We’re knee deep in lovely, powdery snow here, which means I’m alternately skiing and taking the time to read about the activity I’d love to be doing: biking. Hunkering in, too? Here’s a suggestion for some fireside reading.
If you’re a chica and you’re getting excited about biking, you gotta know upfront that it’s a guy’s domain. No question about it. Walk into any bike shop, and the folks with the bike know-how are all dudes.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you’ll feel better if you know a little something about bikes before you walk into that man’s world. Selene Yeager’s book, Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling, is a great concise primer on cycling, especially if you’re interested in training for general fitness or racing.
Yeager is a great writer, which means that she’s entertaining and her writing is clear. The book is also very well organized, so you don’t put down the book in a haze, wondering what on earth you just read.
Yeager’s overview on the different type of bikes (road, mountain, commuter) is quick and dirty, but most of the potentially confusing lingo is clearly explained. Her recommendations on gear and riding tips are more of the same: clear and easy to follow. Toward the end of the book, she also has nice sections on riding for health, basic bike repair, and how to keep those sensitive parts happy on longer rides.
Most helpful are all of the female-specific tips throughout the book that you’re never going to hear from the bike shop dudes because . . . they’re dudes. They can’t help it.
Biggest take-home message: Biking can be very comfortable for women, so try different gear and bike frames until you get something that fits you. If a salesman tells you you’ll just “get used to” the uncomfortable feeling of being on a bike, leave the bike there. It’s not the right one.
You should know:
In spite of the great basic info in the book, it’s really written for women who are going to be racing or at least training regularly. And if you are, I would very highly recommend this book. If you’re going to be riding for fun or with your family most of the time, borrow the book from your public library and enjoy the writing.
Check out the cover. That is one very specialized racing bike, and the biker is a total hardbody, which is wonderful. But that’s far from “every woman.” Author Selene Yeager is Bicycling Magazine’s Fit Chick, which means that she writes columns about specific training for racing. This is her world, so it should come as no surprise that the book is slanted toward a more tough and buff rider.
More than half the book is devoted to training schedules for folks who are training for racing or long rides that most folks really aren’t going to undertake. Even the weight loss training schedule suggests regular rides of more than an hour. I don’t know about you, but as a busy mom, I usually only had 30-45 minutes for a workout, and I still managed to lose weight.
One serious omission, given the “every woman” title is the short shrift that commuter and cruiser bikes get. These bikes are some of the sexiest, in-demand bikes out there, yet Yeager hardly mentions them. Most of her time is spent talking about the details of road bikes and mountain bikes. If you haven’t biked since childhood, the last bike you want for pleasure riding is a road bike, and a cruiser is probably going to be the most affordable as well as the most comfortable.
Again, Yeager’s slant makes sense since her world is serious training and racing, but I think the marketing on the book, saying it’s for you “even if you haven’t been physically active in years,” (back cover copy) is a bit misleading.
If you’re a woman planning to do serious training or start your racing career, Selene Yeager’s your woman. If your riding is going to be for basic fitness, recreation or commuting, you’ll find more info tailored for you on blogs