Women on Bikes Series: Andrea Cohen

 Photo Credit:
241 Photography
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 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I have always been around bikes, but never really took to them. My family is very active and has participated in RAGBRAI as long as I have been around. I got a Surly Long Haul Trucker when I moved to college in 2007 and it sat around for nearly 2 years because I had no idea how awesome of a bike it was! In late 2011 my car died and I was forced to start commuting by bicycle. At this point I had a road bike also and through a ton of mistakes and hard-times I became a car-less commuter in Iowa City. It was down-hill (because that is better on a bike) from there!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
First it was the need to get from point A to point B. Iowa City doesn’t have the best public transportation so it was a necessity. Then I slowly realized just how many people around this town also bike. So many little sub-cultures and friends to be made! My relentless commuting lead me to the competitive side of cycling in Iowa City and I slowly figured out new routes and trails around town trying to follow these athletes on group rides and at local races. Every new person I met on a bike was incredibly supportive and wanted nothing more than for me to join the fun. I knew I had found the right group.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
My favorite competitive biking event is probably Dirty Kanza 200. This will be my third go at it this year and each year it just gets better and better. Some people will argue that they may be losing their grass-roots touch, but I would say the vibe is still there. You have the option to ride unsupported or supported, which adds to the competitive aspect of the race. This last year I didn’t bring support but I was offered incredible support via the Dirty Dogs Race Pack which gave me an edge I didn’t know I could have, cutting my time by over 4 hours. The course is amazing and pushes me right to the edge of sanity. I am mostly competitive with myself, but if I know there is another lady in front of me I will chase them! I enjoy chasing my own demons around in my head as a race, just as much as chasing another person.

You have been on many cycling adventures- what inspired you to become an ultra-endurance athlete?
I grew up as an athlete. Discipline was instilled early with karate lessons and carried through high-school and part of college as a rower on a crew team. When I quit rowing in 2009 I had no idea what I should do, and had feelings of a lost identity. The collegiate athlete lifestyle left me burnt out and questioning why I would ever want to push myself again. I started riding for fun and I am still riding for fun. I am remembering that passion and love that I had at the start of my rowing career and it feels really great. I found an amazing pair of coaches with the Sprinting Kittens and I am starting to mold my path as an athlete to become a little more structured. As far as choosing ultra-endurance goes it seems it chose me. The long, lonely days are my favorite. I would much rather ride alone that with others. Sorry guys! I still love you, but I bet most days you don’t want to hear the things I say to myself on these rides. I am 100% content in the 11th hour of my ride just as someone is pumped within the echelon of a road race. Finding that peace and pushing beyond it is what I really love though, getting past that comfort and taking it a few leaps and bounds too far is what keeps me going.

You plan to add more mountain bike riding to your repertoire- what do you find enjoyable with singletrack?
I really love the mental aspect of mountain biking. I am not the best at riding single-track so it is a constant head game to not crash into everything. The only mountain bike I have is a rigid single-speed so I am learning quickly what I can and cannot do. It’s exhilarating to accomplish something that I couldn’t do the week before. Grasping that concept of “hesitation is devastation” is probably my favorite part of single-track because when I finally get over myself is when I have the most fun!

Have you had any biffs/accidents that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
The biggest challenge is always mental for me. Trying to get my brain to shut up and let me ride is one of the biggest hurdles. The first gravel race I did this year, Landrun 100, I got lost. Like ride 3 miles out of the way and realize you are all the way lost. I have been lost before, but I would just quit. This time I turned around and followed my path back to the course as fast as possible. I just turned off my brain and decided this was my only option. I talk to myself out loud a lot to help myself accomplish these goals. Music also plays an important role, I have listened to literally the same three albums of music for all my rides in 2014. That is kind of scary, but I know exactly what the music is going to do and how it will help me. Every single ride I learn something new about what works and what doesn’t. Spending that time with myself and learning is how I am hoping to overcome the challenges I set myself up for!

When you started mountain biking, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Handling skills still challenge me! I am always battling the urge to slam on my brakes. Riding with other people always helps me. I have also been trying to put myself in situations where I have to ride what scares me. I completed the metric Chequamegon 100 last year and it was super tough, but I was so proud that I finished. It gave me the confidence to keep pushing the mountain biking and really figure out if I liked it. My suggestion would be to ride with other people who are encouraging and patient. I am lucky to have a strong group of women in Iowa City who are just that, and I bet if you search in your community there are ladies or dudes to get you started too!

Clipless? What do you like about it and what suggestions would you give to someone new to riding clipless?
I do indeed love clipless. It makes the fit between my bike and I much better. I am more efficient and comfortable for those long hauls. I invest heavily in the contact points between my bike and I. Feets, seats, and hands are all extremely important. Find some shoes that fit! Your local bike shop should be there to help out. I personally ride Giro shoes, but I am eyeballing the Shimano heat moldable shoe to get an even better fit. There is no price for comfort! Once you are set up with shoes and pedals practice makes perfect. There are still times when I nearly fall from not getting unclipped, but muscle memory is key for getting used to the new system. Once your body has figured out where shoe and pedal meet it becomes an almost unconscious process.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the freedom. Everything I do on my bike is my choice, and every choice I make affects me greatly. Riding gives me a chance to really try and get inside my head. Even my super short commute is a quiet time to clear my head and start the day off right. The pure, unadulterated passion is what keeps me coming back and searching for that deeper understanding during my long rides. When I have nothing left to complain or worry about and everything is laid out in front of me is when I feel the most real.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have four bikes and no car. First bike is a cobbled together Trek MultiTrack Super Mega Awesome Townie. I built this bike up from a frame. It easily has the most miles on it. I delivered Jimmy John’s for two years on it and have commuted daily on it for 3+ years. Front rack, generator hub and lights, Brooks Cambium, and bright yellow fenders. People notice it around town for sure.
Second bike is a Salsa Warbird. This bad boy is new to me this year and an extremely welcome change. I have been competing on aggressive cyclocross bikes for the past couple of years and it feels amazing to be on a bike designed for endurance gravel events. Salsa is not joking around about owning gravel and you can see it with the new Warbird. The bike is comfortable, smooth, and I can fit my 38c tires on for extra confidence. Plus it’s teal and orange! What more could you want.
Third bike is my Trek Farley. I love fat-bikes. If I was forced to have only one bike it would be a fat-bike. I can ride over everything. I can go bike camping with it. I can commute all winter and not crash. I can ride across frozen lakes with my studded tires. I can bunny hop over curbs. I can crush winter ultras and ride beautiful places I never thought a bike could take me. I am in love with all of my bikes, but I am having an affair with the fat-bike every time I get on that thing.
Fourth bike is a Kona Big Unit. Purple frame with purple rims. My favorite color is purple. I bought it from a friend and I promised to never get rid of it so it’s mine forever (don’t worry Christina!). It is a fully rigid steel single-speed and it dominates me every time I ride it. 30 pounds of pure fun. The longest ride was the metric Chequamegon 100 and I have never wanted off a bike so badly, but at the same time felt so strong and like I could conquer anything over such a short distance. Single-speeds are good for the soul!

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Remeber those contact points I mentioned?! Anything that touches my hands, butt, feet, or hands is tested and tried over and over again. I love my Specialized Ruby saddle in the 155mm width. I have used it for over 4 years. Shoes must fit and I have slowly accepted that I wear the biggest womens size shoe after trying to deny it for years. My go to helmet is a Lazer helium because it fits so well I forget I am wearing a helmet. As far as clothing goes I cannot say enough good things about a drop-tail bib. Gore Bike Wear Xenon bibs are saved for my long rides. Just two zipper pulls away and I can go to the bathroom without completely disrobing. Also give bibs a try. I didn’t start with drop-tail bibs, and a majority of the bibs I own are just normal bib-shorts. My last favorite pieces of equipment is my wind vest. During long rides temperatures can go all over the place, so the vest keeps me safe and warm when it gets chilly!

What suggestions would you give to someone who is considering long-distance rides or wanting to become an ultra-endurance rider?
Just go do it! I started riding long distances by using Google Maps to create routes and writing down the directions on a piece of paper. I still do that pretty frequently to keep my mind fresh. There is nothing stopping you from searching out those old unused roads around where you live. I even own at least 8 county maps of Iowa to help me find these roads, and they cost a whole .70 cents a piece. If you really have a hankering for riding long distances you will find a way. I don’t think it was something I really understood until it was too late. The first 100 mile ride I did I had no concept of what I was taking on. I knew that I loved every minute though and I would figure out how to do it again!
Photo Credit: Mike Riemer

You are sponsored by Salsa Cycles! What are some goals you hope to accomplish this year with your sponsorship?
I will continue down my path as an ultra-endurance athlete and go farther, hopefully just a little faster. I am also incredibly stoked to have the support of Salsa Cycles. They are one of the places I found inspiration for my rides and now I am a part of it all! Being able to spread my passion and love of cycling even further excites me to no ends. I want to use this platform to show people, women in particular, that you can accomplish whatever goal you set for yourself. I am helping plan a women’s only bike-packing trip in the fall to gather strong, inspiring women together so we can learn more and share the word of adventure cycling. Nothing was going to stop my career as an ultra-cyclist and now I feel even more confident in my pursuits!      
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
One of my hobbies other than cycling is music. I love all sorts of music, everything from the heaviest metal to the softest crooners. I like to compare my music to my rides. I seem to have a playlist going through my head for all my different types of rides. My three secret albums for 2014 are, The Flatliners-Cavalcade, Foo Fighters-Wasting Light, and Steve Aoki-Wonderland. I have listened to those three albums so much it should be a crime. 


  1. Way to go, Andrea! You make Iowa City women cyclists look so good.

  2. So proud to say I know ya. You inspire all of us I.C. cyclists, Way to go Andrea. One more star in your cosmic constelation.


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