My favorite thing about riding in D.C. is the community. These people just rock and make riding a bike fun. I mean, who else is going to think riding around Hains Point countless times during the middle of winter of is a good idea?
I met Cyndi, a year-round cyclist who puts up big miles coming into the city every day from Northern Virginia, at Friday Coffee Club. I was amazed how nothing seemed to deter her from commuting– not even cold gloomy winter days when there was snow on the ground.
Cyndi not only commutes. She uses her bike as a vehicle for recreation, too, regularly planning bike overnights and other self-supported outings during the summer months.
When you see Cyndi ride, she looks so comfortable and confident, like the bike is an extension of her. You can tell that she loves to ride. I am so happy to feature her today. Thank you, Cyndi, for being part of the Women BikeDC series.
Tell me a little about yourself and when you started riding.
I started riding longer ago than I care to admit – in high school actually. I grew up in California in the middle of the Mojave Desert. There isn’t a whole lot there but there are miles and miles of awesome mountain biking. I could ride out my door and be on silly fun single track in no time – just had to watch out for rattlesnakes!
I kept riding through college and even raced a little. Then I hung up the bike for a while as grad school took me to Michigan and work brought me to D.C. Once here I got heavily into kayaking which pretty much dominated my life. I also had the luxury of walking to work most days.
It was changing both jobs and houses that brought me back to the bike. A few years of metro commuting drove me nuts and I started bike commuting. That rekindled my love affair with riding.
What sorts of things do you do by bike?
I’m now a daily, four-season commuter. I’ve always loved playing in the dirt so cyclocross and gravel are personal favorites. Last year I joined the new Bikenetic Cyclocross team and that has been awesome.
I just got a new mountain bike and that is silly fun. I also love to tour and camp. Highlight tours include Adventure Cycling’s Idaho Hot Springs Route, the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal (GAP/CO), the Finger Lakes of New York, the Erie Canal and Ireland.
How has riding a bicycle influenced your life?
Riding a bike has always made me feel empowered. When I started riding it offered independence and mobility – things important to a teenager. I think that early independence gained through cycling has stuck with me.
Mountain bike racing in college also provided my first real entry into endurance sports. Ever since then I’ve been a bit of a fitness/sports junkie of one type or another.
What features do you think make a city bike-friendly and why?
We could talk about infrastructure all day but really what makes this city bike friendly are the friendly cyclists. I LOVE my bike people. Monday pancakes, Wednesday rebel coffee, Friday Coffee Caravans, bike racing teams, weekend gravel. The list could be limitless.
What do you like about riding in the D.C. area?
My favorite thing about riding in D.C. is the community. These people just rock and make riding a bike fun. I mean, who else is going to think riding around Hains Point countless times during the middle of winter of is a good idea? The C&O Canal and Loudoun County aren’t bad either.
How could the D.C. area improve for cyclists?
Make winter cycling easier. We made huge strides this winter with Arlington County plowing a lot of their trails. Since I commute in from Falls Church I was a major beneficiary of this. It would be great if the Mount Vernon Trail and bike lanes and cycle tracks in D.C. got the same attention.
What are the barriers to women riding?
In terms of bike commuting I hear two things. First is difficulty navigating the need to look/feel professional while arriving by bike. If your office doesn’t have a shower and you have decent length commute you have to get a little creative.
Second is safety. Many of use work stupid hours and aren’t leaving the office until after dark. Riding home can be a little intimidating depending on where you live.
For riding other than commuting I think some women fear that since cycling is so male dominated there is no place for them – that all these male cyclists are going to drop them on group rides or look down on them in some way.
My experience has been completely the opposite. The “bike guys” I’ve met have been the most welcoming, encouraging and supportive group of people I know. Of course that doesn’t mean they still won’t push you every once in a while but I think that is good!
What suggestions do you have for employers who want to be bike-friendly?
Showers, secure bike parking and more flexible hours.
How does it feel to be a woman who rides in an area where women are less than 26% of the riding population?
Honestly, I don’t even think about it.
What are the issues you deal with as a woman cyclist, or is it something you think about?
The only issue I ever grapple with is safety on dark commutes in the middle of winter. Mostly I’ve been able to alter my routes to avoid long dark stretches of trail alone but it annoys me to have to think about that.
Tell me about your bikes.
Mmm … gear. I’ve always loved gear of all sorts and as such my quiver is expanding. That said I’m most in love with, and probably best known for, my Volagi Viaje. The Viaje is a steel framed, curvy adventure bike. It has disc brakes and can take huge tires.
Volagi did a great job marketing it. Their name roughly translates to “the will to go” and they specialize in developing endurance oriented bikes. The Viaje was built to be an everything bike – a bike you could ride all day on road or off. Oh and it is really pretty. All of that really spoke to me.
I got my Viaje early, early. Volagi had started a KickStarter to try to raise money to fund production. They were offering a great price. There were no Volagi deals here at that time so I never had a chance to see one or ride their similar carbon road bike. I knew buying a bike without ever test riding it was risky but I kept finding myself back on their webpage.
Eventually I just entered my credit card number. I figured if it didn’t work out for me I would just sell it. Well the Kickstarter was funded and a few months later my bike arrived.
Of course it arrived right in the middle of the Christmas holiday while I was out of town so I had the bike shipped to Jan at Bikenetic. He put it together for me and the rest is history. I TOTALLY love this bike and have racked up over 13,500 miles on it since the first ride a little over two years ago.
I haven’t ever built a bike up from scratch yet. I’d probably get myself in trouble financially if I tried as I’d want the top end of everything. Still, someday I have dreams of building up a Viaje-Ti.
What bike accessories do you consider must-haves and why?
Bar Mitts rocked my winter!
And I highly recommend two (or more) wheelsets if you have a do-everything bike. I got tired of the almost daily swap of road, cross, and gravel tires!
One of the best bike adventures you’ve ever had?
I’m happy whenever I’m on the bike and try to treat every day as an adventure. My recent Idaho trip was really spectacular. It was just Dave, my partner, and me on this trip.
The scenery was amazing and the riding challenging. We got to wild camp which is all too rare here on the east coast.
Being totally self sufficient and in the middle of absolutely nowhere was a huge change from D.C. You can get a sense of the trip from our pics.
A word or phrase that summarizes your bicycling experience?
Addicting, fun and rewarding.