With National Bike Month upon us and a potential record-setting RAGBRAI just on the horizon, it’s a fine time to invest in your cycling style. For some pointers, we talked to Velorosa founders Kim Hopkins and Lisa Carponelli, who started their women’s bike clothing company almost out of necessity. “We couldn’t find the type of cycling wear we wanted to train in, so we had to design it ourselves,” Carponelli said.
Both women are avid bikers. Hopkins, a graphic designer, and Carponelli, a communications professor at Simpson College and former news anchor at WOI, started their business in 2015 and have been making jerseys and shorts in bright, bold colors and patterns ever since. You can find their products at Erik’s and Scheels in West Des Moines or online at velorosacycling.com.
We asked the duo about their business and top riding spots and then lightly edited their following answers for clarity and space.
Your business originated from the Velorosa cycling group, which now comprises about 120 female riders. How did that happen?
Hopkins: As a graphic designer, I was responsible for designing cycling kits (a jersey and shorts combo) for the team. When other women cyclists saw our members riding around Des Moines, many asked if they could purchase one. That’s really where the idea for the company began. We took that team kit idea and made it a national brand.
What’s the inspiration?
Carponelli: We wanted to ride in high-performance biking shorts and jerseys that were functional and also fun to wear. One of our core beliefs at Velorosa is that women should stand out on their bikes. It’s a matter of safety and also a matter of confidence. We work hard to create products that help women enjoy the sport they love.
Can you describe your design process?
Hopkins: We spend a lot of time on the fit and feel of our products; it goes into every piece we make. We “test ride” all our gear and have members of the Velorosa cycling team give us feedback. That allows us to be very involved in the R&D side of the business. For example, we wanted to design comfortable cycling shorts with the type of chamois that could be comfortable for long distances. A few of our teammates are ultra-distance racers and swear by our shorts. Our jerseys and tanks are made from quality, high-performance fabrics meant to stand up to your most challenging workouts and still feel very comfortable at the end of your ride.
Where do you like to ride?
Hopkins: I love the new Carl Voss Trail that starts near Principal Park and connects to the trail around Easter Lake. I’m fortunate that I can hop on the trail near my house and do a scenic two-hour ride without having to get onto a busy street. When I only have an hour, I like to hit the center trails near Ashworth Pool, which has some of my favorite mountain-biking in the area.
Carponelli: I love to ride gravel outside of Des Moines. There are some beautiful country roads that I hope never get paved. One of the things I most enjoy is a challenging gravel ride and then a stop with friends afterward at the Cumming Tap.
3 More to Explore
PedalArt Poster Show
The Des Moines Street Collective’s popular PedalArt Poster Show presents some of the hippest bike-themed artwork designed and printed by area artists.
The 13th annual show kicks off May 12 with a reception at Confluence Brewing Co., 1235 Thomas Beck Road, before the collection moves the next day to Bike World’s West Des Moines shop, at 5003 E.P. True Parkway, through May 29.
As in years past, 30 Iowa artists each create 30 prints of an original poster and sell them for $40 apiece. Nearly 200 Iowa artists, including Brian Duffy, John Bosley and Jimmy Navarro, have participated in the event since its inception and receive 70% of the profits.
Chain & Spoke Coffee/Cyclery, 515 28th St.
New this spring, the combo java and bike shop has a simple tag line: “The coffee will bring you in, but the bike will get you out.”
Located in a recently renovated brick-and-glass building just south of Harbinger, the shop serves coffee up front with about 25 seats; in the back, hobbyists can grab a seat at the bike mechanic’s bench to brainstorm a new build or watch a race.
“We hope to create a space where people from different levels of cycling will want to come hang out in and interact,” owner Jeff Hoobin said.
He got into cycling with the popular ride to Cumming Tap and eventually taught himself bike mechanics. His full-service shop retails high-quality bikes from Spain-based Orbea and two domestic manufacturers, Allied (from Arkansas) and Wilde (from Minnesota).
Ichi Bikes, 3705 Sixth Ave.
The quirky East Village business recently expanded to a second space in Highland Park. Owner Dan Koenig purchased the red building next to Des Moines Mercantile during the pandemic for extra storage and opened it in March with bikes to buy and rent.
Expect to find one-of-a-kind creations, electrics, cruisers, cargos and more in the 100-foot space. Rentals include a few electrics and cruisers.