I met Ashley through my good friend Jon Tomai, who I was lucky enough to see, and hang out with during my last trip to Boston. Jon got me a personal tour of the Seven Cycles factory when I was there, check the story out here if you haven’t! With a chill demeanor and an urge to just hang out, without the normal awkward tension that comes with meeting new people into bikes, I knew Ashley was the rare type of person in the cycling community I try to be around. Respectful, honest, clear eyed, and well spoken. Hell yeah, a stand up person!
Ashley and a group of friends decided to ride the Oregon Outback course before it turned into a boys club full of eager adventure bloggers, first time bike campers, and a large group of riders that absolutely failed to follow the “leave no trace” code of ethics. Sadly, after the large group that rode the course this last time the ride was held, Donnie Kolb, the first to map out the Oregon Outback route, proclaimed “The Death of The Oregon Outback” in wake of the ride.
We’re so incredibly stoked to share a different approach on the ride, from such a rad lady. Oh, and if that’s not rad enough, she shot all of these on film disposable cameras!!
Here’s what she had to say
When my friends started planning a tour of the Oregon Outback using the route from the organized event, I wasn’t sure if I would fly out from Boston to join them or not. The proposal of riding through what is essentially a desert in August during a drought is something a crazy person suggests. Pictures and accounts of the ride lured me in though, and it started to feel crazier to pass up the opportunity. Imagining all those back roads and remote campsites and having to share them only with five of my close friends; it wasn’t crazy at all, it would be the perfect vacation. It isn’t everybody’s idea of vacation but that is how we have been vetted. It is a rare and special friendship when you can sweat and struggle and sleep on the ground and carry water for 100 miles only to discover the next stream is dry and never stop making joke after joke for days on tour, and when you’ve returned to indoor plumbing and refrigerated beers you still want to make jokes and ride bikes with each other.
It was naive to think I could make some new friends like them after they moved to Oregon. You can’t replace friends like this. And you don’t turn them down when they ask you on a trip like that.
As a female cyclist, that comradery has been more difficult to come by than it seems to be for men. I am lucky to have surrounded myself with supportive people, all the women I ride with are badasses and the men who can ride with us and treat us as equals are good men. I wouldn’t label myself an activist but as a mechanic I feel I am doing my part to change the image of cycling from the inside. If I had $1 for every customer who asked to talk to “a guy in the bike shop” I’d be making more than $14/hr for sure, and it is insulting to my hard work and skills. But I love talking with other women who come to the counter and the little kids getting their first bike see that women can hold these kinds of jobs.
Some of the same qualities that make the Oregon Outback worth riding are also ones that turn me away from the official event. The outbackness of it means limited services like no real bathrooms. With so many other riders I can imagine there would be no privacy at the campsites or along the road for going to the bathroom or changing clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the bathroom outside, but I don’t love strangers, accidentally or intentionally, seeing me go to the bathroom outside. I also don’t appreciate men riding directly in front of me, not to do me the favor of letting me draft, but rather to block the sweeping vistas with their butts like I want to look or something. These are the men I try to avoid riding with. Do they even realize what they’re doing? Riding in the off-season means I’m only seeing my friends’ butts and they’re the only ones seeing mine. I don’t want to be a part of a male calf-measuring contest that so many group rides become, I just want to have fun with my friends.