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Cycling while femme in Seattle

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Here’s where to find a community of womxn and bikes

Shannon Leigh of Radiant Wrench.
Courtesy of Radiant Wrench

It’s easy to make the case for hopping on your bike instead of in your car, especially during these next few months: A bike looks sporty. It comes with a hat, sometimes even a basket. Your gear options suddenly multiply: windbreaker jackets, clicky-clack shoes, and actual gears. Plus, while the city still has a ways to go, Seattle has done a lot in the last few years to improve traffic safety for bikers.

You may have read some chatter recently around how white, male, and affluent the average bike commuter seems to be, like that op-ed in Crosscut, or that data in the Seattle Times. But there’s a longstanding (and growing!) collection of resources within Seattle to help womxn (including womxn of color) from any socioeconomic background find access to bikes, rides, and community.

It’s nice to hit the road with a friend or two. Here’s where to start.

Join in

Seattle WTF Bike Explorers

Made for women/trans/femme riders, WTF Bike Explorers was founded in 2017, with the Seattle chapter following in 2018. WTF Bike Explorers has legs (get it?) all over the country, and holds an annual WTF Bike Explorers Summit, a three-day event, happening in August, where attendees share ideas and skills and connect with one another. You can find the events the Seattle chapter hosts on Facebook. Its rides vary in skill level, but they’re always adventurous. Think: a hearty 140-mile weekend along the Olympic Discovery Trail, or a leisurely ride around Bainbridge involving lots of pizza.

Moxie Monday & Summer Jam

Moxie Monday is a ride for women/trans/femme/nonbinary (WTFNB) folks happening on the first Monday of every month. Meeting at the Seattle Center around 6:30, the ride covers about 15 miles in a few hours, allowing you to get some heavy breathing done but giving you space to connect with your fellow riders. Moxie also hosts an annual Summer Jam at Gasworks Park exclusively for WTFNB folks. For $10, you get to participate in this citywide alleycat—an informal type of bike race started by Canadian bike messengers in the late 1980s—which will send you to specific checkpoints all over town. Show up with any skill level and any kind of bike, as long as it’s pedal-powered.

Rapha Seattle’s “Friends Gone Riding”

This Capitol Hill “clubhouse” might be a little masculine (it’s very masculine), but it seems to be aware of that. Showing effort, it plays host to “Friends Gone Riding,” a womxn-only, medium-paced ride held on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. Led by Jessica Cutler, a seriously wondrous former professional racer and bike mechanic, national champion on the track, and 2016 single-speed cyclocross world champion who also happens to be a bike lawyer, this ride is a great time to connect, train, and casually tap into Jessica’s wealth of knowledge and experience. Though Rapha works with a membership system, you don’t have to be a member of the club to join this ride, and folks show up wearing whatever they want, although click-in shoes are always handy. The rides average about 22 miles and take around two hours.

Black Girls Do Bike

“It’s like a pep rally for black girls on bikes!” There are dozens of iterations of this group all across the country, and Seattle’s chapter has been around since 2015. The group champions cycling among all women, but especially black women and girls. Recently, it hosted the “Ride through Jimi’s neighborhood,” leisurely exploring the area where Jimi Hendrix lived in Seattle. Mostly, though, the platform is used as a place to share advice, place open calls to go riding together—or to have coffee and talk riding together—and to serve as a protected space for women of color who love biking.

Get a bike (or get a bike fixed)

The Bikery

Revered among Seattle’s sturdiest cyclists, the Bikery is an inclusive shop and gathering space in the Judkins Park area. Expect to get your hands dirty: The volunteer mechanic-educators help you fix your bike yourself, giving you full access to all their tools, space, and knowledge. The opening hours are limited—Saturday through Monday—and service or stand time is available on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s a wonderful, low-cost resource, overtly aiming to be inclusive, which makes it worth checking out (or donating to!). If you don’t have a bike yet, this might be a great place to buy one, and if you’re in need of a part, it should be your first stop.

Bike Works

This nonprofit shop in Columbia City has been around since 1996, providing classes for kids and adults and doing absolutely everything to help make bicycling accessible and affordable in the city. It’s got you covered with affordable used bikes, parts, and even bare frames if you’re looking for a project. If you’re not around Columbia City, track down its Bikemobile via Instagram, Twitter, or this calendar. This mobile repair shop travels through Seattle in the summer, mostly to “bike deserts”—areas where cycling isn’t as accessible—and offers a sliding scale for repairs.

Take a class

Good Weather

This little owner-operated shop is tucked in the courtyard of Chophouse Row, just off 11th Avenue and Pike Street on Capitol Hill. The cozy bike shop and cafe—with kombucha on draft and avocado toast on the menu—is an excellent place to start if you’re thinking of getting serious about cycling. One of the owners, Danielle Hammer, teaches an Intro to Urban Cycling class for folks who have been on a bike before but need a little guided practice with Seattle traffic, hills, and fixing a flat. The class takes a few hours and fills up at eight participants, so lots of good hands-on learning is possible. Good Weather also hosts a series of rides, and although they’re unrestricted, they fill up with about a 50-50 split down the traditional gender divide, “which is actually amazing,” says Danielle. She recommends the Saturday-morning rides to beginners. Those keep a casual pace, covering about 20 miles in two hours.

The Radiant Wrench

This rider-oriented education company is the brainchild of Shannon Leigh—founder and “Mechanicorn”—who is a Seattle-area cyclist of all kinds of bikes, head mechanic at mountain bike suspension service shop Edgar Bikes, and a nonbinary person. Radiant Wrench classes are hosted at shops all over, from Bellingham to Olympia, Gig Harbor to North Bend. The organization hosts co-ed classes as well as those exclusively for women, trans, and nonbinary folks. Learn to change a flat tire and perform a safety check in Mechanic 101, for example, or learn all about derailleur adjustments in Drivetrain 201.

Shannon also works with Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance as a skills coach, and partners with Liv Bikes and Sisters in Action Sports to host events for all kinds of women, trans, and nonbinary folks.

The Velodrome

Did you know there is a bike arena in Redmond? It’s called the Jerry Baker Memorial Velodrome, and it’s actually a King County park, operated by the Marymoor Velodrome Association. If you’re interested in track racing, it’s the place to go, although they will initially make you ride on their rental bikes, since races have to be fair, or whatever.

The Velodrome hosts a women’s training session, and there’s a Women of the Jerry Baker Memorial Velodrome group on Facebook that can help you get started. Perhaps the best part: On Friday nights during the summer months, you can pay just $5 to see a wide range of races while either enjoying a beer from the beer garden—or from the growler you brought in—while snacking on a bite from a food truck. Who knew the Eastside could be so fun?