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Local Start-Up Business Helps Bridge Gender Gap in Cycling

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa attracts thousands of riders every year with a growing number female cyclists. A local business launched by a pair of women is helping to cater to women's needs.

Biking enthusiasts can find just about anything they need at the Iowa Bike Expo, including more of what's been missing from the event in years past.

"Everyone is kind of catering more towards women and making them feel comfortable by having things that fit them," says April Cooper. She helped launch a "women's corridor," a first at the expo which features items and clothing specifically for women riders.

"It's so encouraging to have women kind of seek you out because they know you know about fit and specific to women's cycling like seats, so its real exciting," says Cooper, the owner of Bikes for You in Grinnell.

Along the corridor, you'll find Lisa Carponelli, a former television anchor turned entrepreneur. Carponelli and her business partner created a women's cycling clothing business called Velorosa Cycling after spending years cycling in clothes not made for their body type.

"We just can't fit into a men's extra - small jersey. That just doesn’t work for us," says Carponelli. "So we thought, let's go ahead and make really high quality gear that has all the technical specifications that fits a woman's body and that looks cool."

The concept is simple but it's taken off. Business has grown every year since it opened online in 2015. Although clothing seems like a small way to make the sport more inclusive, Carponelli says it's a step in the right direction.

"I ride with women several times a week. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get exercise and to also be together. I think the industry has started to recognize that women are a real contender in the sport," said Carponelli.

This spring, Velorosa Cycling clothing will be sold in bike stores in Des Moines and throughout the Midwest.

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