Bike Talk: Will #METOO Shake Up Women's Cycling?

15 February, 2018

It's no surprise that sexism is endemic in cycling. It's one of the reason's I started this segment Bike Talk. When I first started commuting by bike in San Francisco, I didn't realize I would enter a lifestyle that would leave me with daily tales of being bullied, harassed, and mansplained about what I should wear when riding my bike. The more I got into cycling, the more I started seeing sexism in all areas of cycling, especially pro cycling. After some time, it started making sense to me that my experiences as a female cyclist was a reflection of the male dominated sport of cycling but no way was I going along with it. So much of my content is specifically created to appeal to women for that exact reason but while I've grown with women's cycling I have also seen cycling's growing pains, only now we are in the most interesting time of the #METOO movement, and I'm wondering how all this is going to shake up the cycling industry and sport in 2018. 

Before I go on, I do want to make clear that this is an opinion peace and this blog is monitored to give women a safe space to express their thoughts and ideas. The #MeToo movement has done the same in giving women a voice. We all have been collectively hit with stories that's make us reflect on our own uncomfortable experiences. Women are angry and hungry to break down sexism and cycling is going to have it's moment. 

We have seen it, there have been countless horrendous examples of misconduct by male pro-cyclists with podium girls, coaches, doctors and others abusing female athletes in their care. A handful of brave athletes have gone on the record about harassment, discrimination and abuse: Jess Varnish, Nicole Cooke, Marijn de Vries, Petra de Bruin, Tammy Thomas, Genevieve Jeanson, and, more recently, American track sprinter Missy Erickson, who shared her story of abuse as a junior to Bicycling Magazine. 

Pro women's cyclists, like Olympic silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead (now Deignan), have spoken out about the differences at the top, noting how male cyclists are paid far more and given far more support and media exposure than their female counterparts. British Cycling has pointed to the lack of female representation on its own board, pledging to recruit women board members to help even the playing field. But with years of male domination to contend with, despite the overwhelming success of female cyclists at a top level, it seems that women's moment in cycling could take some time before sexism is stamped out through all levels of the sport but I believe cycling is about to have it's own reckoning within the #MeToo movement.

Thanks to social media and fans, the industry has not been able to ignore allegations of sexism, sexual misconduct and abuse against women in pro-cycling. Over years, pro-cycling has generated it's own backlash of sexual misconduct, abuse, and exploitation of female athletes and podium girls. The 2008 Olympic road race champion Nicole Cooke has repeatedly talked about female riders being treated far less well than their male counterparts. Pro-cycling's Lizzie Armitstead writes in her biography of sexism in the sport. Sprinter Jess Varnish alleged that the former British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton told her to “go away and have a baby” – claims he denies – after she was released from the elite program. He was suspended but is now back to the track at British Cycling. Where is the justice?
Still, women in sports aren’t the first to feel powerless in the face of their male superiors. Before #METOO, we have seen women in cycling band together to bring out allegations within the sport. We have seen women write about sexism in sport, being paid less, and above all, not having support to showcase women's cycling by the sports governing body, the UCI.  While social media has ramped up support for women in cycling, I hope that pro-cycling will have it's moment of systemic change that will trickle down.

While pro cycling will have it's moment in the spotlight, the industry and community will be impacted. Already, we see women's cycling groups ramping up in support of one another and while our small community has a way to grow, we speak often about which brands, shops, and websites don't have women's specific kit, content, gear and bikes. We share what social media outlets and accounts to avoid and call out, what men to avoid in our clubs, which men are overly and uncomfortably “affectionate,” and which men go out of their way to make women’s lives hell. I also believe, it's only time that will tell how the women's cycling community will rock the boat with #METOO to change the industry and market.

A few women have told me they believe pro-cycling, industry and the community will have its #MeToo moment too and soon. A few other women tell me that they have stopped supporting brands, IG accounts, and bike shops that only sell mens products or market with sexist ads. Some think the hostile sexist environment is so endemic to the industry there is no way to dislodge. Others believe women can’t come forward about harassment until more women are in positions of power in cycling sports and media. So while the #MeToo movement continues to topple powerful men in a multitude of industries, the women in cycling will watch, bide their time, and wait. Only this time, the language is strong and women are more empowered and united more than ever.

Is this the beginning of a long-overdue shake-up in the male-dominated UCI boardrooms, cycling industries, and back offices of pro cycling? “They’re coming,” says Michael Kimmel, founder of the Center for The Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, who predicts that a wave of accusations against sports figures will emerge. “One big difference in 2017 is that women are being believed. Women are not on trial. Their credibility is not the issue. Men’s behavior is the issue. That is the biggest change right now.” 

I am hopeful that the broader #METOO movement will improve the culture of cycling. “There’s finally a feeling among women that it’s OK to talk about their experiences,” says Kimmel. “Watching the movement, the bravery of women coming forward, it emboldens others. The whole point is that the new generations shouldn’t have to deal with this.” As pro-cycling's road season comes to a start this Spring, I believe this will be the year we see big changes for women in cycling, hopefully in communities and industry too. Already, we've seen cycling ads include women,  some women's road media exposure, and equal prize money to it's winners, thanks Tour Down Under. Surely, this step will open the door for more women's participation in women's cycling. And if the Future Is Female, then pro-cycling has one hell of a reckoning to contend with in 2018.

Images: Sarah Reed/SATC 

Caring For Cycling Kit

12 February, 2018

Kits are an investment made to last through our most epic adventures and plenty of miles. If your legs can handle it, your kit should be able to handle it too. Keeping up your favorite jersey with just the right amount of pockets, bibs with leg bands that do not squeeze too tightly, and gloves to match with a comfortable grip – the perfect cycling apparel, is priceless. While cycling kit can be pricey, just like your favorite pair of jeans or shoes, cycling kit comes with plenty of rules when it comes to caring for it. Follow these tips to ensure your kit looks sleek forever.
Check the labels first -  Read washing instructions on the labels in cycling clothing as each brand has a different set of instructions depending on the type of material they have. If you follow the directions given with the garment, it will have the best chance of living a long and productive life. 

Detergents - Do not use heavy detergents, fabric softners, dryer sheets with heavy perfumes or dyes when washing kit. Residue's from detergents or softener's can interfere with the fabric technology from doing their job like wicking moisture away or repelling rain. I tend to lean on cleaning my kit with Dr. Bronner's so that detergents on kit don't irritate my skin.

Machine Wash - I actually recommend machine washing kit since nothing gets rid of trail grime and sweat, and sanitizes like machine washing. Wash all your kits together. Bulky items like jeans, velcro, towels can destroy delicate fabrics like mesh. To keep the color and fabric in good shape, zip up kit and turn inside out to wash with delicates in cold or lukewarm water. In the long run, machine washing will actually help your apparel function better.

Hand Wash - If you can't get to machine cleaning your kit right away, hand wash or rinse and hang them inside out to dry when you get home. Even kit with great anti-bacterial material will stay damp with sweat if not able to breath and the longer cycling shorts and jerseys stay damp with sweat, the more likely, they are to grow odor-causing bacteria.
Drying - Again be sure to check your kits labels. Synthetic fiber garments and durable water repellent finishes on your kit have a “memory” that shapes to your body. Drying them in low heat will bring them back to their original state and may damage some of the material. Always best to air dry, especially items like gloves or shoe covers that have velcro and other material that may damage jersey's or shorts.
What if I'm touring? - Do not re-wear your bike clothes the next ride without a good wash. It may be tempting to throw on the same kit without a wash for a second day if you only have a few kit items. Even some high performing fabrics designed to transfer moisture away from the body and dry quickly can turn rancid on the surface if not washed after each use. Even worse, wearing the same bibs or shorts for a second day could result in rashes, chafing, and even infections in extreme cases. Always best to wash by hand with a natural soap and air dry overnight.
Other Tips: Check your pockets for extra money, snacks, or gels. Mesh lingerie bags also come in handy for washing cycling gear if they have delicate fabrics.

When you purchase good quality kit you're already one step ahead. Once you consider the garment specifications when checking out new cycling gear, keeping in mind the type of material and care of your kit to keep it in good shape and always looking like new.

Image Courtesy: 1. @andcarmelasays

No Off Season

31 January, 2018

It's been a while coming but HAPPY 2018! While it's been quiet on the blog, I've been occasionally Instagramming my adventures and enjoyment of Californian sunshine and cycling. Even though micro-blogging on social media allows me to post a photo and snippet of the content, it doesn't necessarily allow me to share the story behind them which is why I love coming back to blogging after a stint of being "off-line" during the "off-season". However, it's not been much of an off-season while cycling in California. While there is so much I want to share about my adventures cycling in the West Coast, not all can be captured in a social media post or tweet. 

Once again, I'm spending another winter escaping New York winter in California. While I'm here for the next month, I am planning my wedding and cycling as much as my heart desires. Being that CA is my home state, there are family and friends to meet and catch up with, only this time, it's been all about meeting cycling Instagram friends IRL (in real life). Being a blogger, I've always loved meeting followers and people I follow since online life is so different from real life. Meeting online friends in real life has been a practice of making real connections with like minded women in cycling which I have found that there is something to be said about in real life meetings.
Call me naive, but meeting online cycling friends has been far from being the bottomless repository of oddballs and potential serial killers! The internet is full of lively minded, like-minded engaging people – for the first time in history I believe we're lucky enough to choose friends not by location or luck, but by pinpointing people with amazingly similar interests, lifestyles, matching politics, senses of humor, and passionate feelings about the most infinitesimally tiny thing we call our cycling community. The online cycling friends I have now might be spread wide, geographically, but I'm closer to them than anyone I went to school with, by about a million miles.

For me, and people like me who might be a little shy or socially awkward – moving conversations and friendships from the net to a coffee shop table is a much more organic, normal process than people who spend less time online might expect.
Depending on the root of the friendship, on where the conversation started, the benefit is clear – you cut out the tedium of small talk. What could be better? The nice thing is that there's no trying to slowly work out whether you think similarly or have the same kinds of life experience, or whether you really do have enough in common to sustain the conversation – all that is done by the time you meet because you've read their comments or their emails or their blog. You know where they stand on certain things, what they care about and just who they are – and so when you actually meet them, it's like you've known them a year or your whole life already because all the small stuff is already out of the way, months of small talk replaced by the fact that online friendships are, essentially, self-selecting.
Whenever this topic of meeting Instagram friends IRL crops up in conversation, I have seen people express these types of encounters with an air of disdain. The sense of shock surprises me, as if people on the internet were not "real" at all. Certainly, people play a character online quite often – they'll be more confident, more erudite, or, depending on the site, more argumentative version of their real selves – but what's the alternative? What's the thing that's so much better than making friends in a virtual world? Meeting people at work? Yes perhaps, but for many, a professional distance between their work selves and their social selves is necessary, and they just don't want to spend that much time with people they work with – especially with their guard down. Is it better to meet friends in pubs? While drunk? Are they really much more themselves in that state than in the words through which they present themselves online?
There are always stories buzzing around about "man runs off with the woman he met on Second Life" or people who meet their soulmate online and end up with their head in someone's freezer – but affairs are affairs. People are people are people – by making friends online, you're simply speeding through the whole process, bypassing shyness and getting rid of the social awkwardness that comes with trying to make a friend out of a stranger.

Is it really that odd that we're increasingly converting virtual cycling friends to real, physically pokable ones as well as the other way around? Frankly, I now think it's weird to do much else. Call me naive, call me a social misfit, I don't care. Virtual cycling friends make the best real friends. 

Being that I live a life of travel and work from home, meeting online friends in real life is a great way to getting out and letting the world teach me a little bit. From these online cycling ladies I've recently met, I've learned so much about their views on women's cycling and community than I have online that the rest of the world does not get to hear. One other thing I've learned is that while sharing our stories online is important to inspire more women to cycle, it's also important that we make time to connect with each other in real life. 

Thank you Alex of Jane and Her Joe, Melissa Planner at LBSU, Ginger of Machines For Freedom, and Yuliana of Bike California for making the time to meet up for a ride and chat about the cycling world.

Healthy Holiday Off Season Tips

07 December, 2017

It might be hard to believe, but 2017 is nearly over, and Christmas is mere weeks away. For most of us, this is one of the busiest months of the year, as well as the most indulgent. The run up to Christmas is filled with parties, the amount of tempting food available everywhere (Christmas cookies in the office! Advent calendars! Christmas sandwiches!) seems to triple, and a steaming mug of mulled wine on a chilly evening (especially after a ride) can be very tempting.
It can also be a tiring time. Between family commitments, traveling, and finding ourselves with an increased workload in the run-up to the new year, the holidays can all contribute to us feeling worn out. To top if off, we’re all more susceptible to colds, coughs, and flu. The more run down we are, the more likely it is we’ll find ourselves in the grip of illness at this time of year. 
That’s why I believe in a work hard, play hard approach to the festive season. We all deserve to let our hair down, but now is a key time to pay extra attention to your nutrition and make sure you’re putting aside time for regular exercise, to keep you feeling strong, energized and well to saddle up. While I've become a pro at traveling and avoiding flu season, I've also developed some habits that are helpful to staying fit and healthy across the next few festive weeks:
Hydrate like crazy
Keen riders will know how vital it is to stay hydrated, but if you’re drinking more alcohol than usual this month, it’s crucial you make an effort to increase your water content. Alcohol is diuretic, which is why we get headaches and feel drained the morning after. Carry a water bottle with you, keep one on your desk, drink lots during and after exercise, and always match an alcoholic drink with a glass of water when you’re on a night out. You’ll really notice the difference if you do! On the days that you do go a bit overboard, you can help your body out by drinking water with fresh lemon. It will help alkalise your system and get your liver back up and running.
Eat properly
Admit it: a miniature smoked salmon bagel washed down with prosecco is not a sensible dinner. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy canapés or party treats; just make sure you’re making time for proper, healthy meals too. Start the day with nourishing, filling breakfasts like poached eggs and avocado or porridge, make sure your snacks during the day are raw and healthy, and if you’re rushing to an event after work, make the time to eat beforehand. Even a banana and a handful of nuts can keep you feeling full for much longer and reduce your cravings once you start to drink.
Rest up
Don’t make late nights a habit. Sleep deprivation can cause mood swings, weight gain and won’t make you feel jolly and festive in the coming weeks: you’ll be less productive and more sluggish. If you’ve got a big party or ride the next day to go to, get an early night before and after it to regain that balance.
Know your limits
You’re not obliged to be the last one clutching the karaoke microphone at your work party. Only you know what works for you, so don’t be afraid to spread your social commitments out to pace yourself. Cyclists are generally very good at managing their limits since most of our free time and energy is spent on riding. Planning ahead helps, so take time to sit down and assess your time and goals. Factor in time for yourself: evenings where you rest, and times devoted to training. 
Sweat It Out 
During December, exercise and riding can be something that slips from people’s schedules, when in reality it should be made a priority. Putting aside time to work out will not only help you avoid gaining weight, but it’ll reduce stress, help keep your immune system fighting fit and give you a break. As with most training, even in the off season, consistency is key - so even if you’re social schedule is booming, make time for those sweat sessions so that all of your hard work doesn’t go out the window.
Give Yourself A Challenge
While images of you resting by the fire with mulled wine in hand are conjured up, Rapha has put forth the call once more to get riders out on their bikes and burn off those party treats and holiday sweets! The Festive 500 is back and is a great way for some to get out of the house after spending all day with the family and feeling like a slouch.What is the challenge? Rapha challenges riders the task of completing 500km over the course of eight days from Christmas eve right up to New Year. Read more about Rapha Festive 500 to join the festivities.
Image Courtesy: @Rapha

Holiday Gift Guide For Babes On Bikes

04 December, 2017

Here it is! A Holiday Gift Guide on what to gift the cycling gal in your life. Whether they’ve been riding for six months or six years, I'm sure there is something cycling related they would love to rock on their bike in the new year. If you're lucky enough to have a cycling buddy, family, or friend who you want to treat or get into cycling, this guide has you covered. 
I want to make sure you’re totally prepared to get your cycling friends or family members the best gifts that make everyone in their cycling club green with envy! So I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite cycling kits, books, tech and gear that I couldn't possibly live without that would make great gifts. These recommendations are mostly geared to women (some could be used for men) and are based on personal experience and feedback from other cyclists that couldn't possibly live without them too. The best part about theses recommendations? They’re guaranteed to get good use!

So without much further ado, here are my top picks from stocking stuffers to heart throbbers that will make your cyclist #SMILEFORMILES!

Read - From knowing how sharp your tan lines should be, the latest kit and gear, to inspiring stories from women in cycling, these subscriptions and good reads cover it all.... The Rules / Bicycling Magazine / Casquette Magazine 

Experience - There is nothing better than a cycling adventure to explore new territory in. Whether it's a cycling holiday in the French mountains, Vietnam, or the West Coast of America, a cycling trip is always a winner and great way to escape the winter.... Adventure Cycling Association Guided Tour / Exodus Travels / Hooked On Cycling
Ride - They have probably been eyeing a new ride or need an upgrade. If you want to treat them big, a new set of wheels is sure to make them #SMILEFORMILES... Ruby Road Bike by Specialized
Accessories - Every #NEWBIKEDAY should have some accessories for saftey, hydration, and snacks... Machines For Freedom Logo Bottle / Knog Oi Bell Road Runner Burrito Bag /
Tech - Cyclist are hardcore when it comes to their performance and always trying to get better. Tech can help them get their, whether it's a Strava App subscription, an Apple watch to manage training, or a new Garmin cycling computer, these are sure to help them get from zero to hero.... Strava For Apple Watch Garmin Edge 520 Bike GPS
Nutrition - Going from zero to hero requires a lot of training. Fueling and recovery days should definitely be done like a hero too. Monthly subscriptions to healthy-delicious snacks and equipping them with hydration is sure to get them to their best.... Osmo Nutrition For Women / The Feed

I hope this guide helps you check off the lists of gifts to buy. If there are any recommendations you may need for beginners or more advanced cyclists, please feel free to send me an email. Happy shopping!
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