Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ladies and Diamond Frames

Lots of ladies ride diamond frame bicycles, even in a skirt. The lovely Charlotte of Chic Cyclist and the good women of Bike Skirt are just some examples. Recently, I tried riding diamond frames for the first time in my life.

Here is the Co-Habitant's vintage Raleigh. I had to wear platform shoes, because I can't otherwise clear the top tube of his 24" bike.

And here is an Origin8 Cykel, which I tried at the Bike Stop in Arlington, Mass. This time the frame was just the right size, though those super-wide handlebars took some getting used to.

My feelings about diamond frames are mixed. While cycling, I actually find them very comfortable: The horizontal tube helps me feel balanced and in control of the bicycle. But by golly, I don't understand how to mount and dismount gracefully. The Co-Habitant swings his leg over the back in one fluid ballet-like motion, but I seem to be incapable of executing this maneuver without faltering. Plus, in a skirt this can't be done without hiking it up first.

I've tried leaning the bicycle over toward me until the frame is low enough to step over, but that does not seem right either. Ladies, how do you do it? And when you're wearing a skirt?

UPDATE: The graceful Charlotte of Chic Cyclist has now posted a photo-tutorial showing how she rides her diamond frame in a miniskirt. Enjoy!

19 comments:

  1. I have the same problem when wearing my kilt.
    It works better if you take your eyes off the green tires. Kidding.
    It is for the same reasons you have that older guys like me are looking at ladies step-thru frames as an alternative. After a hot ride, that leg swing is hard.

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  2. Heh. My husband hated those tires as well. They are cyclocross tires and I thought the green was nice, but he hated them.

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  3. I've ridden diamond frames only during test rides, so I'm no expert. I haven't tried the leg swing; I do some sort of yoga balance and flexibility move where I stand on my left leg while lifting my right leg bent at the knee and then moving it over and down the top tube. Definitely not a maneuver I would feel comfortable with in my daily life :) I've wondered about this, too, so I look forward to reading the responses.

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  4. I usually mostly fell off my tri bike. I was so sure I would fall during the race but somehow got graceful. I have to say being 5'1" I will never ride a diamond frame unless under duress.

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  5. Oh no! I was hoping to learn of some secret super-easy dismounting method from the two of you : )

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  6. I used to a) ride horses and b) ride a diamond frame mountain bike. I used the same mount and dismount method for both :-). Stand on left side of bike, swing right leg over back of saddle. I've never been able to mount a bike from the right hand side(!) - a carry over from my horsey days. I never rode my diamond frame bike in a skirt or dress, but I should think if you have a full skirt this would work. Not something recommended for a tight or pencil skirt however.

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  7. Not to change the subject, but while looking for mens' cycling shorts today, I discovered a rack full of womens' cycling wrap skirts. I wandered back to the mens' stuff, but those womens' cycling skirts might be relevant to the "how you do it" when wearing a skirt.

    As for the leg swing, you probably don't have the right amount of forward bike motion. Watch the Co-Habitant in that regard, including the pedal position as he starts.

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  8. Carinthia - Oddly enough, I can mount a horse, but not a bicycle! I've actually tried to pretend it's a horse, but then my left foot wants to step up on the pedal before the right leg swings over; I can't seem to separate the two movements from each other.

    Steve A - Those shorts/wrap-skirt combos are pretty cool, but I'd be wearing everyday clothing on the bike. The typical "A Line" skirt has a wide enough opening at the hem to pedal, but not wide enough to do the leg-swing. It would have to be a '50s style poodle skirt to be wide enough for that. Yet I see ladies in Boston riding diamond frames in (non-poodle) skirts. I wonder how they do this without causing a scene when mounting and dismounting.

    Forward bike motion... You may be right. I will watch him and try to practice this!

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  9. I also ride a diamond frame with skirts sometimes. If one wears a tight skirt it is slightly difficult to get the leg over the saddle (and then I sometimes lean my bike over to the left, bend my knees and do it this way -- or just roll up the skirt for a second), but with most of my skirts and dresses I don't have a problem. I'm not into miniskirts anyhow, so I'm fine ;-).

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  10. All of my bikes have diamond frames. I mount the way Carinthia describes. I can only do it from the left side, also.

    Once when carrying a vacuum cleaner home from Sears, I had to do the tilt/step over mount because I couldn't throw my leg over the box. It wasn't graceful at all.

    I don't wear skirts, so can't offer any comment there.

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  11. Definitely getting on from the left is popular. I however mount from the front, placing my arms on the handlebars behind my back and then vaulting backwardswhile simultaneously pulling the bike between my legs. Pedal position, as you mention Steve becomes a pressing matter at this high pressure juncture. But with practice...

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  12. David - Just tried your method and it is excellent. But even better is my most recent discovery: Hopping out of an open window onto the saddle of a gently rolling bike. This way you avoid the mount altogether and approach it from above. With a sprung Brooks, it is easy on the joints too.

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  13. I see people approach the bike from the left, step with their left foot onto the left pedal, push off (or not), and bring the right leg over the back of the bike and plop onto the seat with added height. That's not a good way to do it, so consider changing to a regular off-the-ground mount and then a step onto the pedal to sit and go once you straddle the top bar. The former method puts lateral forces on wheels, etc. I did not know this until Sheldon Brown described it, and that's how I used to climb on as a child.

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  14. With the bike on your right side, grab the right handlebar with your right hand. Drop the bike to the ground towards yourself as low as you can without letting go. Put your foot between the chainring and the front wheel. Pull up.

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  15. I have a men's diamond frame bike which I love, but have also had the skirt problem. When I'm wearing a short or tighter skirt that doesn't allow me to mount normally, I generally position the bike next to a curb, step up on the curb, and with the added height I'm usually able to mount semi-gracefully.

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  16. So it seems the "drastic lean" method is the preferred way to do it. I can do that, and have done it, but it seems awkward to me - especially if the bicycle is loaded. It would seem that there is also a greater risk of dropping the bike to the ground that way, no?

    As an update: The graceful Charlotte of Chic Cyclist has now posted a photo-tutorial of how she rides her diamond frame in a miniskirt. Enjoy!

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  17. I always do the mount from the R. First, holding both handlebar grips, place left foot on pedal and scoot along using R foot to propel the bike. On the 3rd or 4th push after some momentum has been gained, swing the R leg around. This takes balance and some practice yet should work with pants or a full skirt. However I would be a little worried with tighter attire.
    I really think I am going to get a "woman's" frame next time. Though it may not be so "manly" it is far more graceful, safe and convenient, especially for many of us codgers.

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  18. Tilt the bike and swing the leg over the back of the frame. Less of a chance of flashing with the back swing. That is how I normally handle it, and I have ONLY ever ridden a triangle frame.

    You can do it! Yes, you may flash a time or two, but you will get the hang of it.

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  19. Any woman who wears a straight skirt knows only too well that you have to adapt to the limited room that you have in them. Riding a men's bicycle is no dig deal, even in a below the knee straight skirt.
    You stand on the kerb on the left-hand side and tip the bike towards you at a 45 deg angle. You then bend your right leg up as far as it will go and swing it over the saddle, your foot coming to rest on the right-hand pedal which should be in the up position.
    Transfer your weight to the right-hand pedal at the same time release the brakes and you are off. Your straight skirt will now fall down until the hemline comes to rest on the crossbar and the skirt will now be at the correct length to preserve your modesty.
    Reverse the procedure to get off the bike, which will now be easier as the crossbar has already partly hitched up your skirt.
    Its actually safer to ride a bicycle in a tight skirt than a full one, when you know how to do it.

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