I’ve been to a few press camps and bike/product launches over the last few years, and they’re all usually pretty amazing. You get to go to some exotic (for the most part) bike destination, get put up in a nice (usually) hotel, get fed local food and the beer & wine usually flows freely – and don’t forget the cool bike swag (we’re all still the same kids at heart asking for stickers but only in grown up bodies). The one constant has been the fact that I’d usually be the only woman attending these launches – for the most part. So, yes, they are great, but it’s also not that easy to always be the odd one out. This was just how it was, a very male dominant industry and if you wanted to be a part of it that was or is the norm.
It was time for my yearly nomadic stint to Europe for racing, riding, adventuring & promoting Juliana Bicycles and my first stop on this 6 month stint away from home was the beloved village of Roubion. A tiny French 12th-century village perched atop rocky outcrops, tucked away deep in the heart of the Alpes –Maritimes in Southeastern France. This area has a very special place in my heart. It is the main character of so many great memories shared with so many great friends and of course mind-blowing mountain bike tracks that just keep going from one mountain top to the next, meandering through old villages. These trails feel like home away from home.
So let me give you some background details as to the reason I was heading back there this time around. I fell in love with this area during the first Trans Provence race that I did back in 2011, and have raced it every year since then. I loved it so much that I also started guiding a few of the Trans Provence trips when it didn’t conflict with any other races or events and every time I return to this area, I just fall back in love with it, so it was a no brainer for me to head to these mountains to test my very first Juliana Bicycle when the Juliana Bicycles brand was launched at the beginning of 2013. I was given a Santa Cruz Bronson (or as I called it my small Johnson, or Bruliana) painted up as a Juliana to race, ride, adventure and put the feelers out there throughout the 2013 season and I chose my first guided trip of the season to put this bike to the test. After a week of schralping up and over the French mountains, I was convinced that this bike was the shizzle. It was amazing. It climbed with ease, descended like a mini downhill bike, handled well, just an all round perfect trail bike and I have never felt so good on a bike, ever and I knew that this bike had to be included in the line-up for other women to ride. Later that year I managed to take the Trans Provence win on this bike – one of the highlights in my cycling career, as that race to me is what mountain biking is all about. It’s long, hard, raw, blind; technical and you have to navigate your way down the mountain to try not to get too lost. It’s a proper adventure.
Fast-forward a year and a bit and I was heading back to my beloved village of Roubion, but this time for the launch of the actual Roubion bike that was now included in the Juliana Bicycles line-up. YES! The name Roubion, named after one of my favourite days during the stage race. Pretty exciting stuff if you ask me. I was heading out to the backcountry of France to shred some of my favourite trails on a bike launch with 10 other likeminded women. A first ever in such a male dominated bike industry, and I was feeling very excited and extremely proud.
We all met up in St Martin de Vesubie, where we got to know each other, catch up with old friends and share our common passion of riding bikes and exploring new destinations and trails. We had such a great gathering of women from the bike industry, all of us having worked hard to find our place in this industry and sticking to it. We had Nicole Formosa from Bike Magazine, Aoife Glass from Total Women’s Cycling, Janet Coulson from MBR, Faye Sanders from Bike Radar & Red Bull Bike, Berne Broudy, Sofie Schneider from Velo Tout Terrain, Carla Caballero, Mary Moncorge from Pinkbike and then Kathy Pruitt (Juliana’s demo bike queen), to help get all the women set up on their bikes properly, Katie Zaffke – the Juliana brand manager, Julia Hobson our guide and fellow Juliana ambassador, myself, Ash Smith – the main man behind Trans Provence and Sven Martin & Gary Perkin behind the lens capturing all the shenanigans. Our plan was to ride parts of the Trans Provence race starting where we would usually start day 3 of the race, and make our way to Roubion, and then ride in and around that area, finishing off at the bike park that they opened up just for us (cheers Ash!). It was lovely to get a little tour of the village, to learn about some of the history and to be welcomed by the Mayor, who was pretty stoked to see that some bike company in the US named their bike after their little village. We rode and rode some more, challenged ourselves, taught, helped, guided, informed, laughed, charaded (not an actual word, I know), crashed (that would be me) and ate and drank our way throughout the 3 day camp. Of course it wouldn’t be a proper Trans Provence experience without some torrential downpours, some hail and a landslide blocking off the pass. Building bonds, forming new friendships, riding bikes, sharing experiences and clogging our arteries with copious amounts of cheese. This is what biking is all about.
Everyone was super excited about this launch, as this was a first for all of us and a great indication of the commitment and direction of companies and where they were heading. They have invested and committed to a woman’s line of bikes and they were doing it properly. They were helping us to create our own separate identity and supporting us. It’s been a long time coming, but man, to see it actually come to life is a good sign of great things to come. Women have been waiting for this for a very long time indeed.
The Roubion will officially be released on June 1 – so stay tuned for more details about the bike and how and what it will be specced with and when you can expect them to start shipping to your house. Ladies, I suggest you sell that current bike of yours and make room for this beauty in your bedroom. She’s a keeper for sure.
Thank you to everyone who made this happen and for those helping to promote, grow and support the women out there who ride, live & breathe bikes. Time to heal up for a few weeks for me know, so I can get back out there on my bike.
Check out some other written pieces about the Roubion launch with lots more to come: