So Christmas is rolling around and my sister got into mountain biking last year. She got her first proper bike and she likes riding.
In principle that opens up a universe of good gift ideas, but I (= a guy) wanted to know whether there are gender-specific preferences I should be aware of. So I was thinking that I could make this thread a bit more open-ended in the hope that it could also help some others.
For example, how many women prefer shorts to bib shorts? I have heard pee stops can be a pain with bib straps on, because, well, you need to get totally undressed. What about heart rate chest straps, should I look into arm straps or smart watches instead? What about fit of cycling clothes? Any other things I should know?
Bib shorts tends to be hit or miss in my experience. I quite like them, but other women I know much prefer shorts. They do make bibs that have drop tails or other systems to allow for easier pee breaks, but yeah, it can be annoying to take a pee break in normal bibs. I find it worth it for the improved fit, but not everyone does.
I’ve always worn a chest HR strap without issue. The only other thing I can think of generally is that women with hips or who are more well-endowed up top don’t always have great luck with fit in all brands. Like with other sports clothing, not every brand takes curves into account when designing clothes.
I polled my wife (mtn/road/tri athlete, and Ob-Gyn) for some opinions. Her thoughts:
She prefers bibs, though also likes shorts that have a very wide elastic band, rather than a “pinchy” narrow band. She also like baggy shorts for MTB, though is more conscious of her appearance in them.
She really likes her roadie-centric long sleeve thermal jerseys; so much so that she uses them both for riding in cool/cold weather AND for days at the hospital where she finds it too cold.
She mentioned other things for a new cyclist might be glove options (weather/temperature options) or sunglasses that fit differently or have different color lenses (she is surprisingly picky about those).
Bonus stocking stuffer - if you live somewhere colder, she says you should absolutely give her the disposable toe warmers that stick to your socks inside your shoes. She uses them for both her hands and her feet, so we tend to stock up at the beginning of winter.
These are the same as the more popular hand warmer packets, but these are thinner and have a mild adhesive on one side. They are pictured placed under the foot, but I use them over my toes on the top of the foot. They help keep some of the wind off, and warm up an area that doesn’t get much blood flow. For especially cold days, I also put them inside my gloves so they rest on the back of my hand. It’s interesting how much warming the blood as it passes through your hand makes your fingers warmer, too.
Wahoo element bolt or similar
Computer MTB mount
Headband that covers ears for cooler weather
Long fingered gloves if a Mtber
Gu chews or similar energy food. Solid less risky than gels for flavour preference
Chase vest or hip bag
Funky stem cap
Tools and pouch to attach to the bike
One of the cycling recipe books like the performance chef or a book like the new mark Beaumont one
Hm, I can’t say I’ve ever needed something particularly gender-specific in terms of cycling stuff, but in saying that I’m not particularly “lady shaped” and I haven’t had a lot of the fit issues that I hear about from other women, so I’m certainly not speaking for everyone here
Definitely agree on the gloves though- I get super cold hands during the winter, so a quality pair of gloves makes a big difference. Come to think of it I’ve noticed that a lot of the female cyclists I know seem to really feel the cold, so I think a really nice base layer is something that’s both practical and can make a big difference enjoyment-wise. You can get some super fancy ones too!
If you’re going down the shorts/bibs route, I’d recommend asking her what she likes, even if it spoils the surprise a bit- I think females tend to vary a bit more in terms of lower body proportions, so most of us have preferences/minor annoyances with regard to waistbands, leg length, where they sit on the hips etc. Same goes for HR straps- I’ve found that’s also dependent on the cut of the sports bra, so it’s hard to say without her having some prior experience, or knowing her preferences as regards the greater accuracy of a strap vs the comfort/convenience of an optical HR monitor or sports watch.
Some other things that I think are pretty failsafe are socks, a box of her favourite sports nutrition, or a gift card to her favourite coffee shop.
With Christmas being in the UK winter period, I’ve always shopped for warmth and comfort for my wife.
As others have mentioned, quality winter gloves, overshoes, merino socks and a skull cap have all been purchased, well received and well worn over previous years. Not glamorous gifts but they have helped my wife enjoy (I use that word loosely) winter riding.
I have also purchased other bits and bobs that were more for her bike and her tech. A quality set of lights, a pouch for her phone/money etc, even her favourite CLIF Bar Chews.
A good multi-tool, nice and compact so it’s light and doesn’t take up too much of the saddle bag/jersey pocket. I love this Blackburn Wayside one, the hex keys come off and it’s a got a chain breaker. And a knife!
The only gender-specific gift I can think of (besides those drop-tail bibs) is one of the fancy integrated sports bra/heart rate monitors, but they’re pricey and fit is obviously critical. (And maybe you don’t want to ask your sister her bra size, I don’t know your life ) I haven’t tried one because I can usually finagle the HRM strap so the whole thing sits either completely under the sports bra band, or just a bit lower on my torso. Both of those options are comfortable and don’t seem to impact the performance of the monitor itself.
Same here, these will often be described as having a ‘yoga’ waistband.
To be honest, apart from the pee stop issues, I don’t think there are any gender-specific things I can think of. I’ve not got problem with HR straps and haven’t heard of anyone that does. I’d urge caution with clothes though, fit (and style) is very individual, and she’ll probably need to find out what works for her. I’d take her out on a ride and look for things she doesn’t have.
If your looking for gift ideas…mtb coaching sounds good, and shoes? Some nice 5-10’s maybe…
Thanks a bunch for the long list of suggestions. I think I have several years’s worth of presents right there. Santa has decided on a Garmin 130 bike computer. Gloves and foot warmers are also good ideas, which might make a great birthday present for her (which is in February already).
I’m surprised at how little fit issues I have heard when it comes to clothing. I reckon flexible materials do have their advantages. I hope it’s useful to other people, too.
For the HRM strap, I’ve always shoved my strap under the top part of my bra. I use one of the hard-plastic type, but the soft ones seem to be the way everyone is going nowadays. I’ve checked and you can cut the soft strap so you can have a short strap, rather than the whole long thing. Then just shove that down the top part of my bra and it’s FAR more comfortable. I’m also probably more endowed than many other cyclists, so having something on the bottom is really uncomfortable. I like my sports bras and don’t want one of those special ones.
I love the idea of gloves, because it’s always interesting to try different ones to find a new favorite, but they’re not cheap. I’d say this is a great gift idea.
The toe warmers are also GREAT. I use those the same way as @rickwetherald, where I put them on top of my feet near my toes, on top of my socks.
Socks are a good idea as well.
I wouldn’t go for the bibs without some sort of good return policy. As noted, highly fit-specific, and people have preferences about short length, etc…
I know from my wife (who is a gym rat) how difficult it can be to buy sports bras that fit. I’m not afraid of asking her size, but even if the size is correct, the style of bra you prefer or is necessary is something I leave up to my sister.
I really love the idea of gloves that was mentioned by many and did not immediately pop into my mind. It’s such an obvious one, which does not break the bank and you can’t have enough of. She intends to commute to office by bike every now and then, too, so gloves could really help here, too.
Well, one step at a time … I’ll see what she says about the cycling computer. I’m sure she’ll like it. Last week she told me “Commuting 20 km isn’t that hard.” And she is thinking about a second bike, because she doesn’t want to risk her nice bike being stolen.