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Storytellers | Diana: Mom, Birdwatcher, Football Player. December 03 2018, 0 Comments

If you're new here, I'm all about the stories behind cycling. After all, WHY ARE WE HERE?  ON BIKES and WEARING SPANDEX?  The answer always surprises me when I ask a woman who rides.  

Last week I had a chat with Diana, a mother of two and an energetic athlete who recently discovered cycling after retiring from tackle football.  Yes, that's what I said.

There's something pretty amazing about talking on the phone with a stranger, and feeling a bond because she uses the same words you've uttered about how cycling makes you feel.  Not the same thoughts, but the same feelings.  Even though different journeys brought us to the sport, the emotions are the same, and that's pretty cool.  

xo Alexis

.................

Alexis:              

Tell me a little bit about yourself. So you live in Cleveland, how long have you been riding? How'd you get into it?

Diana:             

I’ve been in Cleveland for about two and half years now. Prior to that, I was playing women's tackle football and I was a wide receiver, a corner, safety, wherever they need me, I was like just throw me in because I really love the sport of football. But, about five years ago, I got my ankle broken really bad. Broke both my bones, tibia, fibula, dislocated my foot and at that point, I felt like my football career was over.

During my rehabilitation, my physical therapist kept putting me on the stationary bike and I'm like, why does he keep putting me on this?  I'm ready to run, I'm ready to catch a ball, but the whole entire time, he was just building that strength up. We relocated from Cincinnati to Pennsylvania and I started playing football. I even tried out for the Pittsburgh Passion team and made the team. But that fear of getting in another broken bone just kept messing with my head and eventually I was like, you know? I'm done with playing football.

So we moved here to Cleveland, and I kept telling my husband, I just need to cycle. I need to keep this flexibility, mobility in my ankle. I'm getting stiff. So on my 36th birthday, I was looking through Craigslist and I meet this guy with a men's Schwinn road bike and I'm like this is it. This is the bike.

We literally went at night time because I was so determined.  So my husband's like you're crazy. You can wait till the next day.  But I felt it was calling me.  And so, the next day, I rode 18 miles. And I didn't even know I was riding 18 miles. It just felt so free. And here I am today two years later. I didn't know anything about riding a bike.  I rode a bike recreationally every once in a while, but making it a part of my every day life, I felt so free and I was just clearing my headspace. It taught me how to learn the streets of Cleveland. I found shortcuts. I even gained friendships and I started traveling and meeting people and inspiring people to even lose weight.

And I that was just in my first six months. So I thought this has to be my calling.

Alexis:             

That's awesome. I have a similar story. I had to stop running and so, I was kinda reluctant at first and then I finally bought a bike and as soon as I did, I was like this is it. You know? I was gone. I think once you discover that freedom and if you've been on a treadmill or an elliptical machine or whatever just kind of checking the box, once you realize that there is a way to spend hours outside and see places and just be moving, it's awesome, right?

Diana:             

Yes. Totally awesome. And you know, I love bird watching.  Girlfriend let me tell you, I told my husband, I wanna go to Sandusky and I know when the eagles are nesting and I know when they're about to migrate up this way so I'm like babe let's take our bikes and let's ride. And girlfriend, when I tell you I was riding my bike, and this eagle just looked down at me, that did it for me. I'm riding for the rest of my life.

Alexis:             

Yeah.

Diana:             

That's my confirmation. There have been times when I've been riding on a trail, and there's a hawk that's soaring just right next to me just me in the wilderness. And I'm thinking to myself, is this really happening to me? And I wonder, do people even get an opportunity to witness nature like that, or to have nature speak to them?

And so I tell people I ride for fitness but nature is my biggest motivation.  Once I knew that I could ride anywhere and witness everything I love about the outdoors, I felt like this was supposed to be my job.

Alexis:             

That's awesome. I feel the same way.  Especially if you're climbing, you can only go so fast and it forces you to slow down and you are forced to notice things that you would never notice if you were in a car or maybe even walking. You know?

Diana:             

Yes.

Alexis:             

Yeah, it's just the best.

Diana:             

Everything's better by the speed of bike.

Alexis:             

Totally. So you are a Trek ambassador right?

Diana:             

Yes I am.  This is my very first year.  And before I even knew about the Trek ambassadorship or anything like that, I kept saying I wanna be a Trekkie, I wanna be a Trek girl. I love my Trek 1000. I mean, it's old, but it's a good bike and I actually, you know my first year on that bike I rode over 2000 miles. Other cyclists started to notice who I am and they asked questions like, so where do you want cycling to take you? And I was like, I'm gonna let it take me wherever it wants to lead me. And luckily for me, I found Black Girls Do Bike and became a member of Black Girls Do Bike Cleveland and I started riding with a group of ladies and I actually took it upon myself to start traveling to meet other ladies that were associated with Black Girls Do Bike, and we had a national meetup and I found out that Trek was our sponsor for Black Girls Do Bike.

I met Emily and Alex from the Trek Arlington location and I applied to be a Trek Ambassador and I though oh, I'm just this young lady who's living a hope and a dream and there are other women who cycle way more than I do, and then I got the email.  Girl, you don't even believe, I thought it was a dream. I thought it was a lie. I kept looking at the email like, is this real? I would wake up in the middle of the night just to make sure. And it felt so good to be recognized for something that I've been kind of doing organically, no pressure, I'm not doing it to please any, except for myself.

Alexis:             

Right.

Diana:             

Something that makes my heart feel really good and to be honored, have a position like this, words cannot even describe how I really feel.  I feel like every day is a dream. And it's something that I actually, genuinely love doing. The day that I went to the Trek headquarters for the women’s ambassador conference, I cried.  I felt like Charlie from the Chocolate Factory. I felt like a kid in a candy store. It was like a dream come true. And I'm 38 years old. Do you see what I'm saying?

Alexis:             

I do.

Diana:             

Like I'm 38 years old and to have something like this come my way, even today, it still brings tears to my eyes because like I can't believe it. You know? And I'm so honored and I'm so grateful for this opportunity. More women, more bikes, more often.

Alexis:             

Definitely. That's awesome. So back to your football career, how did you get into that? I mean cycling is not a female dominated sport but, football, I mean wow. You know?

Diana:             

Well, I was a girl who thought I would never get into football. I'm like that's too barbaric, right? Well, in the early 2000s, I had a friend who was playing women's flag football and I'm like what the heck is that? So we went to this practice and I was just hanging out. My daughter was young. There were other kids there and I was with my girlfriends. And one day, they were like, we need an extra person on the field. I was like, I’ll just get on the field and see what's up.

Diana:             

After that practice, they were like, you're on the team. And I kept saying, I'm not trying to get hurt and they were like you're not gonna get hurt, you'll be okay. I was the smallest one. I was the running back. I was pretty much everywhere and it was just so much fun. So one day, Icky Woods was in Cincinnati, he's a former football coach or former football player for the Cincinnati Bengals, he started up a team called the Cincinnati Sizzle.

And so, he came to our game, and asked if we wanted to be a part of women's tackle football and I'm like women's tackle football? Are you talking about wear a helmet and get hit? I was like no, I'm good. I'm okay. So he was like no just come, see it, and I'm not gonna lie to you, what really drew me in was the workouts. The conditioning sessions because I love that type of workout. I was getting a full body workout.  I started seeing the muscle tone and I started getting faster and stronger and I'm like okay, I'm addicted to this. The only thing was, I didn't know how to catch. So my husband and I started practicing. And I made the team. My first year, I sat on the bench. I was only special teams. My second year I was on defense and special team. And by the middle of my second year, I was playing both sides of the field. My third year, I played the whole entire game.

 

I was an honorary member of the Derby City Dynamite. People were asking me to just come and practice. I coached youth flag football after I stopped playing football. It just opened up a lot of doors. My goal was to play until I was 50.  But after so many injuries... I had two broken hands, broken fingers, broken ribs, had to get my ACL and meniscus repaired. I have screws in my knees, a hook in my knees, a donor tendon. I have plates, screws…My doctor was like, look if you keep playing football, you’re gonna have to get double knee replacement, and you probably have to get a new hip. And I was like, I ain't got time for that.

So I had to start looking at other options and, to be honest with you, all I knew was football or running. But after all my broken bones, running was even hard.  And cycling just kept coming up.

Alexis:             

That’s awesome. I mean, everybody's got a story to tell and I never would have known that you were a tackle football player. Back to cycling, do you have any ambitions to ever race or do you want to travel with your bike?

Diana:             

Yes, I'm going, my goal is to eventually quit my job and become a traveling cyclist. And my goal is to cycle across the U.S. in 2020.  I'll be 40 years old so that's one of my 40th birthday things to do. And then going into 2019, I'll be riding with an all women's team called Stellari, a women’s development and cycling team here in Cleveland. And I also will be participating in the Cleveland Velodrome.  They were interested in me my first year but I wasn't confident and I felt like I had to learn.

Alexis:             

That's great.

Diana:             

Cycling is my new football.

Alexis:             

So when you first thought about getting into cycling, making that transition from a stationary bike in physical therapy to getting on a road bike, were there any hesitations or were you just like I'm just gonna go for it?

Diana:             

I was just like I'm gonna go for it.  I didn't know anybody, I didn't know anybody who was doing the same thing but I had to venture outside of my little box to see and you to come to realize in Cleveland, it's a huge cycling community from commuters to recreational riders to racers.  I mean there's so many facets of cycling here.

Alexis:             

That's really great. What you are doing and what Trek's doing to get more women on the road is really necessary.

Diana:             

Well, let me tell you, my first road bike, I didn't use the gears at all. I didn't know about shifting gears. I was going hard the whole entire time when I could have been easily going up a hill with no problems, I was struggling. But then I couldn't believe it. And then once somebody told me, like are you even shifting your gears? I was like what? I got gears?

Alexis:             

Right.

Diana:             

That changed the game.

Alexis:             

And then what about clipping in? I bought my first bike from a woman and she's like you're gonna have an “oh sh*t” moment where you're gonna just clip in and try to stop and you can't clip out in time and you're gonna fall over. You’re gonna do it one time. You just gotta get it out of your system. And she was right. And it was so embarrassing. Did you have like a moment like that?

Diana:             

Yes, well, I just started clipping in this year. I never knew about clipping in. Well, I knew about it but nobody really said anything until I did a woman's weekend at the Velodrome and then that was the first day I ever clipped in. Now you're talking about something so scary and intimidating? I was so comfortable in what I already knew and, I was terrified of falling.  But, with that fear of falling, I started falling with my regular pedals and I changed my pedals on my trainer to practice.    

And then I rode with a girlfriend clipped in and I totally forgot I was clipped in, thought I could put my foot down and it was too late. The second time, I was on the road and then we had a sudden stop. I couldn't clip out in enough time and I fell. And then the last time, I was just not paying attention. But I'm telling you, after those three times, on that one day, I haven't fallen at all. And I've been in the Velodrome, I've been on the road, I've been on the trail. I'm like okay, I can do this. That's a lot of power. Full 360 power.

Alexis:             

Yep.

Diana:             

Girlfriend look-It's a game changer.  I didn't even know I had that much in me. You know what I'm saying?

Alexis:             

I do.

Diana:             

And then being around people who help me build that confidence. Like, girl you can do this. You played football. Like I keep saying, if I would have known about cycling way before football, I would be a cyclist right now. I mean, I would probably be trying out for the Olympics and trying out to do crazy stuff. I'd probably be BMXing right now.

Alexis:             

That's so great. Well, I really appreciate your time, sharing your story, and I appreciate for what you're doing for other women as a Trek ambassador and just an ambassador for cycling so if there's any way that like we can help support you and your mission, just let me know 'cause I'd be happy to.

Diana:             

Oh thank you so much. Thank you because y'all kept popping up on my Instagram. I'm like, I'm gonna try this. Girl, let me tell you about y'alls jersey. Whew. Oh my goodness. It's cute.  Look, I wear a lot of jerseys. And in yours, I felt beautiful. I felt like it didn't budge. It didn't move. It sat where it needed to be. I didn't feel like I had to pull it down or anything. It was just a great fit.

Diana:             

I mean, the arms were a great fit. The way it hugged my body great. I love the way that it zipped up and then if I was off my bike and I had to go somewhere and I still had my jersey stuff on, girl I just zip it down. It had that little splash of color.

Alexis:             

That little pop of color, yep.

Diana:             

Come on now. Yes! Come. On. Now.

Alexis:             

I'm glad that you love it and all those things that you say are what I want other women to feel.  It’s also how I wanted to feel. I started road biking 10 years ago and I hated the apparel but I loved the sport too much so I just said there's gotta be something better. There’s all these cute athletic apparel brands popping up like Lululemon and Nike and Athleta and I was just like, why is nobody doing something better for cycling? And I had a bunch of $50 or $60 jerseys that I would find at like the local sporting goods store and everything had multiple pain points. I would buy another jersey thinking maybe this is the one and then, at the end of the day, I was like I've got like hundreds of dollars worth of jerseys that I don't even like.  So I just starting sketching and sourcing fabric and, was fortunate to find a factory right here in the Bay area so and all the textiles are from a mill in Italy so I know where everything comes from. There's a lot of accountability and yeah, that translates into a higher price point but it's stuff that's gonna last.

Diana:             

It's worth it.

Alexis:             

Yeah, it's worth it and I'm still riding in my original samples that I sewed like five years ago so I just hope that when women see that there is a better option out there because for me, when I thought about buying a bike I was like ah do I have to wear that stuff like that horrible stuff, you know? I'm so glad that you found Lexi Miller and that it resonated with you and whatever we can do to kind of help you encourage other women to get out on the bike, you know, I'd be happy to do so.

Diana:             

Okay. My cousin is interested but the sizes are only to size 12.

Alexis:             

Okay. Yes, so up to size 12 for now. I've heard that a lot that women want larger sizes and we're definitely looking into expanding that.

Diana:             

She’s riding on a trainer and so we hold each other accountable and I sent her a plan to ride and I'm watching her shed the weight, just shed the pounds 'cause she was over 400 pounds and her doctor was like you either have to do something or you're gonna die, you know? And she just so happened to reach out to me and I made it a point to go to Cincinnati to encourage her to ride.

But she saw the post that I put out on Facebook and she was like, that would be amazing if you ran a plus size line.

Alexis:             

Yeah. It's something we're definitely looking into. We’re a small brand and we do small runs, so we can only produce so many sizes.

Diana:             

I know. But just the simple fact that you're looking into it and that you wanna expand eventually for all women that's good because you know most cycling brands don't go up to plus sizes.

Alexis:             

Yeah, thank you. I hope that you at least get some above freezing temperatures throughout the winter to be able to get out there.

Diana:             

Yeah. I got some ladies in beginner winter cycling so my goal is to eventually take them shopping so we can start looking for some winter weather apparel!

 


Storytellers | Michelle: The Mechanic October 02 2018, 0 Comments

Recently I traveled to Dallas for a group ride and pop-up event.  I was super excited to learn that Richardson Bike Mart has female employees at each of their four stores.  

Meet Michelle, bike mechanic.  Oh, and she's also a mom of four.  She's helping to change the bike industry, one turn of the wrench at a time.  I wanted to know what it was like to be a female bike mechanic and how she started, so we had a little chat.

Enjoy!

xo Alexis

-----------

Alexis:                         

How long have you been riding bikes?

Michelle:                    

Let's see, of course as a kid. But as far as having, a real road bike I started off on a single speed in 2009.  That kind of made me more serious about riding, because I had a legit bike to ride whereas before, it was just a cute, girly bike. At the time I lived in Austin and Berkeley, California.

Alexis:                         

Oh, you lived in Berkeley?  That's cool.

Michelle:                    

It was chilly up there compared to Texas.

Alexis:                         

Oh, yeah.

Michelle:                    

Riding a bicycle in college was the hot thing, so that opened the door.  But it wasn't until 2009 that I bought my single speed that it really made me develop a deeper love for bicycles. I had two kids at the time, so I would pull them around in the trailer around town, and then, I didn't get to ride for a while because I had two more kids.

Alexis:                         

Oh wow.

Michelle:                    

Yeah. So, it wasn't until three, four years ago that I started going longer distances.

Alexis:                         

So, you're probably one of the few female bike mechanics, who's a mom too. I mean, that's pretty cool.  It sounds like it started as a mode of transportation, and then, eventually you found yourself really enjoying it as a sport, as an outlet. That's cool. Do you have any competitive aspirations, or has it always just been something for fitness and for fun?

Michelle:                    

I definitely have a competitive side and I do want to race eventually. Time to be able to ride enough to keep getting stronger is my one draw-back. But, yeah, I would love to start racing. Maybe next spring.  And I ride a mountain bike too. I love doing it. I ride with a bunch of really strong men, so I'm always comparing myself to them, and I'm like "I gotta ride more. I gotta be stronger."

Alexis:                         

Mm-hmm. So then how did you actually get to be a mechanic? I mean, what does it take to do that? Especially in this sport where it is so male dominated, and I would imagine you kind of have to, I don't know, prove yourself a little bit more?

Michelle:                    

Well, after I bought my geared bike, I wanted to know how to work on it because I'm mechanically inclined to begin with. I love fixing stuff and building stuff, and so naturally my mind was just like I want to know how to work on this thing. If it breaks, I want to be able to fix it, because it's a simple machine, I should be able to figure this out.

I was looking to get out into the workforce again, and my uncle had told me about this bike shop, Richardson Bike Mart.  It's his favorite place, and he goes there all the time, so I went there and checked it out. I thought, well that'd be such a cool place to work, and but I didn't want to do sales, I wanted to learn how to work on bikes.  So, I walked in and talked to the manager in the service department, and I said I want to be a bicycle mechanic, so, what can I do to do that? Do I need to go to school for that?

When I talked to Derek the service manager there, he said "That would be awesome, yeah.  We can teach you." And, so I talked to the general manager and he hired me on the spot.  I only worked every other Saturday.  And any time it was slow, I was in the shop learning.  I was being trained.  And I'd help out on the sales floor whenever we were busy.

So from October to January I was really learning from scratch about how to be a bicycle mechanic and everything that goes with it. And finally in January, the general manager said "Michelle, suit up. Get back there, you're a full time mechanic."  And I've been with them for two years now.

Alexis:                         

Oh, that's awesome.

Michelle:                    

I’m still always learning. Even the guys who've been in the industry, they're still learning because, you know, bikes come out with new designs and new features, new gears, and we've got to all learn how they works and so, it's nice because we're a team, and the guys in the shop have been so supportive of me and they're like family. We have such a fun time and they think it's so cool to have a girl on their team.  They have me at the front of the service counter. I'm a mechanic and a service advisor. So when people walk in I'm one of the first faces that they see.

Alexis:                         

Yeah. That's great-

Michelle:                    

So I thought that was pretty cool. I was proud of them being proud of me.

Alexis:                         

Yeah. Well that's awesome. That's great that they, embrace you, and that they're making that effort to make their store more welcoming to women. That's really cool. So I guess other women must be really happy to see your face too, when they come in, right?

Michelle:                    

Yeah. Some women, even if they're not on the service side, they're not getting their bikes serviced or anything, they'll tell me “Oh my gosh. I think it is so awesome that you are a mechanic.” And even one of the guys told me, “My grandmother thinks you are the coolest person there.  She was so excited to see a female mechanic.”

Alexis:                         

Well, that's awesome. Okay.  So, between, work and kids, how often are you actually able to get out and ride?

Michelle:                    

I try to ride at least three times a week.  I help with the shop rides, and usually my road rides.  If I'm not riding road I'm trying to at least ride mountain bike, so that I'm still getting some kind of ride in.  I love to ride.

Alexis:                         

And from your perspective do you see more and more women buying bikes, and more women getting involved in the sport? Do you see it growing, the female population on bikes?

Michelle:                    

It's a slow growth, but I do believe that it definitely is a growth. We try to support each other, get each other out there. Especially in mountain biking, you know the community for women is so small and it's so much fun.  And it's just a matter of having the knowledge and having the right bike to go for the type of riding that you're doing.  It makes you so much more confident in being able to get out there and ride.  So, if there's ever a customer I'm working with, I tell them, you know, hey you should really look at this style of bike, and they try it out and come back they're like "Oh my gosh, yeah, I love it. It's so much better and I ride so much more now."

Alexis:                         

Do you feel like the lack of good looking cycling apparel is at all a barrier of entry for women?  Do you think that they look around, they see these guys in these kits with all their logos, and they think, ‘I need to be a part of a team’, or ‘I need to dress like them in order to feel like I belong on the road’?  Do you feel like that is at all an issue with women who are thinking about entering the sport?

Michelle:                    

I feel like it is important, and if women are more confident in what they're wearing, they're going to naturally feel more confident all around.  I love my kit. It is so super cute, and I get a lot of complements on it, too. 

Alexis:                         

Awesome. Cool. And I imagine it's pretty hot there right now, right?

Michelle:                    

Oh god, yes.

Alexis:                         

I know that women are always interested in hearing the top things to do, or not to do with your bike.  And they're afraid to ask questions, afraid to look stupid, so I just think it's really great that you're out there.

Michelle:                    

Oh, thank you. I love helping to inform people, and I get that a lot when they're like “Oh my gosh. This may be like a stupid question.” No question is stupid, and you need to know how to operate your bicycle.  It's weird that it's such a simple device, but it actually can be very complicated at times, just with all the new technologies and features that certain bikes can have.

Alexis:                         

Awesome.  Well thanks for your time and I’m super excited about our ladies’ ride and popup happening in Dallas on September 1!

Michelle:

Yes, me too!

 

 

 

 


Storytellers | Maude: The Dark Horse. September 24 2018, 1 Comment

A couple of months ago, I saw this image pop up on Instagram.  Instantly, I thought "Good for her!"  And then I thought, "Hey that's our kit!"  So I messaged Maude and asked if we could chat abut her experience at the San Rafael Sunset Criterium: a pretty well known cycling event in the San Francisco Bay Area.  [BTW: What is a Criterium, you ask?  Read >>> HERE <<<]    

Maude is a phenom, an incredibly strong athlete, who's pretty fresh to the cycling scene.  We had a chat about how she got into cycling, and what she loves about it.

*****

Alexis:             

So tell me a little about how you got started cycling.

Maude:           

So my first bike was a little bit of a funky thing. I was back in New Hampshire trying to find a bridesmaid dress for my best friend's wedding and the shop had a really long wait time, but next door there was a bike shop and so I thought, "I want to go shop for a bike." And I walked in and had no idea what I was shopping for or looking for but I wanted a bike I can ride on the dirt and do distance stuff, but I didn't know.  And the guy said, "Okay, I have the perfect one for you." And I bought this bike from a women's track team at a huge discount. I was like, sure, it's pretty nice ride.

And then that was where I started really cycling on trails and for exercise rather than just for commuting. And after spending a summer getting familiar with gravel, my partner said, "I think you're a really strong cyclist, we should get you a road bike." And I found a really sweet deal on a road bike and ended up purchasing it and it's a very different feeling being on a road bike than gravel but they're both pretty awesome.

I went out for the first road ride I'd ever done on a Sunday and I had not done super well in this 50K [running] race that I had run the day before. I had bonked and had to stop and sit down for an hour and I was just really bummed out and I decided to go for a bike ride with Matt and we road Hawk Hill and I rode it in eight minutes and he was like, "Wait, how fast?" And so that was the start of thinking I might have something unique here.

And then I started incorporating more and more cycling into my running. And now I'd say I spend half and half of my time per week cycling or running. But yeah. It's been really exciting to be in crits and have such a different style of racing that's super punchy and challenging and quick and just really intense for a relatively short amount of time.

Alexis:             

So you really just started racing, and this is what you'd call your breakout year. The San Rafael Sunset Criterium was your fifth, or so, race.  So when you came to this pretty iconic race, what was it like arriving? Were you like, oh my god, this is bigger than I thought?

Maude:           

Yeah. Matt had said, "Do you want to come race this weekend?" And I had run another running race the weekend before so the weekend of San Rafael I was chilling and not doing a really big run and I was like, "Yeah, sure, a bike race sounds great." And so we arrived and all of a sudden I thought, "Oh, wait, this is a pretty big deal. There are a lot of people here." And "Holy shit, I'm racing some really, really fast women." So I got pretty nervous and was thinking, "I have no idea what I'm doing. What if I crash, I'm terrified. What if I just get dropped?"

I was definitely pretty freaked out about the whole thing but then of course, you get on your bike and warm up and all of a sudden I started to feel a lot better and then we got to the start line and when we got going, I don't know, you just zone into it and I really like the intensity and the focus of racing. And then okay: let's think about this decision and how it might impact the next primary race, and the pushing and the pulling and the falling behind and the patience that you have to have, too. So yeah. It was definitely the most competitive race I have rode in because we were racing with the 3’s as well. But it was thrilling. It was so sick.

Alexis:             

So they put you all together, Cat 3, 4, 5?

Maude:       

Yeah. It was a 3, 4, 5 race, so two 3’s ended up outsprinting me in the very last little bit. We were neck and neck up until the finish line. But I was pretty foolish. I led the most of the race. I was just out in the front pulling, which is just so stupid, but I felt a really strong headwind on the backside, and I was thinking, "I really don't think I should be here right now. I don't know why I'm in the front. This is really stupid." But I was like, "I don't really know how else to do this." I think part of that was definitely an amateur move. But it's also just my style. I'm a really aggressive person. I like to compete. I like to push it. I like to put myself out there.

My partner's always saying, "You just put in all this extra work," and I say, "Yeah, but I like working hard." It was pretty funny because it was like, definitely amateur, but at the same time, I was like, I don't know how I would have ridden any other way. Especially without a team.

Alexis:             

Right.

Maude:           

Yeah. It was a hilarious race but it was awesome.

Alexis:             

Yeah. So I don't even know anything about racing a crit. Do you count the laps, how do you even know how many you’ve done?  And you've got to strategize, and know how when you can hold back and when you can push it.

Maude:           

Yeah. Exactly. You're talking to maybe the least educated person on racing crits. I think there's a lot of thought that goes into positioning and because it is so fast and there are so many turns, it's not like a road race where you're sitting on a tail wind or you can have a breakaway group that gets away from the pack. In a crit, there's not a lot of space to do that and you're already going so fast that if you did want to break away, you'd have to really, really, really punch it.

And so crits are hard because you're really grouped. You can only get strung out if the leaders are really willing to work. And so it's just, it's kind of stressful, right? Because you never really feel like you're in a safe place. So it is really like being on the hunt, but on a much more intense, short-lived way. But racing crit definitely takes more strategy than I have learned thus far. And I think it's really helpful to have teammates working together and having a strategy going into it. Do you know what a preme lap is?

Alexis:             

No.

Maude:           

I didn't either. And one of my races, they announced, "Okay, no preme laps on this race, ladies." And I thought, okay, I don't know what that is. And then we were coming around in front of the speaker and the speaker was like, "Okay, actually, this is a preme lap, sorry." And so they rang the bell. And so all of a sudden, it was in Santa Cruz and these women came up on me and they were really in front of me and I was like, hmm that's interesting. I don't know why they're doing that now and then they passed in front of me, and then they fell back. I thought, "That was odd." So we finished the race and then I said, "Hey, do you guys know what a preme is?" And they all laughed and were like, "We couldn't figure out why you weren't going."  A preme is basically if you win that one lap, you get a prize.

Alexis:             

Ah.

Maude:           

So it's like a one-time, a one-lap prize.

And so I had no idea. I maybe could have one the preme. I don't know. It doesn't really matter. But it's just so funny, because they said, "We didn't know why you weren't fighting. You were just sitting back there. We were just like, 'Oh, okay.' " It's stuff like that that I'm just learning a lot about.

Alexis:               

It's pretty cool that you're bold enough to just do that. No team and just enter and you learn as you go and you try as hard as you can and you win. That's pretty cool. Other than that, how have you learned about things like etiquette and race etiquette and what to do?

Maude:           

My partner has been really excited about this, obviously — we share this and we ride together a lot — he'll share tips and tricks every now and then and give me advice or, say "hey, this is a really cool thing I learned." But for the most part when I'm riding in crits or just on a road race or around others, I try to watch and observe the people around me. I really like watching people. I'm a pretty detailed-oriented and curious person. So a lot of the nuances and styles of racing, I just take from the women that I see and I'm watching that are either in front of me. I'll watch how they're riding.  If you're in the race, you can see the good and the bad. And for the most part, I'm just trying to mimic the people around me and use them as an example and pull from their experience.

So that's been really cool and I think it's one of the things that I like about racing, is first of all, you're in a pack of 30 women, which is so sick because there's just and other time that you can be around and learning and working with that many women around you. And I love it. I'm a huge feminist and supporter of women. So that is really rad.

But a lot of their skill-based stuff has been that, just watching. And then the experience of pushing myself out of my comfort zone with cycling in moments that I'm like, "I know this really scares me, I know that I'm nervous. Let me just try to relax." And so moving in that direction and slowly getting through and pushing through my fear in a whole lot of aspects of cycling has helped me get better skills and hone certain techniques. Especially descending on gravel. At first, I was really into the brakes. I'd get down to the bottom of the hill and I'd think, "God, the only thing that really hurts are my hands because I'm squeezing the breaks so hard." You know? You get so nervous and white-knuckled and learning how to really relax and flow has been hard and is really rewarding because of course, when you start relaxing, that's when the real fun happens.

Alexis:             

Yeah. And then in terms of learning about the sport through other women, are there any particular women who are your role models or that you look up to?

Maude:           

Oh yeah. I watch Coryn Rivera. She's just so speedy and strong. It's absolutely crazy to me. But I haven't really built a solid community of people I'm really familiar with quite yet.  And I'm really looking forward to getting more into cycling and expanding that community for me. In terms of people that specifically inspire me, I don't know.  Anyone that is willing to try something new and play and have a good time and know why suffering can be fun are my friends.

I have a friend Eileen and she was a really competitive cyclist in college and she doesn't race anymore, but she's still really, really into cycling. And we haven't ridden in a while but I remember climbing a hill with her when I got my road bike this last winter and we just connected on this level.  We can't really speak as to why it is that we find sick satisfaction in heaving and huffing up these climbs, but you get to the top and it's just this sense of immense satisfaction. 

You know, and I think surrounding yourself with people that have that attitude and that mentality, that's what I dig a lot.

Alexis:             

Yeah. It is a weird sport in that way. I didn't start riding until I was probably 30 and I had no endurance. No base. I had ran a half marathon.  I took up riding because I couldn't run anymore because I injured my lower back but building and having endurance and learning to suffer is strangely fun. Right? It's weird. Either you like to do it or you don't. And the people that don't understand it think we're crazy. I think in that aspect, cycling does just become a community like that because we're a bunch of weirdos.

Maude:           

Yeah totally. Totally. I won't diminish the fact that I am pretty strong in the saddle and I can ride really hard, but for me, it's not about that.  A lot of people are like, "I can't ride with you, you ride too fast." That's never the case. It's about sharing these things and if you're pushing yourself and challenging yourself, I want to share that. I don't need to be the fastest all the time. I'm not here to ride against you. I want to ride with people. I think that has been really fun to get in the saddle and share that with people.

Alexis:             

Definitely.  When you are getting ready for a race, everything is so important. Your bike has to be dialed.  You don't want any type of mechanical, everything's got to be ideal.  So when you reach into your drawer, when you decided to pull on your Lexi Miller jersey and shorts, you had to have a certain amount of confidence that you're going to be comfortable.

Maude:           

Totally.

Alexis:             

That it isn't going to move around, that you could be racing a gazillion laps at high speeds and know that it was going to work for you. So can you give a couple words on that thought process? Why you chose to wear that as opposed to something else?

Maude:           

What I love about it is that the kit is just the best. I haven't owned something that's so well-made and actually that quality. I could wear this every single time I race and never feel like it was going to fall apart or wouldn't be the right choice. I find it incredibly comfortable and movement and being able to feel like your clothes are part of you and not just something that's on you is I think really important, especially with cycling because so much of it is efficiency and movement. So yeah. Definitely a level of comfort and quality and feeling very confident and like the materials themselves.

And San Rafael was hot. I mean, maybe black wasn't the best choice but I knew that I would be able to perspire and my stuff wasn't going to get soaked and cling to my body. It was a really good choice. Yeah. That's stuff that went through my mind. Definitely. And hoping it was clean.

Alexis:             

Yeah. Well, that's awesome to hear because I do this because I want to give women quality and also allow them to feel feminine but not girly. And again, so much of the style emanates from guys. I'm personally not a fan of bib shorts. I just don't want anything extra on my shoulders. My feeling is, we have hips, and that's what can hold your shorts in place. Guys need suspenders, women have hips.

Maude:           

It's so funny you say that. My boyfriend's always saying, "You gotta get some bib shorts." And I say, "Why? I have to take all my clothes off if I want to go to the bathroom.

Alexis:             

Exactly.

Maude:           

That's so silly. Why would I do that? And he's like, "Because your shorts have to stay up." My shorts do, stay on.  Do your shorts stay on?  I was so confused.

Alexis:             

They do. Exactly.

Maude:           

I love the shorts. The long tights, I love them. They're super high-waisted and they're incredibly flattering. I swear, I look pretty damn good in them. That's a huge piece of it, too just being like, hell yeah. These look great. My sisters are pretty jealous.

Alexis:             

Oh wait, your sister rides too?

Maude:           

She's really into it. The long tights are a lifesaver in the San Francisco summer. I wear them all the time.

Alexis:             

Yeah. They're super comfortable. I mean, and it's the kind of thing you just don't know until you've wore a lot of different apparel, and you may think, "It's just another pair of black shorts, why do I need those?" So having your testimonial is really valuable, I think, for other women and also validating for me and makes me so happy because I'm doing this for women so they can be more comfortable in so many ways on their bikes. The way they look, the way they feel. And just knowing that it resonates with you just makes me super happy. Seeing that picture last week just carried me through the whole week because you know, it's a small operation and it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. And again, when guys are the tastemakers and the drivers of what women should be wearing in this industry, I'm like, "Hey wait, we can make it slightly different and still super functional and have our own style and we're not sacrificing anything." You know?

Maude:           

Yeah. Definitely.  It's really cool to hear that and it's cool to hear where all of your commitment comes from. I'm a huge fan of anything that's driven by creating the platform that women can share their thoughts and their ideas and be individuals. I feel like we don't always have that. So it's really dope to hear that and I'm a huge fan of it.

Alexis:             

And I really appreciate that it resonates with you because there are so many perceptions and people think if it's pretty or it's feminine, then it must be for a recreational ride. Or, "that's nice if you want to go slower or something." So you just validate a lot for me, and you’re proving naysayers wrong. And I really appreciate that. It would be super fun to ride sometime, too.

Maude:           

Definitely.  I'd definitely be down to meet up and hang out on the road.

Alexis:             

Thank you so much for your time, again.

Maude:           

Yeah. It was great to finally chat with you.

Alexis:             

Yeah, you too. All right. Have a good weekend.

 


Storytellers | Sharon: The flyer September 10 2018, 0 Comments

When orders kept coming in from a particular woman in Hammond, Louisiana, I took notice.  Sharon was an early adopter and in one of our email exchanges she said something along the lines of 'Congrats on the new business, I started my flight school in 2003, so I know a start-up can be an uphill battle and a giant pain in the rear.  Screw the Naysayers and do your thing!'  So, we connected on a bigger level.  Lexi Miller is about more than spandex.  It's about those connections and that 'bigger level'.  I gave Sharon a ring to learn a little bit more about her and her life (cycling and beyond).

She had me in stitches and surprised me with a British accent!  Read below or take a listen >>>HERE<<<.  

Alexis:             

So you’re British?  How did you find your way to Louisiana?

Sharon:           

So it's been a long and winding road.  We moved to California, lived there for a year, then it was really expensive so we went somewhere else, we had to go to Kansas City, opened up a business. We learned to fly in Kansas and then got another job opportunity down in Louisiana. It was basically my boyfriend and then husband who was getting these job opportunities and I was just trailing around after him. So he got a job opportunity down here in Louisiana at which point I'd gotten a green card sometime in the late '90s so I could work at this point so my free vacation was over. So I had to get a job and I couldn't do anything, my degree was in sociology which is completely useless.

Alexis:             

As many of our degrees are, right?

Sharon:           

Yeah. So I had my pilot's license and put the word out that I was a flight instructor and if you needed someone to teach you to fly then I could do it. And that snowballed big time. So that's the kind of short version.

Alexis:             

So that's what keeps you busy, 9-5 most days. And how did cycling weave its way into your life?

Sharon:           

Gosh, how did it? So my friend and I, Andre, who actually works for me now, I taught her to fly here. And she's always been super athletic and she kind of looks like she's carved out of marble so I was always like really "Wow, how do you look like that?" Anyway, so she was there all the time, so she and I became friends when she got the pilot's license out of the way--because you can't be friends with someone you're training them to fly because you have to make them cry and be mean and horrible. So we got that out of the way and started hanging together and just because she's so active I started being kind of active with her.

Sharon:           

Just out of nowhere it's like "Why don't we do a triathlon? That seems like a fun thing to do."

Alexis:             

So then it was her turn to make you cry?

Sharon:           

Pretty much, yeah. And she really did. So we signed up for a local sprint tri.  I was on my Walmart bike, and I think she borrowed a bike. And it was absolutely miserable because we hadn't trained properly, we didn't know what we were doing, we made every tri mistake you could possibly make, managed to fall off my bike, the whole bit.  We were terrified. She actually did quite well because she's so athletic, I was basically third to last so I got beat by everybody apart from a lady who I believe was about ten months pregnant, I managed to beat her and I also beat a guy that just had a double hip replacement.

Alexis:             

I mean it's your first one though.

Sharon:           

Proud moment.  That was my first one, yeah. So we did that and I realized how miserable was so that's when we started training and we bought second hand bikes... Yeah, the running and the swimming wasn't too bad, you can do that but the learning to ride thing and actually getting on your bike and doing it, it was hard. So we rode together for fair bit doing all training rides and then I hooked up with a bunch of people here, a bunch of ex pro cyclists, took me under their wing and set me up and really taught me how to ride, so I did group rides with those guys, and just got really addicted to it.  I had my first bike, a Fuji that I bought off my customer.  We'd been doing races and I had signed up for the Augusta half ironman at that point.

Sharon:           

The week before I was going to do a big final training ride and I was racing with the boys I and I had a bit of a crash and broke my arm pretty badly and had to have a few surgeries.  So at that point because I'd beaten up the bike so much it was justification to buy a really nice bike, so that was when we really started.

Alexis:             

Yeah, I mean you couldn't buy new arms, you might as well buy a new bike.

Sharon:           

That's right, I have a bionic arm that sets of alarms, so yeah.  

Alexis:             

How long ago was that, that this kind of all started when you started doing from your sprint tri to now?

Sharon:           

It's probably been about four years, it's not been that long.

Alexis:             

Oh wow, that's not a long time.

Sharon:           

Yeah, no actually thinking back so, post break arm and pre break arm. So I broke my arm in 2016, and it's 18 now, it's only been two years, wow.

Alexis:             

It sounds like your injury at least, time wise didn't set you back so much.  There's the physical healing but then there's also the mental part of it, like, "I don't know if I want to do that again" so how much mental down time did you have, where you were apprehensive about getting back on the bike?

Sharon:           

I basically made a promise to myself that by two weeks after the surgery.  I was back doing indoor rides within two weeks. And I made a promise to myself that when my birthday came around, which is December 6th, I needed to be on the bike, on the road.

Sharon:           

When I first got on that bike, I was surprised by this, I didn't think psychologically it'd affect me as much as it did. I did it by myself, and I was kind of panting you know like, it's gonna be okay, you're gonna be okay, when I clipped in. And it was just weird, I was surprised it affected me that badly, but once I clipped I rode around the neighborhood for 20 minutes and I was like "You're okay, you can clip, you can unclip, you're not gonna fall of, you're okay. You're good." So it wasn't too bad. I will say that I'm not super keen on big group rides anymore. I mean racing is fine, no one's drafting in tri.  I’m just not super thrilled about being around a bunch of people that can't control the bike. Just in case.

Alexis:             

Yeah, painful way to live and learn but that's pretty cool, that's cool that it's still a part of your life.  You did your full ironman a few months ago, right? Or last year was it?

Sharon:           

Yeah, did that in November of last year.  It wasn't as bad as I was expecting, honestly. The training was miserable, and it worked too. It basically meant getting up in the mornings at 4AM working out two, three ours, and then after work, going out and doing another session.  But the actual day itself was ... It's really weird, it just went like, flash.  Did the swim, super nervous about the swim, open water swim is never gonna be my idea of good fun. We've got some really nasty alligator infested canals around here so I made myself swim in those, do a little bit of conversion therapy.

Once I got out of the water I was like "Unless something really stupid happens, like I get hit by a truck, we can do this, it can work." And it was the craziest thing, you just get on your bike, and just ride for seven hours and it was done. The marathon is just not that big of a deal, I just told myself it was just four six mile runs, just run for six miles four times with a little bit extra at the end. So it just wasn't that bad. Coming up the bikes before I went on the run, it was hot and I was a little ... It wasn't heatstroke I was just feeling a little nauseous and the helpers asked me what they could do to help me and I'm like "Ice water would be super great." They're like "Oh we don't have any of that." Seriously? People don't have any ice water?

So I kind of was getting rude to one of the helpers, I may have actually sworn at her and they took her away and gave me a new helper, and this is stressful, she only had one arm.

Alexis:             

Wow.

Sharon:           

And I needed help tying up my laces, she wasn't very helpful so that was like karma for my shouting at people. But once you got done, done the run, it was just the weirdest thing, it was like you trained for it, your body just knew what to do, that's the only way to explain it. It just kind of flows out of you ... Don't get me wrong, it was hard but the day itself wasn't that bad.

Alexis:             

So, any more triathlons on your horizon?

Sharon:           

Yeah, no, I'm not doing a full this year, I cannot make myself do that training again. I'm going to do the New Orleans half in October, so I just started training for that in the last couple weeks. And the neat thing about the New Orleans tri is that 50% they cancel it so I might not have to do it.

Alexis:             

That's funny.  Why, because of rain or something?

Sharon:           

Usually. It's in October so it's normally still fairly hot but it's really windy so there's always giant crossings, you know they've got a 20 knot cross when that makes the swim really hairy. It's still hurricane season so there could be a tropical storm rolling through.  In 2016 the swim was a nightmare, grown men were crying and being pulled out.

Alexis:             

Oh god, that's awful.

Sharon:           

It's miserable, I actually really don't know why I signed up for it.

Alexis:             

Well maybe it'll be a-

Sharon:           

It might get canceled.

Alexis:             

Either that or maybe it'll be a nice calm day, who knows.

Sharon:           

Hopefully.

Alexis:             

I feel like a lot of triathletes start out doing triathlon and then they realize that really their favorite part is cycling and then they end up just being cyclists, would you agree with that?

Sharon:           

I agree yeah, for me that's absolutely the case. I really don't like swimming that much, I mean I'll do it. Running is really hard on your knees, I think I'm gonna get to a point where my knees just aren't working anymore so I'll have to quit and just bike. And really, my plan next year was to just move onto mountain biking, because of the super cool mountain bike series around here, it's the Louisiana mountain bike association and they have eight or nine races all in a row.  I did one mountain bike race this year, and I managed to get second place in that race defeat the state champion so I think it might be fun to just move away tri next year and just see if I can continue to beat the state champion.

Alexis:             

Do you have hills there or is it pretty flat?

Sharon:           

Yeah, we do actually.

Alexis:             

Cool. I'd imagine that with your work, that riding is probably a nice release from flying because even if you're in a plane and you're moving, I'd imagine that having your wheels on the ground is something you kind of crave after being in the air for so long.

Sharon:           

Yeah, it is. And the other thing too is that flying is really noisy, just the constant sound from the engine and the constant vibration, it's just really loud and obnoxious. Don't get me wrong, I love it but it's nice just to not be in something giant and vibrating, just to be on the ground and all you can hear is just the squish of the rubber on the ground. It's just a nice juxtaposition to the airplane. You know what else is interesting too, is that I just started getting into steel bikes. I went out and bought a Colnago c60 beautiful Italian super bike and that's my primary trainer.  I've been riding beautiful carbon bikes and they're light and they're gorgeous but they're stiff and they're noisy. You know, carbon, do you ride carbon?

Alexis:             

I do, yeah.

Sharon:           

So you know, they kind of clank a little bit. I mean they're not quiet and I can't the bottom brackets on mine are press in, not screw in so they just clank a little bit. So recently I've been getting into steel and my friend gave me an Atala for my birthday which was my first steel bike, an antique one, he built it up for me. And then I had the opportunity to go buy a Colnago Arabesque frame, which is amazing. You know anything about the Colnago arabesque?

Alexis:             

I don't.

Sharon:           

Okay, I'm such a bike geek.

Alexis:             

That's good.

Sharon:           

Can I tell you?

Alexis:             

Yeah.

Sharon:           

Okay, so the Arabesque it's a steel bike, basically Colnago used to make them, I think like, oh I don't know, I think like 20, 30 years ago. They stopped making them and moved onto new different bikes. About three years ago, apparently Ernesto Colnago finds a box of lugs of the old Arabesque, just like 200 of them or so in his workshop and they're these beautiful, chromed out lugs that are attached to a train and they're absolutely gorgeous, just a work of art.

Sharon:           

Anyway, so he found a box of these things and they decided to go back into production with a limited number of them, just to use them up and get them out there because they're antiques. So I found out about this and they have one blue bike, left in my size. One frame, so I bought that frame and built it up. Beautiful, silver, chromed out lugs on it and I've got some vintage wheels. Anyway, long story short, I've got this gorgeous steel bike and it feels so amazing because it's completely silent. It doesn't make any of the carbon clanking sounds and it's a little bit heavier but it's springier. It's almost like the landing gear on a Cessna.  It's just amazing, love it.

Alexis:             

Oh that's cool. Nice.

Sharon:           

Yeah, so it's almost like I've gone from carbon high tech and just kind of getting away from that and back into the steel, old fashioned. It's totally not tri, it's about as far away from triathlons you can get.

Alexis:             

You're becoming a cycling purist.

Sharon:           

Yeah, it's a beautiful way of riding.

Alexis:             

That's cool.

Sharon:           

I'm glad I got to experience all that.

Alexis:             

Yeah. Well cool, I think that's all for questions that I have, I don't know if there's anything you want to add or say. No pressure.

Sharon:           

I don't know, I'm trying to think of something cool to say but there's nothing in me.

Alexis:             

That's alright, I just like telling stories about women who ride because ... you know, there's women who ride bikes and there's niches within niches of that.  Everybody always asks me "Oh, are you Lexi?" And I've written about that and I'm like "No, that's actually not me." And Lexi Miller represents some persona, some woman and I think the marketplace and the general public assume that women who ride bikes all fall into one category or something and I find that the more people I talk to, we just have such broad different lives. Some people are moms, some people are not moms, some people are in their fifties and have been riding for like, 30 years or some are just like taking it up, some are former triathletes.  Everybody's got her story to tell and how cycling fits into her life. The fact that you can compare a Colnago to landing gear, that's kind of cool. Even if you don't think it is.

Sharon:           

Yeah, no, I think what you're doing is great. I mean your product is awesome, those shorts, that's what I wore for the ironman, it's just perfect. They fit so well, they're so comfy, they're just adaptable. What you're doing is really awesome.

Alexis:             

Thank you.  What I wanted to do was design things that would stand the test of time in terms of their fit and their quality and their function and make tweaks along the way to improve little things.  But that's the thing with cycling apparel, it's not like I'm gonna start doing dresses all of a sudden, like the basic black short is here to stay.

Sharon:           

We do need a triathlon suit, I would be your follower forever if you made a triathlon ... I'm already a follower forever, make a triathlon suit, please.

Alexis:             

I'll try. I stick to what I know but yeah, we'll see.  Maybe one day. But thank you so much for your time it was really fun just getting to know you because I've gotten to see your emails and your orders come through over the years so it's good to put a voice with the name.

Sharon:           

Yeah, well it's good to talk to you too.

Alexis:             

Cool. And then if you have another photo you can send, it doesn't even have to be on the bike or whatever, it can be you flying, it doesn't matter. Like something ... Anything that you think would identify you in a way that you want to be identified. That'd be great.

Sharon:           

Perfect, I'll try and find something that's been heavily photoshopped.

Alexis:             

Sure.

Sharon:           

I'm kidding, I won't.

Alexis:             

I don't care, whatever. Alright.

Sharon:           

Okay, I'll take a look and try and find something.

Alexis:             

Thank you so much for your time.

Sharon:           

Thank you, good to talk to you.

 

 

 


Storytellers | Colleen: The photographer August 24 2018, 0 Comments

Lexi Miller isn't a person.  Lexi Miller is the story of all of us.  Lexi Miller, the persona represents that part of me, and of you who gets up early on a Saturday to ride.  She's that part of you that's training for a triathlon. She's that part of you that finally got the nerve to buy a bike and see what this cycling stuff is all about.  She's that part of you who has been cycling for decades and just can't seem to shake the love of the sport.  Lexi Miller, the brand, is a conduit through which we can all share our stories around cycling, what got us here and what keeps us here.

Recently, Colleen Duffley emailed me and threw out the idea of hosting a trunk show in Dallas.  She mentioned that as a fashion photographer, brand marketer and athlete, she really appreciated what we were doing in the cycling space.  She casually let out that she had been to the Olympic trials (nbd).  She has a story to tell, indeed!  

Here it is.  I hope you enjoy getting to know Colleen as much as I have.  And I hope you can join us both in Dallas on September 1!  Click HERE for details.

xo Alexis

Alexis:

Can you tell me when and how you got into cycling?

Colleen:         

I'm a photographer, and I had an idea for a shot of a girl on a bike with her hair blowing back so I went to a bike shop and borrowed a bike.  The shop loved the shots and asked if they could use them for advertising.  They said "What if we trade you a bike for use of the images?"  That’s how it all started.. I started riding with them in the mornings before work and I was instantly addicted to Cycling.  That shot ended up being pretty popular and actually changed the course of my life.

I started doing rides with a group. I remember them saying, “We're doing a 20 mile ride.”  I thought, “Who can ride 20 miles on their bike?” And then all of a sudden 20 miles turned in to hundreds of miles and then I got into doing triathlons. The bike leg was my strongest so I tried my hat in bike racing.   I was pretty good at it , started winning early on.  I thought, this is really fluky, but was having so much fun.

I think maybe from being a photographer and using my legs to lift heavy equipment all the time, that made me strong. That and my mom was a dancer so I inherited her legs. I have been an athlete my whole life: softball, volleyball, basketball, and I had some scholarships for basketball and softball.  As a 5’6’ girl in the 80’s  I thought of course this is never going to be a career choice for me.  So I pursued my loved of photography. It was a great choice for me. Women didn’t have the same opportunities in sports as they do now.  Oh to be a young athlete now... Women’s sports have come a long way. Thank god.

One day, I got a phone call from the Olympic training center and they said "We’ve noticed you’ve been winning a lot of races.  Were you a junior rider?"  And I was like, no actually I didn't get my bike until I was 28. They invited me to train at the Olympic training center with the national team for the ‘92 Olympics.  I was probably one of oldest riders there.  I was training with the likes of Lance Armstrong ,Bobby Julich and George Hincapie.  It was such an amazing experience.

I was traveling and shooting and did the trials and I was in the main pack with a photo finish for the ‘92 Olympics.  The coaches thought if I didn’t travel 220 days (shooting) I could have had a chance for Barcelona. But I was married at the time, had a house, and a great career in photography. 

I moved to Texas where there was a coach that was going to help me and I was shooting for a Neiman Marcus catalogs which is a great account.  So I was training for the ‘96 Olympics and working full time and shooting major advertising accounts.  I was working seven days a week.  I competed in the ‘96 Olympic trials, went back to the Olympic training center several times to train with the team before the '96 trails. I made it to the finals for ‘96 but didn't make the team.  My training, and competing at that level was a dream of a lifetime.  It also helped me as a business owner.  Discipline, perseverance and where with all ... all of that is just part of being an athlete … at any level and great lessons for life.

I fell in love with cycling.  I was obsessed with it and still am.  Like all true love … it never dies.  I just love the sport.  I think it's one of those lifetime sports.  My bike is like an old friend to me.  In times of stress my bike is my safe place, my therapy.

I travel a lot internationally, and I used to take my bike with me everywhere. More often now I take my running shoes.  I got into ultra running and do ultra trail running.  I ran seven marathons in seven days in the Congo to benefit women and children of the DRC. That was really life changing.  We are so lucky as American women.  We have freedom and amazing opportunities.  I was also the oldest athlete to do that -- seems to be a reoccurring theme.  I just turned 55 and I hope to be cycling, running and having many more adventures for a lifetime.

Alexis:                    

That’s such an awesome story.  I mean all of it: how you got into it and that you're still doing it.  So about hills?  You do or you don't like hills?

Colleen:                

I love hills. They were always my strong point.  Now that I’m back in Dallas with my new studio, I plan to ride the hills and get back into climbing shape.  I love the challenge of a hill.  I used to travel with my bike all the time and love to see the world that way.  Even though I'm not competing and I don't know that I would want to compete again I still love seeing the world on two wheels.  It's the best way to connect with people.  And I think once an athlete always an athlete.  I'm doing L’Eroica in Italy this fall in October.  The ride is on vintage bikes, and my bikes are vintage because they're 20 years old.  I haven't bought any cycling equipment in years because, well, I love my bikes and it feels like going home when I get on the seat of a bike that I have ridden so much.  It's like an old friend.

I'd like to really pick up my mileage, because at 55 I feel like I can get a better fitness level and not beat up my body as much as running.  Seven marathons in the Congo kind of beats up a 55 year old body more than 100 mile bike ride does.  I feel I will always love endurance sports.

Alexis:                    

Mm-hmm. So, onto the apparel since you've been in the sport for so long. I think it's interesting that you have a racing background and that what I designed appeals to you, because it is not that aggressive look of bib shorts and full zip jerseys.  There's such a perception, I think, of the design and the apparel and what it means to be “serious” about the sport.  So I think it's awesome that you have this “serious” background and that what I design resonates with you!  And you can see the function in it and see that it's also beautiful.  In your words, what did you see when you saw Lexi Miller for the first time?  What appealed to you and what made you think, I want to try that?

Colleen:                

Well, there was not an option before in clothing.  It was the same as men's clothing, just smaller.  I'm in the fashion industry and at the end of the day I'm a woman that cares about fit, style and function.  I love it that the clothes are very functional, they look very athletic and sporty, but yet they still fit things the way a woman's clothes should fit.  I'm feminine and I like looking feminine while still being hardcore.            

Being an athlete shouldn't take away from your femininity.  I think that's important.  Women are not used to having those options.  Look what Lululemon did for athletic apparel.  I can wear it after a workout into the grocery store and not feel like I have athletic wear on. To me Lexi Miller is the Lululemon of cycling.

How great that finally, you don't feel weird in your cycling clothes. You don't have to be wearing your husband’s or your brother's cycling clothes.  They feel like they are made for women.  You can finish a ride and have a coffee at a café and not feel out of place.

Alexis:                    

Yeah. That's so funny that you said that--the Lululemon for cycling thing because that's exactly what I wanted because I live in Lululemon.  I love the way it fits.  I love the quality of the textiles and just the look of it and the design and everything.  I think a lot of other women who are getting into cycling wish they could just wear their tank top and their leggings on a ride, and then they realize it's a different kind of fabric. You need a chamois. You need pockets.  So I just love that that really came through for you. And just as an aside, does it all matter to you where apparel is made? Does that ever impact your decision making?

Colleen:                

I want to support American companies, and I want to support smaller companies,   Especially if ethically designed and produced. I think that should be important to all of us.  I think it's great to support women designers. I don’t know that many people that are designing cycling clothes are, A) women and B) actually cyclists, too. You can tell that you know the material, then knowing you're an athlete…I think that's important and obvious, as well.

Alexis:                    

Yeah. For sure. So, when you got the items in your hands and felt them, how did that compare to what you saw online and your expectations?  And, how did it feel in your hands and when you put it on?

Colleen:                

I think it's even better in person.  It exceeded my expectations when I got it. 

Alexis:                    

The one thing that's so hard to get across is literally how the fabric feels. I mean it's so tough to convey that.  But maybe you know how to do that because you're a photographer.

So I'm just curious, what is your thought on bib shorts?  I just don't like the extra effort if I don’t think it is worthwhile.  I don't like having to wear a base layer. I don't want anything extra on my shoulders. I already got a sports bra, I've got a jersey. And for me, my thought is if you design a pair of shorts that sit on your hips, you don’t need anything else to hold them up.  Men need suspenders because they don't have hips. Women have hips that hold our shorts in place. Why bother with the extra encumbrance of suspenders, essentially?  What's your thought on that?

Colleen:                

I never liked bibs even when I was racing.  I was sponsored and would get stuff sent, and I never wore bibs because to me….it's just too much effort.

Alexis:                    

Got it.  So, when I was designing the shorts, I was torn between two fabrics. I had the one that's compressive, the one that the body of the short is made of, and then the one that's around the legs and the waist has more spandex and more stretch.  And I sewed a pair with each fabric. I was kind of torn, so I used both.  Compression where you need it, and holds your chamois in place, it gives you that nice hugged sensation on your quads and hamstrings, and then a softer fabric around your thighs and your waist where you don't need that.  So, after getting the shorts and trying them on, was that something that you noticed right away when you pulled them on?

Colleen:                

I could definitely tell the difference.  Some bike shorts have that elastic at the leg and even when you are fit, your skin kind of pooches out. That’s not attractive. Lexi miller shorts don't do that.  I think the way you have that little dip on the waistband, is flattering.  If you feel good in it, you're going to want to wear it more.  And if you feel like you look better in it, you're for sure going to want to be in it more..

Alexis:                    

Right, right. Okay well I think that that's it.  It's such a cool story that you're literally at the intersection of all the things: fashion and cycling and photography, and how it all came together in your life and how Lexi Miller resonated with you and I'm just so excited that everything came together like this.  It's pretty cool. 

So back to the whole George Hincapie and Lance Armstrong thing. If you ran into them somewhere, would you guys remember each other?

Colleen:                

I’m sure they would.  When you train with people at that level there is a sort of a bond.

Alexis:                    

That's pretty cool.  Well, thanks so much for your time Colleen.  I'm so excited to go to Dallas and to get to ride with you and host our pop-up on September 1st!

Colleen:

Me too.  I’m really excited for what the Lexi Miller brand does for the sport.  As a life time athlete and a creative person…it’s a great mix of style, function and performance.  It’s definitely my go to in cycling apparel.

 

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