Bike Shop Girl or Arleigh has recently taken over the running of the very popular commuter blog CommuteByBike.com. Also she runs BikeShopGirl.com which was started to answer some of the cycling questions that women are afraid to ask and are likely to get the wrong answers to. Questions such as what saddle to choose and what the difference is between male and female bikes. I decided to catch up with her and find out about her history, what sort of things bike shops can do to cater for women and what her favourite cycling moment was.
First of all, tell me a bit about your history, how did you get into cycling?
I’ve been working in the industry for 9 years, starting out at 15 years old. The way I was introduced into cycling was from my mom, who needed an outlet for my energy. Quickly I fell in love with the freedom and excitement that cycling gave me. After a couple years of always breaking my parts I got a job working at a local bike shop. Starting off learning how to fix flats, taking out the garbage and cleaning up shop. From there I have worked all over the United States east coast. From Boston, MA all the way south to Columbia, SC. Including some stops in DC, Philadelphia and where I am from in Maryland.
Not only have I worked in the bike shop environment, but also as a production wheel builder at Cane Creek Cycling, a mechanic with a couple US Pro teams and in the advocacy front in my local bike clubs, city bike plans or awareness programs.
Tell me a bit about CommuteByBike.com – what happened and how come you decided to start running it again?
For many years I have been "blogging," before blogging was even called blogging. Daily I would update the HTML of my website and backlog it, manually. Years ago Blogger came out to make my life easier. Slowly niche websites popped up, my daily blog – Arsbars.com was very popular with the cycling personalities mainly because it had been around for so long. From Arsbars I was picked up to write for CommuteByBike.com and BlueCollarMTB.com, both run under the same network of a blog ring. (Basically one person owned several niche cycling blogs and paid writers to cover that field.)
CommuteByBike.com has always been a soft spot for me as I have been a commuter since a child going to school. I think the tips, resources, reviews and bike database that are based on that site are invaluable. The fact that it has been around for many years allows it to be very high in rankings, as well as high in peoples regards to trust and honesty. When a year ago the owner decided to focus more on his own freelance business and family the site sat static. Still being a resource but not being updated with news, information or reviews. This past month I approached the owner, my old boss, and asked for a dollar amount to purchase from him. We had talked about it a few times over the past year but I was really focused on making it work. Making that invaluable resource live again for commuters all over the world.
Your blog BikeShopGirl gets a lot of readers questions, what sort of things have people been asking you?
Many commuters can’t walk into their local bike shop and get proven tips, help or product that has been tested through and through. The same goes for women. Not every shop has a women readily available to help people. There are many things women don’t know to ask, want to ask or are simply scared to ask. You need to have someone in your store that will break those walls down and let women trust them.
BikeShopGirl allows women to come someplace, comment, email or simply read to learn about this broad spectrum of cycling. Thankfully over the years I have tried almost every type of riding other than extreme downhill/free riding. At my disposal I have many women and experienced bike industry contacts to help me answer questions I may not know.
Women have been asking me things all over the spectrum. Help with picking a bike, help with picking their child a bike. Bike shorts, bike saddles, and how to dress. What they should eat, drink or say on a group ride. How to find a group ride or even walking them through how to clip their new shoes into their new clipless pedals.
I asked everyone on Twitter if they had any questions to ask you and they wanted to know..
danceralamode Is there any reason we should ride "ladies" bikes? Is there any real difference between male and female bikes?
This is a long answer that I’ll try to sum up.
There is a difference between male and female bikes. The biggest difference is normally the length of the bike. Women tend to have longer legs than men, which means a shorter upper body. On a 56cm road bike you may have a 55 or 55.5cm top tube for your upper body length.
Some women’s bikes are look oriented, like a hybrid or beach cruiser.
The basics are yes they are different, it is mainly fit oriented and it doesn’t mean you NEED a ladies bike. Unfortunately many shops have gone to having every woman that walks in the door to ride a women’s bike. It may not even fit them, but it’s women’s so it is for them.
bathori Where can I find cute/less horrifically ugly, cycle-friendly rain pants that don’t cost a fortune? My poor wet legs.
Last week I touched upon this briefly on my Rain Gear for Women article. So far I haven’t found anything that isn’t black..
If people have any more questions where can they get them answered?
@BikeShopGirlcom on twitter
Email: Girly [at] BikeShopGirl [dot] com
Or leave comments on the shop
In your opinion, what sort of things can bike shops do to cater for women better?
Most bike shops don’t mean to not cater towards women. It just isn’t a normal thing for guys. One recommendation I have given in the past is to grab your wife, sister, daughter, mother and try to walk them through your shop or sell them a bike. Listen to their questions, and see what they understand or don’t. Most women’s worries aren’t geared around component types, (some are but they will tell you that) and they are more worried about the experience. How will this bike ride, be different and change their riding experience. What does better shifting mean to them and why do they need it? What does an air fork do and why is it nice to have? Take a step back and look at your shop. Is it happy colours or overstuffed shelves with poor lighting. The only store that can have overstuffed shelves and poor lighting is a book store.
What do you think stands in the way between getting more women onto bikes?
1. Good bike shops
2. More women friendly bike clubs
3. Group rides
4. Classes, seminars or safety clinics
5. Family oriented cycling
What tip would you give to any females afraid to start cycling? And what bike would you recommend to them?
Unfortunately it really depends why they are scared of cycling. My best recommendation to answer either of these questions is to find someone, a woman or man, that they can talk to and ride with. Borrow bikes, test ride lots of bikes and don’t overwhelm yourself. Cycling is very broad and you can easily get information overload. Find a shop you trust, that makes you feel good about what you are doing and answers your questions honestly. It’s okay if someone says I don’t know as long as they go to find you the answer. They are being honest and you can trust them a little more for that.
What is the funkiest bit of kit you own? (Cool bicycle bell etc)
Funkiest would probably be my xtracycle. Around my southern town it is very eye catching. I hope to get some down glow neon lights for the bottom of it!
If you had to pick a favourite cycling moment that you have blogged about what would it be?
Getting kids on bikes. I’ve been fortunate to walk into a family where my significant other has two young boys 8 & 9. They have always rode bikes but now they really ride. We go mountain biking, BMX racing and ride to get ice cream. It has affected not only their confidence but it’s contagious. Their friends want to try it and it is a snow ball affect.
Anything else you want to mention?
Cycling is amazing, no matter what part of it you do. Mountain, road, hybrids or cruisers. Do you get your freak on with a fixie and no brakes riding through the city? Great. Now pass it on. Don’t let anyone step down what you are doing. Your on a bike and enjoying yourself, no matter how fast or slow you are. You are doing something for yourself and your life
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