Even Skunks Go to School

Last April, the Skunks traveled to Brown County, Indiana for another fun filled Skunk Training Camp. We are not unique in that we are pulled many different directions for our careers, friends, families and just life in general so it is amazing we all could carve out this time to focus on mountain biking. With the weather looking decent (some early bouts of rain but warmer than we have been used to), we were optimistic about some great but challenging rides.

The Trip Down

Those that could leave earlier on Thursday drove south. Trying to get in a shorter ride before checking into our lodging is the usual plan. This allows us to shakeout our equipment and selves for the next few days of longer riding. When you hit a certain age, you may find your memory not working so well. Since I've waited too long to write this, not much sticks out from this day except for two things:

  1. I did listen to a fascinating podcast on the way down about sunscreen and sunblock (Stuff You Should Know>>Sunburn, Suntans and Sunscreens) and
  2. The place we reserved was AWESOME! But since the focus should be on riding, I should mention our ride was about 1.5 hours, 1300 feet of climbing, heart rate between 159 and 185 bpm (thank you Strava). 

Friday

In a group camp like this, mini-groups of commonality tend to form. There is a coffee group, a fast-to-get-ready-for-a-ride-group, the wake up early group, and a bike clean up group.

The other group that formed are riding buddies. Based on how you like to attack the trails, groups logically form. The full group stuck together until we didn't. You find people you ride compatibly with...for whatever reason. My riding buddies wanted less technical rides with good flow-y trails since its early season. 1700 feet of climbing, 2.5+ of riding, max heart rate 179 bpm for me. Throughout the day, we monitored progress of the 2nd group of skunks arriving to camp and secured more wine.

Saturday

Best. Day. Yet. With lots of breakfast, coffee, etc in our systems, we arrived earlier than we wanted at the state park for our Advanced Mtn Bike Skills clinic organized by Becky with two of the most rad instructors (fyi, that's how mtn bikers talk). This was a cold day for us but it ended up being the best day of the weekend. Kate Nowlan and Tiffany "Hutch" Hutchins of DNK Presents hosted the Skunks and friends with an awesome skills clinic. I mentally had given myself an out to skip out of the clinic early to ride (yes, I realize this would have made me a jerk) but I was fearful of things I thought were out of reach for my level.

We started out going through basics and worked our way up to drops off some structures they setup. Something I thought looked very scary ended up being fun. A review of basics is always good and important but having a chance to stretch your skills was such a rewarding experience. Overall, great clinic but the best proof of this was the ride that afternoon. My little group had a blast on flow-y trails but this time around, riding SUPER FAST! In my head, I was repeating "this is so fun!" because it was. Super fun, super fast! The clinic gave us a boost of confidence to ride faster and stronger. I felt like a kid again. All of us got that boost. 1.75 hours of riding, 1400 feet of climbing, max heart rate 177 bpm.

Sunday

Some of us decided to skip the last day of riding to get home to tackle life. The rest of us enjoyed the morning trails. I was sad that the weekend was over but I was definitely feeling the effects of the 3 earlier days of mountain biking and ready to see my family again. Having a chance to get in a short ride before the drive home solidified an awesome weekend. 1.25 hours of riding, 1000 feet of climbing.

Great Skunk training camp. I am sure I am missing some key highlights but my teammates will chime in if they need to.

2018 Women's Dirt Days Series

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Entering their 9th year, The Dirt Days are a monthly series of group mountain bike rides held at local Chicago and nearby Wisconsin trails throughout the summer months. It's a perfect event for women of all skill levels to meet up, enjoy friendly, non-competitive rides and get some time on the trail, learning from one another.

Rides will alternate locations throughout the summer, and we ride rain or shine (if it rains, we will ride the multitrack). If the weather is nice, bring a lunch and we'll picnic after. 

These rides organized and led by Becky Mikrut and Jen Mosley, supported as a joint initiative between Skunkworks Racing and Half Acre Cycling.

Visit us on Facebook for individual event postings with a place to post up for ride sharing and conversation. 

Dates for 2018 are:

All rides start at 9:30 am. Please arrive early to get your bike and yourself ready to ride. 

Sponsor Spotlight!! - Payroc

Greetings from Payroc, Skunks and Skunk Fans! We have been so EXCITED to sponsor the Skunkworks ladies for their second successful season.

Here at Payroc we are passionate about helping businesses improve their electronic payment acceptance experience. Every member of the Payroc family wants what’s best for our clients, most of whom are members of the communities where we live. Payroc believes giving back to our communities and helping others pursue their own passions and dreams helps make the world a better place for everyone.

Where did Payroc begin? What are you up to now?  Way back in 2003. The original Payroc office had four people sharing two offices. We had to take turns making sales calls on our Motorola RAZR flip phones.

Since then we have grown to 50 employees with offices in two states. Payroc currently processes over $4 billion in annual credit card volume through our two organizations, Payroc and iTransact. We attribute our success and growth by centering our business on the simple concept that “people do business with people.”  In case you were wondering we all still have RAZR flip phones.

What does Payroc do? We move money. Payroc is the hand behind the scenes that moves funds from your credit card to the business where you shop’s bank account. We utilize the credit card processing networks of two large processing companies to accomplish this. This allows us flexibility and scalability when seeking a payment solution to fit a client’s needs. We can process payments of all shapes and sizes; from processing on a mobile phone to your web store we do it all.

I own a business and all you payment processors are the same! That’s not the case. Large financial institutions and CPA firms choose Payroc as their preferred Payments Partner. We have the ability to provide a solution for businesses both large and small. We align ourselves with our core values of Pricing Clarity, Exception Services, Trusted Advice, Personal Relationships, and Integrity.

I don’t like my payment processor! Please help me!! Rates, fund holds, and businesses using outdated equipment. We’ve heard it all and seen it all. WE CAN HELP YOU! Payroc will be your business’s partner and NOT just a vendor. The first step is to contact Jim Fahey. If he’s not watching the Skunks race he will respond quickly and provide you with an analysis of your current processing platform.  The best part is that if you end up deciding to go with Payroc for processing you are not only getting a leg up on your payment processing and gaining a business partner, but you will also be working with a company that believes strongly in giving back to the community through charitable support and providing sponsorship support for organizations like Skunkworks Racing.

2017 Women's Dirt Days Series

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Entering their 8th year, The Dirt Days are a monthly series of group mountain bike rides held at local Chicago and nearby Wisconsin trails throughout the summer months. It's a perfect event for women of all skill levels to meet up, enjoy friendly, non-competitive rides and get some time on the trail, learning from one another.

Rides will alternate locations throughout the summer, and we ride rain or shine (if it rains, we will ride the multitrack). If the weather is nice, bring a lunch and we'll picnic after. 

These rides organized and led by Becky Mikrut and Jen Mosley, supported as a joint initiative between Skunkworks Racing and Half Acre Cycling, and are supported by Wheel & Sprocket.

Visit us on Facebook for individual event postings with a place to post up for ride sharing and conversation. 

Dates for 2017 are:

  • April 29th (date changed due to weather) - Alpine Valley MTB Trail, Elkhorn, WI (same as the ski resort)
  • June 3rd- Palos Forest Preserve, Wolf Road Woods lot (change possible due to weather)
  • July 2nd - Southern Kettles, John Muir Trailhead  
  • August 5th - Palos Forest Preserve, Wolf Road Woods lot

All rides start at 9 am. Please arrive early to get your bike and yourself ready to ride. 

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UPB Computraining for winter!

Indoor computraining is a great way to get some fitness while it’s a little too chilly to ride outside. My personal rule is that I don’t like to ride outside if it is under 48 degrees and it’s not cross season. Others are tougher in this regard and for that, I salute you. However, I am not as disciplined as I should be to sit on my trainer by myself in my basement alone for regular workouts and very much prefer to have company. Good thing I have a solution to that: I head to Ultimate Pro Bikes.
Ultimate Pro Bikes (aka UPB) located in Countryside recently expanded their space and has started offering core classes in the evenings. Joe, owner and cyclist, has regular computraining classes Tuesday through Saturday where you can gain fitness quickly. Now is the time of year where the classes are focused on endurance building so it’s a great time to start.
Since riding your bike indoors can be a tad boring, here are some tips to make it super fantastic (or Skunk-tastic!).
1.    Nudge friends to commit to riding with you.  This helps with motivation and seeing friends always makes you feel good. Also, misery loves company. Sidebar:
     a.    We schedule special “Skunk” days for the Skunkworks team to take a class together. Half the team is in the city with the other half scattered throughout the ‘burbs.
     b.    Joe is really great about drop in classes and he works with us to find a good time for our class.
     c.    I think it makes Joe look super cool to have a badass group of women mountain bikers in his shop training.
2.    Try to have a few good playlists that will distract you.  I am pretty sensitive to music so I’ve bargained with Joe to play my lists.
3.    Invent new games with the group. This is my favorite thing but probably annoys most of the quiet people in class. Here are some examples:
     a.    Assign each person in class to tell a funny story or joke during each longer resting interval.
     b.    Conduct a competition of strongest rider (power to weight ratio). For a chunk of time, max effort. Keep track of the numbers on a whiteboard and rank them.
     c.    Play “would you rather…”. Would you rather give up cheese or wine for the rest of your life? (Again, questions asked during recovery time. If you can talk during the interval, you aren’t doing the workout right).
4.    Find ways to reward yourself as you make it through a hard workout.
     a.    I brew herbal tea and put in a travel mug that sits in my car for after computraining. When I am done with the workout, I have a nice treat that reminds me of a spa.
     b.    Put a star sticker on your calendar (remember those star charts from grade school? I loved those)
     c.    Go out for coffee with your new friends who train at UPB.
Joe is happiest if you tell him the workout was terrible (i.e., it hurt, you sweat a lot, your legs are jelly, etc). If you head to UPB, tell him KHO sent you. No seriously, tell him. I get stars for my star chart.

KHO (pronounced kay-ho)

 

Beginner's basic skills clinic @ July Dirt Days

  Photo by Yasmeen Schuller,  The Chainlink

Photo by Yasmeen Schuller, The Chainlink

We are thrilled to be adding a beginner's basic skills clinic to the Dirt Days in July. Our dear friend and IMBA Level-2 certified MTB instructor from north of the cheddar curtain, Nicki Lock, has graciously offered to host this clinic to attendees of the Dirt Days.

The clinic will be about 2 hours, including 1.5 hours of instruction/ skills & drills, followed by a short trail ride and some playing in the skills section at the John Muir Trailhead. Nicki will cover 5 basic drills including body position, braking, shifting, and cornering. This is ideal for new riders getting to know the sport.

In order to keep the group size manageable, please let us know if you're planning on joining us for the clinic by emailing us at skunkworksmtb@gmail.com

The clinic will be held at 9am, July 9th at the John Muir Trailhead near LaGrange, WI. Bike rental is available at Backyard Bikes.

These rides organized and led by Becky Mikrut and Jen Mosley, supported as a joint initiative between Skunkworks Racing and Half Acre Cycling

Visit us on Facebook for the event posting, or for the full list of dates, go here: http://www.skunkworksracing.com/news/dirtdays2016

Chicago Women's Dirt Days

Entering their 7th year, The Dirt Days are a monthly series of group mountain bike rides held at local Chicago and nearby Wisconsin trails throughout the summer months. It's a perfect event for women of all skill levels to meet up, enjoy friendly, non-competitive rides and get some time on the trail, learning from one another.

Rides will alternate locations throughout the summer, and we ride rain or shine (if it rains, we will ride the multitrack). If the weather is nice, bring a lunch and we'll picnic after. 

These rides organized and led by Becky Mikrut and Jen Mosley, supported as a joint initiative between Skunkworks Racing and Half Acre Cycling. 

Visit us on Facebook for individual event postings with a place to post up for ride sharing and conversation. 

Dates for 2016 are:

  • May 7th - Southern Kettles, John Muir Trailhead
  • June 4th - Palos Forest Preserve, Wolf Road Woods lot
  • July 9th - Southern Kettles, John Muir Trailhead  *bonus skills clinic*
  • August 6th - Palos Forest Preserve, Wolf Road Woods lot

All rides start at 9 am. Please arrive early to get your bike and yourself ready to ride. 

****Update****

We are thrilled to be adding a beginner's basic skills clinic to the Dirt Days in July. Our dear friend and IMBA Level-2 certified MTB instructor from north of the cheddar curtain, Nicki Lock, has graciously offered to host this clinic to attendees of the Dirt Days.

The clinic will be about 2 hours, including 1.5 hours of instruction/ skills & drills, followed by a short trail ride and some playing in the skills section at the John Muir Trailhead. Nicki will cover 5 basic drills including body position, braking, shifting, and cornering. This is ideal for new riders getting to know the sport.

In order to keep the group size manageable, please let us know if you're planning on joining us for the clinic by emailing us at skunkworksmtb@gmail.com

*******

 

See you on the trails!

Are there mountains in Chicago?

It seems that within competitive cycling, mountain biking might be the discipline with the least women participating as compared to men. Historically, women have been underrepresented in this category, but this is beginning to change. As more and more women are getting into bike racing, and tasting the dirt by way of cyclocross—a favorite discipline for many—mountain biking has seen a slight growth in the numbers of women participants at the amateur level.  

It’s no secret that there are no mountains around Chicago, but there are great trails! The downside is that we often have to get in a car and travel in order to ride and especially to race mountain bikes. Living in Chicago, we sometimes struggle to get the dirt minded folks among us to travel to mountain bike races consistently. As a woman racing mountain bikes from Chicago, you’d see the usual suspects at races or at the trail heads throughout the summer season—women you might know from a cyclocross or road race, usually there with their husband/boyfriend/guy friend or teammate. We have found friendship and camaraderie through the shared experience being the solo women mountain bikers on our own teams.

It was through these experiences and connections that Skunkworks Racing was developed. As racers, we wanted to come together as a team with the other women dedicated to racing mountain bikes and being competitive—to us, that meant doing more than just one local race. We wanted to plan, train and ride with like-minded women. We wanted to consistently learn from and support each other. However, we also didn’t want to abandon the people and the families that helped us find this wonderful sport. So, we decided to create a team specifically for women’s mountain biking, and retain the alliances and cycling families we have built over many years with our “home teams.”

Racing on a different team for different disciplines can be a prickly subject for many. Teams are built on loyalty and trust, and handing someone over to another team can be hard. However, we worked with our teams to garner their support for this awesome idea. We have created a group of women and local organizations who support the growth of women’s mountain biking in Chicago as a competitive discipline, aiming to compete at the highest levels of amateur mountain bike racing.

Why call it Skunkworks?

Skunkworks is a term that was originated by research and development teams in the aeronautics and tech industries. This project began as a quiet rumbling while we hashed out the details and slowly brought each of our teams on board. As a small team of specially selected riders, we identified with the themes of innovation, development, and stepping out of standard constraints and limits.

skunk·works
/’skəNGkˌwərks/
noun
1. An especially enriched environment that is intended to help a small group of specially selected individuals develop and design a new idea by escaping routine organizational procedures.
2. A competitive team of female mountain bikers based out of Chicago.

As racers, we want to push past what is available to women who love to ride the dirt but reside in a major urban area. We hope to unite our community, breaking down the exclusivity common with cycling teams. We strive to create unity around women’s mountain biking through sportsmanship, community, and peer support. We demonstrate positivity in our actions and words towards each other and other women—always.

So, what can you do to help?

Support us. We are actively looking for sponsors as we get this off the ground, and could use your help. It takes a lot to fuel a team of racers, from nutrition, mechanics, tires, tubes, to travel funding. As a small, grassroots team, we need support from our community to make our goals achievable. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities or interested in learning more, email us at skunkworksmtb@gmail.com

We can’t wait to see you on the trails this summer!