The Power of FTW Communities and Maple Creemees

On a sunny Friday in July, I found myself on the lawn of the state house in Montpelier with 17 other FTW (femme/trans/women) campers I was meeting for the first time. We had our bikes and all the things we would be carrying for the next several days. The WTF Bikexplorers Ride Series brought us together, and what followed was a weekend of beautiful roads, refreshing swimming spots, and adorable co-ops. I felt like part of a parade on the quiet dirt roads and loved witnessing the surprise of people we encountered as more and more bikes passed by.

The trip brought together local Vermonters with people from Montreal to Maryland, and despite the distance, it quickly became clear that many of us face similar challenges as FTWs in the bike world. Common themes that came up around the campfire included men underestimating our mechanical abilities, and the difficulty of striking a balance between the conflicting goals of creating a beginner-friendly community that also challenges us, seasoned riders. Even though these aren’t issues with simple solutions, I appreciated hearing about different experiences, getting new perspectives, and being reminded that I’m not the only one who has encountered these problems.

Montpelier native Chloe Wexler put together our stellar route, which included many maple creemees, a drive-thru ride-thru barn, and all the climbing my heart desired. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it takes leaving home to find such magical roads and trails, but Chloe urged us all to explore our own backyards to discover their hidden gems. The Hive Rides this summer have embodied that idea as well, and I’m lucky to have teammates with so much knowledge of the trails just a short ride away.

In just three days we created a community where people felt comfortable asking for help (shout out to everyone who taught me how to use my camping stove so that I didn’t catch anything on fire) and where we could inspire each other. The importance of seeing people you can relate to doing the things you aspire to shouldn’t be underestimated, and FTW groups and representation are crucial for that. We can challenge the male-dominated cycling culture by creating accepting spaces, and this weekend in the woods reminded me of the gratitude I have for the strong FTW communities that helped me become the cyclist I am today.