Gear Guy

T-Nine Tradewind     Photo: courtesy, K2 Bikes

Q:

What gear does a newbie cyclist need for a 100-mile ride?

My five-foot-tall wife has decided to support a sick relative by doing a 100-mile ride for the erican Cancer Society this fall. She has zero experience with this kind of thing, she has no gear, and it's not clear that she'll ever want to ride again when this is finished. Hence, she wants gear that is functional for the ride and the training, but that's not too expensive in case she doesn't fall in love with cycling. Do you have any advice about a bike for a petite woman, plus other gear items? Michael Baltimore, Maryland

A:Well, bless her. That's a pretty tough task to take on for your first organized bike ride. But, with autumn several months off, it's probably doable—depending on her pain tolerance, that is.

Let's start with the bike. And you know this is going to be the big-ticket item. I'd suggest a bike that rides like a mountain bike (for comfort) with some of the features of a road bike (for better speed). K2's T-Nine Tradewind ($500; www.k2bikes.com) is one such bike, plus it's sized for a smaller woman rider. It has a flat handlebar for a bit more new-rider comfort than you'll get with road-style bars, plenty of gears for getting up hills, and easy-to-use grip shifters. Giant's FCR 3 (also $500; www.giant-bicycles.com) has a similar configuration and comes in women's sizes. Interestingly, check out Giant's new site, www.giantforwomen.com, with everything from blogs to bike recommendations—all for femme riders. Cannondale has a similar resource at www.cannondale.com/pedal.

I also like REI's Novara Forza bike ($699; www.rei.com). However, I don't think it would fit her even in its smallest size, but it might be worth the time to take a look.

Then there's all the rest of the garb. She's gotta have a helmet—the Bell Vela ($35; www.bellbikehelmets.com) should do the trick. A bike computer will help her keep track of miles, for which I suggest a CatEye Enduro 8 ($30; www.cateye.com). Bikes like the ones mentioned above come with old-style "cage" pedals and you can hop on the bike with a pair of sneakers and ride. That's fine for a tour around the block, but to ride long distances, it's much better to have modern clipless pedals (true, they have a learning curve) and real cycling shoes. Shimano PD-520 pedals ($50; www.shimano.com) and Cannondale Roam shoes ($75; www.cannondale.com) will do nicely. Drop a pair of decent sport glasses into the basket, like Smith's Frontlines ($109; www.smithsport.com), though any good-quality sunglasses will do.

Clothing is an additional matter. I recommend cycling gloves (around $20) and shorts (around $50), some wicking undershirts ($25), a cycling-specific jersey or two ($60 each), and a light jacket ($50-$75). There are many, many styles and price ranges to choose from here. Pearl Izumi and Terry are good brands, as are house brands from REI and L.L. Bean. And some of these items translate into other activities.

So, yeah, it's a bit of an investment, but it's all for a worthy cause.

If she's never ridden a bike before, your wife needs to start... now. Short rides at first—under ten miles at a time and maybe 30 miles a week. If anything hurts, such as knees, she needs to back off a little. Then build endurance so she's riding 30 to 35 miles on Saturdays and maybe 100 during the week. A month before the 100-miler, she needs to be able to comfortably ride 50 miles at a stretch, and 60 is better.

And remember, you be the supportive husband!

Pick up a copy of the 2006 Outside Buyer's Guide, on newsstands now, for a look at 396 torture-tested products, including an all-new women-specific review section with the hottest bikes and other cycling gear.

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