Team Laser Cats

Folks in Philadelphia who love bikes, cats, and snacks.

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Laser Cat Shaniyla Hard at Work at BUP!

Quick Intro: A few weeks back, Team Laser Cats instagram featured a GoFundMe to help Shaniyla pay for a really cool summer program. That one didn’t pan out, but she managed to find another one that is doing great work in Baltimore. From the Baltimore Urban Program (BUP) website: “During this intensive 6 week internship students grow together in their understanding of the city, the ways God is at work here, and their own response and involvement as Christians. After initial orientation, students serve as interns with various Urban Ministries and non-profit organizations throughout Baltimore.” (Link to BUP “About” page

The following is cross-posted from BUP’s blog, an entry by Shaniyla Johnson. Excited to hear more!


By Shaniyla Johnson


I was reserved about leaving my house again as I’ve been all over the place this year. Do I really want to spend my summer away too? So many places, so little time.

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Winter in Summer

Disclaimer: The following is a description of my recovery from a prolonged concussion. None of this should be read as medical recommendations, and I strongly urge anyone who has had a head impact or suspects a concussion to see a doctor specializing in concussions as soon as possible. I wanted to share this story, not to offer medical advice, but to shed light on an highly mercurial injury whose recommendations are changing very rapidly as it becomes better understood. Every concussion is unique, and only a professional knows how to distinguish between unpleasant but non-serious symptoms versus symptoms that may point to something much more serious that could lead to serious complications or permanent brain damage.

The Dream

2017 was going to be the year that I’d try for CX Nationals. Fall 2016 would have been my fourth real CX season after two fairly strong ones as a cat 3, and I finally felt mentally ready to say that yes, I wanted to see how far I could go in this strange, wonderful sport I fell into, and yes, my life circumstances finally allowed me to structure my schedule to make this happen.

I didn’t make this decision lightly. Although I had a passably strong martial arts background, I had been a very mediocre XC runner in high school, and it was to my great surprise one day that I was somehow able to win a bike race. I was very comfortable with being a “mediocre” athlete, but it was also empowering to believe that a part of my identity I thought was unchangeable, I actually could change. It was another sea change to begin to wonder and possibly believe that perhaps I could be part of an elite group of athletes, that even if I was far from being a contender of National Champion, that I would at least be a part of “the best” at something athletic.

As one does when reaching for lofty goals, I found a coach to build accountability. After years of luddite resistance, I purchased a power meter and garmin, learned to use them, and altered my decade of ingrained ride routine to include data downloads (the horror). I didn’t skip any workouts, but between my full-time job as an architect and my part-time job as an adjunct professor of architecture, it meant I frequently got very little sleep. I wasn’t too worried though, as when school let out, I’d have more time to recover and build before the fall CX season. I kept dreaming.

The Quietest Punch to the Face

01_the stick

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How to Make a Perfect CX Donut

Swashbuckler Brewing

Team Laser Cats @ Swashbuckler! Photo by Hana Elum

We at Team Laser Cats tend to have unusual jobs and talents. For example, we have bike shop cats, hair stylist cat, chef cat, organic food coop food buyer cat, Laser Cats and Such cat boss: you get the idea. Up to this point, my profession (architect / adjunct professor) was definitely on the more “quotidian” or “normal” end of the spectrum. But this cat’s got some ~secrete talents~ that she’s been keeping under wraps for a little while, namely, a lifetime of making and designing. And when a lifetime of origami crafts, years of art classes in drawing/mixed media/ceramics, and a couple architecture degrees get harnessed, one can cough up a pretty awesome donut costume for Halloween (not to be humble about it or anything). Continue reading

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#womens100 Ride 2 in Philly Series!

The Philadelphia Women’s 100 Ride Series prepares local women to take on the challenge of the Rapha Women’s 100 ride day, a global event where the Philadelphia contingent takes a 70-ish mile ride to Tabora Farms and back. 

Hills: ascending + descending spearheaded by Laser Cats’ Elisabeth Grindcore! (All photos by Laser Cat Sophia)



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Rapha Women’s 100 – And we’re off!


Photo by Michaela! (All the rest by Sophia)

Last Year, Rapha began a global initiative to encourage more women to ride bikes. Local groups organized to ride a metric century (~64 miles) together around the world. Philly had their own group organized by Laser Cats’ own Melissa Tabas and Arrow Racing / Women Bike PHL’s Michelle Lee. Read more about the official event: Rapha | Women’s 100. Continue reading

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Philly Bike Race!


I cashed in big time on the host housing thing, back when I did a little charity ride called Bike and Build: a group of people who ride across America (coast to coast) to raise awareness for and build affordable housing across America. I slept in church basements, school gyms, JCC’s, occasional dorm or hotel, in host housing, and throughout the process was amazed over and over at the generosity of strangers who take in strangers, just because that’s the right thing to do, and they are in a good circumstance to be able to do so.

Pepper Palace Pro Cycling Team!

Ever since then, I’ve been looking to keep the good karma flowing, and it’s also just fun to have old friends and new friends over for cycling and other events (erm, med school interviews and mathematics conferences for example). And thus, when Elisabeth sent out an email asking if anyone would be interested in hosting some people, I responded in a heartbeat: of course! Continue reading

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Red Hook Crit – Brooklyn 8


Photo by God & Famous

A vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire.

Like the stuff of legends, Red Hook Crit polarizes opinions instantaneously. You either think it’s the most idiotic ridiculous fake race ever, or you actually know what it’s about: an event that requires courage, confidence, and extraordinary skill. Yes, it’s on brakeless track bikes on a crit course. Yes, that is unusual. Yes, I don’t recommend it for an average joe who happens to ride bikes occasionally. However, the next person who tells me that it’s a “glorified alley-cat with a bunch of untrained amateurs,” or that it is a race that is “adding risk, for the shear sake of having the risk” – if you’re brave enough to say it to my face, you will encounter a dark, dark side of me that you’d best leave alone. Yes, it is dangerous, but so is every other bike race. I have felt safer in the Red Hook Crit women’s fields than some as a result of the high caliber of women racers who participate.

OK, rant aside now: you guys, this weekend was just really fucking awesome. Continue reading

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MTB / CX Super Secret Ninja Camp: Sophia’s Report

As a roadie-turned-cyclocrosser, I never really learned how to do logs. Sure, over the years, I’d gained enough confidence on a bike to sort of haphazardly roll over the little ones that cropped up at races, but I always envied my mtb-turned-cyclocrosser friends who rolled over logs like they were so many feet of flat pavement. This needed to stop! Continue reading