Monday, December 22, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Jennifer Lowe-Brewer


Meet Jennifer Lowe-Brewer who works at The Wheel Cyclery  and is an ambassador for LIV!

My name is Jennifer Lowe, I'm a 31 year old mother of two great kids. I've been working at The Wheel Cyclery for about 5 years, and under the tutelage of our owner, Heather Jordan, I've really grown as a cyclist and advocate for the sport and women. For 2014 I was honored to be selected as a brand ambassador for Liv-Giant. 

I used that platform to reach out to women of all ability levels and even started a women's cycling club HellcatRacing (find on Facebook!) and led a small group of women to do their first criterium races.

I also lead group rides and race both road and mountain on our shop team (thewheelracing.com). Heather and I have held women's clinics covering topics from flat repair, to mountain biking skills, to criterium cornering, to pack handling. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding with my dad. He was my very first riding buddy! We started out mountain biking when I was about 13, and we added road bikes when I was 16 or so.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Cycling for me started out as a very social activity. I loved the group rides, the cool people, traveling to races, having a beer in the parking lot or getting tacos after a ride. As I’ve gotten older I’ve also embraced my competitive side, and that has really motivated me as well.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I love criterium racing. I love the focus it requires, the intensity. When I race my mind just totally empties, and the only thing is the pavement, my bike, and girls around me. Racing makes me feel strong, fast, and capable. But it isn’t all seriousness, it is still very social! The women are all laughing and joking on the line, and often you’ll hear girls encourage each other in the field. I love that about women’s cycling: the camaraderie, even among competitors. I’ve come around a rider about to get gapped off and yelled, “come on girl, you’ve got it, hang on!” and women have done it for me too.
Mountain biking racing for me is very different in its level of intensity and seriousness. For me that is all about fun. I really enjoy the atmosphere at mountain bike races- everyone is relaxed and it’s not intimidating at all. So that is fun too.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
My first mountain bike ride I didn’t really know enough to be worried. I wasn’t scared at all- and maybe that wasn’t a good thing! I fell A LOT at first! I remember sneaking in to the house after a ride while my dad or brother distracted my mom so I could get the blood or mud cleaned off. My mom was always pretty shocked to see her little girl with mud and leaves in her hair. For me, it was fun and excitement- like a roller coaster. Even today, when I go mountain biking I love that weightless feeling of flying through the trees, just like when I was a kid.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I wasn’t too nervous until after I had my first few “good” crashes. On the mountain bike, I went back to those areas and kept working on them until I felt like I had kind of “ridden the scary out of it.” But I think you will always have those parts of the trail that are your nemesis- it’s just that as you get better you conquer some parts then begin the process of tackling others.

On the road, I get some nervousness after a crash. I’ve had two. The first was in a corner, and I rolled a low tire and went down pretty fast. It took a long time to get my confidence back in the corners, and it was a gradual process of going through the corners faster and faster until I was smooth and steady. The other crash was in a paceline in a crosswind. There was an obstacle in the road and zigged when the other guys zagged. I’m still trying to get comfortable being REALLY close in a line. So I’m relearning that. Right now I’m comfortable about a half to a full wheel length, closer if I’m second wheel (the second rider in a paceline). But learning and overcoming fears is a process and you have to patient with yourself.

What advice would you give someone new to the off-road scene?
My biggest piece of advice would be to reach out to someone and find a riding buddy or a group. A lot of groups do group rides and no-drop rides, and you can learn the trails and learn a lot of technique from other riders. And it’s a really good idea to not ride alone, as a general rule. If you can attend camps or clinics those can be a huge benefit as well. Many shops will hole free or low-cot clinics, especially women.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I do use clipless pedals. I rode for many many years without them because I was scared of them. Now that I’m used to it I can’t imagine riding without them. The biggest tip I have to either put your bike on a trainer or put it in the kitchen and hang on the counter and just practice clipping in and out. Once you get the hang of that try riding an easy trail, and stopping several times so you can get the hang of that. I also have the habit of always unclipping the same foot, so you don’t really think about it- it’s more a muscle memory thing. This is helpful more-so on the road though I think.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I think it’s easy to develop a fear of certain thing if you have a bad experience with it one time. Like particular scary log or big rock. We all have them. For me what helps is to just take the time and walk or roll the bike through the obstacle. Scope the line a bit, and then give it a try. And be patient with yourself, try not to get frustrated. It seems like fear and frustration often goes hand in hand.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Heather and Jennifer
The Wheel Cyclery
On the road, one of things that I’ve had to work a lot on is being able to feel comfortable riding in a tight pack and cornering at high speeds with other riders all around you. It can be kind of scary. You have to be predictable, stay in your line, and trust that the riders all around you don’t want to crash any more than you do, but, that they just might surprise you with their actions so you need to be ready for that. If you are riding in a group and someone drifts for you, sometimes the best thing is to stay steady. They might touch you, but then a lot of times they can correct, if it was accidental.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I still have a hard time lifting my front wheel over obstacles. I never really learned how to wheelie, now I can kinda lift it if I really concentrate and am going slow, so I am getting better. But at speed in the woods the best thing for me is to just unweight the front of the bike by tipping back. The the front wheel will pretty much roll over most things.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that roller coaster feeling of flying. Like when you ride downhill, or swoop through a corner. I also really enjoy feeling strong, fast, and capable. Whether its pushing hard down a smooth road, powering up a climb, or grabbing the wheel of a guy who is accelerating away from the group; my bike makes me feel strong.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have three bike that I ride a lot. My mountain bike is a 27.5 Liv-Giant Lust1. It’s a aluminum frame full suspension bike with an efficient xc platform and snappy handling. It’s built up with Sram x9 gripshift. I absolutely LOVE the 27.5 wheelsize, I highly recommend it.

My primary road bike is a Giant TCR SLR. I use this for all of my training and for group rides. It’s a high-grade aluminum road bike with aggressive race geometry. I’ve raced it many times. The bike is light, stiff, race worthy, and I can set it up to have the same fit and geometry as my race bike. This bike is also inexpensive, and because it’s aluminum I don’t have to worry about what will happen to my precious frame if I crash. I have this bike built with Sram Force 10speed groupo and Mavic wheels.

My race bike is a Scott Foil built with Sram Force 11 speed. I got this bike before I became a Liv Ambassador, when we were a Scott dealer. I love to race this bike because it is crazy light, it’s aero, and the handling is super snappy. It’s very very stiff, so it sprints well. I use Reynolds Areo 58’s on that bike- to cheat the wind even more. There is a remarkable difference. And these aero wheels aren’t as affected by crosswinds the way that other dished wheels are. I don’t get pushed around at ALL, even in a very stout wind.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I could talk about gear all day! I wear a lot of Mavic and Castelli clothing. The fit is phenomenal, it looks good, and the function is right there. If you invest in some good apparel it makes your riding so much more comfortable and enjoyable. The gear never lets you down. Invest in really good bike shorts. Do not skimp there! My helmet is a Lazer, and my car rack is a Saris GranFondo. Off road I use a Camelbak pack

How did you hear about LIV and what inspired you to get involved?
I got involved with Liv through the shop where I work. Giant has been working really hard for the last couple of years to not only grow the women’s side of the brand, but also to help grow women’s cycling from the ground up. Their Liv Ambassadors are boots on the ground, holding group rides, training clinics, workshops, and just being friendly, positive women who enjoy sharing their love of bikes with other women! I was recommend to the program by our Giant rep, who knew about the group rides that we do and that I race and just like talking about bikes to other women.

What do you enjoy about being an ambassador for LIV?
As an ambassador, I get to hear the latest word on new products and gear. I get to work with women to help them get the most out of cycling, and reach out to women that maybe might be too intimidated to really give cycling a try.

You work at a local bike shop, are there other women that work at the shop besides yourself?
The shop I work for is owned by a woman, so it’s a great environment to work in. All of our ride leaders have always been women too-we think it is less intimidating to new riders.

As a woman working at a bike shop, usually a very male-dominated setting, how do you enjoy it? What did you do to stand out and carve a niche for yourself?
We try to foster an atmosphere where women feel very welcomed and comfortable, which extends to women who work in the shop as well as our customers. And I have a great boss who lets me be myself and embrace the things that we women tend to be better at. There’s definitely a need for that in our industry I think.

One of your jobs is to lead group rides-how do you enjoy that and what have you found works for attracting people to show up?
I LOVE leading group rides. We use a lot of social media- facebook and a sight called Meetup.com. Every Monday we have a no-drop ride to encourage new riders to come out. Our other rides are progressively more challenging.

Any tips or suggestions for those who are looking to start up a group ride?
Get the word out on social media, and be consistent. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think the initial outlay of cost is one thing. A good bike is expensive, and it can be hard to find used bikes small enough for most women. The other thing is just finding a starting point, people to ride with that can show you the entry level trails and don’t’ mind waiting a bit here and there.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think it would be really cool to start a network for women to exchange ride info, or sell old gear, get the word out about races and rides and clinics. We started a separate facebook page for our women. They use it to let each other know about rides and important issues and we post info about clinics and women-centric cycling news.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I have really fantastic cycling memories- it has been such a huge part of my life. I rode with my dad as a kid. I ride with my friends and family and loved ones, and I’ve met so many great people. I just think a lot of people would enjoy that as well.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have purple hair.

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