Are you struggling to find bike friends? Or perhaps you already have bike friends but would like to build a stronger bike community in your town.
In either case, you may want to consider starting your own club or organizing a group ride. That’s what Erica Davis did.
Erica is the founder of the Crank Queens, a thriving women’s mountain bike membership group in town of Boise, ID. In this podcast interview, she shares how she first started the group, how she’s grown it into what it is today, and how you might do the same.
Even if you have no interest in starting a group of your own, stick around. We talk about tips for joining a group ride for the first time, ways to be more welcoming and inclusive, and how to make bike friends.
Listen To This Episode Or Watch On Youtube
Don’t have time to listen to the full interview? Here are a few key takeaways from the episode.
Start Small & Seek Partnerships
Erica’s golden advice for those embarking on this journey is to start small. “Many organizations falter because they try to scale too quickly. Remember, for most of us, leading a bike group isn’t a full-time commitment but a passion project,” says Erica.
She emphasizes beginning with what you can manage and then branching out by welcoming others onboard. Erica cites the implementation of an ambassador program, suggested by a mentor, as a pivotal moment in her leadership journey. By teaming up with ambassadors who resonated with her values, the group could diversify its offerings and distribute responsibilities.
Set Clear Expectations
Having participants on the same page is essential. Erica ensures that members sign a waiver and is forthright about the group’s objectives and requirements on their website.
She recalls a humorous yet enlightening instance where there was a misunderstanding about the term “no drop ride.” Erica underscores, “This incident taught me to never assume. It’s vital to clarify terminologies and shed light on intimidating jargon.”
Foster a Welcoming Environment
For Erica, creating a welcoming atmosphere begins with a personal touch. “Whenever there’s a new face, I make sure to introduce myself and get to know them. If there’s a shared experience or background with another member, I introduce them. The idea is to foster connections and ensure everyone feels included.”
Leverage Digital Platforms AND Word Of Mouth
In this digital age, Erica believes in harnessing the power of social media. Instagram has been her go-to platform for reaching out and building community. Though she’s not on Facebook, the group eventually branched out to a dedicated website to cater to those not on Instagram. This site offers a plethora of details from ride expectations to general information about the group.
Word of mouth, combined with digital tools, has been the group’s recipe for success.
🔥 Connect With Erica & The Crank Queens🔥
👉Crank Queens Instagram: @crankqueensboise
👉Erica’s Instagram: @wellwitherica
About The Host
Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.
An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.
Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life. Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son. If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.
Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.
Full Interview Transcript
Kristen: Erica Davis, thank you for being here. We’re going to discuss how you built an amazing mountain bike community and how other women might replicate it. But first, tell us about yourself.
Erica: Thank you for having me. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, near Seattle. I didn’t start mountain biking until I moved to Boise six years ago. That move was because I met my husband, a Boise native. I’ve always been outdoorsy, participating in activities like hiking, road cycling, mountain biking, and skiing. I grew up camping, hiking, and fishing. Professionally, I’ve worked in coaching and leadership development, primarily in executive leadership roles and building nonprofit organizations. I’m passionate about empowering women, whether it’s in their professional lives or outdoor adventures. I’ve often introduced friends to new outdoor activities.
Additionally, I have two stepchildren, both 14 years old, who are also keen mountain bikers and race for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. My husband and I have coached for this association for three years. We spend much of our time outdoors, biking, and embracing nature. I’m particularly passionate about enabling women to find their confidence outdoors without depending on male partners.
Kristen: Your group, the Crank Queens, has grown impressively. Let’s discuss its inception. Why did you start it?
Erica: Well, after moving to Boise in 2017 and meeting my husband, I tried mountain biking. I previously had road cycling experience in Portland but found mountain biking intimidating due to stories from friends. A local friend invited me to join a mountain biking event with about 60 women called the Dirt Dolls. Borrowing a bike, I participated and, despite the challenges, loved the experience. The Dirt Dolls had been active for 10 years in Boise, introducing many to mountain biking.
A few years later, I started inviting women I knew to bike rides via group text. It was informal, but as we consistently rode together, one lady suggested we give our group a name. After brainstorming, “Crank Queens” was chosen. We expanded our chat using an app, and my organizational skills were instrumental in planning rides and get-togethers. The group evolved further with suggestions for a logo and the involvement of a graphic designer. From that initial group of 12 in 2019, we’ve grown to over 80 members, gaining recognition from our local Trail Association and even acquiring sponsors. What began as a simple passion project has transformed into an organization that promotes health, activity, and community among women.
So you mentioned that it’s now become a membership, and you have these members. That’s a bit unusual for many of the groups or clubs out there. Why did you decide to go with the membership program? And what does that entail?
That’s a great question. For several years, I funded the crank queens from my personal budget and received some donations from local groups. But it reached a point where I realized it wasn’t financially sustainable. To provide more programming and resources, we needed revenue. We were already offering scholarships for women to race and attend clinics, and I wanted to expand on that. Additionally, many women began asking about training, nutrition, and balancing it all with family life. We wanted to address these broader issues, which would enhance their biking experience. While I wanted to maintain the free group rides, the membership program became a way to cater to those who desired more in-depth engagement beyond just biking. It made the organization sustainable and also catered to the strong desire for community connection many women expressed. They loved biking, but the community aspect was just as vital for them.
I’m aware of similar groups, like the women mountain bike community in Salt Lake. Did you take inspiration from them or other groups when designing your program?
I did look at various groups online. However, my inspiration for the membership model largely came from other industries, especially those catering to women’s wellness and outdoor activities. I also consulted individuals experienced in securing sponsorships. They offered valuable insights on that front. So, my approach was broad, drawing expertise from outside the biking community to think outside the box.
Reflecting on your journey, what advice would you offer to women looking to initiate something similar in their communities?
I’d say start small. Some organizations haven’t been sustainable because they tried to do too much too soon. Remember, for most, this isn’t a full-time job; it’s a passion project. Begin with what you can realistically handle, and then expand by inviting others to join. A mentor once suggested I start an ambassador program. That idea was a game-changer. Now, I have ambassadors who share the same values and can lead events, rides, or even activities unrelated to biking. So, my advice would be to consider partnering with like-minded individuals. It lightens the load and allows for a more diverse set of offerings.
Going back to Women MTB, the was the group I was a part of when I lived in Salt Lake. The lady who started that is no longer a part of the group. She was able to initiate it, provide structure, and now it’s its own entity, which is remarkable. The leadership role changes over time.
Regarding those first 12 friends you had, how did you find them? I often hear from many women that they can’t even find friends. How can they check a group text message with ladies that don’t exist yet?
I had been riding with the Dirt Dolls. Some of those women were from that group. Additionally, there were meetup groups that my husband and I were part of. When I attended, I’d introduce myself to the women and become acquainted. A lot was also about being on the trails. If I encountered women, I’d chat and see if they were interested in joining a ride. Sometimes I’d be at Bogus and meet women who maybe didn’t have the best experience riding downhill with their husbands. I’d offer them to ride with us. A lot of it was just immersing myself in the community, attending other group rides, and being a part of the Dirt Dolls. It was about reaching out and extending the invitation.
That’s impactful. When I’ve moved to new cities, if I encounter a woman a few times, by the fourth time, I’d ask for her number to go for a ride. It’s daunting, but it pays off. I’ve never had anyone decline.
From my experience, women are usually eager to find other women to ride with. Sometimes my husband would meet some women, maybe the wives of his riding companions, and suggest they ride with me. It was mostly through word of mouth. Inviting friends, encountering someone in a yoga class who happened to be a mountain biker, and suggesting a joint ride.
Regarding leading group rides, do you have any advice?
Firstly, I ensure participants sign a waiver. Our website clearly outlines what’s expected. We have an FAQ page that details what to anticipate during a ride, what to bring, and the skill level required. We aren’t a teaching organization. Our rides are for women who already know how to handle a mountain bike. For novices, we can recommend clinics or even host some for free to help them familiarize themselves. It’s crucial to clarify ride details. For instance, is it an intermediate ride? A social one? Will we halt at every trail junction? Once, in a bike maintenance class, there was confusion about a “no drop ride.” I knew from my road cycling experience that it meant no one would be left behind. But a participant thought it meant the absence of any downhill drops. This was eye-opening. I realized the importance of clarifying terminologies and avoiding assumptions.
So, through our website and social media, even sharing content from Femme Cyclist, we aim to demystify any intimidating jargon that might deter women from joining. Sometimes women message me, curious about joining our ride. I’d usually ask about their usual trails and gauge if it would be a good fit. I aim to be as clear as possible about what to expect. During the rides, if I observe someone not following trail etiquette, I’d gently educate them. The goal is to provide them with information to enhance their knowledge and skills without making them feel out of place.
When new participants join these group rides, do you have any pointers on how to ensure they feel welcome and included? Are there any best practices you’ve established?
Absolutely. When I’m leading, my first step is always to introduce myself to newcomers and learn a bit about them. If a woman shares she’s from a particular area or works at a specific place, I usually know someone in the group with a similar background. I make it a point to introduce them, ensuring they quickly connect with another friendly face. Our ambassador program plays a crucial role in this, offering a range of leaders for rides. The goal is to help newcomers bond with other group members swiftly through shared experiences.
You previously mentioned encouraging newcomers to reach out to you before joining. Do you have other advice for women keen on joining a new group?
Certainly. Contacting the group leader and asking questions is a great start. I’d also suggest bringing along a friend. In fact, my first “Dirt Dolls” ride was upon a friend’s invitation. When newcomers attend, it’s essential for them to be open about their intentions. For instance, if they’ve recently relocated and are looking to explore trails and make new riding buddies, they should express that. Being upfront about what they’re seeking can be daunting, but it’s crucial.
Beyond initiating a group, do you have recommendations for engaging more deeply within the community or possibly aiding in cultivating the biking community in your locality?
In Boise, we’re lucky to have the local Trail Association, SWIMBA. Engaging with such local associations, whether they’re mountain bike-specific or more general trail groups, is an excellent place to begin. These bodies often lead advocacy drives, trail construction, and even provide bike mechanic workshops for women, like ours does. Participating in a trail upkeep day can be a wonderful way to familiarize oneself with others before hitting the trails. It’s about harnessing the resources of established local entities.
Moving away from the initial stages of messaging friends and relying on word of mouth, have you employed other methods to promote yourself?
Instagram has been our primary tool. After finalizing our logo and formalizing the group, I initiated an Instagram account, even though I don’t personally use it. Before our website’s launch, we were active on Instagram. I’m not on Facebook, so we lack a presence there. However, some women found it challenging to gather information without Instagram, prompting us to develop a website for more comprehensive ride details and general group information. While we’ve witnessed other women-centric groups use private Facebook groups to disseminate information, we have a private members’ channel for similar communication. But, our promotion roots trace back to word of mouth and Instagram.
Fantastic. As we wrap up, could you share where listeners can connect with you, both for Crank Queens and your coaching venture?
Sure! For Crane Queens, you can visit crankqueens.org and follow us on Instagram at @crankqueensboise. As for my wellness enterprise, it’s wellnesswitherica.com, and the Instagram handle is @wellwitherica.
Excellent. Those links will be available in the show notes for our listeners.
Final three questions. The first one, is what bike or bikes do you ride?
Currently, I race on a Trek Super Caliber. I participate in numerous endurance mountain bike competitions and have been racing on it for about two years. Additionally, for more relaxed trail rides, I use a Canyon Lux.
Alright, onto the second question: What’s the most memorable or favorite place where you’ve ridden your bike?
That’s a tough one. Can I pick three?
First would be the Post Canyon in Hood River, especially during the fall. We’re actually hosting a retreat there next month, which I’m eagerly anticipating. Next would be anywhere in Bend, but I’m particularly fond of riding the Swampy Shuttle – starting from the Swampy Trailhead and riding down into town. Lastly, the Fisher Creek Trail in Stanley, Idaho holds a special place in my heart.
Great choices! Last but not least: What do you love most about cycling?
When I’m on my bike, it’s a rare moment of complete immersion. It’s an escape, where I’m entirely engaged with the outdoors and deeply connected to my body. Cycling gives me a break from overthinking, stress, and pending tasks. It’s a sanctuary where I’m entirely present.
Other Episodes You Might Like
- Why You Need To Attend a ROAM Event
- Face Your Fears With Lindsey Richter From Ladies AllRide
- Group Bike Rides: Everything You Need To Know
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