I had the great pleasure of meeting young Maddie Hawkins at the recent 2016 EBike Expo in Houston Texas this past March 11-13. Like many who are attending the free expos, she was taking full advantage of the chance to choose from more than 100 different electric bikes from over 16 of the country's top electric bike companies for test rides.
I wanted to find out more about her and her obvious passion for bicycling.
Maddie is just 20 years old, and is currently on a year-long break from college. This fall she'll study in England towards a degree in Modern Languages and Literature with a focus on German and Russian languages. Her hope is to be an interpreter somewhere in Europe. She's new to avid bicycling, and now works at Planetary Cycles in Houston where she's enjoying learning more about bikes, cycling, and all of the gear, events, nutrition, apps, and maintenance that comes along with it. This is exactly the kind of bright, passionate, talented young woman we want to engage in mindful mobility advocacy.
Melissa Balmer: Was this your first time riding an electric bike? How many did you ride and did you have a favorite?
MH: The expo wasn't my first time riding an electric bike, but I previously only had experience riding clover electric bikes, and was glad to have the opportunity to ride electric bikes made by other companies and with different technology. I rode around 6 bikes, and my favorite was probably the Stromer ST2.
MB: What kind of bike do you ride now and do you have a dream bike?
MH: I have a Men's 2015 Cannondale Quick 4, and I'm not sure what my dream bike is, though I have my eye on a Cannondale Slate Ultegra if I ever get really into road biking. It's a Cyclocross bike, and while I don't see myself getting into Cyclocross anytime soon, I do especially love the geometry of this bike and the stability that the thicker tires give it. I don't like traditional road bikes as they feel twitchy and hard to control, so the Slate is a great alternative for me.
MB: Tell us about working at Planetary Cycles. How long have you worked there and does it have a particular focus?
MH: I've worked at Planetary Cycles for 2 and a half months now. We don't have a particular focus; we have a range of women's and men's hybrid, comfort/cruiser, commuter, road, mountain, and trikes in stock. We have recently started carrying electric bikes as well and are working to expand that section of the shop. We are a full service shop; building, selling, and repairing bikesin house. We accept trade ins and therefore have a good selection of used bikes at any given time.
I will say that our women's section contains only a small fraction of the bikes stocked for the men's section. This has a lot to do with the fact that there aren't as many women into cycling as there are men; but it can be a bit discouraging as a woman to see that not as much choice is given for women in store as there is for men. As a woman who rides comfortably on a men's bike, I try to make sure that women coming into the shop don't feel as if they have to go with a women's-specific bike.
We now have two women working in the shop, which is great for female customers who feel more comfortable discussing women-specific issues that can arise when cycling. I have had several customers tell me as much, and it's great to see women asking questions they may have been previously uncomfortable to ask male employees. It makes for a better cycling experience when all of your concerns and questions can be addressed openly.
MB: Are you involved with any local advocacy groups like BikeHouston?
MH: I'm not currently involved in any bike advocacy groups in Houston, though I am interested in getting involved with BikeTexas, Bike Houston,and other bike advocacy groups specific to the Houston area.
MB: What's the best part of riding your bike? And you favorite place to ride?
MH: The best part of riding my bike is seeing my improvement in speed and endurance after each ride. I track my rides on Strava, and it's great to have my routes and ride data - average and max speed, distance, elevation, etc. - saved to look back on and compare data from several rides. I especially like that Strava tracks how well you perform on small segments that you ride more than once, giving you medals for personal best times, second best, and third best times. So far, my favorite place to ride is along the Buffalo Bayou, though I have only cycled on it a few times.
MB: What kind of professional and leadership skills do you hope to gain through your work in bicycling?
MH: Professionally I hope to learn more about bicycle maintenance as well as light team management as I aid in training new hires. As far as leadership during cycling goes, there is a lot of responsibility that goes into being comfortable enough to lead a ride and call out the all clear when crossing roads, bring the group to a stop, call out a turn, etc. I hope to gain enough confidence in my riding and leadership to lead group rides in the future.
MB: What questions do you have about women in bike advocacy?
- What do you do, if anything, to feel safe(r) while biking alone at night?
- What women-specific issues do you wish more local bike shops would address?