The owners of Vesta Velo, a Mount Washington Valley bicycle touring company, joined the Coalition’s Maine Women’s Ride before starting on this exciting endeavor!
Encourage, inspire and empower women to ride bikes.
That’s the philosophy behind a startup Mount Washington Valley bicycle touring company that caters solely to women.
Virginia Schrader, 49, of Kearsarge and Jeanne Twehous, 55, of North Conway started Vesta Velo (vestavelo.com) this year, offering pampering two- and multi-day tours around the White Mountains.
“I think Virginia and I share a tremendous passion for biking and we felt like we wanted to do something with that,” said Twehous, a nurse. “We both believe in the power of the bike and wanted to share that and our beautiful valley here with others.”
Said Schrader, a teacher at Kennett High School, “We live and ride in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and we thought what better place to share our passion?”
Leave the tent at home as accommodations are definitely indoors. A sag wagon transports the luggage and holds healthy snacks. The guided tours are aimed at a group of 6-12 women. Meals are included. Routes average about 25 to 35 miles per day, but there are some 40-plus-mile days too, depending on the tour.
The Whites are loaded with rolling terrain and stunning scenery. Clients can pedal a loop through Bear Notch and ride to the top of Jackson’s Black Mountain. Another trip features riding through Pinkham and Crawford Notches. The region’s grand hotels are the focus of another. Starting at the White Mountain Hotel, pedal to Jackson’s Wentworth, the Mount Washington, Whitefield’s Mountain View Grand and Adair Country Inn in Bethlehem.
Though most tours focus on road riding, one multi-day excursion features circumnavigating Mount Washington in three days, followed by mountain biking area dirt roads and singletrack.
They may expand their tour offerings in the future.
The two are answering queries largely from East Coast riders, though some are coming from Canada, the western United States and even one from Germany.
“We’re talking to women from all walks of life, but the most common trait would be age, women 45 and up who may be entering a new, perhaps less encumbered stage of their lives,” said Schrader. She and husband Bob owned a Tamworth inn for 10 years and partnered in an inn-to-inn bicycle touring company.
The idea for Vesta Velo came during a mountain bike ride. Both women started biking in childhood on Schwinns and soon discovered an independence through cycling.
“I remember distinctly my first day learning to ride without training wheels on my green Schwinn Stingray with its cool banana seat,” Schrader said. “Truly it was love at first ride, tears, cuts, bruises and all. The joy and freedom of riding stayed with me for years.”
Those feelings stay with them today, and they want to foster independence and strength to women through cycling.
“It’s not that we don’t like men – we’re married to two of them – it’s just that men change the dynamic of the group,” Twehous said. “We have different priorities and talk about different things.”
Added Schrader, “We just want to have fun yet get a really good workout and enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded women.”
Both are experienced riders. Twehous toured Mexico’s Copper Canyon with her husband to celebrate her 50th birthday. She once “mostly” rode cross-country, and while living in Boston commuted by bike. She likes to ride a century each season.
A former racer in her early and mid-20s, Schrader is a year-round bicycle commuter through rain, sleet, cold and snow. She competes annually in Crank the Kanc, a time trial along the popular Kancamagus, and enjoys Bike for Books, the North Conway Library’s mountain bike fundraiser. She’ll ride a couple of centuries a season. The first date with her husband was on bikes, 21 years ago.
Recently the two, along with their daughters, pedaled the 25-mile Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Women’s Ride along the coast from Freeport.
The two believe in a very strong advocacy side to their business and also lead a women’s group ride on Sundays.
“I think pretty much anyone can benefit from riding a bike – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually,” Twehous said. “You don’t have to do hills and centuries. Just pedaling around the block is enough to make your feel like a kid again and who doesn’t need that?”