Change seems to be in the air at the end of every summer…
The words “pumpkin spice” get tagged on to everything, riders start posting photos of their new sponsor swag, SRAM boxes are a thing, Eurobike and Interbike news floods in, cyclocross bike porn becomes increasingly popular, and we’re all tagging #crossiscoming. For cyclocross fans, racers, super-fans, and fans+racers, the real season is just about to begin and the community is buzzing.
As for me, change has also been on tap this summer. I decided to put together this write-up as a snapshot into the realities of bike racing for me personally. It’s different for everyone. The struggle is real no matter if you’re a n00b or a seasoned vet. The offers come and go. The politics make no sense. There’s no such thing as fair or unfair. I’m still very new to all this but I figured my short story til now could help inspire anyone who’s thought “What if…” I’m still wondering “what if…” and trying to make it work.
It’s been a year since I left my Project Manager position in the bike industry with Felt Bicycles. It was an amazing employment opportunity that I’ll forever be grateful for. I dabbled in part-time employment here and there to pay the bills in the past year and it’s been an interesting ride. At the beginning of this summer, one of my main projects was put on an indefinite hold due to funding issues that stemmed from some family problems outside of my control. It was an unfortunate development that left me without a good source of income for a few months and wondering what I was going to do next.
Luckily I had been given the opportunity to work as a social media manager for Tyler Anspach, President and Owner of SDG Components, back in April of 2014 and that steady stream of part-time money has gone entirely to fund some of my two-wheeled endeavors. After a business trip to Taiwan in March, another company approached me to work on their social media platforms after learning of my experience with Tyler. Rolling into summer I was now a part-time social media manager/coordinator for two companies in the bike industry: SDG Components and Pinhead Locks. Give us a follow!
Now as great as these part-time, remote opportunities have been, it’s by no means enough to make a living on. And I don’t mean a bike-racer living, I mean an actual living where I can simply pay all my bills and have insurance. I turned 26 on July 12th and with that birthday left my ability to fall under my parents’ health insurance. So the search for full-time employment began to make a living, get health insurance, supplement my bike racing dreams, and have enough to keep growing a savings account.
It’s also important to note that the beginning of my summer was kicked off with winning the Dirty Kanza 200 event. It was a wild ride with a gift of media attention that kept on giving. I was so grateful for the love and support that came my way following that muddy day in May. Honestly it was the spotlight I had been dreaming of since my 8th place finish at CrossVegas in Sept 2014. I know I have a lot of potential and I know I have the ability to do really well as a dirt-focused female racer. But starting from the bottom where you’re completely unknown and trying to break into the cool kid crowd of bike racing ain’t easy. I was hoping this result would help get me some much needed support in the upcoming year.
I tried leveraging my results to pitch for more support from sponsors, and the overall consensus was that most didn’t care. I sent close to 300 emails and made phone calls to companies I thought would be a good fit to sponsor the SDG Team in the 2015-16 season. I’d say 10% responded, and 5% committed to some sort of product or monetary sponsorship. That’s ~15 companies supporting me or our team this season. I’ve made a note at the end here of all the awesome brands that have committed to helping. I am so thankful to these companies that are taking a chance on our little team and giving me a platform to continue to pursue my goals. Special thanks to Dave Sheek for behind the man behind the scenes with the SDG Team as well. We'd be nowhere without him.
Back to the path to employment…
I graduated in 2011 from Stevens Institute of Technology with a Bachelors of Engineering in Engineering Management and again in 2012 from Stevens with a Masters of Engineering in Systems Engineering.
I only mention that because I’m quite proud of those achievements and have always wanted a professional career that challenged me in some sort of technical field. My first UCI elite cyclocross race was CrossVegas 2013 and my first UCI mountain bike race was early 2014. In the past 4 years I’ve learned that I can’t pick one of those career paths. I can’t sit at a desk all day in an engineering department working for The Man. I can’t rely on the bike industry to take a risk sponsoring young, unknown me to be a full-time racer. I need a balance of both worlds. With the solo bike racing path comes so much risk but so much self-fulfillment. With the solo professional engineer path comes so much stability but so much dullness. I’ve tried both, I understand the pros and cons of both, I respect everyone who makes a decision to do either one, and I knew that for me it was going to have to be a healthy balance of both at this time in my life.
Fast-forward the decision-making process to now…
My parents are incredible human beings. My dad’s had every job under the sun related to airplanes and my mom is a pioneer for professional female engineers and female helicopter pilots. They’ve had their fair share of ups and downs with employment… but ultimately in 1999 they started a business together called Testcorp. Since starting the business my dad’s been laid off from USAirways, hired by and retired from the Federal Air Marshalls, and rehired by USAirways (now American). My mom’s held down the fort, continued her consulting business as an engineer in the aviation industry, and juggled the Testcorp work with my dad. Needless to say Garrison (my brother) and I turned out to be decent human beings thanks to those two and we’ll always be amazed at how they did it all. He and I have worked part-time every summer since high school helping them when the workloads grew.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, my search for employment landed me sitting across from my parents at their dining table talking about how we could work something out. My mom had recently become enamored with my bike racing endeavors, and after learning of the disparities between the support offered to male and female racers, she approached me about wanting to support more women bike racers. This was completely separate from my search for employment but she took it as an opportunity to make both come together.
They offered me a chance to pursue my dreams and make a living at the same time.
So here I am: an aspiring elite cyclocross, gravel, and mountain bike racer with big goals, an awesome team, and great sponsors; a part-time social media manager in the bike industry; and a full-time-make-my-own-hours enginerd and Testcorp minion to make a living, fund the dreams, and afford health insurance. I’m still trying to figure it all out as I go along, but I’m absolutely thrilled to be where I’m at. Maybe someday the path might change and I’ll get the chance to race bikes for a living, or I’ll throw up my hands and ride bikes for fun and drink beer with a nice paycheck at work… who knows! But trying to balance both is what I need and want to do now.
I’ve always been one to bite off more than I can chew, but I think I’ll take that chance with this slice of life in front of me and see where it takes me…
On top of all of this I have some exciting news coming out regarding "In the Crosshairs" CXHairs.com and my contributions to it this upcoming season! More to come...
Cheers and thanks for reading!
If you’re looking to support me, please do so by supporting these companies that believe in me for the upcoming year and let them know I inspired it:
- SDG Components
- Muscle Monster
- Orange Seal
- Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter (formerly Krema PB)
- CCN Sport
- SPY Optics
- Kali Protectives
- Rip van Wafels
- Pinhead Locks
- Kogel Bearings
- Carmichael Training Systems (CTS)
- G2 Bike