You’ve probably heard of the site Girl Bike Love, or Cyclofemme. Today, their founder Sarai Snyder is checking in with Cyclocross Magazine and telling us her story of beginning cyclocross, and beginning cyclocross again. And again. We can certainly relate, and we’re looking forward to more on Sarai’s journey into cyclocross racing. We’ll also be lending the site Girl Bike Love our editor, Molly Hurford, for some guest posts, so keep an eye out for that!
by Sarai Snyder
First, let’s get a couple of things straight – I am no expert on cyclocross. To be clear – I have never competed in a ’cross race. Not ever. Not in my entire life.
So, for you hardcore who-does-she-think-she-is-writing-about-cyclocross-when-she-has-never-raced-cyclocross-before types, you can’t call me a poser if I tell you upfront.
And I’m a girl. Not that it should matter, just putting my cards on the table.
Not competing has not been for lack of good intention.
My first experience with cyclocross was in 2006. I was dating a guy who owned a bike shop when my yet untapped race promoter skills got called to action. I had no idea what I was doing, had only seen a handful of races, but suddenly found myself knee-deep in planning one.
The race was a great success, at least by my limited expectations. No one died, only a few cried and a handful of folks, myself included, fell in love with the sport.
The following year I got a bike. It was an aluminum Redline Conquest with spectacular blue and white paint. We built it with Campy 1×8 from used up old parts found lying around the shop. It took a good solid month to track down a compatible back wheel which was mostly true and certainly not worth a rebuild. I believe the only new parts on the bike were the cables, housing, and fancy tires. The brakes were also used and had technically been recalled but I’ve never been big on stopping anyway.
By the time fall rolled around I had become pretty heavily involved in local cycling advocacy and had taken on the role of bike shop manager. My time and interest for racing cyclocross had waned and my bike had become a glorified commuter complete with lights, a cargo rack and bottle cage.
I still enjoyed giving my cowbell a good ring and was selling cyclocross bikes to commuters left and right. I was in love with the versatility—weekday commuter turns weekend warrior sans lights.
In 2009 I finally decided it was “my time.” We had settled in to a new shop and were committed to doing more of that thing that we loved called riding. We started practicing mid-summer. My lead sled that was adept at weaving through cars, navigating inverted barriers called potholes and enjoying an occasional off road adventure, was now getting an upgrade—Schwalbes.
I began selling cyclocross to women who had never even been to a ’cross race because, “Of course you can do it. If I can do it, you can do it and I’ll be damned if I’m going it alone.”
The ladies soon had much nicer bikes than me and personal trainers to boot. My passion for cyclocross was about to crush me in the competition.
In September, right before the season opened, my time at the bike shop came to an abrupt halt. My priorities refocused and racing again fell by the wayside. I soon made my way to Boulder and my very first day in Colorado was fittingly spent at the Boulder Cup. It was a beautiful blue sky day at the first of November, spectators wore t-shirts while the Flatirons served up a scenic backdrop. Cowbell in hand, I was in heaven.
My Redline had been a casualty of the move and I regretted every minute of it. Although I knew that there was no way I would compete on that bike—not in Boulder anyway—I missed it dearly. There was something so great about the idea that an inexpensive aluminum frame with a 15-year-old drivetrain, wobbly wheels and crap for brakes could be called up to race.
Of course, I would never show up to a mountain bike race on such equipment and for road races, the bar is ever higher.
And perhaps that is what makes cyclocross so great. Most veteran cyclists start out with a hodge podge of parts on a used frame. They spend their first season drinking beer, getting muddy and grinning from ear to ear while completing a race or two.
The entire next year is spent romanticizing the cold, the wet, the pain, dreaming of and building a new bike. And that second season spent drinking beer, getting muddy, grinning from ear to ear and completing a few more races.
So now it is 2013 and I’m still on the sidelines. It seems every time I think “this is my year” something semi-tragic happens. In 2012, I was ready. I mean really ready. I had recovered from the move, my business—Girl Bike Love—was on an upward swing, I was on my way to starting a non-profit—CycloFemme—it was time to do something for myself.
I had been training. I had a new custom Mosaic GBLCX with electronic shifting, a team skinsuit, and stickers with my nickname “Sriracha.” But one late September Monday evening ride left me with two broken arms, a bunch of stitches, and a some really awesome scars. Yet another season was put to rest with nary a race number.
That wreck did more than relegate me to the sidelines, it changed my whole perspective on riding a bike. Somehow I’m much more apt to go for it, I’m confident in my skills, especially knowing why I wrecked and that it wasn’t due to lack of competence. Long challenging rides are like special treats, a bonus for not dying on the road. But I’ve also learned to be OK with quitting because riding another day, and enjoying it, is so much better than not.
Which might be exactly the mindset I need for ’cross.
My cycling goals have never really been formulated around competition but on who and how many I can get to the start line with me. So, what are you doing this fall? Want to race bikes?
If I can do it, you can do it and I’ll be damned if I’m going it alone.
That’s right. Outta the way tragedy. This is my year!
Stay tuned to follow Sarai’s journey into cyclocross madness. Have a story of your own? Let us know in the comments!