Tahoe area organization offers support to female cyclists
By Tim Hauserman
Bike Like a Girl was formed by three women with a passion for biking, who had a fierce desire to help other girls and women find the same joy and fulfillment from biking that they do. It’s a volunteer organization formed in 2015 with a three pronged approach to helping the sport of women’s cycling: They run camps to introduce younger girls to what a great sport biking can be; they support an ambassador program which focuses on getting women out riding together on a regular basis, while also learning about mechanics and fitness; and they established a small Elite Team of top women cyclists who proudly wear the Bike Like A Girl jersey as a positive roll model for women cyclists.
The idea began with Julie Young, who spent 12 years on the US National biking team, competing in six National championships. “I appreciated so much the value I got from racing. It drove my character development. When I moved away from my racing career, I had time to reflect on all the skills you learn: persistence, dealing with failure, picking yourself up. I decided I wanted to create this empowerment for other bikers,” said Young.
Young looked at existing biking programs and discovered that not many girls were participating in the coed programs, and girl only programs were scare. So she decided that she would have to do it herself, but it didn’t happen because she was very busy with several jobs, including training top athletes. Fortunately, one of those athletes she was training helped make it happen.
That athlete was Michelle Faurot, who a year into her training with Young put together a women’s team for the prestigious 2015 Race Across America, the grueling non stop bike race from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. The eight women team not only raced across the country in the record time of just 6 days, 12 hours and 58 minutes, but they did it as the Bike Like a Girl team, using the race as a platform to start the organization.
Another top cyclist coached by Julie Young, Sian Turner Crespo, completed the trifecta of founders. “I came into the picture last summer. I was looking for a new team to race with. I really wanted to be racing for a reason other then just myself. To be a roll model for young girls. Show them they can set their minds for whatever they want in life,” said Crespo.
Girls Cycling Camps
This spring, there was a six session girls camp in Reno in partnership with the Reno Kiwanis Bike Program. It was coached by Faurot and Kimberly Larson. There was also a three session camp in Granite Bay coached by Young and Crespo. The camps are for 5th and 6th grade girls who learn bike handling skills, self-confidence and social skills. They also are given an understanding of the science, engineering and math of cycling. The camp includes class time as well as a lot of time on bikes. The goal for the camps is simple: To have fun and help girls become excited about bike riding. The group is getting set to roll out more camps, including one in Truckee this summer.
Young is excited not only by the fact that they are getting girls on bikes, but that the focus is on mechanics as well. “Woman are intimated about fixing bikes. It’s pretty cool to teach safety checks, air pressure, brakes, or change a flat at this young age. They are so uninhabited,” said Young.
In addition to doing more camps, Bike Like a Girl has the goal of obtaining enough funding to have extra bikes available at the camps for girls who do not have bikes. Young also envisions a time when the program could provide low cost or free bikes to participants.
“The cycling camps is the real reason for what we are doing,” said Crespo.
Bike Like a Girl was formerly the Luna Chix Tahoe Bike Team. Their mission is to “bring women together to learn a new sport, stay active, and encourage other women in their communities to participate in the fun.” They hold maintenance and riding clinics and weekly rides, giving women of all ages a chance to get out and ride, and hopefully find new riding buddies to keep them interested in the sport.
Bike Like a Girl is also reaching out to establish a Junior Ambassador program, giving bike loving teenage girls the opportunity to both be trained by top coaches, and to mentor girls just starting to ride. The program is starting with two Tahoe bike racing sisters Meg and Kate Kelly.
The Bike Like a Girl Elite Team is a small group of women who represent all the different aspects of women’s cycling. The Elite Team is designed to serve three goals: Give women racers the support they need to compete in the challenging and financially draining world of women’s bike racing; serve as a mentor and trainer for the younger girls; and raise the public profile of the organization so it can make the camp and ambassador programs more successful. Elite Team member Crespo says, “The team has changed my life. It is a huge part of who I am. To be a roll model is another purpose for racing.”
To help this organization expand and enhance the support of women’s cycling, you can donate or purchase Bike Like a Girl jerseys at bikelikeagirl.org. They have both men’s and women’s sizes. I’m training hard so some day I can Bike Like a Girl.
Tim Hauserman is a freelance writer from Tahoe City, CA. He wrote the official guidebook to the Tahoe Rim Trail as well as Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children. In the summer he likes to pedal, paddle and hike. In the winter he teaches and runs the Strider Glider kids program at Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Area.