This post is the first in a series highlighting interesting women who love to bike. Photos by Dominion Cycling Photography.
Imagine riding your bike in a 3-mile loop over and over until you’ve logged 100 miles, and imagine doing this on a cold December day in Washington, D.C. no less. Who would imagine such a thing you may ask? Why Megan Jones would, and that’s why she is our Bikie Girl Shero of the month.
Megan is the founder and force behind the annual fundraiser, the Hains Point 100, which has raised many thousands of dollars to support the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA)’s Women & Bicycles program. Megan reached out to me as the owner of Bikie Girl Bloomers in 2013 to ask if Bikie Girl would be interested in helping sponsor the event by offering some product as a raffle prize. Bikie Girl Bloomers has now sponsored the Hains Point 100 three years in a row, and watched both the event and the WABA Women & Bicycles program grow like gangbusters.
I asked Megan if she would answer a few questions for me, so we can all get to know a little more about the woman who came up with this crazy fundraiser idea.
Bikie Girl: What inspired you to launch the Hains Point 100?
Megan: In the cold of winter, at the end of the year, there aren’t too many bike events or races going on in the DC area. In 2012, I wanted to cap off a pretty high mileage year, so, I thought that I would end the year with something interesting. I was going to head out to a local training spot, Hains Point – a 3-mile loop – and attempt to do 100 miles around it….in December. After an Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, I mentioned that I was going to attempt it and someone, overhearing this conversation, wondered if I was doing it for a cause. I figured, “why not!” I was then determined to figure out a way to make it this interesting and earn money for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s Women & Bicycles. I knew I needed some company out there to keep me entertained. Almost immediately, a local bike shop jumped in and offered up to help sponsor it. So, 15 days after I came up with the idea, I held the first ever Hains Point 100.
I had local businesses and women-bike focused sponsors provide some prizes and raffles, food and amusements to get us through the day. I was thrilled at how responsive these businesses were – it was a crazy idea to start the event, and the support was overwhelming. I was even more thrilled getting the attention of national companies – like Bikie Girl Bloomers – to support the cause.
From the very beginning, I wanted it to be an all-inclusive event. Everyone was invited no matter what kind of rider they were. I think that’s what makes this event so unique: we have race teams, unicycles, cargo bikes, hybrids, three speeds show up. We have had people attempting their first 100 miles ever riding with people that were completing 200 miles for the day.
I completed that 100 miles with a smile on my face and decided to do the event again . . . three more times so far!
Bikie Girl: What is it about WABA’s Women & Bicycles program that makes it important to you?
Megan: When the Hains Point 100 was born, Women & Bicycles was a pilot program and not yet officially launched. I knew right away that the concept was something that we needed in the DC area, and I wanted to support it. With only 24% of people riding bikes being women, we had lots of room to grow. By creating a program that fosters learning through sharing each others’ experiences, how could it go wrong? Now, we have nearly 5,000 people on our Facebook group and hundreds that have mentored ladies who have then helped others. The group includes daily commuters, racers, casual riders, triathletes, bike messengers, bike shop employees, and more. What defines us is our love for riding. It’s been great watching it grow, because those that started off asking questions are now the ones that are helping others. On a daily basis we are talking about equipment, routes, riding in the snow, advice for gear, what to do after an accident, and more. Women in the group are educators, mentors, and advocates within their community and we’re growing a strong base of active bike community advocates.
Being in DC, we are surrounded by politics, and each city and county have different structures on how to navigate through to get things done. We have helped to get more women in front of these various committees, boards, legislatures, managers, etc. As a result, we have ladies now all over the DC region that are helping to effect change in cycling infrastructure in the area.
I have seen more women on bicycles inspired by this great group. Best of all, Women & Bicycles has inspired women all over the country now to start up networks just like the DC network. The Hains Point 100 has turned into a celebration of all this great work.
Bikie Girl: What is your bike style?
Megan: I currently own four bikes, plus am a member of Capital BikeShare. My outfit really depends on what I have planned for the day or where I’m going. I don’t limit my outfits because I happen to ride a bike. I actually can ride better in heels than walk in them!
I am on an all-women cycling team – Team Sticky Fingers, so when I’m in training you’ll see me all kitted out in the black and pink racing kit with the “sassy lion” on the front of it. I also commute to work by bike. Then, I am wearing whatever I happen to be wearing that day to work – heels, skirts, jeans, dresses, etc.
I will ride in most any weather so my riding style depends on that. In the winter, it definitely takes me longer to gear up in the layers. Two gloves, windproof jacket and pants, scarf, hat, etc. etc. Currently, my favorite thing to have on is a bright pink scarf that my mother knitted with reflective yarn. I definitely am seen in the dark when I have it on.
I hope that, when I’m riding, other women can see me in my high heeled boots and think “Oh, hey, I can do that!” And, then they do it.
Bikie Girl: How does bicycling fit in with other aspects of your life (work, hobbies, people in your life)?
Megan: Cycling is a huge part of my life. It’s my primary source for exercise and transportation. I ride my bike to the grocery store, to meet people for dinner, and I even used it to pick up my Christmas tree. Many of my friends ride bikes and those that don’t are used to seeing me pull up on my bike and lock it up wherever we are meeting.
I am actively involved in my county’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, and just the other night presented at my neighborhood’s civic association about protected bike lanes. I highly encourage women to get involved in their community’s efforts to help increase biking in the area. Sure, it can seem intimidating, with some of the engineering terms and concepts, but there is always someone around to ask. Many of the local committees see the same people over and over, and getting new faces and voices involved in these efforts goes a long way.
I sustained a major ankle injury and dislocation during a bike race that required two surgeries last year. I was not only off my bike, but on crutches for much of last year. It was torture because I had to depend on getting around by car and the kindness of others. Once I was allowed back on my bike for just a mile, I was smiling broadly ear-to-ear, as I was so happy to be able to roll where I wanted and when I wanted.
Bike Girl: Has the growth & popularity of the Hains Point 100 made it too much to manage, or do you get more help with it now?
Megan: The first year, I quickly threw up a Facebook event page, got a Twitter handle. Almost immediately I had people committing to coming and telling others about it. When I first launched it, I’ll admit, I had that fear that “no one is going to show up to my party”. Then, people started committing to coming and sharing the event . . . my original fear turned into “uh-oh! so many people are going to show up!” Ironically, that first year, I counted the riders and 25% of the people that were there were women. I knew that it was only the beginning, and this showed the work that needed to be done to get more women out there.
Fast forward to 2015, and I had over 550 riders and 45 sponsors. I would probably say that 40% or more that showed up were women. People came from all over, and I really was blown away. I definitely needed more help. In keeping with the spirit of the “one woman” ride, I tend to do a lot of the preparation, and asking sponsors for donations and help, myself. I get a lot of help picking up the donations and day-of, it definitely takes a village to run the event – from registration to handing out the prizes to doing hand-ups. I now have coffee sponsors, and have several bike shops on location to do any last minute repairs. It is so heart-warming how many people show up, see something needs to get done, jump in and help. I also encourage people to bring snacks to share so we have a great “pot luck” of goodies.
For the 5th Annual Hains Point 100, I’m sure everyone is expecting me to pull out the stops . . . and I’m up for the challenge! Someone likened the Hains Point 100 to a winter block party festival for cyclists. It’s been an amazing ride. I’m happy to have helped to support the cycling community in this unique way.
Thanks, Megan! Keep it up – you are an inspiration to Bikie Girls everywhere!
You can find out more about WABA here, and about the Women & Bicycles program here. If you aren’t already a member of the W&B Facebook group, you are missing out on a welcoming and resourceful community. Learn about the Hains Point 100 here.
Next month, we will profile this year’s winner of the Bikie Girl Bloomers raffle prize from the Hains Point 100. She’s a gem; you will enjoy meeting her.