Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Women Involved: Julia Winkels

When I started going about my search for people and organizations to interview for my blog I stumbled upon a group that is relatively local! Grease Rag is an organization that wants to provide a safe and positive environment for women/trans/femme where they can learn, experience, and have fun with bikes!

One of my interviews was with Julia who is a Facillitator/Volunteer at Grease Rag. As a facilitator she serves as the first point of contact, greeting new individuals and helping them feel comfortable and safe. Along with this she also helps to coordinate events for Grease Rag-Awesome!

One event coming up that Julia suggested I attend someday is called Babes in Bikeland; it’s an Alley Cat bike race that will be held in September.

What do you enjoy most about Grease Rag?
First and foremost I’m so happy to have found a group of like-minded riders! They are a colorful and lively group of people. When it came to events, Julia said “they helped fortify me and allow me to relax and unwind.”

How did you find out about Grease Rag?
On a bike tour in Southeast Asia. I had talked with my boyfriend and told him I was nervous about coming home to Minneapolis, since I’d been abroad for almost two years and my social circle in had really changed/dispersed.  he had mentioned the group, so I checked them out and became involved. I love(d) the open shop nights!

What would you like to share with others about Grease Rag?
Grease Rag works hard to make a safe space because the bike world is a “boys club” and we want women/trans/femme to have a spot in it.
They make a conscious effort for anyone of any gender to feel comfortable and safe while allowing them to be involved.
They hear your voice and put tools in your hands; they will challenge you and push you while being friendly and supportive.
Grease Rag makes inspires bike riding to be stronger, vibrant, and more diverse.

When did you first start riding a bike?
When I started going to college-it was fast for transportation around/to/from campus and made me feel healthy.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Being around people who ride a lot- It’s fun and social.  I also like the challenge of pushing myself and testing my limits, trying to go faster or further.

Have you competed in events? If so, what are your favorites?
I haven’t done a lot of events - this will kind of be my first “season” as far as that goes! But in the fall I did a fun Halloween themed alley cat race called “Scaredy Cat” where people dress up in costumes and have grand time! I also recently did my first gravel event,  the Miesvill Grinder, which is more of a ride than a race. It was challenging, but I’m happy with how I did. I’m also going to try out Powderhorn 24 and maybe some other 24-hour races, not necessarily racing these, but seeing if I can do them.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I just love touring! The whole concept of riding my bike for long distances and looking at cool stuff.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
I went on a century ride in the fall which didn’t go completely as planned. First off I wasn’t prepared or in shape mentally and emotionally. When I came to the 70 mile point I had some major knee pain and had to throw in the towel, which was a tough choice but ultimately the right one. Recently I did this same century ride again and finished it successfully! I was really happy with how it went this time. I felt much more relaxed and confident going into it.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
My tips for this are to find someone you trust to help fit you to your bike. I found that my reach was off and that tore my knee up. Be honest with your expectations and accept the limitations. (Yours and your bikes)
If you have mentally and emotionally given up on a ride, it’s over…go in with a good attitude and confidence.

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’m fairly new at clipless as I started last season. A roommate gave me some pedals and I got shoes from a Grease Rag gear swap. I found someone I trusted to help me put the cleats in and have everything adjusted properly. I went to a parking lot to practice clipping in and out. I also have fallen over at least once or twice! First timers will fall over a couple times and that is okay!
I had the whole “Let me fall” conversation with my boyfriend. He’ll hover and try to help, to which I say “Let me make mistakes. Failure lets us learn.”
With Grease Rag, you get the opportunity to learn, work on your own bike-do all the wrenching. You get guidance and knowledge with the hands on experience. Also, all the bikes are checked over to make sure they are safe.
If you had any bad experiences on the bike or working with bikes, Grease Rag let’s you take the power back.
If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I’m a daily commuter as I live a few miles from my place of employment. Being that (this interview took place around 30 days of biking) it’s 30 days of biking; I’m much more conscientious of it. Where I live we have a great infrastructure….lots of dedicated bike paths and bike lanes.

Do you commute even if the weather isn’t ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
I commute year round, which includes riding through the winter and now our cold and rainy spring. For commuting, layering is a must. Invest in a wool base layer, fenders, good lights, and a high visibility jacket/vest. Do not pressure yourself to go every day; you are fine going out just once a week to start. Start easy, practice and be patient. Find what works for you! Take time and take time to get your bike set up.
Be bold about taking the lane, your safety comes first and make sure drivers can see you.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I had one accident when I was in downtown Minneapolis. I rode through a one-way intersection and got clipped by a car. I flew over the car and hit my lower back, and had to go to the ER. I was ok, but I  was pretty sore for a few days. I’ve learned now that even if it is a one-way intersection, look really well to see if there is oncoming traffic. I always slow my bike and look. It’s good to be observant because often people aren’t looking for you-so look for them.
When it came to recovering, simple answer is get back on the bike and keep riding.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that it’s summertime! I love riding my bike, the freedom, joy and empowered feelings that it brings me. I don’t have to wait in traffic, I love how healthy it makes me feel, and how it makes me feel mentally and spiritually.
I love the community of riders; high-fiving strangers on the greenway and meeting new people.
I never thought I was a bike person, now it’s a huge part of my life.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Carole Snow

What was it like working at the bike shop? Were there other females working at the shop with you? 
At the time I went to work in the shop, I was transitioning out of having left a seminary program where I was hoping to be a pastoral counselor. Plainly, I was incapable of small talk at that point, so selling bicycles entailed talking about the weather, baseball games and burritos. Eventually I settled in for a few months last summer and embraced shop culture-- still a little stunned that the bike industry and the ministry hold a lot of the same attitudes about women-- I likened service desk women and women being sent to fit school as the same hurdles as being women and ministers. A little jolting for many men.

The women at my former shop are wonderful-- we had Lily who essentially carried the CX team last season. Her energy is on par with a curious toddler that runs everywhere. Theres Kolleen, who at 51 had been a courier and pedaled in on wicked builds each day. For my wedding she pulled all the reception decorations in a Burley trailer for 22 miles in the rain, and managed to look like a knock-out bridesmaid.

Shop folks are close-knit like siblings, and thusly capable of creaming one another emotionally from stress. Summer season is hard. You work 60 hours in a customer service position while everyone is outside riding bikes, and youre pissed off inside getting this muscled-up pasty forearm from adjusting saddles all day.

What were your primary jobs at the bike shop?
Probably screwing up road bike fits and explaining why bikes dont cost $100. Just kidding, I worked the floor so lots of hybrids out to the fine commuters of Chicago. Lots of applying my pastoral counseling skills from graduate school to women worried about their bodies in the realm of cycling, folks recovering from bike theft, or what it takes to get back in the saddle both physically and emotionally. Youll find a lot of people purchasing bikes are going through meaningful transitions and that really excited me.

What was the best experience you had?
I met my husband, Billy at the shop. He has worked there for ten years, so heres this new girl with no social skills on an aluminum hybrid-- and as resident curmudgeon hes got this collection of vintage Klein mountain bikes sitting upstairs. I guess something resonated when our boss Ken forced Billy to lead me around the warehouse and tell me where everything is. At that time I was going through the customary hazing of new shop employees, so the fact someone didnt try to kill me with ghost peppers or hide my bicycle at closing time was nice. He also used my first name instead of, hey new girl.

What was the most interesting thing you learned?
Im an industrial design geek who worked at a Trek shop. Once I started diving in on all the great innovations that Trek had-- well, I want to say devoured, but that maybe comes across too strong-- acquired?

I started reading about Gary Fisher, Keith Bontrager and all the Marin County dudes just working hard in their garages, slamming tacos and riding modified beach cruisers down mountain passes in denim-- thats where my respect for the industry really started to be wrapped up in my identity.

Ive always been the odd chick, tinkering in some room at 4 A.M. and I feel like the bicycle is this shiny beacon of people who say, f*ck it, Im going to make this happen no matter what you say.
I mean, Ive always liked the joke about airplanes being the result of two bike mechanics f*cking around. You know? Mechanics should get a shirt that says, Society: youre welcome.

You met your (former) husband at the bike shop? Would you like to share that story?
(or summarize it a
Yes Billy. The guy with a tattoo of Ohio and a pinup girl on his forearm. Billy was a former courier and weaved his way into the industry by just being a self reliant person with a bicycle. However I think thats about 14 bicycles now. I tend to aimlessly ramble about my weird Army brat upbringing in Texas, and of course he would be the one guy that happened to be an Air Force brat to Chicago by way of Texas.

Its funny how you know someone in the shop, you work with them under stress all day, and we all dress the same-- cycling caps, black knickers, red mandatory t-shirts. I found out I lived a couple of blocks from Billy, so one night my other shop friend Joey and I invited him over to the neighborhood watering hole. Billys mom, Patti was in town so we invited her too.

Joey and I were sitting at the bar designing these CX frames for smaller women (like myself) when I just panicked-- I said I wanted to run over to my apartment and wear real clothes, because I was slamming vodka in my shop uniform. Joey starts laughing and singing the beginning of the Lion King song loudly, and sure enough-- bike shop crush unlocked. Billy shows up, and I barely recognize him all cleaned up and not wearing a Speedplay cap. It was downhill from there, or maybe uphill depending on how you view cramming a dozen bikes into a small apartment and getting married.
Want to tell about your wedding?
We got married fast. It was pretty funny because the shop assumed I was pregnant, or it was some kind of ultimate prank, or that Billy being grumpy just decided, what the hell. We couldnt have pulled off the wedding without the shop kids, and they all rode over in the rain, pressed shirts and dresses under Goretex. 

We held the wedding at a nature center, surrounded by gravel trails and did a night-time ride and potluck. It was great, one of our friends, Mike even showed up in a tuxedo kit. In true bike shop fashion, someone stole Funyuns from the shop and contributed them to the potluck. Our pastor,
Matt even did a sermon on Ezekiel-- the same one Frances Willard talks about where apparently a biblical prophet sees a bicycle (well wheeled contraption, one can hope its not a recumbent) in a vision.

The sermon was called BMX Jesus and the wedding was just this wild mish-mash of theologians from my seminary and shop guys in plaid shirts. It was a great time. Kolleen-- (who I mentioned rode 20 miles to the wedding with all our decorations,) and her dude Louie also a mechanic in our shop decorated our bikes for the group ride. Larry this full-of-life courier and musician DJed, and Evan a former shop guy photographed the whole thing. I mentioned how bike people are vast tinkerers, well we were in a sea of capable artists that made our wedding possible.

When did you first start riding a bike?
In fourth grade-- but I didn’t really learn until I was almost 30. I started mountain biking with a couple of guys from my old job slinging gear from REI. I remember showing up for classes at seminary all banged up from eating dirt in Brown County. I was horrible at mountain biking, but I really loved it. I refer to mountain biking as “bike portaging” because I just shoulder my bike over beautiful trails and obstacles with no understanding of climbing, shifting and where to place my weight. I probably shouldn’t be alive, but what are you gonna’ do.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I ride a lot for utility because it is sincerely the fastest mode of transport in a city this carved up and crowded. Our trains are slow, traffic is bad and we have a beautiful Lakefront that can send you North to South. If I had to pin motivation, it’s simply I don’t like to be at the mercy of others be it other cars sitting in traffic or the train conductor. There’s also just my inability to shut-up and be present, so bicycling is definitely a form of zen and quiet. I took many night rides when I was in seminary, and truth be told I felt closer to whatever powers-that-be riding around Lake Michigan than I did sitting in chapel.

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
Nah. I thought about building up to gravel racing or something this year, but we just came off the longest, coldest winter in Chicago (Chiberia) and racing is just not a possibility this year because I didn’t work for it in the winter. I hate trainers; I’m clumsy and can’t hold a line. What I am good at is long distance riding, so this year my focus is on the fall centuries and eventually I’d like to be a randonneur-- but I think the criteria is being 60 and a white guy. I haven’t seen much Latina flavor to a brevet, if I am wrong about that-- holler at me girls.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
I used to be a videographer and photographer. Each year I would go to the Teva Mountain Games to shoot, I think it’s branded as something different now, and I just really enjoyed being in the Colorado backcountry with all the MTBers. I would be getting sunburned laying in a ditch to get THE SHOT. I also shot for slope-style events, and I just really love bikes and big air. Leadville too, man. I mean wow the human capacity to just become a tough-as-nails machine. My daughter is doing a report on Idaho, and she has to dress as someone famous from the state.
Rebecca Roush our Leadville Queen of Pain hails from Idaho, so you know-- that’s what parents do. Provide an education to the great races and women of cycling.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I like gravel. The Trans Iowa gravel race goes off this month, 300 miles unsupported, and that’s more compelling to me than Ragbrai. I worked as a newspaper reporter and photographer in Iowa, and I just love the state’s own special brand of wilderness. Who knows. Maybe I’ll turn bionic and expert and tear it up.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
(If not a mountain biker, how 
about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
First MTB ride? Oh yeah man-- braking for every root and cranny until someone had the wise words, “your bike is designed to go over obstacles”. After that all hell broke loose. At one point I was riding alone in Brown County just getting speed for the first time in the woods, and it was the first time I wasn’t afraid. And then shortly after that moment I ate it in a ravine and there was lots of blood. I’m okay, more importantly-- so is my bike.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Again-- someone gave me permission to devour obstacles with my bike. You have a suspension fork-- your bike is resilient and so is the human body many times.

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?
No. Platforms. But entering the realm of touring and efficiency I will be going through what every new beginner does: totally eating it at a stop sign. We are all in this together, I promise.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I get afraid. Like anyone else in the industry you know people who didn’t come home from their commute. On the other hand, it’s the same way driving, or my friend Brenda was hit walking across the street the other day. Everything has inherent risk. It’s important to not be angry, be in control and alert and assume the worst from automobilists. It’s a tough conversation to have, but the biggest thing is I feel better about myself and my world every time I choose that bicycle over my car. 
(And yes I have a car too.) Bikes give me compassion and empathy and I think that’s what happens when you commute at the ground level, less protected like that.

Do you commute even if the weather isnt ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
I will merely respond with the old adage-- there’s no bad days, only bad gear. Ride lots and eventually you will know what you need, what you don’t-- what is truly a risky situation and what is not.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Totally, the spill in Brown County. It hurt and crushed my confidence on a day where I had just acquired it, but all you can do is keep riding. I think we humans have a way of being our worst enemy when it comes to overcoming obstacles. You gotta remember that 95% of the time you will be humming along, full speed, all systems go.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Genuinely, I think it makes me a better person. Also I ride a teal Miyata touring mixte from the mid-eighties with orange cables, so clearly it makes me a hotter person.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Sonya Lovine

I came home from work one evening and saw an email from Sonya. She couldn't remember where, but she had seen a link to my blog where I asked for women to share their stories.

This is a humbling and exciting thing! For once it wasn't me randomly emailing people I found, but someone emailing me!

Sonya's story really resonated with me; similar in some spots to what I experienced when I got back on a bike.

It may not be mountain biking or something equally as daring-but it is inspiring. A real woman in the real world-finding love with biking.

Here's a little more about Sonya
I'm 47 years old and I work at a university as a Research Officer...and recently just graduated with my master's degree in Public History. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
As a child, I rode my Schwinn Li’l Chick everywhere.  After moving to a new neighborhood when I was a pre-teen, I gave up riding my bike altogether because we no longer lived in an area where it was safe for kids to ride bikes as we were butted up against one of the busiest streets in Sacramento.  But at the age of 44, I decided it was time for me to start riding again!  It was only three years ago when a friend and I saw a Huffy cruiser on Craigslist – we drove right out to the location of the bike and within minutes of seeing this used, single speed, light blue, coaster brakes, heavy Huffy with a pink skull bell on it – I was in love!  I became the new owner of a bike I didn’t even know how to ride!  For a good week I was afraid to even get on my bike!  Shortly thereafter I began walking my bike to a nearby church parking lot to practice – or rather, re-learn – how to ride a bike. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Somehow I became brave enough to start commuting to work by bike.  I was so happy that I was finally out there with all the other cyclists who were on their sleek and sexy fast bikes - while I was proudly on my Huffy.  As I continued to ride to work regularly, I noticed how much better I felt about getting up in the morning and going to work and then de-stressing on my ride home.  I started losing weight without even trying.  I was saving money on gas and maintenance on my car.  I was discovering a new way of life and contributing to an environmentally friendlier earth.  In addition, I started pushing myself on the weekends riding up and down the bike trail along the river as far as I could go on a 40-pound Huffy.  Biking became my mode of transportation, my form of exercise, my entertainment, my means of relieving stress – my everything.

Do you remember how you felt on your first commuter ride?
I remember the first time I started to commute by bike - the friend who took me to buy the bike rode with me on my first commute to work.  I was extremely nervous.  As my friend escorted me to work that morning I remember telling him I felt like he was walking his kindergartner to her first day of school!  That was how scared, impressionable, nervous, and excited I was feeling.  When it was time to head home from work that day, my friend came to pick me up.  Boy was I grateful to see his face that afternoon!  

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
To overcome the nervousness I had early on, I merely kept riding!  Each day I knew I had to get back on my bike and ride to work and soon enough the fears and anxiety would go away.  Riding the same path on a daily basis helped me build up the confidence I needed.  I also asked friends and neighbors for tips on how they made their commute safer.  After hearing so many people tell me “you’ll be fine”, eventually I was convinced that, yes, I am absolutely fine and I can do this!  As I started doing much longer rides on the weekends on the trail, my short 20-minute work commute became easy breezy!

If you are a commuter, what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
Challenges of commuting by bike are great but the benefits gained far outweigh the obstacles.  Riding to and from work during rush hour is not always relaxing and stress-free as you attempt to cross one of the most dangerous streets in your city (my life has certainly come full-circle!)  On almost a daily basis I encounter drivers who cut me off at intersections, come flying out of driveways or parking lots without fully stopping, many who are just simply impatient.  The only way to overcome this is to always be alert, focused and aware of your surroundings at all times on your ride.  In addition to challenges caused by cars and drivers, there are also other simpler hindrances one has to deal with - these include, waking up on time to allow enough time to commute by bike rather than racing by car to get to work; the challenge of still looking professional (dress, makeup, hair) by the time you arrive to work by bike; and of course, if you forget something at home, or all of a sudden have an unplanned meeting that you have to rush out to, it’s not always easy to handle these situations when on bike.

Have you had a bike biff?  If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I have had a bike biff.  Well, it was a bit greater than biffing it.  I was hit by a car and landed on the hood, and then thrown off of it onto …ready for this… that same dangerous street in Sacramento that I previously mentioned…during rush hour traffic.  I had been riding for about a year and a half when I was hit – it was one of the most traumatic experiences I have ever been through.  I am really not sure I ever mentally or emotionally recovered from the incident.  I ended up with a concussion, sprained shoulder and clavicle, and sprained ankle – many say I was lucky.  All things considered, I was very lucky.  Physical therapy repaired the physical injuries – but nothing really repairs the emotional injuries.  As soon as I possibly could I got back on my bike and rode by myself out to the scene of the incident.  I had to do that for me but it didn’t cure anything – it just heightened the flashbacks.  I didn’t ride my bike again for several months – for so many reasons I was simply unable to.  Finally I talked to someone whom I never met before but I knew she went through her own horrific experience.  Out of all the things she told me, one thing really stuck with me – she said if ever I felt hesitant or tentative or anxious about anything to just pull over.  She said to pull my bike over and be calm and don’t start riding again until I feel better or call someone to pick me up if necessary.  Just hearing that bit of advice helped me in so many ways.  It helped me believe that I could get back out there on my bike and ride and that there would be nothing to be afraid of because I can always stop if I need to. 

Now, two years later, I assist with the coordination of our local Ride of Silence.  This will be my second year in helping coordinate the efforts of this very important ride.  My involvement in helping to spread the word to protect all cyclists and to honor those that have been killed has given me a sense of peace and strength.  My traumatic experience has prompted me to do what I can to bring awareness to our community that we all must share the road because these are human beings’ lives which are being put at risk daily.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the feeling of freedom and independence riding a bike gives me.  It’s what everyone has said before yet so true!  The wind in my hair – the efficiency of not being stuck in traffic – saving money – saving the earth – being self-reliant – feeling healthier – the list goes on and on!  Riding my very simple bike gives me great feelings of joy and euphoria.  Even to this day, on my regular weekend rides, I encounter the same small “rolling hills” on the bike trail - and each and every time I go over these little hills, I still get butterflies in my stomach and smiles on my face just like I did the very first time I went over them!  The pleasure and adventure of riding a bicycle doesn’t go away – it only gets better every time you get outside and go for a ride!

Have you volunteered with any bike-related organizations?
I have volunteered only once before with the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates...but hope to do more of it now that I have finished school! 
One of the first things I did when I first started learning how to ride again was I learned how to completely strip a bicycle, give it a tuneup, and then rebuild it!  That was actually quite challenging...but it was a very helpful way to learn about all the various components and parts of a bicycle and how to fix them.  I did that at the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen where they have volunteers that help you do that kind of thing.  But perhaps my greatest involvement in the bicycling community is my involvement with the Ride of Silence in Sacramento.  Not sure if you are familiar with the Ride of Silence ...but it is a worldwide ride that happens annually in May.  Its goal is to make people aware of cyclists and get everyone to share the road.  Sacramento has never had a very big Ride of Silence...prior to last year their number of participants were approximately 15 people at the most.  Well last year, following my accident, I decided to be one of the lead coordinators for this ride...and we upped our number of participants to 75!  I was happy about that!  This year we hope to grow it even more! 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Ripple Effect

I'm feeling very grateful right now and continually feeling humble over what has happened during the past few months. Honestly, I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I first started blogging for Imagine Northeast Iowa. Frankly I didn't know if I was writing anything worth reading, because I have serious confidence issues over my writing.

Often I will say that I feel if I have the opportunity to write what I want to say vs. just speak aloud-it will come out much more how I want it to sound or be. When I'm talking to someone or sharing personal feelings, I get very awkward, nervous, lose words, and in general have anxiety over saying things "right."

Oh gravy, the pressure that is so easily put on ones self to do it "right" and feel like you are continually falling short.

I was pretty tired yesterday for allergies have been affecting me and there is an enormous amount of stress in my life right now. I had a regular customer come to my line and inform me she's a high school English teacher. Not only is she a teacher, but she recently found some of my writings (I imagine from Imagine Northeast Iowa or perhaps Breathing Happy). She told me that I was a very good writer-that I write with a sense of voice.

Maybe it's because I feel my vocal voice is too small to get anywhere. Maybe it's the act of storytelling that can only be done with typing it out. Maybe it's because it's an easy way to get a message out to more people without it seeming to be TMI (depending on the topic)...for whatever reason, it is what it is.
I was told by a friend that I write really well, and there was a point in time I emailed them very regularly. It was all during my time of self-reflection and figuring out my "next step" when it came to divorce and living after that. I would apologize for writing a page or so of words in an email, knowing full well that they were busy and likely not able to read it right away.

I hope to not come off sounding like I'm bragging about how amazing I am or how "great" I've turned out to be. It's not the goal of this. My message is simple-even if you may not feel confident that you are good at something, but you find enjoyment with it. One thing I've learned and am still learning is that overall, life is too short to not invest yourself in something that brings you joy and fulfillment.

If people enjoy the blog posts I write-great!
If people enjoy the interviews I post-great! (keep in mind, most often than not I've written very little and it's entirely the voice of the person being interviewed.)

A simple blog started because I felt some things I had to write about that were bike related just weren't worth submitting. This turned out into something even more special than just a sounding board for my lackluster rides cloaked with residual "meh"...because we all have those rides.

Opportunities have cropped up here and there-finding myself being an Ambassador for two companies. (Both on a whim and completely clouded in self-doubt)...meeting Melissa (online) from Pedal Love and having future opportunities for her site.
I'm meeting people online, making connections, and finding that I may have to break out of my small-town Iowa shell and go on some road trips someday. I'm finding people I'd like to meet, have real conversations with, and ride with. I'm inspired by those who have opened up and taken the time to answer my questions, also finding new questions to ask as well! I would've never guessed a bike would've brought all this, plus a renewed sense of self, love, and purpose into my life.

Recently I was asked by another blogger, Dianne, if I'd like to do an interview swap. It was fun to actually be on the receiving end-Dianne's interview with me.... This coming from someone (me) who felt they wouldn't be interesting enough to talk to. Ha! Well, apparently I've been proven wrong.

I had a friend and person I respect say some beautiful words of encouragement to me last night on Facebook. I know I'm doing something good for myself as well as the bike riding community here and all over. It's simple, it may not bring in revenue or be massively shared on the internet-but it's another drop making that big puddle ripple. Those ripples are inspiration and they are heading your way. What will you do with your water drop?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Women Involved: Karen Canady

When I committed to commuting on the bike every day (a decision I made back in 2011), I found myself experimenting with different clothing options. I found I did not like riding in long pants. Even if I got the cuff under control, it was less comfortable to ride in pants. I tried skorts, but did not like wearing them. I have found that I love riding in skirts, as they are great both on and off the bike. But I did not like the available options for what to wear for coverage underneath the skirt. I tried "shapewear" but it was too constricting. I tried bike shorts, but the padding got uncomfortable after a couple of hours at the office, and I did not want to have to change my clothes. This is what led me to create Bikie Girl Bloomers, a line of shorts and skirts that are ideal for wearing all day, both on and off the bike, for both casual and dressy occasions. I wanted "normal" clothes, in that there is nothing technical or athletic about them (no fancy vents, pads, or reflective strips), and yet they are truly comfortable for cycling. 

Once I knew what I wanted to make, I emailed an old friend I hadn't seen in years to ask if she still works in the apparel industry. Not only did she say yes, but I learned that she provides consulting services to people starting a clothing business, so I hired her. She taught me the steps along the way and introduced me to a designer, pattern-maker, cutter, sewer, all right here in the L.A. garment district, and she guided me through the process. Now I am working on marketing the line and developing some new styles. I don't know yet if I will ever be able to make it a profitable venture, but I decided that it is worthwhile if I can at least influence how women think about what they wear on the bike and how easily they can incorporate bicycling into their everyday lives. One of my greatest thrills is when a woman tells me she wants to start bicycling just so she can wear the Bikie Girl Bloomers outfit.

When did you first start riding a bike? 
As a little girl, maybe age 5 or 6. I remember gathering my family members to watch me ride down the sidewalk for my first time riding without training wheels – and then crashing into the bushes!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
One of my first purchases when I got my first job after college was a bike. I started using it to ride with friends out to a lake for fun. The rolling hills were an incredible thrill. It was the first physical activity other than swimming that I could truly enjoy, in that I didn’t feel clumsy or awkward or weak. Instead, I felt both graceful and powerful. My big thighs were an asset rather than a hindrance. Pretty soon I started using my bike to commute to work, and then got in the habit of going for a 45 minute ride after work, and longer rides on the weekend. Next thing I knew, I was training for my first triathlon.

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
I did several short course triathlons and a few biathlongs (run-bike-run) during my 20’s. I did it for the challenge, just to see if I could finish it. The swim and the bike were both a joy for me, but running was a tough challenge. I’m just not built for running, and I found it especially hard to run just after a long bike ride.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
At this point in my life (I’m 52), I can’t get into the competitive mindset, as a competitor or as a spectator. It’s hard when you no longer feel a need to prove anything!  But now that they are bringing a woman’s stage back into the Tour de France, I just might have to start watching.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I like paved roads, thank you! I suppose I haven’t given mountain biking a fair try, but I think of what it feels like when my road bike tires slip on sand that blows onto the bike path along the beach.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
I’m not a mountain biker, but I started using a hybrid bike for commuting.  Once I had to jump a curb from street to sidewalk to avoid some cars, and I was very impressed – definitely could not have pulled that off with my road bike!

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Nervousness about riding? I’ve felt that when taking a fast descent on winding roads. I keep my speed in check before approaching the curves, and I try to just be one with the experience and avoid over thinking it.

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 love clipless pedals. You can really feel the increased power and efficiency of your pedal stroke. My advice to beginners: just do it. Try them on a day when you will be on roads where there is room to fall over if that happens. Maybe wear long pants or tights so you won’t get road rash. I fell once on my first day and I think that fall taught me to plan ahead for stops and develop a method for unclipping quickly. And don’t put your arm out to break your fall – you’ll just break your arm!

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I used to have a commute that included a few short stretches along a super busy arterial that could not be avoided. I used the sidewalks for those portions of the ride, and made a conscious effort to be patient about stopping or slowing for pedestrians and being extra careful at driveways and intersections.
I had a big breakthrough when I decided to stop commuting on my road bike and start using an upright hybrid/city bike. I felt much more visible to motorists and it was easier to look around. I felt safer and I felt more elegant riding that way! I put a roomy basket on the rear rack and that made a huge difference. It’s so easy to throw my purse, lunch, briefcase, groceries, etc. in the basket and go.

Do you commute even if the weather isn’t ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable? 
Sometimes. I have a short commute, so it’s not a big deal, and bad weather here in Los Angeles just means rain. I do bundle up big time for cold mornings – scarves and gloves make a significant difference.  I have ridden a few times in heavy rain, using a poncho but still getting soaked. It was an adventure, but not something I would do often.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level? 
I had to look this up, guess it’s a mountain biking term. I have not had a completely solo wipe-out, if that’s what it means, or at least not that I remember. I did wipe-out at the very beginning of my first day of my first Ride the Rockies (week-long tour in Colorado) when the person in front of me stopped suddenly and without warning. It messed up my derailleur and I had to wait for a sag support van to come help me fix it. 

That was a demoralizing start to my trip, but I got over it by the end of the day, I suppose because the ride was just so beautiful and exhilarating.  I’ve had two run-ins with cars, years ago, both were turning right and didn’t see me. Those were angering, frustrating, disheartening, and it took me a while (not terribly long) to warm back up to bicycling afterward. Mostly they taught me the value of defensive riding and the importance of not assuming a driver sees me. Now I try to anticipate situations where a right turning driver might not see me and plan for it.

What do you love about riding your bike? 
I feel free, powerful, and energized when I ride. I love that I’m breathing fresh air, not boxed up in a car. I love that I can zip past stalled traffic and don’t have to search for a parking spot. I love that I’m not spending money on gas or parking. I love the bounce in my step as I walk from my bike to the elevators at my office building. I’m always in a better mood on the days I started out with a bike ride.

What has been one of your biggest challenges with your business or selling your product? 
Figuring out how to market my product has been challenging. I am still trying to figure out how to communicate the value and versatility of having clothes you can wear both on and off the bike, for both casual and business activities. Hardest for me has been helping people break out of the mindset that bicycle clothing has to be athletic wear. Many women, when they see my line at a bicycling-related event, ask “where’s the pad?” when they see the shorts, or other questions that suggest it hasn’t occurred to them that bicycling can be something other than a sweaty, hours-long sport activity.

I’m still not sure where to direct my marketing efforts. I don’t sell a lot of product at events that are geared toward road cyclists, but others, like the Seattle Bike Expo, attract more transportation cyclists, who are more apt to “get it”. Bike shops don’t see my clothing as pertaining to their customers, but I think there are lots of women who would use their bikes more if they could visualize riding in normal, comfortable clothing.

What has been one of your greatest successes with your product? 
I get really excited when someone tells me that they have decided to start riding their bike (or even go out and buy a bike) just so they can wear the Bikie Girl Bloomers outfit! My friend, Linda, was the first to tell me that, and she now commutes to work by bike every day. She had been concerned about riding uphill to work and showing up sweaty, but she takes her bike on the bus in the morning and then rides the whole route home. Now she comes with me to events to help sell Bikie Girl Bloomers to more women!

I'm sure you wear your product regularly-what was one of the most fun experiences you had wearing Bikie Girl Bloomers? 
Most fun was one day as I was walking along Wilshire Boulevard, just a block from my office. There’s a grate over the subway tunnel there, and a train must have gone by. Suddenly my skirt swooshed up toward my face as I was walking. I was wearing the black skirt (and looking fairly business-like) with the flame print shorts underneath. A woman walking towards me got the full flash of my shorts and laughed. I loved it!

Check out the Bikie Girl Bloomers website and on Facebook: Bikie Girl Bloomers

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Men on Bikes: Brett Donelson

Brett is the man and brains behind The Cycle Effect

When did you first start riding a bike?
I was a ski coach following endless winters.  SO I didn’t really start riding on a regular basis until 2008. In that time is has grown into a bigger and bigger part of my life.   

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I have an active brain, so it is a very good place to go and get away from deadlines, schedules, and expectations.    

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain)
I spend almost all of my time on my XC MTB.  I will have a cross bike this year, but at first, it will double as a road bike and commuter.  I then may race a little in the fall when CX starts.  We will see. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
At that point in my life, I was always looking for the next great thing in fitness.  I evaluated it and realized that it was fun, burned a lot of calories, and I could do it by myself.  So it made “logical” sense to do it again.  I now have a very different attitude, but those were my first impressions.   

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Compared to a lot of the riders I go out with, I am pretty chicken on rocks and technical features.  I don’t think that I will ever get to a point where I think I am a great “technical” rider, but I just go try features over and over and practice them.  I am not sure that there are any other ways of doing it.   

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?
Yes.  When we coach our girls at The Cycle Effect.  We spend 2-3 practices on clipping in and out.  We go out into a field and let them experiment.  We also have them go around cones and other bike handling skills. But I make sure that they all get challenged enough so they do fall on the grass.  I think it helps them to know that if they don’t clip out, they WILL fall over.  But doing it on the grass is a good, safe way to make that connection.   

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I do not commute as much as I would like to.  I often start my day at work at 6AM, so getting up in the dark, cold winter and riding is not something I have been able to motivate myself to do very often.  Things change as I move into the summer months. 

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I fall regularly.  If it is a hard fall, I will alway go home, take a day or 2 off and re-evaluate if riding is something I want to keep doing.  I have never came up with a “no”.   

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that climbing in a race, I can doubt myself and what I am doing literally every 30 seconds.  The same way I can when I start something new like The Cycle Effect.  The same rules apply: take a breathe, relax my shoulders and just keep going.  

You can check out The Cycle Effect on Facebook: The Cycle Effect

Monday, April 21, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Emily June Street

I would like to introduce Emily who is the author of
The Velocipede Races 

Emily's Daily Commute: 7.2 miles each way, Marin County, California

Emily's Bike: Felt Racing women's F series

When did you first start riding a bike?
I rode around the neighborhood when I was a kid, probably from about age six to about age eleven. Then I got serious about ballet and was told by my teacher not to ride a bike as it would overdevelop my thighs—a ridiculous piece of advice for an eleven year old! But I stopped until about age sixteen, and then I took it up again, particularly when I lived in Honolulu without a car. I’ve been a daily bike commuter here in California for the past eight years.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I like the independence of biking. I also like to breathe the fresh air and get exercise without scheduling it. I feel faster and freer on a bike.

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
I have never competed in an event.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
I like to watch track races. If I were to compete, I think I’d like to compete in a track race. I like the speed and strategy and the fierce competition. I wrote a novel called The Velocipede Races, which features keirin-racing in an early twentieth century world. I loved doing the research for the race scenes.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I prefer road biking.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
I remember the first ride I took after the ballet moratorium! It was mind-blowing. My older brother took me on a ride on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, California, overlooking the Monterey Bay and Pacific Ocean. I hadn’t ridden in years, and I felt an incredible sense of joy and freedom as we sped along the path by the water. I actually felt my heart expanding in my chest. I wanted to bike every day after that.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I’ve never been nervous on a bike, not even in busy city traffic or heavy rain. The thing is to make sure you know the rules of the road as they apply to you, the cyclist. After over ten years of almost daily riding, I feel as comfortable on a bike as I do on my feet—much more comfortable on a bike than in a car.

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 love clipless pedals. I can’t imagine riding without them, because you get so much more out of your pedaling action—you can pull as well as push and make use of  the full muscular capabilities of the legs. My current commute is a seven-mile straight shot with only two stop signs, so having the clipless pedals is a no-brainer. I don’t have any particular advice except to practice in a comfortable place until you get the hang of them—but if you have a significant commute, make the switch! So much better for your legs to balance the efforts quads and hamstrings.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
My main challenge is the cold in winter. I hate the cold. Even with three or four pairs of high quality gloves, I still get horrible chilblains all over my hands from riding in the winter. I’ve invested in better winter gear, wool leggings, wool glove liners, neoprene mitts, but I still have trouble with my hands. Next winter I may try some kind of heatable glove.

Do you commute even if the weather isn’t ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
I ride in almost all weather—the exceptions being really heavy rain and severe frosts. I have a considerable climb and descent on my commute, and in the hard frosts, when the road is icy, that descent really isn’t safe on my particular bike. Also, I hate the cold. Luckily we only have one or two days like that a year. 

Would you be able to share how it is commuting in your area?
I live in a biking paradise compared to most of the country, and my commute is just about ideal. My ride takes me along a rural valley floor surrounded by green hillsides, fresh air, and trees. The bike lane is well marked, as the route is a favorite of weekend pleasure riders. I don’t encounter a stop-light or sign until the final mile of the ride, when I pull into the bike-accustomed town of Fairfax, which is always full of cyclists. The motorists are pretty aware of our presence, though traffic can get a little hectic in the tight conditions downtown. Taking the lane is an important aspect of biking safely in that environment, and I don’t hesitate to do it to avoid parked car doors and to make myself visible.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I have had some good biffs. Two were due to riding in wet weather and hitting patches of slick leaves or mud. I’ve learned to pay more attention in those conditions—I’m a lot more careful when it’s wet. I got tagged by a car door a few years ago and flew over my handlebars. I rolled and had a few bruises, nothing more. Now I make sure to give myself space when there are parked cars in the lane. I do a lot of cross-training with Pilates, and I think that has been important in not being injured during falls. Lately the only place I fall is my own driveway—it’s gravel, and sometimes I brake too suddenly when I arrive home, skid, and eat it.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the sense of lightness and independence being on bike gives me. The actual motions of riding—the rhythmic use of my legs, the stabilizing of my center and arms, and the fullness of my breath—are also very satisfying. I feel fully alive when I ride. 

What is something you would like people to know about bike riding?
Bike riding is better for your health than driving. People often seem afraid of biking, but they aren’t afraid of all the damage sitting in a car is doing to their bodies. The benefits of biking outweigh the risks. Biking also puts us in the moment, forces us to concentrate and pay attention, two skills that apply to every other aspect of life. It’s good learning and good practice.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes! I have always wanted to be a writer and have always been a writer. I’ve written stories through most of my life, starting at about age twelve. Sharing my writing is a new thing, but so far, it’s been very exciting and fulfilling. My friend, Beth Deitchman, and I run our own publishing company called Luminous Creatures Press. (

What inspired you to pick the subject(s) you did for your book?
My commute and the work that I do inspired The Velocipede Races. I teach Pilates at my studio in Fairfax, so I regularly witness to how physical endeavors can transform the psyche. I read a bit about the history of the bicycle and early feminism and applied the notion that becoming physically stronger changes how we think and encourages us to take risks to lead a more fulfilled life. Velo Races was born. I plotted the book and even composed sentences during my commute.

What inspired you to write your book?
I first considered the idea of a bike-racing book while riding. I love the motion and the feeling so much, I wanted to express it. That naturally got me thinking about how our physical lives shape our mental lives. I read a lot of historical fiction, and so often the female characters in historical fiction are trapped inside their clothes and their inactive lives. I wanted to experiment with writing a trapped woman who escaped her position in the world via bike-riding. I wanted to fictionalize that process of physicality imparting freedom.

Do you see other bike-related books in your future?
I just finished a short spin-off story from The Velocipede Races that will be published by Elly Blue in the anthology Bikes in Space, Volume 2. It’s a collection of sci-fi and fantasy bike stories and will be available via Elly’s site: I have also written another full length novel set in the same world as The Velocipede Races, called The Secret Room, which will be published in May 2014. The Secret Room is a much darker story than Velo Races, but it does involve a few velocipedes, and my heroine from Velo Races has a cameo role. I have so many projects on the back burner right now, I’m not sure whether biking will feature in any of them. I do like the idea of a classic epic fantasy story where the questing party rides bikes instead of horses.

What is one thing you'd like to share about yourself that you think is interesting (doesn't have to be bike related-but can be!)
My other hobby is the flying trapeze.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Tonya Bray

How did I find Tonya? I just started doing searches on female mountain bikers. Isn't that part of a project? Research? You betcha! However I always worry that with randomly contacting individuals from small town Iowa, I'll be thought of as crazy.

I've been humbled with how open and wonderful the individuals I've talked to have been. From local people in my community to individuals all over, Tonya was very happy to contribute to my project.

Tonya has an impressive career but also an overall mission to empower women in cycling. You can read her profile-Tonya Bray on her website. 

What I have found truly amazing is that pretty much every female mountain biker that has ridden in the pro or semi-pro (or not even professional) are so wanting to encourage women to get on a bicycle and ride. That further motivates me to reach out to fellow women bike riders and have them help me encourage you to get on a bike and ride! 

When did you first start riding a bike?
My first memories of riding a bicycle are when I lived in Europe, I was around 5. One day I had a friend over, and I rode my bike down the stairs. My friend, who happened to be a boy, tried to ride down the stairs as well, and fell off.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
There is an inherent need in my being to ride a bike. It's difficult to pinpoint one reason. There are myriad reasons from staying fit, to being outside, having an excuse to not do yard work, having an excuse to eat more food. Competition. Community.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain)
Mountain biking. I love getting dirty. I love riding over rocks and roots, riding switchbacks, flying down the trail with dirt and rocks flying, my hair buoyant in the wind.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
I don't even know when my first actual mountain bike ride was, but I believe I was in Oklahoma going to school in Norman. I had a Huffy, and I borrowed a friend's car to drive to to the local trailhead. I probably rode for about 15 minutes and thought it was hard. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I breathe. I have mantras. I play the song "Just Breathe" in my head and roll. Then I smile, because if I can't smile and laugh, it's not worth doing. The funny thing is, once you breathe and smile, everything becomes so much easier. There is that survival button, however, that must be listened to when it's serious. I try to challenge myself, but keep myself upright as much as possible.

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 like Crank Brothers for learning, but any pedal system will do. Most issues with getting out of your pedals comes from improper cleat position. I suggest sitting on a trainer in the bike shop and clicking in and out of your pedals 100 times on each side before going live. Before that- do the Dorothy. Stand with your feet together, then pivot your heels out as far as possible, then back, clicking your heels. That is the motion it takes to release the pedals. Go clipless as soon as possible. The energy savings and the security on the descents is incredible!

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
My biggest challenge as a commuter is motivation. The evening rides are the most difficult. Fortunately my commute is around 5 miles, so it's short. I always know I will feel so much better at work and at home if I do ride my bike, so that is what keeps me commuting by bike 3-5 days per week. I just feel so much better, and if I can just get my butt on the saddle, it's all good from there!

If you live where there is a snowy or icy winter, do you still commute? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
It sometimes rains like crazy here. I wear full rain gear, and just suck it up.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Many, many crashes. I've been to the ER a couple of times, but mostly it's just a bump, a scratch, or perhaps ripping the skin off my lip like I did 2 weeks ago. I always ease back in, check my skills, and build my confidence slowly. I ride below my full potential just to be sure I don't make those silly mistakes. The best thing to do is get back on the bike as soon as possible and just get the pedals moving. It's never easy to get back, but the positives always outweigh the negatives.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The speed, the freedom, the rush, the wind in my hair, the feeling of flying through the air, the dirt. The sweaty clothes after the ride, the hot shower, the yoga, the recovery meals. I love everything about riding my bike.

Want to connect with Tonya or check out what she's up to?