SLIDER

Cycling Stratton, Vermont

18 October, 2017

For the past few years my fiance and I have been returning back to the land that kindled our journey to living in the woods, Vermont. Last year we endured a rather wet autumn camping out in Jamaica State Park shortening our journey's length. This year we wanted to try something different and after all the months of training, I decided to take us up Stratton Mountain, the highest point of the Green Mountains on the Southwestern part of Vermont. It was a task I set my mind to, and while this trip was filled with lots of highs, it also had it's lows at the end of the journey but nonetheless it was a trip full of new surprises.

When we arrived, we settled into our cozy quintessential Vermont cabin and started planning our first ride through Stratton Mountain. We were so excited about last years routes that we had expected this trip to be similar, but the routes I downloaded by Stratton Resorts website had given me very little knowledge of terrain or expectation of what was to come.

We set out for our first ride at Stratton Resort, we enjoyed the views from above and as we continued on highway roads we met a great descent that almost frighted us by how steep and long down it was. As I speed down, I was wishing that we wouldn't have to climb it back up to our car, little did I know at the time. As we easily reached the bottom we turned into a road that was a great heart pounding climb, the kind that made you want to throw up. This, we thought, was only the beginning of the ride so our spirits were willing but as we reached the top we were relieved onto a descent, making a turn into back country roads of gravel along the Winham river. Shaded by trees, we could see ahead that we had no climbs ahead of us.

We cycled through gravel effortlessly, covering miles of quaint cabins neatly tucked into the woods without a single car to disrupt the tranquility of the natural environment. We were loving our stretch through the woods and didn't want it to end. However, as we started to head back to our starting point we eased into the stretch climbing through dirt roads and farm. By the time we reached the last climb, we had to push ourselves onto a mile of 15% grade road, our legs and lungs were officially shot. I can't remember that last time my legs actually felt like they were on fire only after 3,900 ft of climbing but I did it without stopping, meditating on my breathing as everything in my body felt like it was on fire. I was proud of myself and my partner as he meet me at the top, all those months of spin climbing intervals had payed off. Once we got back our cabin, I prepared a bowl of gluten-free pasta bolognese and bathed in scorching water that helped me relax into a 9 hr sleep.

The next morning was an early start. We were so tired from our grueling ride the day before we decided to cover flatter, off road trails with the occasional hike. We returned back to a trail we did the year before in Jamaica State Park, were a 20 mile loop on trails and country roads would lead us to our favorite local burger spot, Honeypie. We developed a love relationship with this particular area of Vermont for the gourmet farm to table food, local roasters, and village market offerings that catered to tourist that wanted to indulge in an authentic Vermont experience.

Once on the White River trail, we were careful to notice beds of rock that were covered in early autumn foliage. To much of my amazement, my Dolce seemed to handle the off roading well. I did feel a bit of bone shaking and felt all the bumps but it handled climbing over rocks and wet leaves that most road cyclists would avoid. I was beginning to get sore on my hands and shoulders, so much bike handling and control was needed but I was loving every second that posed as a challenge. I had to push myself to descend down some shady rocky areas that felt too risky, some moments scarier than others but once I did it without a fall, I felt that I had achieved something great.
All the smiles, laughs, and scary bits paused in the last five miles of our journey. When passing through a park for a toilet, I was hurrying to catch up to my fiance but didn't notice all the dark tree shade covering the pavement and other things along it. Without noticing I had hit a speed bump, not your everyday neighborhood speed bump either. At 15mph, I flew over my handle bars, hitting the left side of my body first then onto my chest and belly sliding down the road with my helmet grinding the pavement till I stopped. I was crushed with pain and bleeding. Catching my breath, I cried out for my fiance who came rushing back to help me, checking if anything had broken. All was in it's place, luckily. 

Once we got back to our cabin, my fiance cleaned my cuts, scratches, and assessed if I needed to get a concussion exam or stitches. I no doubt had whip lash and everything was in pain but I was grateful that the severity of my crash was very mild. I was also grateful that my helmet had saved my face, teeth, and head. It could have been worse.

Fortunately, the end of our short holiday in Stratton was not all trauma. Most of the riding we covered was exactly what we hoped for and more. While packing up that night, I layed on the couch icing my hands and knees, reminiscing on the scenery that stole our hearts and the history we made in Vermont that kept calling us back. Will there be a next year? Perhaps. I'm not one to let a crash stop me though.

Bike Fitting Basics For Common Problems

20 September, 2017

Whether you are riding to the corner store or across the country, you should be comfortable on your bike. There are common issues I often hear other cyclists, including myself, suffering from like neck, back, or knee pain, saddle sores, or hand or foot numbness. Knowing these issues rise from improper bike fit, I met up with my bike shop for a bike fitting session to discuss these issues along with their causes. I was told that if I am experiencing any of these afflictions "Your bicycle probably doesn't fit you right." From there I spiraled down into a rabbit hole of how to properly adjust a bike to ride comfortably. 
While a good bike fit can help prevent cycling afflictions, it also helps improves pedaling efficiency and aerodynamics that actually make you faster. I thought since I was getting all this knowledge that I might share these insights to help you know basic bike-fitting principles to help you get performance and comfort right on your bike with just a few adjustments.
Adjusting the Bike Saddle
Your bike seat should be level to support your full body weight and allow you to move around on the seat when necessary. Too much upward tilt can result in pressure points. Too much downward tilt can make you slide forward while riding and put extra pressure on your arms, hands and knees, which can lead to injury.
To adjust the seat height, wear your biking shoes and riding shorts and place your heels on the pedals. As you pedal backward, your knees should fully extend in the down position. If your hips rock side to side the seat is too high. Now when you move your foot into the proper pedaling position, with the balls of your feet over the pedal, you'll have a slight bend in your knees.
You can also adjust the seat forward and backward (fore and aft position). With your feet on the pedals so the crank arms are parallel with the ground, the proper position will put your forward knee directly over the pedal axle. Dropping a plumb line from the patellar tendon makes this adjustment a bit easier to see.
Handlebar Adjustment
If the handlebars are too high, too low, too close, or too far away, you may have neck, shoulder, back, and hand pain. A proper reach allows you to comfortably use all the positions on the handlebars and to comfortably bend your elbows while riding. There are other, more advanced adjustments you can make, such as changing the handlebar width or height.

Bicycle Adjustments for Common Pain Problems
Because your body is asymmetric (one leg or arm may be slightly longer or shorter than the other) an ideal bike fit is often a matter of trial and error. The slightest imbalance can lead to pain. Here are some common complaints and possible solutions.
Knee Pain
Knee pain is usually associated with a seat position that is too high or low or far forward or back. Improper bike shoe or cleat position can also cause knee pain.
A seat that is too high will cause pain in the back of the knee.
A seat that is too high will also cause your hips to rock side to side, which may cause discomfort.
A seat that is too low or too far forward may cause pain in the front of the knee.
Improper foot position on the pedal (or improper cleat alignment) can cause pain on the inside or outside of your knees.
Individual anatomy may also result in knee pain. Cyclists with slight differences in leg length may have knee pain because the seat height is only adjusted for one side. Shoe inserts or orthotics can help correct this problem. Another cause of knee pain is using too high a gear. Try to use a gear that allows you to pedal quickly, from 70 to 100 strokes per minute.
Neck Pain
Neck pain is another common cycling complaint and is usually the result of riding a bike that is too long or having handlebars that are too low. Tight hamstring and hip flexor muscles can also cause neck pain by forcing your spine to round or arch, and your neck to hyperextend.
Foot Pain or Foot Numbness
Foot pain or numbness is often the result of wearing soft-soled shoes. Special shoes designed for cycling have stiff soles that distribute pressure evenly over the pedal. This also helps you pedal more efficiently. Foot pain can also be caused by using too high a gear, which results in more pressure where the foot meets the pedal.
Hand Pain or Hand Numbness
Hand pain or numbness can be prevented by wearing padded cycling gloves that provide cushioning. You should ride with your elbows slightly bent, not straight or locked. Bent elbows will act as shock absorbers and help absorb the bumps in the road. Changing hand positions on the handlebars can also reduce pressure and pain.
Saddle Sores
Finding a bike seat that fits you well is imperative. There are dozens of bike saddles designed for every rider and riding style. Saddles come in a variety of materials from gel to leather. There are women-specific saddles that are shorter and wider to accommodate a woman's wider pelvis. Others have a center cutout to relieve pressure on soft tissues. You should try several to find one that fits you well.
Your cycling clothing can also cause saddle sores. Cyclists typically wear shorts made without seams — and no underwear — to eliminate sources of chafing and pressure points. Cycling shorts also have padded liners that provide more comfort than street clothes. Be sure to always remove shorts, clean and dry yourself right away after a ride to prevent bacteria buildup and infection.
Read more about common Female Saddle Issues here.
I can properly say that I've experienced most of these issues (minus saddle sore) before getting my bike fitted. I'm a tiny woman so finding a bike my size was half the challenge before my bike shop took my comfort into their hands. I'm extremely grateful for this experience and highly recommend that if you're having these issues, please call or visit a bike shop that does a bike fit. Price ranges run between $150-$300 and take less than 2hrs to asses. It's an investment but if you're spending a lot of time on your bike, your comfort matters as it may help prevent injury down the line.
Image Courtesy @AdaptiveHP

En Route Event

06 September, 2017

The latest women's ride EN ROUTE will take on the Hudson Vallley area starting this Saturday, September 9th. Hosted by Bikeway and myself as a Machines For Freedom Community Leader. En Route Saturdays will tackle 40-100km rides on trails, hilly and flat routes with a mid or post ride cafe stop.

For routes, rides, and event updates, check regularly on EN ROUTE's Facebook page and EN ROUTE's Strava club page.

Details

8:30 am - Meetup
9 am - Rollout
692 Route 6
Mahopac, NY 10541
(845) 621-2800

Route
These rides alternate between trails, hilly and flat routes, 40-100 km, with a mid or post ride cafe stop. For Sept 9th route, check out our Strava event link.

The Fine Print
We're a laid-back group and encourage all levels of experience. If you’re unsure whether or not one of our rides is for you, please contact us or come along to a Saturday ride. No rides on rainy days.

This is a 'no drop' ride with a social but average pace of 13-16 mph. Please note all of these rides are not supported and are undertaken at your own risk.

We recommend you cycle on a road bike and are a confident rider with cleats. Please also bring a helmet, carry a pump and tube for any punctures and nutrition to get you through the ride if you require it.

*DISCLAIMERBy signing up for a road ride, or any other event organized by this group, you are acknowledging that you are aware of the risks, dangers and hazards associated with any outdoor activity and freely accept and fully assume all such risks, dangers and hazards. In addition, you further agree to release and discharge the Organizers of all liability arising from your participation in the group activities. Release Agreement here.

Staying Motivated To Cycle

31 August, 2017

It's almost September, and September is a month full of changes: changing leaves, changing temperatures, new routines, new chapters, and warmer kit. But what if September also gave you the chance to focus on a new cycling goal. When it comes to goal setting, there are very few undertakings that are more challenging than maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle throughout seasonal changes, especially after the initial motivation of spring and summer training wears off and your cycling goals have been checked. With all cooler days ahead, how do we keep motivated and inspired to cycle during the changing seasons?

Personally, I've struggled with staying motivated since moving to the North East. Fall is bearable but winter is hard on me and staying in bed and indoors is a lot more enjoyable. I enjoy watching nature change but I personally have had to develop goals over the years of living in seasonal climates to help me stay motivated to keep fit and active as cooler weather settles in. Last year I joined a spin class 3x's a week to help me keep strong for the warmer season ahead, however, this year a new challenge is needed and I've got my mind set on a few goals ahead of me. To help you get in the mindset of goal setting for the cooler seasons ahead, here are a few tips to help you stay motivated to cycle.

Set goals: Nothing will motivate you more than trying to achieve a goal. Don’t just say, “I want to reach x amount of base miles this season.” Add more fun to it and make yourself accountable.  Find a local ride, do a fall bike tour, join a half century or century ride, or any active event and sign up for it. For example, Rapha does a Braver Than The Elements and Festive 500 ride that keeps us pedaling to meet our goals while finishing the year off strong. Start with a small goal or one that’s difficult to even imagine as reachable, be accountable by setting goals on Strava and just do it

Make it a priority: Ask yourself: “How do I want to feel when I wake up in the morning? Would I rather be caught up on my favorite late-night TV show but wake up tired? Or, would I rather go to bed earlier so that I may rise refreshed and energized to get a workout in?” I really struggled initially when training for my first century ride earlier this year. I had no idea how to fit in my workouts into my already busy schedule, while simultaneously living up to my family, career, and home-owner expectations.

However, it was very important to me, and I was highly motivated to find a doable solution. I was never a morning person but realized it was the only time I could get my outdoor rides in before sunset. It wasn’t easy at first, but slowly I got used to a new routine.

Schedule a regular workout time. Some of the most committed athletes work out very early in the morning. No one will schedule a meeting at 4 or 5am. It will be just you and the road, and no one will bother you. If mornings are hectic for you, then see what time of the day will work better for you and commit to it! Many workout routine people I know have early job commitments, so mornings are not an ideal time for workouts, yet they find time in the evening after their jobs and obligations.

Don’t let the weather stop you. I don’t like cold and can’t stand snow (anything below 60˚F is considered cold for me). However, I live in the Northeast, where ice and snow go with the territory. I never let the weather be a barrier to my training plans. Some of my most memorable rides happened after big snow storms when the sun is out and the skies are clear. If I am not up to dealing with the weather, then I take my rides indoors and enjoy listening to music or watching a favorite show on BBC.

Don’t waste time. Make your rides count. If you are out of the door, then get a good ride in. Get going with a plan, and do it!
Surround yourself with active people. Get to know active people at your local cycle club or gym. Join a group or ask your local bike shop about group rides. You will make a lot of friends that will keep you motivated and from whom you will learn. You can also find and join an active group on many of the social networking sites like Strongher or Strava.

Keep it simple. The more you complicate things, the higher the chance you will lose interest. Want to try cyclocross? Rent a cyclocross bike and go out and ride to try it. No need to worry about ideal gear or finding the latest and greatest gadget advertised in magazines, or reading about and searching online for the ultimate training program. Just start riding some trails, and you’ll figure out the rest later.

Use social media. Many like to use social media such as Instagram, Twitter, or more fitness specific ones such as Runkeeper, Strava, DailyMile to post their workouts. Telling your followers about your workouts makes you feel accountable. Also, many find motivation from reading others’ workouts.

Mix it up. By nature, we need change to keep motivated. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you will get burned out. Start riding trails or different routes, or try to challenge yourself differently on a ride by maintaining a faster speed or doing hill reps. If you belong to a gym, look at the group workouts they offer and try something different. It’s a great way to challenge yourself and stay motivated at the same time.

Reward yourself—buy new gear. Who doesn't love NEW KIT DAY! When training for long hours, one of the methods that have been proven to keep athletes motivated is new gear. The smell of new cycling shoes or that coveted GPS Garmin watch can get you going. Even loading new music into the iPhone can spark your workouts.

So start thinking of yourself as an athlete and not a spectator. Set a goal, mark it on your calendar, and have fun with it. You’ll quickly realize the benefits of better health, more energy, and more happiness on and off the bike.

Image Courtesy @masmela

Bike Talk: The Female Saddle Issue Debate

23 August, 2017

You may have read in a previous blog post on Things Only Cycling Babes Know and wondered what I meant by #9: "Not shaving "lady bits" is the best prevention for saddle sore..." It has become well known in the community that female cyclist suffer most from saddle issues such as saddle sore, labial swelling, numbness, and infections like Vaginitis and UTI's. While these affliction's are quite common in female cyclists it seems too embarrassing for our community to speak up about it. While there are different thoughts of cause and effect of female grooming and saddle issues, it's important that our community has a dialogue about these issues that affect our bodies health on the saddle so that we can  help each other find solutions.

There seems to be two minds about female grooming and saddle issues, the first being that grooming is correlated to saddle issues and the second that grooming is not correlated to saddle issues but rather hygiene. The first thought, spurred by British Cycling, has their olympic women's team taking world-class expert advice to advise against bikini waxing, shaving, and hair removal creams. The rule to not groom was encouraged when the team had been suffering from saddle soreness and warned that a lack of pubic hair was contributing to this issue - a problem hampering the team's performance. Apparently, not grooming has lead to better performance and less saddle issues.

The second thought of saddle issues comes from a term the women's cycling community has liberally used to describe saddle discomfort as "Flap Mash", taken from Emily Chappell's article in Casquette magazine, The Truth About Saddle Sores. In the article, Chappell interviews journalist and writer of Saddle, Sore, Molly Hurford, who's professional investigative conclusion has lead her to believe that grooming is not the issue while its more about labial asymmetry and keeping yourself clean by getting out of your shorts soon after a ride and avoiding chamois cream if you don't groom all your hair.

Personally, I have no issue with pubic hair but I do think it has become a political statement and for others a fashion statement. I also believe there is a societal obsession with making women's bodies "better" or "cleaner" for public consumption. The beauty industry has tapped into this offering loads of products and services to achieve "perfection" and the cycling industry is no fool to this either. While women's cycling products are coming up by the dozens, I do not doubt marketing strategies to appeal to saddle comfort while also trying to keep their female customers happy. I'm not arguing that we should go au natural but rather that we take precautions on caring for our lady bits that can affect our overall health and enjoyment on the saddle.

If you are suffering from saddle issues, don't ignore it. Regardless of what school of thought you side with, what's important is to help you address these issues. Here are some ways to help you manage your lady bits health on the saddle.

Chamois cream:
Using a lubricate like chamois cream helps to reduce friction between our skin and cycling shorts. You can find women's specific brands of chamois creams that are developed specifically to help women maintain a healthy pH balance while fighting bacteria build-up. I personally am a fan of HER Chamios Butt'r and apply on my chamois and areas of the groin that may rub on the saddle or shorts. I've been using this product for years now and have never had an issue but every woman is different, so try a few till you find what works for you! For more on chamois cream, read up on the Best Chamois Creams from TWC.

Barrier
I hear from a lot of women that they suffer from inner-thigh chafing. This happens when the sides of the saddle rub against delicate skin. You can address this by using anti-chafing gels such as Lanacane that provides a barrier on the skin from bibs or shorts rubbing on the skin. Also keep in mind that shorts with seams can also create chaffing and rubbing so try to look for shorts that don't have seams around the chamois and your sensitive areas.


Quality Chamois and Kit
From the positioning of the chamois in the shorts to the seam positioning and fit, all these can have a major impact on saddle comfort. A common mistake by cyclists is that they wear underwear under their shorts. This prevents the technical fabrics in the chamois from functioning properly and will trap moisture to the skin, risking bacterial infection so go commando, this is what chamois is for. When looking for quality chamois, look for seamlessness and take note of zig zag threading in the chamois. Machines For Freedom claims that "polymide-carbon threading makes chamois fabric ultra fast drying, bacteriostatic, and reduces heat gain during long hours in the saddle." I would also add that their bibs are my absolute go to's, quality doesn't even go far enough about how great they are from how they look, feel, and perform on the saddle.

Maintain
Grooming is a personal choice. While waxing or shaving may look nice on the beach, it can become a nightmare for irritation, friction, snagging, chaffing, and infected bumps. While it seems that maintaining a trimmed nether region is preferable to avoiding saddle issues according to Total Women's Cycling on the subject intimate grooming, if you're going to shave or wax, keep in mind to take care of delicate skin after removing hair to avoid follicle infection with a layer of antibiotic ointment and don't forget to apply chamois cream on the chamois and on your lady bits too.

Saddle Fit
Prolonged pressure between the body and saddle is obviously an issue for "Flap Mash"and while resolving it with our bodies natural barriers is one way to handle it, perhaps a change in saddle and positioning on saddle is needed too. Although finding the perfect saddle is a challenge, there are numerous bike shops that have saddle libraries for you to test. Keep in mind that although one saddle might work for a handful of ladies, it may not work you. I highly recommend getting a saddle fit along with a bike fit. This will help you manage your sitting position (60 degree horizontal recommended) on the saddle and save you a lot of trouble from these afflictions.

As one woman out of many, my saddle experiences have not been as bad as many others for all the years I've been riding. I have a before and after cycling personal routine to keep my lady bits healthy from diet, supplements, and hygiene and it has served me well for many years. One issue I use to come across more as I started road cycling is numbing before I bought my Selle Italia Diva Flow. I've seen many women with this saddle and they also boast great comfort on it. For most of the part, your saddle comfort is based on the type of riding you do so do your research and start here on How To Choose A Saddle.

So, to groom or not to groom? While saddle issues are no fun, it's important that we learn to care for our bodies on and off the saddle. The debate between grooming is one that will linger between experts, journalists, and the industry but it's up to us to decide what is right for our bodies. Their is no one-size fits all solution and while speaking up about our personal afflictions is embarrassing, it can provide great comfort knowing how to care for yourself and that you aren't the only woman that suffers from these issues. As far as if you should groom... well, that's up to you.

Image Courtesy @MachinesForFreedom

Guide To Conquering Climbs

17 August, 2017

Hills, some people love them and some seem to hate them. Climbing isn't everyones favorite but many seem to ask, how do I improve my climbing skills? When I began cycling, I had no idea there was wrong and right way of climbing, I just adjusted my gears, set my mind to it and rode up with searing pain in my legs. When I began road cycling, I discovered that climbing was an art and much of your skill is in your mind as in your bike and body. Today, developing my climbing skills have helped me to become an enthusiastic climber so to help you overcome your climbing fears, here are a few tips to help you conquer the mountains.

Positive Thinking
I put this one first because self doubt seems to be the biggest challenge most of us face when looking up a hill. Climbing is as much a mental effort as it is physical. One way to help you muster up the courage to climb is by speaking to yourself positively. I have a mantra I use when I climb "I can to this. I am strong. I can conquer. I got this." These short out spoken affirmations help me to not just control my thoughts but also my breathing. When your mind, breathing and body are in sync, you are much likely able to achieve and conquer a climb.

Breath
When climbing, you'll be breathing hard but you shouldn't lose control of your breath. When climbing, try to sync your breath with each pedal while keeping your effort at a comfortable level. You'll want to keep your breathing in check as your effort level will be influenced by how you control it.

Loose Hands
I remember someone telling me to climb like I was pretending to play a piano on the to of my bars and to focus my pedaling with my glutes (while sitting). You don't want to move your entire body into a pedal as you need to distribute your weight and effort into the back of your legs, were the pedal power is. So relax into a climb by tucking but slightly flaring your elbows, loosen your face grit, and relax your shoulders down and back as you pedal and breath in sync while keeping your fingers playing your bar tops like a piano.

Gears
Depending on your bike, having the right gearing is key to attempting even some of the biggest climbs. Not using your shifts properly can either drop your chain or break it so you'll want to know how to properly use your shifts. For climbing, shifting in a gear that you can spin easily into before you go up harder can help you as you begin to feel increased pressure in your pedal, as the pressure increases shift again. To conserve your energy on a climb, keep your cadence high and use the easiest gear that will allow you to maintain your momentum going up, you'll need to keep this in mind on long rides. For more tips on using your gears, read up on this article on How To Use Your Gears Cycling Uphill.

Pedal Push
Speaking of pushing, your heels are your power. Keep your feet flat and push with your heels as if you're scraping them into the ground, as apposed to your toes. By pushing through your heels you transfer all that power from your glutes, hamstrings, and calves into your pedal stroke. 

Weight Balance
Shifting your weight on the saddle while climbing is also an art. Shifting your weight forward and back on the saddle can provide you a fresh set of muscles to use and prevent them from burning out. While sitting on the back of your saddle balances your effort between your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, moving forwards emphasizes the use of your quads, while leaning in or "gnawing" on your bars will help distribute weight to the front wheel and prevent it from losing traction with the road as you pull on the bars to help move power on your pedals. Standing up out of your saddle will help push your weight into your pedal. When standing out of your saddle, shift once into a harder gear, keep your weight centered in the bottom bracket and your hips over the saddle, placing your hands on the hoods, gently pressing side to side into the bars. While you'll be using all your body weight to climb, the standing position uses more energy and speeds up your heart rate, so it's advisable to stand only when you need to. 

Know Your Limits
If you find that climbing hills is just too much or painful, there is no shame in knowing your limits and walking it the rest of the way. Pacing yourself on a climb is key, even if that means setting up goals on a climb like reaching a post, stopping for a bit and focusing on the next goal. 

It's always helpful to have someone who is skilled to ride with you to give you tips. Once you've built your skills, you can then focus on building your strength and speed to help you fly uphill. The best way to get better at climbing is to just get out on your bike and climb up as many hills as you can. Doing reps can really help you overcome your fears and build your strength and confidence. Best thing to keep in mind during your training is to work out your weaknesses, once you're able to work them out, you'll be a climber in no time.

Image Courtesy: Machines For Freedom

Rides + Events

10 August, 2017

Ok ladies, now let's get En Route, I shared recently that I have been brewing up this women's cycling
group for some time now and it's time we roll on to the actionable part and spread the good word together. I have teamed up with Machines For Freedom as a Machines Community Leader and my local bike shop Bikeway as supporters to get us ladies on the road representing the Hudson Valley.

On the first Saturday of each month we ride to explore beautiful places in the Hudson Valley on our bikes and meet new friends. Rides will focus on building fitness, improving climbing and bike-handling skills with a reward of a cafe break gathering mid or post ride.

Rides + Events (2017)
September 9 
October 14
November 4
December 2

DETAILS
First Saturday of Every Month

8:30 am - Meetup

9 am - Rollout

LOCATION 
692 Route 6
Mahopac, NY 10541
(845) 621-2800

ROUTE
These rides alternate between trails, hilly and flat routes, 40-100 km, with a mid or post ride cafe stop. Please regularly check my Facebook event page for updates on En Route's Strava routes and dates.

THE FINE PRINT
We're a laid-back group and encourage all levels of experience. if you’re unsure whether or not one of our rides is for you, please contact us or come along to a Saturday ride.
 No rides on rainy days.

It is a 'no drop' ride with a social but average pace of 13-16 mph. Please note all of these rides are not supported and are undertaken at your own risk.

We recommend you cycle on a road bike and are a confident rider with cleats (optional). Please also bring a helmet, carry a pump and tube for any punctures and nutrition to get you through the ride if you require it.

For more rides and event updates, follow along on our Facebook page Hudson Valley Women’s Cycling Group. To get some tips on how to ride with a group, check out my post on a Beginners Guide To Riding In Groups.

*DISCLAIMER
By signing up for a road ride, or any other event organized by this group, you are acknowledging that you are aware of the risks, dangers and hazards associated with any outdoor activity and freely accept and fully assume all such risks, dangers and hazards. In addition, you further agree to release and discharge the Organizers of all liability arising from your participation in the group activities. Release Agreement here

Why I'm Starting My Own Cycling Group

07 August, 2017

I live in rural New York. Only an hour outside of the Big Apple in the lush green rolling hills and wide open lakes with scenic views for miles. I have always classified myself as a city girl but I'm much of a valley girl now since leaving the hustle and bustle of the big city. I started cycling in cities and have always advocated for women's cycling there, however, my life is much more different than it was two years ago in the valley and I am noticing a trend in the rural areas that bicycle advocacy does not get to see, the lack of female cycling communities.

In the mid Hudson Valley, we have a cycling club and a few bike shops that serves the entire community. As friendly and inviting they are to the community, female representation lacks and from my perspective, women need to see it to be it. While I do enjoy being part of my local club, volunteering at events and rides, I often travel down to NYC to join women's cycling group rides and events. Often on these rides, I wonder why can't we have this type of community in the HV. Is it that we aren't asking? Is it that we don't have the resources? Perhaps its both and lack of leadership.

Recently, I have been reaching out to a few industries about forming a women's cycling group in the Hudson Valley and got the response I was hoping for. I also took it to Facebook to a local women's group and also got a warm welcome. While reaching out on social media is helpful and reaching out to my local bike shop has been welcomed, there still lacks a broader network of support. This got me thinking, while cities have a lot of support from industry and organizations to support women to be active in their communities, I don't want women in rural America to be forgotten.

It's easy to forget that women in rural or suburban areas care about their communities but we exist and we want a level playing field too. Starting a local women's cycling group seems intimidating, however, I feel that I have the platform, skills, and drive to do it. My goals for organizing group rides is to bring women together and grow women's cycling and exploration all over the Hudson Valley. Being #OUTSIDEISFREE and for women, nature is the most level playing field we have to be free and be ourselves together.

So here I am working to develop a women's cycling community in my backyard. If there is one thing I have learned while being a women's cycling advocate and blogger, it's to stay persistent. If there is ever a place to advocate for cycling, it's in those forgotten parts of the country. I hope you will follow along with me on this journey. More at Hudson Valley's Womens Cycling.

What You Need To Know About La Course 2017

19 July, 2017

With only a day away, I'm more excited about watching the pro-women race La Course by Le Tour de France than I am about the actual Tour de France. Although this year will look differently than the previous stage in Paris held along the same final circuit on the famed Champs Elysees, having an extra day on the tour is a baby step to what I'm hoping for an extended tour for the future of the women's peloton.

This year, La Course has expanded its format from a criterium held on the Champs-Elysées in Paris to an "innovative" two-day format. They will climb the prestigious Col d'Izoard on stage one on Thursday, July 20, and then will take part in a new time trial format in Marseille, Saturday, July 22, with the riders going off in the order they finished on the mountain.

With these new changes, there have been issues rising to the public view that stems from resentment from cycling fans that women's cycling gets the short end of the stick. Sponsorship, visibility, long-term viability are all issues faced by all professional cycling teams, except that the women's teams have it the worse. While the ASO defends it's changes to La Course, we continually find the women's race piggy backing the men's stages with less support.
So why should we care so much about this race? The Tour is the most prestigious race of the year and a has great platform for promoting the women's pro-peloton. There is no denying that women's cycling is underrepresented in the grand scheme of professional cycling. While women's representation in professional cycling is beginning to gradually change, paving the way for media coverage, equal pay, and support of women's cycling still has a long way to go. As fans, we can help change the game.

How? A while back, I posted about how we as fans can Support Women's Pro-Cycling with resources on the many ways to help. We are in a great time of progress for women's cycling and can do a little more to help make a difference in the smallest ways. Most importantly, watch the women's race. Whether you're watching on tv, online, or in person, showing our support for the women's race is a big win. Promoting women’s cycling and putting on a great show that will fire up the crowds as much as the people watching at home is really what women's cycling wants to accomplish.

How to watch live? Check the listings below and your local listing air time to see how you can watch live and check Pro Women's Cycling on more ways to watch and engage La Course. According to PWC, if you don’t have access to any of these, there should be streams herehere or here.

If the race isn’t broadcasted live in your country, follow along online via La Course by Le Tour, @lacoursebyTDF@UCI_WTT#LaCourse#UCIWWT for live updates.
To get you up to speed, excited, and angsty in a productive way, here are some links to get your enthusiasm flowing:

Cycling Podcast: La Course
The New La Course: Details and Rider Responses
Women and Tour de France: Why we are so much more than cycling accessories
5 Big Things That Need to Change In Women's Cycling
Condoms, chicks and La Course: the Tour de France still has a sexism problem

Join The Ride #Womens100

17 July, 2017

The Rapha Women’s 100 is a display of collective spirit amongst women cyclists around the world. Since its inception, in 2013, the Women’s 100 has inspired women around the world, to come together to ride 100km all on the same day, July 23.

Whether you live near one of Rapha's Clubhouses or not, there are many rides to join. For those who have never ridden the distance before, Women’s 100 is a chance to expand your horizons. For seasoned riders it offers an opportunity to share riding experience, encourage others and break boundaries. If you can’t find a Women’s 100 ride near you, or if your local ride is fully booked, why not plan your own? Whether it’s you on your own or a whole group of friends, we ride together.

Planning a ride is easy. Plot your route, plan your roll out time, and share it with friends and fellow riders online. Read on for some tips on planning your ride here and learn more on how to ride in groups here.


This year the event coincides with La Course on July 20th, where the Canyon//SRAM pro cycling team will ditch their traditional kits for the new Rapha 100 collection to honor women’s cycling around the globe.

The team will race a striking new design for La Course by Le Tour. Across Canyon bikes, Rapha clothing, Oakley eyewear, Giro helmets and Boa dials, the design is inspired by the Rapha Women’s 100, an annual event designed to inspire and encourage women to ride 100km on the same day across the globe.

La Course by Le Tour starts in Briançon on Thursday 20 July and action can be followed with #LaCourse and #UCIWWT. You can follow La Course by Le Tour for updates and more. Hope you can join and share your ride with #WOMENS100.

Cycling The Hudson Valley

28 June, 2017

Over the weekend I joined Bike New York on the Discover Hudson Valley Ride. Being a Hudson Valley resident, I was excited to be part of the event as a local. Centered around the Walkway Over the Hudson, the worlds longest footbridge, the ride was all about discovering the gorgeous scenery of the Valley. Having a few friends along, I felt so proud to be sharing the beautiful views of my own backyard.

One could describe this upside of New York as quaint, quiet, hilly, green, and a lot less dense than NYC. Many weekend NYCer's often come upstate to escape the concrete jungle to hike it's abundant state parks, indulge in its Kinfolk vibes of organic farm to table restaurants, and kayak through quiet serene lakes. If you're ever wanting to indulge in a cycling escape, here are a few cycling trails to explore around the Hudson Valley.
Walkway Over the Hudson/Rail Trail connections
You might as well start with a gem, the old Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge that takes riders on a short but memorable experience. The bridge is 212 feet tall and more than a mile long – 1.28 miles, to be exact. It offers magnificent vistas as you bike over the Hudson River. For cyclists, one of the best aspects of the walkway is that it is now connected to other linear paths.

The Dutchess Rail Trail runs 13.4 miles from Poughkeepsie to East Fishkill, with a variety of stops, including City of Poughkeepsie businesses and the Hopewell Depot, a restored train station. In between these points, cyclists traverse various bridges, ride on "Veterans Memorial Mile" that pays homage to our war veterans and are treated to a spectacular view of Lake Walton.

The Ulster County connection to the Walkway is the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which runs for about 4 miles, and cyclists can easily get off and enjoy the restaurants and historic sites in the hamlet of Highland. Those making it to the end are greeted by the vast offerings at Tony Williams Park, which has ball fields, tennis and basketball courts, pavilions and restrooms. This trail also features a depot and is the site of many community-oriented events.
Putnam Valley Rail Trail
The Putnam trailway is the northernmost trail spanning 12 miles into Brewster. The car-free and pedestrian friendly Putnam Rail Trail spans nearly 45 miles out of the Old Put corridor, from Van Cortlandt Park in New York City north to Putnam County. This ones one of my favorite local rides filled with farmlands, rivers, lakes, and plenty of woodland shade without a car in sight.

Harlem Valley Rail Trail
This trail has two sections totaling 15 paved miles in Dutchess and Columbia counties. In Dutchess, the trail extends 10.7 miles north from Metro-North's Harlem Valley commuter line at Wassaic to the Village of Millerton. Along the way, cyclists get to take in the small towns of eastern Dutchess and the true beauty of the area, including forests, wetlands and some magnificent farmland.

The O&W Rail Trail/D&H Heritage Corridor
Parts of this trail runs along Route 209, with more to come. One segment of this old rail line runs for about 12 miles and connects the Hurley and Marbletown rail trails. This segment is mostly dirt and gravel, but there is a slightly more than two-mile portion in Hurley that is paved. As riders head into the woods, they come upon a large bog where it is not uncommon to see blue herons. Plans include having this trail eventually link to Kingston.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve
There are plenty of bike trails in this park, including the Castle Point Carriage Road Loop (8.5 miles), which offers a chance to see both Lake Minnewaska and Lake Awosting, along with dramatic views of ledges, ridges and ravines. This ride is more intense than a rail trail ride and includes twists, turns and elevation. At Castle Point, bikers can enjoy panoramic views, and the ride down back to the parking lot near Lake Minnewaska is exhilarating.

Mohonk Preserve
The preserve has more than 30 miles of carriage roads, including links to bike routes in the adjacent Minnewaska State Park Preserve and the Mohonk Mountain House resort. One of the most popular bike rides is the Undercliff/Overcliff Carriage Road Loop (5 miles). This is also a popular place for hikers and rock climbers, and like Minnewaska, so the terrain and elevation are different than what bikers experience on rail trails.

Stewart State Forest
With about 6,700 acres, the forest has diverse uses. For cyclists, it is known for its miles of "single-track" trail. As the name suggests, these are narrow trails, wide enough for only one biker at a time, and they typically are much more technical rides than either rail trails or carriageways. Here, bikers need bursts of speed to power up hills and go over tree roots and other obstacles. The forest also has wider gravel roads.
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail
This trail extends for 24 miles from the southern border of Gardiner to south of Kingston at Rockwell Lane and Route 32. It passes through woods, open fields and farmland offering views of the Shawangunk Ridge and the Wallkill River and links the hamlet of Gardiner with downtown New Paltz up to Rosendale. From there, cyclists get a glorious view from the Rosendale Trestle, which spans 150 feet above Route 213 and Rondout Creek. The trail continues north toward Kingston, offering a more rugged terrain at times, but it is mostly flat, and one of the many highlights is a view of Williams Lake.

Mount Beacon
One of the most challenging peaks in the Hudson Valley. You are ascending 1,500 feet in less than 3 miles, which makes for a tough climb. At the top, you are rewarded with spectacular 360-degree view of the Hudson Valley. The downhill is very rewarding but extremely challenging. There are several single tracks that branch out off the main carriage trails that will take you down the mountain.

Jockey Hill in Kingston
The majority of the trails at Jockey Hill are single track, and they are not for the faint of heart, nor the technically inexperienced. Depending on the trail, riders go over tree roots and logs, and the area holds a lot of water, keeping the paths muddy.

For cyclists the mid-Hudson Valley has more off-road opportunities than listed here, but the ones above provide a wide range of uses and are good places to start.

Women's Summer Cycling Kits

23 June, 2017

Summers here and I'm pretty sure we are all thinking... more bike rides! With the combination of rising temperatures and wanted comfort on the bike, I got to thinking... what makes a good summer kit? Summer kit's this year are introducing high performing materials that are ultralight, anti-bacterial, odor and moisture wicking, UPF 50, ventilating, and with waterproof zip pockets for phones, cards and cash. For many women, this changes the game for longer rides with comfort and style without the worry of overheating, lady bits damage, and tan lines.

When it comes to summer kits, women are looking for quality comfort. We tend to prefer a full zip to make bib straps easier to manage when needing the toilet and when needing to unzip for a breeze underneath on hotter days. Shorts need to be form fitting, non bunching, seamless or non-squeezing of thighs or waist with enough grip so they do not ride up or down. Bib straps shouldn't do anything weird to our breast and chamois should always be of high quality to prevent bacterial build-up, non rubbing or shifting, and supportive of sit bone widths and aero positions.

I've developed this menu of some of the top quality women's summer cycling kits of 2017 designed to maximize performance, fit, and comfort for women during warmer climates. There are plenty more brands like GiroMATCHY, Isadore, TenSpeed Hero, Pedla, OrNot, Pas Normal, Velocio, and Forward Cycling, that make great women's kits too. What I include in this post is a mix of seamless fitting style, body temperature control driven fabric, sun protection, and high performing fabric and chamois comfort so you can get the most out of your summer cycling kits, even after multiple washes.
New from Machines For Freedom 2017, the Summerweight Long Sleeve Jersey provides UPF 50 to protect your skin from the sun. Made from a super lightweight fabric that keeps you cool, it's perfect for even the hottest days. Their Print Jersey's are made of the high performing European fabric for the best moisture wicking, breathability, and form fitting comfort. The Endurance Bib is made of high performing fabric for moisture wicking with a top quality chamois sized for all sit bone widths and carbon micro fiber fabric to prevent bacterial build up. I personally am a huge fan of MFF's quality material, form fitting design, and comfort in their kits. I don't think I could survive a long warm days ride on the saddle without my endurance bibs, top quality kits here.
Summerweight Jersey / Endurance Bib / Print Jersey's / Pro Classic Socks

Queen of the Mountains 2017 summer kit release features updated power lycra cycling shorts, a mesh base layer, and their classic race jersey. The Race Jersey is made of technical thin fabric with superior softness that will stretch, not squeeze, and move with the contours of your body, even for a more aerodynamic position on the bike. QOM's mesh base is ultra light with tiny holes for ventilation, sweat evaporation and breathability so your jersey isn't sticking to your body when it's sweaty. All jersey fabric is uv protective, anti-abrasive, fast sweat wicking and also holds a water proof zip pockets for phones and other items. Their cycling shorts are made of power lycra to reduce muscle fatigue, uv protective fabric, a Cytech chamois pad for long hours on the bike, and a yoga band on the wast to avoid squeezing at the hip.
Qom's Race Jersey / Padded Shorts / Base Layer / Summer Socks

When I began investing in women's kits, Cafe Du Cycliste was the first brand I bought kit from. Their  2017 Micheline Ultra Lightweight and Fleurette Lightweight cycling jersey's are made of premium mesh and performance fabrics great for hot days on long roads. Mixed with unique designs for extreme comfort, breathability, and temperature control, they really hit the nail with these two. Arm sleeves are slightly longer than normal for extra protection from the sun that are my favorite to wear during the summer season. There Odile bib shorts are cut wider at the front to ensure comfort while the rear is constructed of mesh which provides support and temperature control across ranges of conditions. Their female specific chamois is high performing in comfort, breathability and anti-bacterial layers for those warmer longer rides. I couldn't recommend these kit's any more.


Best suited to riding in the heat, Rapha's 2017 Souplesse Aero and Soupless Lightweight II Jersey's are best in the hottest and most humid conditions. The Souplesse Aero Jersey wicks away moisture quickly and efficiently, keeping you cool and comfortable in hot conditions. A mesh yoke at the rear and a mesh lining inside the pockets increases ventilation in areas of high sweat. The Souplesse Lightweight Jersey II is the lightest jersey using the high-performance wicking semi-sheer fabrics that makes the jersey light and breathable to increase airflow and block absorption of sunlight while reflecting heat. The new Souplesse bib shorts have been updated using softer fabrics that offer support, comfort, and are cut to eliminate unnecessary seams and fabric. The mesh fabric is fast drying, high wicking, with flat bonded seams to eliminate chafing, rubbing, or hot spots. These bib shorts are the new rage of the season by many women.


Femme Velo's new 2017 Ascend Jersey and Randonneur Bib Shorts are designed for long-distance cycling. The Ascend Jersey's high performance super wicking stretch 4-way stretch fabric on side panels and sleeves are soft, wicking, breathable, and moves with you rather than rub against you. Plus there is a zipper waterproof lined pocket for carrying items that keep them dry from sweat or water. The Randonneur bib is a high compression bib that holds close to your bodies shape, keeping the chamois from shifting while offering support with breathability.

Peppermint Cycling has taken women's kit concerns to create a line of summer ready kit to allow women to enjoy great weather while maintaining a good sun tan without compromising cycling dress code. Their Mont Royal and Peak Tank jersey's are made of high quality lightweight, breathable, and soft fabrics with carbon mesh back panels for quick drying and sun protection of SPF 50. Non squeezing, flattering fitting, and a waterproof side pocket for personal items, their jersey's are meant for top comfort and style under the sun. Their bib shorts hit all the concerns of women's contours, anti-bacterial chamois comfort of high quality performance that are non shifting, quick drying, and breathable.
Mont Royal Jersey / Signature Navy BibsPeak Tank Jersey / ACDA Socks

MAAP's has taken women's cycling kit into some of the highest quality materials in a competing market. Their M-Flag Pro Light Jersey is air-like with providing breathability and temperature regulation with quality textiles to help control heat, UVA and UVB protection from direct sunlight. Their Team Bib shorts are developed with high compression fabric that wicks away moisture and holds a women's specific chamois comfortable for a 6 hour day in the saddle with anti-bacterial and anti-odor properties. Theses bib shorts are seamless with a hem that prevents rising on the legs, leaving a clean overall look. Their mesh base layer is a super lightweight fibre which leaves the skin dry and in a constant temperature between various micro-climates. 

I'll be posting another Gear segment on this summer's cycling gear from shoes, helmets, and more. For now, if you are curious of what I'm eyeing on women's summer kits, please visit my Women's Kit + Gear Pinterest Board for the latest trends. Happy summer cycling!
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