The Most Influential Women in Cycling

From racers to designers to activists, here are the women bringing the industry into the 21st century.


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.

Elayna CaldwellӬ
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.

Veronica DavisӬ
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 Flickinger
ҬLeah 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.

Georgia Gould
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.

Julianne Idlet
“¨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.

Roxy LoӬ
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.

Kristy ScrymgeourӬ
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.

Erin Sprague
“¨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.

Elysa WalkҬ
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 WeisloӬ
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 YeagerӬ
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

Showing 16 comments
  • Rob Kristoff
    Reply

    Good list.

    How about adding Natalie ramsland from Sweetpea, Ashley korenblat from western spirit, Juli furtado from Juliana, and Georgina terry? What about Jen green? Tallish Lempert? Bikeyface?

    • Jen
      Reply

      Ha! Yes, the problem with this particular list is that there wasn’t room to fit everyone who truly belongs on it. 🙂

      I like your additions. I have a bit of a crush on those Sweatpea bikes, actually.

  • Ray
    Reply

    Well done and insightful! Appreciate the tenor and clarity of what’s happening in cycling circles with the obviously important and impactful contributions of the women cited and, as stated, those others behind the scenes.

  • Kristin Carpenter-Ogden
    Reply

    BRAVO is all I have to say! Loved this article and will share it until I just can’t share it anymore! More please!

  • Janine
    Reply

    Excellent list of influential women. I’d also like to throw Robin Morton into the list. Robin was the first ever female team director for a professional men’s cycling team. She is now the co-owner of g4 Productions, a woman-owned event production company specializing in participatory sports. This year, g4 has worked on such prestigious events as the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic and the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic and they were just named as the event organizers for the 2016 USAC Professional and Master’s Road & TT Nationals.

    • Jen
      Reply

      Robin Morton is a great addition! She’s got some great stories from being the first woman in the caravan at the Giro.

      Shelley Verses is another legend in that vein, the first woman to work as a soigneur in Europe. Rouleur ran a profile of Verses not too long ago. She also has some entertaining stories.

  • Michelle
    Reply

    YES Robin Morton! How did she not get on this list?? And Nicola Cranmer has cranked out a ton of world champions and Olympic medalists and has set the standard high for development w/in her own team and w/ USAC women’s development program.

    • Jen
      Reply

      Ha ha, I hear ya, but I was already running long for a web story 😉

      Also, I love how many fab names people are throwing into the comments. It’s fun that we can come up with some many women — that wasn’t always the case in the past.

  • Shawna
    Reply

    The most influential women for are are Julie Furtado, Missy Giove and Alison Sydor.

  • Shawna
    Reply

    I second Julie Furtado, she inspired me as an up and coming racer and now her work with Santa Cruz has been revolutionary. Finally, they built my perfect bike!

    I also think Missy Giove is an absolute legend and deserves a spot on any list of significant women riders.

  • Dorothy Nichols
    Reply

    Thanks for taking the time to recognize the women who are part of our cycling community. This is always fun to read and learn about some of the up and coming ladies who are newbys to our industry.

  • pat
    Reply

    Marilyn price kat sweet and julie childers. thousands of new mt bikers because of these ladies. julie even held a youth bike demo at the white house.

  • LL
    Reply

    Leigh Donovan, Missy Giove, Deanna Edwards-Jamieson (we all miss you, lady.), Lindsay Voreis, Cory Coffey, Carley Young, Angi Weston… Man I could go for days here. The first three alone have done more for women’s cycling than that I can begin to even type. They are athletes that pushed the boundaries, showed the men what we are made of, and now coach and help the next generation. Leigh and Deanna are both Hall of Fame recipients. Sadly, Deanna left us too soon this year.

  • Alexa boyes
    Reply

    excellent article….here are my additions! Jacquie Phelan, Sara Ballantyne and Susan DeMattei. All pioneers that helped make women’s cycling what it is today. I have had the honor of meeting all three. Besides being excellent athletes, they are good people!

  • Bikesy
    Reply

    Great list, if you were to extend it out to the UK I’d advocate putting Anna Glowinski in there – @annaglowinski – Strong motivational grass roots rider, set up one of the early women’s teams here in the UK, launched a women’s clothing brand and presents cycling features on the TV.

  • David Adams
    Reply

    I’m surprised Lael Wilcox name hasn’t been mentioned, she has in the last couple years smashed the women’s Tour Divide record twice within a couple months in 2015 and only being a day or two slower than the fastest 3 men, bear in mind she rode a couple of thousand mile to get to the start line. Last year won the Trans Am Trail race beating the top males and in doing so became the first American to win it! She is absolutely incredible on a bike!

Leave a Comment

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This