Friday, February 14, 2014

An Open Love Letter To Electra Bikes This Valentines Day

Dear amazing people of Electra,

I don't think it's self-aggrandizing to say, "I'm a hardcore cyclist." I train 15 hours a week. I keep track of what I eat and weigh out my portions and it's a big source of stress in my life if I can't find enough protein. I know the precise number of beats per minute at which my heart switches gears between five heart rate zones most people can't -- and don't care to -- name. I spent more money on my bike than I did on my car (back when I had a car ... now I just have more bikes). I race, and sometimes I even win. I wear my sunglasses on the outside of my helmet strap as a matter of religious doctrine. And it is a cardinal sin to deviate from my training plan.

It wasn't always like this. I remember my first bike. It was a blue Rainbow Rider with streamers and a banana street and I was allowed to ride it to the stop sign at the end of my street and back. It was my first whiff of freedom. The first time I felt like I was in charge of my own exploratory progress. And when my dad took those training wheels off, the feeling of balance I got was the first time I can remember experiencing achievement -- that intoxicating sense of accomplishment that comes from doing something I wasn't sure I could.

From that time of innocent, puppy love of bicycles, and the addicts' devotion I've succumbed to now, cycling has always been there. A steady progression from flat pedals to clipless ... from aluminium to carbon ... from Deore to XTR ... 105 to Dura Ace ... from fun, to utility and obsession. A one-way street to an ever-growing lust for parts, innovation, miles and glory.

Until the other day when I took a detour with you, Electra.

This Valentine's Day, I want to profess my love and let you know, you helped me to recall cycling is fun. Cycling is for everyone and anyone. And you don't have to be expelling snot and drool while gripping the drops on your way to the town sign at full speed to maximize your enjoyment of a bike. In fact, the most fun I've had on a bike recently was when I had the chance to try your Townie GO! -- Electra's answer to our household's question, "should we get a second vehicle?"

The Townie GO!'s e-assist means living at the top of a monstrous category three climb need not be a deterrent to running my errands, even after I've already logged 75 miles at tempo on my group ride. "Powered by SRAM," the battery packs a punch without the bulk. It kicks in when I need it, but I still get to do some of the work, which I like.

Press of a button and just GO!
Its anti-theft locking mechanism gives me the confidence to leave it waiting outside, it's easy to charge, easy to set up, there are no gears, there's plenty of room for panniers and unlimited potential to personalize, thanks to your whimsical, enviable line of accessories. With the Townie GO!, I literally just go. No special shoes, shorts, gloves or equipment required.

I got on that thing with a certain amount of skepticism. I mean, these e-bikes are popping up everywhere. What is that all about? Shouldn't people pedal like "real" cyclists? But the second I turned the crank and that little extra push propelled me forward, I understand what you meant when you said, "we can't be held responsible for the look on your face when the motor kicks in." I was grinning like an idiot. And I felt like the little girl who discovered freedom on a Rainbow Rider all those years ago.

As with anything new and exciting, I wanted to share my experience. My friend Nick gave the Townie GO! a go at his house and his family was equally enamoured. "We headed over to a friend's for a Superbowl party -- I rode my bike with the kids in the trailer and my wife rode the Townie GO!," he said. "At the top of every hill, I was gassed and she was ready to keep going."

16 miles and 1,121' elevation
later and I still have most of
the charge. Full range is
30 miles, according to Electra. 
I know the feeling. I rode it two miles to the bank and 16 miles later I had to make bargains with myself to stop and get on to other more pressing things on the to-do list.

I love this bike because for me, it fills a practical need. In southern California, it's hard to get around if you don't have a car -- things are far apart and we have a lot of hills (including the one we live on top of). A bicycle is a tough call because no one wants to meet their friends or a potential client for coffee while you're all sweaty, and besides, how do you carry your laptop and purse if all you have a is a road bike? (No, backpacks are NOT an option.) Our car can only be in one place at a time, but my husband and I are two people, usually in two different places -- the Townie GO! could save us the cost of a second vehicle.

I love this bike because I can see its potential to introduce cycling to even more people, so even more people decide it's a good alternative to a second vehicle, which is good for the air we breathe, and helps take a couple cars off the roads. I can picture my mom enjoying a ride on the coast, my husband commuting to work sweat-free, or a retired stranger rolling along the bike path on El Camino Real, who just needs a couple things from Jimbo's. I think of my friend Nick and his wife, finally enjoying a bike ride, each at their own pace, yet together.

And I love this bike because it just plain makes me happy. Like, goofy-grin, laugh-out-loud, tell-all-my-friends, happy. You sit upright, on a saddle that feels more like a couch, in a position that feels so solid, it's like you're IN the bike, rather than on it. It's got elegant styling, and in my experience, it definitely turns some heads.

So thank you Electra. Thanks for the smile on my face, the wind in my hair and for reminding me what made me fall in love with cycling in the first place. Keep up the good work.

Your friend,


The Townie GO! in gold - perfect for an afternoon cruise along the golden coast
A close up of this beauty, powered by SRAM (and I helped, too)

Goofy Grins Win The Day - Me and the GO!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Of LA, Hollywood and Mountain Bikes

"Woman Behind Tree" is me. 

Driving on the 101 through downtown towards Hollywood for a commercial shoot was one of the more surreal experiences I've had since relocating to SoCal.

But there I was. 

French bicycle brand B'TWIN, a sub brand of Decathlon, had flown in stylists, agents and photographers to team up with LA producers, directors and all the other members of the small army it takes to orchestrate a commercial shoot. 

As an outsider to the production biz, it was striking to see just how much time/planning/organizing, how many people and the number of vehicles it takes to produce just 45 sec of footage. 

But the 45 sec planned were pretty great. I was very excited to be part of what I felt was some top-notch creative. In the spot, we'll follow our hero, Matthew (actually, we called him Max because we had two Matthews and it was just getting too confusing) as he counts down from 10 and the five other riders take off to play hide and seek. 

Each rider had a different, interesting place to hide and poor Max/Matthew had to do many hill repeats and intervals for the umpteen takes it took to not find any of us. My character was hiding behind a tree. Another was hanging under a pier. A third was under water, and so on. Final shot, we jump out from behind him, have a laugh and ride off into the sunset. 

We shot day one at Tejon Ranch northeast of LA (a HUGE expanse of open space covered in oaks, only open to filmers ... wow, so Hollywood!) and day two at Bonelli Park (a place I'll be revisiting very soon for US Cup #2). Day one was literally freezing and my wardrobe was literally booty shorts. That was a hard day to pretend to be an actress. Day two was thankfully much warmer and Bonelli (and Tejon) was beautiful so all in all, not bad work if you can get it. 

I can't wait to find see how it turned out! 

PS - my favourite part is that I got a reprieve from having to wear the booty shorts thanks to ... you'll never guess ... my tan lines! Thank you cycling, my old friend ... you've saved my ass more times than I can count.

On Location, Day 1 (34 degrees F)

On Location Day 2 - All quiet at Bonelli Park

Cast mates [the other] Matthew, Sean and I watch the grips figure out the "Woman Hiding Under Pier" shot

Taylor hiding like a champ while the production army watches

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Man In Sochi!

My husband, Gerhard, Transworld's Managing Editor, left for Sochi this week, along with Photo Editor Chris Wellhausen, and they're doing an awesome job covering the Snowboarding, including the Olympics' first Slopestyle event.

He posted a great blog post today, adding to some interesting articles about how the events are being judged as well as reflections from the athletes. He will continue to light up the wires until he comes back next week. I'm looking forward to that day!

But until then, follow his coverage via, his Olympic Blog or his instagram (@gerhardmg).

Let the games begin!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Papago-A-Go-Go! Skills Clinics in AZ

The "Hole Shot" with the Advanced Clinic filling the famous Papago "Hole in the Rock"

Coach Richard and I just had the pleasure of meeting some of the amazing local riders of Phoenix, Arizona amongst the historic sites, striking rock formations and dramatic scenery of Papago Park in Tempe.

Thanks to everyone who made the weekend possible! John, Vanessa and everyone at Landis Cyclery -- you guys were so fun to ride with, and we really appreciated all your support. The Trek Fuel EX you set me up on was pretty sweet, so thanks for that!

Regina -- thanks for all you did with ClippedInAZ to make it happen!  Awesome to see you and thanks also for showing us the fun zones. You and Vanessa are ripping mountain bikers! Emil -- Thanks for letting us stay with you and for showing us the delicious and nutritious "Green" restaurant. I would come back to Tempe just for another one of those sundaes. You're a great host!

And most importantly, thanks to all the riders for coming, riding, listening and asking questions. It's always a treat to be there for the breakthroughs. You were awesome! Now the fun part: practice, practice, practice.

Here's a few pics from another memorable weekend with Ninja Mountain Bike Skills:

Coach Richard  doing some spelunking

Playing around on the Regina/Vanessa Tour 

Exploring the STRENGTH of our back brakes

Talking about the four different kinds of climbing with Governor Hunt's Tomb in the background

Learning how to corner using proper bike-body separation 

Coach Richard gesturing wildly

Crushing the "Tomb Raider" climb