I want to tell you a little story, Lady Shredder. My bike team is planning our upcoming mountain bike clinic, and if you are reading this, you may be interested in joining us. We work hard to raise money to support our mission to get more women and girls racing bikes. We have a limited amount of funding for scholarships, and I’m trying to connect our organization with other organizations who care about the same thing.
This post is to encourage you, Lady Shredder, who may need financial assistance to try riding and racing bikes. Contact me. I might know somebody who can help you.
And this is a big ask if you carry the shame of struggling with money. This I know. And I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.
Like I said above, we have a limited amount of money to share and we want to help women and girls with the greatest need. We pay coaches who make their living by doing this work (and other jobs) and this entry fee includes meals, snacks, and a party. It’s an all-volunteer effort and we’re a nonprofit. One of these days, I’d like to provide this clinic free for participants–especially juniors–completely sponsored by bike companies, organizations, and donors who want to grow the sport of womens cycling. And by “free” I mean other folks will pay for it in exchange for in-kind marketing, promotion, and donations.
Until/unless that day comes, we don’t know how to measure “financial need,” and frankly, I hate the idea of making people give us intimate details about their lives.
And asking for this kind of help is embarrassing. This I know. You might be too stubborn to accept help. This I know. You might also look at my team and think none of us have been in your position. I can’t speak on behalf of others, but I can tell you my story.
When you see me now, I have a beautiful Queens of Dirt kit and super-fly fancy dancy mountain bike. I sometimes go to my garage to just stare at my beautiful mountain bike. I smile so hard while I ride it, my cheeks hurt. Thanks to the generosity of my boss and his connections to Pivot Cycles and my bike sponsor Jacks Bicycle Center, I have the privilege of owning my Pivot Magic Machine. Hubba hubba!
My husband built the bike for me and he shares my philosophy of life that we’d rather have experiences than things. However, if we’re going to drop fat bank on things, we’re going spend it on bikes. We’re also quite happy to have crew of bitchin’ bikes while the futon in our living room is still the one we found on a street corner in Ballard in 2005. We bought a cover, used some sand paper to smooth out the scratches, and it looked brand new.
Every time I think of buying a new couch, I’m like, “Wow, we really should be better adults and get new couch. Or, I think, I could buy a [enter expensive bike part here]. Yep. Fuck it. The futon stays.”
I sleep really well on that futon after a mountain bike ride. It all works out.
Here’s the thing.
It’s been brought to my to attention that when you’re new to this sport, racers look intimidating. Lady Shredders look scary. I’ve written about this before, if you’re interested, and this post is another attempt to break down that fear of connecting with other women who ride/race bikes.
For instance, when you see me on my bike, you might think I wouldn’t understand needing scholarship or what it’s like to struggle to purchase a bike.
You’re wrong, Lady Shredder. I do. This I know. Had a Queens of Dirt scholarship existed when I first started mountain biking, I would have wept for joy. And I would have progressed much faster as a rider. To this day, I’ve only been able to afford professional coaching because of the generosity of my team.
When I got my first mountain bike, I paid for it by putting it on layaway. Remember layaway? If you don’t, it was the practice of putting a down payment on something you wanted to buy and then you paid that thing off increments. Back before you could get a credit card if you had a pulse, this is how you made big purchases when you were a pretty broke person with no credit history.
In 1994, I purchased my first mountain bike while I working as a waitress at a ski resort. I was chasing The Dream of being a ski bum, and let me tell you, I have no regrets. Those years were beautiful, fun, but very lean in the wallet. During the off-season when the tourists stopped coming to my town, The Dream wasn’t as fun. I struggled. And let me be honest, I could have borrowed money from parents, but I was too stubborn to ask for help. I couldn’t admit that my plan to drop out of college to become a waitress who skis everyday was a really stupid career goal and a waste of my brain (sorry Mom and Dad).
My boyfriend at the time was a pretty good mountain biker, and I really wanted to try it. He seemed so happy when he got home from muddy rides. What is this mystery sport, I wondered. He told me it’s just like hiking only you go faster. Sold! I’m pretty short in stature so it was really hard for me to borrow a bike, and most of my friends at that time were tall dudes.
So I made a layway plan at the local bike shop and I upsold the fuck out of expensive vodka to Canadians drinking Clamato Bloody Marys to increase my tips. (High-five, eh? Love you, Hungover Albertans!)
I flirted with disgusting men to get better tips. They would leave the bar thinking I’d call them, and I didn’t even have a landline. (High-five, Suckers!)
I chatted people up I thought were the most obnoxious snobs to increase my tips (High-five, Boring Rich People!). I worked doubles. I did everything my managers wanted to score the money-maker shifts. I put every extra cent I had towards those layaway payments for six months, and when I finally rode that 50 pound hardtail mountain bike home, I was elated. Overjoyed. Satisfied.
My first ride changed my life forever—Mountain Biking, I thought—where had you been all my life?
I rode that bike for ten years. I rode that bike through two major heartbreaks. I rode that bike in four different states while I moved around trying to figure out my life. I rode that bike when my car broke down and I needed a way to get to work. I rode that bike on one of my first dates with my future husband, and I impressed him (and myself) by climbing the fuck out of Cleater Road in Bellingham to chase him. When I could finally afford a new mountain bike, I traded it to a friend who knitted me a hat and a scarf as payment. She gave that bike to a friend who was starting “Pedal Smoothie” business. (People pedal a stationary bike to power a blender, if you’re unfamiliar with this technology). In short, that bike brought a lot of joy into my life.
Not having a bike is another major barrier, Lady Shredder. This I know. I don’t have the means to get you a bike, but I can get you a loaner for the clinic. You can email me about that too.
Okay, I need to post this, and get back to work. The lack of airplane wifi gave me some time to gather these thoughts, and Lady Shredder, I hope this makes you feel better about contacting us.
If you don’t get in to our clinic, connect with me anyways. We would love your help as a volunteer and you can also check out Shifting Gears and SheJumps and The Joy Riders. Bellingham is rad that way.
For now, I hope to hear from you. I might write you back super late or super early in the morning, but my inbox is waiting. If we don’t have room for you this year, keep riding your bike and connect with us next year. We’re also going to have clinics for Cyclocross in the fall.
Let’s not let money get in the way of getting rad, shall we?
I also want to thank The Queens of Dirt for killing it to raise money and for volunteering their time to help create more Lady Shredders.
And all my love to Jacks Bicycle Center, Liv Cycling, Kulshan Brewing Company, Clif, Giro, Continental Tires, Performance Health Northwest, Louis Garneau, Bank of the Pacific, Apex Bike Fit, ModSock, Bike Reg, NuuMuu, Cascade Cross and Bellingham Grindcorps.