After yesterday’s tough run, I went for a ride. My new road bike is so much more enjoyable for recreational riding than the hybrid (which was great for errands and commuting). For the first time, nobody passed me on the flats and downhills and only really fast men on road bikes passed me on the long uphill. However, I couldn’t get perfectly comfortable on the seat. When I finished my last loop around the park, at the advice of a friend, I stopped at the local bike shop to make an appointment for a proper fitting of my new (used) bike. The appointment was this morning.
The verdict? It’s a little long for me. I knew this was probably the case. But the fact is, A comparable, new, women’s-specific is $1200+ and I still would have had to replace the handlebars with narrower ones. Used, women’s-specific bikes don’t turn up for sale often – at least not in New York City and I was able to find my current bike on Craig’s List for $550. So we’re going to make it work.
Adjustments we made today:
1.SEAT: The seat I had been using was a women’s gel seat with a lot of padding, which the former owner had installed. We measured my “sit bones” and swapped out her seat for a slightly wider, Specialized seat without as much gel padding. This seat is pretty flat which is supposed to be good for long rides as you can move around a bit on it. We installed this seat slightly forward and quite a bit higher than the old one and it’s very comfortable. It’s also significantly lighter. While I don’t ride fast enough for the weight to make a difference in my riding, I do have to carry the bike up one and sometimes two very steep flights of stairs and it makes a big difference there. At any rate, the shop is letting me take it on several rides (including Sunday’s race) to try it out. If I don’t like it we’ll swap it out for another.
2. SHOES AND CLEATS: I have medium-high arches but super narrow and low-volume feet so finding shoes (even street shoes) is always a challenge. I used to have arch supports for my cycling shoes but wasn’t able to find them so we put some new ones in and aligned my cleats properly. This made a huge difference in comfort and took up some volume in the shoe. We also loosened my pedals as far as they could go. They’re still very tight – you can hear a loud pop when I clip in and out – but it is what it is until the springs get more wear and loosen up a bit.
3. STEM: Since the top tube is a still a little long, I need to replace the stem. The former owner had done this already but I’ll need one even shorter. We weren’t able to replace the stem today as the shop didn’t have it in stock but it will arrive Wednesday. I’m not sure I’ll have time to go to the shop to have the stem put on and go for a short ride to test it out before the race so it might have to wait until next week.
THE VERDICT: After riding about 12 miles today, I’m happy with the new seat and the other adjustments. I think the shorter stem will be nice to have but the bike is definitely comfortable enough to ride without it on Sunday if necessary.
Sure, it would be great to have a women’s-specific bike with a shorter top tube that fits perfectly. My old mountain bike was a women’s-specific Specialized Stumpjumper and I adored it. But I would have had to spend over $1350 after taxes and new handlebars for the bike I wanted. I don’t know that I’ll be riding enough to make that investment worthwhile at this point. So instead, for $640 including the new seat and stem, I have a great bike that fits well if not perfectly for half the price. Factoring in I sold my old hybrid for $400, I think I did pretty well for $260!