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by Gemma Mollenhauer
July 14, 2017
Photography by Anne-Marije Rook
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
Our Movers and Shakers series features Q&As with women trailblazers in the sport and industry of cycling. These are women who often go unnoticed but make the world of women’s cycling go round.
The women we write about in this series include team owners, key industry players, race organisers, cycling advocates, journalists, inventors, designers, business owners and the professional athletes that often play a huge role in advancing their sport. Is there someone you want to hear form? We happily accept your nominations for Movers and Shakers in the comment sections of these articles.
–Adrienne Nicholls, founder of Babes Ride Bikes.
From her refreshingly honest social media accounts to her self-designed ‘athlesuire’ line, Adrienne Nicholls, also known as Lotdeux, is an entrepreneur on a mission to empower more women to ride bikes. Armed with a loyal and growing social media following, Nicholls whistles the tune of self-love and body confidence through a warts-and-all approach to motherhood and business management.
“There’s nowhere to hide in cycling and lycra is unforgiving, but even with my own struggles, I have openly spoken about my anxieties of turning up to races and of coming last. I have openly spoken about my body and esteem issues and the challenges I have faced and am still facing after the last two years,” Nicholls told Ella CyclingTips.
“Lotdeux is about openly sharing my own journey with cycling, life as a new mother, my struggles and successes. People resonate with real life.”
Meet Adrienne Nicholls, Lotdeux and Babes Ride Bikes:
Adrienne and Gracie
Based in a small seaside village along Australia’s Great Ocean Road, 33-year-old Adrienne Nicholls spends her days in a precarious balancing act, juggling her online portfolio, her Babes Ride Bikes brand and her eight-month-old baby, Gracie – all the while trying to maintain a healthy wholesome lifestyle and getting some saddle time in.
Balance is hard to come by.
“Motherhood has changed me in every way –physically, mentally and emotionally,” Nicholls told Ella CyclingTips.
“I haven’t been a mum for very long, and overnight you go from living an exclusively selfish lifestyle to all of a sudden living each day for a tiny human that relies on you to get up even when you haven’t slept, to feed them when you haven’t fed yourself… every day is different and some are better than others.”
On the good days, Nicholls straps little Gracie into her Thule Chariot for a ride along the Linear Park Trail, which goes from the city out about 18 kilometres to the start of Gorge Road along the River.
“She loves it! Although I’m sure I love it more,” said Nicholls. “If she doesn’t fall asleep straight away you can hear her chatting away and squealing with delight…we’ve explored some pretty beautiful places together and it’s incredible to be able to share that with her”.
While Nicholls was adamant about introducing cycling into her daughter’s life as soon as she was big enough to wear a helmet, for Nicholls, her love for cycling came much later in life.
Once simply a “cyclist’s girlfriend,” it was until 2009 that Nicholls clipped in herself.
“I felt really lonely and excluded from all the fun,” she admitted, “But it took a couple of years before I put a road bike on layby. I’d come to a place in my health where I was really miserable I’d put on a lot of weight, very fast and didn’t recognise myself in the mirror anymore.
“The final straw came on a summer camping trip where I had to buy some shorts and I ended up just crying in the change room – I couldn’t believe I’d let myself get to that point”
In that pivotal moment, Nicholls decided to become a cyclist.
While her passion wasn’t quick to ignite, encouragement from a close girlfriend coupled with a contagious passion from the guy she was dating at the time eventually made Nicholls realise she was onto something special.
Recalling those the early days, Nicholls said: “I had squeezed myself into some eBay kit and off we went down the end of the road and out a couple of kilometres before turning around. I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much as I had hoped.”
“But the more I was active, the more weight I lost, and everything started improving. But more so my overall confidence, that was the biggest change.”
Fast-forward a few years and Nicholls was clocking in a consistent 200-250 kilometres a week, reaching for her bike whenever she had some free time.
In 2016, however, when Nicholls discovered she was pregnant, she was advised to give up her newfound love of cycling, at least for a little while, and that was a tough concept the grapple with.
“I felt like I had lost such a huge part of myself”, Nicholls admitted, “ It was really lonely because everyone around me got better fitter and faster and I got slower and bigger.”
Since giving birth, Nicholls made herself a promise to cut herself some slack:
“I don’t ride with a Garmin anymore as I’m not out training for anything,” she said. “It’s been a journey to even get back to where I am now but having a baby has made me appreciate it so much more. My time outside of being a mum is so limited now and it has given me a new appreciation for myself.”
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When Nicholls signed up for an Instagram account in 2012, becoming an “influencer” was never really the goal. But the then part-time hotel manager, quickly learnt how to promote herself and various brands through this medium. Before she knew it, she had an impressive following.
Success, however, comes with a price.
“I would be lying if I said I hated the attention…but as other bloggers started really blowing up it became such a competition – better photos, better clothes, better locations. It was endless,” shared Nicholls.
“What started out as something fun started being a complete drain – it started to affect my confidence and having a really negative affect on my wellbeing.”
Nicholls decided to step away from social media for a while to regroup, to regain her confidence and to once again fall in love with cycling.
And so Lotdeux was born.
Lotdeux is Nicholls’ alter-ego with an impressive Instagram following of 34.6k and counting.
“Lotdeux is me,” Nicholls declared, while simultaneously also declining to reveal the meaning behind the name.
But what it represents is what’s important, she said
“Lotdeux is about openly sharing my own journey with cycling, life as a new mother, my struggles and successes,” Nicholls explained.
“People resonate with real life, about making a common connection with someone. Everything that I share is either part of me, special to me. I’ve shared my fears, my anxieties, I’ve talked openly about so many facets of my life – some people resonate and love it and other people have not been so receptive which is unfortunate but I’ve come to learn very quickly you cannot please everyone… and why should you?”
To the outsider, however, Lotdeux is about much more than telling the story of Adrienne Nicholls, it’s about encouraging women to unapologetically love themselves and grab confidence by the handlebars.
“That’s the thing about cycling: it’s gritty, it’s sweaty and you are exposed to the elements. It really doesn’t matter what sort of bike you are riding, what kit you are wearing — when you strip everything down it’s just you against the elements,” said Nicholls.
“I just hope that people see in me something they can relate to themselves. Everyone struggles at some point, but you also have the power to overcome that struggle.”
Like Lotdeux, Babes Ride Bikes started as an Instagram account and grew into an apparel-selling brand.
“I wanted something that was fun and there wasn’t a lot of brands out there doing casual wear specific to cycling. I wanted something that sent a bold message… something I wanted to wear”, Nicholls recalled.
After posting a picture of herself wearing the very first Babes Ride Bikes sweater, the Internet, as they say, ‘blew up’.
“I had inboxes, direct messages, emails, comments from all around the world asking me where I purchased my jumper, where people could buy one from … and the gears started turning.,” said Nicholls. “It wasn’t the plan, but I thought to myself, ‘Ok this is attracting a fair bit of attention – if I don’t do it, someone else will’.”
But isn’t ‘babe’ objectifying?
“Being a babe is a state of mind,” Nicholls clarified. “It’s about feeling good on the inside and showing the world who you are.”
“You cannot quantify your worth based on someone else opinion of you. If you want to wear fluoro pink kit, wear it. Just be you”.
Ella: How can women support each other to achieve greatness in this sport and in life?
Nicholls: I feel like the greatest pressure and the person who is most conscious about their body is the individual – as women, we could champion each other for our bodies incredible achievements instead of comparing our exterior form.
Even in cycling – you have a track sprinter like Anna Meares, and a Climber like Carlee Taylor – its like apples and oranges. Both fruits, both sweet but totally different. They can’t even be compared and why should we?
Ella: What do you think can be done to keep improving the world of women’s cycling?
Nicholls: We need people turning up to races, to ride, to cheer, to be part of it. One voice is easily lost in the crowd, but 100,000 voices all at once is harder to ignore. Turn up to the women’s races and spectate cheer and scream for the ladies throwing it down on the track, road, MTB and hell go a step further … join a club and sign up for a race. The more women signing up to race means clubs start looking at extra grades. And if all goes to plan – more races, more grades, more ladies, more attention, more riding and a win for everyone!
The Ella Question: What is one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started cycling?
Nicholls: If someone more experienced wants to ride with you, they genuinely want to ride with you and at your pace. Don’t be scared to take up an offer for a ride, you don’t need to put in 3 months of solo training to be able to keep up… they were a beginner once too. Don’t apologise for being slow. Enjoy the views, enjoy the company, learn from them and hear their stories. Riding with people who are more experienced than you is an opportunity to learn & get better.