About a year ago, I sat down to make a list of influential women in the bike industry. It was a quick, sketch on a cocktail napkin kind of thing, that included largely people I knew and a few I didn’t. As I took another look at this list, what struck me is just how many women I could add to it. In truth, the number of women working in the bike industry has expanded significantly in the past few years.
At the same time, the industry still carries a lingering odor of man cave. By now, most people know about The Interbike Socks Controversy and many have an opinion about podium girls. At a recent year-end gala, the UCI handed out awards to many top pro riders – but only one woman. Many women in the bike industry will say that the socks are the least of their problems – it’s the sexism of low expectations, the endless battle to be respected for their talents, and the sense that too often the deck is stacked against them.
If you asked them, the women on this list would probably say they’re not supposed to be here, but mostly, they’re probably too busy getting things done to think about lists. At least one would say in no uncertain terms that she does not deserve a gold star for doing her job while also having a vagina. I have some sympathy for this perspective that somehow it is condescending to celebrate women simply for showing up and doing a good job at what they do.
But until the bike industry loses its vestigial reptile tail for good, I think it’s worth calling out the achievements of women who are making things happen. Let’s go.
There are three big component makers in the world of cycling. This is like the holy trinity, you can probably answer this one in your sleep and then no doubt go on at length about which one is better. Elayna Caldwell is the director of brand marketing for mountain bike at SRAM. Now I’ll go ahead and confess that I haven’t been reading the org chart at SRAM lately, but I do know that puts Caldwell pretty damn near the top of one of the biggest companies in the bike industry. Watch any good mountain bike videos lately? Caldwell may well have had a hand in the funding and planning of that thing you were watching when you were supposed to be working. I promise I won’t tell your boss.
The founder of Black Women Bike DC, Veronica Davis rides everywhere she can and views her bike as a path to freedom. Her inspiration for founding Black Women Bike DC came to her after a young black girl was surprised to see Davis riding a bike. Davis was struck by the girl’s reaction and was determined to change it by helping more black women ride. Within three years, her organization had grown to more than 700 members. (Read more at this Washington Post story.)
“¨Leah is the executive editor of Bicycling Magazine, which makes her one of the leading members of the cycling media. With a circulation in the 600,000 range, Bicycling is nearly unmatched in reach when it comes to cycling print magazines. She edits features, decides photos and graphics, and helps oversee the bazillion (not an exaggeration) details that go into producing a magazine every month.
Mountain bike racer Georgia Gould, in photo above, has an Olympic bronze medal and is a four-time U.S. cross-country national champion. In her spare time, she also races cyclocross and won the USGP series on three occasions. There are a lot of talented bike racers in the world, but Gould’s persistent advocacy for equal prize money in cyclocross and mountain biking gives her an influence that goes far beyond her race results. In December 2007, Gould petitioned the UCI for equal prize money in cyclocross in what became known as the “Gould Standard.” As a member of the UCI Athlete’s Commission, she proposed equal prize money for mountain bike racing and, in 2015, all UCI-registered mountain bike events were required to offer equal prize money for men and women.
“¨Growing up, Julie Idlet spent many joyful days riding her bicycle. She visited Walden Pond and passed through the famous Revolutionary War towns of Lexington and Concord. She grew up, but never stopped riding. While working for a software company, she learned with dismay about the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. Weren’t kids riding bikes the way she had? It turned out they were not. In response, Idlet quit her job and founded Cycle Kids, which brings nutrition and bike safety education into schools.
When Ibis relaunched in 2005, the company had four partners: Scot Nicol, Hans Heim, Tom Morgan, and Roxy Lo. No doubt you’ve heard of Nichol, and maybe you’ve also heard of Heim. But you may not know Lo, who is an industrial designer. Love the swooping lines of the Ripley 29er? You can thank Lo next time you see her. While engineers obsess about things like making sure the tires don’t hit the chain stays and the suspension actually, well, suspends, industrial designers like Lo give your new bike the look and feel that makes you grin like a besotted idiot every time you see it.
There are few jobs in bike racing that Kristy Scrymgeour hasn’t had. So far, she’s been a pro bike racer, a journalist for Cyclingnews, a team manager for Highroad Sports, and the communications manager for Highroad Sports. When Highroad folded, Scrymgeour founded the Specialized-Lululemon women’s team. During the team’s four years of racing – this year as Velocio-SRAM – they won four straight team time trial championships. In the meantime, Scrymgeour also started a clothing company. With the closing of Velocio-SRAM at the end of 2015, Scrymgeour will devote her full attention to Velocio clothing and to Ally’s Bar, which she co-owns with Ally Stacher.
“¨She has a MBA from Stanford University. Yes, that Stanford University, the one in Palo Alto with the stone buildings and palm trees and prestige and stuff. Currently, Erin Sprague is the director of market development for the U.S. at Specialized. That means men’s bikes, women’s bikes, kid’s bikes – all the bikes rolling around decorated with the Big Red S. Previously, Sprague directed Specialized Women. Do you ride an Amira? Does your friend ride an Amira? Sprague almost certainly had a hand in bringing that bike to life.
As the general manager of Giant Bicycles, Elysa Walk directs one of the largest – if not the largest – bike brands in the world. She got her start in the software industry before joining Giant in the human resources department. After four years at Giant, Walk became general manager in 2007. Want to know more? Read this interview by Bicycling’s Leah Flickinger.
Laura Weislo is the deputy editor for Cyclingnews, the go-to news site for cycling fans around the world. She got her start at CN as a production editor and moved on to head up North American coverage before taking her current position as deputy editor. She writes, edits, and assigns stories and tries not to fall behind the infinite loop of the 24-hour news cycle. Weislo is a member of a growing cohort of women in the media that includes Nicole Formosa (managing editor, Bike), Trina Ortega (managing editor, Mountain Flyer), and Gloria Liu (technical editor, Bicycling), among others.
Sky Yeager is a legendary cycling product developer. You may not have ever heard her name. In fact, she likes it that way. Among Yeager’s credits are the Bianchi PUSS single speed. Look between the chainstays of a PUSS and you’ll find a bright-yellow sticker: 100 percent chick designed. Currently, Yeager is the brain behind the thoroughly stylish Shinola bikes that you’ve been drooling all over. It’s okay! I drool on them too.
There are plenty more talented women I’ve missed. In truth, the days when we can make a short, relatively comprehensive list of influential women in the bike industry are passing fast. And that’s a good thing. Because when there’s finally too many women doing cool things to list, we can stop worrying about the socks and go play on our bikes.
Photo by Matt Haugey