Review of Mountain Biking for Women

Robin Stuart and Cathy Jensen
Mountain Biking for Women
1994 Acorn Publishing
ISBN 0-937921-54-8

This book is intended for the beginning woman mountain biker and attempts to educate her from the ground up. The presentation of the material is done in a sensible order. All the important topics are covered, and there is no duplication. The advice is given in a friendly straightforward manner, without annoying "hip dude" slang. This book can do a lot to encourage the woman rider.

Much of the advice is very good indeed. The sections on riding technique, nutrition, hydration, and finding ride partners and places to ride are excellent. In addition, the advice is presented in a way that women can really relate to. Women tend a be less macho than men, and the authors do a good job at reassuring the woman biker that this is OK, despite pressures from male riders who often seem to emphasize speed and daring.

Unfortunately, much of the advice is out of date and thus not very helpful. The book was written 7 years ago. Mountain bike equipment has changed quite a bit since then, and much of what the modern mountain biker takes for granted is not mentioned. Your average cross country mountain biker will have at least front suspension, use clipless pedals, and wear a hydration pack. However, the authors seem to assume that you've bought a rigid bike, and that you would only get suspension forks as an upgrade. And then it goes into the internals of the types of forks available at that time, which doesn't leave the reader very well prepared for the modern fork market. Hydration packs aren't mentioned; I guess they weren't around then. Clipless pedals are mentioned, but are given less space than toe clips and only a bit more space than the now defunct Power Strap.

By far the worst section is "Your Bike Size". First, they state that standover height is how you know if the bike is your size or not, completely disregarding the effective top tube length of the bike, which together with the stem determines the reach to the bars. And then they suggest that you know you've got the right size when your crotch is at least two inches higher than the intersection of the top tube with the head tube. This doesn't work at all for short women on modern bikes with suspension forks. They do mention reach, but only to suggest that you should swap the standard 135mm length stem for a "short" 120mm stem. Given the prevalance of short stems nowadays, and the availability of bikes specifically for women which have short top tubes, this advice is pretty much useless.

In summary, although this book has some good sections, much of the information on equipment is way out of date. This will be a big hindrance to a woman starting out in mountain biking.

Jennifer Kulier's Women's Mountain Biking is a much more useful book. Although riding techniques aren't covered as well as they are in Mountain Biking For Women, everything else is given as good or better treatment in Kulier's book. In particular, in Kulier's book the equipment info is up to date and sensible, and the important subject of bike fit is properly covered.

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