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June 5, 2019

Introducing Molly Sugar

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Our Ambassadors are good friends who we’ve developed long-term relationships with in the testing and development of our gear. They all share a passion for adventure cycling whether that be ultra racing along the spine of a mountain range, or living day in, day out on the bike, making touring a lifestyle. It’s an honor to both support and collaborate with them. We’re excited to welcome Molly Sugar to the family and eager for you to get to know what she’s all about so we asked her a few ice breaker questions!

Molly biking the Baja Divide Cape Loop. Photo credit Jocey Gaudi Quarrell

1.     Did you grow up riding bikes? What was your relationship with the bike/exploring growing up? Do you think that had an influence of where you are now with adventure riding?

Growing up in the suburbs of Maryland, biking wasn’t very accessible because everyone drove cars. Since it was a car centric environment, there weren’t any bike lanes and I never saw people riding that far by bike. 

I did fall in love with camping as a kid though. My Dad was a Boy Scouts leader and my older brother was in his troop. Since I wanted to go hiking and camping like my brother and Dad, I joined Girls Scouts. I only lasted a week though. I found out we would be stuck inside doing crafts rather than being outside and doing the same things the boys were allowed to do. I thought that was so lame! Instead I went on trips with my family, and some of my fondest memories are from our camping trips.

Being exposed to the outdoors and learning survival skills at a young age had a big influence on my life. As an adult, I constantly strive to go back to those experiences of being excited and eager to be in the outdoors. I also try to remember that young girl who just wanted to do the same things that the boys were able to do. 

2.     How did you get into the sport?

Four years ago I was a fixie purist who lived in Brooklyn, but I got tired of living in New York and wanted a change in my life. I went on Google and typed ‘biking across America’ and I found Adventure Cycling’s TransAm route. I became transfixed with all the black and white film photos from the inaugural ride in 76’. I thought ‘hey I could do that’. So from that, I decided to bike across the country and move to Portland. It was my first bike tour and only rode a bike with gears a few times before but I knew this was the right thing to do. As you might have guessed, I learned a lot during that trip and it completely changed my life.

Since then I have become obsessed with bikepacking and gravel riding. I also try to share what I’ve learned (even if it’s not that much) with others who are curious about bikepacking. It turned out the internet influenced my decision to take that leap of faith, and I believe there are a lot of other people in a similar situation.

Molly & friends, she’s organized 25+ group rides! Photo credit Gritchelle Fallesgon.

3.     I know you’re very involved with the biking and LGBTQ community, what are all of the groups you’re a part of, have started or lead?

One thing I noticed in the few years that I’ve been bikepacking is that there is a huge lack of representation when it comes to gender and racial diversity. In order to make the cycling community as diverse as the world we live in, we need to shift the perception that there is only one type of person that rides bikes. To help change that perception and to uplift the voices of people who might not otherwise be heard, I helped start Friends on Bikes and WTF Bikexplorers.

I started Friends on Bikes in 2017 as a way to fosters a community for women of color, trans and gender non-conforming BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) who love riding bikes. In 2018, six of my friends and I started WTF Bikexplorers with the mission to support, celebrate, and connect women, trans, femme, and non-binary cyclists who use their bicycles to explore.

Through Friends on Bikes and WTF Bikexplorers, I organize bikes rides, workshops and events as a way to bring people together who seek community and friendship. Specifically my focus is to get more women of color, trans and gender non-conforming people of color on bikes.

4.     What can we do to be more inclusive within the bikepacking community?

For WTF Bikexplorers we created 10 guiding principles that cover what we believe an inclusive bikepacking and community at large looks like. We expect those within the WTF Bikexplorers community to follow these principles when attending our events and Summit, but these don’t just relate to biking. These principles are simply human principles on how we should treat each other with respect and generosity.

I also strongly believe that the first step is action, and words are meaningless without action. If no actions are taken then we won’t see any change! So take a read on what we can do to be better:

http://wtfbikexplorers.com/guiding-principles

Photo credit Gritchelle Fallesgon.

5.     You’re a woman in tech, which is awesome, are there any similarities between that community and cycling?

There are a lot of parallels in the lack of gender and racial diversity within the tech and cycling communities. Currently I am one of two women and the only person of color in a 19 person company. This is partly due to living in Portland, but even in New York it was very rare to have a woman or person of color in upper management. There’s still a lot of work to do in tech too! 

6.     Also, tell us more about what you do in your day job!

I am very fortunate to be able to combine my love of cycling with my design work at Ride with GPS. RWGPS is a website and mobile app for cyclists. As a user interface designer, I make sure the website and app look and feel intuitive to use so that folks who use our app can enjoy their rides more often. It’s super rewarding to work on a product that I actual use too. I use RWGPS to create routes for rides that I lead and use voice navigation when I don’t have service on remote bikepacking trips. It truly gave me another level of confidence when leading a ride and going out on my own.

7.     What is a great adventure you’ve been on that you can share with us? Why was it special?

The Red Meadow Pass Loop in Montana has a very special spot in my heart. It’s a 105 mile, 3-4 day bikepacking route that goes through the Whitefish Range through Glacier National Park and follows some of the Great Divide. It’s not only breathtakingly beautiful but it seems to stir some magic within my life.

That’s where Whitney, Jocelyn and I first started talking about the idea of WTF Bikexplorers and serendipitously a year later we rode the same loop for an actual WTF Bikexplorers ride. To continue the tradition, this year my partner and I will be bikepacking the loop before we embark on a 2,700 mile ride along the Wild West Route. So each time I’ve ridden out there, it’s caused and started a pretty momentous spark in my life. Maybe it’s the pristine glacial lakes, or the bears – whatever it is I’ll be sure to be back next year too. 

WTF Bikexplorers organizers Molly Sugar, Sarah Swallow, Jocey Gaudi Quarrell & Whitney Ford-Terry. Photo credit Rie Sawada.

8.     What can we learn from bikepacking that could be applicable in the “real world”.

There are a lot of unknowns when bikepacking which has taught me to live in the moment and to roll with the ups and downs that life (or that unexpected hike a bike section) throws at you. 

9.     Who do you look to as a role model? (On or off the bike)

I look up to my Dad a lot. My Dad not only taught me how to go camping but also how to navigate the tech world and be a better person. She is a software engineer and worked on computers ever since there was a first computer. Growing up we had at least four to five computers (some for tinkering) in the house. My Dad made a big impact on my career decisions and I still ask her for career advice. 

My Dad is also trans and came out when I was a teenager. I didn’t know a lot then (am still learning) but she taught me that love truly trumps hate. She also taught me to be true to who I am and to treat everyone fairly. She’s motivated me to do the organizing work that I do today and I am so proud to be her daughter.

10.  What is one piece of advice you can pass along to new bikepackers…or experienced.

Take your time in finding out what works for you and what doesn’t, that’s part of the fun.

Photo Credit Rie Sawada.

There you have it, our newest ambassador! She didn’t mention, but we thought we’d share, that Molly is also on the board for Bikepacking Roots, which is a non-profit (hint: It’s free to become a member!) that supports the advancement of Bikepacking and the conservation of landscapes through which we ride. What rides does she have planned this summer you ask? “This spring, Bikepacking Roots launched the Wild West Route which is a 2,700 mile route from Canada to Mexico. They worked closely with the Navajo Nation, land managers and private owners to get the route finalized. I also couldn’t be more excited because I’ll be riding the whole thing for 2.5 months this summer with my partner!” We’re looking forward to reporting back from Molly’s journey through the Wild West so stay tuned! In the mean time, you can follow her on instagram @Molly.Sugar