#200women200miles: Andrea Cohen

#200women200miles: Andrea Cohen

Andrea works at World of Bikes, leads their Bike Academy, is a Salsa sponsored athlete and is a 3x finisher of the Dirty Kanza 200!

Tell us about your biking: Riding for me is freedom. When I am riding I can be myself. I ride nearly every day. I have always been a person who needed activity in their life. The bicycles started out of necessity. Sometime during college (which seems like lightyears ago) my car died, but I had a bicycle! Which I never rode. I started commuting, then riding with a triathlon team, then venturing off the paved roads to the gravels. I can’t say that I did this all by myself. Also it took years. Figuring out how to ride in the winter! Who does that? My best friend, Audrey, lured me out in 10 degree weather and gravel roads She led me to farms. She pushed me down b-roads. She reintroduced me to Iowa and to myself. Beyond that there is a very caring and supportive community of cyclists in Iowa City, who have become family. Whether I am commuting to work or heading out for an 100 mile ride I know that I have people who are there for me and understand why I am out there.

Tell us about your bike: Which one (teehee)? My Salsa Warbird. This bicycle is the fourth gravel bike I have had the chance to ride and it’s the best for the gravel. I started with the all too aggressive cyclo-cross bike. Some with only one bottle cage mount, others with geometries I had to argue with for hundreds of miles. The Warbird is my glass slipper. Being comfortable and having the confidence while riding tricky roads is essential. This helps me stay calm and collected during long rides. I have ridden lots of different types of bikes for similar rides and I know what I don’t like. It took time to figure out what works best for me, and the Warbird encompasses that. Through many bike fits, trials, and errors I have found what I will stick with on the gravels!

Where do you like to ride? I love riding all around Iowa. Really! I love being out in the middle of nowhere. I like riding to destinations. That can be as simple as a road with a funny name. One of my favorite things when getting into this kind of riding was writing down my directions. Just a tiny scrap of paper, written in pen, covered in packaging tape. I would use maps online, but I also bought a handful of paper county maps. Something like .76 cents for a giant laminated map. I can see all of the roads, they are labeled so I can find all of the b-roads ;). These directions are cue sheets. They are one of the keys in learning how to not get lost. I still like to get lost around Iowa City though. It’s really great practice for not freaking out. Getting lost during a training ride is important so if I get lost during a race I know how to stay calm and get out of the situation.

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What barriers did you face when getting into cycling? I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know which bike shop in town to go to. Finding women was hard. I am lucky to live in active town. We have groups for just about any kind of cyclists. But that doesn’t mean I just showed up and was ready to go. I had to convince myself to show up. Then I wondered if I had the right stuff, which I didn’t. How many miles have you ridden in just liner shorts and didn’t know they were liners. Probably less than me. I don’t even want to guess how many miles I rode without a way to fix a flat. Money was the other barrier. I have had four gravel bikes, but the first was a $400 craigslist find. I rode my first TransIowa on that bike! Everyone’s barriers to cycling will be different. I was also excited and naive about bikes. I honestly didn’t see a lot of my barriers. Working in the shop gives me a chance to talk to women and understand their own barriers. Everyone is different. Just by being in the shop I give women the chance to open up about issues she may never think is a topic to be worried about. I still face barriers. Just recently I have been struggling with frustrations at my own shop. My slow realization has been one of the hardest parts.

How did you overcome them? Conversations! Talking! People! The last issue I mentioned, my new barrier. I talked to my co-workers about them. I started the conversation, it was emotional and trying. But I felt so much better afterwards. One barrier, overcame! Before the shop I volunteered at my local bike library, not doing anything with bikes, instead baking for monthly commuter breakfasts. I was on the triathlon team, which lead me to the Iowa City’s Women’s Cycling team because our spin instructor was one of those ladies. She basically told me to come to one of their beginner road races. That is the only road race I have done and I am pretty sure you aren’t supposed to stop for a beer halfway through. I went on my first couple of group rides and got dropped. The more I rode, the more I needed to learn, so the more I went to those people for advice. There was no way I could climb over some barriers myself, being humble and taking a second to listen go a very long way.

What advice would you have for other women facing the same obstacles? Stand up for yourself. If you need something whether it be knowledge, a piece of gear, or even an opinion you should be able to find an answer. In every community there are people you will get along with and some you don’t. If you have decided riding bikes is going to be a part of your life you will find those people. They all started in the same place you are in right now. They have embarrassing stories and probably screwed up more stuff than you will. Being persistent and patient will pay off.

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