Wednesday, October 22, 2008

FWCN Clinic Reports

Last month, Florida Women Cycling Network hosted two cycling clinics: the Advanced Mountain Bike Clinic at Alafia State Park sponsored by SWAMP and Bent's Cycling and Fitness, and the Road Cycling Clinic, sponsored by Chipotle and University Bicycle Center. Both clinics were a tremendous success. Shelly Allen provided instruction in advanced mountain biking skills to eight riders eager to improve their technical skills. The first part focus on skill development. After which, we all hit the trails for guided practice. Thanks to Bent's Cycling and Fitness, all participants received cool gifts. Thanks Bents.

Our Road Skills Clinic was co-sponsored by Chipotle and University Bicycle Center. All eleven participants received an Eco-Friendly Chipotle bag stuffed with cool gifts from University Bicycle Center. Sharon Monahan instructed all in defensive road skills including avoiding obstacles and emergency stops. Then, with the assistance of Trish Cohen and Barbara Shirciffe Perigard, Sharon led everyone in group riding skills, climbing and cornering.

After instruction in fast cornering, the group headed for Chipotle for lunch. YUM. Thanks to all our sponsors and all the women who attended our clinics!

To get announcements about upcoming clinics and activities, contact Barbara @ or visit our website at

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Women's Cycling Survey

Between April 24 and June 25, 180 women cyclists took our survey, representing fifty-eight different communities in Florida, two in Tennessee, one in Georgia, and one in Texas.[1]

Experienced cyclists accounted for the majority of survey participants as it was largely distributed through cycling clubs and race promoters. Of the women surveyed, 45.8 percent of those who indicated their age group selected 26-40 years old, 45.3 percent indicated that their age fell between 41-59 years old. The largest response (32.8 percent ) was from women who have been cycling over 10 years ; 18.9 percent have been cycling 6-9 years; 24 percent have been cycling 3-5 years ; and 18.3 percent indicated they have been cycling 1-2 years. Only 12 women (6.7 percent) listed “under a year” to describe their cycling experience. Welcome to the sport!

Women surveyed responded to a number of questions dealing with a variety of topics. We plan to disseminate information from these responses to cycling organizations, clubs and event promoters. This blog provides some preliminary findings.

Why did the women surveyed become involved in cycling?

The number one reason women surveyed indicated they became involved in cycling was a desire to improve their fitness (reason given by 105 women or 60 percent of those surveyed). What did women surveyed say has encouraged them or would encourage them to ride more? The women surveyed indicated “improving my fitness level,” “getting faster,” “safe routes to ride,” “having more time,” and “having better skills,” were /are Extremely Important in encouraging them to ride more. Other factors that the majority of survey takers indicated as “Somewhat Important” included “finding women to ride with,” “belonging to a club,” “learning more about bike and road safety," “finding people to ride with," and “knowing basic bike repairs.”

By far, women are encouraged to ride more if they get better at it! Thus, helping women get better (fitness, skills, and speed) will encourage women ridership.

Given the importance experienced women cyclists attribute to skill development, it is not surprising that 149 women indicated they would like to learn more about their cycling discipline or another. The majority indicated wanting to learn more about road and mountain biking, followed by time-trialing and triathlons; however, all cycling disciplines such as track, cyclo-cross, commuting, duathlons, XTERRA, and BMX were mentioned. Note: The women surveyed ride frequently and therefore offer great insight into what encourages women to ride. Only 15 of the 180 women surveyed indicated that they ride once a week or less. The majority (38.3 percent) ride bikes 2-3 times a week, followed by 36.7 percent who ride 4-5 times a week.

Why do women race bicycles and what would encourage them to race more?

Of the 100 women survey takers who race(d), 61 indicated the "desire for competition" (60 percent) as their reason for racing, followed by "thought it would be fun" and a "desire to get faster." Please note women could select up to three factors. The majority of the women indicated that the following factors were Extremely Important in encouraging them to race and continue racing: "reaching my goal and improving my results" (51 percent/N=49), "well organized events/professionalism of the promoters" (54 percent), "women categories are raced and scored separately" (36.1 percent) and "closer events" (31 percent).

Why do the women surveyed belong to clubs?

100 women indicated belonging to a cycling club. Top three types of clubs women surveyed have joined: Road Riding (65.2 percent), Mountain Biking (33 percent), and Cycling Advocacy Organization (17.4 percent). Most women learned about clubs from friends (47.2 percent), bike shops (24.7 percent) and the Internet (24.7 percent). Top reasons women joined clubs was to "have people to ride with" (82 percent), "learn cycling routes/trails" (46.2 percent), and "to learn about cycling," (30 percent). Note women could select up to three reasons. Women indicated that ride time/day is an Extremely Important factor in encouraging them to ride with their clubs. Women surveyed considered "ride location" (48 percent), "different level groups" (43 percent), "knowing I have someone to ride with" (36 percent) and "having better skills" (28.2 percent) as Very Important factors in encouraging them to attend club rides. If you want more information about our survey and the results, let us know. We also welcome your comments.

[1] Alachua, Altamonte Springs, Apopka, Boca Raton, Bradenton, Brandon, Cape Coral, Casselberry, Chiefland, Christmas, Clearwater, Coral Springs, Dania, Deerfield Beach, Deland, Delray Beach, Dunedin, Fernandina Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville, Hollywood, Hypoluxo, Interlachen, Invernese, Jacksonville, Kissimmee, Lake Mary, Lake Park, Lake Worth, Land O'Lakes, Lantana, Lighthouse Point, Longwood, Merritt Island, Miami, New Port, Richey, New Smyrna Beach, Odessa, Oviedo, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Harbor, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Saint Augustine, Sanford, St. Petersburg, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa, Valrico, Venice, Wesley Chapel, West Palm Beach, West Park, Weston, Winter Haven, Winter Park. Out of State survey takers reside in Albany, GA , Kingsport , TN , and Limestone,TN, and somewhere in Texas.

Friday, May 30, 2008

How to have bike sex...and is too much a bad thing?

Okay, I got your attention. “Bike sex” refers to the chatter created among a group of cyclists drooling over a new bike or an after-market upgrade (See Glossary on blog index for terms in italics). Typically bike sex involves another rider lifting your bike (of course after saddle bags, water bottles, various “mojos”--the bike’s clothes--are seductively removed) with a resulting gasp, “Hey dude; that’s light;” as if by picking up a bike you can discern a difference between a pound or two. “Bike sex” can also involved endless foreplay about the subtle differences in ride quality or bike weight created by various product choices from forks, chains, cranks, tires, wheels, saddles, stems, and “Hey dude, I saved 8 grams by using ‘stans’ instead of tubes.”

Well, I have to admit, “I love bike sex.” The only thing better than a new bike is a unique and insanely-expensive new bike.

My love for “bike sex” first began when I started mountain biking in 1994. A Californian couple-Paul Smyth and H.L. Weber—introduced me to sport and the term. H.L. road a Klein hard tail, with a killer paint job, internal cabling and a Pro Flex fork (one of the first front suspension models). Paul road a Trimble! ( They got a ton of bike sex. H.L. used to joke that she could be standing naked beside Paul’s Trimble, and on-coming riders, mostly men, would still be focused on the Trimble. “Hey Dude, is that a Trimble?” Not, “Hey Dude, is that a naked woman?” While I on my fully rigid Raleigh—despite my John Tomac black-lime green colors—only received passing glances (of course the jean shorts, tennis shoes, and cotton tee did not help my image). From then on I have longed for bike sex. Yet, I quickly learned to have truly great bike sex—unlike, well—you really need a stable salary.

And after countless bikes, countless fittings, and countless after market upgrades, I wonder how much it really matters. This past winter I did 85 mile hill ride—called the “Gravity ride,” named after a coffee house outside Jackson, Mississippi where the group met—on a used cross bike I bought for under five hundred dollars—far below my custom Seven. It was a ride for the memory books.

So I have learned over the years that my addiction to having bike sex—geometry, frame materials, suspension, tire weight, etc.—has been somewhat misplaced. I cannot really say I had more “fun” on my Raleigh, my 23 lb Trek Duelie, my Kona single speed, my steel Bianchi, my carbon 5200, my Fuji cross, my custom Ti Seven or my current 25.5 lbs Giant Anthem (oh, it’s so heavy)—each bike makes a difference in my speed and my comfort. Yet still, each bike has given me incredible memories and glorious rides.

Recently, I was struggling during a training workout, grunting and cursing, around Flatwoods' loop, only to pass a rider on a Wal-Mart-bought bike, with the saddle too low, tube socks too high, and, would you believe, work boots! Shaking my head as I pass the Gumby, I noticed the big smile on the rider’s face….making me, in all my misery, ask: “What am I doing wrong?”

If you have a bike: ride it, enjoy it, and do not worry about what others are riding! If you develop a love for bike sex, so be it….just don’t become a nymphomaniac!

Barbara Perigard Shircliffe

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Advanced Mountain Bike Skills Clinic

The Advanced Skills Mountain Bike Clinic for Women brought hoots, hollers, and cheers to Alafia State Park, Saturday May 24. Eleven women participated in the clinic led by Shelly Allen and Barbara Perigard Shircliffe. The Clinic was sponsored by Florida Women’s Cycling Network, SWAMP, and Bent’s Cycling and Fitness (Lakeland, Florida). Bent’s provided great swag to all of the participants. Thanks Bent’s for supporting women’s cycling.

The morning began with a skills demonstration by Shelly Allen, including practice on track stands, cornering techinques, and a granny gear race in which the slowest rider wins.

After learning the importance of balance and body position for technical riding, we hit the trails for on-the-bike instruction focused on cornering, climbing, descending and some secret tricks to make those difficult trails much easier.

(Shelly demonstrates climbing techniques)

(Adriana poses while Debbie tackles a difficult climb which she made with style!)

After the High-Fives were over, everyone was looking forward to their next ride. Asunta Finnegan, one of the participants, later commented: “It’s so great to get a group of women together for things like that! Very empowering and educational!”

Please let us know if you are interested in attending an Advanced Skills Mountain Bike Clinic for Women. We plan to offer the clinic again this year.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Need help with cramping? Here are some tips.

Frequently before races we are drinking more fluids to ensure adequate hydration. If we are drinking more water than usual we could be flushing electrolytes out of our body. If this is the case, using a sports drink as a primary source of fluid the day of competition may be helpful for preventing cramps and staying hydrated. Also including some high sodium and potassium sources would be a good idea. Adding some salt to that oatmeal, drinking a regular V-8 juice, orange juice, and melons can add extra sodium and potassium. Potassium is found in a large variety of foods, so getting a good pre-race meal is important. This may mean you need to get up extra early so you are not burdened with the discomfort of a full gut at the start of a race. Hyponatremia or inadequate sodium in our bodies is often the most likely cause for cramps since we tend to loose much more sodium than potassium when we sweat.

Try one new dietary change at a time so you know what works. If you want to try drinking more sports drinks instead of water, do this, then modify your breakfast is the problem still occurs.

Let us know what works or does not work for you.

Jane Becker, RD, CNSD

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Women and Technical Mountain Biking

There is a misconception that women confront more physical and mental barriers when it comes to gaining technical mountain biking skills compared to men. Everything from a lack of upper body strength to being overly cautious (or sensible—depending on one’s perspective) has been attributed to women’s seemingly lack of proficiency with, or desire for, riding technical terrain. However, a moment of reflection calls into question these misplaced assumptions. Consider Michael Rasmussen, who prior to turning to the road, was considered one of the world’s fastest mountain bikers. At 130 pounds on a 5 foot, 9 inch frame, Michael Rasmussen (who’s nickname is “The Chicken”) is far from the epitome of masculinity. Rasmussen, like many pro-mountain bikers, gained his technical abilities and aerobic conditioning the same way most male and female armatures do (setting the debate about drugs aside); namely, by training and practicing skills.

There is a real question about whether girls and women who take up mountain-biking experience the same opportunities for skill development as their male counterparts. I recall a few years ago during a group ride, I observed a few male mountain bikers jeering another male mountain biker to ride a very, very steep drop. One rider called up to the man nervously straddling his bike at the top of the drop, “Come on man, take off your skirt!” At the time, two thoughts were in my mind. On the one hand, I was bothered by the sexist suggestion that fear was a female characteristic and only “real” men are willing to take risks. On the other hand, I distinctly remember thinking, “I am glad I am girl so I do not have to put up with stupid taunts.” In retrospect, however, such peer pressure perhaps does lead men to develop their technical skills--not because their men--but because anyone’s ability will be improved by attempting more difficult trails.

Women who share the desire can achieve the same technical challenges as men; they just might not be getting the same encouragement to do so. I am not recommending a “what-are-you-chicken” approach to skill development. But rather, women, particularly those new to the sport, need to know that improvement comes from practice, practice, practice—not from how much you can bench press or the size of your quads. In fact, women bring strengths--wider hips (strong legs and core do not just deliver babies), the ability to store fat (promoting aerobic endurance) and, on average, lighter frames—to the sport.

The above comments do not suggest that some individuals do not have genetic traits that make them better athletes. Although I have grown tired of hearing about Lance Armstrong’s lung capacity and large heart, such comments do suggest an important point relevant to this discussion. Men, on average, whether professional athletes or couch potatoes—have larger lungs, hearts, and higher levels of muscle-building testosterone—than women, on average. It is for this reason that women compete against women and men compete against men at the highest levels of the sport. But most cyclists are not elite athletes and sex differences, however “real,” are not that significant on a Sunday club ride. It is important to note, that some women have genetic advantages over other women making them more likely to excel. I will never be as fast as Alison Dunlap or even the woman finishing last in a pro race. Yet becoming faster on my bike by learning to set up before corners, laying off the brakes or conquering a difficult climb that was my nemesis for weeks still makes me feel darn good!

I will never forget the day I rode the entire Hard Rock loop without putting a foot down. I was riding with Valerie Naylor. We did two laps. The first lap she did not put her foot down and I pedal dabbed twice! I made sure I cleaned my second lap. No taunting, no disparaging comments, Val cheered me on the entire lap, but the competition made me focus and ride well just the same.

On a final note, I and other women I know have greatly improved our mountain biking skills riding with men. But we did so not because we were riding with men but because we were pushing ourselves against better riders who pushed back. I improve just as much pushing myself against women riders who are better than me (at least for now).

If, you want to become a better mountain biker and conquer your nemesis whatever it is, first,

• Ride with riders who are a notch or two better than you (if you are at the front of the group, find a harder group ride!)

Here are some additional tips:

• Take tools, tubes, air, food, water, and wear a helmet.

• Do not be afraid to get dropped (getting drop only means you pushed yourself!)

• Do not apologize for making people wait (if there still there, they needed the breather—and if you ride up breathing hard, it makes them feel better about themselves)

• Team up with people who are willing to go back and practice trails they did not make; not every ride should be about keep up with the group; make sure you designate some rides just to work on skills.

The Perils of Women's Road Racing

Women's road and criterium racing is tough and typically only the strong survive. My definition of "survive" is sticking with the sport and not quitting. Here are some common reasons women drop out of road racing compared to other sports:

1) Unlike triathlons, marathons or other endurance sports, road races—whether on country roads or street circuits—do not enable someone to go for a personal best time. In road racing, if your personal best isn't on par with the peloton's pace, you get spit out the back of the pack. This is demoralizing and causes a lot of people to quit before they ever get a chance to improve.

2) Another obstacle (literally) in road races is the crashes. Sooner or later, everyone crashes. Injuries range from road rash and broken bones to facial disfigurement, paralysis and death. Be careful out there and wear a helmet!

3) The sport is expensive! Kits, team dues, bikes, components, mechanicals, shoes, helmets, glasses, gas, hotels, entry fees, coaching, massage and doctor's bills. . . and the first place woman might take home $100 if she's lucky. In order to compete you must be a) a rock star racer b) have a high paying job with flexible hours; or c) be supported by a parent, spouse or trust fund.

4) Most of the racing season in Florida is 120 degrees and there's
no swim portion of the race.

5) The good new is, once you overcome all of these obstacles, you become part of a beautiful sport with a great social network of women like you; women crazy enough to overlook 1-4 above.

Hopefully, the Florida Women's Cycling Network will provide and opportunity for women to grow in the sport before they get dropped, sustain injury or go broke.
Please tell us why you race?