Tuesday, 26 June
I'm feeling really bold today--and I haven't even had my coffee yet. Last time I ventured into the "why do they race/ride they way they do?" realm, I was told that my entry was a "pretty big blow to the NW women's peloton" and "most of it was inaccurate." Again, I'm just making an observation today, based on my limited participation in the sport. I don't think it's very controversial but someone will probably take offense (that's what blogs are supposed to do, right--offend?).
Perhaps more than most women, I race sometimes with men. Not just the weekly series events, but by racing on the tandem with multiple male partners (no comments, please), I get some insight into how men race and ride.
Last Sunday, though, I was in a group of experienced women racers for a very long time up some long climbs. And I noticed that they almost never get out of the saddle. Sit, sit, sit--uphill, downhill, just about all the time. Men complain they can't get out of the saddle enough when they ride tandem and they all wonder why I can't stand for a half a mile at a stretch.
I first got insight into the value of standing occasionally when I rode with an ex-pro up that long climb on the last day at Columbia Plateau (its reported length varies but it's at least 10 miles). Standing lets you rest some muscles and use new ones, it changes the way your weight is distributed through your hands and feet, and (sometimes this is priceless) it allows you some respite from pressure on the saddle. And on an extraordinarily long climb, well, it's something to do.
But there we were on Sunday, a group of maybe 20 women riding up a 4-mile climb, every single one of us in the saddle. The pace was not blistering and I thought it was a great opportunity to get out of the saddle. The only other woman who was standing occasionally was clearly on the rivet and struggling to keep her momentum up enough to stay on. Now, there's nothing wrong with sitting, and it made for an incredibly smooth group because bikes don't shift around nearly as much when you're sitting squarely on top of them. But the men I ride with would have been out of the saddle more than they were in it.
So, what's the difference here? Is it purely anatomical? There were plenty of complaints from the women about, um, saddle discomfort and a fair amount of shifting position ever so slightly to try to relieve pressure on particularly sore spots. Do women's bikes "fit" them differently so that standing is not as comfortable as it is for men? Are women not as confident out of the saddle? I would not for a minute believe that saddle manufacturers favor women's saddle comfort over men's (because nothing else manufactured for this sport favors a woman's anatomy).
Okay, so tell me I'm clearly not a bike racer because if I had all this time and energy for observation and getting out of the saddle, I should have been attacking instead and not just sitting in a super smooth group when there were only 60 miles to the finish. That still doesn't answer my fundamental question (based on unscientific data collection, I know): why are men so much more likely to climb out of the saddle than women? Maybe I should ask about the tendencies of cat 4/5 men because I'm, um, selective about my male tandem partners and they've all been cat 1/2. Anybody have any insights into this really burning question?