Photos by Allan Crawford.
Year after year, the Beach Babe Bicycling Classic (BBBC) brings together women to pedal in the world that is mostly dedicated to competitive, time-clock-watching males—which is precisely what founder Janaé Noble wanted to avoid, even as this Sunday’s upcoming BBBC is expected to draw over 500 female pedalers.
“I was the first women-owned company to operate a cycling event for women to enjoy without the pressures or drama of time clock or the competitive energy of guys around,” Noble said. “The first ride was designed to help women get out of their cars and on to their bikes for fun, health, and camaraderie.”
That first ride, the Prince Promenade, was a NorCal trip staged across 34 miles of Class 1 biking trails along the American River from Sacramento to Folsom Lake. Riders were able to choose any of 15-, 26-, 40-, 55-, or 64-mile routes that weaved in and out of rivers, parks, and some of California’s most beautiful vistas.
After the success of the Princess Promenade, Noble wanted to bring the event to her hometown of Long Beach, which was just working on (and still is working on) its self-appointed moniker of the being the nation’s most bike friendly city. After a meeting with Pat West—who was “all about it,” according to Noble—and working in conjunction with Jones Bicycles 100th anniversary, the BBBC was born.
The name is not only part of Noble’s mantra that every event in every city should have its own individual identifier, it goes back to her time as a high schooler in Long Beach.
“If you went to high school in the 60s and 70s in Long Beach,” Noble explained, “it seemed like the only true ‘beach babes’ in this city went to Wilson; I went to Jordan. So, even though Jordan was only about seven miles from the beach, most of the girls at that school never really felt like they qualified as beach babes. Isn’t that crazy? Of course we are beach babes! I decided that all you have to do to be an official beach babe is to ride in the BBBC. Now women travel from all over the country to participate in the ride. It’s really a great feeling have visitors from all over the world come to ride as a true beach babe in our town.”
Unlike the traditional bicycling events—such as the Tour of Long Beach—BBBC aims for other accolades that fall off the spectrum of normal—best costume being one of them. And the start line? No horns or dogging eyes. Rather, to the theme son of “Wish They All Could Be Californian Girls,” the ladies shout the multiple cities from which they hail: from Folsom to San Diego, New York to Sydney.
This isn’t to say that men are entirely excluded. San Diego’s version of the event, Señorita Century, permits 100 men to register as Rico Sauve contestants, riding 15 minutes behind the ladies and providing them favors to garner points and score the title of Mr. Suave.
Next May, Noble will be behind a true feat for women bicyclists: the month will mark the world’s first Women’s GranFondo in Calistoga/Napa, turning heads everywhere within the biking community as pro female riders are being asked to take on the bicycling tradition that has, until now, been reserved for men.
“I’m frankly shocked that no one but me thought to stage a gran fondo for women,” Noble said. “Just like Nike took over the sport of marathon with the Nike Women’s Marathon Series, we are doing the same with the world’s first Women’s Gran Fondo. We are looking for just the right company to serve as title sponsor and get those naming rights.”
But before tackling on that endeavor, Noble is mostly excited about this weekends BBBC.
“But the best thing about these bike rides for me is to see how happy the ladies are,” Noble said. “To ride with no cares, enjoying the scenery, chatting with their friends, experiencing catered food that is lovingly prepared and locally source, ocean friendly event with low waste, no engineered ‘fitness’ foods… That, for me, is a pretty cool event.”