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.

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!

Madison Cyclofemme 2014

cyclofemmeWe’re hosting the 2nd annual CycloFemme Madison ride. The ride will start and end on Madison’s near east side from Chrysalis Hair & Body.Chrysalis is Madison’s only chemical free hair studio.

There will be water and possibly some coffee/sports drink available before the ride, but riders should make sure they’ve eaten before the event or bring along a snack that’s easy to eat on the bike.

We’ll be doing an extended Lake Monona Loop that takes us on a combination of bike paths and roads through some of Madison’s best lake front neighborhoods and parks.

This ride is very beginner friendly and we encourage everyone to bring a friend! We have a no rider left behind policy.

There will be a post ride gathering at Chrysalis where we’ll provide bike parking. There will be refreshments available to purchase supplied by the Froth House cafe. (pastries, veggies & hummus, and more)

Julia, the owner of Chrysalis will also be offering discounted salon services for all attendees. There will also be free use of the aqua massage table and some other pampering for after the ride, such as head massages with fresh herbs.

Qet Botanical Beauty’s full line of organic products will be on hand to demo.

A a raffle with items from Rapha, Yurbuds, Saris, Topeak, and some other fun businesses will also take place.

The ride itself is FREE, but you may want to bring some money for lunch if you stay for the festivities.

Parking is available on First Street, just up block from the building Chrysalis is based in (there’s a sign posted where the lot is located). There’s also extensive on street parking that will be FREE because the event is on a Sunday.

We’ll post more details as the event gets closer, but it should be a really fun time!

Rain or shine, we ride. No rider left behind. Bring a helmet, water bottle, and a lock!

New Belgium Clips & Beer Tour- Madison Overview

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It’s officially summer. The solstice has already come and gone and my is it flying by quickly! Last Thursday was the annual New Belgium Clips & Beer Tour stop here in Madison, WI.

The setup for this event is absolutely incredible. The backdrop is Madison’s lakefront at dusk, with a beautiful sunset. If that wasn’t enough, you also get a view of the Madison skyline at night with the Monona Terrace and Capitol Building glowing in all their glory.

Olin Park plays host to the event and is quite the destination for tourists and Madisonians alike. A perfect venue for an outdoor movie viewing.

When we arrived there was a HUGE bike corral set up for the bike valet with volunteers at the ready. A free service provided by B Cycles, the Bike Fed, and Saris. Once the rides were parked safe and sound, we then headed towards the token/wristband area. Each attendee who was going to be drinking got carded, wristbanded (not a real word), and sold tokens. $5 for 4 tokens got you either 4 3oz pours or 1 12oz pour.

Since the beer line was already starting to get long a half hour before the event was even supposed to start, we opted beer first. The service was fairly quick and the staff seemed have a good idea of what each beer’s qualities and flavors were. New Belgium also supplies all attendees with a handy little notebook with descriptions of the beers as well as a pencil to jot down notes, should a brew strike your fancy.

After beer, food was a definite necessity. The two options were Salvatore’s (renowned for their excellent tomato pies) and the Good Food Cart. We were a little let down that Sal’s wasn’t serving up pizza, but sandwiches instead. I opted for a turkey club wrap from Good Food and Keri went with the Italian Sausage sammie from Sal’s. Neither of us were disappointed with our choices.

After about an hour, the crowd really started rolling in. Lots of folks were excited to be outside and not having to deal with the rain. There were lots of cute dogs and a lot of familiar faces in the crowd.

Once the sun finally settled behind the Olin tree line, the shorts started. All of them were really awesome and there was one in particular from Madison that everyone LOVED. It even got voted the favorite for our tour stop! The feedback we got from people was all really positive and people really look forward to the event every summer it takes place.

My only gripe was that the volunteers weren’t allowed to drink at the event. Understandable, but also a little silly since it doesn’t take much to pick up garbage or park a bike. We were told that New Belgium had that policy, not the Bike Fed. Best to keep that in mind for next year!

Once the event started winding down, we decided to head out. Bike Valet was swamped so I decided to give them a hand as I’m a seasoned pro because of Concerts on the Square (happening tonight and every Wednesday for the next 5-6 weeks!). The ride home was nice and there were groups of cyclists heading to different parts of the city. They all eventually split off from one another depending on which neighborhood they were in.

The event was amazing and as you can see from the graphic above, the Bike Fed did a stellar job at raising money and getting people out to the event. They even set a record of the number of bikes parked at the event…1,000 bikes out of 1,800 attendees. That’s amazing. I had assumed that about 90% of people rode their bikes based off of the amount that were parked, but it looks like I was off. It was closer to 60%, but that’s still amazing!

Madison is a wonderful city to play host to such an event. New Belgium has been good to us over the years and even though they come from Colorado, Wisconsin treats them like they are our own. Our hope is that this event continues in the coming years and that it only gets bigger. We were told the tour grew from 12 stops to close to 30-40 this year! It goes to show that more states are taking the initiative to host cycling friendly events. Super awesome 🙂

Check out some photos below as well as our video to get an idea of what the event was like if you couldn’t make it!

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 🙂