The benefits of being a small fry with a big dream is that you have to get extremely creative about getting the word out. I was talking with the owner of Cleverhood, Susan Mocarski, who was particularly taken with the Riding Jacket and she suggested I send it around to big ladies in the cycling business, “You know, like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” Ah ha! – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Riding Jacket. The more I thought about the idea, the more excited I got. We put together a list of women who are true pioneers in the bike world and beyond. They are taking huge risks to create something totally unique, which contributes to a beautiful, more sustainable future. These women are as much my muses as the bicycle. I imagine all the neat things they might need to put into the pockets of the Riding Jacket as they are working: tape measure, camera, gardening clippers, agenda, shop keys, snacks for their children/significant others/coworkers.
So this week I am introducing the first bassass woman entrepreneur, the founder of the first bike shop for women in the US: Robin Bylenga. I drove down to meet with her and introduce her to the line. Here is a little bit about this super-inspiring woman, kicking ass and taking names.
Robin Bylenga: Founder of Pedal Chic
Before Robin came along there was literally no bike shop in the US dedicated to the needs of woman. This wouldn’t be so bad, except for the vast majority of bike shops have been run by men who completely miss the boat with creating the type of atmosphere that would motivate woman to spend $$ and feel included in the biking community. We have all been into the shops with the horrific lighting, cluttered shelves, monotone merchandise and the bike shop dudes that completely ignore us as if we have by accident wondered into the wrong store front on our way to the nail salon and will figure out our error on our own and make our way back to the door.
So Robin stepped into the void in a male-dominated industry and went for it. And became a leader. Pedal Chic, which opened in 2010, quickly rose to the top, awarded “American’s Best Bicycle Shops” in 2015, 2014, and 2013, and “America’s Best Bike Shop for Women” in 2012 and 2014 at Interbike, the bike industry’s largest trade show. Robin has become a leader in the industry, founding Spokeswomen, an organization that connects female entrepreneurs in the cycling industry, and speaking around the country about women and biking.
When I visited Robin, there was a woman who had driven 2 hours to come to her shop. Her store was bustling with people, so I kept myself entertained for a while browsing her fantastic selection of goods: a whole section of bags that attach to the bike but look like stylish purses and handbags, clever and cute bike undies for women, fantastic and super smart jerseys, and smaller accessories like artsy bike bells. She also had a super innovative station for women to try out bike seats to find the perfect match as part of Pedal Chic’s work to get women fitted for bikes that are made to fit THEM.
Oh and did I mention she started Pedal Chic as a single mother of 3? What a badass.
After she modeled my Riding Jacket in front of Pedal Chic we got to talking business and life over lunch. Turns out starting a business and pioneering a new way forward isn’t easy and doesn’t get easier. But she does it anyway. She is tough, thinks expansively, acts on her dreams, and doesn’t let fear hold her back. I lift my biking thermos to you, Robin, for taking risks to create something that makes our world a better place.
If you are planning a trip to the Southeast, make sure you check out Pedal Chic and leave ample time to cycle around Greenville. It is as if the creative and bike-ped groups were allowed to go crazy to create the place of their dreams. Oh yeah and the foodies too. You pedal down the Swamp Rabbit Trail and can stop along the way for local beverages and food. Highly recommend this.