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Back 11.1.2018

Inside the Zipp Lunch Ride: Part II

This is Part II series of two features about an important part of Zipp culture, our regular lunch-hour rides. This the story of how we use the lunch ride as a place to connect, make friends, to welcome new riders, and to improve as cyclists. Part I (available here) focuses on the lunch ride as a competitive outlet for speed. Together, we hope this two-part series underscores the benefits of intense competition within road cycling, but also stresses the importance of making rides safe, welcoming, and friendly for all. 

This drawing is a tribute to the Zipp lunch ride at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. 

Part II

Discovering the Power of Bicycles

Cast of Characters

Lisa Bennett, HR Generalist


Bill True, Dealer Marketing Manager


Alberto Hernandez-Ocaranza, Customs Analyst


Marie Ursuy, Office Manager


What kind of cycling background did you have coming into SRAM, if any?

Alberto: I didn’t have any background before. I started working here and it was hard to identify what are the parts. They taught me the spokes and hubs, and I was like what? In my first three months I had to point it out in my diagram to look where those parts belong to. So, I didn’t know anything.

Marie: I have done just about every kind of cycling there is before coming to SRAM. I started out by commuting and that transformed out into road biking and mountain biking and long-distance bike packing. Eventually I started racing cyclocross. By the time I got here, it was great to be around like-minded people.

Lisa: Cycling was completely new to me when I started at SRAM. I probably had been on a bicycle less than five times in my adult life before coming here. But I always had an interest in outdoor and sports activities.

Bill: I went to college to be a lawyer, then decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore. So after I decided that wasn’t the way I wanted to go, I kind of got lost for a while. Then the bicycle is what truly found me, with my dad getting sick and having cancer. It was right about the time when Lance was going through his Tour wins and all those things. Then when my dad passed, cycling kind of helped me get through things. It made me feel like I was still worth something, like I could find a path. Cycling gave me this freedom, this sense of person and fulfillment that I couldn’t find where I traditionally wanted to find a place for a job or whatever aspiration, and that’s what led me to the industry.

I worked in a bike shop for several years and managed there as a posting came up through Zipp for customer service. Having just walked in one time to pick up a wheel, I was like, ‘this place is phenomenal, I need to work here.’ So, I put in my application, and have worked here ever since. The bicycle has grown from a saving grace and a passion to now my livelihood as well.

What made you want to get into cycling, or stay in it since you’ve been at Zipp/SRAM?

Marie: I just do lunch rides to get outside! That’s the hardest part about having a job and being inside and being responsible. So being able to get outside and connect with people, that’s really just a bonus in a lot of ways.

Lisa: Everyone here is just so excited and passionate about bicycles, and in my role, I get to work with everyone in the building. There’s all these amazing experiences that people have, and I remember thinking to myself that it’s only a matter of time. I have to get a bike! So, I started talking to people about it, and everyone was always asking, so when are you getting a bike?! Everyone here has always been so helpful. They want to talk about it with you and they want to help you get started and see you be excited about it, too. It is so different, though, because it is a physical challenge for me, something I’ve never done.

It’s fun and recreational and there is a technical element in it, too. I got my husband a bike and now that is something that we can do together. We were on vacation recently, and would have probably never gotten on bicycles. My husband and I rode in Yosemite National Park, and it was one of the best experiences. We were able to ride around the entire valley floor.

Bill: In our old building, in Speedway, there was nowhere to ride, so we would just go to lunch and continue to talk business. Then when we moved to this location everyone was extremely excited because we are so close to Eagle Creek Park. Once we developed a loop that we could find it to be reasonably safe and we could do within an hour or so and come back, it became a major job perk. It has always been a way for me to network, too. So sometimes I do talk about work while I’m on it, and I get to speak with people in which I otherwise might not engage in certain things. I have ridden with SRAM President Stan Day, Chief Operating Office Ken Lousberg, and almost every one of our senior managers in some facet of a lunch ride. We have even ridden with some of our professional sponsored teams.

My co-worker Jason Blodgett was just riding in Brown County with (former NBA star) Reggie Miller and I think about all the cool people you can meet while riding bicycles that you normally wouldn’t interact with on your day to day job. It brings people from all different parts of this company to talk about things and being collaborative on issues. You have your mind open and you have the exercise that can help you come up with some ideas for what you’re doing. I can’t say how often I leave here for a lunch ride with a mind set on something and throughout the ride, my mindset has completely changed or built on that idea.

Alberto: Since I wasn’t involved in cycling, I started to look at my coworkers and thinking that they have had a great time and all the time they have these experiences. I started to get curious about it. Then I didn’t have a bicycle for a couple years. I blamed myself for not having a bicycle while everyone else had one.

Then I had the opportunity to get the replica bicycle from one of the greatest cyclist, Alberto Contador, and that motivates me to honor this bicycle. Since then, I have started to push myself to the many miles I have put into that bicycle. I really have to enjoy it because not many people have the opportunity to be on a bicycle like this or know the background of the bicycle like Alberto Contador. Now I am riding every day as much as I can.

Tell us more about the Alberto Contador bike that you have?

Alberto: When I got the bike, I didn’t know the background of it. Co-workers kept telling me “Do you know what you have in your hands?!” I said, “No. It’s just a frame! They said this bike should be in a museum. And I said I didn’t know that. Then they said, well you better put it on the wall or you better ride it. So, I decided to ride it.

I feel honored and that’s why I push with that bike as much as I can. So now I say that only Alberto’s can ride that bike! I had a friend that said, let me know when you are going to get rid of that, so I can change my name to Alberto!

Bill: This frame is a yellow Specialized Tour de France winning edition. Every year, the person who is in the yellow jersey rides into France on a completely yellow bike that the bike manufactures make special for them. SRAM did a yellow RED components kit that had yellow everything and yellow Zipp wheel decals. It was a really cool bike.

I remember at Interbike we had won the world championships on the mountain bike side, and then we had Alberto’s picture over here and everything was just falling into place. 2x10 had come out at the same time too so we had totally revolutionized the mountain biking, and we owned the road cycling at the same time. It was an incredible time to be a SRAM employee.

Were you nervous to get into cycling or to join the rides? If so, how did you overcome it?

Lisa: It was totally new to me. It was not scary but exciting. I felt comfortable with so many new people who were willing to teach me things. I had no base knowledge to start with. You get folks who really go out of their way to make sure people were learning things and following safety rules and teaching us stuff along the way. These rides are kind of new at our office, but it’s something that needed to happen.

There have always been people who want to go out and ride, because there is value to going out with your co-workers and doing some kind of exercise during the day or taking a break. From what I’ve heard from people in the past, there was this feeling that some people couldn’t participate in the lunch ride because they aren’t competitive or elite athletes, so it wasn’t for them for whatever reason. It had the right people leading it and we are seeing folks from all different areas.

Marie: When I first started thinking about it, I was a little intimidated. Then once I got to know people it didn’t feel as intimidating. Now it’s just exciting getting out there and finding the people that are going to ride at your pace. We’re on some routes and you’re going to run into traffic, some people I’ve ridden with weren’t conscious about the impact they were making or the way that they were representing cycling. So, for me I really have to trust the people I’m riding with. We have an amazing group of people here who are looking out for each other and taking care of one another.

Alberto: I was super intimidated because I had no previous knowledge, so it was a totally different language for me. I have very competitive co-workers and you can hear their stories, so I didn’t know how to start. I thought that maybe this was too much and not for me. Then I started asking a co-worker if I could borrow his E-Bike, and he said sure! So, the bicycle was sitting there, and no one was using it. Every weekend I kept asking him if I could borrow it. Eventually one day he said “Stop asking me. I’m tired of you. Grab the bike. It’s yours!” So that’s how I started riding in my free time, then I started looking into the lunch rides.

It was a big challenge for me because I didn’t even have the clothing or gear to wear and I was embarrassed to ask where I was supposed to get everything. I asked the DSD (Dealer Service Direct) guys how to get started and they were very helpful. I remember the first ride I went on, they dropped me, and I was just huffing and puffing like I don’t know how they do it! I felt like I was just passing out, so I said I’m not going to ride with them until I practice by myself.

What have you learned by joining the lunch rides? What are some big gains or goals you have achieved?

Bill: I was never competitive on the bike and I was too cheap to pay the race entry fees, but the lunch ride truly felt like a crit race every day. It was a good way to learn how to be very competitive and that was my initial experience. Along that way I had goals to get a KOM or post faster times. Now my goals have changed since then as that the comradery is more important. Now one of the biggest things that I take satisfaction in is seeing people who haven’t ridden before getting out and enjoying the ride and having fun. Seeing them achieve the goals that they have that goals were different then.

My favorite lunch ride this year happened to be with co-worker Manny, when he turned 31. We went out to do 31 miles and we almost killed Manny but the look on his face afterwards, he was so proud of himself. I was so happy to just take a small part in that and helping him get through that.

Lisa: When I think about joining the rides, it reminded me about something that I hear people say, “You never want to be the smartest person in the room” because you can always learn from those who are better than you in a particular area, and it’s a good way to continue to challenge yourself to grow or develop. Starting out as someone with zero experience, a total novice, I feel that I really benefit from riding with someone who has more skill. I get out on my own, but I do better riding with others. I push myself a little more. It was also a good reminder that everyone starts from somewhere.

It’s great to be surrounded by people who are enthusiastic and want to help, and at some point I could help someone like that, too. As far as goals, I really didn’t know what to expect and didn’t really know how to set goals for myself at first. I read around a bit and explored how to get better and also how to gauge and measure whether you are getting better. I did set a goal that by the end of the season hopefully I could ride a certain distance and I have a regular route I use for benchmarking to see my progression.

Alberto: One of the things that I’ve learned is that the friendship you can build from the rides is great and it gives you an opportunity to meet people on a deeper level. On the rides I started developing different goals. Starting out at 10mph is a little embarrassing so I started challenging myself to increase that and now I’m trying to keep between 18mph and 22mph.

I would like to do a triathlon and that’s all because of cycling. I always say if he can do it, I can do it. If I can achieve some goal on the bike, I can also achieve a goal in my daily activity for work. I’m also trying to learn more about bicycle because every time I go outside people are like “oh what kind of crank or chain ring do you have” and I need to know the answer.

This interview below was conducted by Zipp/SRAM intern Angelina Palermo.

Part I of our lunch ride feature focuses on the lunch ride as a competitive outlet for speed.