One of the most effective ways to improve comfort and performance on your bike is to make sure your bike fits properly. For women, anatomy and physiology call for a riding position that is usually different from a man’s, and sometimes overlooked in general bike fit discussions. At bike fit technology and education company Retül, hundreds of women walk through the doors of the Boulder headquarters every season in search of their optimal position on the bike. Retül’s Todd Carver shares a few things for women to keep in mind when getting a bike fit or fine-tuning your own position.
Choosing a Saddle
There’s a trend among women toward choosing anatomically shaped saddles that help to relieve soft tissue pressure at the front end of the saddle. Saddle choice is highly a matter of personal preference, so there’s really no clear cut winner when it comes to the best saddle for women. The best way to choose a saddle is to try various widths, shapes and cut-outs. For road and mountain bikes, Specialized Body Geometry has a great lineup of women’s saddles. For triathlon and time trial bikes, we’ve had a lot of success with ISM, Cobb, the Fizik Tritone and the Specialized Sitero. The goal is to find a comfortable saddle, then make sure it is positioned correctly on your bike for your ideal riding position.
Check Your Positioning and Reach
Once you find a saddle that is comfortable, address your reach to the bars. A key difference between men and women riding a bike is the way each sits on the saddle. Generally men sit farther forward and women farther back in order to try and relieve pressure. You can choose a comfortable saddle but if your reach is too long, you’ll still be putting too much pressure on the front portion of the saddle. Women who have been riding for a long time likely have built up some tolerance to saddle pressure, but the average female cyclist should be aware of overreaching with a position that is too aggressive. A dynamic bike fit (i.e. analysis while you’re actually pedaling) can help you identify where to position your saddle. Don’t be afraid to move your saddle forward in order to get your knee in the right position over the pedal stroke based on where you sit on the saddle.
Get a Professional Fit
It’s worth the time and money to visit a well qualified bike fit expert. You can spend time trying to figure it out yourself or have a friend “eyeball” your fit, but why put yourself through that? You want to enjoy your bike, not dread it. Having a well trained expert using state of the art tools takes the guess work out of your fit and will ensure your miles are as comfortable as possible. A fit session is also a good time to learn more about your bike, as the fitter will likely be making some adjustments. Most fit appointments are two hours and will save you hours of potential discomfort.
Ask Questions and Voice Your Concerns
Make sure your fitter understands your riding goals and what you’re hoping to accomplish during the fit session. Don’t be afraid to speak up about any discomfort or pain you have on the bike. Part of the fit expert’s job is to educate. With the level of fit technology that is available today, your fitter will have a lot of data and information to share with you. Make sure you understand how changes to your position will be beneficial. Look for a fitter who is willing to listen and will also be able to see you for a follow up appointment after you’ve had some time to ride your new position. If you’re not satisfied with it, go back. Most fitters want the opportunity to help you fine tune your position until you’re happy with the results.