Tuesday, November 30, 2010

turning wheels for kids 2010

were you one of those lucky kids who had a bicycle? wait! don't all children have bicycles? nope, and that's a down-right shame. Susan Runsvold thought so, too, so in 2003 she began planning what she hoped would be a project with her own friends -- collecting donations to purchase a few bikes to give to children who might not otherwise have one. in 2005, Turning Wheels for Kids was born.

Turning Wheels for Kids has grown to become a fabulous holiday tradition. with the support of the silicon valley community (individuals and businesses), each year the organization is able to purchase 2,000+ children's bikes. and then 700+ community volunteers (including Velo Girls) come together on one day in December to assemble these bikes. it's a festive, fun-filled day and the end result is that 2,000+ children from all over silicon valley will receive the holiday gift of a bicycle.

join us on Saturday, December 11th, for the annual Turning Wheels for Kids Big Bike Build. Velo Girls will once again have a co-ed team of volunteers for the event and we'd love to have you join us. the Bike Build is held in San Jose from 8:00am until all the bikes are built (usually around noon). you don't need to be a bicycle mechanic to participate and we welcome men + women (and mature youth, too). it's a great holiday tradition.

if you'd like to join the Velo Girls team, just email Lorri@velogirls.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

munday funday -- 29 nov, 2010

as many times as I've watched this video, it still brings a smile to my lips and tears to my eyes:

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! whether you celebrate this day in a traditional manner with friends + family or in a less traditional way (for me, on the bike), I hope you'll each take some time to reflect on the blessings we have and the opportunities we've been given. since this is technically a bicycle-related blog, I'll share some of my bicycle-related thanks.

I'm thankful that I ride a bicycle. yeah, that pretty much sums up my life, so if you have a short attention span, you can stop reading now.

I'm thankful for all the amazing places throughout the world I've visited while riding my bicycle. I've been fortunate to ride in New Zealand, Australia, and Spain, but even more fortunate to explore every nook + cranny of the amazing state of California, as well as Colorado, Oregon, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Alaska. there's no better way to really experience the country than on the seat of a bicycle.

I'm thankful for all the really cool people I've met while riding my bicycle. my life has been filled with folks who've shared a few miles or many years with me.

I'm thankful for the personal challenges I've experienced while riding my bicycle. I've ridden up mountains, in the dark, snow, cold, and rain. I've ridden on the dirt and on highways. I've done things I never would have thought possible -- all on a bicycle.

I'm thankful for all the extra yummy + delicious guilt-free calories I've been able to consume while riding my bicycle.

I'm thankful that I've been able to build a career riding my bicycle, and that in doing so, I've enabled lots of other folks to share in the benefits of riding a bicycle.

I'm thankful (and hopeful) that I love a sport that I can continue to participate in long after most folks have resigned themselves to the couch. I plan to be that little old lady you see with the long silver ponytail under her helmet.

yes, I'm thankful for riding a bicycle!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

getting there by bike

I've long been a bike commuter. it began with my desire to get more training time in way back in the winter/spring of 2000. I was training for my first California AIDS Ride and felt that my weekend long rides + weekday spin classes just weren't doing it for me. at the time I was working in San Francisco and living in San Mateo. each way, the commute was about 22 miles. interestingly enough, I found that the total time commitment to commute by bicycle was similar to the total time commitment of commuting by car or taking the train. yeah, car traffic was pretty crazy + unpredictable back in the day.

so I started commuting to work. my decision to do so was pretty impromptu. I decided one Saturday morning to try riding to San Francisco from home, checking out a possible commute route and timing myself. so I bought a set of bike lights, declared myself a bike commuter, and, two days later, I jumped in.

my first commute was a great adventure. I had no plan. I didn't really have the right equipment. I had too much stuff to carry and didn't have a good way to carry it. I had nowhere to park my fancy new road bike. and once I arrived at work, I didn't have anywhere to shower or prepare for the day. I remember walking to the nearest gym (where my employer had a deal for us), proudly stating that I was preparing for the CA AIDS Ride, and expecting them to let me shower for free. the desk clerk felt sorry for me (or maybe I just stunk) and let me shower -- that one time. after that, she informed me, it would be $10/day. when I got back to my desk, I emailed our Team Schwab cycling club list to find out where there was a shower on-site. unfortunately, there was nothing in any of the buildings near me except one secret, private shower that had been built for the CEO of the company. he had moved offices and no one was using it, but my contact suggested I could sneak in + out and no one would notice. and that's what I did for months.

my commute home was equally as adventuresome. less than a mile from my office, I nearly killed myself trying to avoid a muni bus. I ended up with my front wheel in a muni track and took an embarrassing tumble onto Market Street. I got a flat tire 3 miles from home and didn't know how to change it so I rode home on it. but I survived and was ready to try again.

I quickly learned that I couldn't carry so much stuff on the bike. I started emailing files home instead of carrying paper (yes, this was pre-access-at-home days). I left three pairs of shoes at the office (brown, black, and blue pumps -- I was set for every occasion) as well as a warm winter coat. I stored a complete set of toiletries (including towel, wash cloth, blow dryer, and curling iron) at my office. go ahead, laugh about the curling iron, I dare you! and I tried a bunch of different bag systems, finally settling on an oversized lumbar pack from REI to carry just my clothes, wallet, and palm pilot.

as you can see, it took some planning. and preparation. and a few attempts before I had a seamless commute.

I continued to commute for the next year (while I was still working in SF). somedays I would ride to work and take the train home. somedays I would ride both ways. somedays I would add on some extra mileage just for fun!

and while my original goal was to increase my training time, what I learned was that there was a HUGE emotional/mental benefit to bike commuting as well. when I arrived at the office, I had already achieved something great. I was able to check something off my list before work even began. and I found I had more energy and less stress than if I had been sitting in my car, stuck in traffic, for 60-90 minutes.

since that time, I've continued to commute and errand by bike. I actually went car-free for two years -- a big accomplishment living on the peninsula (during a time when CalTrain discontinued weekend service). I transitioned to a cyclocross bike with mounted racks and panniers and eventually to a touring bike. I still have a five-mile rule: if a trip is within five miles, I dont take my car. there were some definite lifestyle changes involved in these decisions, but overall, I'm thrilled with the fact that I choose to live as car-lite as possible.

commuting and erranding by bike is a great way to save money, contribute to our environment, reduce stress, and stay in shape. but it can seem like a daunting lifestyle change. Velo Girls would like to help you learn how to make this change. one of our members, Torea Rodriguez, took my May Bike Month Challenge, and has forever changed her life. on Wednesday, December 1st, she's going to share her experience with you.

join us at Mike's Bikes in Palo Alto for our 2011 Velo Girls membership kick-off, where Torea will be our featured presenter, discussing the ins + outs of transportational cycling -- 6:00pm - 7:30pm.

you'll find details of this and all our rides + events at http://www.velogirls.com/calendar.php

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

put a little bang in your yin yang

energy. it's an amazing thing, right? we've got it, we don't have it, we want more of it, we have too much of it.

I have observed that the more energy I expend, the more energy I have. funny, isn't it? when I'm active, riding my bicycle, I feel energized and alive and ready to conquer the world. I'm on a roll and there's no stopping me. when I'm inactive, not riding my bicycle, I feel tired and sluggish and depressed. yeah, there's something to this energy thing.

so, I've returned to practicing yoga. my objective is to balance my physical being -- all the years of high-volume riding coupled with poor posture and bad ergonomics in my office, as well as a couple of serious past injuries. what I didn't expect was to balance my emotional being as well.

in the past, I've practiced Bikram yoga, an intense, athletic form of yoga that's practiced in a heated room. Bikram is Yang.* Bicycle riding is Yang. participating in both has created some interesting imbalances in both my physical and mental self. Bikram is physically challenging for me. there's no half-way for me in Bikram. being a wee bit competitive in nature, I push too hard, I stretch too far, and I end up sore, tired and potentially injured. and then I quit.

my favorite yoga studio, Being Yoga in Burlingame, offers 40+ classes a week. most of these classes are Bikram, but a handful are other styles of yoga. so I've decided to check out some other styles. interestingly enough, these non-Bikram classes are offered in the middle of the day, a time when my energy starts to flag and I find I need some activity to push me through the afternoon.

enter Yin yoga. wow! it's a form of deep yoga with poses that are held for a long time (some of them 10-15 minutes in duration). instead of focusing on our muscles, Yin goes deep into the connective tissue -- ligaments and tendons -- exactly where my broken + abused body really needs some focus. let's see, Yin yoga + Yang cycling = balance. that makes sense to me.

the other interesting concept behind Yin yoga is that it's very meditative. being a wired, ADD, hyper personality, I've never felt comfortable with meditation. yeah, I think a lot on the bike, but mostly my mind is pinging and ponging between a gazillion ideas at the same time. so for me to actually shut off my mind and focus on just one thought, one mantra, for an extended period of time seemed challenging. but I found that it was actually quite easy to be in the moment. and I also found that it helped my mental focus at other times, too.

balance. it's a funny thing. oil + vinegar. sonny + cher. yin + yang. it's all starting to make sense to me now.

*If you want to learn more about Yin + Yang and the theory of contrary but interdependent forces, start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang

Monday, November 22, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

grant yourself permission

many years ago, when I first became a cycling coach, one of my clients shared this little nugget of psychological wisdom. she wasn't referring to cycling, but I found it an important lesson for just about anything in life. I immediately stole it and began using it as the preface to my skills clinics. it's simple yet brilliant.

I know you're on the edge of your seat waiting to learn what this piece of advice might be. of course, if you've participated in one of my clinics, you know exactly what I'm about to type.

"grant yourself permission to be a beginner."
it's okay to not be perfect at everything you do. it's okay to go through the learning process. it's okay to be right where you are right now. it's okay to fail and try again and learn and improve. it's okay to be a beginner.

whether you're learning to ride a bicycle or race a bicycle, mountain bike, or even ride a unicycle, it's okay to be a beginner.

something happens to us in adulthood that creates a mental challenge for us to learn something new. we've become successful. we have college degrees, jobs, and healthy relationships. we know how to balance a checkbook and do laundry. we can multi-task. we find it difficult to ask for help. and suddenly, it's not okay (at least in our own minds) to not be perfect at something. we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to succeed. and when we don't find immediate success, we're embarrassed and frustrated and (all too often), we give up before we've really given ourselves a chance at success.

I always chuckle when someone says "it's just like riding a bicycle." if that were true, I wouldn't have been able to build a successful business that focuses on teaching adults how to ride and race their bicycles.

although most of us rode a bike as a child, many of us stop riding for a period of time (usually our 20s) while we're living life in other ways: college, career, family, etc. and then, when we decide it's time to ride a bike again, we're faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. something has changed since childhood. we have fear. we understand pain + mortality. we have a job to go to on Monday. we've forgotten that riding a bike should be fun. we worry about what others will think of us. we feel judged. we've forgotten what our body feels like and how to interact with a bicycle.

so instead, we try to manage the bicycle. we try to fix it and control it and conquer it. and because we don't understand how a bicycle really works and we no longer listen to our body in quite the same way we did as a child, we fail. we crash. we're afraid. and we're frustrated.

I experienced this myself. I rode a bicycle from tricycle to 10-speed Free Spirit through my early 20s. it was my transportation. it was my freedom. I rode to the playground. I rode to school. I rode to my boyfriend's house. I rode to parties. I rode to my job. I rode everywhere. and then.....I stopped riding.

in 1999, after a decade-long hiatus, I decided that it was time to ride a bike again. I had moved to California and everyone here was healthy. they worked out at the gym and they played outside. they rode bikes. and I wanted to ride a bike, too. so I dusted off my 10 year old Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike and started riding. and I failed. I was afraid of everything: cars, getting lost, falling off the side of the road, going downhill. and I was frustrated that I was afraid. and I was frustrated that I had failed. and I was frustrated that I was frustrated. how was it possible that I had ridden a bike for more than 20 years but now I was a complete failure?

but those of you who know me well know that I'm stubborn. I really, really wanted to ride my bike. I was obsessed with riding my bike. I registered to ride in the California AIDS Ride, a 7-day ride of almost 600 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I had nine months to train. it seemed impossible. I would conquer it. and I did. within three months, I had ridden my Hard Rock almost every day. I completed my first century on the Coyote Creek Trail (solo), riding back + forth + back + forth. I eventually conquered my fear of riding on the road and ventured away from the bike trails. and then I started riding with groups. before I knew it, I was commuting in the dark from San Mateo to San Francisco. and then I was leading rides for Team Schwab and for the California AIDS Ride. but I still wasn't a perfect rider and that frustrated me.

when I was given the opportunity to change careers in 2001 by Charles Schwab, I decided that I wanted to share the amazing physical, mental, and personal transformation that I'd undergone by riding a bicycle with others. so I became a coach and a personal trainer and founded Velo Girls, one of the first women's-only cycling organizations in the United States. and then I began the process of deconstructing the physics of riding a bike so I could teach others in a way that was logical and progressive. I wanted to break down those barriers that kept adults from riding, kept them from succeeding, and kept them from having fun. I wanted to help adults understand how to ride with their bicycle (not on their bicycle). I developed a series of skills clinics that I tested out on our very first racing team. those clinics were the foundation of Girls Got Skills, our racing development program, and our four-hour Bike Skills clinics.

and the rest is history.

so, if you're frustrated or afraid or embarrassed, you're not alone. I was there and hundreds of adults with whom I work each year were there, too. it gets better. but the first step in learning is to give yourself permission to be a beginner and be patient with the learning process. if you do, you'll open up a world of possibilities for yourself.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

sometimes you just gotta get dirty!

I remember way back when, in March 2002 when I founded Velo Girls, I said we would never do two things. one of those things was race. the other was mountain bike. neither of those proclamations lasted very long -- I'm smart enough to listen to our members and develop programs to meet their interests. we started racing in the summer of 2002 and added weekly mountain bike rides (called the Dirty Velo Girls) in 2003.

this fall/winter, join Team Velo Girls members on our Mountain Bike Adventure Ride series as we head out to the best of northern California's mountain bike trails every Sunday. these intermediate-level rides are guaranteed to be fun-filled adventures for everyone! all women are welcome.

this week's ride is Saratoga Gap @ 10:00am. RSVP to dirtyvelogirls@velogirls.com. you'll find details on the Dirty Velo Girls Mountain Bike Adventure Rides and all our other rides + events at:


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grab your Crayons!

It's that time of year -- time for the Velo Girls annual Club Jersey Design Contest! So pull out your crayons, watercolors, colored pencils, or your laptop and get those creative juices flowing. Your design could earn a place in Velo Girls history, worn by women throughout northern CA and the world!

Here's the 2010 winner for a little inspiration, designed by Team Velo Girls member Bonnie Osborn (and her partner in crime, Ken).

The deadline to submit your design is December 15th, 2010. You'll find all contest details here:


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2011 Begins Now!

2011 will be here before you know it! What are your goals for the next cycling season? Are you planning to race road or mountain? Participate in the Cinderella Classic? How about a century or double or the Death Ride? Whatever your goals, the foundation of next season is built now!

Join Coach Lorri Lee Lown and Team Velo Girls on our new series of 2011 Season Prep Rides, beginning this Saturday, November 20th, and continuing through January. These rides are designed to help you build your base endurance for the 2011 season. We'll start with two-hour rides and increase the duration and intensity each week.

Rain or shine, join us at Woodside Town Hall, ready to roll @ 9:00am. Fenders are highly recommended for wet rides. RSVP to coaching@velogirls.com.

Please note, these coached rides are open to current Velo Girls Club, Team, and Lifetime Members only. If you're not a Velo Girls member, you're welcome to participate in one ride but are encouraged to join -- http://www.velogirls.com/membership.php

You'll find details on this and all our rides + events at:


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sweeping the Streets for a GREAT Cause

Velo Girls is thrilled to support the 5th Annual Supermarket Street Sweep, a super-cool event that benefits the San Francisco Food Bank. Check it out, grab your bike, and join in the fun on Saturday, December 4th.