Women on Bikes Series: Nikki Strickland

I would describe myself as a designer, traveler, creative, and lover of all things animals and fitness (if I can combine the last two, even better).

I currently live in Atlanta with my husband and 2 dogs. Our world revolves around our dogs Emmy and Hutch, traveling and cycling.

My husband and I started a business together about a year ago and officially launched in January as an agency focused on helping companies with their culture and employee experience.

We are both very passionate about this topic because it impacts so many lives, and we come from a strong HR and recruitment branding background. Our main goal is to change the way people view work. It shouldn't be a chore, but rather a positive piece of your life.

Outside of work, most of our time goes to the dogs and cycling. My husband has been a cyclist for about 20 years and has encouraged my passion for cycling over the past few years. My journey into cycling has actually been a rather long one that started with dabbling in triathlons in college, then deciding I wanted to get a single speed to commute all over the city (I'm pretty sure this prepared me for anything because of the hills and traffic ha), and then finally getting a road bike, riding with groups and racing. I fell in love with the sport so quickly and am very passionate about getting other women into cycling. Atlanta is probably one of the most underrated cycling cities, but what people don't know is that we have an amazing robust cycling scene. There are multiple groups rides every night that have 50-100 people at each ride, it's insane! I love the culture of cycling and everything it stands for--it promotes mental strength as well as physical strength, but it also supporting each other and lending a hand when someone is new or just having a bad ride.

Twitter: @NTStrickland
Instagram: @NikTic

Tell us about how your #bikelife evolved over the years, and why it's such an important part of who you are-
My bike life has evolved from spending most of my time commuting via bike to dabbling in triathlons, and then eventually becoming very serious about road cycling. My husband and I both ride, and our lives revolve around the bicycle. Our vacations are always bike vacations, and most of our friends are cyclists as well. I even ride my bike with my dog running alongside me to get his exercise in as well! (He loves it.)

When it came to commuting by bike, would you say your location made it easy or challenging? Do you have suggestions for folks who would like to start commuting by bike?
I am fairly centrally located in downtown Atlanta, but there are quite a few hills to climb if you are riding around town. My biggest tip for commuting is to find the right bike and be reasonable. I ride a single speed around, but I don't work in a traditional office where I have to be in work clothes. However, if you work in an office, I would suggest getting a change of clothes, a good saddle bad if you are going long distances, and gears!

Tell us about your introduction to road riding, what inspired that choice of riding and why do you enjoy it?
My husband introduced me to road riding. I'm really fortunate that he has been riding for 20 years because he knows all the tips and tricks for riding with a large group. The community of cyclists in Atlanta is amazing, and everyone encouraged me to start riding.

Tell us about an event or two that you have enjoyed participating in, why did you enjoy them and what did you learn?
I raced my first criterium a few months ago and it was by far my favorite race! I learned so much about myself at that race and realized how mentally tough I can be if I put my mind to the challenge.

Do you have any tips or advice for folks on the fence about attending a biking event? Why should they do it?
I would start out with a Grand Fondo or Century because these tend to be less intimidating and more beginner friendly. Once you get into more serious races, make sure you have your bike handling skills down, as there are bound to be people bumping into you, hitting potholes, or crashing in beginner races.
Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Cycling has been a really positive experience for me so far, so I haven't faced many challenges, outside of hard races or group rides. I always tell myself to never give up, never stop pedaling, and when I want to quit, I take 10 more pedal strokes and see how I feel--and I always keep going.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I think everyone is challenged when they first start riding in large groups. You have to be very self-aware and respectful of the peloton. I don't talk much when I'm riding in a group at a fast pace, because I feel that most crashes occur when people get distracted, rather than a bike handling error. Focus on the road, be aware of all surrounding riders, avoid "sketchy" riders, don't get trapped in the middle of a giant peloton, and respect the rules.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I always practice bunny hopping over potholes or reacting quickly to objects in the road so that I don't put myself or others in danger. I also practice cornering quickly and moving throughout the peloton safely. I don't usually get down on myself, I just have fun.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Riding makes me feel free. I love going really fast (literally as fast as I can possibly go haha). I get very depressed if I don't ride my bike, and I don't feel like myself if I take long periods of time off the bike. Cycling is such a huge part of my husband's and my life, we bond riding together. Most of the time when we ride together, we don't even talk to each other, we just clear our minds and silently encourage each other to focus on pushing ourselves mentally and physically. Some people might find this strange, but we find it peaceful. We don't need to talk to communicate or enjoy each other's company.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have an S-Works Amira and I am obsessed with this bike! It is so lightweight, perfect for racing and doing long climbs up mountains.

Tell us why you applied for the Specialized Women's Ambassador program-
I applied to the Specialized Ambassador program because I wanted to make a difference in my community and have the support from Specialized to host fun events, group rides and encourage other women to ride bikes!

Why do you feel programs such as the Specialized Women's Ambassador program are important for the cycling industry and community?
Ambassador programs are important because it gives women a reason to come together and encourage each other to ride bikes. The Specialized brand is so powerful in the cycling community and is very respected even to the most junior of rider.

What are your goals for the upcoming season?
I am planning on racing a lot more this season. I've been training like crazy and I'm hoping to bring my A-game in 2018.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I can't speak to mountain biking, but I think the biggest barrier to entry for road cycling is all of the education you need in order to get the proper bike, gear, and locate group rides.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Locally we have been hosting weekly group rides that are specifically for beginners. We help people get the gear they need and learn skills that will help them ride in larger groups.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I think it takes a special type of bad ass female to get on a bike with a bunch of guys and turn yourself inside out in order to stick with a group ride. We are probably a little crazy, really feisty, and the most determined women you will ever meet--that is what I love about the women I meet in cycling. It is the toughness, pride, and confidence that cycling gives to women that inspires me.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I can play the piano, ukulele, and Kazoo! Haha! It's always loads of fun singing and playing with friends!