I have to admit I was dreading it a little bit. I had (somewhat reluctantly?) agreed to appear on a panel representing Bilenky Cycle Works and handmade bikes in general for Ladies’ Day at Sea Otter. Oh, excuse me: “Ladies’ Activities Day!” I thought it was a joke, but no, the National Coalition For Men (fo’ real!) threatened Sea Otter’s organizers (and sponsors) with a lawsuit. Apparently, holding seminars, workshops, and festivities that appear to be exclusively for women and (horrors!) offering free admission to women and girls is discriminatory! Who knew? A name change was instituted, and it was made clear that all were welcome to attend and would be admitted free of charge that day, regardless of gender. The NCFM was mollified.
But back to the panel; I was hoping I wouldn’t be asked anything outside my area of expertise. The title of the panel was Women by Design, and the topic was women specific design. Sitting with me was Heather Henderson (Women-Specific Product Manager for Trek Bicycles); Sheila Moon, (Women’s cycling clothing designer and cyclocross racer); Catharine Pendrel, (Luna Sports, current Mountain Bike World Cup leader); and Rachael Lambert, (Women’s Product and Marketing Manager, Specialized Bicycles).
I looked at the accomplished racers around me and realized I could be the voice to advocate the fun of riding. Biking can be intimidating for the average female non-athlete. They may think they need to be fast, competitive and get down & dirty with the boys, but you can look fabulous and ride at your own pace with only finding some yummy snacks or a great spot for photographing as your goal. Even that can still be great exercise!
The moderator for the panel was journalist and mountain biker Karen Kefauver. In the end, what she asked me about was the advantages of a custom bike. I answered truthfully: You can only raise or lower the stem and seat post so much. Custom bikes aren’t just for really short or really tall people. Anyone who doesn’t have the exact proportions for a stock size is a good candidate. I gave the example of a 6’3” guy with a long torso and short legs. His legs would be too short to straddle the stock frame recommended for his height, but then the top tube length could be too short and he’d feel cramped if he went with a smaller frame. A custom bike fits the individual’s body, riding style and personality.
I hope I didn’t make any enemies among the off-the-shelf folks, but a top-of-the-line stock model can cost the same as an entry-level custom bicycle. At least I didn’t repeat my valley girl comment that had closed out my interview with the LA Times the week before: “You don’t need a $5,000 bike. But it is pretty awesome.” That’s me! Telling it like it is since 1985!
Finally there was a great wine, berry, chocolate and yogurt reception after the panel. And it almost burst into a spontaneous hen-do! Out of the fifty or sixty who had attended the discussion, a small crowd formed around me asking all about my upcoming wedding. You can clip us to our pedals, but girls will be girls!
And I have to say: Anybody seen the most recent Rouleur? I think it’s okay for me to talk about another publication here, because the article I want to draw attention to was so artfully written by Embrocation’s own Jeremy Dunn. In the piece, which was about NAHBS in Austin, extra special mention was made of… moi ! (Cue me exhaling on my knuckles and polishing them on my shirt.) Jeremy said things about me I thought I’d only ever hear from my mom and grandmother! Aw, shucks!
Now I’ll open the floor of my column to you. I look forward to listening to readers’ ideas, questions, comments, etc. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org