Businesswoman, race director, cancer survivor, wife, and mother are a few words to describe Lauren Pickman. OZ Trails sat down with Pickman to discuss her mountain biking journey and her incredible work with Rule of Three. Rule of Three is a brutally competitive race involving fifty to a hundred miles of tarmac, gravel, and single-track. Pickman shares her personal mountain biking goals for the coming months, as well as her hopes for the cycling industry to become more inclusive and diverse.
I’m sure you’ve got your hands full. Being a mother, working full-time, then planning this huge race.
“Yes! But I didn’t mind it.”
How did Andy come to you with the idea of Rule of Three?
“The idea originally was between Andy and my husband. They were test riding the Able, Allied’s gravel bike, and it was one of those days where you think to yourself ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we did this?’ What if there was a bike race that was super hard, and there was an insane amount of single-track, gravel, and road, and you’re doing it on one bike? They came up with this idea a few years ago. When it came time to launch it, Sam was too busy to work on the event full time, so Andy knew my background and thought I would be a good fit. Sam, however, was still instrumental in creating the routes.”
So how did you manage the logistics and the stress of event planning?
“To give you a little bit of background: last year was particularly an awful year for me. This time last year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I really struggled from June till the beginning of the new year. I had surgeries and then I had to do chemo to prevent it from coming back, and my last treatment was December 30th. Ending the chemo before the New Year was great. Starting the New Year off right. But yes, last year was tough. I mean it was the worst time of my life, and I hope and pray it never comes back. But it does change your outlook on what’s important in life. Priorities, happiness, and your life choices. So, when Andy asked me to help him this past winter, the timing just worked out perfectly. I went from sitting in bed for six months and recovering from the chemo treatments to diving right into organizing this super fun event for our community. It just wasn’t that stressful. We had a really good time with it, and I kept everything really organized. It was a continuum of brainstorming and meeting with people in the community for help and it ended up being just such a great experience.”
It sounds like Rule of Three was kind of a turning point for you.
“It really was. You know, doing the Women of OZ programming and being a part of Allied has been incredible, but this was new. I had never done an event of this magnitude before. Andy put his trust in me, and I put my trust in him. This was his first cycling event he had organized; however, he had 15 years of experience putting on an incredible rock climbing event called 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell (24HHH). Andy was looking towards me for organizational needs primarily and we had the best time putting it together. It wasn’t very stressful I have to say. Maybe the last couple weeks were, just because it was crunch time, but it all worked out and everyone had the best time!”
What is the poem on the front page of the Rule of Three website?
“So Andy wrote that poem. And it was kind of his ode to going back to the way it used to be, of simple times. Less sponsor cash, and more coming together to ride bikes. So that poem is kind of the ethos of our event. We just tried to stay true to those words. Not charging a lot for entry, involving the community, not asking for sponsor dollars but instead asking the sponsors to bring something of value to the event. All of that really paid off; people came, they paid $65, and they had an incredible experience that sounds like they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. They also came away with bags filled with products and a great party afterward. We wanted to really give people way more than they were paying for and just having a good time with the community. Having everyone cross the finish line, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures, it was like… it was one of the best days of my life. It was such an awful year, and not even for me, but for everyone. I mean no matter who you are, last year was a tough time for everyone. This was one of the first times, for most people, to come out into a group setting like this. Some people did the race as teams of three, so they were doing something with friends and it was an adventure. Everywhere you turned, you saw a familiar smiling face. Everyone was smiling, many had suffered on the bike and were super exhausted, but also everyone had smiles on their faces. It was so cool to bring that amount of joy to my friends and to my community. It was great, I was really excited to be able to do it.”
What steps can the bike industry take to diversify people in leadership positions?
“I don’t have all the answers. I would love to see more women in the cycling industry. I feel like little by little you’re seeing it. I think it takes these larger companies, who are structuring the Cycling World, to bring in women in these leadership roles. It’s really tough because riding has primarily been historically such a white-male dominated sport, so I think you just need to start in your community. Like many Latinas here, they have gotten this great community together now called the Arkansas Latinas En Bici and it started with Olivia Barraza. I remember helping coach her on the trails at Coler, and she was so excited to be out on the trails. So, little by little, I feel like as long as we keep on going into the community and helping everyone and trying to make it as easy as possible getting bikes accessible to all women and all people, I think it is probably the biggest step. Pedal It Forward is such an amazing organization. They are based in NWA, and they get a ton of donated bikes and parts and they put them together and give them to underrepresented communities. People can apply and get a free bike, like veterans for example, who might not have the means or the transportation. Pedal It Forward gives these bikes, and you hear these stories about people who receive these bikes—how the bikes allow them to get a job and go to work. They allow them to go to the doctors and get checkups. The bicycle can be such a huge part of someone’s success in life. A simple bike can help every single person especially if you need accessible transportation.”
So, how long have you been riding and how did you first get started?
“Well, I would say I started taking cycling serious during college, and I’m 39 right now. I grew up riding bikes on the Jersey Shore but just for fun-mostly cruising around my neighborhood on my Strawberry Shortcake bike or down on the boardwalk. But in college, at the University of Rhode Island, I met my now-husband, Sam Pickman, and he gave me my first bike, a steel royal blue Eddy Merx.”
“But it really was not until much later that I tried mountain biking in California and not until we moved to Bentonville, with Sam developing the Able which is Allied’s gravel bike, did I really get involved with gravel. Moving to the Mountain Biking Capital of the World, it was easy to throw myself into mountain biking with a little help from the women in the community. Now, three years have gone by and I’m now a certified mountain bike instructor, leading many group rides and coaching clinics and I love it! It’s so fun and very rewarding. Rule of Three was such an interesting concept since a lot of people in our community love all three disciplines: tarmac, gravel, and singletrack. It was a great opportunity to do all of it, all in one day, all on one bike.”
“I really got started by meeting up with new friends once a week to explore the mountain bike trails and little by little word spread and a group of women saw the need and desire to have a women’s mountain bike club in town and so the Women of OZ was formed. One of the things the Women of OZ does is try to break down barriers. So, for example, if you don’t have a bike but you are kind of curious about riding the trails, we’ve partnered with bike shops in town and if you mention Women of OZ, you get a first-time bike rental for twenty dollars. We also offer a free Flagship group ride on the first Saturday of every month. We include a fundamental skills clinic where we have certified mountain bike instructors teaching the very basics of mountain biking to help get more women on the trails and on the trails safely; anyone who comes to the Flagship must start here first. Registration opens on the 20th of every month on Bike Reg.
“I also started a gravel GroupMe page when I first moved here to try to get more women introduced to gravel. Partly to meet more people myself because I was new to the area but especially since gravel seemed to be a new experience for people in our town, especially the women I met. Allied came out with the All-Road and the Able, which are gravel bikes, and it was nice to introduce them to our community of women. It’s not always about the guys, so I kind of took it upon myself to start that. Women of OZ now have these GroupMe pages for gravel and mountain biking for women to connect and ride together. There are people in Fayetteville and all over Northwest Arkansas who just post ‘Hey I’m going for a ride tomorrow at 9:00 and this is how long I’m going,’ and then other people meet up. We’re trying to connect other women to ride with other women. There’s a lot of transplants, so it’s a great starting point for people moving here to meet people and to do so on a bike! It has been really great. I’m sure once you dip your toes into it, you’ll really enjoy it. I mean, what’s better than riding a bike? Any bike will do!
Do you have any new cycling ambitions this year?
“I do have cycling ambitions; it’s a little tricky, because I am still undergoing treatment till early September. My white blood cell count will still be low, but I currently feel really strong, but I just need to be a little careful til that’s over. I’m hoping come October, to compete in the OZ Trails Off-Road Epic 30. Epic OZ Trails is a really huge mountain bike event that comes to Bentonville. There is a 15-, 30- and 50-mile race. Two years ago, I came in fifth place for the 30 mile. My goal is to see if I can beat my time, I don’t know if it’s going to be the same course, but that would be really great. Crystal Anthony is a professional mountain biker in town and she’s going to be helping me come up with a training plan. Then there’s another really big gravel event in October called Big Sugar Gravel and that’ll be a 100-mile gravel race. So, I’m really hoping I can do that. I’m basically preparing for October and hoping for the best.”
So, just building up your strength till then?
“Yes, exactly. There are so many great events out there, so I would like to kind of, now that I’m going to continue to be race director for Rule of Three, kind of travel a little bit and go to some other events and see how other people run theirs, and kind of get a feel of other events. Maybe get some new ideas.”