Interview: Sarai Snyder of Girl Bike Love and CycloFemme

Photos courtesy of Sarai Snyder and CycloFemme

3dd6ca2On May 10th, 2015, individuals from more than nineteen countries will gather in their respective locations to lead over 250 different bike rides. CycloFemme, now in it’s fourth year, is an annual event that takes place on Mother’s Day to celebrate female cyclists of all ages and skill levels. The event is a creative collaboration between entrepreneur Sarai Snyder, founder of Girl Bike Love, and the Language Dept. Button Up & Bike had the pleasure of speaking with Sarai about this international celebration of women on two wheels.

What is your personal history with bicycles?

I grew up in the country so riding bikes as a kid meant plowing through the neighbor’s farm and bombing steep hillsides. When I started mountain biking, almost 20 years ago, riding on dirt was completely natural as was riding with the guys. When I started working at my favorite bike shop, that’s when cycling really took a hold of my life. In the blink of an eye I was embedded in the culture. I started experimenting with all types of bike riding and got involved in the community, putting on races and events. At that time Cincinnati was the largest city in the US without a non-profit bicycle advocacy organization. We knew that needed to change, I co-founded Queen City Bike with a dear friend and it is still alive and well. When I moved to Boulder, Colorado, I really turned my attention to women’s cycling.

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What inspired you to build the women’s cycling site Girl Bike Love?

In my time at the shop and working in advocacy, I saw how my presence in the community, and extending a simple invitation to ride, dramatically affected the number of women riding bikes. I wanted to extend that same invitation to women all over the world, to provide a community for women to learn and come together around bicycles on their own terms.

What did you feel was missing for women in the cycling world that is fulfilled by Girl Bike Love?

Community. The focus of Girl Bike Love is women and bicycles, not how far, how fast, or what type of bike you ride. We have an inclusive message that is somewhat unique in that respect. We believe everyone has a story to tell and we want to share it.

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Girl Bike Love has teamed up with the Language Department to create an international cycling “holiday” called CycloFemme. Why do you feel it’s important to celebrate women who ride?

For a long time I felt the message around women’s cycling was negative. It was always – ‘Why don’t women ride? or Why don’t we have more gear, bikes, races, prize money?’ While these are important questions, they create a stop, almost an excuse. The conversation needs to be broader. We need a foundation for why we want to overcome these challenges or people lose steam and direction. Women’s cycling needed a story, a history, a culture, I thought a celebration would be a good place to start. CycloFemme was created to Honor the Past, Celebrate the Present, Empower the Future of Women’s Cycling.

The CycloFemme Pledge is a widespread movement, uniting individuals throughout the world by signing and sharing the following vow on social media: “I _________ swear to invest my energy, strength, and passion to inspire one more woman to ride a bike.” Can you tell me how “The Pledge” began? Do you think the physicality and public nature of signing the pledge helps to turn an individual’s words into action?

I do, I hope so anyway. But more importantly it draws attention to the fact that we can all make a difference. If each of us invited one more rider to join us, we would instantly double our numbers. 1+1 = A Revolution.

Take the pledge here.

CycloFemme is run entirely by volunteers. What motivates you to move forward with this event, year after year?

It’s the emails, the stories, the photographs from all over the world. CycloFemme has become a spirit of women’s cycling that transcends age, race, ability, and bicycle preference. We have participation from women from beginner to professional all over the world.

One year, two women learned to ride a bike in an MSF Camp (Doctor’s Without Borders) in South Sudan in celebration of CycloFemme. We got to see video from that day. The smiles on their faces were overwhelming. It made every moment worthwhile. I’m lucky enough to hear stories just as moving as this one all year long because of CycloFemme. This is a much greater reward than I ever imagined, I believe we are the rich ones.

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What do you hope that individuals ride away with after the annual CycloFemme events?

A new friend, a story, a smile, a feeling that we are a part of one big tribe. It’s about beginnings, pushing the pedal one foot at a time knowing that women all over the world are doing the same thing at the same time. Imagine if we could measure the power output of women on that one day. The bicycle represents freedom, independence, and empowerment. One little taste of riding a bike can have a major impact. Strong communities are built around strong women. I believe we are creating and encouraging change makers.

Seeing someone on a bike for the first time is exciting! Would you mind sharing a story about an individual you’ve inspired to ride?

I remember one woman who came in to the shop many years ago. She was looking for a bike to ride around town on occasion. But the more we talked, the more excited she became. She was in her late 40s and new to cycling. She bought a hybrid and started riding. Within months she was really pushing the distance and riding everywhere. We continued to support her growth, helping her with gear, skills, and eventually a road bike. Less than a year after her first visit to the shop she called me on the phone. “I just rode my first century” she said “and I wanted you to be the first person I told. I had no idea I could ever do this. Thank you for believing in me and helping me get there.”

From there she started getting involved in local advocacy and organized a kids bike rodeo at the library. She truly became a cyclist for life.

What measures do you feel the cycling industry could take to better incorporate women in cycling?

The industry would do well to stop treating women as a consumer, as a segment of the market but as a cyclist, a bike rider, a person with real goals and challenges. We don’t need more gear, we need better experiences and support. We need to have an equal place in cycling. Whether that is walking in to a bike shop, out on a group ride, or reading about cycling online or in magazines. We need to be treated as part of the whole, as the norm, not the exception. Women need to be represented in media and marketing, in all styles of riding, and on all levels of participation. We need to see our likeness represented to know we belong too. You have to see it before you can believe that you can be it.

CycloFemme is a Global Women’s Cycling Day created TO HONOR THE PAST and the emancipation of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, for the freedom to choose and the chance to wear pants. TO CELEBRATE THE PRESENT and the riders who keep it rolling, bringing women’s racing to the forefront, pushing the limits, breaking down barriers and sharing the love of the bike with everyone along the way. TO EMPOWER THE FUTURE of women in cycling and the opportunity for positive social change.

What does the bicycle do for you?

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