Friday, July 31, 2015

Women in Bike Shops Series: Andrea Cohen

I am a 25 year old lady hanging out in Iowa City, IA. Pretty much every aspect of my life is devoted to cycling. I work full time at World of Bikes in Iowa City honing my bike knowledge and getting more people on bikes daily. At the shop I lead the Women on Wheels.

I lead this group of women on social rides and fat-bike rides. I also hold flat-tire clinics as often as possible. The opportunity to get more women on bikes through my shop is one of my favorite things about working at a shop! 

The rest of my life is dedicated to my love of ultra-endurance cycling. I am new to the Salsa Cycles family for 2015 as a sponsored rider. I have been involved with the ultra-endurance cycling scene since 2012 and I am completely stoked to continue down this path as an athlete. I have completed events such as TransIowa, Dirty Kanza, the Royal Almanzo, and countless 100 mile gravel events. Gravel is where I got my start and this year I am going to add in more MTB events. Chequamegon 100 and Wausau 12 hour are on my list.

Check out My Blog and Facebook!

What inspired you to seek employment at a bike shop?
I had graduated college about a year before and I was fumbling around with odd jobs. My family has always been passionate about bikes, participating in countless RAGBRAIs and my younger Brother has worked in a bike shop for nearly ten years now. I went to a local race with a former employee of the shop and asked her if she thought I should apply. I was already a strong member of the cycling community and knew I loved bikes so it was a great fit. My Brother actually works at the shop across the street from us so it has become a family affair within the Iowa City cycling community!

Are there any other women who are employed at the shop?
Currently there isn’t. World of Bikes seems to be a shop that always has at least one lady working for them. I definitely miss having the camaraderie and understanding we shared at the shop.  

What do you enjoy about working at the bike shop?
I enjoy first off getting people on bikes. I truly love sharing my passion and teaching others about cycling. Before I worked in the shop I found my passion through commuting and the community of people that supported cycling in Iowa City. I have since broadened this community and I am really starting to find a voice at my shop. I love being able to take my ideas and run with them. Plus I get to play with awesome bikes all day and work with amazing people.

Have you had challenges at the shop?
I would say that nearly every day something challenging pops up. The mechanical workings and technical side of bicycles is something that I struggle with every single day. I have noticed that over the last two years at the shop that I have grown immensely. I try to tackle every challenge I am faced with and learn from it. I know I am working with a strong team and that they support this growth, that is extremely important and I am lucky to work with such a great group of guys.

What do you feel are common misconceptions about women who work at bike shops?
I am not there to overcome barriers or prove my worth; this is a job that I have decided is going to set up my career choice. I will not be leaving the bike industry any time soon. There may be misconceptions that women who work at shops are just there to sell clothes and cute accessories to women. While I certainly love shopping I think people need to realize that every single person who works at a bike shop spends just as much time as I do picking out these things. If anything men have more choices which makes it even harder to pick out the perfect outfit! Beyond the actual shopping experiences I am faced with sometimes odd reactions from mostly men. The knowledge I have gained from a mechanical standpoint helps me deal with all different opinions, but I have also learned how to stand up for myself  not just because I feel the need to defend my position, but because I am becoming a more confident and bold person. It is exciting to surprise the naysayers and to augment the growing women’s cycling scene.

Why should women not be apprehensive about seeking employment at bike shops?
If you really want to work in a bike shop, then you should apply! If the shop doesn’t understand why a lady would want to work for them you would not want to work there, and honestly I would never shop there.   Bike shops and the bike industry in general is a place where strong opinions and passionate people thrive. Choosing to work in a bike shop instead of going down the path of whatever is considered the “proper” path for a person with a 4-year degree has just shown me how much more I can accomplish when I am doing what I love. Gender should never be something that limits your passion or decision making.

What are some of the things you’ve learned since working at the shop?
I learn something new every day. Bikes are always evolving and I am always working to keep up with that flow. Again, the people I work with are an endless resource of information. Some of my favorite things that I have learned during my career at World of Bikes are the simple things, swapping cassettes, doing minor wheel trues, and tweaking shifting. I have never really taken to anything mechanical so this has been the hardest part of working in a shop, but it is one of the most rewarding feelings to accomplish something on my own that I couldn’t fix a week before.

Tell us about your riding group: Women on Wheels-
Iowa City has a very strong cycling community considering how small the town is. We have an established ladies only racing team, which is one of the ways I got into riding more competitively, but they can be intimidating. They lead road rides weekly and organize races throughout the year. Women on Wheels was formed to fill in the gap between more serious fitness rides and ladies who haven’t been on bikes in years. I lead casual trail rides, flat tire clinics, and fat-bike rides. There are no expectations except to have fun and stay relaxed. While the ladies may be outside of their comfort zone, they are hopefully never in a position where they feel scared or like they are not welcome.

What suggestions would you give to those looking to start a group-ride concept?
Just do it! It took me a long time to realize that even if only one person shows up that is a ride. I was worried that we would take the wrong route, or go too fast, too slow, not long enough, or something horrible would happen. None of that is the case. Creating a ride that you feel is safe, inviting, and fun can be easy and should be. Don’t overdo it; just go for a bike ride, any kind! Sometimes our rides are just to the local eating spot.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
I think they might be preconceived notions for every type of rider. There aren’t many examples for women to follow into the cycling realm. Typically it seems like there is either super bad-ass, hardcore ladies or comfy, cruising ladies, there is no happy medium. Personally I get stuck with the super hardcore persona, but I know I didn’t start there and a majority of my riding is commuting. I think women need more of a story or understanding of how to navigate the wide array of bicycles and what is needed to ride as well. It is often assumed bike shop employees have always known how to make riding easy, but that is not true. We all started somewhere, men and women alike. Finding a welcoming shop that really knows how to convey this is key to getting women on bikes. It doesn’t even matter what bicycles they are selling if she is not understood! I always try to communicate just how self-conscious I was when I started riding, and that is a conversation anyone at a bike shop should understand.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Ask those awkward questions and I think you will find the answers you need to feel safe and comfortable. When you walk into a bike shop you should be the only thing that matters to that shop. Ask if there are any women in your community who ride if there isn’t a lady employed at the particular shop. I really believe that every shop should at least have that knowledge, if they don’t they are doing it wrong. Not just something, but the whole shop is in trouble. I tend to get worked up about this, but I know it’s a change that can happen and is easy to make in this industry. You should be able to find a bike shop in your community that you can rely on and trust.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Nearly everything I just explained inspires me. The feeling of power I have as I slowly hone my passion and skills. The excitement I feel when I see a lady conquer every type of ride from a simple paved trail ride to a fat-bike romp through the woods. When a customer comes back in raving about how much fun she had taking out her friends or family on her new favorite bike route.  The fact that how I edged my way into the cycling community was through a group of strong women. I want to build up the community as much as I can. It is my way of giving back to a community of people who support me endlessly. The more ladies we have on bikes the stronger we are! 
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have my black belt in Shōrin-ryū karate! Years of my Mother forcing me to stick with something paid off, and I will never be able to thank her enough for all the discipline to keep me going!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Five Ten Freerider Shoe: A Product Review

Delving deeper into the world of mountain biking and reading about footwear that other riders prefer, you can easily become somewhat lost with limited options of shoes for women.
Last season Travis had me try the 2FO shoes from Specialized, which were designed with a similar sole as the ever popular Five Ten shoes. I've enjoyed those shoes, but sometimes I yearned for something a bit more "everyday wear" friendly.

I'm a classic "black shoe" woman. I also found the overall make of the 2FO shoe fine, but found it hard to keep my feet from getting too chilly when it was cooler outside.

This season we saw future availability of ordering Five Ten shoes through QBP.
(If you do not live locally, you can order Five Ten shoes on Dirty!)
A friend of mine wanted to try a pair, and I very much saw a shoe that I knew I'd be happy to wear on a regular basis. The Women's Five Ten Freerider in black/berry. Just a hint of color, but nothing so outrageous to clash with my work attire or non-work attire.

At this point I still ride flats on the Trek Carbon Lush 27.5 and on my commuter bike. (Clipless on the Trek Cali Carbon SLX)
I found that I still would have pedal grip issues with the 2FO shoes sometimes, like I just couldn't get the sole to "stick" as much as I liked. With all the positive reviews I heard about the Five Ten shoes, I felt it would be valuable product research.
My friend had gotten a pair of shoes before I did, and she loved them- so yeah, the decision was an easy one!
Then Travis got a pair, too, and found them to be very comfortable and amazingly grippy on flat pedals.

The day came and the Freerider shoes came to the shop, hooray! I took my first free moment to put them on and was very impressed with how comfortable they were out of the box. I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to wear them around during my workday to break them in a little, but in the end- I feel like they were ready to wear without issue.

I'm picky with shoes that I wear on a daily basis. I've stood many, many hours on my feet over almost 7 years, so I have looked far and wide for comfortable, durable shoes that are also purposeful. If you can find a shoe that would work for hiking or biking that is also able to withstand hours of standing/walking on hard surfaces- YES, I considered that a score.

These shoes felt great out of the box. No, they aren't hiking shoes by any means, but walking around the shop and home was fine. They were flexible enough for me to feel comfortable walking, the 2FO shoes did not feel like a muli-use shoe to me after wearing them for awhile.

I really like the color combo of the shoes. Mostly black with one pop of color- however the soles get dirty quickly, but what do you expect? I work at a bike shop AND I mountain bike, ha!

The first time I wore them on my bike, I was literally shocked with how grippy the shoes felt on my pedal pins. Like it sucked them up, it was impressive! First mountain bike ride with them was equally impressive. Not that I don't pop a foot off a pedal here or there, but it's a lot less than with other shoes I've worn.

I also feel that the shoes fit true to size. I wear an 8 1/2 for most shoes.
The toebox is comfortable, not too confining nor too big.
I like the fact they have normal shoelaces. (Not bungee style- which I loathe.) I do wish they had a feature to keep laces tied down, but I'm proficient at stuffing them under the crosses.
If you go with a men's style, go down a size and 1/2 and you'll have a good fit (this is what my friend did.)

It's legit, the Stealth rubber really is stealthy. The shoes are fab and definitely multi-purpose. Just the way I like 'em.

I am also super stoked because when Travis and I went to Ogden, UT for SaddleDrive we saw a new pair of Five Ten Contact shoes! Hooray
for a company that keeps increasing the option for women's footwear but doesn't make them in super-girly colors. We were told availability for us would be around October. You can bet I'll be item watching these on QBP!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Women in Bike Shops Series: Nicole Davison

Nicole Davison, bike shop owner, amateur CX racer, lover of all things two-wheeled. 

Our shop is “boutique” in size, meaning no long list of staff members. My husband and I do it all, with the occasional help from a back-up barista and mechanic during the busy months. 

You learn to wear many hats when you own your own business. The bicycle industry is no different!  

You own Veloville USA- tell us about your shop!
We are definitely unique (at least to this neck of the woods) as one of the first coffee/bicycle shops in Virginia, certainly the first in Loudoun County. We have a distinct Pacific Northwest vibe but focus on bikes that are appropriate for our area (lots and lots of hilly gravel road riding). We're trying to create a shop that is just as much about cycling culture as it is a place to buy cool bikes. 

Plus, we LOVE to ride and have popular monthly “adventure” shop rides plus some multiple ride series that are starting to make a name for themselves.

What inspired you to open your own bicycle shop?
Honestly? I got tired of never finding the “right” shop for me. That isn’t to say there aren’t hordes of wonderful shops out there, but for the most part traditional shops still prevail and they just always seemed to miss the mark. Shops still tend towards providing the athletic store experience, with a distinct lack of passion or soul. I coined them “5-minute shops”…you know, in and out in five minutes because there was nothing exciting to ponder over or anyone willing to chat about bikes. I wanted a place where customers were inspired to stay awhile and talk about their current bikes or the bikes they dream about building, watch racing with friends, or have a coffee and hang out after a ride. The shops that inspired me the most were: River City Bicycles in Portland, Oregon who know exactly how to treat their customers AND staff so that they feel both important and relevant every time they step through the door. The second is Mellow Johnny’s in Austin, Texas who despite my NOT being a cyclist at the time, treated me with the utmost interest and respect. They also had a hip, inviting space with a coffee bar well before that concept was mainstream.  

Why do you feel women are hesitant to get involved with the cycling industry?
Despite the fact that women are the fastest growing demographic in cycling, the bicycle industry in general is still focused on the male cyclist. It isn’t a surprising fact given the tradition and history of the sport but the female cyclist still faces way more challenges in this industry. Yes, there are outstanding companies making huge leaps when it comes to women’s specific frames, clothing, accessories, teams, etc. but they are still outnumbered ten to one. And there are certain bicycle-mecca pockets of the country where females and males exist in the cycling community as equal players. The industry isn’t as blasé about women as it was a decade ago, but I think the average woman walking into the average bike shop still walks away with an average experience. We need to arrive at the point where there are no female-cyclists or male-cyclists, just cyclists.

What do you feel could change for more women to seek employment in the cycling industry?
More support. More peers. More information. But all those things are going to take time. The more “generations” of female mechanics, shop owners, industry professionals and racers there are, the easier and easier it will be for the next round of ladies to enter the cycling industry. The women who are a part of the industry now are the ones who are taking it on the chin to make the future better for both women and men alike. We should remember that and make it a point to support and recognize every single one of those women for their determination, hard work and pluck (because that’s what it took to make a name for themselves in cycling).  

What are some challenges you've had with owning a bike shop?
I went into this adventure knowing that I’d have long days and hard work ahead of me. I also knew that along the way, there’d still be challenges as a female in a traditionally male-dominated industry. What I wasn’t prepared for was that some folks just weren’t ready or willing to accept a woman in this role. I’m not even sure they realize it themselves, but the evidence is there in the comments they make or the attitude they project sometimes. I don’t let those few experiences chip away at me and instead use it as a reminder to work harder and be better at my job, so that my gender can never be used as an excuse. I also didn’t expect so much unsolicited advice or chivalry. As in…”can I help you get that bike down” or “can I lift that for you” or “you know you ought to do…this , that and the other” regarding how to run my business. I think all owners go through this, female or not, and I try to see as an endearing offer of assistance from caring people.

Why are women so vital in the cycling community and industry?
Because it would be a lonely, uninspired place without them!

How can bike shops make women feel more welcome (as customers or employees)?
Assume every woman walking through the door is just as bike crazy as you are. Clearly they have come into your shop because of their interest in cycling. It doesn’t matter how they look, act or appear….you never know if they are just there to buy something for their bicycle-crazed husbands (who often encourage their wives to become cyclists themselves) or are a professional racer that just moved to town. Don’t make assumptions and never look down your nose at a woman who is a total bicycle novice. We ALL started out as novices. Thankfully though, there was someone in the industry willing to devote their time to helping us find our way.  

What are some of the things you’ve learned since opening the shop?
Don’t make assumptions because you will almost always miss the mark. Throw the “rulebook” out and make a new one, in pencil and have a very big eraser. In other words, this is a wacky industry full of surprises. Some are pleasant and well, some aren’t. That being said, I’ve learned to have a more active sense of humor. It makes the stressful days easier if you can laugh, sometimes at yourself and sometimes along with the folks laughing at you.

Tell us about your cycling clinics and why they are a great way to get women together-
In the past we offered women-only tire changing clinics. That worked out great until our male clients complained about not being allowed to attend! Now we offer one-on-one tire changing sessions to anyone who requests it. Currently, we offer women’s only rides a few times a year to encourage area-ladies to come out and enjoy our lovely road riding in a group with one thing in common (to enjoy time on the bike, that is). There’s always a wide range of abilities and backgrounds, from triathletes to stay-at-home-moms, cross racers to yoga gurus…no attitude, no competitiveness, no stress. Just us, our bikes and the road ahead.  

Tell us about your personal bike(s)!
I’m really into custom steel these days! I have two Gunnars, a Roadie for the pavement and hills and a Crosshairs for the gravel. They are so fun to ride. Custom doesn’t have to be expensive and is a great option for women like me who tend to find themselves “between” sizes (plus you get to pick your own colors). I also have two cyclocross bikes. The geared bike is a women’s specific RXW by Raleigh. I have to applaud Raleigh for being one of the first manufacturers to offer several models of women’s specific cx bikes. Mine is an aluminum workhorse that was totally reliable last season and fit like a glove. My other is a single speed. It was my first bicycle and I ride it absolutely everywhere. I have so many great ride memories with that bike. I was riding it the first time I ever won a CX race and that was a huge moment for me. Last but not least, I have a cool single speed mountain bike. I call it my monster truck. It can literally roll over anything on the trail, which is a good thing since I’m terrible on a mountain bike!   

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I’m a huge fan of Endura cycling clothing. We carry it here in the shop, so I’ve had a lot of time to get to know the product. They have a women’s bib that has a well-thought out chamois and a zippered derrière for nature breaks! I also love the basic, professional look of them. I’m a sucker for their merino base layers, which I wear every day in the winter to keep from being cold all the time.   

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
Aside from the still-lingering, icy reception that some women (especially beginners) might experience at shops? Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of not being “good at it” or not being able to “keep up” with other riders. Feeling overwhelmed with a modern bicycle. Feeling uncomfortable with traditional cycling apparel. Lack of time. Lack of support. Lack of safe places to ride. All these fortunately, can totally be overcome. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Let’s make cycling less overwhelming. We should start by making it a part of daily life. If riding a bicycle is a more prominent, accepted, safe and enjoyable part of our community, then more women will include cycling in their lives and routines. Then it stops being just a hobby for the privileged few.    

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Seeing women genuinely enjoy themselves out on the bike. When you strip away all the stress, all the expectations and it’s just a rider and a bike. Getting to hear stories of memorable routes, successful races and goals met. 
Those things start with a single pedal stroke.                                                       

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I never had a bicycle as a kid. So I get to enjoy them now with child-like enthusiasm! 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Shawn Byrd

My name is Shawn Byrd, I’m married with two sons and my profession is an educator and have been teaching for 11 years. I also have a passion for photography.

I enjoy running and have been with BGR:WS for 2 ½ years and I’ve been cycling for about a year and a half. I was very excited when Monica (Black Girls Do Bike) allowed me to start a BGDB:WS chapter.

I try to encourage others, especially women, to exercise. The toughest part about that is getting them to exercise AND helping them find self motivation to continue.

Find Black Girls Do Bike on their
Website, Facebook, & Instagram pages

Find your closest BGDB Chapter or learn how to start one!

When did you first start riding a bike?
June of 2014 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
It's easy to do, it's fun, it's not as taxing on my joints as running is and, I've found a great group of women to ride with.   

What kinds of cycling do you enjoy? (road, gravel, etc.)

Do you commute by bike? If so, why do you enjoy it?
Not really, I've run errands on my bike but it's not something I've done often. 

What inspired you to start up the WS chapter of Black Girls Do Bike? 
Well I'd been riding with basically the same group of women for a year when I first saw BGDB on FB. So I spoke with one of the more experienced cyclists and asked if she'd start the group and she said she'd help me. So I contacted Monica Garrison, the founder, and inquired, did what was necessary to start a chapter and she approved.

What do you and the others involved do to help encourage more women to ride? 
We encourage others to ride by riding and being seen out in the community. When they inquire we gladly answer questions and alleviate any fears they have. So many of them are fearful about their limited cycling experience so we let them know that we'll meet them where they are as far as experience to help them become more comfortable on their bike.  

What has been the most exciting thing to happen since the chapter was started?
The "How to Change a Flat Tire on the Side of the Road" lesson. Bonny, one of our most experienced riders, had a tire to blow out on our Inaugural Ride. So on our first ride we received a hands on lesson about repairing a flat tire. We also experienced the kindness of a stranger.   

Why has being involved BGDB beneficial to you?
 It benefits me because I have others to ride with who are just as excited as I am to ride.

How can others help with your local chapter or BGDB in general? 
Spreading the word that we are in the community and we are riding. For bike shops to demonstrate Biking Basics or Biking Safety lessons for us. 

What do you love about riding your bike? 
The freedom I feel when I'm on it and also a sense of accomplishment. To date the farthest I've ridden is 25 miles. But I started riding for 20 minutes at a time to build up my endurance. So now I can ride for approximately 2+ hours which is a great accomplishment for me.   

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My mom & I did our first triathlon together!  

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them? 
My first bike is an OLD mountain bike. It's heavy, oh so heavy but it's mine. It was given to me by my Pastor's wife; she got a new bike and I asked for her old bike. My road bike is a Trek. I just got it right before Christmas. I chose it because it was cute, it fit me, and it was in my price range. I'm just getting use to riding it. Right now, I'm not as comfortable on it as I am on my mountain bike. It's thinner & lighter something I'm NOT used to.  :)   

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I haven't really gotten into the clothes/accessories yet. I've gotten one pair of padded shorts but haven't worn them yet. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? 
Some feel they have to purchase the most expensive bike in order to have a good ride. Some feel they are too big to ride. Many are fearful of getting back on a bike since they haven't ridden since they were a kid. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think once Spring comes we'll have more participation.   

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
For them to see that they can do it. That hill that was too hard to ride up the first, second and in some cases third time they can get up it now. I want them to see that pedaling makes a difference in their mindset (they gain confidence), in their bodies (they're getting the necessary exercise), and it's FUN to do by yourself but oh so much more FUN with other women.   

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Women Involved Series: Beatrice Trang

I’m from Canada and I’ve had Magnolia BMX since I was 15 (I'm now 26).

It started out as a clothing company, but because I was 15 and didn’t have any money, I started interviewing professional female riders on the blog, with questions I had for my own self purpose. What I realized later was that my questions were also someone’s else questions. 
Whether it be about learning a trick or dealing with haters.

I have a solid team of female bmx riders that represent each discipline in the sport and now we’re primarily a news site. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I always had an interest in bikes, but it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I decided to use my savings to buy a $300 complete Haro BMX bike. I live near a very small skatepark and skateboarding wasn’t working out too well, so it was a natural progression.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Making life-long friends in the BMX community helped a lot, but I actually fell out of love with riding during my career years after college. In April of 2013, I decided to quit my corporate job of four years. I was unhappy, I had no life outside of my job and I had stopped riding BMX. After quitting, I spent a lot of time reacquainting myself with my bike. I had forgotten how much I loved riding. As scary as it was to quit a well paying job, I don’t regret any of it. If it wasn’t for taking a risk, I would have never found out about how amazing racing is.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I like any sort of time trial or track racing; even downhill is awesome to watch. With racing, it’s about getting from point A to B. There are no tricks or opinions. It’s just about getting to the end first.

How did you originally get started with BMX and why did it suit you?
When I started riding BMX, I rode park for about seven years until I fell out of love with it. It wasn’t until I decided to go to the track one day that I realized my calling was to race BMX. I spent so many years trying to learn tricks but it just didn’t suit me. I knew I liked going fast, so I gave racing a try, and it was a perfect fit right off the bat. Seven years of riding park did help me a lot though. Because my home track is a lot more on the technical side, it made the transition into racing easier.

What do you enjoy about BMX? 
BMX is a whole culture of its own. It has some ups and downs with awesome and shitty people, but if you can find a good group of people to ride with, it’s the best thing in the world. BMX has introduced me to some long-lasting friends and has brought me to places that I would have never imagined I’d go.  

Have you had any accidents or situations that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
In terms of being in a cast or being off my bike due to an injury, I’ve had more incidents due to badminton than because of my bike. To date, I’ve had some pretty bad crashes on my downhill bike: taking a corner way too fast; a few tumbles on the track. When it comes to physical pain, I brush it off pretty easily. Emotionally—well, that’s a whole different story.
I take races very seriously. I spend a lot of time training for races and take time off work in order to compete. When I don’t do well, I can beat myself up pretty hard. I don’t think I’m the best person to ask on how to get over an emotional breakdown after a bad race, but sometimes the best thing to do is reflect, accept and move onto the next one.

When you started out riding, what were handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I started racing, I had developed skills from riding park, so the pumps and rhythms came quite easy to me (though there is still lots of room for improvement). Learning how to gate took me a couple of months but one day, out of the blue, it just worked. Putting time on the bike and practicing a lot is the best advice anyone could really give.  

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
There are days where things don’t work, where gates feel crappy or I forget how to pump. It’s hard to not get frustrated, but there’s always a reason. Like, your bike could be loose somewhere, or maybe it’s simply time for a break. When you push yourself too hard, you’re bound to hit a wall. It’s ok to step back for a little bit.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love biking in general. If there’s a perma-smile on my face, it’s a good day.

Why should people be open to BMX and the kind of riding it involves?I think regardless of what type of riding you want to do, if you want to try something that’s a little more challenging, BMX is the answer. The bikes are a lot twitchier than say, a mountain bike. It also opens you up to a lot of different disciplines like racing, flatland or park.

Do you have any suggestions/tips for new riders?
It doesn’t really matter what type of BMX you have when you start out. Get any BMX complete from your local bike store and go from there. Whether or not you change disciplines halfway through, you don’t need a specialized bike when you start.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I was lucky to receive a BMX frame from Amelia Walsh over at Yess BMX. She custom-painted it red for me and when I found out, I cried pretty hard. I had just gone through something traumatic in my life, so needless to say, I was really touched.
I also have a Norco that I use for downhill. It’s taken me on some pretty awesome adventures and tumbles this summer. With the Norco, I connected with a buyer on Pink Bike through my friend and drove two hours each way to get it.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I don’t wear anything too fancy when I’m racing or downhilling. I always sport the same black tights from Wal-mart, and I wear my custom jersey or something from my Magnolia BMX clothing line. Obviously, I always recommend my stuff to any of my biking friends. :)

Tell us about Magnolia BMX and how it got started? What inspired your interviews? How has Magnolia BMX evolved? And what are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
I got a lot of my entrepreneurial spirit from my parents. Because of that, when I was fifteen, I decided that I wanted my own clothing company for girls. It didn’t start out too well. I remember one of my “friends,” Jim, saying that he wanted to buy a shirt so he could wipe his ass with it. I’ve had a lot of doubters.
Being fifteen and not having a lot of contacts, I didn’t put out many shirts. Then, I started emailing professional riders with interview questions. It started out being more self-serving because I wanted questions answered for myself, like, how to do a trick. Soon enough, I learned that I wasn’t alone in my struggles, so I started asking more universal questions that applied to a lot of other girls out there as well.
For a while, Magnolia BMX struggled with its identity. Some called it a clothing company, but I never felt that was right. Recently, I’ve dedicated the company more to providing news. The site started out focusing on park, then gradually—with the help of our Flatland Manager, Rebecca Pergentile—we incorporated flatland news. Naturally, we’ve also incorporated racing not too long ago.
Keeping the flow of news hasn’t been easy; we rely a lot on people to send in videos or when it comes to interviews, sensing who’s in right now. I base a lot of my interview choices on the content that girls put out, edits, photos, stories, etc.

Do you have an interview that was one of your personal favorites and why?
It’s hard to choose, but I think my most significant posts are “How to get sponsored in BMX” and “So you’re sponsored now?”
Both articles speak on sponsorship in BMX, what companies look for and what is expected. I got to be in touch with a bunch of great companies for the interview and some awesome riders as well.

How would you like to see females evolve in the world of BMX?
I think we’re on our way already. There are so many ladies putting out quality edits year after year. There’s not much more I could ask for.

Why is it important for you to have a space dedicated to female BMX riders?
I wanted a space where I could have news about female riders only and not have it be a novelty. Some sites, when they post an update about a girl, the fucking circus comes out and then there’s a shit storm of sexist comments. So, by having a website dedicated to female riders, I’m ditching the novelty and focusing more on the individual and the riding.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
I think as humans, we naturally do things based on the people around us. How many people do you know actually ride on a daily basis versus people who go out to bars every night? Anyone can pick up a bike, but it takes a special kind of woman to make it into a career or a lifestyle.

I think there are a lot of reasons why some may deter from cycling. Most of the time, I think it’s about being out of shape. I hear a lot of excuses like, “I want to get into shape first before I go on a mile bike ride.” When I hear that, I think, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to ride to get into shape while riding?” We spend so much of our lives sitting or working in an office with minimal physical activity so I can understand how hard it is to do something out of the norm, but sometimes, you have to just dive in for that start.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Like I mentioned earlier, we’re a product of our own environment, so until we see a significant increase in female cycling role models, there won’t be much of a change. However, I’ve seen a huge increase in female BMXers, and simultaneously, an increase in paid professional female riders. So, it is developing. Just not enough to catch up to our male counterparts.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I try not to push biking too much with people I know. It takes a special person to be able to enjoy the adrenaline that it brings. But, I always encourage finding something that you like doing. 
I spent a lot of years waking up to go to a desk job and I was miserable. One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs is, “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I started a Youtube channel (youtube/beabmx) documentation my racing journey and life basically.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Women in Bike Shops Series: Victoria Firth

My name is Victoria Firth. I own and operate (along with my husband Simon Firth and our friend David Wilson) Firth & Wilson Transport Cycles ( in Philadelphia, PA. In addition to selling bikes and accessories, I manage the content of our website, write our blog, update our Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest page, and do the bookkeeping. 

You originally started out working as a sales person at Bicycle Therapy- what inspired you to get involved with the industry?
It was 2011 and I was out of work and needed a job. A friend told me Bicycle Therapy was looking for seasonal help in sales. I already knew a couple people who worked there so felt comfortable enough applying for the job even though I didn't know much about bicycles outside of riding one and what I knew through Simon, my husband. 

Living with a mechanic and frame builder you pick up a thing or two. At that point Simon and David had been talking about opening a bike shop together. I figured if I got some experience at Bicycle Therapy I could work at their shop when they got it going. The people I worked with at Bicycle Therapy were all really nice, down to earth, very knowledgeable, and most importantly, patient with me while I learned the ins and outs of selling bikes and running a bike shop. I don't think I could have learned what I now know from any other shop.

You co-own Firth & Wilson Transport Cycles- what inspired you to co-own a shop?
Initially, it was just going to be Simon and David's business and I would be employed by them but as things got going it became advantageous for me to be an owner as well. I felt confident enough to be more involved because I had been at Bicycle Therapy for two years by then and was eager to move on. 

Tell us about your shop and why people should come check you out!
Our shop is unique amongst the other bike shops in Philadelphia. While we will repair any kind of bike we don't sell road bikes, mountain bikes, or hybrid bikes, no sporty bikes. We only sell transport bicycles; bikes to get you around with your kids or your stuff easily and comfortably. We sell bikes that are upright, have fewer gears (8 or less typically) and wider tires, with racks, fenders, internal hubs, cargo bikes, and family bikes. We want people to get on their bike to get to work, go to school or the store, take their kids to school; to not rely on their car or have to wait around for public transportation. We carry the brands Brooklyn Bicycle Co., Pashley, Simcoe, Pure Fix, Bullitt, Yuba, Xtracycle, Babboe, and others. We have a lot of accessories to carry your stuff; tons of bags, racks, and basket options.  

Why do you feel women are hesitant to get involved with the cycling industry?
I think that was truer in the past. When I was at Bicycle Therapy there were as many women working there as men. There are still fewer women mechanics but that's getting better. I think there are still a few obnoxious macho dudes in some bike shops that can put women off. I wouldn't want to work with guys like that. 

What do you feel could change for more women to seek employment in the cycling industry?
Business owners and managers shouldn't keep those obnoxious macho dudes on staff. Seriously though, I think the overall attitude of the bike shop has to change. There are many different types of riders out there. They aren't all out to race or climb hills they just want to ride a bike to get around. Bike shop employees have to be more sensitive to the novice rider or someone who doesn't have a super fancy bike. A lot of bike shops have the reputation of being elitist. 

 What are some challenges you've had with co-owning a bike shop?
The most obvious would be working with my husband. We're together a lot now. Pretty much all the time. It's been pretty good so far. We have a lot of similar interests so I don't mind him being around me so much. Hahaha! Besides, he's either working on repairs or at our workshop (which at the moment is in a different neighborhood) fabricating a custom frame while I'm immersed in the bookkeeping or social media stuff so we're sort of doing our own things. Other than that it's been great. The line of communication amongst us partners is open. Our biggest challenge is about to come up: we're beginning the process of transitioning to a bigger space, combining the retail shop and workshop.  

What are some challenges you've faced with working in sales?
I'm pretty comfortable talking to customers about our bikes and products but don't know a lot of the in depth mechanical aspects of the bikes. I still need to ask David or Simon for assistance with some sales. But the more I do this the more I learn. It was the same at Bike Therapy. Also, getting some people interested in the upright, fewer geared bikes. So many people grew up riding hybrids or mountain bikes and since our bikes don't have a ton of gears like a hybrid or a suspension fork like on a mountain bike, some folks are unsure that these bikes will perform well. 

Why are women so vital in the cycling community and industry?
More women are cycling than ever before. Because of this it's only natural that they get involved in the industry. There is only one bike shop in Philadelphia that is owned exclusively by a woman, Fairmount Bicycles. Hopefully there will be more in the future. I was surprised and elated to learn that a lot of the big bike companies are owned or managed by women. A past issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News had a write up on them but I don't remember when it came out, sometime last year I think. 

How can bike shops make women feel more welcome (as customers or employees)?
From my experience, women really appreciate it when a woman is working at a bike shop. Bike shops that want to stay relative need to have women employees. Having more women bike shop owners would solve that problem. I was fortunate at Bike Therapy to work with men who didn't play the macho game. They had other interests. They were just really good people. And my shop, of course is the same way. I treat women and men with equal respect. We all do. I can't imagine doing otherwise. I think the issue bike shops need to focus on is dealing with novice riders or riders who don't want a sporty bike, men and women, with respect and sensitivity. Listen to your customer. 

Do you feel your presence at the shop is a positive draw for other women?
Absolutely. More importantly I feel I'm a positive draw for someone who is new to riding, or a slow rider, or just wants to get somewhere on their bike. I'm very up front with my customers. I don't ride every day. I hate riding in the cold and rain. I don't like to go fast. But I love to ride my bike and encourage people to get a bike to get around. It's so liberating. I don't drive. Simon and I don't own a car. In the city you don't need one.  

What are some of the things you’ve learned since working at the shop? 
Bookkeeping. I thought we'd hire someone but my bookkeeping friend convinced me it would be better to know whats going on with the finances. It's kinda fun now. Also, talking to people in the industry on a professional level and talking to people at bike shows and events. Getting people interested in what we're doing and the bikes we sell.  

Tell us about your personal bike(s)!
I have one bike of my own. It's an 8 speed internally hubbed upright custom bike built by my husband when he worked at Bilenky Cycle Works. This year I'm getting a new one under his name, Hanford Cycles. It's going to be similar but will have a front cargo rack and a rear rack with a basket for our little dog, Archie, so I can take him to the other dog parks in the city. We have a tandem that Simon built, I'm the stoker. So I guess I have one and a half bikes.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I don't wear cycling specific clothing. I don't need to for most of the riding I do. When I did go on longer rides padded shorts and gloves made things more comfortable. For rain gear I'd recommend a rain cape from Carradice. We have them at the shop. They are much more efficient than jackets and pants. You don't sweat in the cape. My favorite accessories that we sell are the myriad options of carrying your stuff. We have waterproof bags from Ortlieb, colorful panniers from the Dutch company Basil, saddle bags from Carradice, sleek racks from Velo Orange, and trusty old Wald baskets to name just a few products we carry. Brooks from England make my favorite saddles. They're beautiful and long lasting. We have a bunch at our shop for sale or if you already have one but it's broken, Simon is the official Brooks repair person for North America. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
Living in a city I think some people are afraid to ride a bike. Not just women but men too. I think women will be more open about this though. More and improved cycling infrastructure like protected bike lanes will help ease those fears. Offering bikes that are easy to ride, like the ones we sell, will also help.  

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Offering bikes that are a means of transportation not just a weekend diversion. Offering bikes that enable you to transport your children, more than one. A lot of women are staying/working at home to look after their children but they need to get out. They don't want to or can't rely on the car to get around. Family cargo bikes like Xtracycle, Yuba, Gazelle, and Babboe give them the freedom to do so. 

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
My perspective on cycling has always been towards transportation. While I support and cheer on the women who race and compete, it’s not my thing. I like to let women know that they can experience the joy of riding a bike but don't have to go fast, they don't have to be competitive or athletic if that's not the kind of person they are. There are bikes that are fun to ride, easy to get on and off, more stable, that don't have a ton of gears to work out, and they can still get exercise and be environmentally conscious. 

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My favorite cocktail is a Boulevardier. It's a riff on a Negroni but using bourbon in place of gin. Cheers!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Adventures of the First Lady: Lots of Updates!

It's been a cross between eventful and uneventful which is part of why I haven't written a First Lady post in some time.

We've had some transitions with our helpers, so you've probably seen some new faces since the start of the season. Scheduling, boy, I've learned a lot. Each season is unique, granted this is my first one at the shop on a full-time basis.

The FWD rides are gaining publicity thanks to our ad in Inspire(d) magazine! I'll admit, I feel a little silly having a picture of me in a publication that is read by a lot of people. Unfortunately, our Sundays have been a bit on the uncooperative side.

We have had extreme success with our Co-Ed/Co-Led rides and with that we are making the decision to go to full-on Co-Ed/Co-Led rides in August. We plan to have a women's ride once a month on a Sunday, but need to figure out which Sunday would work best! Keep in mind that I am happy to lead women on a ride separate from the co-ed mix as needed! You can also schedule a solo ride with me during the week as well.

It can be a challenge having a ride that caters to all levels of riders, but we feel that it can be fun for all involved. We look out for those who are new to mountain biking and decide the pace and route off of that.
We aim to have our rides be supportive, fun, and encouraging for all riders by keeping it casual and no-drop.

Personal life had been hectic for a bit as Travis and I purchased a house. It was a pretty crazy experience and I'm glad it's over with. It wasn't terrible, but there was a lot that went into the process. Moving itself wasn't terrible and took very little time thanks to help from my mom and a couple friends, yeah! The kitty kids have adjusted and they are enjoying the additional space. They get a whole room upstairs- the Kitty Room if you will, being that the windows are low enough for their perches.

Travis and I will also be heading off to adventures in Ogden, UT. We'll be attending a dealer event called Saddle Drive. Due to the timing of the event and the newness of our help, we're having the store closed from Sunday the 19th-Wednesday the 22nd. We'll be back to work on Thursday the 23rd.

Super stoked as this is our first "vacation" since we went to Interbike in '13....but this is also my first time mountain biking elsewhere other than our local Decorah trails. Very excited! We'll be able to test ride new Surly and Salsa products. Yup, there will be blog posts relating to what we see and the trip itself.

There is also a new Facebook page that you can visit to check mountain bike trail conditions- Decorah Mountain Bike Trails. This is something we started due to so many questions at our shop on trail conditions. If we have a Twitter for it, etc. We will do our best to update the trail status as much as possible. We hope to eventually have photo albums with all of the trails featuring some memorable points. Eventually some fun videos as well!

There has been much to learn and the process does not seem to end! I wouldn't expect it to, honestly. There are days where I feel like I have a grasp with everything that's happening and other days where I'm definitely dropped down on my pegs a ways when it comes to feeling sure of myself. It's all part of the process, like Dory- "just keep swimming" is the best mentality.

Keep yourself open to learning, new ideas, new processes, and learn to not beat yourself up over things.

Be inspired to keep learning.....and....
Have Fun!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Jeana Miller

I’ve always enjoyed competing and being outdoors and after a successful collegiate soccer career, I quenched my desire for competition through triathlons. 

After completing my master’s degree in Kinesiology I coordinated two wellness programs at a local university for ten years. This experience gave me the opportunity to share my passion for health and well-being with people from the age of 20 to 100 years old. I believe that exercise and movement is the key to a happy and healthy life! 

While competing in every distance of triathlon including the Ironman and Xterra I was constantly approached by friends seeking my help with the various aspects of training and racing. My interest in working with friends and family continued to grow until I decided to join Carmichael Training Systems and transition my passion with sports and wellness into a coaching career.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding bikes as a young child, and rekindled the passion while in college.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Staying healthy through physical activity motivates me to ride, but I love the feeling of jumping on my bike and being able to go anywhere that I set my mind to.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I love racing Xterra (off-road) triathlons and the beautiful scenery that I’ve been able to pedal through. A memorable race was the Xterra USA Championships in Ogden, Utah in September as the fall leaves were changing colors. It was gorgeous!

What advice would you give to someone who is new to racing?
Enjoy yourself! Don’t get caught up in self-doubt or negativity, just go out and enjoy yourself!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
I had an amazing sense of accomplishment that I was able to self-propel over 12 miles of challenging terrain.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I’m always nervous before competing but I just tell myself to look around at my competition and see how nervous they all are as well. We are in this together and should enjoy the ability to we’ve been given to be healthy enough to push our bodies to the limit.

What do you enjoy about XC?
I love the beautiful scenery that XC riding provides. Whether it’s the mossy, wet trails of British Columbia or the dusty, hard packed trails of Southern California.

Have you had any accidents that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
 Yes, on a fast single track descent a rider clipped his handlebars on a chain link fence in front of me and he ended up crashing. In the blink of an eye, his bike whipped out and clipped my handlebars and I ended up crashing and landing on my shoulder. As a result, I shattered my collar bone and required surgery. A titanium plate, 9 screws, and 16 weeks later my shoulder was all back together but it took a while to regain the confidence and bike handling skills. It actually took crashing on my shoulder again to know that I was 100% healed.
at finish line at Silverman 2014 (12 weeks post pregnancy)
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Balance is always the factor that limits riders. I recommend that new riders practice track stands (balancing on your bike by keeping it in one place without putting your feet down).

You work for Chris Carmichael Training Systems- what inspired you to become a coach?
I have a passion for health and fitness, and I love helping other people achieve their dreams and goals.

What do you love about being able to help people pursue their riding goals?
I love when people have a dream such as riding 100 miles for the first time. They think that it’s such a tough thing to do and can’t imagine being able to do it. I put together a training program and step by step they work towards their goal, and soon they want to be able to ride 150 miles or 200 miles.

What steps should one take if they have the desire to become a coach?
Having an education in Kinesiology or Exercise Physiology is crucial for a coach as they need to be able to understand the underworking’s of the human body and how to best manipulate training programs to help a person’s body adapt to a specific demand.

What has been one of the most inspiring moments you've had since coaching?
Being at the finish line at Ironman Louisville 2014 – it was an EXTREMELY hot and humid day with the heat index being 114 degrees, and yet my athlete was able to finish her first Ironman!

Why is coaching so beneficial for those who cycle (be competitively or not)-
Coaching is a lot like personal training for a person that doesn’t want to be confined to a gym. I create training programs for clients of every age and socioeconomic status – the important things that many of my clients are looking for are someone to help keep them accountable; keep them from injuring themselves from overtraining, and someone to create a program that works for their busy lifestyle.

Tell us about the cycling team (Women on Wheels) you will be racing with and coaching-
Women On Wheels is an international team of four women that will compete in 2015 Race Across the West from Oceanside, California to Durango, Colorado (860 miles and 40,000 feet of climbing) in under 66 hours. Race Across the West is the first leg of the iconic Race Across America (RAAM) and starts at the same time as RAAM. Our goal is to inspire other women to reach for the stars! We are also raising support and awareness for two non-profit organizations: The Astro Brain Tumour Fund ( and the Scleroderma Foundation ( 

How will you and Women on Wheels help promote/support female cycling?
 The goal of Women On Wheels is to raise awareness that women everywhere can do anything that they put their mind to. The females on this team are all working professionals that love to ride their bikes as a way to stay healthy, reduce stress, and challenge themselves to be the best they can be. Team Women On Wheels is planning to compete in Race Across America in 2016!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
 I think that many women are intimidated to ride because they know a lot of guys that ride but very few (if any) women. Boyfriends and husbands try and take them on a ride and it’s too challenging because the guys don’t realize how to properly introduce someone to riding.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
More women’s groups and bike shops promoting women’s only rides will create a non-threatening environment for women to try out something new.
CTS Giro Women's camp 2014

What inspires you to encourage women to ride? 
The fun and friendships that I’ve experienced from being on two wheels inspires me to encourage women to get on a bike and meet new friends and go somewhere beautiful!
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Random fact - 12 weeks after my 2nd pregnancy I raced a half Ironman (Silverman outside of Vegas this past Oct). Our bodies are amazing that we can create/grow a human inside of us and yet push ourselves to the limits in terms of training and racing. Women can do anything that we set our minds to!