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SouthPaw Cycles Supports a Healthy Community in Anderson, South Carolina

By Paul Rowe

SouthPaw Cycles owner Erik Nielson has been deeply involved in the cycling industry for the last 18 years. Nielson's extensive knowledge of bicycle mechanics equips him to effectively outfit Clemson cyclists with all of their needs from clothing, accessories, all the way down to equipment.

"Because of my past experience with cycling, it was a natural progression for me to open a shop," Nielson said. "My wife and I love Clemson and felt the market was under-served, so we got everything organized and opened in January 2015."

Clemson is a gorgeous part of the cycling world, and the demand for bike services is incredibly high. The mountain bike trails in the Clemson Experimental Forest are equally enchanting and rugged, and there are plenty of amazing roads to ride on. Not surprisingly, Clemson cyclists are an inspired dedicated bunch.

"We have a great local customer population with whom we have the opportunity to build long term relationships with. They have been an invaluable support system as the shop has grown," Nielson said. "We also enjoy getting to have access to the student population. There is higher turnover with this group, but it is always exciting to meet the new cyclists that join our community for a couple of years before moving on. It keeps the local rides fresh and fun."

Nielson's passion for cycling is especially evident when he discusses his love for mountain bikes. The technology behind mountain bikes has been moving at an exhilarating rate, and as this technology becomes more widely available, prices have trickled down, making these bikes available to all. Jen Nielson, Erik's wife and the co-owner of SouthPaw Cycles, is equally passionate about cycling.

"Last spring I started a women's specific mountain bike group ride. It was a safe place for women of all ability levels to come together and share a passion with likeminded people," Jen Nielson said. "It created a group willing to put in the time and patience to grow the beginners, and a place where beginners could feel comfortable coming out guilt free for being a beginner or "slow." The group became a place where the cycling women of our community could build each other up, give each other confidence, and celebrate both their little and big accomplishments."

The women's ride has been a resounding success, and as the ride gathered cyclists and word began to spread, more and more requests for a women's ride began to pour in. Through these inspired rides, women in and around the Clemson community celebrate their mental and physical health and get to know members of their community on a more intimate level. Thanks to Jen Nielson's commitment, more and more women in the Clemson region are out on the trails throughout the year, no matter the season.

"I took the mentality and dynamics developed on the trails over to the road and started to alternate Women's Wednesday Night Rides rotating mountain bike and road rides every other Wednesday. Both rides were very popular over the summer and into the fall," Jen Nielson said. "There were plenty of opportunities to cover everything from simple skills such as shifting gears to more advanced technical handling skills. It was a great place for the ladies to bring questions about equipment, nutrition, training, and more personal feminine issues related to riding."

That first year, as winter approached, there was a sense of disappointment that these rides were coming to an end among cyclists. In an enthusiastic attempt to keep the excitement surrounding cycling going, Jen Nielson began offering trainer rides at the SouthPaw shop every other Wednesday night, ensuring that women in the Clemson area are able to freely exercise their minds and bodies, regardless of weather.

SouthPaw Cycles also offers quality women's specific bikes, clothing, and accessories from the celebrated Liv brand. These products promote a strong message of self-confidence, growth, love of community, and love of cycling, while empowering women in the Clemson circle to improve their overall wellness through their own means.

Thanks to SouthPaw Cycles, men and women alike are feeling increasingly confident in hitting the trails, improving their lifestyles, and strengthening their minds and bodies. A shared passion for riding has invigorated the Clemson community.

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Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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