On Saturday, August 29, I joined more than 1,800 other women and a few men dressed in drag to ride Venus de Miles through Longmont and Niwot. We were launched to pumping music, treated to a scenic route and surrounded by camaraderie. The three-year-old event, which was Colorado's first, women-only ride, tripled its inaugural turnout. It wasn't hard to see why.
The Venus de Miles ride raises money for Boulder-based Greenhouse Scholars. As it was explained to us before we hit the roads, only about 11 percent of disadvantaged college entrants graduate. Our society places a great deal of emphasis on graduating students from high school and getting them into college, but then most of them are left to their own devices. Greenhouse Scholars nurtures Colorado residents throughout their higher education years, helping them get scholarships, internships and jobs with the hope they will become community leaders rather than college dropouts.
Coming from Texas, I have participated in many organized rides, large and small. Needless to say, those events didn't feature organic foods, coconut water, compost bins and banjo-playing bands at rest stops. Don't get me wrong - I love a good peanut butter sandwich when riding, but the granola with yogurt and chocolate soy milk were unique twists. The post-ride German sausage I have come to love was replaced by grilled chicken, mixed-greens salad and honey-wheat roll, leaving me feeling like I didn't destroy my workout with lunch.
I was also impressed by the turnout due to the steep entrance fee of $79-$115, depending on what date a person registered to ride. Even though the money went toward a great cause (the ride expected to raise $100,000 for Greenhouse Scholars), these are tough economic times. Trying to budget several hundred dollars per season for rides and races can quickly become a challenge. Despite the high entrance fee, there was no shortage of young and old, experienced and beginner, wings and feather boas and colorful striped socks.
The Venus de Miles ride also claims to be one of the greenest in the country, featuring carbon-emissions offsets, locally-sourced food, swag bags made of recycled materials and bamboo bike racks. Admittedly, I'm not thinking of those things when I'm hungry, sweaty and hankering for a generic Oreo cookie (you see a lot of those at Texas rides). But in retrospect, I appreciated the effort. A green cycling event makes sense for two reasons: Not only is cycling a green activity, but many of us riders drove a long way to get there, having cancelled out a lot of the "greenness" of the ride.
This ride is not to be missed next year. It was an event nonpareil, at least in my experience, with volunteers cheering you on at every turn, Hula Hoops and water guns at rest stops, heart-pumping music at the finish line and a genuine air of having a good time. With three distances ranging from 33 to 67 miles, you can either have a casual cruise through the countryside or test your climbing legs in the foothills. But take a friend. Riding alone in a cycling event - more so in a women's one, which is extraordinarily social by nature - can be a lonely trek, especially when there's no one to stand in line with you while you wait for your free massage.
Learn more about Greenhouse Scholars:
Learn more about the Boulder-based Venus de Miles women's bike club that was born out of the 2008 ride event:
Katherine is a new writer at 303, new to Colorado and just landed a new gig at IMBA. She writes as a new cyclist in our community with the insight of topics that we sometimes take for granted having been in the community for so long.