My journey started 8 years ago. I sustained many injuries as an endurance runner and my friend told me to check out road riding as a way to satisfy my need to participate in an endurance sport but to also keep me from continually fracturing bones :-)
My first experience trying to be involved in this world was lacking. I bought a road bike from a local shop because it was the only one they had at the level I wanted in my size. I borrowed a friend from a helmet and hit the road completely un-educated.
I spent the next weekend driving around to all the local shops gathering the accessories I needed to be successful and getting little bits of information.
Often times the shops directed their conversations to the male I was with.
I went on a women's specific group ride and no one told me what to do and I ended up getting dropped on a no-drop ride because the majority of the women were training for a race. The first few weeks of my attempt to be a road cyclist were discouraging.
I spent the majority of my life in a director-level position for a chain of regional retail stores. The opportunity for me to purchase an existing bicycle shop with my close friend was presented to us and we decided to go for it. A large part of our business plan included supporting local women. Making sure they have products they can touch and try. Making sure they have people who will find out what their hopes and dreams are and get them the gear they need to be successful. Making sure we cultivated or sought out opportunities for them to participate in this sport regardless of what their goals are.
I am mostly a road cyclist but love mountain biking when I can. I do not race but I love to ride with my friends who are training. I love being able to help people get to the level they want to be at - seeing women succeed at something they never thought that could do is always what I strive for.
We started a women's winter series to make sure these amazing women stay connected with each other and continue to cultivate themselves. We are in our 4th year of the Women's Empower Series. We partner with local professionals to present topics such as:
Whoo-Haa for the New-Haa (all things saddle and pelvic floor)
Mindfulness Coaching with Training
Pain Diversion Techniques for Competition
and much more
Your introduction to #bikelife was not the smoothest, why did this inspire you to create an environment that could better introduce women to cycling?
When I started cycling my initial goal was to find something to stay in shape (former distance runner with many foot injuries) but I soon realized that there was this community around the sport I wanted to be a part of. I didn't have the initial resources of someone like minded to help me succeed, explain the gear I needed, teach me how to shift, ride in a group, ride over a root, etc. I wanted to help create an environment where those resources where also available to women, and then cultivate a supportive group around that.
What helped you not feel deterred by the lack of support or encouragement when you first became involved?
Honestly, I'm pretty stubborn. When someone tells me I can't do something or if there is something I can't figure out I am pretty determined to get the job done with whatever resources I can find. I read books, watched online tutorials, I made a ton of mistakes and learned from them. I knew that I loved being on my bicycle even when I had no clue what I was doing, it could only be better after I mastered some basic skills!
Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Funny story, the first time I ever rode single track I was on a bike where the suspension wasn't set up properly for me. I bottomed it out on the top of a descent, my foot hit a stump, and I went sailing down a descent too fast for a total beginner and slammed into a tree and broke my wrist. It was another situation where I was determined once I was healed to work hard to do something that scared me or seemed hard. I rode every chance I could and took every piece of advice. Above all, I really love being outside pushing my limits and I wasn't going to let another injury stop me.
Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I use Crankbrothers Candys. I put them on my first bike and I've used them ever since. There is enough platform that when I was a beginner you could pedal and work your way into the cleat and they were easy to unclip. Whenever I'm attending a skills clinic or working on a new skill I'll sometimes use flats.
That accident the first time I rode made me very nervous afterward, especially descending. I spent a lot of my rides that next year feeling anxious. I forced myself to trust my bike and use a little speed and over time I become more comfortable descending.
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
The best advice I was given was to look ahead on the trail. Initially, I was always looking down at what I was about to go over and by that point, there was nothing I could technically about what was 1 inch in front of me - I crashed all the time at slow speeds :-)
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
This year I've been riding mostly on the road. Both for road and mountain I wish I was better at cornering. I lose a lot of speed in corners because I don't trust I can lay the bike down as much as the bike will let me. I don't race mountain bikes, so I try to just enjoy the time I'm on the trail and focus on technique at times and others I just ride my bike and enjoy being in the woods. Sometimes when I take my mind off of what I'm working on and not overthink it, it just happens naturally.
For folks who are nervous about giving mountain biking a shot, do you have any suggestions on how they can go about creating a positive experience?
Ride with someone supportive and who knows what they are doing and wants to help you out. I spent a lot of time making mistakes and trying to learn skills on my own. Once I started riding with someone who gave me little tips and told me what to do, I became a much better rider much more quickly. And it's always more fun to have a beer and a meal with someone after a good ride in the woods!
What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the feeling of freedom and moving fast on a bike. There's nothing like the feeling of flying down a country road with no stop signs with your best cycling friends. I love the feeling of being in the woods, working hard to get over a feature or get thru a hard section of single track with your mind on nothing else.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I've been on an S-Works Amira/Tarmac for the past 7 years. I love the feeling of that bike - it's stiff but comfortable and seems to fit me like a glove. It's responsive, fast, and a great climber. I just sold my last mountain bike - A Specialized Epic Full Suspension. I've always been a 29er girl, but I'm going to dip into the world of 650b with a Giant/Liv Intrigue for 2019.
a bike shop with your friend?
It was time to make a career move. There wasn't much upward movement I could make at my current job or in that industry. We really felt that we could make a difference and a great experience for riders in our community if we could open or purchase a bike shop. The Recyclist had been in our community for 20 years and had a great reputation, great brands, and was right on a bike path. Timing really was in our favor and the owner was strictly an investor and wanted to sell. We have now been here for 5 years.
What has been the most challenging aspect of co-owning a bike shop?
I love being on a bicycle and sometimes being a bicycle shop owner or employee means riding your bike very early in the morning or after work when you're tired, so planning balance is important. At times being a female in this industry is difficult and other times its very rewarding. I've been "man-splained" things, spoken to like I am clueless and also treated non-respectfully verbally and physically. Those moments are very few and far between, but it is not something that I expected to run into in an industry that is a little more progressive and fresh.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of co-owning a bike shop?
I have met some of the most amazing people that have absolutely changed my life. The women I ride with have some pretty amazing stories of overcoming obstacles (often times cycling was their therapy). They are strong, determined, and nurturing and I have learned a lot from them. Recently I had a customer, unbeknownst to me, and undergone a tremendous tragedy that was all over our local and national news. I was having the absolute worst day for a variety of reasons the day she came in and was throwing myself a little internal pity party. She bought a bike because she wanted to get into shape. Many weeks later I learned about what she had experienced and that she had purchased the bike, ridden it daily and eventually rode to the area where multiple family members lost their lives as part of her healing journey. This really had a tremendous impact on me and the importance of not taking things so seriously and being able to help people enjoy being on their bicycle is very rewarding, and sometimes it's a bigger tool in peoples lives than you expect. Being able to help people no matter what their story is is rewarding, but if you can contribute a little bit of joy into someone's life thru a bicycle, that's pretty amazing.
Why was it vital that the shop support local women?
I think it's important for the community to have a safe place for women to learn about this sport and support them at whatever level they chose to participate. In my community there is no lack of female cyclists, it's great! Having a place that has the products we need for our bodies, the customer service we need to help figure out what we need to meet our goals with no judgment and the resources to be involved in the cycling community is important if we want to keep women on their bicycles.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
It's intimidating to walk into a shop if you don't totally know what you need or want. It's expensive to get started and not all women feel like they deserve to spend money on themselves for something that is not deemed a necessity to the rest of the world. If you want to race it's difficult for some women to justify time away from their families and they don't have the resources to get involved. If you don't want to race it can be embarrassing to talk to a shop full of fit/racer type employees. From the outside, cycling seems very intimidating. Once you're inside you realize it really is a supportive community.
Tell us more about your Women's Empower Series! Who should join?
The Empower Series is a winter-long women specific series to keep women engaged in their wellness after the weather turns not-so-nice. We have a monthly session where we cover cycling specific topics such as "Whoo-Ha for the New-Haw: A Girls Guide to the Saddle and Everything That Touches It". We also cover non-cycling topics such as mindfulness coaching, pain diversion technique for racing, nutrition, and goal setting. We have interactive classes such as yoga, pelvic floor exercises, Tri 101, and spin class. It's a great way to stay connected with your cycling friends and do something to improve yourself and surround yourself with like-minded people.
What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
More women working in this industry: mechanics, sales associates, product developers, marketing associates, etc. More training on how to work with all types of customers and to read their signs and figure out how to help them appropriately. For the beginner cyclist, I think it's important to have someone relatable the first time you really dive into this world guide you.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
There is not a better feeling than riding with a group of women who support and encourage each other. The women I ride with inspire me to ride...the community, working together, socializing afterward, it doesn't get better than that.
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love, love, love cheese-ball Hallmark Movies.