My take on “Women as Outcasts In Cycling Industry”

First, go read Women as Outcasts In Cycling Industry including the comments. (As always, I’ll wait).

My disclaimer here is that I know both David and Abby and have some passing familiarity with the problems Abby has faced finding a bike that fits (or that doesn’t cause her to throw fits).

If you work around people who wear suits you’ll see very few who are wearing clothes that truly fit. Why is that? Pants legs and jacket sleeves that are too long, or extreme bagginess (Must one be able to store a family of marmosets in there? I think not.) Never mind clothes that are wrong for the person on possibly many levels. The fix for these problems is not expensive. So why?

I see lots of ill fitting bikes. Too small, too big, and less often I see people on the wrong type of bike. So why?

There’s a problem created by the need to stock products. Your local store stocks stuff. They want to sell what they stock. People want to buy stuff that’s available (I want it now!). Ordering and waiting has to have a significant payoff, and often doesn’t.

The bike industry and the clothing industry take a similar approach. They make a range of sizes heavily influenced by their “professional” work. Clothing trends follow “designer” or “couture” trends. Bike industry development is influenced by racing and the needs of the pros. And like all systems there’s some failure there. Much as most of us are not an exact and properly fitting size medium (whatever that is), we’re are also not (as a collective) small male bike racers. And yet in both cases, we enjoy pretending that we are and making some bad choices along the way.

There’s a backlash to this amongst the bike builders. It’s sometimes discussed as bike “fit”. In other cases its discussed as what you want out of the experience of riding a bike. Listen to the narration of this cool little film with Jeff Jones and Sacha White (two incredible builders). And while you can (and should) parse the difference between how a bike fits you physically and the type of bike and the influence that has on the experience of riding it the two are far more closely tied than one would think. And the “custom” bike builders can build a bike that takes into account not just the measurements of your body, but what you tell them about your riding. Assuming you’re honest in the process, you’ll most likely get a bike that “fits” not just anatomically but stylistically as well. Like I said, it’s more important than people think.

The “woman as outcasts” issue is far larger than just the bike industry. As a software developer and someone who builds teams to do that kind of work I can assure you that the software industry does a horrible job of sustaining the interest of woman drawn to technology.

So yeah, there’s fewer choices for woman in terms of cycling clothes and fewer parts choices that extend the size range, and as I mentioned above style of riding and the weight range of riders also comes into play. All of which seems to be improving at least a little bit. And the industry is at least becoming aware of the issue of fit as more of us ride. It’s not just the racer or wannabe crowds who are buying bikes. Companies are offering bikes in more sizes and trying new ideas about what makes things work (well size symmetry and head tube sizing anyway), and for many of us changing seatposts, stems, handlebars, and cranks, even within the industry limits, can produce a fit that works. But that’s the equivalent of shortening cuffs and the like… it’s not the same as having clothing or a bike made for you.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that Natalie’s Lust line size medium fits me nicely (I could be wrong, I’m kinda in the border between medium and large the irony of which is not lost on me). I wish I could try one. I’d be curious to see how a bike design that is the sum of what Natalie has found works for many of her mostly female customers feels like. Will it leave me with the hard to describe complaint I’ve heard from many of female bike friends about things “not being comfortable”? Could be a great way to gain some insight into their problems.

Anyway, I’m glad the my female bike friends are finding bikes that are comfortable for them and custom built with them in mind. One day, I hope to do the same for myself.

Comfortable clothes

When I say that about clothes I wear it means that I don’t notice the clothes as I wear them. They fit in such a way as not to need adjustment—certainly not near constant adjustment.

Fashion is a complex subject because it is so subjective. While I have learned to understand that fashion doesn’t have to be comfortable for some folks, I found a line today that I wish more folks wouldn’t cross.

It was a very warm day out for spring in New York. 90F. More like summer than spring around here. As I ran an errand today in the heart of midtown NYC I saw lots of folks from all walks of life, countries, and origins. The melting pot was on full display. As was a great deal of skin. In some cases, way too much in my opinion. In other cases, while folks were still technically dressed, they weren’t really covered. And a joy to behold. But that’s not the point really.

One woman in particular aimed to walk down the street alternately tugging and lifting her dress. First tugging it down in the back, then lifting it higher in the front. Then tugging, then lifting. All while trying to walk and carry shopping bags.

I’m not sure what herd instinct caused her to put that dress on when she was clearly uncomfortable with what it revealed. And while some would argue fashion, I would say that it becomes a “fashion don’t” when you can’t walk down the street without adjusting coverage with every step. It’s just ridiculous.

So ladies and gentlemen, if you can’t wear something revealing without being able to ignore or feel comfortable with the amount of you revealed, consider wearing something that does make you comfortable… and to hell with fashion and what others are wearing. This public service announcement has been brought to you by the letter C and the number 4.

64.4

I play a silly game in the car on my morning commute: Without making a traffic hazard of myself, how far up can I push the gas mileage? (3 minute minimum duration.)

64.4 mpg on the commute this morning…

#ifIcantbeonabike

64_4_sm.jpg

Noah learns to skate

IMG00020.jpg

And it looks a little like this. Added in this case Bartelby, the class bear, who is given to the child of the day to take home. The accompanying journal entry is left as an exercise for the parents, or in our case, Mommy. I don’t need no stinkin’ homework.

As I mentioned not that long ago I remember learning how to skate. So seeing this picture, and that pose, brought back that whole scene again.

I’m hoping to catch a little ice time this Friday. But it’s the heart of the Memorial Day weekend getaway, so I may chicken out for another week. We’ll see.

Skyline Drive

Skylands Road

The Wikipedia states:

Skyline Drive is a 5.76-mile[1][2] long road in Northern New Jersey, between Interstate 287 in Oakland, Bergen County and County Route 511 in Ringwood, Passaic County, passing through Ringwood State Park in the Ramapo Mountains. It is a major route for those in the Ringwood and Wanaque area to get to Interstate 287. The road offers a brief view of the Manhattan skyline, 20 miles (32 km) away, while heading southbound. The steep and narrow road is often impassable in winter due to ice and snow. The alignment of Skyline Drive was first designated as a state highway in the 1920s, as an alignment of State Highway Route 3.

[I can imagine… but as to major route notice above… if you are not comfortable riding in traffic, do not follow this route. It will make you very uncomfortable.]

But I’ve already gotten ahead of myself. I ran into Rich the other day. Rich owns a local food place called Back To Earth Natural Foods and every so often I run into him when I stop by to pick up some stuff. We’ve ridden together both on and off road… but mostly he mountain bikes and enjoys the woods, and I rarely have the extra time that takes for me. We chatted, and it got me thinking that I should throw my Jones on the rack and get over to Ringwood and tool around a bit. And that led me to consider that I could probably ride the fire roads without full on fatties, and in doing so, bring other folks that only ride on the roads with me… hmmm.

So while all that heavy duty conspiring was going on, I ask Jenni if she’s riding, and oddly, she says “yes”. And more oddly she even has a suggestion for where we should ride. “We should do Skyline.”

Jenni immediately notes that I may have broken a record for sandbagging as I remind her that I just spent a week crabbin’ about my left knee. My rejoinder was that I’ve had sandbaggin’ excuses lined up much further in advance than that… I do try and excel in all things.

7

Naturally, neither of us had a clear idea how to get there and far be it from us to look up it before we leave. I admit to having glanced at a map a few days before and seemed like if we just go straight on this road here, we’ll see it. I was right, but lacked enough confidence to overcome the confusion and general worry about where we were going.

Down 202, above 17 and up and over the first hill. I recalled nearly collapsing on that hill a bunch of years ago. The day was humid but cool, with a threat of rain and darkened clouds the entire time. One of two drops fell on an occasion, but we got fairly lucky that the showers stayed away. We got pointed to Skylands Road which did not seem like it was Skyline Drive, but seemed close enough to warrant celebrating by getting off our bikes for a picture. We don’t often ride in a fashion that makes for a lot of photo taking. It feels like pace killing and not in a good way (hey, were touring!) but in a bad way (we’re never getting home). But occasionally we’re in that place, and yesterday seemed to be one of those times.

← An aside: While the tifosi often paint or chalk delightful support of their riders on the roads of the great climbs, Jenni and I find this in the road… repeatedly. Sigh. So it goes.

photo 3

Having poked around we found our route, and proceeded to climb Skyline. It’s a decent climb, and we stopped in the one place where you could see a view (although it was too hazy for anything but a back view of the Ramapo Mountains) and have a drink.We made the decision to go over the other side and not just turn around at the top despite us not being sure of the route home. The payoff for a climb is view and the ride down the other side… which was excellent, although since we were not familiar with the route, concerns about traffic and lights kept our max speed in check (42mph).

Jenni then played games with her GPS until it began buzzing at her in a useful manner, and while we couldn’t find a pretty way home we started off. As is the way with an unscoped route, we were directed to a wall of a route. A father and son were gardening at the bottom and Jenni asked whether the hill was long (she thirsty, out of water’ish, and in a rare moment, not interested in a long climb) His answer was a snickered “long and hard”. I ignored him because he was failing to be cute, or manly, or suggestive, and climbed what turned out to be a short if steep hill. Jenni walked the steepest section, but could have ridden it if she hadn’t assumed the clown knew what he was talking about.

8

The rest of the ride home was fairly uneventful. I did notice a lot of road kill deer, which, of course, were almost entirely on the slow uphill side of the road to maximize the odor.

pecan-pie-slice.jpgWhen we got home Jenni picked some bands to be given out to donors, got a bowl and a pile of plasticwear back that she had used to prep food for a friend with cancer, and received a yummy pecan pie which was left from the great pecan pie snafu of May 2010 wherein my mother dropped off a giant pecan pie just after we had procured a personal size pie as part of a multi-dessert finale to the last Shavuot holiday meal. There was probably another 10lbs worth of calories left over in addition to the pecan pie which we’re now distributing widely enough as to not impact any individual too greatly (and yet saving ourselves from our love of deliciousness which is antithetical to hill climbing ability).

I love this line from Jenni’s post: “I intentionally hadn’t asked Daniel how long we were going to ride- I enjoyed letting the day unfold.” If it’s not entirely clear, I wouldn’t have known how long we were riding, as it was her suggestion, and I had barely glanced at a map. It’s a shame she didn’t ask—her vicious rejoinder to my response would’ve been worthwhile.

44 miles and change, 2000+ ft of climbing, lots and lots of fun.

The Chronicles continue…

Rapidly changing weather makes for tough clothing choices. Layers as a concept is fine, but making that work in urban, suburban, on bike, off bike, in and out of stores kinda a deal can be harder. A few thoughts on that.

Being perfectly comfortable all the time with the range of weather we’ve been experiencing is difficult. If you want to simplify what you’re carrying, change your expectations. Be prepared to be cold or hot some of the time and it all gets easier. Do figure out how hot or cold you’re willing to be, and layer accordingly, but if you’re determined not to carry clothes, it’s hard to cover the range from 36F to 72F, both indoors and out, on bike and off, without some sort of compromise. If you can, please let me know what clothes allowed you to do that.

A great piece for me is a light sweater with a standing collar (1/4 zip). It keeps me warm, rarely gets too hot in an conditioned office or light breeze while keeping me from getting cold and clammy feeling. I have one from North Face (it has a nice fleece lining on the collar) I bought on clearance at EMS on club day (who doesn’t like a double discount) but any brand will do… just make sure it’s light.

44680-p-DETAILED.jpg

But even as I play chess with the weather I try to simplify other aspects of my life through the continuing search for products that work in more than one setting (thus allowing me to have fewer or less, which in turns reduces my option anxiety). In the shoes that are comfortable in numerous settings category I’ve inducted Dansko clogs.

“It began with a uniquely designed and patented Danish clog, discovered by company founders Mandy Cabot and Peter Kjellerup, in a tiny shop in Denmark in the late 1980s. This husband and wife team, then professional horse trainers, flipped over their discovery of “the perfect barn shoe,” and, quite literally, put them through two years of “acid-testing.” Mandy and Peter found these shoes to be extraordinarily comfortable, virtually indestructible, and attractive enough to wear almost anywhere. They were the only shoes they ever wore. Mandy and Peter secured the exclusive rights to the stapled clog product line from Denmark, and “Dansko, Inc.” was up and running in 1991.”

Nice story eh? Anyway, they’re plenty comfortable and can easily fit into work, casual, and chores situations. Casual biking only please (atmo).

rapha boxers black

I have a couple of pieces like Chrome’s Shins that have a bit of padding to make biking more comfy without the “it works on the bike but not off” effect of regular bibs or shorts. But because it’s built into the clothes, if the look ain’t right (I can’t really wear knickers at work) then they’re not a choice. Providing more options, I’m really enjoying Rapha’s new merino boxers. Merino is a true wonder material, the Cyfac pad rapha cyfac boxer pad is useful on the bike but not overwhelming off, and for those trips to park where TheKid™ is on, then off the bike, in, then out of the trailer, playing on the bars and then onto the next thing, they’re a great option making the riding more comfy and hanging out off the bike more casual and less technical. Rapha warns to order down one size, I’d say for sure.

Now I know what you’re thinking… Aren’t they a bit warm? I’ll have to keep you posted. So far? Nope. They do sport light mesh panels on the sides which helps them breath. They have flatlocked stitching so the seams won’t chafe, and they do have a fly if you find that helpful. And no… I’ll not be modeling them (count yourself lucky).

[Seriously? You need to ask me if something from Rapha is expensive? In this case, moderately so if you consider what you pay for cycling shorts, significantly so depending on what you pay for underwear.]

Not that it affects any improvement on the layering or performance issues, but a cool T is just that. Johan Bruyneel is branching out from his role as one of the most successful cycling team managers to a purveyor of shmatas. Pave is cool though, so I sport this in good fun. Watch out for the women’s sizing, they run small, order up one.

cobblesTbruneel.jpeg