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Thread: Bikes for women

  1. #1
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    Bikes for women

    I do not have a rideable bike, and have been doing some shopping. I'm mostly concerned about fit and comfort. I had major pelvic floor surgery in November including 2 screws in my sacrum , and leaning forward for any length of time puts painful pressure on my urethra. So the townies look appealling to me, but I get the feeling they are not too popular with serious cyclists.

    3 weeks ago I would have said "I won't ever be a serious cyclist." But since then I've: shopped on ebay, shopped otherwise on the net, stopped at the local bike shop (not too helpful), decided I need to be wiser before buying, found bike forums, browsed on-line mags, checked out 11 books from the library, read 5 so far. Now I'm really excited (fantasies of week long bike trips through the countryside ), and I think cycling looks perfect for somebody who is recovering from surgery and lengthy non-activity (very little since July 2004). But the pelvic issues...

    OK. I need a bike. Physical: female 35 years old, 5'2" 130 lb, 10 lbs overweight (though that's not a true picture of how out of shape I am, because at 120 lb I had a lot of muscle, which I lack right now, though I am naturally rather toned and muscular compared to most people. I have worked at a gym, danced professionally (no, not as a stripper), worked as an archaeological field tech, done land surveying and various exercise activities (but not cycling). I have excellent endurance, but can't sprint (exercise induced asthma).

    commute: 4 days a week, just under 10 miles one way on the bike trail, 5 miles one way on regular roads that are not bicycle friendly. Mostly flat (this is northeast Indiana!)

    Needs: commuting, but if I could use the same bike for my week long tour next summer that would be great. Otherwise, recreational around the neighborhood (read: not interested in mountain biking, I'm a backpacker).

    I'm not real comfortable on a bike yet, so a low top bar, low clearance would be a bonus.
    basket or other means of carrying books for 1 class, a few groceries
    my broken bike has 21 gears that never worked right. Cheap Dick's bike, but do I need that many? I look at all those cogs, chain rings, and see potential problems.

    So I'm throwing my life history and goals out in the wind, hoping somebody will be interested enough to respond.

    Lesli

  2. #2
    GATC
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    If an upright townie type works, that's great, go for it. No idea how that would go over a weeklong tour. What about a recumbent?

  3. #3
    it's my road too, dangit sydney_b's Avatar
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    Serious cyclists .... have all types of bikes.

    What's most important is that you find a bike that's comfortable for *you.* If you put the miles on it, then *you're* a serious cyclist. If I were in your place, I would try some shops and see if they would rent you a bike for a week or at least a day or two so you could get a real sense of whether it would be comfortable for longer rides (over and hour), which is what's most important given your medical history. The only other thing would be to make sure it has attachment points for racks, or at least a sturdy basket for your weekend touring.

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    I would get your doctor's opinion on the riding position also.

    There is nothing wrong with an upright bike. The main thing is that many cyclists find them less comfortable than a bike with drops. However, I doubt many or any have had your surgery.

    I love drops and road bikes. Yet, I am recommending a cruiser for my wife due to the type of riding she does. Plus, there is something cool looking about those retro cruiser bikes with the big sweeping handlebars.

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    As a premed studnet here is my professional opinion: the more upright you ride, the more weight on your butt. Also in bikes without shocks this feels a little tough on my butt. So I bought a used touring bike. It lets my back ease out of the racer pose. Maybe with your surgery things feels more sensitive in that area and so I would be cautiious of flar bar hybrids. I think we have a very similar pshyique except you have a large lung capacity and I don;t have lungs. It sounds you have been very active in the past and have done some cool stuff. Don't let the surgery get you down, think Floyd Landis with a dead hip.

  6. #6
    DNPAIMFB pinkrobe's Avatar
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    Keep researching - knowledge is power! If your LBS is not helpful, definitely try some others, as there's not much sense in rewarding poor service. Test ride everything you can throw a leg over, and get what feels right. Bear in mind that if you start to really enjoy cycling, you will probably want a new bike, but that's a good thing!

    Good luck!
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    I agree on getting your doctor's opinion (or another medical professional who deals with physical therapy/sports medicine) to see if there are unseen issues that might affect your decision.

    The retro cruiser bikes do look very cool when riding around town and if it gets you riding that would be an important step. If you envision taking longer rides (probably anything over 15-20 miles) then you might find a cruiser less efficient and more work. There are many varieties of hybrids out there that still keep the upright riding position. I think these bikes are great utility bikes for riding around town and commuting, but I have also ridden many 50 and 60 mile days on my hybrid. Plus these bikes are workhorses that are very forgiving of a less than perfect rider.

    Most hybrids have spots to attach racks, water bottles, lights etc. for utility use. They also come in a variety of sizes and shapes -- I believe even women specific designs that may fit you well. I would try out other bike shops to see if you find one with a more helpful attitude (try a shop that caters to commuters or recreational riders rather than the racing set). Then do a bunch of test rides to see what feels good. A good shop should be willing to work with you and answer your questions.

    Good luck and let us know how the search goes.
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    Recumbents are a great solution for a serious cyclist that isn't comfortable with the bent over forward position. They are very comfortable and many models are also very fast. Do to better aerodynamics they are excellent on the flat windy plains of the midwest.
    For commuting 27+ gears are not usually necessary. However they do come in handy when riding long distances over varied terrain.
    If you can get comfortable on it a touring bike would make an excellent commuter and long distance bike. If you perfer a really comfortable bike some recumbents also would make an excellent choice. A Townie would make a decent commuter but the inefficiencies and weight on you rear would wear on you on a longer ride.

    Craig

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    Senior Member swwhite's Avatar
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    And remember that you don't have to continue using the seat that comes with the bike; you can get a different one, if the seat makes any difference in comfort. One bike shop in my area has a stationary bike set up with a bunch of different seats pre-attached to seatposts, so you can go there and "ride" for a bit on different seats. Maybe a bike shop in your area does that. You could let your fingers do the walking on that question.
    Riding in search of the simple life.

  10. #10
    cut my gas use in half Jessica's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swwhite
    And remember that you don't have to continue using the seat that comes with the bike; you can get a different one, if the seat makes any difference in comfort. One bike shop in my area has a stationary bike set up with a bunch of different seats pre-attached to seatposts, so you can go there and "ride" for a bit on different seats. Maybe a bike shop in your area does that. You could let your fingers do the walking on that question.
    what a cool idea! i have visited a number of LBS, and I agree about going back only if they are helpful. (so my LBS is not really the closest to my house)

    I ride with my back straight when in the racing position... would that give pressure for you? being female it is not as urgent to have any weight on the seat. when I am bent over, the seat is mostly for decoration. but 10 miles (just happens to be my one way commute, also) is a bit far for bent over only... get a comfy seat, try recumbent (try don't just buy... some recumbent I have tried actually are worse on my coccydynia[sore tailbone])

    And the FIRST thing I do with a new bike is to replace the seat.
    then a rack
    then bags/panniers/bottles
    And I am sure there are other choices I haven't thought of, yet...

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    Quote Originally Posted by madscot13
    So I bought a used touring bike. .. I would be cautiious of flar bar hybrids.

    Thank you everyone for the excellent feedback! What is the difference between a touring bike and a hybrid? And why should I be cautious of flat bar hybrids? It seems that a hybrid might be a good solution: more of an upright position, but suitable for the long rides. Possibly I could switch handlebars, if those are the problem? Why are drops more comfortable? Is it because you can switch hand positions?

    Another thought: with all the money I save on gas, I could buy a new bike next summer, and then I might be in a better situation physically/recovery wise.

    Do recumbents work in traffic? Are they all so low?

    I love the idea of making my best guess and then renting for a couple of days. And switching seats. And finding an LBS that is more helpful.

    It seems so obvious that I should ask my doctor. And now that somebody mentioned it, I remember that after my surgery when I couldn't make it sitting through my 2 classes, he told me to try cycling shorts. So he might have some experience and insight! My insurance stopped covering physical therapy 2 months ago, but maybe she would talk to me on the phone a little.

    L

  12. #12
    nashcommguy
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    Hi Notenspeed,
    Godspeed in recovering from your surgery. Would like to suggest the Specialized Crossroads Hybrid. Got a used one for my gf last year for her bd and she loves it! $140.00US w/helmet, lock, etc. Has twist-grip shifting, cantilever brakes and it's 3x6(18 speed) with a rack. They're 3x7 now(maybe 8 or 9). Her's is an older one. The confidence she's gained over the last year has been amazing. She says she's ready for a good road/touring bike now. Sorry, I digress. The point is this model is available used for relatively little money. They're solid, dependable and upright. The tires are 38mm and 75psi which will give a nice smooth roll w/moderate resistance. Saw one on craigslist/nashville the other day for $70.00! Good luck in your search.

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    Try looking at some of the bikes at A.N.T., www.antbikemike.com . There are good options in good fitting bicycles other than in road racing bicycles. Mike Flanigan is making a specialty of them.

  14. #14
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    The "pressure on the urethra" issue is probably unrelated to your surgery - that can be a problem for anyone. Women need wider seats because the sitbones (ischial tuberosities) are farther apart than for men, and your seat and posture need to be adjusted so most of your weight is on those bones and not at the front of the pelvis. "Comfortable" gel or otherwise thickly padded saddles should be avoided since your sitbones sink into them, but saddles with springs or tensioned leather like Brooks are OK. Some female saddles have a central cutout in the nose but not everyone finds those comfortable. The saddle should be level, or even slightly raised at the front since that slides you back onto the wide part of the saddle. To be sure your pelvis isn't tilted too far forward and crushing your tender organs you can also raise the handlebars or get a shorter stem to bring them back towards you a bit, and also arch your back. Also as you get fit and pedal with more power, the leg action tends to lighten your weight on the saddle, which is why racers can get away with such low handlebars, and time trialers can sit so far forward on the narrow part of the saddle (plus the TTers also rest a lot of weight on their aerobars).

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by notenspeed
    Thank you everyone for the excellent feedback! What is the difference between a touring bike and a hybrid? And why should I be cautious of flat bar hybrids? It seems that a hybrid might be a good solution: more of an upright position, but suitable for the long rides. Possibly I could switch handlebars, if those are the problem? Why are drops more comfortable? Is it because you can switch hand positions?
    A tour bike is a road bike adapted for comfort and durability over long distances and stability under load. It has the drop bars but the rider's posture is slightly more upright than for racing (yes, the drop bars do offer a range of positions, to lessen hand fatigue). Tour bikes also have more room in the fork and rear stays for slightly fatter tires and for fenders (a must!) and eyelets for attaching rear and sometimes front racks. They have more stable, less "twitchy" steering. Another modified road bike with similar advantages is the cyclocross bike: a road bike adapted for on- and off-road racing.

    A hybrid is a bit more upright and has a flat bar. They exist in a range: some are light and fast like road bikes, some are heavy and ponderous like beach cruisers. The upright position and flat bars can be advantageous in heavy traffic and congestion compared to a road bike: you have a slightly better view of your surroundings and your hands are always on the brakes. However you can suffer hand fatigue and you are less aerodynamic which is a big issue on longer rides. If you want to commute and go on long rides, a tour or cyclocross bike might be a better choice.

    For a while some manufacturers referred to hybrids as "cross" bikes (ie. a cross between road and mountain bikes) but this was confusing because of cyclocross bikes, and fortunately seems to have died out.
    Last edited by cooker; 07-29-06 at 10:34 AM.

  16. #16
    Barbieri Telefonico huhenio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DataJunkie
    However, I doubt many or any have had your surgery.
    In my experience with L4 and L5, microdiskectomy, drops are better. My vago nerve was so constricted that I was walking bent sideways.

    The main reason why I switched from the upright hybrid to a road bike with drops is because my back started hurting for putting most of the pressure in my lumbar area.

    I've ridden thousands of miles on drop bars and I've NEVER experienced back pain.
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  17. #17
    BF's Level 12 Wizard SingingSabre's Avatar
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    If you were a client of mine, I would suggest looking into recumbent bicycles.

    You would be able to maintain an almost neutral pelvis on a recumbent. Also, you would be pushing against the back of the seat rather than using your body weight to pedal. This would substantially decrease strain on your lower back while keeping your body aligned how you need to be. Your sits-bones would be more cradled while possible saddle-chafing would be reduced.

    I think you're a prime customer for a recumbent. Sadly, they do tend to be pricier...but what good is an inexpensive bicycle if it's only going to hurt you?

  18. #18
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by huhenio
    In my experience with L4 and L5, microdiskectomy, drops are better.
    Just goes to show that experiences vary. MY 3 experiences with L4 and L5 diskectomies (the last one being a microdiskectomy) clearly indicated that drops are lousy for my comfort.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Caspar_s's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by notenspeed
    Do recumbents work in traffic? Are they all so low?
    Quite often people put flags on their recumbents for better visibility. Also the longer wheelbase and seat might make cars more aware of you - you're not just another upright bike.

    If you take a look here at the riders standing up and compare to where a normal bike is, they aren't that low - and you're sitting straight up rather than bent over. Of course there are low ones - like the one on the homepage of that site. Also right at the ottom of the gallery is one next to a motorbike for comparison (although none next to upright bikes)

  20. #20
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by notenspeed
    I do not have a rideable bike, and have been doing some shopping. I'm mostly concerned about fit and comfort. I had major pelvic floor surgery in November including 2 screws in my sacrum , and leaning forward for any length of time puts painful pressure on my urethra. So the townies look appealling to me, but I get the feeling they are not too popular with serious cyclists.

    I'm not real comfortable on a bike yet, so a low top bar, low clearance would be a bonus.
    basket or other means of carrying books for 1 class, a few groceries
    my broken bike has 21 gears that never worked right. Cheap Dick's bike, but do I need that many? I look at all those cogs, chain rings, and see potential problems.

    Lesli
    Lesli,
    Along with the good suggestions you have been receiving, I would definitely take a look at the Electra Townie that you mentioned and other similar bikes with a foot forward position. I have no idea if that position will work for your condition, but if it does, don't worry for a second about whether they are popular with "serious cyclists". One of their bikes with internal 3 or 7 speed shifting might be just the ticket for you needs.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  21. #21
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    The Townie looks like a really cool bike, but it's not targetted at "serious cyclists" simply because it's not intended for distance. http://www.electrabike.com/04/news/t_press14.html It's for tooling around your neighbourhood or along a boardwalk. Having said that, if that rearward setup happened to work for the OP's particular needs, why not?

  22. #22
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker
    The Townie looks like a really cool bike, but it's not targetted at "serious cyclists" simply because it's not intended for distance.
    True, in the same sense that road bikes (or just about every other bike on the North American market) are not targeted for commuting cyclists, hence their lack of many basic features that make bike commuting practical. But as cooker, wrote if a bicycle meets the needs of the individual cyclist than it is on target.

  23. #23
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    I've been contemplating the way Townies position people, as I see quite a few of them around town. It looks like it puts a different kind of pressure on your posterior than a "traditional" upright. You won't know if that is an improvement for you or not until you try riding one. I've spoken to people who loved them because they had back & hip problems from being really overweight, etc., and the Townie was the first bike they found that didn't hurt them to ride. Apparently the "semi-recumbent" positioning of their bodies on the bike allowed them to ride for moderate distances (up to 15 miles a stretch). They lost weight and their back/hip conditions improved. As that happened, the Townie became less comfortable for some of them so they switched to a more "traditional" bike. Others stuck with the Townie and continue to be happy with the unusual positioning. There is a gentleman on this forum who hauls his canoe on a trailer for good distances on his Townie in the relatively flat Florida Panhandle area and seems to do well with it. Perhaps he will find this thread and offer his opinion.

    If you try the Townie and it allows you to ride even while you're recovering from your surgery, who gives a crap what "serious cyclists" think? What is a "serious cyclist" anyway, and who gets to decide the definition? How serious is a cyclist who buys a bike that they can't use much because it hurts to ride?

    As to the question of a derailler Townie versus the 3 or 7 speed hub gear versions, let me ask you this: how easy was it for you to shift with a derailler drivetrain before your surgery? If you had apply a lot of brainpower towards knowing when to shift, when to use which gear, etc., when your body was in much better shape, you might consider that internal hub gearing might make it easier to ride during your recovery period. Would having to keep pedalling while you shift be difficult for you right now? With an internal hub gear, you don't pedal when you shift.

    Good luck in your search.

  24. #24
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by donnamb
    Who gives a crap what "serious cyclists" think? What is a "serious cyclist" anyway, and who gets to decide the definition?
    Who gives a crap? People who describe themselves as "serious" care.
    What is a serious cyclist? Someone who fits the same profile as someone who cares.
    Who gets to decide? Any self proclaimed Real Cyclist who substitutes the word We for I when discussing cyclists.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Grand Bois's Avatar
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    My wife is older than you and she has some physical issues that I won't go into. I'm into vintage bikes so I put together this for her:

    http://community.webshots.com/photo/...8014369yGtTZp#

    It's a 1976 Raleigh Super Course. I built it as a single speed to keep it light and reliable. It's fairly flat where we ride, anyway. The sprung brooks saddle and steel frame make it very comfortable to ride. The mixte frame makes it easier for her to get on and off. I gave her my best and lightest wheels. We took a long ride today and she loves it. She didn't have any trouble keeping up with me like she did when she rode a mountain bike with slick tires.

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