Join BikePGH and women from throughout the region at the 5th Annual Women & Biking Forum
Register today to participate in a great day of meeting other women who bike (or are bike-curious). WMNBikePGH is a program for womxn, femmes, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people.
Whether you are interested in learning how to fix a flat, camp by bike, or become a stronger advocate for safe cycling, there will be a workshop for you! In its fifth year, this forum will continue to inspire women on this transformative day. Click here and register today!
The keynote speaker for this year’s Women and Biking forum is Anna Schwinn. She has worked in design engineering and media within the cycling industry for nearly a decade, but she has been a massive fan of bicycles for as long as she can remember.
Beginning in college, Anna wanted to share her love of cycling and bicycles with other people and realized that she could bring more people into the fold of the cycling community.
In 2013, she won the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition’s First Ascent Award for her work introducing inclusivity initiatives within Quality Bicycle Products. Anna is the Founder and former President of Koochella Racing, a women/trans/femme focused racing team and club out of Minneapolis, created with the purpose of growing and supporting the women’s field in the local and national community.
Beyond that, Anna is Founder and President of Danger Diamond Racing, a club that took home “Best New Club” within USA Cycling for it’s work facilitating gender inclusivity within the domestic racing community through a network of US teams.
Learn more about Anna in our Q&A
Can you tell us about your experience in the bike industry?
I took my first industry job at Zipp Speed Weaponry almost ten years ago. I started designing handlebars, stems, and seat posts, as well as time trial cockpit components (basebars, extensions, and clip on systems).
From there, I went to All-City Cycles where I was the lead/only design engineer. There, I designed steel bike frames, dropouts, frame parts, and components.
Since then, I’ve most publicly worked in bike media, writing for publications like Bikerumor.com with a focus on the independent frame builder part of the industry.
How can the bike industry attract more women?
Everything. The cycling industry, and the infrastructure that supports it, is historically extremely capable of making and marketing product to itself. Right now, the industry at all levels is dominated by white men, if we’re being very honest, who own multiple bikes. This is problematic because, as a result, the existing support structures that bring people into the sport are sympathetic to this user… and ill equipped to bring in other people. When the people who own bike shops, work on bikes, facilitate local and national and international racing, and who make product development and marketing decisions are white men, the system reinforces that status quo. Opportunities to address blind spots and to grow the pie will continue to be missed.
Until we, as a community, decide to reach out and actively seek and develop people who are beyond that demographic into positions of influence and power, the industry will remain stale.
With women as a group, the challenges are further complicated by a lack of small size bicycles available in stock size selections on the market. This has shifted with the prevalence of “women’s specific” bike lines that push into smaller product.
How has cycling empowered you?
Riding for transport is how I learned to love the world around me. When you remove yourself from cars, you not only have the opportunity to more intimately interface with the world around you, but you also get to meet and interact with more people. There are places in the world that you can’t experience or explore by driving or walking- really only by bike.
Racing at the velodrome, however, has saved my life many times over. While I’m certainly not the fastest person out there, I appreciate how racing and training to race bikes has made me stronger mentally and physically. It has taught me how to focus in on a goal and how to chip away at it until I meet it. It has also given me an immense respect for my competition and for other athletes, for what they have to overcome in order to compete as well as the strength of human beings in general.
What can the bike community do to be more welcoming to women?
That’s a very complicated question. I think the over-arching theme for making any community more inclusive is empathy. Recognize that at every level within the cycling community that the infrastructure supports the needs of the default consumer and community member extremely well and that in order to grow the sport, that as a community, we all have to put in work to grow our community. It isn’t on marginalized people to try to do all the work to make space for themselves within a system that doesn’t see them or appreciate their value. It is on the community to decide that it is an imperative to grow the pie through facilitating the success of new people.
What programs have you worked with in the past that are doing this important work.
As an established member of the community who desires to bring new people into the fold (because why wouldn’t you want to share cycling with more people as someone who has been empowered by it?), never miss an opportunity to do your own work. Through the wonders of modern technology, you can seek out any number of sources to help you understand the obstacles facing other people in entering the sport or community. You can find programs that are successful and read about why they were successful. Probably most importantly, appreciate that as someone who is established in the community that you might not see or understand the obstacles of new people… and that it is critical to listen and take to heart the experiences of these people, to hear their critiques of the community as it exists, and to look for opportunities from it.
On that note, there are several groups and individuals I would follow. Ayesha McGowan, A Quick Brown Fox, is working hard to be the first African American woman pro road racer and is doing amazing things to get people across the US and world excited about cycling and racing. Little Bellas is another organization I am extremely excited about; it develops young women and girls as mountain bikers, both getting them into the sport and helping them to establish a healthy relationship with cycling and sport.
If you’re looking for an organization that’s really excelling on the community level, I would look to Grease Rag. This Twin Cities organization operates on multiple levels to facilitate the success of FTW (femme/trans/women) cyclists through FTW shop nights in multiple shops around the city, discussions, forums, rides, and seminars. It’s been an immensely positive force within the Twin Cities, giving new riders a safe and inclusive starting point for getting into our community.
Show us a photo of your current/favorite bike!
I have two bikes that I’m really in love with at the moment. The first (pictured) is my track bike, Skwisgaar. It’s a Waterford 22-Series track bike that I’ve raced for the past few seasons. It’s beautiful- I love it.
The other one is my Prince themed Peacock Groove, which won the North American Handmade Bike Show “Best Theme Bike” and “Best in Show” awards. It’s what I ride in the River Bottoms around the Twin Cities and what travels with me on work.Register Today!
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