Rad Women of Bikepacking Part 3 – Creatives

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If time in the saddle gives you the urge to create, you’re not alone. In Part III of our Rad Women of Bikepacking series, we’re highlighting creatives on wheels. These women are storytellers and image makers whose love for riding goes hand-in-hand with their passion for creating. From hand-drawn maps to first-person narratives, their creations captivate, celebrate, educate, and advocate…

Cover photo by Julia Vallera

March is Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, we’re honoring the women who have shaped both the bikepacking community and the cycling industry at large. Each week we’ll feature some of the movers, shakers, and makers who inspire us, both on and off the bike. This week, we’re profiling some of our favorite bikepacking creatives, including photographers, writers, and painters. 

Alex Hotchin

She/Her / Age* / @alex_hotchin

Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Wurundjeri people (Melbourne, Australia)

*An age where I’ve done lots of adventuring, but also have plenty of time for a lot more.

Go-to ride snack: Any freshly made local snack of the place I happen to be travelling through – especially if it’s something I have not tried before.

Alex grew up in a remote part of Australia on a cattle and sheep farm. It was here, jetting around on a motorbike with her father, sister, and brother, that she first remembers the freedom of two-wheeled movement. Alex was also home-schooled, and her mother used art and drawing to encourage all of her children to explore their relationship to the land. 

Alex took that curiosity and sense of place with her into her adult years. She continued drawing, oftentimes sketching the interiors of buildings wherever she traveled. After working in the architectural industry for over a decade, Alex set off on an 18-month bicycle adventure and never looked back.

  • Alex Hotchin, Baja Divide, Map
  • Alex Hotchin

Once she started riding bikes, Alex started drawing maps of regions she experienced during her bike travels. The maps are exquisitely designed, finished in black ink and watercolour. Each map features stunning renderings of the flora and fauna that riders can expect to see should they travel to the area. Though Alex loves all of her maps, she says her favorite is one she drew of an old city in Morocco, where she spent a six-week art residency living in an old rabbi’s house.

“Life in general inspires my art,” says Alex. “Bikes are such a big part of the way I live my life, and they are one of my favourite ways of moving around, so they do play a part in the inspiration. They invite me to move more slowly through this world and to take notice of what is around me.”

When Alex isn’t drawing, she can be found cruising around on one of her two bikes: Bob Barker, a converted mountain bike that acts as her commuter, or Ada, her Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike. You can find more about Alex in our Rider’s Lens featuring her work, as well as in the illustrated maps and drawings she’s created for The Bikepacking Journal.

Analise Cleopatra

She/Her / Age 29 / @cleeeopatra

Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Seminole and Tequesta Tribes (Miami, Florida)

Go-to ride snack: Bananas. 

Prior to 2020, Analise had never camped in the woods, let alone ridden her bike off-pavement. That didn’t stop her from taking the challenge head-on. The film Pedal Through, which Analise both directed and starred in as the lead, follows her first bikepacking trip, a weeklong adventure in the Oregon backcountry. Accompanied by her friend DeJuanae Toliver and professional mountain biker Brooklyn Bell, Analise overcomes fear and uncertainty to discover both the joy and healing power of mountain biking.

Pedal Through Film, Analise Cleopatra bikepacking

“I have two [favorite moments from making Pedal Through],” says Analise. “Scaring my mother by talking about bears, cougars, wolves and ticks was so delightful. But definitely being able to share Soca music in the credits was a highlight. I have such a strong image in my head of watching the music take over people in a crowd. I haven’t been able to experience that yet, but hopefully post pandemic I’ll get the opportunity. Soca music is just so good for the soul and being able to negotiate with the artist of a song I love was such a treat and a wonderful opportunity to share a part of my culture that I love so much with you all.”

Analise is still riding and filming, building off a long progression of experiences riding a bike (her first ride was a kid’s bicycle with pink tassels and training wheels) and making films (her first short was shot on a Kodak Super 8). When she’s not riding or creating, Analise works by day as the Visual Brand Manager for Velocio. 

Emma Bucke

She/Her / @notjustforfungis

Oaxaca, Mexico

Go-to ride snack: cacahuates (peanuts)

Emma’s botanical illustrations have accompanied many of our recent Mexican routes, and her knowledge and enthusiasm for the plant world has added considerably to their depth. As an Outdoor Educator and guide, Emma is no stranger to sharing her enthusiasm for the environment with others. Over the last decade, she’s guided Outdoor Ed courses in California, led sea kayaking trips in the San Juan Islands, Washington, and taught watershed science and conversation to children in Oregon.

  • Oaxaca Bikepacking Singletrack

More recently, she’s channeled her energy towards painting botanical illustrations. “I’ve always been into art from a young age – my sisters are keen artists too – but struggled with sitting still for long enough to be creative! I became more serious about my watercolours in 2019, as a way of focusing energy during a difficult year. During the same time, I moved into a low-footprint cabin in Oregon and made the promise to myself to live intentionally. This included not buying any new ‘things’ for a whole year!”

To Emma, painting plants is her way of deepening a sense of place, which in turn, encourages her to “care more about the environment around me. Bikepacking dovetails perfectly with this, as it’s a way for me to observe more keenly what’s around… and encourages me to pause for thought. I also enjoy researching the new plants that I see when I return from a trip, so I’m constantly learning too.”

Emma has bikepacked the Baja Divide (twice!) and in 2017, organized a meetup for other women on the Idaho Hot Springs route.

Gosia Black

She/Her / Age 27 /@gosiablack 

United Kingdom by way of Poland

Go-to ride snack: There’s never enough nuts and dried fruits trail mix. 

We first became familiar with Gosia through her series of intricately illustrated watercolors. Featuring the unique bikepacking rigs of some of today’s most inspiring women—including Alexandera Houchin’s Chumba and Kailey Kornhauser’s Patriarchy Shredder—each watercolor pays homage to the rider, her bike, and the places she rides. Gosia, a self-taught artist, used the money she earned from selling postcards of the series to fund a mother-daughter bikepacking trip in Scotland.

Gosia has been, as she puts it, “making, breaking, bending, fixing, drawing, sewing, painting, gluing” ever since she can remember. But it’s the time she’s spent in the saddle as an adult that has helped Gosia inform her voice and vision as an artist.

  • Gosia Black
  • Gosia Black Bike Illustrations, bikepacking rigs

“Bikes and the experiences whilst travelling by bike have definitely been a catalyst for me becoming more open to express my work and manifest the qualities I stand for as a cyclist, a woman, and a mother,” says Gosia. “I always tell my daughter, ‘Be a rebel in the world that wants you to doubt your potential and talents.’ Creativity expands beyond definitions, techniques, qualifications. We far too often talk ourselves out of doing what we actually love doing [for] worry of judgements or rejections. I’m still learning myself that we’re all full of endless possibilities.” 

Gritchelle Fallesgon

Gritchelle Fallesgon 

She/Her / Age 39 / @gritchelle / @gritchelle.studio

Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Clackamas, Cowlitz, and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (Portland, Oregon)

Go-to ride snack: Dried mangos.

Gritchelle was an accomplished graphic designer before she switched gears and, in 2017, started photographing full-time, a career she’d wanted to pursue since she was in high school. Though she specializes in outdoor and active lifestyle photography, her passion for the outdoors shines through even in her studio work. Whether she’s shooting travel lifestyles for the Oregon Timber Trail or capturing the action for companies like bikepacking bag maker Swift Industries, Gritchelle’s design eye and her self-proclaimed “thing for color” are evident in every shot. Follow her on Instagram to brighten up your feed.    

Julia Vallera 

She/Her / Age 39 / @lovedrawrings 

Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Wabanaki Confederacy (Winooski, Vermont)

Go-to ride snack: Anything salty. I’ve carried blocks of cheese for days while riding. Pickles are good too but they don’t travel well.

Before Julia was riding bikes, she was drawing. It’s a creative endeavor she has pursued her entire life. She primarily works with pen and paper for illustration and silkscreen/block printing for textiles, but she says her work varies across multiple mediums and formats. Sometimes she incorporates her drawings with photos she’s taken, either on her phone or with a camera. While out on month-long bikepacking tours, she’ll often bring a disposable camera along and take a photo a day, the resulting shots which she’ll use later in her work.

Julia Vallera
Find more of Julia’s work in our Rider’s Lens

Her advice for other women looking to combine their love of bikes and art?

“Don’t compare yourself to other artists or other bikers,” she says. “Focus on things that inspire you and ride [or] make stuff in a way that feels good and that you enjoy. You don’t need a certain bike, body type, art style, or anything else. Give yourself the freedom to experiment and have fun on two wheels in whatever way that works for you!”

Kim McNett // Kim’s Nature Drawings

She/Her / Age 36 / @kimsnaturedrawings 

Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Dena’ina, Alutiiq/Sugpiaq People (Homer, Alaska)

Go-to ride snack: Smoked salmon.

Maybe it was the time young Kim crashed her Barbie bike into the creek near her childhood home. Or maybe it was her years in college, commuting by bike to study ecology and evolution. Whatever it was, Kim has always used her bike as a means of getting close (sometimes too close) to nature.

In August 2019, Kim and her partner Bjørn Olson traversed 170 miles of wilderness beach in Arctic Alaska by fatbike and packraft. Along the way, Kim counted and photographed more than 900 dead seabirds, a massive die-off that was a consequence of climate-change-induced warming in the Arctic and the subsequent destabilization of the ecosystem. When she returned from her trip, Kim painstakingly hand-painted each seabird. These 921 paintings collectively became known as the Seabird Memorial.

  • Kim McNett
  • Kim McNett

Kim keeps a nature journal with her at all times, even when she’s bikepacking. She says it’s the best way to dive deeper into her relationship with the surrounding landscapes, ecosystems and their living inhabitants.

“Nature can lure out the artist and the scientist that is inside every one of us,” she says. “Nature journaling inspires an immersive relationship to the natural world and fosters a dual proficiency in logical and creative modes of thinking. The process has brought me and countless others around the world opportunity for boundless joy and fascination.”

Lian van Leeuwen // Shift Cycling Culture

She/Her / @saltlake_lian / @shiftcyclingculture

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Go-to ride snack: Peanut butter sandwich.

As a young mother, time on the bike was precious for Lian. It was time she could spend outside, alone, unencumbered by the demands of motherhood. The bike gave her peace and solitude. The more she rode, the more she felt compelled to capture the beauty she saw along the way. So she picked up a camera and taught herself how to shoot. 

Lian van Leeuwen

Lian’s since come a long way from her humble self-taught beginnings. Her images of races such as the Transcontinental Race and Atlas Mountain Race have appeared here on the site and in our Bikepacking Journal, as well as other publications, including Far Ride Magazine, Alvento Magazine, and CyclingTips. And just like her experiences on a bike compelled her to pick up a camera, they’ve also motivated her to advocate for the environment. In 2018, she founded Shift Cycling Culture, a network of cyclists that helps organizations and brands raise awareness and make meaningful commitments towards reducing their environmental impact and addressing climate change. 

“I have never ridden competitively, except to push myself, so I do tend to see [the bike] as a beautiful tool,” she says. “It gets me to wild places, has brought me friendships, headspace, even a new life in photography. But we [as cyclists] seem to forget that everything we make, distribute and consume has an impact on that very nature we use as our playground. [It’s] time to take better care of the environment we so much enjoy.”

Mara Menahan

She/Her / Age 28 / @maramenahan 

Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Apsaalooké (Crow), Tséstho’e (Cheyenne), and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation (Bozeman, Montana)

Mara Menahan

Go-to ride snack: Gooey dates with a big hunk of unsweetened chocolate.

Mara has her mother to thank for teaching her to mountain bike. She admits that the pre-teen Mara was competitive and easily frustrated (especially whenever she crashed her bike). But her mother’s patience never wavered.

“In retrospect, it was one of the most generous gifts she gave me,” says Mara. “She stuck it out with me. She gave me confidence and freedom, two things that helped me survive the self-loathing I experienced as a teenage girl.”

Mara went on her first backpacking trip after college, riding from Banff, Canada, to Boulder, Colorado, via the Great Divide. She says she was somewhat unprepared for the challenges ahead: she remembers running out of food in Wyoming’s Red Desert, and at some point lost her down jacket on a descent in Colorado. But that trip left her feeling empowered and connected to the natural world.

Her artistic career began while working as the in-house botanical illustrator for the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. For the past three years, she has spent a considerable amount of time working as a science technician at the center of the Greenland ice sheet. In her spare time, she paints threatened landscapes, including the rare and endemic flora of the Baja California peninsula, the ice and sky of the Greenland ice sheet, and the temperate rainforest communities of Southeast Alaska.

“Both art making and bike riding have allowed me to follow my curiosity about how things fit together in the landscape,” she says. “Riding is a way of understanding, through your body, the transitions from an urban center to the suburbs to the exurbs to farmland and ranch land and forest land, to understand how a landscape is tied by rivers and fractured by interstate highways. To see how arbitrary lines on a map have both visible and invisible impacts on the ground. Cycling and drawing are for me, contemplative practices that begin with observing the world around you.” 

Mary Rose Lytle

She/They / Age 29 / @maryroselytleart / @maryroselytle

Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Clackamas, Cowlitz, and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (Portland, Oregon)

Mary Rose Lytle

Go-to ride snack: Some peanut butter pretzels & an edible.

In 2014, Mary went on her first bikepacking trip at the behest of her sister. Their goal was to ride the 360-mile Oregon Outback route in five days, but the duo rode it even faster. To avoid camping in a major storm, they pushed on, covering 140 miles on the third and final day and arriving after midnight. 

“This trip sparked my love for where bikes can take us,” says Mary, “and for the way food tastes after riding.”

Today, the bike is Mary’s primary mode of transportation. Mary’s career as a visual artist began in southern Ohio where they worked at a small hot dog stand on the Little Miami Bike Trail and made ride posters and maps on the side for their sister’s bike shop. Mary has since done logo design and artwork for numerous cycling and outdoor-related brands, such as Golden Pliers, Fernweh Food Co., Sim Works USA, and Breadwinner Cycles. You’ve likely seen Mary’s design for the Sky Islands Odyssey: East Loop and Sarah Swallow’s self-supported adventure race the Ruta del Jefe. Mary also often animates her art to create fun, colorful GIFs, some of which you may have seen on Radical Adventure Riders’ new website (Mary is also a co-founder of RAR, formerly WTF Bikexplorers).

“I illustrate somewhat surrealist art—hoping to broaden folx imagination for who can experience an adventure and what that can look/feel like,” says Mary. “With these drawings, I hope to capture the cheerfulness of being in the outdoors and the fast-moving adventures on the bike.” 

Quinda Verheul

She/Her / @avoidtheavoid / @quindaverheul__ 

Rotterdam, Netherlands

Go-to ride snack: Homemade rice cakes.

Quinda Verheul

Photo by Jan Bijl (@janbijl)

After graduating from Design Academy Eindhoven, Quinda moved to Berlin, where she promptly forgot about art and design. Creativity seemed to evade her, and she felt frustrated. She bought a road bike and started riding, first just around Berlin, but before long she was traveling further distances. She rode throughout southern Europe, eventually crossing the sea into Morocco, all thewhile observing and pulling creative energy from the remote landscapes. During her next bike tour in Southeast Asia, Quinda rode through Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia. She met artists along the way and slowly but surely found the spark and desire to create again. 

Today, her medium of choice is concrete, golden mirrors, and raw material. Her work is site specific and often temporary. She largely creates sculptures and installations, interactive artworks where the viewer becomes part of the work, is the artwork. Through her art, Quinda explores, in her words, “big scientific topics like the hydrological cycle, the erosion of the earth and natural forces like wind, water and sunlight,” as well as mining and resource extraction. Though she continues to tackle big adventures by bike (she finished the Atlas Mountain Race in 2020), you won’t see any nods to the bicycle in her work.

“Cycling is mostly an escape from all the mess,” she says. “My life is chaos, in a good way. I see so many connections that probably make no sense to bystanders. You won’t directly see a specific scenery from a bike trip in one of my artworks. And yet I think everything is intertwined.”

Renee Hutchens

Diné (Navajo), Todích’íí’nii (Bitter Water clan) / She/Her / Age 39 / @renay.h 

Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Denver, CO)

Go-to ride snack: Homemade snacks made by yours truly and inspired by our traditional Navajo foods and flavors.

Renee is an advocate for Native land issues and social and environmental justice for Indigenous peoples. She is also a mountain biker, an artist, writer, and filmmaker. As a member of the Diné (Navajo) Nation, Renee says the bike is an important part of maintaining her relationship to the land and her identity.

“My bike connects me to the land which holds our ancient stories, traditional knowledge, and Diné lifeways,” she says. “The land is my existence and my identity. Therefore, my movement on the bike and experiencing the land in this way means the bike will always play a role of creating narratives from within that unfold and find their ways into various forms of storytelling, such as my mixed media artwork, writing, film, or photography.”

Renee Hutchens
Photo by Eric Arce (@pedalhomie)

Renee has been riding bikes since she was in elementary school, building ramps with her older brother. “I skipped the training wheels stage altogether,” she says. As a child—and now an adult—whose life has always revolved around being outside, Renee has witnessed all-too-many instances of cultural appropriation, racial slurs, bias, discrimination, and erasure of Indigenous existence within the outdoor industry and, specifically, the cycling community. Today, she is leading the fight to change that.

In 2020, Renee launched the #NotYourTribe petition with other Indigenous outdoor advocates, which asked Yeti Cycles to end their use of “Yeti Tribe.” Tthe brand eventually did acknowledge the harm it had caused and announced it would no longer use the word “tribe.” She also worked with Bikepacking Roots to change the name of their Wild West Route, a name that is inherently connected to a long history of violent colonialism, forced removal, land theft, and genocide of Indigenous peoples (in October 2020, Bikepacking Roots changed the name to the Western Wildlands Route).

Her powerful writing has appeared on outlets such as SRAM, BIKE Magazine, Outside Magazine, and Patagonia. Renee says she hopes to achieve “justice, equity, and inclusivity of Indigenous peoples and Nihimá Nahasdzáán (our Mother Earth) through the power of storytelling to challenge false narratives, discrimination, and cultural appropriation in the cycling industry, as well as advocat[e] for companies and cyclists across the globe to act in solidarity with the land and her original stewards.” 

Read her latest writing over at SRAM here.

Rugile Kaladyte 

She/Her / Age 27 / @rugilekaladyte 

Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Tohono O’odham and Hohokam (Tucson, Arizona)

Rue

Go-to ride snack: Chili covered dried mangos or corn dogs. 

For most of her life, cameras and bikes have gone hand-in-hand for Rue. As early as high school, Rue could be found following and documenting her school’s cross-country running and track meets from the saddle of a road bike. Though she competed for a brief stint on the cycling club at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she studied photojournalism, she ultimately left racing behind to dedicate herself to photography.

Her work has been featured numerous times on the site and in The Bikepacking Journal, as well as in publications such as The New York Times, Anchorage Daily News, Hi Hey Hello, Lonely Planet, the Adventure Cyclist, Velo News, Bicycling Magazine, and the Radavist. Though she primarily shoots cycling, she says some of the most meaningful images she’s taken are from a family trip to the countryside in her home country of Lithuania. Regardless of what or who she’s shooting, she says trust is at the heart of some of her best work.

“Cycling is more than equipment,” she says. “It’s really a culture of people. It’s been amazing to travel, meet people and share their stories. I still try to act like a fly on the wall and let moments happen as an observer, but also feel part of a community.”

Tessa Hulls

She/Her / Age 36 / @tessahulls

Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe (Port Townsend, Washington)

Go-to ride snack: Tortillas stuffed with bananas, Nutella, peanut butter, and honey. Or, if I’m being lazy, salami gnawed straight from the log.

From an early age, Tessa has always known she was a creator at heart, but it wasn’t until later in life that she fell in love with bikes. Then 26 years old, Tessa says she “jumped ship on a controlling relationship by riding solo from southern California to Maine.” The experience of pedaling under her own power for days on end resonated with her so much so that she says the bike continues to serve as a vehicle for understanding her own thoughts and creative problem-solving.

Tessa Hulls

“As someone who didn’t grow up in an outdoorsy family, I understand firsthand how daunting and impenetrable things like bikepacking and backpacking can seem (I’m looking at you, gearhead dudebros) to someone who comes to them in adulthood,” she says. “There’s nothing I love more than showing folks that the first step to learning to enjoy the wilderness is not, in fact, dropping a few grand at REI for various performance fabrics.”

Sometimes the bike is front and center in her work—one of her illustrations depicts a 150-year history of women, trans, and femme riders. But usually, she says the bike is less of a subject and more a part of her creative process. She says her work is typically multidisciplinary, combining “writing, painting, comics, portraits, interviews, performance, illustration, historical research, and activism to create genre-melding projects that explore themes of culture, gender, race, belonging, and strength.” She has spent the past six years working on finishing her nonfiction graphic novel, Feeding Ghosts, which tells the story of her mother and grandmother fleeing political persecution in China and immigrating to the United States. Follow her on Instagram or check out her website to stay updated on the release of this important memoir.

Ying-Jung Chen (Jinny Chen)

Ying-Jung Chen (Jinny Chen) // Jinny Chen Studio

She/Her / Age 29 / @jinnydrawslife

Gothenburg, Sweden, by way of Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Go-to ride snack: Bananas and chocolate. 

Ying-Jung Chen (Jinny Chen)

Ying-Jung has been riding bikes since she was five years old. For years, bikes were primarily a mode of transportation to Ying-Jung. But in 2013, when she was studying as an exchange student in Sweden, Ying-Jung discovered the sheer joy in riding just for the sake of riding without a specific destination in mind. When she officially moved to Sweden in 2019, Ying-Jung started riding further and tackled her first bikepacking trip. Now, Ying-Jung says, “The bike is a friend, a teacher and a bridge.” It’s a bridge that connects her not only to other people who love cycling, but also to her first love: creating art.

Ying-Jung’s watercolors and digital drawings take inspiration from her adventures on the bike and her encounters with nature. Her drawings are the perfect pairing of endearing and quirky, an irresistible combination of bikes and animals—one drawing shows a racoon eyeing a sleeping bikepacker; another depicts a bikepacker napping in the crook of a llama’s neck. Ying-Jung says nature is the ultimate muse.

“Nature is my biggest inspiration, and art turns my dreams into possibilities and shows to people the relationship between nature and humans that I wish to have,” she says. “I would like to share the simple happiness and funny moments in life, and most of them happen when I am on my bike.”

In case you missed it, be sure to check out part one and two of this series, Shakers and Makers. Who inspires you? Give a shout-out to the women who are movers, shakers, and makers in your cycling community this month. Tag @bikepackingcom and #RadWomenBikepacking and we’ll keep an eye out and share a few through our stories.

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