By Joh Rathbun. Photos courtesy of Jessica Klodnicki.
Still in its infancy, the Girls Rock ride, organized by Jessica Klodnicki, general manager and executive vice president of Bell and Blackburn, hosted its monthly ride at Ibis Cycles last month. More than 70 women showed up to take advantage of the free Ibis demo fleet and to ride with international superstar Anne-Caroline Chausson.
The day started at Ibis Cycles headquarters in Santa Cruz, California. It was overwhelming to see the warehouse overrun with women.
“[I] was essentially a complete beginner when I arrived in Santa Cruz, so I would say I have really only been riding about two and half years,” Klodnicki said. Since she was new to the sport, with “an old, crappy bike,” she “was embarrassed to ride with some really good riders.” (a.k.a., her coworkers.) Riding “anonymously,” she met a few woman at different trailheads. Banding together, they’d talk up their rides to their buddies, and the ride grew organically from there. “I have gone from complete beginner to riding down anything that gets in my path.”
Inside, women milled about, and the social aspect of riding was undeniable. Jenna Majchrzak, head wrench for the demo fleet, hustled to adjust bikes to riders, while swag like day-glo green socks and hats adorned with the Ibis logo was handed out.
After a few words from the Ibis women, the group was then stratified into smaller groups based on skill and fitness. We had more than 20 women on the “beginnermediate” ride with Klodnicki. An easy paceline to Wilder Ranch broke up once we got to Engleman’s Loop—the first uphill of the day. As sweep I ensured that no one was left behind, and that everyone maintained a pace that they were comfortable with long-term. Danielle Ynostroza, the only person on a hardtail said throughout the ride, “I’m so happy.”
Catching up with Jessica, I asked her, for any woman looking to cultivate a ladies’ ride in their cycling community, what should she do?
“My experience shows me that there is a real demand. Just starting something up informally and sticking to a regular rhythm is where you can begin,” Klodnicki said. “We started with four and we had seventy five people today. I didn’t do anything but send out emails, organize a time and location and make sure there would be good ride leaders for different levels. It happened very organically.”
I also think women like riding with a group that is at their level. If you are a beginner, it is scary to show up to a ride not knowing who will be riding, what the route is, and if you be in over your head. On the other hand if you are an advanced rider you want to ride at that level and challenge yourself. So, a critical point is making sure people are paired up appropriately to enjoy the ride. I have some terrific female ride leaders from beginner to advanced. They have been a big part of the draw—great, enthusiastic women!
“As a mountain bike fanatic, I’m well-connected to the bicycle community. However, I was amazed at the number of women I didn’t know today,” Megan Melack, the advanced ride leader added. “It’s truly beautiful to see such a mix of riders with varied skill levels who all showed up with the sole purpose of enjoying single track in a harmonious group of strong women.”
Klodnicki followed up: “Exactly. Ibis was amazing—they had people sign up for demos in advance and Anne-Caroline Chausson is here. So, we had some really exciting reasons to show up, but I had no idea that we would have seventy five women today. Their team was terrific and made it a really fun event… I had about sixty RSVP’s so I almost panicked. I wasn’t sure how to handle that many women on the trail at the same time. We took over a whole state park that day. Thanks to the amazing help from my volunteer ride leaders, we pulled it off.”
And for women looking to break into the industry?
“Check out the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition—a great resource for women looking to break into the outdoor industry in general—including the cycling business,”Klodnicki said. “Just apply! I always wanted to work in the industry and thought it was too late in my career. It wasn’t! If you have the right skill-set for a position and a passion for the category, there are many opportunities available.”
“I’ve never ridden with this many ladies before,” said Anne-Caroline when I chatted with her post-ride. This fierce competitor had a different demeanor when dining with the ladies, humble and quiet. While exhibiting introverted qualities, she was receptive to folks approaching her, and the ladies kept her talking and laughing.
A cool day with inspiring women, on great bikes, followed by food and beers made for a great day. The next ride is Sunday, December 14 at Pogonip Park. With the skilled Coach Lorraine Blancher joining in on the ride, the only disappointment would be a deluge. For more info visit the Girls Rock Facebook Group or keep an eye on the San Jose Mountain Biking Meetup page.