Bike racing, housing development, pea patches, stolen bikes and more!
Editor’s Note: I met Meghan Pinch at Bike Works, where she is a regular volunteer at our Volunteer Repair Party night (more info on that here). I remember her walking her bike inside to hang up and noting that it was an IF (Independent Fabrications – very nice and rather expensive custom-made bikes). I also noted that she was wearing Italian-made Sidi cycling shoes and a mini-skirt. She seemed to know her way around a bicycle and was seemed instantly comfortable working with another (less experienced) mechanic in a mentor-ship role. Meghan has been a teaching assistant in Bike Work’s ABC (Adult Basics Class) and DEF (Developing Excellent Fixing-skils) classes and was also the star of a basic bike-fit video that was filmed at the BW. She always shows up with a cheerful, positive attitude and is always down to help out with whatever event BW is putting on. Meghan is an avid bicycle rider, commuter, racer, and enthusiast, as well as a good gardener, cook, friend, and mechanic. When drawing up the initial list for LifeBio participants, she was an obvious pick and showed immediate and enthusiastic excitement. Throughout all of the LifeBios, Meghan has been a constant source of positive feedback, which is something that is not only much appreciated, but also helps keep me motivated and inspired. Thanks, Meghan!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself (Name, hometown, one thing about your hometown that you love, one thing about your current hometown that you love, favorite Pro Tour rider,etc).
My name is Meghan, I grew up in Spokane, WA. Although I lived out in the country and didn’t have the “ride bikes around the neighborhood” experience many of my friends from school had (which I was really envious of!). I was about 8 when I got my first “real” mountain bike- a blue mixte Univega. I can remember riding it on trails while on camping trips, through streams, all over the ski trails near our house, anywhere except pavement. I got my first road bike in high school, to train for the STP with my dad (which we did together my junior year).
One thing I love about Spokane is the fact that you can leave your front door, on your bicycle, and be at a good fishing hole on the river, or riding great mountain bike trails, within 15 minutes. My favorite thing about my current hometown, Seattle (Rainier Beach in particular), is the amazing community here- great people doing really inspirational, forward-thinking things, making our city more bikable, more equitable, more sustainable, more livable.
As for my favorite pro tour rider, wow, that’s a tough one. I like Kent’s philosophy about favorites- I personally have lots of favorites! Here’s my list- for sprinters, I love Tyler Farrar (gotta be true to Washington State) and Thor Hushvod, as they are both talented, hard working riders who can often outsprint more flashy, showboat type sprinters (yes I’m talking about you, Mark Cavendish!). As far as GC riders, I’m a big fan of the Schleck brothers. I also really like Tommy Voeckler, because he rides his heart out and he’s just so danged cute. I also like Vinokorov because of his dynamic riding style. However, my favorite rider is probably Jens Voigt, because he’s so solid, so tough, such a seasoned veteran, but also a little zany and doesn’t take himself too seriously. In this year’s tour, for example, he crashed pretty hard, wrecked his bike, and found himself behind the team car with no hope of rescue with a team replacement bike. So, after heckling the race officials to provide him a bike, he wound up on a junior road bike that was 10 sizes too small, with toe clips- and he rode that for 15 miles until catching back up to the team cars, where he was able to switch out to a bigger bike and finish the stage, then subsequently the Tour.
2. You’ve been on a race team this year (and perhaps last year too?) and I read a really fun and entertaining blog entry about your first race of the season. What team are you on and how did you wind up on that particular one? How has your season been going? Is this your first season racing?
I just finished my first season with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance/ Starbucks cycling team. I chose this team because the culture is laid back and mellow, very supportive and welcoming, and people on the team really care about balance between cycling and other life activities, which is important to me because racing can be very consuming, and I don’t want to devote all of my free time to it. Anyhow, I had a BLAST during my first year of racing. It was way more physically demanding than I imagined, requiring a different kind of fitness than the type of riding I’m used to, but once I figured out how to train for speed vs. endurance, I really had fun. I found that I like criteriums more than other types of road racing- I’m well-suited to technical, flat, fast courses which require good cornering and bike handling skills. I’m hoping that I can become a better sprinter for next season. I also just did my first cyclocross race, at Seatac Park on Labor Day. Wow, so much fun (but also really hard physically)! I found that my mountain bike background came in very handy for this kind of racing, and I can’t wait to do more of it.
3. This is the second year in a row that I have been a part of a team and yet haven’t had time to race (or even really ride with the team). How do you make time for the team and what is it about training with and racing with a team that makes it different than doing it solo?
This is a really good question- it is difficult to make time to train for racing, for sure. It took me most of the racing season to figure out how to fit it in. I’ve discovered that shorter, more intense workouts are really helpful for both criteriums and cyclocross, and those workouts can be done during my normal commute home. For those kinds of workouts, I generally stop somewhere along the way home, ditch my backpack, do some sprints or short intervals, then continue on my way home. I also will probably spend a little more time on the trainer this winter. I have always had a bit of disdain for riding a trainer- I mean, you might as well go outside- but it is useful for longer interval workouts, and I’ll be honest, there are days, especially in the winter, when popping in a movie and spending time on the trainer sounds better than braving wind and rain outside. Having the team is a great motivator- actually, more than having successful racing results, one of the chief reasons I joined was to find more people to ride with and to have some goals and events to train for. I like that there are always people to train with, and I really look forward to showing up at races with the squad of green and black clad riders there to cheer me on. All of that support really makes a difference.
4. As an outsider to the world of racing, I used to view it as a really competitive and insular community, yet I have often heard that the women’s side of it is a lot more inclusive and supportive. What is your experience (and opinion) with this?
I was really worried about this dynamic, and honestly avoided racing for many years because of it. I chose my team specifically because they were very welcoming and inclusive (which they continue to be!). I’ve found women on other teams to be super helpful, also- my friend Morgan on Bike Sale (a Cat 2, fast lady!) helped me figure out how to train, even worked with me to develop a training plan, and has been checking on me regularly to make sure I am doing okay, getting on the bike, and feeling good. Jane from Broadmoor taught me how to become more comfortable getting bumped and jostled by other riders, and showed me how to shoot through tight gaps in the pack. I’ve been doing a little bit of physical therapy and bike fit work with Izette from Group Health, who has also given me great pointers along the way. Jill from Gregg’s has been great at giving strategy pointers, too. Sure, some teams are a bit more insular and less friendly than others, but in general, I’ve found the women to be very welcoming and supportive.
5. What did you go to school for and how do you use that in your current job? Oh, and what is your current job?
I have a Master’s from UW in Urban Design and Planning. I wound up back at UW after spending a few years working at a bike shop in Berkeley, CA. I also lived in San Francisco for awhile to work for a candidate running for a City Supervisor position (like City Council here). I did all of my campaigning by bicycle,a s it was the most convenient way to run field operations for a campaign in an urban environment. Riding my bike all over San Francisco made me pay a lot closer attention to the city- I was able to observe things that worked well and things that needed improvement, and the bicycle was really the vehicle that led me to look at cities on a closer level. I wanted to go to school to study how to create more bicycle-friendly communities, and also figure out how to solve other pressing urban issues. While at UW, I was able to study a wide variety of issues and topics- homelessness and affordable housing, transportation and land use, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, community development, neighborhood visioning , sustainable food systems. I currently work as a Housing Development Associate for an affordable housing development consulting firm. We get hired by Housing Authorities and nonprofits to develop and build low income housing all over the state, often for people who are homeless or recently homeless. While I’m not directly practicing as a planner, I use elements of my education all of the time, from researching local land use laws to thinking about the walkability and bikeability of a potential site, to evaluating projects to see if they comply with a neighborhood or city’s comprehensive plan.
6. I have frequently eavesdropped on you having a conversation with someone else about neighborhood pea patches, gardening, sustainable-stuff. . . and other green things that I probably have little to no knowledge of. How involved are you in all of that green/gardening/sustainable-things scene? How does all of that tie in to your job and urban planning in general?
I am really passionate about sustainable food systems, in particular urban agriculture and backyard farming. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of my school work focused on these topic. I wouldn’t say that I’m super involved with that scene at the moment, more just an active supporter of what others are doing. For example, there is a movement in my neighborhood to convert a plant nursery, which is owned by the City and no longer used, to an urban farm. While I’ve not been driving the movement, I’ve attended meetings and shown up to offer my support. I also do what I can in my personal buying habits to support local, sustainable agriculture. For our recent wedding, which took place in Winthrop, WA, my husband Chad and I worked hard to include as much produce as possible from local sources. We bought flowers from two farms in the Methow Valley, we hired a caterer who used local produce in the meal, and our friends Jason and Heidi, who farm in Hartline, WA, graciously provided us with meat they had raised for our rehersal BBQ. We also made jam for all of our guests, from strawberries we picked from farms in Skagit County and in Spokane. Now that the wedding is over, we’re focusing on turning our backyard into an urban farm. We have a few veggie beds, but we’d love to expand them, plant fruit trees, and acquire some chickens and bees. In the meantime, we have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription from Oxbow Farm. CSA’s are programs where you buy a share at the beginning of a farming season from a local farmer, giving him or her some early season capital, then get a box of fresh produce each week in return. The idea is that you really do, in a sense, become a partner with your farmer, sharing in both the financial risk and culinary rewards of farming. I love being a CSA subscriber- every week I get a box of fabulous produce which includes many of my favorite foods as well as new foods which encourage me expand my culinary horizons. I also feel a greater connection to where my food comes from. Oxbow Farm is also great about inviting its CSA members out to the farm for celebrations and work parties, and I’m looking forward to heading out there sometime soon!
7. I had a friend back in Ashland who worked at Cycle Sport with me and lived above the shop in a little apartment that I later moved into when he moved to PDX to work at Rivercity. He loved telling me that there was nothing better than coming back from a long, hot road ride and throwing on some Carhartts and getting your hands dirty working in the garden (there was a small garden in back behind the shop). Do you see any similarities between riding bikes and working the soil in your own life?
I really like this question! I hadn’t really thought about parallels between the two, but now that you mention it, I can definitely see some similarities. Both acts- riding bikes and gardening- give you a chance to have a more intimate interaction with your natural surroundings than say, sitting on the couch or driving in a car. Because you are vulnerable out there on your bicycle, in an environment dominated by machines much larger than you, it is imperative that you develop good observation skills and a keen awareness of your surroundings. Perhaps because you are forced to develop this awareness, I find that a bicycle is a great place from which to observe interesting details about the world, and I tend to notice much more about my surroundings on my bicycle. Similarly, I find that being a successful gardener requires observation of what’s happening around you. You have to pay attention to details like sunlight, weather, and soil quality, and you get a much more intimate knowledge of the critters who live in your yard, especially insects and birds. In general, I think that being a keen observer of the world around you makes you a better citizen, and both activities support that! Other parallels- well, there is also the immediate satisfaction that comes from weeding a patch of dirt, or turning over a new bed, very similar to the satisfaction I get from giving my bike a good cleaning or tune up. The act of getting your hands dirty and the satisfaction you can see in your work is really rewarding. Finally, there is a sense of investment- in gardening, you invest a lot of time at the beginning of the season in order to harvest your crops later. Similarly, riding your bike on long rides in July in August is much more enjoyable if you put in some good base miles during the rains of December and January.
8. You recently ran the Grand Canyon. . . what was that experience like? Would you do it again? Have you done much rafting before?
Oh man. That trip blew my mind. My dad, whose love of adventure and the outdoors has been a huge influence on me, suggested that we float the Grand as a family vacation. I agreed, not really giving it much thought, nor doing much research about where we were going or what we would be doing. I have also spent a lot of time on rivers, doing some whitewater stuff but mostly fly fishing, (my husband and Dad are both nuts about it, and I often go with them). Anyhow, I was absolutely floored by the scenery. We were there at the perfect time of year- early May, when the entire desert was blooming and temperatures were not yet scorching. The geologic features we saw were incredible, and the white water itself was pretty epic. On top of all of that, I just love getting out into the wilderness, unplugging, being part of the natural world, cooking in camp (everything tastes better when you’re on an epic adventure!), hiking and exploring on foot. I find it very spiritual and very grounding- it is so nice to get into a rhythm of getting up with the sun and going to bed under the stars.
9. You have a really crazy story about a stolen bike. . . can you retell it for me?
Happily! You can find the extended version on my blog, but in the meantime, here’s the short version. After college, when I was working at Mike’s Bikes in Berkeley, CA, I sold my car to build my dream bike- a custom Independent Fabrication Crown Jewel, which I ordered directly from IF. I even got to choose the paint! I ordered every sweet part I desired, and lovingly built this bike up part by part. I spent months honing the fit until it fit me perfectly. I rode it all over the Bay Area – on long rides in Marin, in the Berkeley/ Oakland Hills, and up Mt. Diablo, the big climb in the area. I took it with me to Whitefish, MT, where Chad and I spent a summer working on an organic farm, and did an epic ride up Going to the Sun Road. Sadly, halfway through my second year of grad school, it was stolen while I was in class one day. I was really angry, but also felt really guilty for having left such a nice bike unattended (locked, but unattended) on a campus known for bike theft. I became mildly obsessed with getting it back, which I knew was somewhat irrational, but I was determined that I would find it if it turned up anywhere. I scoured ebay and craigslist for months, I posted fliers all over the city, I called organizers of bike swaps and asked them to keep their eyes out, and put all of my friends on high alert. After months of looking, I took a trip through my grad program to rural India, way up in the Himalayas. I was there for about a month, on another epic adventure which really requires a story of its own. Anyhow, while I was there, I did a some reflecting on why I was so obsessed with this bike, and kind of came to terms with the fact that it was never coming back. However, when we got back to the states, I did one more quick craigslist search. There, in the bikes section of Craigslist in Tuscon, Arizona, was my bike, my exact bike, for sale!!! I could not believe it. I called the officer at UW who had been assigned to my case, and he called the U of Arizona police, who agreed to go rescue it for me. About a week later, my beloved bicycle showed up on my doorstep after its extended Arizona vacation. Although I had to replace wheels, it came home with new brake pads, new bar tape, and a shiny silver Thomson seatpost (in place of the black one it left with), and much cleaner than it was when it left. I renamed my bike India, and ride it everywhere to this day.
10. When I first met you, you would roll up to Bike Works for the Volunteer Repair Party in a mini skirt, bike shoes, and (I think?) a bike jersey. Then you would proceed to either spend the whole night wrenching in your Sidi road shoes, walking around with your toes up in the air, or slip on a pair of high heels or something. Are you naturally so amazingly fashionable or did I always just catch you on nights when you had your heels with you already? Can you bring heels along for the photoshoot?
Muuqi, I’m not sure that a mini skirt and a bike jersey is the most fashionable combination I can think of- in fact, the fashion police might ticket me about that one! All joking about my somewhat questionable sense of style aside, I am always on my bike (I commute by bike 90% of the year), and therefore generally wear bike shorts for the high comfort factor. However, if I’m going somewhere other than straight home after work, I like to also wear non-bike clothes. Skirts are great, because you can wear them right over your bike shorts and look a little more stylish than you would in just bike shorts. Also, as you probably know, men tend to far outnumber women who choose to commute by bike. I think many women who would potentially be interested in bicycle commuting reject it because they worry about having to trade their sense of style and feminine identity in order to become a “cyclist.” Wearing a skirt while riding bikes, I guess, is my little way of assuring the world that you don’t have to give up either. As for the heels, I generally already have them with me after the work day, they are fun to wear, and they are easier to walk around in than my Sidis. I don’t usually ride my bike in heels, but I get excited every time I see a woman brave enough to do that!
11. Where do you see yourself in 20 years? Where do you see the bike scene in Seattle in 20 years (specifically relating to commuting and urban planning)? Where do you see the state of food and gardening in 20 years?
I could see myself in any number of places in 20 years, whether in Seattle or in a smaller town in the mountains. Either way, I hope to still be working on community development issues, working to make the world a better, more equitable place to live in, and definitely riding bikes! I think the bike scene in Seattle is headed in the right direction, and in 20 years I imagine the percentage of bicycle commuters, especially in comparison to driving commuters, will be much higher than it is now. I imagine ubiquitous bike paths, with people of all ages, genders and identities riding bikes to work, school and play. There was a great BAW poster campaign about 10 years ago, actually, that touched on some of these themes- it was titled ‘What if Bikes Outnumbered Cars?” And it had images of 1-5- the elevated part that runs across the Ship Canal- converted to a mountain bike trail. Yep, that would be a pretty amazing thing to see. Probably not in 20 years, but maybe fifty?!
I also think food and gardening is moving in the right direction, especially in Seattle. I’m not sure what it will look like in 20 years, but i know what I would like it to look like! I picture green spaces throughout the city being used for food growing. Imagine, for example, the entire Chief Sealth trail corridor being converted to garden space! Produce stands would sprout up everywhere, so that you could buy a melon or a brocolli stem straight out of the field on your bike ride home.