How I Got Really Inspired by Women’s Pro Cycling One Night — and Then I Won a Bike!

Posted By on Jul 21, 2014 | 0 comments

How I Got Really Inspired by Women’s Pro Cycling One Night — and Then I Won a Bike!

Posted By on Jul 21, 2014 | 0 comments

Meet Dippy! Yes, I named my bike, because I'm a really cool person and whatnot.

Meet Dippy! Yes, I named my bike, because I’m a really cool person and whatnot, etc. etc.

Today, I would like to introduce you to Serendipity (“Dippy” for short) — my brand-new adorable entry-level perfect-for-me road bike.

Serendipity, you know, is the fortunate development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. The phenomenon of finding valuable things not sought for. Or, you know, just plain ol’ good luck.

For example: Realizing that you really need to get your own bike, and then — magically! — winning one as a prize.

Yep, it’s true. I won a bike! And I got really inspired, too, about cycling in general. Just in time for my Climate Ride training.

Here’s the whole, glorious story.

How I Realized I Needed My Own Bike

Capital Bikeshare <3

Capital Bikeshare <3

When I first started training for this crazy Climate Ride thing at the beginning of May, I didn’t even have a bike yet. Instead, I worked myself up to doing 20-mile rides on Capital Bikeshare bikes (which are awesome, by the way, but are designed for short distances around town and built to withstand a lot of daily abuse…i.e., they’re heavy, man).

Realizing that just wasn’t going to cut it anymore, I borrowed a nice old hybrid from a family member, got it tuned up, and started taking that on longer rides. The difference (in speed, weight, and having more than 3 gears) was mind blowing. That borrowed bike has treated me really well, and has been great for commuting to work and back since I put a back rack on it. (In fact, I just did a 50-mile ride on it this weekend! Yessss!)

But still… I couldn’t help it. I started eyeballing the feather-light, svelte road bikes that everyone who was passing me on the trails was riding. I had literally JUST started contemplating investing in a my own bike myself, but wasn’t really sure where to start, or what kind to get. And then…

Enter serendipity. I won a bike! In a raffle! At an awesome fundraising event.

How I Ended Up at the Event

waba_women_logo_commuterSince I’m a brand new cyclist who knows, well, pretty much nothing about cycling (although I’m learning!), I was so happy when I stumbled across a wonderful Facebook group for women bicyclists in the DC area (it’s run through our local bike advocacy heroes, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, or WABA.) One of the first things I saw on there was an announcement about a fundraising event for a local women’s racing team, Team Sticky Fingers.

(Side note: How awesome is it that DC has its own women’s cycling racing team?)

I was all, “Hey, that sounds fun. They’ll be showing a documentary, maybe I might be able to learn something, and there will be beer, and a raffle for a great cause.” I convinced my Biking for Elephants team member Claudia to come with me too. (Thanks for the good luck, Claudia!)

“Maybe I’ll even score a free water bottle,” I thought, hopefully.

Little did I know… the night was a lot more interesting than I expected.

How Women’s Pro Cycling Is Super Badass

The fundraiser event centered on a screening of a documentary about women’s pro cycling called Half the Road. Going in, I knew literally nothing about women’s pro cycling except that it was really cool to watch in the last Olympics. So I was a pretty good tabula rasa for the film.


Here’s what I learned:

  • There’s a shockingly big inequity between women and men pro cyclists. First there’s an incomprehensibly huge pay gap. (A male pro cyclist earns a minimum salary of say around $40k a year — often much more — and can devote all his time and energy to training. Meanwhile, women pro cyclists have no minimum salary guarantee — they’re lucky if they earn $10k — and earn so little that they all have to have a second full-time job on top of their rigorous training regimes). And then there’s the opportunity gap (e.g., forced caps on how long women’s races can be, age restrictions that men didn’t have to follow, fewer racing opportunities in general, etc).
  • Despite these pitfalls, scores of powerful determined women get up on their bikes every day and train hard and compete even harder anyway. It was all kinds of inspiring to see these athletes talk about how passionate they are about their sport; how they put up with and push past all the crap and embrace the love of cycling and the thrill of competition. If athleticism is about breaking through your limits and achieving things no one would ever think you’re capable of… these women are the definition.
  • Advocacy can make a difference. In addition to their full-time training and their full-time jobs, women’s pro cyclists are also working hard to improve the visibility of and equality for their sport. Since the documentary was made, the UCI (international cycling organization) dropped the age limits for women cyclists, AND this year, for the first time in almost 20 years, there’s a women’s cycling event during the Tour de France. (As a matter of fact, it’s this Sunday!)

There’s still a long way to go in this arena, for sure. But seriously… I was inspired on multiple fronts. It would have been a great night no matter what.

But then…

How I Won the Bike

After the film was over, the Team Sticky Fingers team members started reading out the raffle numbers…

Number after number, prize after prize… And then they got to the grand prize: a brand new Giant Avail women’s road bike.

They read a number.

I looked down at my raffle ticket. It looked like the same number.

Wait… what? No way is that the same number.

I looked at the number again.

Holy $#!$& — it’s the same number!!

I’ve never won a big prize before… I was in shock for hours. I’m still in shock today, actually!

They brought me on stage when I won... Here I am grinning in shock/disbelief.

They brought me on stage when I won… Here I am grinning in shock/disbelief.

But just so, so happy. I know it’s completely irrational, but I still feel like I was given a little gift from the universe with this bike as a reward. Like the universe is saying to me, “Good job, Audre, with this whole biking and fundraising-for-a-good-cause thing. Keep it up. Here’s a bike!”

Thank you, universe! Thank you, random statistics that happened to fall in my favor that day!

And especially thank you Team Sticky Fingers and WABA and all the sponsors for making this happen, and for making a difference towards promoting safe cycling and recognizing the achievements of women cyclists.

How I’m Liking the Bike

I just picked it up this weekend (the bike shop that donated it made sure to order one in my size for me) so I haven’t taken it for a long-distance ride yet. But riding it around town so far, I’m loving how smooth and light it is.

Yep, of course I wore my elephant shirt when I picked it up. DUH.

Yep, of course I wore my elephant shirt when I picked it up. DUH.

It’s going to take a while to get used to balancing myself on this lighter frame and finding out how to stay comfortable in the new position of road-bike riding.

But I can’t wait to figure it out and hit the road. For the elephants!

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Audre is a writer, elephant advocate, and brand-new cyclist who's training to bike 300 miles in September to raise funds for the African Wildlife Foundation. Yes, she really is that crazy about elephants! Learn more and donate today.
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