Michelle LivI’ve been a roadie for almost 12 years, a mountain biker for about 4 or 5, managed a bike shop for 11, and married to the shop owner for 9. Wow, it’s crazy to think that much time has gone by. It seems like yesterday, yet I don’t remember life being any other way. I simply can’t imagine my life without bikes in it. Being on a bike, around bikes, and surrounded by people who love bikes just as much is just my daily life.

In late 2014, our Giant/Liv representative approached me about being a Liv Cycling Ambassador. I had already been involved in the women’s cycling community in our area for years and I thought it would be good for business, so why not. Like most decisions, I look at what it can do for our business and/or the cycling community around me. I’ve honestly never thought about what it could do for me.

In February of 2015, I was preparing to leave for my first Liv Cycling Ambassador Camp in Arizona. I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited and I was quite nervous, anxious, to be more exact. I wouldn’t know anyone else attending camp, I had never ridden my mountain bike anywhere other than Tennessee, and had never traveled anywhere alone, unless you count driving to see my family a few hours up the road. The fear of making a fool of myself was quite real. Oh, and have I mentioned how overwhelmed I get in situations where I’m surrounded by a lot of people and commotion? Yes, there’s that little gem to deal with too.

The women I met were simply amazing, they were very friendly, supportive, and certainly fun. I’m not going to lie though; I ended day 2 crying in my tent. I was begging my husband via phone to find me a way to get to the airport. I didn’t belong there, I didn’t fit in, and “this” wasn’t for me. Now, before you think I’m exaggerating, let me assure you, I’m not in the least. I was quite pitiful.

Why did I feel like this? Confidence. I had none.

I know that surprises many people when they hear that, they’ve told me so. Apparently, I’m skilled at putting on a brave front, while my insides are in complete panic mode.

To my husbands’ credit, he knew better. He knew I would be fine, he knew I fit in and best of all, he knew I belonged there. He did not find me a way home; he made me stay for the entire trip. I am so thankful he did! I had an epic mtb ride in McDowell State Park the next morning and made 50+ new friends during those 4 days. Some of us close, some of us distant, but friends nonetheless. We email, Facebook message and look for opportunity’s to see each other all year.

I’m now in my third year of being a Liv Cycling Ambassador and I was correct, it has been good for our business and equally as good for the women’s cycling community in our area. It also brought me an unexpected and unbelievable opportunity for growth within myself. Since that fist trip I have attended 2 more Liv Cycling Ambassador Camps, a ladies only mtb clinic and a ladies only mtb retreat, with a couple of smaller trips tossed in the mix. While I’ve been fortunate to have friends go with me on a couple of trips, to be honest, I would have gone alone and had just as much fun. I would have showed up with my bike in hand, a smile on my face and said “Who’s ready ride?”

What’s the difference? Confidence. I have some.

The Ambassador program allowed me the opportunity to challenge and push myself in a community of women where I felt safe from judgment and ridicule. I’ve met women from all over the United States. I’ve met women that are professional cyclist, road, downhill, enduro, triathletes, etc. I’ve met women that are experts and women that are beginners of every level. We’ve shared similar stories of bad days on the trail, where you just wanted to walk out in tears or crashed on the easiest spot on the trail. We’ve all bonked on a ride and limped back home, we’ve all got in over our heads on a ride, and been lost on a road somewhere at some point. We all survived to see the end of the ride and came out stronger and more confident because of it. It turns out that I’m not so different than the pros, the experts, or the beginners. We’ve all been on the same journey, just at different times, paces, and locations.

My wish for every female in the cycling community is to have that same opportunity. As one friend told me, “embrace the suck”. Show up, embrace the suck, and know that is part of the journey we all have to go on to get to the other side. It’s ok to cry on the trail or the road, to crash and get back up. Dust yourself off and try it again. Recognize when the lady beside you is going through the same struggle and let her know it’s ok, embrace it, and grow because of it. Pack your bike and go ride with new women. You’ll smile until your cheeks hurt. You’ll learn that campfires, dusty trails, and no showers can give you the trip of a lifetime, as well as an empty seat beside you on the plane ride home.

I can say without a doubt that I am not the same person that applied to be an Ambassador in 2015 and I wouldn’t change one single pedal stroke.

Pedal on.
Michelle