BFF Bikes Racing is Women's Club of the Year!
By: Annie Byrne
2015 ended on a high note when we got word that USA Cycling named the BFF Bikes Racing Team the Women’s Club of the Year. We were all so stoked and proud to receive this honor. The team is barely two years old and it’s been incredible to watch it take shape and turn into something bigger than we could have hoped for. This award inspired me to look back and reflect on how the team got started and the direction we’re headed. And it makes a great blog post for our brand spankin’ new website!
So how did the team get started? When Vanessa and I were in the planning phases of opening the shop, we knew we wanted to have a racing team but thought we might wait a year so we could first just focus on the shop. But after a little thought we figured we may as well do it from the get go -- we can start out small and just let it grow naturally. We thought if we could get 10 women to join, that would be awesome.
We reached out to a handful of people to see if they would be interested in joining our new team. We described it as an open women's team where we support and encourage one another to become better racers, work together, and help attract more women to the sport. We had about eight women plus myself and Vanessa who were on board. We had our first meeting at my apartment on a cold Saturday and over grilled cheese and tomato soup we talked about our vision for the team. The enthusiasm and excitement from the women about being part of something new and full of potential made it clear this was the right call.
We didn’t have a lot of structure or team rules but were guided by our goal to make it really easy for someone to join the team-- logic being, we need as few barriers as possible to get women racing. The variety of Chicago’s racing teams is great, but can also feel daunting and intimidating. “How does one get on a team?” is a common question. Feeling part of the community and being part of a team is a big component of bike racing and we wanted women who wanted to start racing to feel like they had a “home.” So we told prospective members that a main goal of the team is to help attract more women to racing and we do that by being ambassadors of the sport, showing up to races, and encouraging our teammates. If a woman liked the sound of that and agreed to contribute to our mission, she became a BFF.
It didn’t take long for word to spread and it seemed like we were adding a new person every other week. Vanessa and I would talk about racing and the team with our customers, our teammates would talk to their friends, co-workers, and other women at races, and our Sunday training rides attracted a lot of our current teammates. It seemed like all these women racers were coming out of the woodwork and it was AWESOME. By the middle of summer 2014, less than six months after opening the shop, we had over 20 incredible teammates.
One of the many things I love most about my teammates is their openness and excitement to try EVERYTHING. They do late night gravel road races, 24-hour mountain bike races, travel to far away races, race in fixed gear crits, and do ALL the traditional forms of racing. BFFs are everywhere and everywhere they go they would talk about racing to just about any woman they encounter. I regularly have women stop in the shop tell me they talked to one of my teammates about bikes and/or racing and want to learn more. It’s the best.
Now at the start of our third year and with more than 30 members, our team continues to evolve and I couldn’t be any more excited about the direction it’s going. We have learned a lot in our first couple of years, are a stronger more cohesive team than ever, and are ready to take it to the next level.
It’s really hard to end this… the only thing I want to say is HOLY CRAP I LOVE THIS.