The dark blue river flowed by us as we prepped dinner along the sandy inlet next to R’s hammock. We each tended to our meals – either waiting for dehydrated food to soften up, or stirring meticulously so burnt bits didn’t get stuck at the bottom of our stoves. As we ate we talked about whatever came to mind, from the days ride to our different meals.
The convo naturally shifted to what it was like to be a woman of color at our 9-5 jobs. R talked about the conflicts of being Mexican and working with patients covered in white supremacy tattoos while also having to be the resident Spanish speaker. J talked about being ask to lead her work’s DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) program because she was a Black woman. She wasn’t getting any compensation for the extra work though. M mentioned seeing significant changes in diversity at her work after a queer woman was hired in upper management and how that was the only driving force for lasting change. S talked about finally understanding why a space like this was needed, and expressed her struggles with language and cultural differences as a non-American. As each of us spoke we recognized one another with a nod of I see you, an audible ‘dang’, or a combination of both.
We could all relate to one another because we each had to persist no matter the odds stacked against us. We each had to be courageous to accomplish whatever we set out to do.
It wasn’t a coincidence that this overnight bikepacking trip was another challenge we had to overcome. For R, it was her first time bikepacking, ever. For M, she was riding a brand new bike that she only got two days before the trip. For J, it was visiting the Deschutes area for the first time even though she grew up only an hour away. For S, it was shaking down her setup before an intense 5 day bikepacking trip. For myself, it was my first time leading a gravel bikepacking trip for all women of color.
With all our personal challenges, we came together to share our stories and to grow with one another. This bikepacking trip wasn’t just about riding bikes and camping, it was a weekend to be seen and feel heard. It was the very reason why Friends on Bikes was created.
*Friends on Bikes is a social cycling group for *BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) who identify as women, trans and gender non-conforming. FOB was created to foster a community for those who often feel underrepresented in cycling.
**This piece was inspired by the phrase ‘nevertheless she persisted’ that was on R’s bike chainstay.
Words by Molly Sugar. Photos by Rie Sawada.
Molly is continually searching for ways to intersect grassroots organizing with art and design to create a more inclusive cycling community. She is the founder of Friends on Bikes, a group for women of color, trans and gender non-conforming BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) who love cycling. She is also the co-founder of WTF Bikexplorers, a Summit and nationwide ride series for Women, Trans, Femme and Non-binary people who use their bikes to explore. Aside from organizing, Molly is a Kona ambassador and lead designer for Ride with GPS. She is on the board for Bikepacking Roots, and her newest passion is to create bikepacking routes that are accessible for all levels within the Pacific Northwest (and beyond).