My best cycling buddy sent me a book a few months ago that may be the one must-read for women cyclists. In the preface to Bicycling for Women, author Gale Bernhardt said that she wrote this book “…because not everyone is able to hire a coach, but there is no lack of athletes looking for a training plan that will help them get faster or go farther.” As a coach with over 30 years of experience, she should know.
I can hear you now, “But I’m not an athlete. I just like to ride my bike.” I was the same way when I started riding again as an adult several years ago, and I still have no real desire to get into competition. However, I do want to be a stronger rider, and do enjoy seeing if I can average just a bit more speed this year than I did last. Being an athlete doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out there winning medals. It just means you want to be the best you can be at your chosen sport. Bicycling for Women has something for all levels of women athletes. Gale notes that she wrote a book specifically about cycling for women not because men and women need to train differently, but because there are anatomical and physiological differences between the genders that can affect training, and she wanted women to understand these differences and use the information to better reach their goals.
Gale starts her book with a valuable chapter on anatomy and bicycle fit. With the use of clearly written descriptions and simple diagrams, she explains how to choose a properly sized bicycle and ensure that all of its parts are adjusted to give you the most comfortable ride. As she says, bicycle riding shouldn’t hurt!
After ensuring that you have a properly fitted bicycle, Gale spends the next several chapters talking about training and fitness, training plans, strength training and stretching, nutrition, and mental training tools. Honestly, this section can get a bit overwhelming. The recreational cyclist who wants to train for longer rides or touring will find valuable information and appropriate training plans, but may skim over some of the more technical details. The competitive athlete who wants to train to win may spend more time learning about oxygen volumes, lactate thresholds, training zones and other training strategies important to a competitive athlete. Included in this section are training plans for riding 50 – 100 miles in a day, a short tour, time trials, and improved hill climbing.
Once you have a training plan in place and understand all of the factors that can affect your training efficiency, Gale moves on to discuss the real peculiarities of women and how those can affect training and riding. Chapters cover topics such as the physiology of a cyclist, menstrual cycles, pregnancy and exercise, the masters cyclist, and comfort and safety. While the information presented in these chapters is valuable and interesting, I didn’t find much that was specific to cycling. Most of the information was applicable to all women, not just cyclists, and there was little advice to specifically aid a cyclist in adapting her riding to cope with women-specific issues. Again, the information was valuable, just not any different than information you could find from other sources on the same topics.
While no book can be everything to everyone, Bicycling for Women is an excellent source of information for female cyclists of all stripes. From recreational cyclists wanting to get stronger to athletes in need of a coach, Gale Bernhardt offers information, tips, advice and techniques valuable to all.
Note: This book was purchased by me with my own money; providing this review did not benefit me in any way.