Molly Ritterbeck packs a one two punch. When you meet her on the road, you notice that she's not just crushing it on the tough climbs, she's crushing it with an ombre fishtail braid and expertly painted nails. The polarity of her training and career instantly drew us to Molly. When we met Molly this summer on a Rapha ride she was the associate beauty editor at Fitness Magazine. She does an incredible job of balancing her passions, and embodies equal parts athlete and beauty editor. She has since become the fitness editor at the magazine, but is still our go to for expert advice on everything from sunscreen to gorgeous hair. Here she shares a little bit more of her story, and her favorite products...
It sounds like you've been an active person your whole life, trying many different sports. How did you get into cycling?
I grew up playing sports like basketball and soccer so I’ve identified with being an athlete my whole life. After I graduated college I tried a lot of different things, searching for something I loved that didn’t feel forced or tortuous. About three years ago, my dad and older brother got really into road riding and it caught my attention. I grabbed my brother’s old hand-me-down Jamis and went for a few rides. I’m admittedly a very competitive person and I craved competition so as a casual runner who now had a bike, I essentially jumped in a pool and signed up for my first triathlon. I’ve since (obviously!) upgraded my bike and continued doing tris but, after a few races, it was very clear to me that the bike leg was not only my strongest, but it was also my favorite by far, and I knew I wanted to focus more on cycling. At first, I was really intimidated by the whole bike world—by the culture, the expenses, the mechanics, the lingo—just everything. But then I went on a cycling trip to Vermont with Trek Bikes and Trek Travel and it changed all that. Coming from a triathlon background, I was only used to training and riding by myself, but during that trip, I learned how to ride in a group. It was a safe environment to finally ask all the questions I had been too embarrassed or intimidated to ask before. It really opened my eyes to a different side of cycling.
What was it about bikes that appealed to you so much?
I love it all! I love the adventure. There are few better ways to explore and discover new places than on two wheels. I love that you can go farther and longer than you ever could on just two feet. I don’t know, it just agrees with me. Cycling has definitely changed my body but more importantly, it has made me really proud of what my body and my mind can accomplish. I love the endurance factor. It’s also an escape for me. It might sound silly but without a car, you can sometimes feel a little trapped on this crazy island. So I love that it gives me some freedom, and I can take a break from my sensory-overloaded life in the city and find a little peace and quiet on my bike when I need to.
What is your favorite type of cycling to do and why?
It kind of depends. If I’m training for a race or really busy, then I’ll do solo rides and sometimes they’re just what I need. When I ride with my club (New York Cycle Club), it’s fun because it’s a huge group so you always meet new people and learn a lot. The guys outnumber the girls so the competitive side of me comes out on those rides. I get a lot of satisfaction out of pulling a paceline of dudes twice the size of me. Other times, I’ll join a women’s ride like the ones out of Rapha, and it’s a totally different experience but equally as enjoyable. I love riding with girls. I love being surrounded by strong, capable, badass women on bikes. It’s inspiring and empowering and so much fun.
You go out and do centuries and tris, and then are photographed on red carpets next to Katy Perry and Heidi Klum. Is it incredibly intense balancing these two worlds?
I don’t really think of it as intense. I think some people are surprised by the polarity of my life—you should see the looks on the faces of the guys in my club when I tell them what I do for a living—but I don’t really think twice about it. I simultaneously live in two very different worlds. I straddle the line between a very glam world and a sporty world on a daily basis. Beauty and fitness are two of my greatest passions in life so I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to make a career out of both. I kind of want to bust the stereotype that girly girls can’t be tough or sporty chicks can’t be girly. It’s so not true. You can be both. You can be anything you want to be. As far as balancing it, scheduling is key. Whether I’m training or just riding for fun, I actually block out times on my calendar for when I plan to ride and work out. When I have it organized that way, it helps me stay accountable and fit it all in.
Do you see a lot more of your peers in fashion and media getting into cycling? (Are soulcycle and urban commuting gateway drugs???) What do you think are the biggest barriers towards getting more women in to cycling?
To be honest, I, unfortunately, haven’t seen a lot of my peers in beauty and fashion getting into cycling. The boutique spin studio craze has definitely taken a hold of that segment. I work with some insanely busy women who just need to fit in that workout in 45 minutes, and places like SoulCycle and Flywheel fit the bill for them. Most of the people I know who are addicted to those workouts would never bother buying or riding an actual bike. But oddly enough, Flywheel was totally a gateway drug for me. I was spinning a lot at the time I became curious about cycling and mistakenly figured the two were nearly the same. I quickly learned that that’s not the case.
When I’m working on photo shoots, that’s a different story. I’m definitely seeing more of it in that industry. We shoot in some studios downtown and in Brooklyn where the urban commute is very popular. Plus, the creative people who work on photo shoots tend to have different schedules than that midtown Manhattan woman, so I’ve definitely been seeing it amongst that crowd more.
I think one of the biggest barriers to getting more women into cycling is the initial intimidation factor. I think some women feel overwhelmed by the concept of buying and owning a bike. I know I did at first. Since I’ve gotten more into cycling, I’ve convinced a few girl friends to buy bikes and the first thing they always say is they don’t know where to start. So I think increasing education and customer service within the shops can make a huge difference. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to deal with bike shop attitude, so I wish that would lighten up a bit and the culture would become more welcoming to women and newcomers in general. In other situations, it’s the investment. It’s an expensive sport, especially upfront but I try to reassure people that once you have the basics, it gets a lot easier from there. And finally, just the fact that it’s been such a male-dominated sport for so long, but even that’s shifting. I think we’re in a really cool moment right now. There are a lot of exciting things happening for women in cycling and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.
Everyone was blown away by your Rapha nails, but can we talk about you hair??? How do you train as hard as you do (chlorine included) and still have those fabulous locks?
I’m always down to talk about hair! Triathlon training is incredibly tough on your hair and skin. The chlorine is really drying and when you spend hours running and biking out in the sun, that’s harsh too. Luckily as a former beauty editor, I have access to a ton of products that I can test to find what works to solve those issues. You have to replenish what the chlorine takes away so I try to be extra diligent about using a rich body moisturizer and do a hair mask once a week when I’m swimming a lot. As for the sun, I’m crazy about sunscreen. I always apply it to my face and body but I even spray a mist with UV protection on my hair. Aveda’s Suncare Protective Hair Veil is a good one. I have to admit, my biggest dirty little secret is that I rarely wash my hair. Shampooing too often strips your hair of its natural oils. Since I’ve cut back, my hair has grown longer and is healthier than ever. I only wash it once or twice a week but workout almost every day. I’m a heavy sweater so I’ll either rinse (but not wash) in between or use dry shampoo (I can’t live without Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk). It sounds a little gross but it’s better for your hair, I swear!
What are the five (cycling related-ish) beauty products that you could not live without. Are there treatments that are musts as well?
As I mentioned, sunscreen is my number one. I love the brand Supergoop! I use the Everyday Sunscreen SPF 30 on my face before rides and it never stings my eyes and the Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist SPF 30 on my body because it’s so easy to spray and go. It doesn’t leave my hands greasy either, which is important.
Waterproof mascara—always! Maybe it’s not totally necessary but I just feel better with it on. My current fave is Dior Diorshow Iconic Overcurl Mascara.
Aquaphor Healing Skin Ointment. This is like your do-it-all in a tube. You can use it as a chamois cream, on your feet to prevent blisters or on your lips as a balm. I’ve even used it to help heal road rash. It comes in different sizes, too. The small one fits perfectly in your jersey pocket.
A really good razor. Shaving your legs is one of the few areas of cycling that girls have more experience with than the guys! My favorite is Schick Hydro Silk. It has five blades for the closest shave and a water-activated serum that lubricates and hydrates your skin to prevent irritation. You barely need shaving cream.
Fun nail polish! Of course I don’t always have time to paint my nails before every ride but I love to match my nails to my kit or accessories. Before races, I get a mani/pedi to relax my nerves and adding some nail art just gives me a little extra motivation.
As far as treatments go, I treat myself to a massage after a big race or a long ride like a century. It definitely helps the recovery process.
What are your cycling goals for the future?
I just want to continue to grow and get better as a cyclist, to try new things, gain more skills and keep learning. But I know it doesn’t all happen overnight so I’m trying to be patient. I have a few things on my list: I definitely want to do more centuries and try to improve my time. I have my eye on the New York Gran Fondo and a few other events next year. I still want to sprinkle in a few triathlons because I like the competition and training across three disciplines gets you in really good shape. I just went mountain biking out in Santa Cruz for the first time so now I really want to get a mountain bike and figure that out. I want to do it all! But my ultimate bucket list goal is to do a cross-country ride someday. I just have to figure out how to take off that much time from work!