Launched in 2001, Team LUNA Chix is the brainchild of Gary Erickson, co-owner of Clif Bar and Company. While in vacation in Greece in 2001, Gary watched his daughter Lydia playing in the surf and wondered what the future would hold for her as a female athlete.
He envisioned a professional women’s mountain bike team with the same resources as a men’s team. After exploring this idea with his wife (and co-owner) Kit, Gary decided to create the LUNA Chix Pro team— the beginning of a heartfelt commitment to women in sports, and a natural fit with the CLIF Bar/LUNA philosophy.
The LUNA Chix Pro Team, which now has 11 of the top professional athletes in the US, grew to include other sports (road cycling, running and triathlons). But why not, Gary asked, encourage all women to get involved in sports, and stay active and healthy? That’s why LUNA Chix Local Teams was launched in 2002.
There are now 27 LUNA Chix Local Teams in the US. The teams include women of all ages and fitness levels, from beginners to more advanced competitive athletes. The women train together, support each other, and fundraise for LUNA’s non-profit partner, the Breast Cancer Fund.
This month we talked with Sara Rigel, one of the co-leaders of Seattle’s LUNA Chix cycling team, to get an inside look at LUNA Chix.
Why is it important to have women’s only cycling clubs?
Sara: Women-only cycling groups are a great way to get women together in a nurturing and non-competitive environment. Women’s groups can be encouraging and accepting of all levels and abilities and are an excellent way to make new friends. What better way is there to socialize, have a good time, get a good workout, enjoy time outdoors, explore your surroundings, learn something new and do something good for your body and soul?
What age groups and fitness levels does Seattle’s LUNA Chix team support?
Sara: Team LUNA Chix supports women of all ages and cycling abilities. Anyone under 18 can participate with the consent of a parent, while other regular riders range from age 20-60+. Many of our participants are beginner to intermediate riders, but we adjust all workouts to all levels and have options for everyone who shows up.
When was Seattle’s team formed?
Sara: The Seattle cycling team begin midway through the 2007 season. We’re now into our third full season. Team LUNA Chix Ambassador programs started around the country in 2002.
Do you have separate rides for cyclists depending upon their ability? What’s the length/speed of a typical ride?
Sara: Seattle LUNA Chix Cycling team hosts weekly group rides, mostly on Wednesday nights. One of the Seattle LUNA Chix is the designated ride leader each night and is responsible for setting the route and generally organizing the evening. We always have at least 4 Chix in attendance so that we can split up into groups according to ability and speed and always have a leader and a sweep. We have a no-drop rule on our rides, so we periodically re-group to ensure that everyone sticks together on the route.
We’re also fortunate in the Seattle area to have access to great paved bike trails. We always have a route option for women who want to stay on the trail, one available on the roads to practice navigating in traffic and hill climbing skills. We often help women transition from riding the trails to getting out on the road, by learning hand signals and safe group riding skills.
Weekday rides are most often 1½- 2 hours in length and distance can vary depending on the group.
We also coordinate and host a variety of clinics. This year, for example, we have already had a successful Flat Tire Clinic, where women were able to bring their wheel and have hands on demonstration and practice changing a flat. We even had a flat-tire challenge, where the fastest change was rewarded with some great prizes. Throughout the season, we will have skill-based clinics (climbing, cornering, descending & breaking, for example) as well as basic maintenance and a hands-on clinic on bike washing!
See www.teamlunachix.com/seattle_cycle for a complete list of rides and events.
How many women are in the Seattle club?
Sara: Like most Team LUNA Chix teams, our group is 10 women of various ages and diverse backgrounds. The ten of us are responsible for organizing and hosting group rides, events, and clinics that are open to a limitless number of women. A typical weekday ride draws 15-25 women from our community.
Do you mainly do road cycling, or do you include mountain biking and triathlons?
Sara: Our team activities are focused on road cycling. Team LUNA Chix also has a Seattle Triathlon team and many of our members enjoy fun events and competition in several sports including mountain bike, running, triathlon, and xterra.
Do you hold cycling events/races? How frequently? How many women attend them?
Sara: As a local team, we do not host any official races. We often go out to community events early in the season to help spread the word to women about our program. This includes events like the Seattle Bike Expo and women’s nights at local bike shops.
There is a Women’s Only ride in our area called Cycle the Wave. This is a fun fundraising ride for a local domestic violence agency. Our team rides annually at this event and has a booth at the start/finish line. We also help women throughout the year to get ready to ride this event — Cycle the Wave offers 25, 40, and 62 mile route options.
We also raise money for our charity, the Breast Cancer Fund.
Who organizes and runs the Seattle LUNA Chix team? What role does LUNA play in the running of the club?
Sara: The LUNA Chix local teams are organized and run by the team leaders (or co-leaders in our case) and the group of 10 team members. Because we are part of a national network of 29 teams, we have a lot of support from our peers around the country as well as the LUNA staff at Clif Bar & Co. in California. We have an online forum where we share information, ideas about rides and clinics. The employees at Clif give us a lot of organizational support and of course, plenty of LUNA bars to share with our participants. We are also lucky to have partners who support Team LUNA Chix who can provide us with product and prizes for our events and clinics.
How is the team financed?
Sara: Clif Bar & Co. provides each local team with a small stipend to help promote the club and organize events. We always look for donations from local businesses and in-kind support. Local bike shops, for example, have hosted our clinics and donate their time and space for an evening.
Do you have events with other LUNA local teams from around the country?
Sara: Since we are lucky to have both a cycling and triathlon team in Seattle, we can share and cross-promote our events between the two teams. We also partner up at the end of the season for our annual silent auction fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Fund.
Clif Bar & Co. hosts all the LUNA Chix from around the country for our annual Summit in Mill Valley each April. This is the chance for all the Chix to come together, learn more about the programs and partners.
How have you benefited from being a co-leader of Seattle’s LUNA Chix team?
Sara: I have benefited in so many ways—most notably, from the network of women I’ve met. Being a LUNA Chix has become a big part of my life. I think this comment from one of our team members, Cindy Weisz, best says what we are all about.
“The TLC (Team LUNA Chix) moment that empowered me was during the LiveStrong Seattle ride. I was just about 3 months out of breast cancer treatment, and as I struggled up one of the Seattle Hills, Sara Rigel from the Seattle cycling team came cruising up behind me cheering me on! That truly gave me the boost I needed to have someone recognize me out there, and brought a huge smile and a much needed push up the hill. This was super memorable to me, and I’m not sure Sara knows how much it meant to me.”
For more information please visit the Team LUNA Chix website.