Near And Gnar

Swooping through Olde Towne East to the Three Creeks Trail, my hosts—three on two wheels stay in a tight formation. Making turns through intersections, hovering tensed over our frames while we wait for lights to change, I’m the odd bird out on this ride. The ladies ushering me are dressed in matching bike kits of black and neon colors, with clip-in shoes, and bikes I could only dream of. We chat about their group as we find the wooded trail, and follow it away from the roadway. Traffic noises fade behind us. Riding together, we control our lanes, and can’t be missed. With them surrounding me, I feel fearless. This must be what it feels like to fly in a flock of birds.

Lady Gnar Shredders is a cycling club with a mission. With sponsorships from Paradise Garage to Oakley; and 30 members strong and growing, LGS aims to grow the sport of women’s cycling through outreach, clinics, training, and good ol’ tread-on-the-ground rides. LGS hold clinics for the three cycling disciplines of road, mountain, and cyclocross. The latter, a bit less familiar than the first two, is a race where cyclists dismount and carry their bikes to scramble up rockslides and jump over hurdles. Heckling is encouraged, and there is usually an after-race beer.

But before you go carrying your bike up a hill, maybe it’s best to put tires to the ground first. Many adults haven’t ridden bikes since they were kids, and will have to re-learn how to navigate on two wheels, now that they’ve outgrown their parents sidewalk. Add this to the sometimes hostile roadway environment, and it’s no wonder why new riders could benefit from guidance as they set out. And a posse.

LGS hosts two group rides: Ladies Who Ride (street cycling), and Ladies Who Shred (mountain biking). These are women-only group rides that are set up to foster camaraderie amongst the female and female-identifying cycling community.

Tori Steen is a rider with LGS. By day, she is a professional orthopedic physician’s assistant, and in the evenings and on weekends, she is a racer across disciplines who ushers new riders into the fold. (614) rode along with her and some teammates and got to the heart of why these ladies love to be on wheels.

LGS started as the brain child of a few strong female cyclists in the Columbus area.  Katie Arnold (a local professional cyclist) initially held a meeting and invited all the female cyclists we could think of to gauge interest, and damn! there was some interest. It was like creating this super team of rad-ass women, it was so much fun, we felt like a superhero squad! And once the team was created, it was one of those “if you build it, they will come” scenarios. We started getting all these new women who were interested in racing asking about our team and it’s continued to snowball from there. Watching this team grow has been one of my pride and joys in life.

My best advice [to beginners] would be to find two different group rides. One should be purely fun and social, this will foster community. The second group ride you find, you should be uncertain if you’re going to be able to hang with them. What will happen in the second group ride is that you will likely get dropped from the first ride (this is OK!), and maybe even the second or third ride too, but one day you won’t get dropped and I’m telling you, there is no drug out there that will make you feel as good as finally hanging on to that ride! You will feel like a badass.

There is a huge disparity between male and female cycling—both in numbers and in access. We’re doing everything we can to increase the participation as well as close the gap between the sexes. When a rider becomes interested in racing on our team, they are assigned a mentor. This is a current member of our cycling team who has had extensive racing experience. The mentor is not a coach, but does help a new racer navigate through the somewhat confusing beginnings of racing, whether road, cyclocross, or mountain biking. If a woman is interested in racing we can offer the tools to help women navigate through this complex sport.

I always say I’d rather have a daily bike ride than a Xanax. Cardiovascularly, it’s a great workout! You can get extremely fit cycling. I also think mentally it’s a wonderful stress reliever.

One of the best parts about cycling is the community. Many rides are very social. Some of my teammates and training partners have become lifelong friends. I have had epiphanies, tears, and laughter while riding. Riding with a community of like-minded people makes you feel like you’re home. And the Columbus cycling community in particular is a very welcoming and encouraging lot of people. You kind of feel like they’re your family.   

We have lawyers, medical professionals, directors of non-profits, actual rocket scientists, computer brainiacs, women working in publishing, graduate students getting their Master’s or PhDs all while still training and racing. Sometimes if feels like if we were motivated to take over the world, we could do it. But for now, we’ll settle for taking the racing community by storm.

Ladies Who Ride group ride meets on Saturdays in New Albany. For more, visit ladygnar.com.

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