In Celebration of Women on Bikes

Today is March 8, International Women's Day. Scrolling through my social media feeds, I've been overwhelmed by posts celebrating women from all walks of life: girls fighting the odds to go to school in war zones, a huge list of women who have won the Nobel Prize and their accomplishments, and an acknowledgement from the New York Times of all the women that didn't get proper honor at the end of their lives. 

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In the spirit of celebrating women in our lives, this post is all about women on bikes who are changing the world. This list is totally subjective and is colored by my outlook on the "bike world." I know I left people off and might have a second edition soon. 

I encourage you to support these businesses, join their rides, and help promote their causes. Together, we will help reach gender equality in our day.

Leah Benson - Owner of Gladys Bikes in Portland

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 Leah is the brains behind the With These Thighs movement. She runs Gladys Bikes in northeast Portland, which has an innovative saddle library, and is a beacon of light for bike shops. Check out this article from Bicycling for more from Leah, and go visit her when you're in Portland!

Anna Brones - Author, Creator, Cook, Advocate

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I met Anna a few summers ago while on the Komorebi Olympic Adventure Route Trip. She graciously planned and brought all of the food for a trip of 7 women (and it was delicious!) She is a prolific author, penning works including "Hello, Bicycle", "Best Served Wild" and "The Culinary Cyclist." Check out her website for all of the projects she's currently working on. 

Kathleen Emry - Owner of Free Range Cycles in Seattle

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Whenever I meet a small person who is looking for a good quality bike, I direct them to Kathleen at Free Range Cycles. Her shop consistently stocks small bicycles, which for anybody outside of the average size range knows, can be a challenge to find. She's also a badass explorer and adventurer, last year riding the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Madi Carlson - Family Biker Extrodianaire

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Madi has been an inspiration to me since I started riding bikes as an adult. She is the mom of two boys and proudly lives a car-free lifestyle, with frequent updates on Instagram and Facebook of their daily adventures. She wrote "Urban Cycling", a go-to book for all things bikes and currently contributes to Portland Bike Blog for their Family Biking column. 

Jess Cutler - Founder of Northwest Women's Cyclocross Project

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Jess is a lawyer, advocate, champion, and former bike racer. She works for Washington Bike Law and in her spare time runs the Northwest Women's Cyclocross Project, a development team for young cyclocross racers. The project seeks to assist talented female junior and U23 cyclocross racers make the transition from local success to national and international competition. Jess is an inspiration to me to continue to do good work and get more people out on bikes. 

Monica Gallagher - Founder of Menstrual Monday (now Moxie Monday)

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Monica will probably be super embarrassed to be put out to the world like this, but she deserves all the recognition in the world. Monica founded Menstrual Monday (now called Moxie Monday) over 8 years ago, as a monthly women's social bike ride. She is also the brains behind Girls of Summer, an annual women/trans/femme alleycat race in Seattle. Last year, the race had over 140 participants.  Monica also rode the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Canada to New Mexico last summer- SOLO. Seriously, check her out and get inspired: https://www.facebook.com/moxiemonday

 

Gals at the Dalles

There's something about rolling hills, farms and open prairie that just does it for me. I absolutely love it. Add gravel roads, cows, a challenging climb with a screaming descent, the opportunity for dispersed camping and you've got my perfect ride.

Two years ago, I was introduced to the Dalles Mountain 60. This route is typically ridden in one day on the second Saturday in March, with whoever shows up. When I did it in 2016, a mixed bag of cyclists showed up, but primarily roadies with really fancy bikes and spandex. Most people seemed ready to test their mettle on this early season ride and go as fast as possible - up and over Dalles Mountain, down Maryhill Loops, and over Old Moody Road. Scenic photos be damned, they were going for King of the Mountain!

My style of riding is quite different. I'm in it for the journey- photos, fun stops, and whatever may come my way. The problem with doing this ride in early March, however, is you're battling daylight. It's a long, challenging ride with some decent elevation gain. If you don't hustle, you won't make it back to the city before sunset and it gets COLD and DARK out there. 

So after my first experience in the Dalles I knew that I wanted to go back. I was in love with the scenery and wanted more, but wanted to do it on my own terms. And that's how Gals at the Dalles was born.

If you've ready my blog post about my trip last summer with Komorebi Cycling Team, you know about the magic that is biking with all women. So I'm not going to rehash that, but suffice it to say, I was intentional in planning this trip to be all women.

I put the call out on social media that I was doing this trip to Oregon, open to rad women, gave them the route, and to meet at Holstein's Coffee on Saturday the 20th at 10am. In the end, 18 women ended up making the trip to Oregon - 2 from Montana, 2 from Oregon, and 14 from Washington! A pretty damn good turnout!

One challenge going into this ride was fighting my internal voice that kept saying "You're too slow to lead a ride like this." And on some levels, it's true. For the climb up Dalles Mountain (the first 16 miles of Day 1), I was the slowest. But, that doesn't mean I couldn't lead in other ways. To combat this internal struggle, I did the following:

  • Made sure everybody else was as prepared as possible to ride ahead with the route, cue sheets, and knew specific details (like where to get water)
  • Made it abundantly clear that there was no expectation for the group of 18 to stick together
  • Enjoyed my own pace and rode my own ride

My plan totally worked and I was pleasantly surprised when at mile 37, we came down a huge hill after Stonehenge (seriously, there's a full size replica of Stonehenge in the middle of Washington) to find the whole group! I have no idea how long they'd just been hanging out eating lime salted cucumber (you can read about that here on Adventure Cycling) but it was the BEST SURPRISE EVER!!

From there, we rode the final 5 miles into the Deschutes River Recreation Area where we had staged a car with all of our camping gear and a cooler with cold LaCroix and beer. After loading up our bikes, it was a stunning ride 8 miles down the Old Rail Trail to a dispersed camping site for the night.

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Day 2 started with a seriously stupid number of flat tires on the sharp gravel, luckily most of them easily fixable. We only had to boot one tire but it proved to be a good learning experience. Eventually we all made it off of the Rail Trail and back onto the main Dalles 60 route, where Old Moody Road awaited us. 

I think this road should be called Old Moody Mountain, and I honestly think it's the hardest part of the entire trip. This road is like a freaking wall and it's all gravel and so steep. Once we finally conquered that, it was smooth, beautiful riding all the way back into the Dalles.

Ending back at Holsteins Coffee we all collapsed onto the patio in the 95 degree heat. Happy, exhausted, accomplished. And excited to do it again next year?

p.s. This time, I took 600+ photos, and who knows how many the other women took. To see a small selection, search for the hashtag #galsatthedalles on Instagram!