We are aware we are entering a minefield, but as specialists in this sector we feel compelled to debunk some common myths regarding “women on bikes”. However, notwithstanding the preconceptions that arise in male environments, women cyclists are increasing exponentially all over the world.
Women who cycle have big thighs! Some mothers who are convinced of this erroneous thought often do not let their daughters ride. This common belief is like saying that the earth is flat. Beyond personal aesthetic values, as true Italians we do not believe in the anorexic beauty advertised by the mass media. To increase muscle mass, both females and males, have to work on pure strength. Women have natural muscle fibers in their upper thighs just like men; however, they produce less strength due to their different hormones. To counteract this loss of strength due to the (not total) lack of testosterone, women must follow more strength-based training programs than their fellow male athletes; but it must be kept to mind that we are dealing with what is mainly an aerobic sport, where the main qualities are resistance, both general and specific to a given effort, and power – not to be confused with strength: power is obtained by multiplying strength with speed – and tactics. It is therefore unlikely that large muscle masses will develop in road or off-road cycling as they can do, on the other hand, in other endurance sports such as running, cross-country skiing or walking. The only exception is in track cycling and BMX, where brief efforts require greater strength and greater power.
So, which sports develop muscle mass apart from, of course, bodybuilding? Most definitely volleyball, where training focuses on explosive strength for the jumps, but also in certain types of dance. Substantial work on leg strength is also found in rowing, but also in horse riding or downhill skiing, just to name a few.
I would now like to address women cyclists: be truthful, all-male cyclists you know want to give you advice on how to ride a bike, how to change gear, how to sit on the bike. It is a common behaviour. But none of these men bear in mind the physical and anthropometric differences.
Women have proportionately longer legs, but a shorter torso and shorter arms. Consequently, a women’s bike will need a high saddle, often comparable to that of males, but it will be much shorter, with a higher handlebar. Do not listen to other people’s opinions, only you must feel comfortable on your bicycle.
Another, very important, thought: over 80% of women have a tendency to sit towards the rear of the saddle. Thus certain changes must be carried out on the bike: the saddle will have to be pushed forward, and the overall length will be even shorter.
CYCLING IS NOT A FEMALE SPORT
We could spend hours discussing what is female and what isn’t, but we will limit ourselves to a few thoughts: decades ago even riding a horse was considered a purely male sport. Afterwards, women were allowed to ride side-saddle. The few women who rode like men caused a scandal. Today, however, horseback riding is considered a very feminine sport.
We like to see women on bikes. Bicycles are a synonym for freedom. Maybe those who oppose female cycling are – deep down – slightly against giving women too much freedom?