, from Golden to North Longmont. Some I’ve been loyal to for seasons – but none felt like a great fit, as a woman. The intimidation factor has loomed large in my bike shop history. So with this purchase on the horizon, I decided to venture out and try someplace new.”(Read about my experience HERE.)
You need to team up with other women cyclists. We run a weekly “Women’s Wednesday” feature on 303 that encompasses all things women & bikes, from cruisers to carbon. Finding your cycling clutch may be the single most important thing you do. 303’s Cheri Felix has lots of advice, like: “Most of us have been on a group ride where someone else is doing something completely amazing and you’re sitting there watching and wondering if you have the ovaries to try it. I know I have. About a hundred times. In fact every time I used to go out for a ride my husband would say one thing; no showing off. He knows me. I’m competitive and I love riding fast downhill and I love that exhilaration after you do something that almost makes you mess your chamois. But here’s where the measuring stick comes in. Bring your own. Don’t measure your prowess on the bike by what someone else can do. Don’t compare don’t judge don’t do that “well if she can do it so can I” thing…” (Read this story and more HERE.)
We have lots of female ambassadors at 303, and we’re always trying something new. For example, ambassador Erin Trail, of Parker, a competitive triathlete, decided to hit the road and try her skill at a traditional time trial…
“I had the opportunity to participate in this 7 week time trial (TT) race series and I JUMPED on it. TT racing had always been something I was curious about but had never tried. I have the TT bike and the aero helmet, so all I needed was the willingness to endure 7 weeks of all-out riding. Easy peasy…”
She quickly realized lots of elements of road racing were quite different from the road racing she did within triathlon, including categories and how to register, (“Being that I was a beginner and new to TT racing, I had NO IDEA which group to place myself in for the race series. I was given a choice of Cat 4 (the lowest level of competitive cycling for women) or an age group), race bib placement (“you get one bib number for the entire series (so don’t destroy it). The bib gets pinned to your back right side….”), how to warm up (“Riding the course as a warm-up is not allowed. Loads of people brought their trainers (I admit, this was a bit intimidating)…”),and how to start (“each person starts their race at a pre-designated time and starts individually. Racers have a 20 second gap before the next person departs. The key: be ON TIME or you’ll miss your race.”)
(Read Erin’s full article HERE.)
Bottom line: the best way to learn about racing your bike as a woman, is to ask other women. Check out articles for women on 303, seek out groups and rides on Facebook geared toward women, or send your questions to any of the authors featured here.