Thursday, February 28, 2013

Revolution of a cyclist: On seats

I had the best ride ever yesterday. Ever.

It wasn’t just the company, although that was outstanding. It certainly wasn’t the weather because even though there was warm and no rain it was cloudy and grey and dampish. It wasn’t even the fact that we chose a ride without any major climbs. It was my saddle.

This probably needs a little explanation. I have a used bike. Everything on it was used, and slowly (inevitably) we’ve been replacing the parts that fall off, break beyond repair or just don’t work for me. One of those things that just didn’t work for me was the seat.

Have you ever tried to wear someone else’s shoes? Even if they’re exactly the right size they feel strange on your feet because they’ve conformed to the exact shape of the owner’s foot. Even if they fit, the shoes don’t support your body in the same way they support the owner’s. The result is usually blisters or aching feet or worse yet aching back and all over discomfort.

As it is for feet, so it is for tushies and bicycles. You support yourself on your arms and your butt and if those don’t work for you the ride is not as fun. I decided that I needed to do a little research to find out if it was me or the seat. Those of you wondering why I didn’t just ask Leif…well, he’s not a girl and it’s just different.

I wasn’t sure who to ask. It’s a kind of personal thing and there needs to be a certain level of intimacy with a friend to ask how they handle riding and their lady bits. I have friends I can talk to about anything and I have friends who ride and are really close, I just haven’t known them long enough to talk details like that with them.

I did the next best thing to talking to a bestie about it, I went to the internets. Surprisingly, the internet isn’t filled with information about ladies saddles and their impact on ladies parts. There are just vague statements alluding to the importance of matching the saddle to the anatomy of a woman and the inevitable claim that theirs is the best. Then again, search engines are funny…who knows what combination of words are necessary to get this exact information.

I found a blog by a woman who restores vintage bikes called Lovely Bicycle! and she addressed this issue thoroughly, because she agreed with me that it was information that women needed but didn’t have access to. I read the whole article and it was actually quite helpful in understanding the relationship between the seat and the tush (seems common sense, but not to me) and then gave some tips on dealing with all those lady issues that men don’t have to deal with.

I also read the comments, first out of curiosity (are those readers as clueless as me?) and then mostly for the entertainment value. Like the woman who wrote that she understood all these problems very well as she rode quite a lot, like 30 to 40 miles a week. I ride that in a day, then I thought maybe the English mile is equal to say, 5 American miles. But I think not.

Then there was the woman who agreed that it was important to have the right saddle, but also the right clothing.  I anxiously read on thinking I was going to get some kind of inner-circle secret and couldn’t stop laughing when she said her riding became so much more comfortable when she started wearing linen skirts and trousers to ride. Seriously? She must ride with the woman who puts on the astounding 40 miles a week.

They also talked about riding during that time of month, yet another topic that is difficult to discuss but is really important if you don’t want to take a forced break every month. There are some interesting discussions about alternatives and bodies and such, much more frank than one might expect between complete strangers. Or maybe that’s why it  could be so frank.

But I also got some great information on seats and other women’s relationships with their own saddles. I put all this information to work and spent a couple of rides paying close attention to how I was riding and how I was feeling, then spent some time inspecting the seat. I figured out that the former owner and I are complete opposites. My longer leg is the left which is her shorter leg. So where her seat was high is where I needed it low and that explained the discomfort. We tried changing the angle on the seat and the height, but nothing worked. It was just uncomfortable.

So one day while I was working Leif went to the bike shop and had a long discussion with one of the mechanics (a conversation I would dearly have loved to witness) about ladies seats. According to Leif they did this without once mentioning the reason ladies seats are different, ie. those parts that make us ladies. They picked one out and the next day I went in and tried it out and I’m amazed that two men who couldn’t even bring themselves to talk about “down there” were able to pick a seat that really works for me.

And that’s  why yesterday’s ride was the best ever. I was comfortable (even though it was a little high, we’re fixing that before we ride today) for the entire ride. First time ever for me. It was awesome.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Revolution of a cyclist: The lost month

I had a stellar beginning to the year riding almost every day the first half of January. This is exciting for me because I come from Minnesota where the winters are long and definition of cold takes on new dimensions and only the certifiable ones are still out there riding. They resemble mad Vikings with frost covering their clothing and icicles hanging off their faces and a smile that's frozen in place. Here in Florence it only occasionally frosts overnight and stays in the 40's and 50's Fahrenheit. It feels colder in my opinion because the humidity, unlike Minnesota, is in the 70% to 90% range. Yes, I'm now a wimp.

But I digress. Stellar beginnings...then a slight equipment failure. Quickly fixed and thankfully paid for by a woman I babysit for. She said it was a Christmas present. Then (dah, duh, daaaaaaaaaaah) the dreaded influenza. I tried guys, honestly I did. Once a week whether I felt like it or not (usually not) I would go for a ride with someone and feel a thousand times worse for days afterward. But I should get points for trying.

Now I feel better. Not just for today, but I've felt good for several days in a row. I think I'm ready to re-enter the world of cycling. Leif has been fine tuning the bike. One new rear tire because the cords were visible in the old one. Checking the brakes. Oh yeah, the biggie in his opinion, dusting it off and cleaning up everything so it shines as much as it can.

My biggest concern? Go ahead and laugh with hair. Do I wear it in sporty braids or a sophisticated up-do at the top of the calf or in a tasteful chignon at the ankle? That's right. Soon I can get rid of the CuddleDuds and the Target leggings and wear just the shorts. I'm trying to figure out just how long I can wait before having to tackle the hair on my legs. In Minnesota I'd still have months before having to think about leaving my legs out for God and everyone to see.

This is as deep as I get some days, folks. Not how fast or how far I'm riding, not how much I'm climbing, not even deep enough to wonder if I'm improving. I just want to know how long I can put off the inevitable need to shave my legs. Ridiculous but true.