But, things are changing. In the last decade, the number of women cycling in the United States has risen by 20%—in fact, in 2012 the National Sporting Goods Association found that 60% of cyclists ages 17-28 were actually women. And, while there are as many options for bikes and gear as there are for shampoo at the drugstore, we’ve ridden down a few basics you need to get out there!
Look For Women's Bikes
Women’s bikes today are more than step-through 10-speeds or smaller versions of men’s models. Bike companies like Specialized Bicycle Components make bikes just for women.
Specialized has been focusing on women for over a decade through their dedicated women’s program. To engineer models like the Amira, Ruby, and Dolce specifically for women, Specialized studied female anatomy and riding habits. As Erin Sprague, the Women’s Product Manager at Specialized, says, “A woman doesn’t go to the men’s section for clothes, and it’s exactly the same with bikes.”
Along with Specialized, Giant and Cannondale are two other companies producing great bikes for women.
Get It At A Bike Shop
Maria Sipin, a Los Angeles-based cycling advocate and instructor, got her first bike off of Craigslist. It didn’t fit, and she didn’t feel safe riding. That’s why she and Specialized’s Sprague both recommend buying a bike at a bike shop. Just like finding the right car, you really need to get your bike in person from the experts.
Bike shops can be intimidating and sometimes feel like Championship Vinyl, the snobby record store in High Fidelity. Each shop is different, so try visiting several to find the right culture for you. As Sipin found out, it’s very important not to be afraid to try out a lot of bikes or to ask a lot of questions. This helps you match your cycling interests and experience to right bike.
Wear A Helmet
Once you find your bike, a lot of what other gear you need depends on the type of riding you do. However, there's one thing that never changes: a helmet. As a general rule, the more you spend, the less bulky and more comfortable helmets get. Specialized designs their women’s helmets with a Hair Port for your ponytail or braid. You can find other nontraditional options from companies like Bern or Nutcase.
In the past, cycling apparel inspiration could be summed up as early period Andre Agassi meets Hulk Hogan (think neon spandex). But, companies like Specialized and Pearl Izumi now offer more muted jerseys and shorts for women in a range of fits and materials. For the truly fashion conscious, Rapha — the A.P.C. of cycling — offers a full collection for women. Feel Safe
Though she now teaches safety classes, Sipin didn’t always feel safe riding. “Like anybody else, I had a lot of fears about biking on the road,” she says. A safety class changed everything for her. The classes, which you can find locally through the League of American Bicyclists, aren’t about learning to actually ride a bike. They're about giving you the confidence you need to feel safe on the road.
Now you’re ready to get out there, and you can start by riding to work, running errands, or cruising to brunch with friends. For Sipin, it’s this exploration of where she lives that got her out riding in the first place.
When you start looking for longer distances, Sprague recommends checking out apps like Strava and Map My Ride. Your local bike shop often hosts rides at least once a week, and all shops that are Specialized dealers have at least one women’s ride a month.