Monday, May 7, 2012

Madtown Maidens Rides Again!

Well-behaved women seldom make history.
        -Laurel Thatcher

Getting ready to roll out
photo by Nathan Vergin
Growing up as a girl, in a male dominated sport, wasn't easy.  On my junior team, there was only one other girl and she rarely made practice.  I learned to be "one of the guys".  If it hadn't been for my two female coaches, I doubt I would have continued racing.  As a woman now, I have no problem riding with's just that as a pre-teen and teenager, it would have been nice to have a few peers.

Thirty years after I began riding seriously, I am absolutely amazed by how much the sport has changed for women and girls.  There are so many more opportunities and it's now considered "cool" to be seen on two wheels.  Bikes have become the new accessory like jewelry or clothes.  I touched a bit on this in my previous blog "Let's hear it for the girls".  

Four years ago, I heard about this amazing event that Kayla Dotson, and at the time, Chelsea Strate, were putting on in Minneapolis (my home town).  Babes in Bikeland had been running for just two years and already had hundreds of women showing up to ride in this all women's alleycat.  It inspired me!  Although I couldn't commit to putting on such an event at that time, my brain began churning.  Starting in the late fall of 2010, I began laying the groundwork to have a similar event here in Madison.  With support from my friends and husband, Madtown Maidens was born. 

Putting on an event like this is all about word of mouth.  I let a few women know what I had planned, stopped into several bike shops to spread the word and within a few months it was set for May 7th, 2011.  Although I sometimes bash social media like facebook, I can't say how helpful it was in getting the word out.  After making a page, I watched and waited as the number of "likes" grew.  It was working.  Women were going to show up to this thing!  

sorting out the prizes
Over the winter, I had time to gather sponsors for prizes, food and beer.  I was amazed by the warm reception from local businesses--bike centered and non.  I was also shocked by the support from guys.  This was turning into a community event not just a female event.  My excitement grew as did my nervousness.  How the hell was I going to pull this thing off without ever putting on a large event before?  This was one time--aside from packing for backpacking trips--when my ridiculously detailed oriented nature came in handy.  

The day came with very few hitches, except the threat of rain.  My volunteers were the backbone of the day and there's no way I could have--or could--do this without them.  Looking back at the actual event seems a bit blurry.  All I remember is smiles...lots of smiles on women and girls of all ages and riding abilities.  The following day, I was already planning next years ride.

photo by Nathan Vergin
Putting on an event is somewhat like having a child.  The first one you fuss over every detail, the next one becomes a little more lax.  I'm not saying that I didn't go over to do lists again and again.  I'm just saying that I knew once I did what I had to do, everything else was out of my control.  I didn't worry about the weather--we'd ride unless there were thunderstorms.  I didn't worry about people having fun--if they didn't, there was nothing I could do about it.  I just got everything together and hoped for the best.

This year's ride consisted of approximately a twenty-two mile course with eight checkpoints.  The women had to do everything from write bike Haiku to pump up two tires as fast as possible.  Half the checkpoints were physical and the other half were mental.  Mixing this up with horrible construction on a few roads made for an interesting event.

The Greasy Gears and friends heading out for the ride
Although the course was longer and hillier this year, and very few women made the cutoff time, everyone seemed in great spirits and it just made the food and beer taste that much better.  The top finisher even added about 6 miles to the length trying to find one of the checkpoints.  I have promised folks a flatter course for next year.  If all goes as planned, each year will bring a different set of checkpoints in different parts of Madison in hopes of showing off our great city.

By putting this on, I hope that women and girls fall in love with riding bikes--if they don't love it already.  I want to put "play"--something that's been lacking from many people's lives--back into daily living.  I want women to know how strong they are and yet be able to laugh at themselves.  I also want other cities to put on all female bike events.  If you're thinking about organizing something like this, all I can say is, "DO IT!"  You will not regret it...ever.

I want to thank my husband for putting up with my somewhat manic behavior this past month, the volunteers for making this possible, the sponsors for adding the icing on the cake and all the women that rode in the first or second event.  May Madtown Maidens live forever!

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