In the beginning of 2009, I was working at my dream job at a residential interior design firm in San Francisco. I had just run my first half marathon in a pretty decent time and was preparing to train for the San Francisco Marathon. A few days after that finish, I couldn’t even run a block. Even worse, sitting was nearly impossible without excruciating pain, which made workdays very trying. I would go from physical therapy to work in tears. A disc injury was the culprit, and I was advised not to run anymore. Begrudgingly, I started swimming again and even more begrudgingly took up spinning--UGH.
Quite soon after that, San Francisco was feeling the effects of the recession, and new clients suddenly stopped coming in. I was laid off. Then, my dog suddenly died. He was my buddy, my weekend adventurer, and he was only 4. And then I had to give up gluten, which meant no more après-ski beers, and no more bagels and pizza; less tragic than the aforementioned events but still a tragedy for a Jersey-born girl!
I felt like I was losing everything that I loved. I had no choice but to find new passions, rebuild my life, and get the train back on track, but a new track. I got a new dog, and I started a new business planning and designing events. I took on interior design projects. Things were looking up, but I was itching to get outdoors. However, I was conflicted. The presence of road biking in the city was huge, and it was alienating. Guys in their electric blue, green, yellow, fuschia, logo-d out “kits” made me feel like it was not the sport for me. The few women I saw on the road sported hideous versions of pink-flowered, ill-fitting spandex.
But at the urging one of one non-pink-and-flowers girlfriend who rode, I went shopping for a bike, which was my first awkward experience with the cycling industry. Shop after shop was manned (no pun intended) by some hipster know-it-all who was all too happy to spout off a bunch of technical information and try to up sell me for reasons I did not understand, because my last bike was a purple 10 speed, circa 1987. When did riding a bike get so serious, so technical and so expensive? At one particular neighborhood bike shop, the sales guy sent me out on a test ride but he had the saddle set a bit high. So when I coasted to a stop, my foot was so far off the ground that I fell over and took the $3,000 bike with me. Condescending folks later told me that $3,000 was not a lot to pay for a bike…whaaaat??
Eventually I encountered a female sales associate, took the plunge, and bought a bike, clipless pedals and all. She warned me that I would have one “OH SH*T” moment where I would be unable to clip out fast enough and I would fall over. Just one, she promised. I did have my very public, very real “OH SH*T” fall right on the busy San Francisco Marina. I promptly scooped my body and my pride off the sidewalk, found some coordination and some confidence and I was off. I loved the freedom, the climbing, the descending, and the fact that a bike could take me for a 50+ mile journey on a Saturday. Within 5 months, I had ridden through Patagonia, completed numerous century rides, climbed tens of thousands of feet, and I was hooked.
Meanwhile, I was constantly searching for decent women's cycling clothes, not great women's cycling clothes, because there was no such thing. I sought out the best of the worst, meaning the plainest jerseys and shorts I could find among the flowery, fuchsia mess that saturates the marketplace. I was so disappointed. I just wanted to not be embarrassed to be seen by someone I knew. Was that too much to ask for?!
Out of frustration, I started casually talking about the idea of creating my own line of women’s cycling apparel. To my surprise, so many people knew someone who knew someone who had started a clothing line without any prior experience in the industry. The common thread among these women was that they started a business because the marketplace did not offer what they wanted. These women were solving problems and they were motivated by their passions. I had a chat with Jen Hinton of Carve Designs, who so generously gave me enough information to be dangerous. Funny enough, she also started out as an interior designer. A google search for led me to my first textile vendor. A craigslist ad led me to my patternmaker. Slowly but surely, I was making progress.
One vendor gave me “the talk”: a cautionary tale of a now-defunct label’s demise. He told me that a particular women’s brand failed because women need to see a garment in 8 color ways, and that company could not keep up with the cost of producing so many color ways. I wholeheartedly disagreed (while feigning agreement, of course). Said company made ugly garments in 8 color ways, and had a horrible name. That is why they did not sell. I believe that women want to see something well made, technically sound, and beautifully styled in a few on-trend color ways.
So that covers the "how". Back to the "why". Lexi Miller has deeper meaning, beyond spandex and beyond cycling. I’m not sure if I ever would have gotten into road biking had my life not been derailed, but I do believe in silver linings, and making lemonade when life gives you lemons. Those beliefs in transformation, potential and resilience reside in the depths of Lexi Miller. I want other women to fall in love with road biking like I did, and feel like they have a place in the sport, even if they don’t race or belong to a team or a club. I want other women to realize their potential, to discover a new passion, and to get outdoors. I want them to feel like themselves, not a watered down version of men, not like 12 year old girls, but like the smart, sophisticated, multi-faceted badass, beautiful women that they are.