Adult Summer Camp for Bike Nerds

When I applied for the Quality Bike Parts (QBP) Women’s Mechanic Scholarship, I honestly thought I had a snowball’s chance in hell at getting selected. There are literally thousands of amazing women in the cycling industry doing incredible work. Months after I hit the apply button on Q’s site, I received a phone call from my co-worker Matt telling me QBP had called the shop asking about me. “Holy shit!” I yelled into the phone. Attending United Bicycle Institute (UBI) had been a dream of mine since gaining a serious interest in cycling. It’s one of the most well known bicycle mechanic training facilities in the country, if not the world. I had dreams of hopping on a plane and learning how to wrench on bikes in the sleepy mountain town of Ashland, OR. I can tell you dreams do come true kids, because shortly after the call from my co- worker came a congratulatory e-mail. I was one of the 16 finalists that were chosen out of hundreds of applicants to be a part of the first all women class to attend UBI’s Professional Shop Repair and Operation course.

The 16 ladies chosen for the scholarship.
The 16 ladies chosen for the scholarship.

It was all happening. The first thing I did was scope out flights to Ashland. Being such a quaint town I would have to travel to Ashland via the Rogue Valley International Airport (hah, if you have been to this airport you know there is nothing international about it) in Medford. I booked my flight and there was no turning back.

I alerted the upper management team at Erik’s (my employer) the next day and had crossed my fingers that they would be cool with me taking off for two weeks during our transition out of winter into our spring/summer floor set. Luckily Erik’s (Bike, Ski, and Board) were super supportive and said they would do everything they could to make sure I could be a part of this amazing opportunity.

As the days were winding down to my departure I had begun to get very anxious and excited. I wondered what the other women would be like, if my flights would be bearable, how to pack for two weeks with cycling clothes, how or if I should get my bike to Oregon, if I was deserving of this opportunity, and worried about ten million other things that made it difficult to sleep at night.

Nothing helps calm you down more than scheduling a taxi, shipping out your bike, and packing your bags a week in advance of your departure. I tried to dummy proof everything as much as I possibly could. The only real lingering doubt was leaving my partner, my bed, and my dog behind. We have never spent more than a week a part. How was I to survive for two weeks in a house full of strangers? I am glad to say, pretty damn easily.

Upon my arrival to Ashland I was greeted by Beth. She is the owner/operator of the Cycle Hostel. It’s a quaint bungalow that you could pluck out of any Pacific Northwest town. We stepped onto the covered porch and she led me to the room I would be sharing with five other ladies. Five! I can barely keep my stuff organized with one person and a dog at home. Five roommates seemed a little crazy. That being said, I shortly got to meet two of my roommates. The first was Ainsley from Portland, Maine. When I introduced myself she instantly was able to identify specific details about the Midwest. She had lived in the Twin Cities and participated in Babes In Bikeland and some other popular events. It was nice to have someone to bond with within the first five minutes of arriving.

After our chat Beth introduced me to Theresa, another roommate hailing from Kansas City, Missouri. One of the first of many women to tell me she owned her own shop. Something I really enjoyed as one of my life’s goals is to be a business owner. Shortly after I was introduced to Michaela from Philly and Nicole who owns Veloville USA. Again, instant bonds were made with these two amazing women.

The tour of the hostel was short and sweet. There was the room I was staying in (on the top bunk of a bunk bed, hell yeah!), the common room, a second room with a twin and a full bed, a small bathroom, the kitchen, another room with bunk beds for four ladies, the laundry area, the second bathroom, then the back bungalow area where a few more ladies were housed. Living quarters seemed pretty tight. Twelve ladies in the main house with eight bikes…you do the math!

Although the living situation wasn’t the most ideal, I continued to feel better about it as each new face entered the hostel. Each woman as unique and outgoing as the next. “These are my people.” I thought to myself. There was an instant connection with each of these women because we were all here for the same reason and we all have a deep, fiery passion for bikes.

As the day turned into night there were discussions about where we were from, what bikes we owned, what our history in the industry was, what type of beer we like (bike love and beer love are pretty synonymous), what type of pets we had, SRAM or Shimano, rigid or full sus(pension), how anodized bike parts are the best bling ever, what product lines sell best in our shops, and everything in between. Night one set the stage for what was about to be the most incredible two week experience of my life.

Each morning we would rise to the brisk Ashland air. It was common to have a slight drizzle the night before causing a bit of fog and low clouds. As the sun rose, skies would clear and many of us would walk or bike to the local Ashland Co-op for breakfast. Ashland and Madison have a lot in common. When I walked into the Co-op I felt as though I was on Willy St. With a yuppie/hippie eclectic vibe with the occasional friendly transient hanging out in the café area.

We’d each grab our respective coffee orders and roll out to class. UBI is tucked away in an unassuming business park about a 10 minute walk from the cycle hostel or a 5 minute ride for those on two wheels. The blue and grey building fit in amongst the various nondescript businesses. You had to look hard to see their wrench logo on the street number sign. Their address is 401 Williamson Way, another reminder of home as the aforementioned Willy Street is a local hippie haven.

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Fran enjoying the morning sun.

Walking into UBI for the first time was exciting. There were bikes in storage stands and benches filled with tools lining the outer perimeter of a large, open room. In the middle was a giant U shaped desk space with an instructor bench in the middle. Each of our names had been arranged on place cards along with our work binders and a copy of the coveted Sutherland’s manual.

Formal introductions were made by the staff of UBI, as well as the owners Ron and Denise. Rich, Nate, Matt, and Jake would be our instructors. Lynda was the gatekeeper of UBI and also one of the sweetest women on the planet (thanks again for all the wonderful baked goods).

Each of us went around introducing ourselves and giving some background of our history in the bike industry, as well as where our shops were located. No two women had a similar story. We hailed from cities large and small. Some shops have been in business since the bike boom of the late 70’s and early 80’s, while some were just a mere three months old! Most of us worked in for-profit shops, while some managed non-profits. It was fascinating to hear how we’ve all come from such different places and yet had so much in common.

A typical day in the classroom included a combination of lectures, demonstrations, and hands on work time. We aimed to cover at least a chapter’s worth or more of information a day. UBI focuses a lot on the type of repairs and components the average shop would see on a regular basis. We covered a myriad of topics including, but not limited to wheel building, hub adjustments, installation and removal of headsets, adjusting derailleurs, replacing chains, installing new cables and housing, installing cranks, bottom bracket adjustments, brake adjustments, disc brake bleeding, and front suspension service.

I felt like I was absolutely in my element. I have worked on dozens of bikes, but I know tips and tricks that would make me a better, more efficient mechanic. I also learned better ways to explain how components worked for when I teach my clinics.

One of my favorite aspects of the hands on learning portion of the program was that we had a new bench partner every day. This allowed each of us to get a chance to know one another, as well as learn from one another. There were areas that I excelled in or had experience with and sometimes my bench partner had never even touched that particular component. Other times I was doing my very first service of a part and was able to get feedback and tips from my bench partner. It was all very empowering to see women helping women learn a new skill set.

By day five many of us had fallen into a regular routine. We did our breakfast thing, went to class, would run to many fabulous places like Ruby’s (they have the most amazing falafel ever) for lunch, head back to class, either stay for late night (a two hour extended period on Tues. and Thurs. for finishing work or working on our own bikes), then grabbing dinner/drinks along with some studying. I can’t tell you how many hours some of us spent at local watering holes, Growler Guys and Caldera. We kept the microbrews flowing while we quizzed one another on what BCD meant or what the differences were in bearing types.

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Ruby’s is the jam and Gil’s has a great beer selection.

On day six of our time in Ashland, Alix and Katie from QBP had flown in to spend some time with us. UBI and QBP wanted to treat us to an extra special day of vineyard tours, local food, and some outdoor fun. Half of us opted to hike to Upper Table Rock and the other half decided on a road ride from Upper Table Rock to Folin Cellars (a local vineyard). I had gifted my lovely road bike to Ainsley for the day, as I had been itching for a good hike. It was rad to see the stoked look on her face as my Bianchi was the first carbon bike she had ever ridden. She comes from a non-profit bike shop that specializes in restoring vintage road bikes. I figured it may be nice for her to get a taste of what bikes in 2016 ride like (ha!).

The hike up to Upper Table Rock was fun and just a bit sweaty. Southern Oregon weather is deceiving. One minute you are outside in rain so cold you can see your breathe, then as the clouds part you start stripping off your rain gear and wishing you hadn’t had so many layers on.

Alix and Katie joined us for the hike, which gave us a chance to tell them about the experience as well as our personal stories. I really enjoyed getting to know them both and without them we wouldn’t have been so lucky to have this opportunity, so a big old shout out and lots of love to them both for convincing QBP to make this all happen.

After we hit the summit of Upper Table Rock and took in the gorgeous views, we descended upon turkey hens running from a pack of toms. Trina and I took it upon ourselves to see if we could talk to the toms doing our best turkey impersonations. It had worked. We turkey called and got a gaggle of responses. Trina hails from Indiana and is co-owner of a shop with rich history from the bike boom era. She also works as an ambassador for Liv/Giant and is a fellow beer lover. We decided our Midwestern roots gave us the means to call turkeys and also was the key to our great love for the outdoors. Another bond was formed and I look forward to heading to Indiana for a visit later this summer.

After a good ten minutes of turkey calling we decided to head back to the shuttle bus to drink some of Oregon’s delicious wine. I was not disappointed. We arrived at Folin Cellars to a wonderful spread put together by Ron’s mother. This is also where we met our instructor Matt’s wife Deanna. Deanna is this amazing life force of a woman. Beautiful and gregarious, with a great pallet. She gave us a rundown of all the vineyard’s wines and gave us tips on what to pair it with. Oregonian wines go down just a little too easy.

We finished the tasting at Folin and moved onto Del Rio. A beautiful vineyard with the cutest tasting room and shop. They had the most lovely rosé I have ever had in my life. I am still kicking myself for not buying a bottle to pop open on a hot summer day. I guess there’s always online ordering!

After Del Rio we headed back into the Medford/Ashland city limits and stopped at a spot with a wine bar, chocolate shop, and cheese shop. The Wisconsinite in me was overjoyed to try some real Oregon cheese. They even had fresh cheese curds! Wait, is Oregon heaven? I was pretty sure it was at this moment. After picking out a selection of curds, I had joined Anna Maria of Pretty Damned Fast (PDF) fame at the wine bar. We were able to chat and sip a few lovely pours of some various reds from the region. I was excited to hear the wine bar’s co-owner was also from Wisconsin. I sadly didn’t get to meet him, but I was enjoying spending time with Anna Maria and getting to know her and her history in the bike industry.

Anna Maria came to bicycling by way of the fashion industry. Her work with brands like Levi’s and Rapha has brought much needed attention to women in the cycling industry, as well as a need for brands to support women’s cycling culture. She’s been involved with everything from road racing to commuting and is aspiring to be a badass downhill mountain biker, all while traveling the country for work and working shifts at her home shop, King Kog, in Brooklyn.

There’s been a theme of women who don’t JUST work in shops. All of them also either sit on boards of nonprofits, coach cycling, run cycling clubs, manage racing teams, moonlight in other areas of the industry as writers or content aggregators for publications/websites, and much more. It made me realize the amount of hard work each of us put into cycling in our little bubbles and it’s why we were all chosen for this scholarship.

Sunday, day seven, was the only day where we truly had free will to do whatever we wanted. Anna Maria and I both had a severe lack of clean clothes and opted to ride to a local laundry mat. We grabbed some Pho for lunch and checked out some cute local shops. When we arrived back at the hostel, I changed into my cycling kit and joined Kyla for a ride to Medford. We mounted our steeds and rode twenty-two miles of paved bike path. Kyla is a brand new shop owner. She and her husband opened Green River Cyclery and Busted Bike Café roughly three months ago. Right in time for the 2016 riding season to kick off. Kyla is a mother of three, an active ambassador of FemmeVelo, a fellow microbrew lover, and all around kickass lady. We delved into some deep conversations about our lives and our struggles as women. When I was around her I was reminded of hanging out with my best friend from childhood. We have a similar sense of humor and I know that my next west coast adventure won’t be complete without seeing her.

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WAxWI We like pink accessories. There is also a selfie somewhere floating around from this ride but pretty bikes are fun to look at too!

Week two was spent frantically trying to absorb as much information as possible during class and spending the majority of our time after class studying. When you take the professional level mechanic courses through UBI you get a certificate of completion, but you also have to take a test to get a mechanic certification. If you don’t pass the certification test you can only take it again at UBI at a later date because of some strange rules the state of Oregon has with privately held trade schools.

We all furiously took notes and created colorful rainbows of sticky notes in our manuals. There were a few times I had to step away from the studying to give my brain and my body some time to rest. It’s hard enough living with fifteen other people in a bungalow, let alone fifteen people all studying and freaking out about a test that could make or break their time spent at UBI.

Much of my non-study time was spent hanging out with two girls from my room, Amanda and Christine. Amanda lives and works in Rhode Island and was as enthused as I was about talking about bike-packing and how everyone should own a mountain bike. We shared a lot of similarities down to our partners both working for universities, our love for bad television, and our willingness to try new things like drinking Kava at weird, David Lynch-esque tea bars.

Christine lives in Burlington, Vermont. A small city I have always wanted to visit. It’s the home of Burton snowboards and has been known to be a bike haven. She runs a non-profit that is associated with the for-profit shop, Old Spokes Home. Christine is well traveled and has had some amazing bike touring adventures. Her sass and wit were not to be matched by anyone in the house and I loved it. As the girl who was called “sassy Cassie” by my best friend’s parents growing up, I could not help but love her brutal honesty. I’ve made it a point to put Burlington on my list of places to stop on my tour de East Coast.

My final days in Ashland were met with a mixed bag of emotions. I was anxious about passing the test, as well as getting my bike boxed up and shipped home. Packing was going to be a nightmare due to the copious amounts of swag, we received. (No complaints about free shit, but it does make it hard to travel!). I was sad to have to leave all of these new found friends. I had never felt so connected to a group of strangers in my life. We were all about to go our separate ways and I have no idea when I will see any of them again.

I cried tears of joy and sadness. I was going to have my own bed again. I was going to see my partner and my dog. I was going to miss my new friends. I was going to miss the mountains and quaint, beautiful Ashland. I was going to miss Jake, Rich, Nathan, Matt, Ron, Denise, and Lynn from UBI. I quoted Ron Burgundy saying I was in a glass case of emotions, because I truly was!

On our last day we took our tests and we hopefully all aced it. Our results will be sent via snail mail, a real nail bitter. As the day turned into night and then to morning again, we each departed for our destinations. I took a shuttle with six ladies that eventually turned into a plane ride with four, which then meant hanging out with three ladies after Stephanie grabbed her shuttle home, Trina hopped on her flight, then it was me and Ainsley left saying our goodbyes. It was hard not to make a scene in the airport as we hugged and wished each other the best of luck. I felt like I was leaving a best friend of many years and we only spent two weeks together.

I want to thank all of the beautiful, wonderful ladies of the QBP Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship. I didn’t get to share all of your stories via this platform, but know that each and every one of your stories has stuck with me and they will forever. I send you all so much love and support! Here’s to you Sue, Magdalena, Cali, RaeLynn, Tina, Stephanie (crushin!), Kyla, Michaela, Nicole, Anna Maria, Christine, Amanda, Theresa, Trina, Amanda, as well as Alix and Katie. I will never forget my time with you all and I am incredibly grateful to have had this experience.

Spoke Haven 2015 Gift Guide

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. If you are lucky to live in an area with all four seasons you’ll get to enjoy the world of winter biking. With the invention of fat bikes, snow bike races, and groomed single track; it’s easy to stay active all year round.

Our gift picks for this year will keep folks rolling through the winter time or help you pretend you’re riding on a 70 degree and sunny day.

On that note, let the holiday cheer begin!

10. Skratch Labs Cookie Mix
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We all know santa has a lot of houses to visit, so why not offer him up something delicious and all natural? Skratch labs has made a name in the fitness world for their great tasting hydration mixes and tasty portable treats. For $8.50 you can get some of the best pre-made cookie mix that money can buy. Take it from Allen and Bijou, you won’t regret eating these delicious treats!

Find Skratch products at your local bike shop or online at skratchlabs.com

9. Portland Design Works Owl Cage

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From the folks who brough us the famous bird cage comes the owl cage! Hold your waterbottle with style and and a litle bit of smugness. The PDW Owl Cage is the much needed flair for your drabe ride, so put on your best tweed and fly like the wind.

The PDW owl cage can be found at your local bike shop or online for $20 at ridepdw.com

8. Butterfly Universal Bike Mount by ProClip

There’s nothing more frustrating than getting a new phone only to find it won’t fit in the fancy, expensive bike mount you’ve purchase for it. The folks at ProClip have found a solution to that problem. The Butterfly Universal Bike Mount allows you to mount any phone with or without a case on their mounting system. You simply adjust the holder to fit the width of your phone, pull over the butterfly tabs on the four corners and voila!

We got our hands on a free sample from ProClip and have tried our hardest of knocking the phone out of holder. So far we haven’t been sucessful. This holder is a beast, it should be. ProClip specializes in making phone, tablet, and GPS holders. The cool part is they are based right here in Madison, WI.

If you or your loved one have struggled with finding the right phone mount for a bike, look no further. For $30 you can find the ProClip Butterfly Universal Bike Mount at your local bike shop or at proclipusa.com

7. Specialized Stix Comp Lights

Who says good things don’t come in small packages? The Specialized Stix lights may be small, but they pack a big punch when it comes to lighting up the night. These waterproof, USB rechargeable lights are small and lightweight. They also don’t look like your average bike lights.
With a bright 105 lumens for the front light and 20 lumens for the back, they provide plenty of light for riding after the sun sets.

The Stix Comp lights (not pictured) have three super bright LED lights while the Stix Sport lights offer two. The lights will mount to handlebars and seatposts out of the box. Specialized also offers rack and helmet mounts that can be purchased separately.

These lights have been flying off the shelves at our local Specialized dealer, so get them while you can! Any commuter or roadie alike will be thrilled to received these in their stocking or under the tree.

Find the Specialized Comp Stix lights for $40 a piece at your local Specialized dealer. You can also find the Specialized Sport Sticks for $55 for a front and rear combo at specialized.com

6. Outdoor Tech Buckshot Pro

In the digital age there is rarely a gadget that serves one sole purpose. The Outdoor Tech Buckshot Pro is the prime example of how form and function come together for a great piece of kit. The original Buckshot (still offered by Outdoor Tech) was a simple Bluetooth enabled wireless speaker with a handlebar mount. The Buckshot Pro takes it to the next level with an integrated headlight and battery bank to charge your devices on the go. You get three wonderful features in one small package.

If that’s not a great gift, then we don’t know what is! For $80 you can scoop the Buckshot Pro or the Buckshot origninal for $40 at your local outdoor retailer or online at outdoortechnology.com

5. Wisconsin Bike Fed Gift Membership

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Advocacy doesn’t have to in the form of Critical Mass rides or by protesting. Some of the best advocates are those who support their local organizations.

Memberships to organizations such as the Wisconsin Bike Fed are a way to show support for cycling in your state. Many orgs have direct ties and relationships with local and state government and can affect change in a positive and efficient way.

We are big fans of the gift membership package that the Bike Fed has put together for this holiday season. The gift membership inclueds a year long membership to the Bike Fed as well as a Bike Fed customer bike headbadge with the W embelem as well as a cool cycling themed t-shirt. For $45 that is quite the steal, seeing as a regular membership is $30 a year and t-shirts are usually sold for at least $20 on their own.

Give the gift of bike love via bfw.org or check out your local advocacy group!

4. 45Nrth Cobrafist Pogies

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Never worry about cold digits again! 45Nrth is still fairly new to the cycling game, but they have proven themselves with high quality and high performance products. The Cobrafist Pogie is hard to beat. With a generously insulated design you will want to ditch the gloves and ride comfortably with these bad boys. With venting options, a structured donut internal stiffener, and customer bar plugs the Cobrafist is a step above all other cold weather pogies on the market.

The only thing we’d wish that 45Nrth did is create a road bike compatible version! Find the Cobrafist at your local bike shop or buy online from 45nrth.com with their Buy Local Now option.

3. Lezyne Port-A-Shop Toolkit 

Lezyne has been a brand we’ve loved for years. They not only create really well functioning products, but also very beautiful products. The Port-A-Shop is on our wishlists as it has all the necessary tools to do repairs on the fly all in an organized package.

This would be a great option for the budding mechanic, the traveling racer, or for anyone who likes to get their hands dirty.

Find the Port-A-Shop kit at your local bike shop or via lezyne.com for $140.

2. Zwift Membership

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Who says that riding on a train indoors is boring? Well, before apps like Zwift it meant either watching the same workout DVDs on repeat or marathoning your favorite movie franchise (cough cough Harry Potter cough cough Star Wars). Zwift brings indoor training into the next century with a video game like interactivity. Pick an avatar and compete against other riders on screen to see how you stack up.

Those who hit certain mileage goals, win races, and participate in competitions get the chance to unlock kit options, bike options, and more to customize your bike style.

Zwift is designed to work best with smart trainers (Wahoo Kickr, CycleOps Powerbeam, etc.) or those with dumb trainers and a power meter. You can also pair up Bluetooth or ANT+ speed/cad sensors and heartrate monitors to your computer, phone, or tablet.

Zwift is available as a desktop application and is also available on various app stores. We’re keen on using it with an iPad paired with an ANT+ dongle as you can mount the iPad onto your handlebars and even us Apple TV to wirelessly mirror it to your TV.

Giving the gift of Zwift can be as easy as supplying an iTunes giftcard or paying for a membership on the behalf of a family member. For more info on Zwift visit zwift.com

1. CycleOps Powerbeam Pro Trainer

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We know we’ve talked about the Powerbeam Pro before. It’s just such a great trainer that it’s hard not to add it to our list. The Powerbeam Pro is not only a cyclists dream trainer, but it’s also a great product for the tech nerd.

The trainer is made in the USA in Madison, WI at Saris Cycling Group. There are multiple offerings of the trainer depending on what devices you are looking to use it with. CycleOps offers the trainer in an ANT+ version that includes a micro USB dongle (best for use with a compatible tablet, laptop, or desktop). There is also a Bluetooth version for those with Windows 8 desktops and laptops. Bluetooth smart devices such as certain Windows/Android phones and tablets can also be used with the Bluetooth powerbeam. The iPad 2 and newer is what we prefer to use as the connection is pretty seamless when using the CycleOps Virtual Training application (a free app with features that you have to pay to use to get the full functionality of the application).

The third option is to purchase the trainer with a Joule GPS+ head unit. The head unit allows you to use the Powerbeam Pro without having to hook it up to a smartphone, tablet, etc. in order to control the resistance. You simply pair it up to the Joule GPS+ to set target wattage or target incline and you’re set.

The Powerbeam Pro can also be used with Zwift and other new interactive applications such as the CycleOps Virtual Training (CVT) application to replicate routes that you can ride outdoors.

The possibilities are pretty much endless with this trainer and it’s backed by Saris’s lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defects.

We know the price tag on this item is a little more hefty, but it’s worth the investment for the cyclist in your life. It’s a great way to stay fit during the winter months and is also fun to show off to your friends!

Find the CycleOps Powerbeam Pro starting at $799 at your local bike shop.  You can also find the less expensive PowerSync trainer with similar functions to the Powerbeam Pro, just with none of the additional accessories that come with it starting at $719. Check out cycleops.com for more details on both trainers or to purchase directly.

*Please note that all items chosen for this list were hand picked by Spoke Haven contributors and we were not given monetary incentives to promote any of these products. Spoke Haven promotes honest reviews and product opinions and any questions about anything we feature on our site can be directed to info@spokehaven.com.

 

Wisconsin Indoor Cycling Hosts a B.A.S.I.C Class for New Riders

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Fall is officially here! Mornings are crisp with frost covered grass and you can see your breath in the air. It’s one of my favorite times of year as a cyclist. There’s nothing more refreshing than waking up in the morning and going for a ride. The only downside is that after work rides are either cut insanely short or they don’t happen at all.

That’s where places like Wisconsin Indoor Cycling come in. They help serve a large population of cyclists who want to continue riding, but can’t because of our lack of daylight. Their studio is lined up with indoor trainers, trainer mats, fans, towels, water, and anything else a rider could ever need.

Until recently, many of indoor cycling and training facilities have been perceived as elitist or for “hardcore” cyclists training for races or Ironman events. Wisconsin Indoor Cycling wanted to change that. They saw a need for everyday riders or beginner cyclists who just wanted a way to stay fit in the winter. This is where their new B.A.S.I.C classes came into play.

The B.A.S.I.C class is a fabulous introduction to indoor riding and cycling in general. The class runs for four consecutive weeks and incorporates a 30-40 minute ride and about 20 minutes of a post ride presentation. The presenters are various folks within the local cycling industry.

In the B.A.S.I.C class, riders learn how to mount their bike to a trainer. This includes learning how to swap in a trainer skewer as well as getting positioned correctly and comfortably on the bike. Other topics that are covered during the rides is correct pedaling stroke, clipping in and out of pedals, what RPM’s mean, and how to keep proper relaxed riding form.

Presenters also cover topics such as fixing a flat tire, why getting a bike fit is good for all types of cyclists, cycling advocacy, information about cycling clubs, and how to transition from the basic class into a regular indoor training routine.

I was lucky enough to be asked to come in and present at last night’s class. The best part of it was being able to ride with the group and experience the class first hand. With all of the projects and work I’ve been doing lately, I’ve been neglecting my workout routine and the class was a good reminder that I need to keep with it if I plan on being a strong rider next spring.

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My bike in the trainer as well as the fun pink towels WIC provides for riders to keep the sweat off.

The riding started with a good warm up and a lot of great 3×3 tempo intervals. Ramping up to 90 RPMs first in the small chain ring for a faster, easier spin and then up to the big chain ring to work the larger muscle groups. Recovery was going down to 70 RPM’s with a mid level of resistance. There were also some one legged intervals to work on pedal stroke and leg strength. That too was a good reminder that I needed to get back into a training regimen!

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A projector is used to show what the intervals are as well as helpful tips to keep in mind while riding.

Overall, I was really pleased with the training aspect of the class. The feedback that ride leader, Zeus, gave to riders regarding bike fit and pedal stroke was really helpful as well. It opened up the opportunity to discuss what changes can be made to maintain comfort on the bike. Also…HEELS DOWN.

When it came time for my presentation, I casually talked about what we at Spoke Haven do as well as the Women & Bicycles program. I felt a little bad only preaching to the ladies in the class, but the guys didn’t mind too much and actually had some ladies they knew that would love to know about what we’re doing.

The B.A.S.I.C riders including mentor Krista in the WIC Jersey and myself in the Spoke Haven jersey.
The B.A.S.I.C riders including mentor Krista in the WIC Jersey and myself in the Spoke Haven jersey.

I had asked the group if they had ever done a class like this and what their cycling level was.  A lot of them were fairly new riders and this was their first real indoor riding experience. I was glad to hear that and glad to see they were getting something out of the class. Zeus, Aaron, and Krista did a great job with putting the B.A.S.I.C program together and hope they continue with it.

If you are reading this and interested in the program, there are tentative plans for it picking up again in January! I would suggest contacting Wisconsin Indoor Cycling on their website or Facebook page to let them know that you’d like to be a part of the program.

Almanzo 100 Photo Dump

Keri and I finally arrived home from Minnesota. It was quite the weekend and we’re glad to be home. Since the hotels booked up pretty quickly in Spring Valley, where the Almanzo race series is held, we decided to stay in Rochester.

Unfortunately, Keri’s car decided to have some issues the day before we were supposed to leave, but I was able to get the Saris company vehicle and off we went! The drive to Rochester vs. to the Twin Cities is much more beautiful. It’s always amazing crossing over the Mississippi in La Crosse, and seeing a vast expanse of rolling farmland and trees.

Once we arrived in Rochester, we dropped our stuff in the hotel and grabbed some coffee. The Midwestern outside sales rep for Saris was meeting us there and we later got dinner. At dinner we went over our game plan for the next day. We had to be in Spring Valley and setup by 6AM because that’s when the Royal 162 riders were leaving.

The Almanzo actually has 3 bike races. The Alexander (which used to be the Nellie) is 385 miles over 3 days. The Royal which is 162 miles in one day (I suppose you could take 2 days if needed) and the Almanzo 100, which is the most popular, 100 mile option.

Setup by 6AM meant having to getup by 4:30 so we could get ready, pack up, and drive down. Setup was fairly quick and there were a handful of other sponsor tents in the expo area. Things didn’t really pick up until about 7/7:30 when the Almanzo lineup was about to take place. For having 1,000+ riders, we only had a handful of people who actually came to chat with us. Most of them were from Madison and were glad to see us there.

Eventually riders rolled up to the start on Main St. The event’s organizer, Chris Skogen, got up and said some words. It was pretty emotional because the dude has worked his butt off the past few years to make the Almanzo a successful event. To see 1,000 people show up to your hometown to do a gravel bike race is really something.

Eventually all the riders rolled out. There was a wide range of riders and different bike setups. It’s always fun for a bike nerd to attend such an event!

The rest of the day was filled with frisbee tossing, mingling with company reps, eating food, getting sunburned, riding bikes, drinking beer, and trying to escape the heat. Uneventful, but still a good time. We had all hoped that more locals and supporters of the riders would hangout and talk to us, but that wasn’t the case. Some of the Spring Valley folks didn’t seem to take too kindly to having a bunch of strange cycling folks in their city. I’m sure as the event evolves and changes, people will start to support it more and see what it does for the local economy. It really made us appreciate what we have here in Wisconsin. Not all towns are cycling friendly, but we’re pretty spoiled by the amount of cycling enthusiasts outside of our big cities.

Riders started returning around 3pm. It was a hot day and the route supposedly had 2 river crossings. One was somewhat unintentional as a bridge was out, but it was too late to change the route. A lot of folks looked like they had taken quite the beating and ended up in the shade with a cold Coke in hand. Once 4pm rolled around, we decided to call it a day. We had to drive back to Rochester and our outside rep had to head back to Wisconsin to setup some shop visits.

The drive back to Rochester was pretty as we took County Hwy. 1 or County Rd. 1. Nice rolling hills and gravel roads EVERYWHERE! Keri and I decided we definitely want to do the ride next year. We had both signed up to do it this year, but lack of time for training and other commitments sort of got in the way. The challenge seems great though and we love doing new events.

Once we got back in Rochester, we found a crappy pizza place that was grossly overpriced for what we got, but we were so tired we didn’t care. We got back to our hotel at about 6:30pm and I ended up falling asleep at 7. We were totally beat by waking up early and being out in the hot sun all day.

Overall we both had a lot of fun, even though there wasn’t much happening as far as the “race expo” goes. We definitely have some ideas on how sponsors can get better exposure and involvement next year and we look forward to making the trip again! Check out some of our photos below 🙂