Rad Women of Bikepacking: Part 5 – Movers
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The fifth and final part of our Rad Women of Bikepacking series highlights some of our favorite “movers,” women who live and breathe the spirit of two-wheeled adventure and challenge us to dream big. Find our roundup of 16 more inspiring women here…
All month long, we’ve been celebrating Women’s History Month by honoring the women—past and present—who have shaped the bikepacking community and the cycling industry at large. Each week we’ve featured some of the movers, shakers, and makers that inspire us, both on and off the bike.
To round out the month, we’re featuring some of our favorite “movers” of today, women who live and breathe the spirit of two-wheeled adventure. Technically speaking, every woman we’ve featured this month is a “mover”—as is anyone who rides a bike on any level—but this week, we’re paying special tribute to the women whdo are most at home when they’re on the move. Whether they’re touring or racing, these women challenge us to dream big.
She/Her / Age: 38 / @grande1017
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Dena’ina Athabascans (Anchorage, Alaska)
Go-to ride snack: A breakfast burrito.
Broadcast journalism might have been what brought Grande to Alaska in 2006, but it was her love of bikes—especially mountain biking—that has since kept her there. After working as a reporter for four years, Grande switched gears (pun intended) to the bike industry. Today, she is a wilderness first responder, certified professional mountain bike Instructor, and a United Bicycle Institute-certified bike mechanic. When she’s not working at a bike shop, she and her partner Dusty lead mountain bike skills clinics and overnight bikepacking trips through their company, Alaska Bike Adventures.
In 2007, Grande went on her first bikepacking trip down the coast of Oregon. Since then, she has bikepacked and raced a number of long-distance routes such as the Susitna 100, Israel’s Holyland Bikepacking Route, the Baja Divide, the Fireweed 400, and the Fool’s Loop in Arizona. She says the bikepacking trip that changed her life, though, was a tour she took with her friend in 2011. The two loaded up their road bikes and leap-frogged the Tour de France course, staying with locals and experiencing the iconic stages of the Tour along the way. In addition to an Evoc FR Enduro backpack, Grande says she takes an eyelash curler on every bikepacking adventure.
“There is no right or wrong way to do this,” she says. “There is a balance of planning a lot and just going with the flow. You want to be safe, but you also want to enjoy the present. I also work at a local bike shop and I have met a lot of women of all ages who travel by bike. As much as I travel by bike, I love learning about how other folks do it and where they have been.”
She/Her / Age: 34 / @Dev_rox
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Muscogee Creek Nation (Atlanta, Georgia)
Go-to ride snack: Nut butters….I know they’re dry as hell but they are so good.
Devin started cycling around 2012, initially as a means of transportation while living and working in Washington, D.C. Devin’s brother, who was working as a bike messenger in Chicago at the time, offered to build her first bike, a 1983 World Schwinn Sport single speed. Since then, Devin has taken her bike commuting skills to the dirt.
From overnighters in her backyard to longer bikepacking trips in Cuba and Montana, Devin is seemingly always on the move. This year, she is diving into the world of gravel racing as a member of the Radical Adventure Riders Gravel Team. Through all of her hundreds of miles on the bike, she says the bikepacking trip that changed her life was also her first.
“My first bikepacking trip along the Silver Comet Trail to the Chief Ladiga campground in Alabama [was] most meaningful because it was the precursor to where I am now in building intentional community on the bike.”
Devin’s professional background is in event planning and fundraising. She manages the WTF Bikexplorers ATL chapter and is an advocate for BIPOC and femme, trans, non-binary, and women in the cycling industry. She also volunteers as a tour guide for Civil Bikes, a non-profit that provides “bicycle tours of Atlanta [that] bring attention to unseen and unheard stories about Atlanta in a unique and accessible way.” Whether she’s uplifting stories of other BIPOC cyclists or curating bikepacking experiences for riders of all skill levels, Devin brings a community-first approach to everything she does. Though she claims not to be a writer, Devin has written about her experiences on the bike for outlets like Adventure Cycling and grav.elle.
“I always have a journal and a pen. I am not a writer, but it’s important for me, as a process, to record what I’m seeing, hearing, feeling, experiencing,” she says. “I like to reflect on it afterwards, and have a recorded memory of each journey.”
She/Her / Age: 39 / @ez_gone_coddiwompling
Planet Earth, Orion Arm of Milky Way Galaxy
Go-to ride snack: Sour Patch Kids.
When it comes to big challenges, Eszter’s approach is simple: dive in head-first. Her first bikepacking trip was in 2004 on the Colorado Trail. Having never backpacked before—let alone gone bikepacking—Eszter and her then-boyfriend loaded up their mountain bikes with too much gear crammed into unwieldy panniers and hit the trail.
“We broke racks, wore holes in bags, sent 10 pounds of gear back on day two, and all in all, got pretty solidly beat down,” she says. “But we made it, and it was amazing! Given that I didn’t bikepack again until 2010, I won’t say that I was immediately hooked, but the seed was planted.”
Once Eszter started bikepacking again, she did so in force. For the better part of three years, Eszter’s world revolved around racing long-distance endurance events. In 2012, she set a new women’s record on the Tour Divide at 19 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes (a record which stood for three years until 2015 when Lael Wilcox set a new record at 15 days, 10 hours, 59 minutes). She went on to compete and set records at classic ultras like the Arizona Trail Race 300, Colorado Trail Race, Arrowhead 135.
After racing the Iditarod Trail Invitational and Arizona Trail Race back-to-back in 2013, Eszter’s body was spent. She had torn her quadricep tendon and tendonitis of the hamstring, injuries which effectively ended her racing career. She’s still bikepacking, and in 2014, she and her partner pieced together some 4,000 miles of singletrack and gravel roads in an attempt to create a mountain bike-worthy alternative to the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Originally born in Hungary, Eszter says she’s planning to bikepack around Hungary post-COVID.
Through her thousands of miles of travel by bike, Eszter says she’s learned one very important thing: “You can’t change the weather. But you can change your attitude. And if you can’t change your attitude, you need to eat a snack.”
She/Her / Age: 25 / @fionakolbinger
Go-to ride snack: Bananas and Snickers bars. I also really love those sour gummy apple rings. Really anything that has a lot of sugar.
Fiona has a red Puky bike to thank for introducing her to the joys of traveling by bike. But it was a Stephens Strada 800, her first true touring bike, that opened up her world to riding long distances. In 2014, Fiona set off on her loaded Strada from Heidelberg—“the city that your Grandma loves”—to Stockholm, a 1,800-kilometer journey she’d traced ahead of time with a highlighter and a stack of paper maps. The journey took her 12 days, and though she sometimes ran out of food and didn’t have the luxury of navigating by GPS, she says the hardest part was making the mistake of wearing her underwear underneath her chamois.
“I just didn’t know you didn’t do that,” she says. “It seemed so obscure. Like why wouldn’t I? I wear underpants in my everyday life.”
This, from the first woman to win the Transcontinental Race, an achievement she made in 2019 at the age of 24. Fiona’s longest ride prior to the TCR—a 4,000-kilometer race between Burgas on Bulgaria’s coast and Brest in northwest France—was 200km. The TCR was her first race ever. She finished the TCR in just over 10 days, winning by a lead of more than 8 hours over the second-place rider (and first place men’s rider).
“I basically surprised myself, showing myself what I can do and that probably there are less limits to my own capabilities than I thought there were before,” she says. “So many people have their doubts in their own capabilities. I would have never expected to be able to win this race. It struck me that maybe I should be more confident about what I’m doing.”
When Fiona isn’t riding, she’s working and studying as an abdominal surgeon in training and is specializing in abdominal cancer surgery.
She/Her / Age: 26 / @jananas.banjana
Go-to ride snack: All kinds of nuts and all colors of gummy bears.
The bike has shown Jana many things: the generosity of Warmshowers hosts, the freedom of moving under your own power, the strength your legs can still have after a week of riding big days. But the bike has also given her some not-so-pleasant gifts. Namely, a broken jaw. The injury, which she suffered during a day ride to the Kühtai Saddle in the Austrian Alps, set her back temporarily, but not for long. Just 10 weeks after the accident, she ran her fastest marathon ever. And a year later, she rode the Three Peaks Bike Race, a 2,000km self-supported bike race from Vienna, Austria, to Nice, France, during which riders must design and ride their own routes. Jana was the youngest finisher that year and the third woman to finish overall.
“Riding my bike long distances has taught me to be at peace with myself,” she says. “Otherwise you won’t make it. Where there is a will, there truly is a way.”
Watch Jana’s journey on the Three Peaks Bike Race here. In addition to logging big miles on her bike, Jana is also currently pursuing her PhD in psychology.
She/Her / Age: 40 / @jennygrahamis_
Highlands of Scotland
Go-to ride snack: If I’m out for a day ride dried mango hits the spot, but if I’m on an absolute epic and it’s 2 a.m. a big bag of cheesy wotsits will see me through.
In 2018, Jenny made international headlines when she smashed the women’s unsupported around-the-world cycling record by almost three weeks, completing the 29,657-kilometer ride in 124 Days and 11 hours. Jenny began and finished her ride in Berlin. Along the way, she rode through 15 countries and across four continents. Her round-the-world ride landed her in the Guinness World Records, but according to Jenny, that ride was special for more than one reason.
“The ride itself felt like the greatest adventure of my life… crossing those vast empty expanses and being so at one with my place on the planet,” she says. “It made me realise that the bike broadens your horizons. Your world becomes full of ‘cans’ instead of ‘can’ts.’”
Learn more about Jenny at the Adventure Syndicate, an online platform that shares inspirational stories of women adventuring by bike.
She/Her / Age: 32 / @JennyTough
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Coast Salish and Squamish Nations (Squamish, British Columbia)
Go-to ride snack: The good answer: sliced apples that I make in my own dehydrator. The true answer: candy. So much candy. Don’t tell my dentist.
Jenny has traveled to ride in 40 countries since buying her first bike—a Rocky Mountain Sherpa—after graduating from university. In 2018, she was the first women’s finisher in the Silk Road Mountain Race, and in 2020, she was the first women’s finisher at the Atlas Mountain Race. Though she excels at riding long distances in short amounts of time, Jenny says riding bikes is more than race results: it’s an opportunity for genuine connection.
“I think bikes give you the opportunity to explore places quite deeply, and with that comes a human connection that is so powerful,” she says. “I think anyone who travels like this will always come away with a sense of great empathy for the planet we share. Bikes are this great leveller—everywhere in the world, people ride bikes. So while I may not seem to have a lot in common with some locals, the bike kind of acts as our bridge to building a connection. And when you connect with people who are different from you, you learn quickly that everyone has the same hierarchy of needs, just different circumstances and different cultures.”
She/Her / Age: 41 / @jillhomer66
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Southern Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute (Boulder, Colorado)
Go-to ride snack: Peanut butter cups.
Jill’s first bike as an adult was a $300 Ibex Corrida, a hybrid touring bike she took on her first tour from Moab, Utah, to Cortez, Colorado, and back again. She made the 600-mile journey back in 2002, and the memories she made on that mostly paved route lit a fire in her to see more from the saddle.
Around 2005, Jill moved to Juneau, Alaska, to work for a community newspaper. Any time she wasn’t researching or reporting, she was riding and writing about riding for her blog “Jill Outside.” A year later, she competed in her first endurance winter bike race, the Susitna 100. The experience proved so formidable, it set the tone for the next decade of her life.
Over the years, Jill has raced and set women’s records on a number of routes, including the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational (her 2016 time of 17 days, 3 hours, and 46 minutes still stands as the women’s record) and the Tour Divide. Along the way, she has documented her two-wheeled journeys in writing, and her memoirs Into the North Wind and Be Brave Be Strong inspired countless cyclists to pack their bikes and hit the road. Despite her many adventures and career successes, Jill says it was her first 350-mile ride to McGrath during the 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational that truly changed her life.
“I’d prepared for the journey for much of two years, [but] I still had no idea what I was getting myself into by the time the race started,” she says. “I was alone, struggling with deep fatigue, struggling to eat or sleep, and eventually just simply trying to keep myself alive when temperatures dipped to 35 below with a fierce wind that buried the trail in drifting snow. I had no choice but to face the bleeding edge of myself and my fragile humanity. It was an enlightening journey. The feeling of accomplishment and new understanding still resonates 13 years later, in ways that still surprise me sometimes.”
She/Her / Age: 33 / @billfartindale
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Anishinaabeg—Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi Peoples—and the Peoria Tribe (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Go-to ride snack: Pizza, dried apricots, Babybel cheese, and Sweet Tarts sour ropes.
Jill has a certain penchant for overcoming obstacles. Perhaps it has something to do with that time her father took her and her siblings bikepacking before she was old enough to legally drive. The roughly 200-mile trip took almost a week, during which time the family had dozens of mechanicals, lamented their apparel of choice (jeans), and seriously questioned their father’s idea of fun, but the journey proved crucial in equipping Jill how to persevere.
Since then, Jill has competed in a number of notoriously tough races, including the Marji Gesick 100 and JayP’s Fat Pursuit 200. She’s a former champion of the winter fat bike races the Arrowhead Ultra 135 and Tuscobia 160. In 2020, Jill was named co-champion of the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational. She finished alongside Peter Ineman and Casey Fagerquist with an official time of 22 days, 7 hours, and 30 minutes, making her mark as the first woman to win the ITI overall.
“You can do so much more than you think you’re capable of,” says Jill. “Racing my bike taught me to be quick, to be intentional, and to go as fast as I can. [But] traveling by bike has taught me to slow down, to build relationships with other people sharing the trail, and to check in with myself to make sure I’m not digging myself into a hole. [Bikepacking] has given me more patience in my daily life and I have gotten so much better at self-care.”
She/Her / Age: 37 / @johanna_jahnke
Go-to ride snack: Potatoes.
Before Johanna was an endurance cyclist, she was a rugby player. At the age of 17, she became a member of the German national rugby team and played in her first European cup a year later. She went on to represent Germany on the international rugby stage, competing in the 2002 World Cup and helping her team win the 2004 Swedish Championship.
In 2005, she retired from professional rugby. Though she closed the door on one chapter, she opened the door to another: motherhood. While juggling life as a single parent, Johanna discovered cycling. In 2014, she began competing in road races and racked up numerous top 10 finishes in European and international crits. Over time, she started to yearn for something bigger and bolder. She found it in the Transcontinental Race. In 2018, she and her teammate Marion Dziwnik entered the roughly 4,000-kilometer self-supported adventure. The two-woman team was the first women’s pair to finish that year.
When she’s not training for her own long-distance cycling goals, Johanna is promoting vegan diets for athletes and hosting her podcast Die Wundersame Fahrradwelt (The Wonderous World of Bicycles).
She/Her / Age: 28 / @kornhausersauce
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Mary’s River or Ampinefu Band of Kalapuya (Corvallis, Oregon)
Go-to ride snack: Applesauce pouches.
Since she bought her first Surly Troll in 2016 and took it on an overnighter in the Uintah Mountains in Utah (a trip she says started with two miles of hike-a-bike up an impossibly rocky “road”), Kailey has not stopped moving. From overnighters to longer rides across Iowa, Utah, and Oregon, Kailey says, “biking has shown me the power that I carry, and how far that strength can carry me.”
In 2018, Kailey received the Lael Rides Alaska scholarship, an opportunity which enabled her to bikepack 1,000 miles through Alaska from Seward to Deadhorse. During the trip, she and fellow adventurer Brooke Larsen interviewed people living on the frontlines of climate change.
In addition to being an advocate for the environment, Kailey is equally passionate about championing body positivity in the cycling industry. Her 2019 cover photo and feature story for Bicycling Magazine, titled “I’m a Fat Cyclist—And I Don’t Need to ‘Fix’ My Body,” became a beacon of light for fat cyclists who finally felt seen.
“Being able to share my own personal experiences as a fat person who rides bikes was so empowering, and hearing from those who read my story and started riding or came back to riding their bikes was a complete honor,” she says.
Shimano recently featured Kailey and fellow fat cyclist Marley Blonsky (featured in part four of this series) bikepacking in an excellent film titled, All Bodies on Bikes. When she’s not shredding bikes or advocating for body size inclusivity, she’s hard at work on her Ph.D. Kailey is currently studying outcomes and power dynamics of collaborative forest governance in the state of Oregon.
She/Her / Age: 27 / @katie.strempke
Go-to ride snack: All the baked goods!
Katie takes an “all in” approach to most things in life. Bikepacking has proven to be no exception. In 2012, she embarked on her first bikepacking trip ever, a coast-to-coast tour from San Francisco, California, to Yorktown, Virginia. After that, she turned her eyes to dirt and gravel. She toured the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and described that experience as so “so pivotal,” it inspired her and her husband Andrew to leave the Midwest in search of bigger landscapes.
In 2020, Katie and Andrew became the first people to yo-yo the Colorado Trail, completing 539 miles on singlespeed mountain bikes in just under 17 days. Katie wrote about their experience here on the site. Having quit her own attempt of the Colorado Trail the year prior due to debilitating blisters, Katie says this trip was especially meaningful.
“Traveling by bike has taught me that pushing through my comfort zone is often required to experience my most rewarding moments,” she says. “Pushing past comfort to complete a challenging route or reach an inspiring vista has led me to develop the mantra, ‘growth over comfort.’ It’s a phrase I keep taped on my handlebars and always in the back of my mind when life gets tough.”
She/Her / Age: 34 / @laelwilcox
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Tohono O’odham and Hohokam (Tucson, Arizona)
Go-to ride snack: Grapes.
Photo by Rugile Kaladyte
Lael has racked up well over 150,000 miles in the 13 years since she rode down the East Coast on her first bike tour. In 2015, her first year of endurance racing, she crushed the women’s record on the Tour Divide (a record which still stands and which she intends to replace with the overall record this year). In 2016, she outright won the 4,300-mile Trans Am Bike Race, becoming not only the first woman but also the first American to ever win the prestigious cross-country self-supported race. That same year, she helped design and publish the Baja Divide, later setting the first fastest known time on the ~1,700-mile route. She’s also set or challenged records at the Silk Road Mountain Race, the Hope-1000, and the Chingaza Loop.
But if there’s one thing she loves as much as riding bikes far and fast, it’s encouraging other girls to get on bikes. In 2017, she co-founded a program called Anchorage GRIT (Girls Riding Into Tomorrow), a middle school bicycle mentorship program for seventh grade girls. Her “Lael Rides Alaska” Scholarship has provided full gear setups and travel stipends for femme, trans, non-binary, and women cyclists interested in bikepacking through Alaska. The scholarship was inspired by her own personal goal to ride every road in Alaska, a project she finished in 2020 and shared in this film, shot by Lael’s girlfriend, Rue.
Her advice for fellow cyclists?
“Don’t let other people discourage you,” she says. “We all have our different strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately, if you want to be out there, you can definitely make it happen. Bikepacking is hard, but also so unpredictable and rewarding. Start with an overnighter, then maybe go out for a few days. After a single week, you’ll know so much more about your preferences—what you need to bring, what you like to eat, how you want to pack, where you want to ride. It’s endless. It’s a really personal sport. Make it your own.”
She/Her / Age: 42 / @leecraigie_
Go-to ride snack: Oatcakes.
There was a time in Lee Craigie’s riding career when she was driven by results. It’s what fueled her rise on the international mountain bike stage, becoming both the British and Scotish national mountain bike champion in 2013. But as someone who came to competitive cycling later in life—her first race was at the age of 26—Lee says there was always something dissonant about traveling by car or plane to ride a bike in circles.
“I remember once, just weeks after gaining the British Championships title, I was racing in Andorra and decided to take a week to ride home rather than fly,” she says in this article from Union Cycliste Internationale. “It was the best cycle tour I’ve been on.”
After a decade of elite-level racing, Lee eventually turned her attention to bikepacking. She has since ridden grueling routes like the Highland Trail 550, the Caledonia Way, the Colorado Trail, and the Tour Divide. Check out her TED Talk about her blistering time—and lessons learned—on the Highland Trail here.
In addition to being a well-rounded cyclist, Lee is also a trained child and adolescent psychotherapist with a background in outdoor education. She is co-founder of the Adventure Syndicate, co-director of Cargo Bike Movement, and Scotland’s Active Nation Commissioner.
She/Her / Age: 59 / @heels_on_wheelzz
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Miccosukee Tribe and Creek Nation (Panama City Beach, Florida)
Go-to ride snack: Gummy bears.
Patricia didn’t discover cycling until she was 51, but once she found her love of riding, she didn’t waste any time laying down some serious miles. In 2018, at the age of 57 and just five years after surviving a stroke, Patricia embarked on her first long-distance bike tour, riding from her home in Panama City, Florida, to Los Angeles, California. The 2,200-mile journey took her just 45 days. She often rode upwards of 100 miles a day, raising awareness about stroke prevention and women’s wellness along the way. After her ride, Patricia founded the non-profit Heels on Wheelz to raise stroke awareness and prevention by encouraging women and girls to become more physically active through the bicycle. This year, Patricia will tackle riding the length of the eastern seaboard from Maine to Key West, Florida.
She/Her / Age: 30 / @sarah_sturmy
Traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Ute and Pueblos (Durango, Colorado)
Go-to ride snack: PB&J ’till my dying day. Unless there is a nice bean burrito.
Sarah knows how to go hard. The two-time singlespeed cyclocross national champion has podiumed at a number of road and gravel races like the Leadville 100, Sea Otter Classic, and SBT GRVL. But more importantly, Sarah knows that going hard on a bike isn’t everything.
“It’s crazy how the bike is not only a machine that moves you, but it’s also an ice breaker, a connection point, and a tool for sanity,” she says. “People seem to approach me more when I’m bikepacking. It truly restores my faith in humans.”
In between races, Sarah finds solace (and, often, humility) on bikepacking trips. She’s ridden routes like the Black Canyon Trail, the Stagecoach 400, and parts of the Colorado Trail. A staunch believer in the power of bikes to build community, Sarah also coaches up-and-coming cyclists ranging from junior girls with Durango Devo to collegiate athletes.
“You don’t need every piece of fancy gear, or a sweet new bike, or the perfectly planned route,” to be a bikepacker, she says. “I’ve done plenty of trips with gas station burritos, a few bottles of water, a sleeping bag, and a backpack. The toughest part is just doing it. It’s all about the right attitude!”
By day, Sarah works as a graphic designer at her own firm OSO Creative.
In case you missed it, be sure to check out part one, two, three, and four of this series, Shakers, Makers, Creatives, and Builders. Who inspires you? Give a shout-out to the women who are movers in your community in the comments below.
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