Park Tool Community Grant Applications Now Open!

Do you or someone you know run or plan on starting a cycling related non-profit? Yes?!
That’s great because Park Tool wants to help you out.

Park Tool’s Community Tool Grant will be supplying ten sets of their Professional Mechanic Tool Kits as well as some additional gear to non-profits in need.

The grant has help support 40 organizations over the past four years and they look to continue that support in 2019!

I personally have Park Tool to thank for helping send me to United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, OR to take their Professional Repair and Shop Operation course. A few years back I was chosen for the Quality Bike Part’s Women’s Mechanic Scholarship. I have done a previous blog about it here if you’d like to read about my time. They also supplied myself and all the other attendees with tools, repair stands, and shop aprons.

To this day I purchase many of my shop and repair tools from them as they’ve done so much to give back to the cycling community.

The application period runs now through December 31st, with finalists being notified in early 2020. Click HERE for the application page and best of luck!

Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1 Review

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Full disclosure- I am a brand ambassador for Liv Cycling. I get some free product from the company because of my ambassadorship, but I did purchase this particular bike. I was not given the bike for free and my thoughts on the bike are honest and transparent. That being said, you can form your own opinion on what I have to say.

Road bikes have come a long way in a very short amount of time. Gone are the days of worrying about brittle carbon, threaded stems, friction shifters, and ultra skinny tires.

The carbon of today is extremely strong, even stronger than some aluminum tubing. Bikes are now lighter, faster, and much more comfortable. The Liv Avail is no exception.

The Avail model is an endurance road machine. It’s designed for long days in the saddle and will gobble up any pothole riddled roads you throw at it.  It also shines as a road model with less aggressive geometry, creating a comfortable platform for the enthusiast rider.

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My Avail Advanced Pro lovingly named Firefly.

The advanced models of the Liv Avail are made with the brand’s highest quality carbon fiber weave. Liv’s models are designed by and for women, creating carbon layups to offer a balanced ride. The major differences between the brother and sister brands Liv & Giant is the consideration of how men and women carry their weight. The differences in balance points as well as limb length, flexibility, leg length, torso length, and weight are also considered in design.

Liv’s women specific design may not be for every lady, but they are a great option to consider if you’ve struggled to find a comfortable fit on other brands.

The Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1 is a model that was released in 2017. There is currently no exact  updated 2018 model. A similarly spec’d model for 2018 is the Avail Advanced 1 with the biggest differences being an alloy wheel set and Shimano 105 level shifters instead of Ultegra level shifters.

The other option would be to go with the Avail Advanced Pro with Ultegra Di2 shifters and carbon SLR tubeless compatible wheels. The price jump between the models is pretty significant, but I personally think going with carbon wheels to drop significant weight and increase ride quality is worth the investment.

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Maiden Voyage

 

The 2017 Avail Advanced Pro 1 came somewhere in between the 2018 model options at a retail price of $3250. When price comparing against other major manufacturers, the Avail Advanced Pro 1 was the best bang for the buck. Similarly spec’d models came in at anywhere from $4200-5000 MSRP, that’s not even considering the hydraulic disc brakes that the Avail offered. If shopping off of price alone when looking at the spec’s, there’s no contest that the Avail Advanced lineup is a great option.

The thing that I think surprised me most about the Avail Advanced Pro 1 was the out of the box fit. Each previous road bike I have owned needed quite a bit of tweaking of components to get them the bike to fit comfortably. Major changes to the saddles, stems, and handlebars were necessary to enjoy riding long distances.

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From the bike path to gravel to country roads, the Avail Advanced Pro 1 can handle them all!

When building the bike up from out of the box, the only thing I did was flip the step to have a slightly taller rise and swapped the saddle out for one that had a cutout in the center of it. That’s not to say the stock saddle wasn’t comfortable, Liv does a fantastic job. I just know that I have a very particular saddle width I like to ride and know that a center cutout is also something I need in a road saddle. (Off topic, but the Liv contact SL forward saddle that is spec’d on their mountain bikes is one of the most comfortable MTB saddles I have ever ridden!)

I dialed in my seat height, using my old road bike measurements as well as the fore-aft position and I was set! I honestly couldn’t believe I haven’t had to make any changes beyond that to get dialed in.

The ride quality of the bike is easy on the body. The full carbon frame set paired with a carbon seat post and carbon SLR wheels makes for a light, smooth ride. Road noise is very minimal. The wheels are tubeless compatible, which I did initially set them up tubeless as the bike comes with the Giant Gavia tubeless road tires. I did have an unfortunate run in with a piece of glass that ended up creating a pretty large hole in the rear tire and caused the tubeless sealant to spew out onto my seat bag. I have since swapped in a tube for my rear tire, but have maintained the front tire as tubeless with sealant. For reference, I usually run anywhere from 90-100psi in my tires. I prefer the slightly wider 25mm tires with a lower pressure for good ride quality.

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The disc brakes make it easy to service the bike or change out a flat.

I do not participate in road racing, nor is it my goal to always attempt to get a Strava QOM, so ride comfort reigns supreme when dialing in my ride.

The handling of the bike is excellent. It tracks predictably, cornering is smooth as butter. I was a bit concerned with how the bike would would climb, but with the weight of the bike being light with the carbon SLR wheels, it can definitely gear up quickly and is quite responsive. I’d be curious to see how it compares with the new 2018 Liv Langma model, a road machine geared for climbing and performance.

One of my favorite features of the Avail Advanced Pro 1 is the hydraulic disc brakes. I’ve never felt so confident stopping on a road bike. I can ride in rain and cruddy weather without worrying about destroying my rims or  brake pads. The Shimano Ultegra hydraulic levers feel great in hand. My hands get much less fatigued with breaking on steep downhills as the actuation of the braking is absolutely smooth.

The new 11-speed Ultegra road gruppo also performs quickly and reliably. Even in the age of electronic shifters, I still prefer the functionality and performance of a mechanical group set. The shifts are snappy and reliable every time, even when shifting chain rings. I can go from shifting into an easy gear combo for ripping up a hill, to a heavy mashing gear for when I want to pick up speed on a downhill to gain momentum for the next climb.

I’ve really appreciated Liv’s attention to detail with spec-ing out the bike. It gives me no hesitation of recommending the model to anyone from the novice road rider to someone who has been a long time road enthusiast. The bike is worth every penny of its cost. The Avail Advanced Pro is a model option that anyone could enjoy and a new rider purchasing it would not feel the buyer’s remorse of not investing in a model with higher end components. The Advanced models are set up to be bikes that can grow with you as a rider and offer a quality of ride that is comfortable and reliable.

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Enjoying a rainy ride on Firefly through the Arboretum.

I would highly recommend trying an Avail model whether it be Advanced or otherwise. I’ve personally ridden and owned several similar endurance road models from competitors and have thoroughly enjoyed the Avail as one of the best bikes I have owned.

There’s a lot of hype and efforts to insert unnecessary dampening into endurance road models that make them feel dead or even sluggish to ride. The Avail uses nothing but great frame design and quality components to offer a great road model.

For more information about Liv as a brand or the Avail model line up, please visit the Liv Cycling website!

The Power of the Bicycle

 

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Riding with a plethora of ladies at Cyclofemme Madison

Freedom- it’s the first that that comes to mind when I think about cycling. Buying my first road bike was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. After high school I moved to Madison, WI. A college town that in the 13 years I’ve lived here, will forever have issues with parking and cramming traffic riddled streets with cars. Cars trying to navigate the tiny isthmus between our two massive lakes.

I found riding a bike to be one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways to get to where I needed to go. I started riding out of necessity more than anything, but it opened the door to some pretty amazing experiences.

My love for two wheels really started to grow when I decided to purchase an 80’s Raleigh Sportif. It was an old 12 speed bike with a step through frame and friction shifters. Having little experience with maintaining a bike with actual gears, I decided to ask a friend to help convert it to a single speed, in order to simplify the riding experience.

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The Raleigh Sportif decked out in hipster glory.

That bike took me between my two jobs, on bike camping trips, to commutes to the grocery store, and everywhere in between. I loved it. One of the  two jobs I rode it to was at a local bike shop. A friend helped me get a job on the sales floor and it inspired me to sign up for my first ever charity bike ride. Working at the shop afforded me access to inexpensive or even free gear from fellow employees. I was able to purchase my first “road”, technically it was a cyclocross bike, for the ride. I had chosen to purchase a Surly Cross Check.

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The Surly CrossCheck that fueled my passion.

I picked it due to it’s versatility. I could put smooth road tires on it, I could outfit it with a rack or fenders, and use it for commuting. It fit the bill for everything I needed out of a bike.

My training rides consisted of rides around our beautiful lakes, commutes to my job across town, rides on the Capital City Trail, rail trail excursions, and even let me to do my first really long overnight ride. My partner and I rode to Governor Dodge on Military Ridge and back to Madison.

It became my obsession. All I could think about were bikes and cycling gear. I obsessed over components, what clothing to buy, commuter gear, and getting as many miles in as I could on that bike. I had worked hard all summer to save up for the bike between my two jobs. I wasn’t in school at the time and had been staying practically rent free with my partner in our tiny one bedroom in downtown Madison. It was a wonderful time to start a new, expensive hobby!

That summer we had also completed our first Wisconsin Aids Ride, known as the ACT ride. It was 300 miles in four days across Wisconsin’s famous Driftless region. Each day we cycled a different portion of the state and we camped at local schools at night. It was hot, the hills were hard, but it was incredibly satisfying to get to the finish at the Capitol Square, in the heart of downtown Madison.

Many hours of training, fundraising, and agonizing over gear to bring all paid off for that experience.

It truly changed my life and it’s led me to a passion that still burns within me. I enjoy telling people my story about how I got so involved with the world of cycling, because I started out to it being completely new and absolutely clueless. Yes, it can be intimidating coming into a new activity where you know absolutely nothing, but it’s worth trying it out. You never know where it may take you.

We have all been there and you are never completely on your own when starting something new. Just a reminder as you may be looking to hop into something that is new or scary.

Cycling led me to where I am today and it’s opened my eyes to so many wonderful things. It helped give me the confidence I needed to know that I can make it through something that is extremely challenging. It provided me mental and physical strength I never knew I had and I want to take a moment to reflect upon that and thank cycling for what it has provided me.

It’s a wonderful stepping stone into wellness and I would encourage everyone to give it a go!

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A recent photo of myself. I took up mountain biking within the last couple of years.

2014 Wisconsin Bike Summit & the Saris Gala: Part 1

The 2014 Wisconsin Bike Summit & Saris Gala have come to an end. While I’m sad the whirlwind of events and planning is over, I’m happy to have my life back to normal!

My participation in the events always starts a few months before. One of my jobs is to assist the Bike Fed (as a representative of Saris) with obtaining high quality donations for the silent auction, raffle, and live auction.

Two weeks prior to the event I get pulled into a conference room with a computer, projector, and a butt load of donation items that need to be packaged together. The packaging is the easy part. It’s the assigning a package number, creating a bid sheet, creating a display sheet for each package, inspecting each individual sheet, printing the sheet, and having to put the sheet in a frame or on a clipboard that is time consuming and slightly soul sucking.

The reality is though that the work isn’t that bad and it’s completely satisfying to see all the hard work come to fruition and to see people’s excitement each year during the event.

This is my third year working with Saris and the Bike Fed on these events and I hope to continue to help the event in its success.

Moving on…
The Wisconsin Bike Summit is awesome. Last year I presented and only got to stay for my presentation, but I managed to carve out some time this year to stay for the majority of the event.

Since I was attending a bike summit, I decided to hook my trailer up to my Soma (double cross) and roll on down to Edgewood College. Edgewood was our gracious hosts this year and I can say with confidence that they were much easier to work with than the Inn on the Park. Nothing against the Inn, it’s just that Edgewood has a more welcoming vibe. Not to mention better options for parking and exposure to impressionable college kids who seemed pretty interested in what all the hoopla was about.

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I promptly parked my bike in the provided event parking racks and headed into Preston Hall. I checked in, picked up my name tag, and stuck an awesome “I BIKE. I VOTE” button on my shirt. When I entered the main auditorium I was greeted with a gaggle of my Saris co-workers from the commercial parking department as well as our CEO, Mr. Chris Fortune. Hellos were traded and I then headed over to grab some delicious Colectivo coffee, fruit, and a pastry. A few more familiar faces in the crowd prompted hellos and the opening remarks began.

Dave Cieslewicz (executive director of the Bike Fed, ex Madison mayor, and all around cool guy) talked for a bit before introducing Chris Fortune, who then introduced Michael Johnson from the Boys & Girls club of Dane County. Michael shared some great stories about how he became involved in cycling and what the local cycling community has done for the Boys & Girls club with their annual bike fundraiser.

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After the opening remarks, the first break out sessions started. The Women & Bicycles session was on of the first of the day and ended up being in the auditorium. Myself, Carolyn Dvorak (leader of the program), and Krista Crum of Madison B Cycles each presented. Each of us covered different topics on women’s cycling with some cross over, but we each brought some great information to the table.

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My focus was on what we were doing with the Women & Bicycles program in Madison. I discussed our Women’s Cycling Meetup, the Taco Tuesday rides, workshops, and partnerships with key businesses and groups.

After our session was done, I had the opportunity to chat with a good amount in people who were interested in my work and the work of the program. There were lots of great audience questions regarding how to encourage women riders, how to get women of color involved in cycling, and how to keep busy moms biking.

There was a second women’s session after our session in the auditorium, so I stuck around and watched the presentations. Renee Callaway moderated and presented. She spoke about cyclocross and getting women involved with the local race scene. Heidi Ploeg discussed her experiences of bike touring across the US as well as in the Netherlands. Amanda Schultze discussed the state of women’s cycling regarding to marketing and product development. She also showed some examples of market research she, as well as her Trek colleagues conducted and what the results were. Last, but not least, Kathy Mock discussed the Wisconsin High School Cycling league and how their program is reaching young girls/women who wouldn’t normally be involved in traditional school sports.

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Each of them had very different presentations, but all were incredibly informative and was glad to see such a fantastically diverse number of topics being covered relating to women’s cycling.

Once session two winded down, there was a box lunch and special guest presenters. The award for the Wisconsin Bike Fed’s Youth Advocate of the Year award was awarded to Dennis Taylor, a 12 year old from Milwaukee. Dennis was recently hit by a stolen SUV and the driver fled the vehicle. Maintaining a positive outlook, Dennis decided to help raise funds to install speed bumps in his quiet neighborhood. The Bike Fed has also helped to get Dennis set up with a new bike and gear for riding!

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The featured guest presenter of the day was ex Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. R.T. helped establish Minneapolis as one of America’s premier cycling cities. His presentation helped instill faith that Madison and other Wisconsin cities can still work at obtaining Platinum level bike city status, even with a Republican majority. Minneapolis faced similar challenges when Michelle Bachmann was in office.

After lunch I ended up tying up some loose ends before the Gala set up started. I also had the opportunity to chat with Director Dave himself as well as the wonderful Peter Gray (bike advocate and midnight rider) and Jay Ferm from Planet Bike.

One of my favorite aspects of the Bike Summit is being able to socialize and bounce ideas off of other advocates. The networking aspect of it is huge and often leads to some really great collaborations.

I look forward to being a part of the 2015 summit and encourage everyone to attend the summit. If you are a cyclist in the state of Wisconsin, there’s no excuse NOT to attend!

The Wisconsin Bicycle Federation Launches: Women & Bicycles

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Today marks a great day for women cyclists in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Bicycle Federation (Bike Fed) has launched a Women & Bicycles ambassador program modeled after the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s own Women & Bicycles program.

The program is centered around a handful of bike ambassadors who will plan events based around cycling. That includes workshops, social hours, bike rides, and other events that promote cycling to women.

The Bike Fed’s program has one representative for each major cycling city who will spend their time planning out events and trying to increase the population of women cyclists in their respective territories.

The women selected to be a part of the ambassador program have strong ties to the cycling world and local cycling industries. Each have exemplified the spirit of cycling in their communities and are good examples of what an every day cyclist looks like.

We’re proud to announce that our own Cassandra Habel has been selected to be an ambassador in the Madison area. Her advocacy work with Saris Cycling Group, the Wisconsin Bike Fed, and on her own time starting a women’s cycling Meetup group helped land her the ambassadorship.

If you live in the state of Wisconsin and would like to become an ambassador in your area, please visit:
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Congratulations to all the ambassadors and we’re excited to be a part of the next phase of cycling for our wonderful state!