Grace

Freedom on Two Wheels: Grace of Women BikeDC

First and foremost, riding bicycles has brought me closer to the vibrant biking community of D.C. It has heightened my appreciation of nature & my environmental concerns. I also believe it has made me a healthier and much happier individual.
Grace

As I began putting together today’s Women BikeDC feature, I realized that I have known Grace for a few years now, but have never heard her cycling story or thoughts on riding in the D.C. area.

Grace has spent years working in bike shops, and I also knew she was an avid commuter and year-round rider. All this made me eager to talk with her and learn more. Thank you, Grace, for being part of the Women BikeDC interview series!

Tell me a little about yourself and when you started riding.

Always have ridden! My first bike was my brother’s Batman bike that he outgrew. I am fortunate to have grown up in a cycling family and I ride with my family pretty often still.

I work at D.C.’s very own BicycleSPACE and have been there since 2013. I also represent Santana Tandems in various East Coast bicycle shows. I love bicycling and I want to get more women out on bicycles every single day!

Grace

What sorts of things do you do by bike?

Everything! I commute to work and school via bicycle, I run errands via bicycle and I also ride for the sheer joy of it.

How has riding a bicycle influenced your life?

First and foremost, riding bicycles has brought me closer to the vibrant biking community of D.C. It has heightened my appreciation of nature & my environmental concerns. I also believe it has made me a healthier and much happier individual.

What features do you think make a city bike-friendly and why?

The most important feature is driver awareness, hands down; although tied with that would be bike lanes. The combination of safe(r) drivers and bike lanes put cyclists in a safe and confident position to do everything by bicycle!

What do you like about riding in the D.C. area?

My favorite thing about riding around here is that I always (without fail) see someone I know out on their bicycle.

How could the D.C. area improve for cyclists?

This goes hand in hand with my answer for a bike-friendly city: making drivers more conscientious and increasing the amount of bike lanes – as well as protected bike lanes! – in and around the city.

Grace (1)

Why do you think more women don’t ride bikes?

I think it’s the long-standing truth that men have always cycled. I think that a lot of women in this area (Nelle of WABA’s Women & Bicycles as well as Laurie of Proteus in College Park) are making great strides to have an encouraging and welcoming environment for women in bicycling.

Probably one of the biggest barriers is that most of the bike shop people are men – thankfully at BicycleSPACE we’ve got lady mechanics and ladies on the sales floor as well. I think one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is getting more women working in bike shops and being more vocal (like you!) on blogs, in the community and in the media in general.

I think once hesitant women realize that there are women here enjoying riding every day, they’ll be more comfortable to get in to the groove of cycling.

You’ve been working in bike shops for several years now (initially at College Park Bikes, and now BicycleSPACE). What has your experience been like?

I started working at College Park Bikes in 2012 with no prior bike shop experience, fresh out of high school. I was a touch intimidated as I was the only woman working there for most of my two-ish years there.

I quickly learned that woman customers felt much more comfortable talking to me rather than my male coworkers about saddles and other women-specific items. I love helping women feel more comfortable at a bicycle shop because I think that will help more women ride consistently.

Once I moved to BicycleSPACE, I was already surrounded with more women. We have ladies both on the sales floor and wrenching. I think by having such a strong women presence, we’ve been able to help increase women ridership.

We teach free classes and lead rides that I believe help beginner riders feel more confident on the road in the city as well as fixing their own bicycles. I’ve noticed that we get a lot of women attending these events and that is awesome!

Grace

What suggestions do you have for employers who want to be bike-friendly?

One must-have is bicycle parking– bonus if it’s protected (garage, locker etc.).  Second, incentivize cycling (and other alternative transportation forms) with commuter checks. A high hope would be employee showers!

How does it feel to be a woman who rides in an area where women are less than 26% of the riding population?

I feel lucky that we have such a welcoming community (shout out to WABA’s Women & Bicycles program) to make all cyclists feel included and safe.

What are the issues you deal with as a woman cyclist?

Apart from driver/pedestrian cat-calls, it’s not something I think about very much.

Grace
Tell me about your bikes.

I love all my bicycles so much! My first “real” bike is my Burley Kenz, a zippy little road bike I use for my longer fitness rides and for feeling snappy, such an empowering bicycle.

Next, I built up my Surly Cross-Check “Asterix” at 32 lbs, he ain’t light but with full fenders & racks I can take this bad boy out on the C&O camping or just to a long day at school. I built Asterix as a fixed gear and rode that for a year before making the sensible choice to put racks/fenders and a 1×8 gearing on him.

Those are my daily rides. Then I share a Santana Rio tandem with my boyfriend– hoping for some great adventures on that one!

Could you talk about what it was like to build up a bike, and how you went about it?

I enlisted the help of various BicycleSPACErs (most notably Kate and Derek). I bought Asterix fresh from Surly as a single speed/fixed gear, so for a first bike build it was relatively easy. Kate walked me through setting up the brake cables and truing the wheels as well as making sure everything was well-greased and operable.

Once I decided to convert the Surly Cross-Check from fixed to an eight speed to make it a dream-commuter, I knew I had to put a bit more work in. Installing a front rack, a rear rack, full-coverage fenders, new handlebars, new rear derailleur, new shifter cables & levers as well as a new cassette on a new wheel – definitely racked up some work.

With the help of my skilled coworkers, I learned a lot about building bikes and I have my wonderful Asterix to thank for it.

What bike accessories do you consider must-haves and why?

If you’re a daily commuter like myself, I’d definitely say a rack and a nice pannier. Getting a rack and some Ortlieb panniers for my Cross-Check made a huge difference.

I had been riding around with a great bag on my back, but showing up to class every day all sweaty wasn’t great. I can carry way more by using a rack and panniers, and at less expense to myself.

Grace

What’s one of the best adventures you’ve ever had on a bike?

I’d have to say one Saturday when my coworkers (shout out to BicycleSPACE) and I decided we should take an impromptu bicycle-camping trip up the C&O!

This involved muddy single-tracking through the woods and staying up on a rock over the Potomac River to watch the sunrise before catching an hour or so of sleep.

A word or phrase that summarizes your bicycling experience?

Freedom.

Comments welcome - moderated for spam - but please write if you like!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s