Women's Cycling Day is an annual event and ongoing initiative that brings women together to experience, share, and express their love of cycling. On this episode, podcast host Andrew Harley asks TriDot coach Elizabeth James and returning guest Rachael Maney about the history of cycling, role models within the sport, and the movement to get women more deeply involved in the cycling community.
TriDot Podcast .053:
Surging Forward: Information and Inspiration for Women in Cycling
Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together.
Andrew Harley: Welcome to the show, everyone. Hey, real quick, be a friend to the podcast. Take a second and hit the Subscribe button and/or leave us a review on whatever podcasting platform you listen through. It’s a quick and little thing to do, but it really helps our show find its way to the ears of new athletes. I’m pumped for our podcast today. We have a great guest joining us and we’ll be talking about the movement of women participating in endurance sports, cycling in particular. Joining us from sunny and scenic coastal Florida is Rachael Maney. Rachael serves as the national director for Bike Law, a network of independent bicycle crash attorneys. She’s a multiple time Ironman finisher who has represented Team USA at the ITU long distance triathlon world championships. And she’s also a passionate advocate for women in cycling and serves on the advisory board for Women’s Cycling Day. Rachael, thank you so much for coming back on the show.
Rachael Maney: I’m so glad to be back. Thank you so much. We have a lot of exciting things that are happening and coming down the pike before the end of the calendar year. So it’s an honor and privilege to be speaking with you again.
Andrew: Also joining us today is pro triathlete and coach Elizabeth James. Elizabeth came to the sport from a soccer background and quickly rose through the triathlon ranks using TriDot--from a beginner to top age-grouper to a professional triathlete. She is a Kona & Boston Marathon Qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, are you excited to talk about Women’s Cycling Day with me and Rachael?
Elizabeth James: Oh, yes. Absolutely excited. I already know this is going to be a great episode. Let’s do it.
Andrew: I am your host, Andrew the average triathlete. Voice of the people and captain of the middle of the pack. Fun social media related warm-up question today before we dive into our conversation with Elizabeth and Rachael about Women’s Cycling Day. In the cool-down we’ll be talking about an awesome event coming up called Challenge Daytona--a multisport event based at the famous Daytona International Speedway near scenic Daytona Beach, Florida. Sign me up! It’s going to be a great show. Let’s get to it.
Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving.
Andrew: There are many professional athletes across all sports who are quality folks to follow on social media. The pros who post regular content have an opportunity to update fans on their training, promote their sponsors, and show a little bit more of their personality on social media. In endurance sports there are a ton of great athletes with a fun and engaging social media presence. Rachael, Elizabeth, I know both of you are very active on social media and so for our warm-up question today--who is your favorite pro triathlete to follow on the social media machine? Rachael, welcome back to the show. Glad to have you again. We’re going to throw you in to answer this question first.
Rachael: Probably Heather Jackson. She is a dear personal friend of mine. She is also an industry partner with Bike Law. She’s a phenomenal human. I think there’s a lot of pressure on the pros, especially female pros, to not only compete and perform at the highest elite levels, but also against men in sport who dominate every facet of professional racing right down to the number of available slots in some of the most competitive and important races for people who make a living in sport. Heather has also been super down to earth. She is empathetic and kind and committed. She’s compassionate. What I love most about following her on social is she’s willing to use the platform to advocate for safer biking and cultural change to really give her fans and fellow multisport athletes a good look into what her day to day life is like. Very down to earth and honest. And, most importantly, the celebration of all the stuff that makes triathlon and riding a bike so special. Her passion and her insatiable relationship with cycling makes her one of the most dynamic pro triathletes in my book. When she’s not training for races she’s somewhere on the side of a mountain or on a trail riding her bike with her family, her husband, her friends, and I think that’s really special.
Andrew: Yes, really special and really fun to see pictures of what she’s doing and how active her family is. She’s always dropping some hints to upcoming Wattie Ink kit goodness on her feed as well. So, yeah, Heather Jackson is a fantastic pick. Elizabeth, as a pro yourself, I know you are well aware of how much hard work goes into posting worthwhile content on social media to build that following. Who is a pro that you follow that is crushing it right now that all of our listeners should go give a follow to?
Elizabeth: Gosh, I know we say this a lot, but sometimes I feel like these warm-up questions are a whole lot harder than what we discuss later. This is a tough one because there are so many amazing triathletes that I follow. I could list a bunch and it would take up our entire episode here. I certainly follow your well-known names in the sport, your podium finishers all the way from the ITU events and Kona legends. Two that really came to mind as we were talking through this are Danielle Dingman and Ruth Astle. Those are two of my favorites just in the current couple weeks here. Danielle recently won the first pro event in the U.S. post-Covid, the Bear Lake Brawl in Idaho. So that was really cool to…
Andrew: The Bear Lake Brawl? Fantastic event name for starters.
Elizabeth: They had miserable, tough conditions. Anybody that raced that deserves a shout-out and a big pat on the back accomplishment. Then to see her headed into the event and to come away with that win was amazing. Ruth is a force to be reckoned with. This is her first year as a pro triathlete. That’s after winning the 30-34 age group last year in Kona in 2019. She’s going to be a name we see frequently on the podium. Those two came to mind and then one of the other things that Rachael said that I just want to touch on a little bit more, too, in addition to all these amazing triathletes my mind immediately went to the elite runner Kara Goucher. I’ve followed her for a long time, even before I knew what a triathlon was. Especially during this unique year I’ve really appreciated the perspective that she’s provided. Social media can be such a fantastic way for us to stay connected to one another and can provide that great sense of camaraderie and motivation, but it can present a number of challenges because we as humans are naturally and constantly comparing ourselves to others. This can be tough because some athletes don’t post that whole picture. Rachael was talking about the great job that Heather Jackson does with showing things beyond the training. For me, I think that’s a really important thing for these pros to be doing. Some people only post their fastest workouts or their great race results. But following athletes like Heather Jackson and Kara is so good for me because they capture the whole view. They give a healthy perspective outside of sport--celebrating wedding anniversaries, raising a family, spending time doing things outside of the training, too.
Andrew: It’s just a little reminder there’s more to life than this. Even for the pros that’s great. Talking about the Bear Lake Brawl, I’m reminded of two accounts I follow. They’re not the ones I’m going to give my ultimate shout-out today. I follow pro triathlete Ben Kanute. He’s one of my follows. He raced the Bear Lake Brawl. I follow Talbot Cox. He’s a media guy that shoots a lot of the pros. He does a lot of behind the scenes YouTube content. He’s there on race day to shoot a lot of events. With a media background I like following Talbot just to see what he’s up to as he’s shooting these events. They were both at the Bear Lake Brawl so I did hear about that event, as well. The ultimate one I want to give a shout out to...I follow a lot of pros. I now follow Rachael Maney after the last episode. She’s a quality follow. I follow pro athlete Elizabeth James, who is a quality follow. I want to give a shout out to Ben and Heather Deal. If you’ve never heard of them, they’re both pros. They’re a young married 20-something couple. They’re both pro triathletes. They earned their pro card. They started off with an online blog called “Deals on Wheels.” They were traveling around the country living out of their van, training and racing triathlons, and documenting it on their blog. I didn’t discover them then, but I discovered them on Instagram. They’re just a really funny follow. So Ben and Heather Deal are my shout out.
Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1…
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Andrew: Just a few shows back, on Episode 49, Rachael Maney from Bike Law gave us a crash course on cycling safety and during that conversation her passion for women’s participation in endurance sports briefly came up. I left that conversation immediately knowing that I had to get Rachael back on the show to talk about women’s representation in the sport, and the movement to encourage more female participants in cycling.With the Inaugural Women’s Cycling Day coming up on October 10th, 2020, there’s just no better time to talk about this. Rachael, let’s get rolling today by telling us how you became so passionate about women entering and enjoying the sport of cycling.
Rachael: Well I’m a woman myself and because I love nothing the way that I love to ride my bike it’s a very natural or organic progression going from being a little girl who used to ride around her neighborhood to now finding myself in the position that I’m in both recreationally, in competition, and professionally. My female friends in sport and the women that are in the Bike Law network are some of the bravest, most committed, capable, strongest women that I know. And being part of their tribe makes me proud and hopeful about the future of biking. I think that women will inevitably change the role that cycling plays in safer, scalable transit and transportation. That facet of riding a bicycle certainly has to come first and after that the bike boom can continue in a way that could possibly resemble Dutch or European cycling. That is, after all, the model used by several non-profit and advocacy groups here in the U.S. It is certainly the model used by USAC and USAT in the context of riding and racing growth.
Andrew: In crafting this episode and thinking through the talking points, I was just thinking to my own experiences with local group rides, local triathlon and road running events and there seems to be a much higher percentage of female participation at triathlon and run-specific events as opposed to cycling events. Is this what both of you see across the board or is that just maybe where I’m at on my local group ride?
Rachael: I think that there’s some irony there because women on bikes make up the greatest percentage of riders in North America.
Rachael: Yeah. When we look at the really impactful and sizable growth of riding a bicycle in the U.S. in the last few decades, that growth is predicated upon women on bikes. I think that this is probably a more nuanced question or topic of conversation because there are elements to multisport communities or our multisport community that are far more inclusive and inviting than you may find in road racing or in competitive cycling, for sure. I think it’s one of the things that we touched on in the last conversation we had with the last podcast episode, which is what I love so much about triathlon is that sense of community, camaraderie, and fellowship. So I would agree with you that within multisport if I go to a triathlon--and it could be a local sprint or Kona World Championships--there is a much greater balance between men and women participants than there is in road riding or cyclocross or BMX or track racing. Those inequities, those gender inequities are things that need to be addressed for sure. Women’s Cycling Day is a fantastic tool or celebratory experience to advance the ball in that direction.
Elizabeth: I love that you brought that up because in my personal experience I do see that as well. There seems to be that higher percentage maybe in triathlon or run-specific events, but then I go out for a cycle ride and it seems like the percentage of women is relatively small and you made the point that women on bikes makes up the greatest percentage of riders in North America. I’m just excited and I know we’ll touch on that a little bit more in the episode about some of those discrepancies and how this event coming up with Women’s Cycling Day can be a great opportunity to get more women involved.
Andrew: You mentioning that women on bikes make up the majority of riders in North America...what are some of the other interesting stats about women’s engagement in cycling and have we made any progress in participation in recent years?
Elizabeth: I think the popularity of women’s cycling has ebbed and flowed a little bit throughout history. There’s certainly some differences in participation by country and region, as well. So going back a little bit here--and I’m not going to give a full history of the bicycle. We could spend an entire podcast episode on that, but I do want to put this a little bit in context here. The bicycle is dated back to 1817 with the German invention of what they call the running machine or the hobby horse. In the 1850s we see the bicycle that includes pedals. Many of these early bicycles with the…
Andrew: What was a bicycle before pedals? There’s a bike that didn’t have pedals?
Elizabeth: Yeah, it was just wheels and you would basically use your feet and the momentum of the wheels to push you forward. Which is why they called it the running machine. Because you still had to propel yourself forward.
Rachael: Just to pushpin that, if we look at how we introduce very small children to cycling, the strider bikes are incredibly efficacious in introducing bikes to very small children and it’s the same ideology. It’s the same engineering and design that without pedals you learn first about balance and maintaining control of the bike before adding that extra component.
Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely. In the 1800s as we’re talking about these different advances...that larger front wheel that had the pedals attached to it.
Andrew: The penny-farther.
Elizabeth: Oh, yes. That was considered rather dangerous so it was only ridden by those brave and daring young men.
Andrew: It looks dangerous.
Elizabeth: It probably was. Women interested in riding that were faced with some of the hurdles of accessibility due to women’s fashion at the time. The long skirts prevented them from being able to access the bike frame.
Andrew: They didn’t have lycra yet.
Elizabeth: Not yet. Now in the 1880s and 1890s what was deemed as the safety bicycle was invented. This included your rear wheel chain drive and it didn’t have as large of a difference in the wheel size from the front wheel to the rear wheels. Then, additionally, a lady’s version of the bicycle became available by the 1890s as well. So this women’s version had a step-through frame--kind of what we would consider now is that lowered top tube--rather than the diamond frame of the gentlemen’s models so that the ladies with their dresses and skirts could easily mount and ride the bicycles. This also commonly came with a skirt guard to prevent the skirts and the dresses from becoming entangled in the rear wheel and the spokes.
Andrew: But were the skirt guards aero?
Elizabeth: I don’t know.
Andrew: Were they carbon? Did they have a carbon offering?
Rachael: Were they moisture wicking?
Elizabeth: One of my absolute favorite quotes about women’s cycling comes from this time period, too. In 18...I think it was 1896, Susan B. Anthony said, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it’s done more to emancipate women than anything else.” Then she goes on to talk about how it gives women this feeling of freedom and self-reliance and she says, “I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.” I think that’s still a great picture. So you see that during this timeframe women’s cycling was actually gaining quite a bit of popularity. But then we see it drop off dramatically, especially in the United States in the early 1900s. Automobiles became your preferred method of transportation. By the 1920s it was considered more of a children’s toy than a necessary mode of transportation. Then by the 1940s most bicycles in the United States were specifically made for children. So we see this dramatic dip, but it wasn’t necessarily a worldwide thing either. I think we saw that more in the United States than other countries. So since then and since that dip we’ve seen female participation in cycling increase. But one of the main things we’re going to talk about today, too, is this opportunity for Women’s Cycling Day to give us that opportunity to further grow the sport.
Andrew: What we’re seeing here, Rachael, is a quick glimpse into professional triathlete Elizabeth James’s previous life as a school teacher where she brings out the facts and figures and taught us a little bit there. That was super interesting. Rachael, where are we at now in terms of women’s involvement as cyclists?
Rachael: Well, at first I want to piggyback off of what Elizabeth said. First and foremost, teachers are incredibly important. I’m a huge fan of soccer, also incredibly important, and I love everything that you said because it really gives a detailed look into where we’ve come from and perhaps to where we might want to return if that makes sense. We circle the wagons and we look at the importance of the bike before. It was invented long before the invention of the car, thereby giving us rights to the road as cyclists long before the invention of the car. Today in the U.S. about 60% of bicycle owners are women between the ages of 17 and 28. That’s a pretty significant number of American cyclists. For me, I think some people define a cyclist as somebody who’s kitted up in lycra, matching shoes, helmet...maybe somebody with a disc wheel. For me it’s anybody who pushes the pedals around. In the U.S. there’s approximately 55 million of us cyclists. When we look at the scalable growth of cycling in the U.S. it’s predicated on female ridership. Additionally, women of color are responsible for the most significant increase of biking in the last two decades.
Andrew: Love that.
Rachael: Almost 30% of people in the U.S. are counted in that demographic. Women are much more likely than men to demand safer biking conditions and infrastructure. If we look at the inequities in the treatment of female cyclists either in sport or as utilitarian bicyclists and commuters compared to our male counterparts, it’s so great that even in bike advocacy we see a larger number of women who are brave enough and willing to fight for the cultural and social improvements to make our roads safer for all who ride. I know that within my Bike Law network the female bicycle crash attorneys with whom I work are some of the most active and dedicated and successful bike advocates as well as strong and competitive riders in the industry. Going back to the avenue down which Elizabeth was taking us looking at the role that our country’s cycling population compared to the rest of the world and the historical implications are concerned, when I think about...or when I think most people think about where bicycling is the most celebrated and thereby the safest--Denmark, Germany, Spain, France--these European countries come to mind. But I think at the top of the list no other country has done cycling the way that the Dutch do bikes. As recently as the late 60s, early 70s, inadequate infrastructure and the prioritization of motor vehicle transportation like Elizabeth was talking about here, began to force women and their families from these densely populated urban areas or cities into the suburbs. So moving out of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, etc. and into these suburban areas where they’d be forced to commute by car. Completing that cycle of prioritizing motor vehicle transit. It was the female cycling population in the Netherlands that fought for better biking. They were responsible for the drastic changes in bike culture resulting only ten years later with a complete transformation in Dutch mobility. So a women’s group called Stop de Kindermoord pioneered the way for Dutch bike culture, which is emulated now by most countries, especially by the U.S. So to put it into perspective--I’m a numbers girl, as well--the cycling crash fatalities in 1969 in the Netherlands were upwards of almost 600 per year. Today the Dutch people are given tax credits for bike commuting. The total number of cycling deaths is less than one third what it was before women bicyclists decided to fight for safe, sustainable cycling. Additionally, the number of non-bicycle related traffic deaths are less than 700 a year. Just for comparison purposes, in the U.S. that number is somewhere close to 40,000 traffic fatalities per calendar year. So if it isn’t safe to walk it’s not safe to ride. If it isn’t safe to ride then it probably isn’t safe to drive either. If we look at Mothers Against Drunk Driving as the template for change--it’s another woman-led organization that revolutionized (albeit for a short period of time, relatively) transportation safety in ways that no government organization or round-table of male policy makers could have imagined.
Andrew: Rachael, Elizabeth, I know you are both very competitive triathletes who have competed at a professional level. As we talk about cycling in particular, what got each of you started in the sport?
Rachael: Let’s go back to what Elizabeth said. She quoted Susan B. Anthony and there is no greater or freer, more joyful feeling for me than riding a bike. Anyone who had one as a kid remembers that empowering sensation of cruising or coasting around without a care in the world and getting back to that as a young adult was very organic for me. Being a distance runner and mediocre swimmer with lots of triathlete friends provided the perfect space for me to begin cycling, too, and it just looked so fun. It turns out that it actually is.
Andrew: Who knew that Susan B. Anthony would get so much play on this podcast episode? The O.G. The Legend. Elizabeth, how about you? How did you get into cycling?
Elizabeth: I just absolutely love thinking back on this. It brings a huge smile to my face. A wonderful woman, Cindy Arias, got me started in the sport of cycling. I think some of our listeners have heard part of this story before about how I went to a spin class at a local YMCA and was fascinated by this instructor. She was a multiple time triathlete, fantastic runner, and just a mean cyclist. I mean that in the best way possible. Just super strong. Seemed like she knew everything about anything to do with cycling. She took me under her wing and saw something in me that I did not know existed yet and really supported me in getting started. She brought me to a bike shop and basically said, “This is the bike that you’re going to buy.” Then took me out on the roads. “Here’s how we change a flat. Here’s what clipless pedals are. You’re still riding in your running shorts, let’s get you a pair of cycling shorts.” Pulled me around numerous rides on the Nebraska country roads. Took me on a trip to Colorado and really just helped me fall in love with the sport.
Andrew: We’ve talked already about the influence that women have on cycling as an industry, whether it’s the Dutch cycling infrastructure and safety that the Dutch women created that’s been populated worldwide to North America having more female cyclists than male cyclists when you look at people who are actually owning and riding bikes. The influence of women on the sport is already far deeper than I would’ve imagined going into this conversation. So when we talk about Women’s Cycling Day, which at the time that this podcast is being recorded and at the time this podcast will be published is coming up very soon. It’s October 10, 2020. This is an inaugural event for Women’s Cycling Day. If you listen to this episode after October 10, it will have already happened. Be on the lookout for it coming around again in 2021. Rachael, where did the idea for this inaugural Women’s Cycling Day come from?
Rachael: To clarify for everybody that’s listening it will always be the second Saturday in October. So this year it happens to be on the tenth, although we’re deferring the big celebratory weekend until Mother’s Day weekend of 2021 because of COVID and because some of these fluid challenges that we’re all experiencing. But Women’s Cycling Day was the vision and the dream of Heather Mason and Lauren Hefferon. Heather works with Bianchi as well as being a contributing writer for Bicycle Retailer. Lauren runs Ciclismo Classico. The two of them came together and, you know, two heads are always better than one. When you have these two particular heads, what ended up...the deliverable or the product was this Women’s Cycling Festival that would promote this mission and ethos of inclusion and diversity and celebration and getting more women on bikes. That whatever challenges or hurdles or intimidation novice riders may feel--women novice riders may feel--that there’s a place for all of the experienced ones to reach down and elevate them and bring them up exactly the way Elizabeth was explaining her introduction to the bike. I think the weekend--the Women’s Cycling Day Festival weekend--is more so just a concentrated celebration of things that we can be doing every single day in our local communities and our neighborhoods, at our local bike shops, at races, within our tri clubs, or on our cycling teams, that increases and grows scalable, safe ridership and rideshare amongst women on bikes.
Andrew: Yeah. So for the festival itself...for that weekend, what all does the event entail and how can our listeners participate and support?
Rachael: Like I mentioned, I think it’s something that if we get into the habit of practicing these things every day...For example, if there’s somebody in your neighborhood or you have a girlfriend who has even asked the most innocuous of questions about your triathlon experience or your cycling experience, invite them to go for a ride with you. Get them in the saddle. It isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. The mission and the goal is to grow our female riding communities so that ridership and rideshare and participation of sport continue to develop and expand. Women who might not have an opportunity, whether it’s because they didn’t have a childhood introduction to the bike, or because they don’t have friends that are triathletes or cyclists. They’re given this opportunity, this platform, this space to get in the saddle and fall in love with riding a bike.
Andrew: So talk to me a little about the industry support for Women’s Cycling Day. When I was researching for this episode and looking at the event web pages, there was just so many pictures of bike shops doing what you’re talking about--encouraging women to ride, encouraging women to engage in the sport. I saw Bianchi jerseys and bikes everywhere, which, as a Bianchi owner myself, I loved. What are some of the brands or bike shops supporting the event? How does their support increase female participation in cycling?
Rachael: That’s a really great question. I think oftentimes when we look at sponsors or partners for events or races, we’re looking for...we’re all scanning the horizon for big names. Don’t get me wrong, big names are important. I don’t know where I’d be without my Garmin. I certainly don’t know where I’d be without my ZipWheels. Those types of things, right? I think the reality, and I think what is so brilliant about what Heather and Lauren have created, is that the majority of people on bikes in North America are probably never going to compete in an Ironman and they may never go to the Cyclocross World Championships or the track championship...you know, things like that. But they will ride their bicycle from their home to the grocery store. Or maybe they commute to work. Or perhaps that’s their most loved family weekend activity--getting on the trail with small children or with your spouse or boyfriend or whoever it is. So the shops and the local cycling clubs and these women-led organizations and bike clubs that are sponsors and participants in women’s cycling day...they open the door on a smaller, more grassroots, boots on the ground, local level. We have found at Bike Law--and we’re a partner and sponsor of Women’s Cycling Day, of course--but what we have found is biting off really small pieces at a time is the most effective way to affect change on a much bigger level. So Women’s Cycling Day gives the smaller, local businesses, local bike shops, women’s cycling clubs an opportunity to participate in something that might otherwise cost them….it could be tens of thousands of dollars for sponsorship or to participate in an event of this size.
Andrew:As we’re talking about this event and the movement that is women’s cycling, I’m reminded of....so ever since Hamilton came out on Disney Plus, I think me and my wife have watched it three times and listen to the sound track a lot in the office. There’s a line in the Hamilton theater production that references the American forces in the Revolutionary War as “it’s not a moment, it’s the movement.” I was reminded of that line as both of you, Elizabeth and Rachael, were talking because the end goal, of course, is for this to be more than just a one day event. It’s meant to be more just a slice of a movement, really, that is women’s cycling. So what are some other initiatives going on throughout the year that are encouraging women to get involved in the cycling community?
Rachael: That it’s not a moment, it’s a movement is exactly right. We could come up with probably a million metaphors. Most of the ones I can think of are sports related. It’s not a sprint, it is a marathon. But start with your local shops. Start in your local communities. Ask them what they’re doing to include and encourage women in sport and in the saddle. There are tons of women only rides and women-led rides that provide great safe spaces for new female riders to get comfortable and confident with riding and even servicing their own bikes. Elizabeth mentioned that the woman that gave her this really warm, comfortable introduction to riding was checking every single one of the boxes that we at Bike Law believe are so important. How do you change a tire? How do you replace your chain? What can you do to be autonomous with your bicycle? Those things are really important. When we look at the surveys in a variety of different communities, women who want to ride, but end up not getting in the saddle, they express that the reasons are because they feel intimidated or afraid that they have not been given the type of treatment walking into a bike shop that makes them feel comfortable asking questions. That there is a lack of equity in opportunity or resources. Those are things that, yeah, of course we can create policies and we can demand on a much bigger scale that people change the way that they open that door for women to get in the saddle. But the most effective way, I think, to create more balance or shift that dynamic is for every female rider that’s experienced to reach out to one that is less so or that’s never had the opportunity or joy of riding a bicycle and invite them to come along with you to show them. It’s definitely a selfless act, but the way I think about it is that if I have....let’s say, in peak full Ironman training, you’re looking at 20 hours a week that you’re spending doing a variety of different workouts. If I just take an hour of my time that I can prioritize and create the space for and use that to invite other women or, even better, school aged girls to get on the bicycle, that’s going to impact change in a way that’s very, very visible very quickly.
Andrew: So for our listeners, we’ve talked about things bike shops are doing and you held...Elizabeth, your mentor that helped got you in the sport has become a big highlight for the episode as the way to do it. You’re still here today as a pro triathlete because of it. For our listeners, whether they’re male or female, who maybe has a friend or family member that they would love to introduce to the sport, what are both of your top tips for getting someone else riding?
Elizabeth: To go by the example that I was provided, I would say go with them. Don’t just encourage them to get started on their own, but really be a part of that process. Let them borrow one of your bikes. We know you probably have more than one. So allow them to borrow one of your older ones. Take them riding. Teach them. And, yeah, those little things like how to change a flat tire. What to do when your chain drops. All of that is so important so that they not only fall in love with the sport, but feel confident in being able to carry out some of those hurdles that they might come encounter with, too. I know that this has been a challenging year for a number of reasons, but I have to admit that some of the things I’ve been most disappointed that have been cancelled were some of the women’s events that we had planned. Gosh, last year I was able to do one with a local triathlon club and we had a specific women’s night. It was fantastic. We sat down, had some good conversations about sport. We were able to go out and be active together for a little while. We had planned to continue that into 2020 so I hope that as we can…
Andrew: 2021 it will pick back up.
Elizabeth: Yes! As we can gather back together again we can get some of those things going. It was such an empowering event. It was wonderful and I hope that we can continue to be that support and organize those things to get people excited.
Andrew: Yeah, Elizabeth, you mentioned taking one of your spare bikes since we all have...if you’re doing it right you have many. So off camera, or off recording last time, John and I were talking with Rachael about her bike collection. Rachael has a very impressive collection of bikes that she owns and rides. So, Rachael, is that something that you do? Do you take your Bromptons out and let a girlfriend ride one for the first time and get an introduction to the sport that way?
Rachael: Absolutely! Absolutely. My response to your question was going to be, “Yeah, what she said.” That’s exactly...I can just be Elizabeth’s hype woman. I agree completely and comprehensively that it’s...we’re not splitting the atom here. This isn’t rocket science. It’s no different than any other subject or facet of life. It’s that when you have somebody--a buddy, a friend, a girlfriend, a mentor--somebody who introduces you and makes you feel welcome and unafraid to ask questions or to do something new, to try something that you haven’t before, the excitement and the willingness and the motivation to get involved...it just changes. It increases for sure. The bikes that I have...it’s so funny, my car is parked in my driveway and my bikes are in the garage, which is the way I think that it should be, by the way. I have a pretty big extended family of...not by blood, just chosen family. During the quarantine part of the spring/early summer, everything was pretty much shut down for everyone, I had the opportunity to get people--young people-- who had not had the opportunity or experience of riding in the saddle. What we are seeing as far as the bike industry is concerned is this overwhelming need or demand for bicycles that is so great that the supply isn’t equal to meet those needs. It’s one of the first times in a very, very long time that local bike shops are so inundated with business that they can almost not keep up. So we’re in this golden age of bicycling and racing, whether it’s on the road or multisport within the triathlon community. People are riding more than ever. Part of it is because some folks are still hesitant or apprehensive about participating in indoor athletic activities, and there’s this extra free time to do something different or new. People are going back to where they began. They remember what it was like to ride a bicycle as a child. So they are using that as this segue into making it a family activity or something you do with friends. It might be partially because of a lack of other options, but I really believe...and at Bike Law we believe that this trend is going to stick around, so that’s really good news. Getting friends and my kids’ friends on bikes...using those extra bicycles sitting in my garage, it’s one of my favorite things to do.
Andrew: Representation in sports can be a very powerful thing. What does it do for women when they see their peers getting active and supporting one another and being badasses on bicycles particularly in the context of cycling and triathlon?
Rachael: There’s strength in numbers. Belonging is a human biological imperative. Peer pressure is also a thing. I remember the first full Ironman where I was a spectator. It was Ironman Arizona. I remember being completely enamored with or by Michellie Jones. I remember seeing her cross the finish line and engage with her fans. That was a pivotal moment for me. In addition to supporting and being a...I am a mediocre competitive triathlete, but I am a podium level Sherpa. I will have everybody. I am really good at cheering.
Andrew: That’s an important skill set.
Rachael: Absolutely. Exposure and education and excitement and access to resources are really important. When I go to races and triathlon is really, really unique in a way that cycling by itself or other sports aren’t. The idea that on any course I could be running next to Miranda Carfrae. Now she’s 15 miles ahead of me, but that’s not the point. The point is I have that direct connection, that human interaction with the women that are performing at the most elite level in the sport that I love so much. Absolutely I agree with you that seeing women who are such strong trailblazing advocates for sport participating alongside of you, that’s incredibly compelling.
Elizabeth: I absolutely agree. I would say in anything that we’re looking to accomplish, I find it incredibly empowering to see what others have done and then to surround yourself--whether that’s actually in person or just by the examples that we can follow. But to surround yourself with people who are going to help you succeed and become that best version of yourself.
Andrew: I would encourage as both of you guys are saying that...and we kind of opened the show...and this wasn’t intentionally done. I’m patting myself on the back now. But as we opened the show by talking about following pros on social media. Go out of your way to find some great example women in the sport who are being successful and who, just like Heather Jackson, that Rachael mentioned are real on social media in showing you the day in and day out struggles and victories and all angles of it. Go find some folks to follow. Start watching pro tour women’s events on tv or streaming if you can find them. It does do a lot to show you that they’re out there and they’re crushing it and they’re killing it. Elizabeth, Rachael, who are a few women in the sport for you that you follow and admire and have drawn inspiration from for your own endurance sport journeys?
Elizabeth: I think I’m going to go the cycling route this time just because we talked triathlon a little bit in the warm-up. So...there’s so many, again. Man, I feel like we’ve been able to highlight so many, which is fantastic. I’m going to start with Marianne Vos. She’s one of them. Her nickname...she is known as the cannibal. That tells you right away how fierce of a competitor she is. She’s a decorated cyclist. Numerous titles. She has world championship wins in road cycling and cyclocross along with Olympic gold medals. Absolutely dominating when it comes to cycling performance. I guess another one that I want to highlight is Judy Robinson. I believe she’s like 80 years old now. I want to be like Judy Robinson when I grow up. She is staying active, encouraging others to be active by leading a number of group ride cycling events. I’ll say those two.
Rachael: Piggybacking on what you brought up, Andrew, about following these pro athletes or these women on social media...in the mid-nineties, every boy who had ever picked up a basketball would have given his left or right leg to have a conversation with Michael Jordan, right? That is a dynamic between fans and sports celebrities or any celebrity that will exist until the end of time. What makes people like Heather Jackson or another one of my favorite female pro triathletes Amy Vantassel “VT” or Lizzy Niytray...some of my most favorite women in sport is that there’s...even when there’s a crossing of boundaries by fans...for example, Heather sitting down having dinner with her family and a very excited fan girl, fan boy, whoever it is, approaches...she could have a mouthful of salad and she still takes the time to give a hug or a high five, that willingness to share parts of their intimate personal lives with complete strangers just because there’s a shared passion and love for sport is something that is unique to these women in sport. These pro triathletes for sure. But my list: Inga Thompson, three time Olympian and Tour de France racer. Ann Groninger, who is my Bike Law North Carolina attorney. Nedra Deadwyler, she runs Civil Bikes in Atlanta. Not particularly celebrity level famous, but in my cycling world she is an incredibly important advocate and woman on a bike. Kathryn Doornbos, who is the former Director of Redemptive Cycles in Birmingham. Katie Zimmerman, the director of Charleston Moves who takes every single trip by bicycle. She is a true commuter. I’m going to touch on Lizzy again just because if you ever have the opportunity to eat one of her baked goods then that is enough motivation and inspiration to then go on a really long bike ride because you can’t just have one. Diane Jenks, who hosts the podcast The Outspoken Cyclist and has been involved in the bike industry for a very, very long time. And, of course, Heather Mason and Lauren Hefferon of Women’s Cycling Day.
Andrew: Always happy to see a podcaster get a shout out for their podcast. The Outspoken Cyclist, I have heard of that one. Thanks to both of you for sharing there. I’m going to go tell our audience to go follow Rachael Maney and Elizabeth James on Instagram and Facebook, as well. They’re great people and they’ve taken some time out of their day today to talk about Women’s Cycling Day. Rachael, one more time for our ladies and gentlemen out there who want to get some more information, what’s the website where they can find out more about that event on October 10th?
Rachael: It’s womenscyclingday.com. Super easy. I do recommend following them on Instagram. Go check out their website. You can find them also on BikeLaw.com and on our social media channels, as well as on my personal social media. The great thing about--like you said--Women’s Cycling Day is it is inclusive. There are ways for our male counterparts to support and participate, of course. It’s just exclusive that it really highlights and illuminates the very special role that women on bikes play in the growth of cycling here in the U.S.
Cool down theme: Great set, everyone! Let’s cool down.
Andrew: The last time we had Rachael join us she gave us a quick glimpse of what makes Challenge Daytona a special race for athletes. The event sounded so fun and her reasons to come to Florida and race were so compelling that John Mayfield, coach here at TriDot, and myself, we’ve booked our flights, we booked our accommodation, and we will be there on site for Challenge Daytona this December. Rachael, we’re so excited to come. We’ve already mentioned that Bike Law is a proud partner of Challenge Daytona and you, because of that, have the ultimate scoop on this race. So for anybody looking for a December race on the Florida coast, what do they need to know about this one?
Rachael: I think the most important thing is that there is something for everybody. There are plenty of race organizations. As a competitive triathlete, every single one of us has participated in an event where you might walk or limp away feeling like there was something left to be desired. My experience with the Challenge Family organization and Challenge Daytona is that they completely eliminate that missing piece. They check that box, for sure. So whether you want to bring...it’s a family-focused event. Your kids can do a fun run. There’s a 5K. There’s a sprint option. There’s the middle distance. There’s a really unique Pro format for the Pro race. It really is a weekend that is centered around the need and the experience of each athlete, regardless of competitive level or speed, strength, age. There’s something there for everybody as far as participation is concerned. There is this celebratory feel. I think part of that is because it is an end of year race, but I think this year really has the opportunity to be even more exciting and special because a lot of us have waited and been disappointed by the cancellation of other races that were on our calendar. So this one we’re good to go. It’s a definite. So you can count on that. The experience is as unique as the course itself. There’s absolutely nothing like riding your bicycle on the Daytona International Speedway. For the short course folks, the entire course is contained within the Speedway. So there’s a lake that’s in the middle. A man-made lake.
Andrew: Lake Lloyd.
Rachael: Exactly, that’s right. So you swim, bike, and run all within the Speedway, making it one of the safest courses that I’m aware of on the planet. So, for me, of course, as a bike advocate, is very important and Challenge has done a phenomenal job of protecting its athletes.
Andrew: Everybody deserves a bike course picture of themselves in aero on their tri bike on Daytona International Speedway with the grandstands behind them on the race track. Rachael, I’ll say this--you mentioned COVID race cancellations and races not happening this year. In my time...in the entire time I’ve been on staff with TriDot, I’ve got my TriDot tri kit and I haven’t gotten to race in it yet. I haven’t gotten to rep the TriDot colors. The black and red of TriDot. I’ve done the TriDot podcast for a full year now so I’m just thrilled out of my mind to have the opportunity to rep those colors and get on a race course in my TriDot kit and rep the company and training that I love so much. So I’m going to come. I’m racing the half. Rachael, I know you’re racing the sprint. Tell us a little about what the courses are like for the different distances there.
Rachael: For the middle distance it’s pretty standard. So you’re going to swim in that lake and then you’re going to do part of the bike course in the Speedway and then part of it outside of the Speedway and then you come back and return. The same for the run. For the pros who are also doing the race in that mixed format, I think what’s really unique about this--and we’ve talked a lot about the relationship between professional representation in sport and how amateurs, age groupers, or novice athletes then make their segue into whatever sport that is. The cool thing is the pro race is at a different time. So you get to fully spectate and cheer for and engage, which is really really cool. The other thing is that there is a million dollar prize purse for the pros this year. The reason that I bring that up is because...I think that...Obviously Elizabeth as a pro can confirm...This is how a lot of these people make their living. So when you look at what they’re posting on social media or why they’re posting it, there’s this obligation to promote their sponsors and to engage their fans and their followers about these different products. But this is an opportunity that gives these women and men a chance to make some money doing what they actually do, which is participating in sport. Competing at the highest, most elite level. I think that is really important, too. So the fact that this is happening at Challenge Daytona is, at least for me, another feather in the cap in our partnership, or Bike Law’s partnership with this race organization.
Elizabeth: I know that Andrew and John have been trying to convince me to come race at Challenge Daytona anyway, so maybe this was the final push that I needed. Maybe I need to add this to my schedule, as well.
Andrew: In the pro field?
Elizabeth: That would be perfect. I can cheer you on, you can cheer me on.
Andrew: We’re not racing at the same time. We can cheer Rachael on.
Elizabeth: This sounds like a great weekend!
Andrew: Rachael, we’ll see you in Daytona!
Rachael: That sounds fantastic. I’m really looking forward to it. You can find us at the expo and all over the course. I am usually out there with a megaphone and a tutu and a lot of Bike Law friends and other multisport athletes, just celebrating. It’s the end of the year. This has been an incredibly difficult year for everybody. The culmination of what this has been for each of us, I think is going to be pretty exciting and special. The last two years at Challenge Daytona have been nothing short of a really, really great time.
Andrew: Well, that’s it for today, folks. I want to thank Rachael Maney from Bike Law and coach Elizabeth James for talking about women in the sport of cycling and Women’s Cycling Day. Shout out to TriBike Transport for partnering with us on today’s episode. Enjoying the podcast? Have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head to tridot.com/podcast and click on “Submit Feedback” to let us know what you’re thinking. We’ll have a new show coming your way soon. Until then, happy training.
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