Aug 282011
Rachel Scrudder and her Surly Cross-Check
Rachel and her Surly Cross-Check, decked out for commuting.

Name: Rachel Scrudder

Location: Spokane

Things Rachel does:

  • Bicycle commuter
  • Member of the Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board
  • Software tester

Who or what made a difference in your life that got you on a bike?

Initially I wanted to be more green, and to save money because I couldn’t continue to afford gas at the rate its prices were climbing. Bike to Work Week helped me get my big start riding my bike around town for errands, since I didn’t have a job at the time. Several months later I started working downtown, so the free parking and being able to get there faster than by car or bus were additional motivators.

Tell us about your bike(s) and accessories.

I started commuting on an early 90’s Yokota road bike that I picked up for $80 on Craigslist. It was a great, zippy little bike, but I couldn’t put a rack, a front fender, or snow tires on it. I also picked up a yellow windbreaker on sale at REI, and a set of battery-powered lights.

Rachel Scrudder in profile showing her hat by Old Man's Pants.
Rachel with the very cute hat from Old Man’s Pants that she got at Sun People Dry Goods on Bikespedition .

That winter I used an old rigid-fork Diamondback someone had given me and added some snow tires I also got from Craigslist, and some new fenders and a seat-post-mounted rack. It was nice to have fenders and a rack, but I preferred the positioning my road bike offered. Not to mention, the derailleur was a low-end, old piece of junk (an unmaintained, early 90’s Shimano SIS) and the drivetrain was old, so the gears were always skipping.

Once spring arrived, I took my tax return and bought a new bike: A black Surly Cross Check. Initially I started with the “Complete” bike straight from Surly’s website, but I’ve gradually made small improvements, including adding a rack and panniers, fenders, black reflective tape, a dynamo hub with LED lights, a Monkey-Lectric wheel light, pedals that are clipless on one side and platform on the other, a leather saddle and handlebar tape.

Last fall I picked up a Showers Pass jacket, and this spring a pair of their rain pants, because I wanted to be waterproof and reflective. I also have two pairs of shoes with recessed cleats: a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of Keen sandals. And this spring I snagged a Po Campo purse from Bike Style that I absolutely love and take everywhere with me.

What type(s) of riding do you do? How often, what destinations, and how far?

I primarily commute around town. My ride to work is 2 miles each way, but I take my bike to other places such as coffee shops, the grocery store, the park with my daughter, and meetings. I usually don’t bike commute more than 5 miles in one direction. When I don’t, it’s because I have a need for my car like hauling lots of stuff along with my family, and/or I don’t have the time to spend riding 10 miles each way so I take the car.

However, I have planned my life so that I rarely have to travel that far. When I was searching for jobs, I actually looked for one based on if I could commute there by bike or not. Liberty Lake was out, and even a company on East Third seemed pretty impractical because there are very few good ways to get there by bike.

I also enjoy joining some of the local bike events, like the FBC’s monthly fiasco, Summer Parkways, SpokeFest, and the Belles and Baskets group. Occasionally I ride recreationally, between 20 and 50 miles, usually on paved trails. I would like to do this kind of riding more often, but I’m so busy I rarely have the time.

Commuting is the primary way I stay in shape. I love it because it’s so easy. I’ve never been the athletic type, and this way I don’t have to find time to go and exercise. I’m just getting from point A to point B and staying in shape along the way.

What’s the most common question you get asked when you bike somewhere?

Summer: How far do you have to ride? Good for you!

Spring and Fall: Aren’t you soaked? You’re very dedicated.

Winter: Isn’t it slippery? Wow, you’re brave.

What do you usually wear when you ride?

For commuting, I wear my normal clothes. I most often wear jeans and a t-shirt with my SPD shoes, but on hot summer days I like to wear big flowy skirts (that I tie up around my knees on the bike) with cute sandals. Sometimes I even wear slacks and dress shoes on the bike. If I have to go extra far, I will change into my bike shorts (if it’s chilly they’ll just go on under my regular clothes), but I just picked up a pair of Pedal Panties and I’m looking forward to trying those out for longer trips.

When I ride recreationally, I wear a pair of bike shorts or knickers, a normal-looking wool shirt, and my SPD shoes.

What things do you wish were different about your bike and gear or women’s clothing or both that would make it easier to bike and look good, if this is something you give any thought to? Or at least bike and be comfortable.

I am lucky that I’m 5’10” so I was easily able to find a bike that fit properly. On the other hand, all of the ladies’ bike gloves out there seem to be far too small, so I’m stuck with boring, masculine-looking gloves.

I wish that there were more stylish-yet-functional clothing options for women to ride in–especially in the cold weather. With the hipster biking craze, choices for “normal looking” bike clothes are increasing for men, but they’re still hard to find for women. I don’t care for the way women’s bike jerseys look, and I don’t want to wear Lycra off of the bike.

More companies are starting to offer an option for women bikers (for example, my shoes and jacket), but at this point you’re mostly stuck with hunting around online to find anything. And the price is also often an issue. I have come across some amazing designer-made garments for women to ride in, but I can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on one or two items of clothing. Spending more than $50 is difficult for me, but if I know the item is made from good fabric and stitched to last, I’m more likely to hand over my cash.

What does Spokane need to make it an even better place for women to ride their bikes?

Spokane needs more bicycle infrastructure. Paths and cycle tracks would be the best way to draw women out, but even additional bike lanes would help. So many women I talk to say things like, “I want to ride my bike more, but I’m too scared of being hit by a car.” One of the reasons I’m on the Bicycle Advisory Board is to be a voice for women bicyclists and to try to get more bike lanes installed.

I think the other thing that would encourage more women to ride is seeing other women out there riding, demonstrating how easy it is to get around on your bike. The more people who are out on their bikes, the more aware cars become of us and the safer it is for everyone.

What’s your proudest biking accomplishment?

Every time I ride up a big hill I’m pretty proud of myself. I was shocked at how effortlessly my legs got into shape just by riding to and from work for a month. I used to go out of my way to avoid even the tiniest incline, but after doing that kind of riding, I hopped on my bike and went for a 40-mile bike ride with a friend and it was easy and pain-free!

I’m also pretty proud that I rode my bike to work for 97% of my work days last year, and my butt looks the best it ever has!

What one word describes the way you feel most often when you ride?


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Reader Comments

  1. That’s a new one! I don’t yet have a bike that I can ride when it’s truly snowy, although I do plan to get one. I ride in plenty of cold and frosty conditions before the snow starts sticking and get things more along the lines of, “You must be freezing!” or “You ride in THIS?! Whoa, hardcore.”

    One advantage that comes to mind is that we do have less mass so if we start sliding on a slippery slope we don’t pick up as much inertia.

    We can also get out of the traffic mess more easily if something goes wrong up ahead (assuming there’s a sidewalk we can move to). The ability to switch to pedestrian mode is one of the advantages of riding a bike I don’t think gets enough credit as a plus.

    But gosh, if those drivers think you’re better off then why aren’t they riding? ㋡

  2. What always drove me nuts over there was drivers telling me in the winter, “Well, at least you don’t have to DRIVE in this!” Apparently having to be exposed to the weather and balance on two wheels makes biking in the snow somehow easier.

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