Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | April 30, 2011

Reflections on Being A Biker Chick

I arrived at biking camp largely unprepared and not knowing what to expect. I had second thoughts from the moment I got on the plane. It was a lot of money to spend on a sport I’m not very good at. It was complicated planning a week away from home. I knew a couple of people, but for the most part I’d be spending this carved-out time away from my family with complete strangers, and I don’t like complete strangers. I wondered if for that amount of stress and cash I should have gone to a spa instead of a biking camp. But you know what? In the end, it was worth it. All of it.

Fortunately, once I arrived, the Vision Quest coaches made everything easy. They were always congenial and helpful. I have to confess that I was a little intimidated riding with Robbie Ventura the first day. Actually, I was freaking out. But Robbie was a great: not bossy (ok, maybe a little bossy, but hey, that’s what coaches do, right?), very constructive, totally approachable, and he passed the most important test of all: he was funny. Not nearly as funny as Dave Noda, mind you, but he could engage in some witty banter, a very important criteria in my book. And all the other coaches followed the same model. Marty was a riot, Gardie was chipper and positive, Dan seemed like a long lost brother, and Tobias? Well, Tobias was my favorite, because he advocated for longer breaks for us ladies, noting that it takes us longer to use the restrooms. A true gentleman.

The problem with the coaches, of course, is that they were with a group of 24 women. They could barely get a word in edgewise. Yes, we were the ones who were supposed to be listening to them, but you can’t expect to get two dozen women together and not have a lot of chatting. It’s a gender truism: the ladies like to socialize.

Alas, we didn’t have a lot of downtime at camp. I’d brought along two books, expecting to have some hours relaxing by the pool. I barely made it through two chapters. Most days, by the time we got back from riding, it was already approaching mid-afternoon. We’d walk in to find a healthy and delicious lunch buffet spread out for us. We’d promptly sit down and inhale food for our starving bodies. Right after, we had quick “express massages” in the next room. Then we’d try to spend a few minutes in the NomaTec inflatable compression boots, which seemed to work quite well, even if they looked a little strange. Throw in a quick shower and some stretching, and before you know it, it was time to for dinner.

Fortunately, we were able to get in touch with our social side after dinner every night. The first night we played Pictionary, which I’m usually quite bad at, but somehow I managed to do alright when teammate Melissa G was drawing. Either great minds think alike, or we just happened to have seen all the same movies.

The second night, we were lucky enough to have pro triathlete Kate Major pay us a visit. She told us, in her very sweet Australian accent, about her journey to becoming a pro. She was cheerful and charming and what’s more, it turns out Kate is good buddies with my pal Coach Nina! Kate decided to stick around and ride with us the next day, and I had the good fortune to be ride with her for a while. We talked about Nina, agreeing that she is, quite simply, one of the sweetest people in the world. Kate was a sociable rider and seemed to enjoy chatting as we pedaled along, until, that is, we hit the climb and she effortlessly sailed away from me. Well, it was fun while it lasted.

The afternoons were filled with various activities, which I suppose could have been swapped for an hour by the pool, but I simply didn’t want to miss anything. One day we did a late-afternoon screening of Race Across the Sky 2010 (featuring none other than my favorite pro-cyclist, Montanan Levi Leipheimer!). The next afternoon we did some wine tasting at the nearby Kendall Jackson winery, trying not to nod off between sips. After dinner, we had more team games (who knew that the hula hoop would be coming back in style?) and enough chatting to tide us over until the next day.

By the end of the week, we had bonded into a fairly close knit group. Once we were back at the hotel, the distinctions of fast rider or slow rider, advanced rider or beginner, fell away. We were just a bunch of women on vacation, away from our day-to-day responsibilities. We chatted, we laughed, we joked around and we empathized with each other. For a week we weren’t moms, teachers, doctors, managers, consultants, pilots, or anything else. We were just a bunch of gals who like to ride bikes.


  1. While I have never been away from my family for extreme biking, I did fly across the country for a great conference years ago. I knew no one, but ran into someone I knew and became acquainted with someone in my department whose name I only knew. It was a great experience. I’m not sure I’d be able to pull that off today, but I am inspired by your quest for a challenge and making sure that all was ready to go on without you back home in your absence. This is a true example of living your life outside the comfort zone. Congratulations on your accomplishments in California!

    • Thank you! It was worth jumping through all those hoops to get the time away. Although a trip to a spa would have been nice too!

  2. Love all your posts about biking camp Sue! It sounds like it was an awesome and rewarding time! Love your comment about girl talk. We talk too much? Who knew. Lol. Good thing I wasn’t there, I’m known to keep people for lunch for 3hrs…haha. We may have never left the hotel.

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