How to (not) ride like a girl, part II

In my last post I examined a few common cycling misconceptions. We’ve already tackled the frustrating act of taking on gravity and how our gearing choices play into this uphill battle. Now it’s time to bust the final two myths.

Myth #3 I’ll never keep up with my riding buddies and will always be last

When I first started mountain biking, it was never long until I was dropped off the back. What began as something emotionally scarring, finally ended in true physical pain when several of my riding mates unknowingly plowed over a yellow jacket nest, stirring them up just in time for dozens of the angry insects to swarm me. The guys rolled through unscathed, but I was stung and exhausted from trying to keep up. I often lagged behind on the road too, where my skinny male companions excelled uphill as if being pulled by a rope. I huffed and puffed through every painful pedal stroke.

Then I entered a mountain bike race and found myself among a pack of women. I expected to be the group’s caboose, but was surprised to finish closer to the top. The same happened when I joined a local club and found myself outriding the C group and comfortably keeping up with the B and sometimes A-/B+ riders. On a few rides, I was even Queen of the Mountains on longer hills!

I quickly learned that bicycle riding is all about balance. Just become someone else rides, doesn’t mean they’re the best person to ride with or that your fitness/training goals align. It’s important to keep pushing yourself to improve and to find others with compatible fitness and goals. That might mean going all out on the men’s ride once a week and then finding another training partner or group to ride with on your easier days, or riding alone. ┬áIn cycling, you get what you give. If you ride regularly and keep challenging yourself, each year you should continue to improve.

Myth #4 The best way to lose weight is to cut carbs

One of the shortest mountain bike rides I’ve ever experienced was with a woman who was dieting for her upcoming wedding. She was so excited to be eating tons of protein and losing so much weight. But after an hour of pedaling, she nearly passed out in the woods. I handed her a Clif Bar, but she refused, eying it like it was a plate of snails.

Many athletes can benefit from losing weight and biking is a great way to help achieve weight loss. The crucial thing to remember is that carbohydrates contain glucose. Glucose is what fuels your muscles and your brain during a ride. If you start limiting glucose, you risk bonking big time. Carbs are fine and healthy, as long as you’re consuming them in the form of whole grains and fruits and veggies. And keep in mind that sugars and refined carbohydrates that are high on the glycemic index are quick sources of fuel during exercise. Please remember that I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet. Ask your doc if you have any questions. In the meantime, fuel up smartly, ride safe, and keep pushing past your own limits!

Have enough cycling myth that needs busting? Post a reply here or email

One thought on “How to (not) ride like a girl, part II

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience about biking with men versus women. I bike almost exclusively with my husband who’s 6’4″ and weights almost 90 lbs more than me. He continually challenges me (which is great) but I will never win that race. Maybe I should try riding with some women to really appreciate what I can do.

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