I’m Patty Nilsen, founder of Petunia Mafia Cycling team and team kit designer.
I ride bikes. I learned to ride a bike in patent leathers and began bicycle touring with my dad when I was ten, in a cut off t-shirt, headband and Lego blue spandex shorts. Little has changed. Cycling is still my passion as much as looking good while doing so is.
I ride a townie bike with my kids to school and to work. I ride a road bike through the back roads of Colorado, and when it snows I put my bike on a trainer and spin indoors. I ride my full suspension MTB at Valmont bike Park and down rocky trails. I ride my cruiser bike to restaurants to avoid parking and driving home. It’s safe to say the bike embodies my life.
I’ve raced mountain bikes, 24 hour races and triathlons for 20 years. In recent years I’ve begun racing cyclocross. It’s a great “mom sport” because a race is typically only 45 minutes – 45 minutes of cardio hell – and a great spectator sport because you lap a course several times. But frankly, I race so I can train.
When I showed up at my first cyclocross race I realized I was the only one without an affiliation. Resorting to my athletic apparel design background I decided to create my own team, which was Team ten20. The idea went viral and grew from my original 5 friends telling 5 friends and today includes 245 women on the now-branded Petunia Mafia Cycling team.
Part of my drive to start a new team was that while I may have had the credentials to join one of Boulder’s many cycling teams, as a full-time working mom, soccer coach, and volunteer I couldn’t have the time commitment to race 12 races a season or show up at every ride. It’s hard to dwell in the land of Boulder, where the All-American, ex- or neo-pro, Olympic-team hopeful looms at every triathlon transition and starting line.
I wanted to provide a sense of sorority with no attitude, no pressure, no angry ovaries. Susan B Anthony said, “The bike has done more to emancipate woman than anything else in the world.” We can thank the bike for allowing women to wear pants. And consequently cute spandex ones at that. We’ve seen through our growth that other women also wanted to belong to a cycling community but without the “have to’s.” I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and provide.
Cycling with the team as a workout, for me, is social (my time with friends, 250 of them at that). Riding with a team means camaraderie (planned rides multiple times a week), courage (it enabled me to approach the starting line at my first cyclocross race because I was in the company of other women in our stripes) and motivation.
For me, riding a bike is a metaphor to life. The bike is about growth. Who doesn’t remember the moment they took off their training wheels?? You could feel your wings sprout.
The bike allows me to live in the moment and explore new places.
It can be competitive or laid back, and allows you to be alone with your thoughts or share time with friends and family. It requires balance. And that’s something most of us need in this hectic world and cycling scene.
You need balance on the bike as much as you do in life.