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.

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.

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 7
November 4
December 2

First Saturday of Every Month

8:30 am - Meetup

9 am - Rollout

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

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.

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.

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!

Guide To Riding In Groups

21 June, 2017

This year I joined my local cycling club. Mainly to meet new people with a likeminded passion for cycling and to learn where the scenic routes are. I remember on my first group ride, I was unsure how to ride with the club. I wasn't educated in the hand signals, calls, or how to safely climb a hill behind a member of my group (still learning). When it comes to group riding, the most important thing to know is how to be a responsible and safe cyclists, not just for ones own sake but also for the sake of others.

What's great about group riding is having people come together to enjoy themselves, nature, and each other. I love joining passionate cyclists on a journey filled with roads full of smiles. Every now and then you may have people in your group who think they are in a race against each other and may not know the rules of the group but the general rule of the group is to enjoy riding together. When preparing for an event or ride, it's best not to wait last minute to check of the basics of caring for your bike and knowing the rules of the group ride. Here are just the basics to help you get in the know of the rules to help you feel confident in your next group ride.
Bike Check
First step to preparing for a group ride is to prepare your bike: clean and lubed chain/drivetrain, check air pressure in tires, and ensure your brakes are working. If you're not sure how to do this, you can watch this video on how to prepare your bike for a ride. You can also take your bike in to get tuned, just be sure to take it in days before the event or ride.

Most club or group rides do not provide items for a ride so it's best to kit your bike up with water bottle cages, tool kit, bike lights, and pack some snacks in your jersey or a bike bag. Consider carrying snacks to refuel like energy bars, gels, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate. My favorite bags to carry are handlebar bags such as the Road Runner's Burrito handlbar bag, perfect for all my snacks and personal items such as sunscreen, credit-card, insurance card, ID, cash, and phone (these you always want to carry on your body too).

Other things to bring on a ride are: tire levers, spare inner tube, patch kit, mini-pump, and folding multi-tool carefully packed up in a saddle bag. If you're not familiar with fixing a flat or making basic fixes, it's probably a good idea to learn how, see Rapha's post on Fixing A Flat.

When it comes to group rides, I like to think of rules like a conversation. There are basic principles to cycle safety made up of predictable signals. Whether you're turning, stopping, or pointing out a hazard, everyone has their own take on how to execute them. Once you get to know the basics, it makes riding with a group a lot easier once you know how to communicate verbally or with gestures affectively. Always assume someone is behind you and never rely on others to communicate for you. Check out these cycling hand signals that are pretty universal for most clubs or rides. If you're not comfortable taking your hands off the handle bars, calling "right turn" 'slowing" "stopping" "hole left" "on your wheel" "passing left" "car back" is helpful too. Being able to loudly communicate and control your movement will help everyone.
Holding Your Line
Always be pedaling when you're moving. It allows those behind you to predict your move. Even if you are just coasting along while going downhill, you may confuse some riders that you're stopping or slowing down, it's hard to predict, so even just slowly pedaling is better so that everyone knows you're moving. Ride in a straight steady line at a safe distance behind the rider in front of you, this allows yourself or others to look behind without a blind spot. At traffic stops, stay in single file, this is never a time to pass others. Control your body so that you are not weaving or wobbling around on the road.

Riding Double
When in a group ride, most of us like being side by side with friends where we can talk together. However, when it comes to riding safely, it's better to ride single file if cars or other riders come along. My club encourages us to only ride double lines on quiet roads, 2/3 right of the right lane, not road. The best time for you to be side by side is when you are taking the road when the lane is obstructed. 

Climbing And Descending

Climbing and descending is an art in cycling. To safely descend in a group, it's best to keep your hands loosely gripped on the drops or hoods to control your line and speed. To add stability on downhills with curves, slide your weight to the back of the saddle, grip your saddle with your thighs, and grip the top tube with your knees. On curvy downhill roads, put your outside legs down. If the inside leg is down, the pedal can scrape the ground and you may lose control.

On a climb, you are working against gravity, others, and your bodies strength. To make climbing or descending easier in a group it's key to keep right to let others pass and leave extra room between riders than on flats in case a rider ahead stops suddenly. Hand positions and body positioning on the bike can help you breath, control your bike and speed when riding behind others.

To go uphill, put hands on top of handlebar with a loose grip, either in the center or the curves behind the hoods, imagine your grip like playing a piano. Shift your weight to the back of the saddle, pushing with your glutes while shifting your body weight to help you pedal up the hill. Shifting your weight back helps to control stability while helping you keep a straight line. When standing for uphills, shift up one or two gears to create even tension in your pedals stroke, this also helps to learn how to go slowly uphill with control so you can stay behind a slower rider if necessary- this is a sign of a skilled rider.

If you're a newbie to group rides, one thing to take away from this is that you're not alone. Never hesitate to ask questions about the rules, sometimes even skilled riders need a refresher. Always maintain your position, communicate, and others may follow your lead in confidence.

Image courtesy @tiffanycromwell

Summer Cycling Skin Care

14 June, 2017

I wanted to direct todays Gear segment towards something I think a lot about during the summer months, my skin! And I'm not just talking about the skin on my face, but also about the skin on my body. When it comes to ride days, I'm as regimented about my skincare routine as I am about styling kit and gear. Not only do I keep my eye on the pulse of the women's cycling industry, but also on natural beauty products that make riding in the sun easier on my face and body. From SPF lip balm to chamois cream, our bodies need all the protection we can get from the summer heat and harsh uv rays.

You've probably heard me talk about skin care before, but I, like a lot of people suffer from dry skin. Also, I'm at an age in my life where my skin is starting to show it's battle wounds from riding out in the California sun in my younger days. Particularly in the summer months, I want my skin looking healthy, soft, and hydrated especially for that post ride swim. I am a true believer that if you invest in a product, like quality women's kit, you'll get the return you're looking for.

When it comes to summer skin, cyclists love to boast of our razor sharp #prohours tan lines but there are some things we should focus on: protecting against chafing, sun and wind burn, and repairing damage. As we spend more time outdoors in the sunshine, our skin may be drying and in danger of premature aging: sun spots, wrinkles, and maybe precancerous spots that we don't want. Here are a few products and tips to keep in mind to keep your skin healthy all summer long while cycling in the sunshine.

Before Care
When preparing for a ride in hot weather, I simply braid my hair in pigtails, add a headband or cycling cap to keep bangs and hair in place, add sunscreen on face/neck, arms, legs, chest, natural bug spray, lather on chamois, put on kit and go. I don't really bother wearing makeup on my rides as it'll just sweat off my face. I always keep a small bottle of sunscreen, spf lip balm, chamois packet, and handkerchief to wipe sweat off my face during rides. Plus you never know when you'll need to reapply any of these items. Prepping your skin is easier than I describe but bear in mind these steps and you'll be glowing.

When it comes to kit, covering up with a UPF jersey, cycling caps, sunglasses, or upf arm sleeves can help protect you from sun damage. If you have thick heavy hair like myself and don't like wearing caps in summer, wearing a headband will also help to keep sweat dripping down your face into your eyes while protecting your face from sweaty hair and hairlines from sun damage while letting your head breath under your helmet. 
Sunscreen should always be on whenever you step outside for long periods of time. Chemical sunscreens usually absorb UV radiation, allowing it to pass the surface of the skin but preventing it to reach the deeper layers, while mineral sunscreens reflect the UV radiation, blocking it from entering the skin at all. Products that block UVA and UVB radiation will be labeled as broad-spectrum (or full-spectrum) protection. I highly recommend a non-greasy broad-spectrum sunscreen with antioxidants to add another layer of protection too. You want to make sure you're getting the best protection while keeping your pores breathing to release sweat.
While sweating on our bikes is a great way our bodies naturally keep us cool, an added benefit to sweat is that it also clears out blemishes and acne, flushes out toxins, and keeps our immune system fighting against environmental pathogens. No summer colds and clear glowing skin is a bonus thanks to our bodies natural cooling function. Just keep in mind that sweat needs to be replaced during and after to prevent dehydration, so hydrate well before and during a ride.

Just because our chamois is soft as a bunnies belly doesn't mean we shouldn't apply chamois cream before and during a ride. There is a lot going on in our lady regions while we are on the saddle. Heat, friction, pressure, sweat, bacteria. All these things become exacerbated on hotter days which can cause pain, chafing, saddle sores, uti's, yeast infection, or discomfort. Applying chamois before a ride and after can help with preventing these terrible afflictions mentioned, leaving you feeling fresh.

After Care
Post ride our bodies and skin need to recover from sun exposure, stress, and the elements. Part of my recovery routine is an epsom salt bath with essential oils and almond oil to soften and soothe my skin as well as relax my muscles and mind. All the work we put on the road, our bodies pay for so why not reward yourself with a little spa day to recover? If not, caring for your skin after a ride is simple with these steps too.

To avoid excessive uneven complexion, redness, lines, and wrinkles, giving our skin healing antioxidants will help reduce free-radical damage on the skin due to exposure to the sun, pollution and stress. Aloe vera, coconut oil, moisturizers rich in Vitamin A, C, E and fatty acids are all great to help repair skin. Also eating or drinking food rich in antioxidants and vitamins will also help excel the repairing process too. While our skin takes most of the visible damage, also consider repairing hair from sun exposure and chemical pollutants too.

Using a good moisturizing cleanser and lotion helps to keep skin well hydrated and helps get rid of sun damage. Use topical antioxidants in your moisturizer to prevent signs of aging and precancerous DNA breakage to reverse early skin damage. A serum with vitamin C to repair damaged skin is the most effective and easiest to come by. It also adds some minor sun protection, so it’s perfect for daytime wear. At night, apply a vitamin A serum, but never wear it during the day, as vitamin A increases sun sensitivity.

Obviously hydrating and replacing electrolytes is key to keep our bodies from becoming dehydrated but in the heat we sweat more and lose more salt. Consider carrying one bidon with water and another mixed with electrolytes to help you avoid bunking and dehydration. I highly recommend Nuun Active Hydration tablets that dissolve in your bottle. You can keep refilling your bidons with water and just drop one in. In addition to keeping hydrated, did you know that water is also the best remedy for great looking skin? You gotta drink at least 3 gallons a day to reap it's benefits on your skin. If your skin is not getting sufficient amounts of water, the lack of hydration will present itself by turning your skin dry, tight and flaky. The unfortunate truth about drinking water and skin is that water will reach all the other organs before it reaches the skin. So, it's important to apply water to our skin too which is refreshing to splash on a beet red face when you've been climbing 3,000 ft of elevation in the heat.

I've attached below some of my personal favorite products. It's important to test and choose which products work best for your skin type. I've had a long standing with these products that work for me as they are natural ingredient based. I understand that not everyone has time or resources to go through ingredients or create a beauty routine, however, I have been able to research and test some of these products to find what works so consider these as suggestions. There are a few other things I've attached like Machines For Freedom's summerweight upf sleeves and Butter Chamois Cream For Her that I personally prefer. There are plenty of other options in the market but these are what work for me in my routine that I hope you find useful for your summer cycling days ahead.

           Machines for Freedom Summerweight Sleeves                                            Chamois Butt'r For Her

images: machinesforfreedom/citygirlrides

Rise of Women's Race Teams Supported By Women's Cycling Brands

12 June, 2017

I'm a huge fan of supporting women's cycling brands, so much that they really are the brands I buy from (see post Kits For Women, By Women). I'm also a fan of the women's cycling races, so when I see some of my favorite women's cycling brands sponsoring or organizing a race team of their own, my heart goes wild! Most of the cycling industry knows that sponsoring races teams raises awareness of a brand and the women's cycling industry knows that women's cycling is under supported and hardly recognized by traditional sponsors. So what do women in the cycling industry do when they are given lemons? They make lemonade by developing their own kits and now they are organizing women's group rides and sponsoring race teams.

If you're ever thinking of investing in new kit or gear, and your decision is influenced by a brands relationship with women in cycling, consider supporting some of these rad women's cycling brands owned by women and let them know how much you love their work. Here are the women's race teams these brands are sponsoring and organizing to change the game in women's cycling.
Machines For Freedom
  • Ultra Violet, is a brand new shiny Machines For Freedom sponsored women's cyclocross and road team based out of Austin, Texas. As they begin the season's first cross races they will also continue supporting their own women's cycling community by leading a monthly women's ride called Spicy Sundays, first Sunday of the month. Rides are just under 70 miles at a lively pace with ride leaders from the Ultra Violet Team and ended with a brunch. You can keep up with them for news and updates on races and rides on Instagram and on MFF's website.
FINDRA's role is as one of the headline sponsors for race team, The Quad, the first ever women's professional cycling team to specialize entirely in self-supported ultra-distance events. FINDRA's mission is all about empowering and encouraging women to look good, feel good, and perform to their best abilities in outdoor sports. In union with four of the twelve athletes of The Adventure Syndicate, FINDRA is supporting the group in race events like the Highland Trail 550, the Tour Divide, and the Trans Atlantic Way. Although these are high-level athletic events, they remain tied to FINDRA's and the Syndicate’s principles of adventure, self-reliance, and pushing yourself further than you originally thought you could go. Some of the baddest of the baddest ladies in cycling are racing now, you can keep up on their race progress with The Quads live tracker.
Queen of the Mountains
Queen of the Mountains are now sponsoring Les Filles, who have been racing in the UK for 4 years, making tremendous progress and inspiring women from all over to race and get involved in competitive cycling. The team is concentrating on Elite and National level races during the Spring/Summer season, from Criterium, Time Trials and Road races – including the London Nocturne that just passed on the 11th of June. The Les Filles Queen of the Mountains Racing Team is the brainchild of Nicole Oh and Alicia Bamford (founder of Queen of the Mountains), who share the goals of premium performance and encouraging greater participation of women in sport. The partnership is a natural fit to promote awareness of women's cycling and, in turn, encourage more women to take up the sport.
Peppermint Cycling
PEPPERMINT Cycling Team is a women's competitive team developed by Peppermint Cycling based in Quebec, Canada. The team was founded in 2015 under the name Team Kinactif powered by Fineau. Since the team has been managed by members of the team, Peppermint Cycling brand, and additional sponsors. During the season, nine dedicated women work together to share their common vision and goal: promote women's cycling as a welcoming community and act as a source of inspiration for the active lifestyle. As a member of the Quebec Cycling Federation, Road, Track, fixed-gear,  mountain and cyclocross, the Peppermint Cycling Team aspires to be a number one reference in Quebec for women's cycling. You can follow their latest team season updates on Instagram.

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