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Guest Contributor ALIX NORRIS

Women’s Training Trip to Ojai, California

When my friends at bikekitz asked for a short blurb about my recent bike trip to Ojai, California, it was hard to put the magic of this place into words.

The backstory: Riders in my local area of the Upper Valley VT/NH may remember a pistol of a rider named Kris Caudle, who lived in the area up until a few years ago and whose legacy will forever grace our Strava leaderboards. Kris has since joined up with a great team, supported by the BFF Bike Shop, a women’s-focused bike shop in Chicago.

It was a joyous winter day when Kris forwarded some information about a women-only bike training camp open to riders of various abilities, organized by BFF Bikes in Ojai, California, at the end of February—right about the time of year when all I can do is think about warm sunshine on my face. Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity.

If you haven’t heard of Ojai before, it’s often described as “a crunchy (as in granola-friendly), mountain town” nestled in a mountain valley about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles. Surrounded by awe-inspiring peaks to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Ojai turned out to be an ideal cycling destination. The rides included a bit of everything: long, gradual canyon climbs (still marred by recent fires!), bike routes along the ocean, climbs to serene mountain lakes, and fast, flat stretches great for pace lining exercises in a group.

Bike route along the Pacific

Bike route along the Pacific

Our recovery-day ride was a 30-mile spin on a well-maintained bike path down into the beach town of Ventura. We stopped to refresh ourselves with coffee and fresh ham and brie baguettes.

 
Hot cortado and baguette with ham and brie.

Hot cortado and baguette with ham and brie.

 

We even fit in a ride up the epic Gibraltar mountain road (5,000+ feet of climbing in 16 miles), famous for its frequent inclusion in the Amgen Tour of California.

The epic Gibraltar Road climb to La Cumbre Peak

The epic Gibraltar Road climb to La Cumbre Peak

If you make it out there, be sure to also throw in a visit to the Topa Mountain Winery and Ecotopia (hot springs)—you won’t regret it!

Aside from the great location, the other notable part about this trip for me was in realizing the amazing sense of connection that comes from exploring and rooming with the same riding partners all week. I’ve never had a situation before in which my only goal for that day is to get up, eat, ride, eat more, stretch, (probably eat again), and prepare for the next day, all while getting to know a really great group of women and reflecting upon their life experiences and stories. It was a clarifying, invigorating experience.

 
California views

California views

 

As the days carried forward, the group coalesced well. The ride leaders did a great job of planning the route so that, although differently paced groups naturally formed, everyone would regroup mid-way for a picnic lunch or coffee stop, during which we commiserated and congratulated each other on shared accomplishments. It was fun to see how the group enthusiastically supported each woman to achieve her goal for the day, whether it was a target heart rate or simply to finish all of the miles planned.

This comraderie carried forward into the evenings, where dinner-side chats often (and humorously) gravitated towards lighthearted banter about power braids, kids, and the best women’s chamois.

The group, which started as a diverse bunch of individuals from various walks of life, soon became a collection of something more akin to long-distance friends. This transformation surprised me, in that I wasn’t anticipating forming such strong and lasting bonds with what was, essentially at the start, a group of strangers from other parts of the country.

 
The magic of women’s groups: strangers at the start, friends by the end.

The magic of women’s groups: strangers at the start, friends by the end.

 

I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity and would encourage anyone who is on the fence about such a weekend or trip to go for it!  If you’re still uncertain, let’s chat about it on our next group ride… except if we’re on a hill. It’s still only March, after all. 

 

CORRECTION: March 18, 2019. Edited to make clear the training ride is organized by BFF Bikes and open to the public. —JD


 
Alix Norris

Alix Norris