...at the finish line of a half marathon. 2009 wasn't my best year. My dream job was a casualty of the recession, my dog died unexpectedly, and then my body decided that it was not invincible. After what I hoped would be my first of many half marathons, my spine said, "Please stop doing this."
Feeling defeated, fragile, and broken hearted, I reluctantly quit running and started taking spin classes. I felt fit and strong once again. After a few months, I was itching to get outdoors and breathe fresh air, so I thought about buying a bike. I was absolutely terrified. I mean, there were about 186 barriers of entry, namely: bro-centric bike shops, managing to fall over while demoing an expensive bike (not clipped in, mind you), that whole being a woman in a male-dominated sport, and of course, the hideous spandex getups and "butt pads".
Nevertheless, I bought the bike.
After falling over at least one more time (this time clipped in and in front of many people), I was hooked. My first few months on the bike included 3 century rides, cycling through Patagonia, and a new found passion. I felt alive again.
Life was generally on an upward trend, and a part of me wondered what role cycling would play, and if it was just a brief love affair born out of necessity. Sometimes the things that help us out of a dark time lose their meaning when circumstances change. But that didn't happen with cycling. Coming up on my 10th season, I’m struck by how I feel it, still.
Sometimes I feel the need to explain why I choose to spend so many weekend days in spandex riding a bike. Wouldn’t I rather be at brunch? Why am I here? Is this weird? Am I weird?
I ask the questions, and the answers come flooding back to me every time I get back on my bike.
A few months ago, I was riding near Lake Tahoe and I felt it, big time. Through my labored breath and my skyrocketing heart rate at 6,200 feet, I felt it physically. Less tangibly, I felt a swelling sense of gratitude. I mean, it was just. so. beautiful. Slowly creeping up on one of the most gorgeous vistas in the world, I felt so lucky to be able to take myself to the top of a mountain under my own power. Everything is just different on two wheels.
That ride affirmed that I still love the sport. And I’m casting a broad term by calling it a sport. I don’t race or compete. I do it for the love of it. Fun fact: The word "amateur" originates from the french word 'amour' (to love). I wholeheartedly embrace that label.
The things that have propelled me on the bike are vast and binary. Joy and pain. Loneliness and togetherness. Strength and weakness. It’s been both healing and nurturing, and trying and brutal (but fun. Weird, right?). The bike keeps me coming back to familiar places and eager to see new ones.
To me it’s important that I feel it — still. Despite life events, other people’s opinions, riding buddies coming and going, whether I’m fast enough or not...there’s been something so steady about cycling in my life over the past decade. I have a sense of belonging on the road, even when it's just me being passed by angry cars or testosterone driven packs. I never get tired of struggling to reach the top of a mountain and that feeling of exhilarated exhaustion.
It is important that I feel the love for the sport because that is what initially stoked my passion for Lexi Miller. And still, one serves to keep the other one aflame. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Everything that I feel on the bike goes into Lexi Miller. My rides always reconnect me to my mission and my "why". It's there that I dream up copy and designs. Yup, it's me doing it.
Ten years ago, I managed to overcome most of the aforementioned barriers of entry to cycling. But I still hated the clothes. I realized there was wisdom behind, and necessity for technical features, like pockets in jerseys and "butt pads". And learned that it was called a "chamois". I felt weird and gross (sorry, but no SAT word can really do the feeling justice). I thought, where is the "Lululemon for cycling"? Why do I have to dress like a 12 year old girl? What are these hideous patterns? Why do my cycling shorts cut into my thighs? Why does this fabric feel like it will spontaneously combust if placed too close to heat or fall apart entirely? And for the love of all things, why do people insist that I need to wear bib shorts?! Getting dressed for a ride felt like an insult--like it was part of a conspiracy to keep me off the road.
After a couple seasons of feeling gross, I spent a few years digging into the process of sourcing textiles and designing apparel that I would actually want to wear on the bike. Eventually, Lexi Miller was born.
I wanted women to be equipped with the technical apparel that we need and deserve. I wanted us to feel beautiful and badass all at the same time. And I wanted us to know that 'badass' is however we define it for ourselves.
Sure, I wanted better apparel. But I knew that I had a story that led me to this place. And I knew that other women did too. I also knew that in 2009, I was looking for some sort of inspiration to take that step into a bike shop and walk out with a new bike. I didn't feel welcome in the sport or in the industry, and a HUGE part of that was the apparel that didn't seem like it was designed for women. I wanted to pay inspiration forward to every fledgling female cyclist who would arrive at that threshold after I did.
I’m not Lexi Miller and I often remind people of this fact. It’s not that I’m hiding from the attention. Lexi Miller is a persona, an aspiration, a woman who represents a facet of our busy, complex lives. Lexi Miller is a conduit through which we can tell our stories. This year, I have gotten to know some of you and shared your stories: from Maude the dark horse, to Jody the cancer survivor, to Sharon the pilot, each of us has a story of how we came to love cycling, and a lot of them involve something pretty darn funny.
These days, automation and artificial intelligence promise to do everything from delivering your groceries to finding your soulmate, so I think it’s important for us to come out from behind the curtain every so often and remind you that it’s a person here (Hi!). Sure, Lexi Miller is a business, but "it" has a heart and soul. No robots or algorithms here. No parent company or conglomerate. Just humanity, passion, hard work, and a desire to effect change in the women's cycling industry, and on the granular level of making your weekly bike rides more comfortable and beautiful.
By taking this moment at the end of the past decade to pause, reflect and tell my own lemonade-out-of-lemons story, I hope that Lexi Miller has inspired you to take a leap. I hope that cycling has brought you joy, and that somehow we've helped that to transpire. If you're on the cusp of that first bike purchase, I hope that Lexi Miller gives you that extra push. I hope you realize that you are Lexi Miller. I hope you know that there is a place for you in this sport.
And I hope that 10 years from now, I'll have told many more stories. I hope I'm still waxing philosophical about spandex and bikes. Most importantly, I hope I feel it, still.
Wishing you all an amazing 2019.