Dear BB25

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Since only one person has taken advantage of my offer to contact me with questions, I have decided to compile my favorite questions from my years at Bilenky Cycle Works. I have also included those that I wish would have been asked. It’s up to you to figure out which inquiries really took place and which we just dreamed up. And in honor of Valentines Day we will start with this question…

Dear BB25,
What kind of bike should I buy to attract the opposite sex?

-Looking for Love

Dear Looking for Love,
I ran this question by our lovely painter Isis who said she gets tons of gawkers when she’s riding her fixie, but no one notices her when she’s on her touring bike. So apparently this is a real dilemma and a serious issue for those seeking their bicycle beau. So you could ride a fixie to get noticed, but is that the attention you really want? You need to start by figuring out what type of cyclist/soulmate you are trying to attract, then buy the correlating 2 wheeled love machine. Do you want a nerdy, but cute, clean-cut man with a real job? How about a Brompton. Do DIY granola guys who buy locally grown food and have a plot in the community garden turn you on? Cargo bike all the way. Love tattoos, beards, and cut off jean shorts? Anything foreign and vintage with several high-end boutique parts thrown on. Think old school Peuegeot with some White Industry hubs, Chris King headset and Paul brakes. Whichever road you take for love, don’t change yourself for a guy. You can change yourself for a bike though. And above all – love the bike you’re with!


Dear BB25,
How can I transport my 30lb cat on a bike tour?

-Feline Fred

Dear Feline Fred,
The first order of business would entail your framebuilder fitting you and your feline friend and conducting a personality assessment. No, the assessment is not for you, it is for the cat. This would determine whether he/she prefers to ride up front on a traditional cargo bike or if they would rather a longtail rear load style bike. Then you move on to frame geometry, components, paint and of course cat accessories. Like whether the basket/rack should have a layer of scratchable, catnip infused carpet. Or you could adopt another cat so yours would not be lonely, buy some great cat toys that invite active play (30 lbs. is a little overweight), and invest in a trustworthy cat sitter.


Dear BB25,
If you have a mechanical issue and roll into the nearest bike shop, is it OK to ask to use their tools (assuming you know what you’re doing)?

-Mechanical master

No! This is my own two cents, so everyone feel free to weigh in. I do not have a retail space, nor is Bilenky Cycle Works a “roll into” type of shop, but I still think that it is in poor taste to do this. Would you walk into a salon and ask to use their blow dryer and smoothing serums? Most people can perform general maintenance on their bike, but you are now paying for a bike shop’s expertise, their time, and their tools. Let them make a living too. Ok? Thanks. And if you ever worked in any industry (especially bikes) where people have their own personal tools, then you know that sharing is not very often an option. Oh, the stories I could tell.

Dear BB25,
Is it a terrible idea to ride in high-heeled shoes?

-Couture Cyclist

Dear Couture Cyclist,
Ooooh the controversial women’s cycling issue of the season. Some say it is perfectly safe, and why compromise style when riding a bike? If you are a very experienced cyclist and feel completely comfortable biking in all types of gear and crazy conditions, then go for it. I won’t say I told you so, but don’t come crying to me for a band-aid when things go awry. I myself am clumsy and still lack a lot of cycling coordination. I guess being a good cyclist is not genetic…oh well. I also love my shoes! Why put my stilettos in jeopardy by scraping them on pedals and pavement? Oh, you are going to wear wedges or kitten heels? You know, there are lots of cute flats out there these days. There is so much to discuss here regarding fashion and bikes that we should probably continue this over tea. And a trip to Bloomingdales.

Dear BB25,
Is it socially acceptable to bring your front wheel into a restaurant?

-Wheelman

Dear Wheelman,
In certain cities/neighborhoods you may be able to walk into a restaurant in head to toe spandex without being stared at, but in most places this is not the case – especially if you are touring and passing through smaller towns where cycling is not as prevalent. If you are going to command everyone’s attention you may as well go big or go home. So wear that spandex and sweaty helmet hair proudly and kick it up a notch by click clacking across the floor like a duck in your $200 SPDs carrying that front wheel. Be polite though, the wheel does not need its own chair.


Got a question for me? Ask away! Drop me a line at bina@embrocationmagazine.com. I may or may not take it seriously…

 

It's All About The Tush

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If you have been reading my columns you know that I recently attended the Serotta International Cycling Institute for their personalized fit class. If you haven’t been reading, shame on you.

I was one of three women who attended the class; the rest of the class was of the hairier gender. Well, I guess in cycling that might not be the case…but that’s a study for another day, and maybe not appropriate for here.

Women may be more petite or have wider hips than some men, but they also might be taller or thinner than some men. Obviously there are many variations to anatomical geometry both across the board and within a specified gender. So is fitting a woman really different than fitting a man? Time to find out!


“The process is the same”, says Steven LeBoyer, director of the Serotta Fit Lab Services. 1/3 of the Serotta Fit Lab’s clientele consists of women, so Steven has had a lot of fitting experience on this topic: “The key phrase to remember when buying cycling equipment is, size & shape. Whether it’s men or women, there are 3 contact points that need to fit properly.” Those 3 things are shoes, handlebars and saddle. Shoes and handlebars are pretty straightforward but nonetheless important. “The foot is the transfer point of your power to the bicycle and a proper fitting shoe is important for performance and comfort.” Handlebar width can be determined with a simple shoulder measurement. Cleat placement can get tricky, but if you can find your first and fifth metatarsal, then you are on the right path. I recommend “Anatomy for Dummies” before taking the Serotta Personalized Fit Class. Or maybe, that’s just me….

While the fit starts at the foot, and there are many things in between that can be adjusted or swapped out, a common problem is the saddle. Steven elaborates, “The saddle is both the cause and solution to the issues mentioned during the interview. Many women that have brought their current bicycles to us have been set up on their bikes in too upright a position. This is most likely the result of what I call reverse fitting: customer tries out a ready-made bike and feels too much pressure on forward soft tissue. Rather than changing saddles the salesperson shortens the stem and raises the bar to shift weight toward back of saddle. The customer ends up in a “comfortable” but inefficient, low performance position.”


Another issue with saddles is that historically women’s saddles were wider and made with more padding to accommodate softer tissues. Because of the extra padding, they need to ride more upright to be comfortable, which means a shorter top tube and shorter reach. And then they wonder, “Why am I not riding fast? Why don’t I look right on the bike?” I ask myself the first question all the time, and sadly it has nothing to do with the fit. More interval training for me…

Steven describes the saddle as the most misunderstood bicycle component. Its purpose is to support the sit bones. He reviewed a study that evaluated the heat and pressure imprints on 1500 cyclists; the results of the study point to the importance of fitting the individual, rather than focusing on men’s saddles vs. women’s saddles.

Fun facts from Steven regarding saddle selection:
-Many women have no anatomical reason to select a women’s specific saddle. – The shape of the padding and the saddle itself is more important than the width of the saddle. – When the sit bones fit the saddle, pressure on the frontal soft tissue will go away.
-The muscle development and fat placement on women may necessitate a different saddle shape than men, but it is not because of the width of the sit bones.

Steven dislikes labels such as “women’s specific”. “Its not relevant. There is nothing wrong with a woman riding a “man’s bike; It’s all about the geometry.” “Women’s specific” is not so much the deciding factor, as is the geometry and fit of the bike and the size and shape of the components. A woman my size (very petite!) and a woman who is 5’10 would most likely not share the same equipment just because they are women and the product is labeled “women’s specific”.


Some words of wisdom from Steven: “Whether buying a ready built bike or a custom made, you need to find a fitter/salesperson that is knowledgeable and will spend the time with you. If it’s a ready built bike, assume the saddle needs to be replaced since it’s improbable that the one sent from the factory will fit properly. Select a bike shop/fitter that has a large selection of saddles that can be tried. The right fit for women, and men, is comfortable and maximizes performance. There should be no pain or regular discomfort when riding. Whether it’s numbness in the hands, neck, or lower back pain or constant saddle discomfort, these are all signs of a bad fit and are unnecessary. Sometimes it’s just a small adjustment to the saddle angle or height that can make a ride so much more enjoyable.”

Some words of wisdom from me: Don’t let your cat sit on your computer while you are watching Spinnervals and riding the trainer. It makes for a very inefficient, stop and go training session; and keeps me wondering… “Why am I not riding fast?”

 

Fitting Praise

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The weekend started out like all the other ideas that my dad has cooked up for me to do: Last minute and far away. Although I had a 5-hour drive to Saratoga Springs, NY ahead of me, I was excited to attend the Serotta International Cycling Institute. The Personalized Fit class is a 3-day course that teaches students to perform personalized bike fitting services. It also begins the Serotta fit method certification process. Advanced courses are offered for current certified SICI bike fitters.


I showed up at for Day 1 at 7AM with my hair curled, full face makeup, and my electric tea kettle. Feeling a little like “Legally Blonde,” I settled in for a long day. Back to school…I even felt the same butterflies of doom when I learned there was an exam to take on the last day. Lucky for me (and the more than 1,000 Serotta students that have taken the class), SICI wasn’t anything like regular school. The fit class was a mix of lecture and hands on practice, with plenty of coffee (tea for me) breaks. The awesome instructors made the class worthwhile with their expertise, organized curriculum, and corny jokes. The SICI director (Chris Jacobson) and the two instructors (Greg Robidoux and Steven Levine) had plenty of real-world fit experience to share as Chris and Steven both own bike shops, and Greg has a cycling focused physical therapy practice.


As a petite woman, I have always seen the importance of bike fitting: it has a major impact on how often you ride, how well you ride, and how long you ride. This is embodied by Chris’s 4 reasons for bike fitting:
1. Comfort
2. Safety
3. Performance
4. Couch avoidance.
(Hey, I already knew all that!) It is also important to get fit more than once as your riding style and ability can change. Chris describes an athlete’s position as fluid: “The cyclist should not expect to maintain the same position throughout her entire cycling career”. The class was really helpful for anyone selling custom bicycles, new bikes off the rack, or simply looking to help customers make their current ride work better for them.

Day 2 started off great with me spilling chai on my book. I knew my dad would be proud. The day got better though, with a lunchtime tour of the Serotta factory and a greeting from the master, Ben Serotta. I was surprised he remembered me, but then again how many blonde, 5’ tall girls are there in the bike industry? Well maybe the name Bilenky also helps.


Just when things were looking up, I was elected to be the “mechanic” of our group for our next hands on fit practice. It was in the Serotta farmhouse that I switched out my first handlebar and brake hoods. Steven so kindly snapped away with the camera to document the momentous occasion. I must toot my horn a little and say that I was dead center with the bar.


The question of fitting one’s self came up, which Chris had some words of wisdom for: “You can fit yourself about as well as you can cut your own hair. We all have our own ideas about ourselves. It is always good to get an outside perspective. We are all superheroes and failures in our own minds so we can miss the truth.” True story.

After 3 days of living, breathing (and dreaming!) bike fitting, we took our exams. I passed!! Woohoo! Now on to my 10 fits to finish my certification. My dad has bestowed a totally pre-historic, non-user-friendly, fitting contraption upon me. It’s about 5 times slower then the SICI fit bikes, so if you would like to spend a long afternoon getting fit, look me up and help me get my next diploma! We’ll do tea and a fit.


If you are thinking about offering a bike fitting service in your shop, or if you just want to expand your knowledge on the topic, you should also think about making your way to Saratoga Springs. (And in case anyone was wondering, yes, the town is super cute and has great boutiques!) The courses are designed for anyone with the willingness to learn the art and science of bike fitting. “Since 1998 we’ve taught a combination of bike shop owners and shop staff; medical professionals including chiropractors, licensed physical therapists, and physicians; cycling coaches and bicycle distributors, as well as cycling enthusiasts considering a career change.” – Chris Jacobson


Feel free to drop in on Chris at the Sports Garage in Boulder; Steven at Cycling Spoken Here in Cary, NC; and Greg at The Cycling PT in Malden, MA. On second thought, an appointment for the physical therapy may be best. Or just don’t tell him it was me that suggested dropping in unannounced.

What do you say we talk about bike fitting for women in my next column?



*If you have any questions about women’s-specific bike fit, or cycling in general, please email Bina at: bina@embrocationmagazine.com

 

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