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Down for the ride: Biker Chicks dash through Sebastopol

Fifty women bikers cruise through cities across Sonoma County every month. They’re known as the Biker Chicks.|

When Christine Culver broke away from Southern California’s suburban car culture to participate in a bike race in Sonoma County in 1987, she was hooked instantly and never looked back.

That passionate biker, who gathered with others Sunday morning in Sebastopol, is now a member of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition’s “Biker Chicks” — a group of women cyclists dedicated to helping women and girls get out on two wheels to ride every month in Sonoma County.

Founded in 2012, the group is made up of 50 women — at all cycling levels — who gather monthly in different cities across Sonoma County.

The women are split into smaller groups for different routes set at different speeds and distances. Each route ranges from 8-30 miles.

“I love going on big rides but there’s something about riding with this community that’s so welcoming and warm,” said Culver, 57, who serves as a ride leader.

Defying Sunday’s early-morning chill, the Biker Chicks huddled in front of the Sebastopol Bike Center, sipping water and adjusting their helmets before splitting into four different groups and riding off.

Two groups rode for 25.6 miles, while another biked 16.5 miles and the final one biked 5 miles.

Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition’s Executive Director Eris Weaver, who remembers riding on her 3-speed bike as a kid in Los Angeles in the 1960s, loves the empowering felling this hobby gives her.

“There’s something about getting together with this group ... I feel like I’m 9 years old again, terrorizing the neighborhood with my girl gang,” Weaver, who now lives in Cotati, said.

In the mid 1970s, Weaver considered herself an early environmentalist and instead of driving she rode her bike everywhere until she was 30, she said.

Former Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane started the group 10 years ago after she learned that women accounted for only 21 percent of local bicycle commuters. Back then, more than 50 women showed up for that first ride, Culver said.

Though bicycling can be done by anyone, it is still a male-dominated sport, Weaver said.

“The reality in the U.S. is that far more men ride than women,” she added. “There’s sexism and racism everywhere and it’s in the biking world, too. So, to be with other women and not have some guy man-splaining to you how to change a tire ... it’s a big deal.”

Mary Ann Carpenter, who stood near her blue trek bike Sunday while she buckled her helmet on joined the Biker Chicks six months ago.

In 2019, her kids surprised her with a used bike, which they cleaned and fixed, since they knew she was curious about the hobby.

“I love riding with friends. These women are really supportive too ― no one gets left behind,” Carpenter, 69, a part-time school psychologist, said. “I swim. I do yoga. I bike. I try to stay active and do things I couldn’t do as often when I was working full-time and busy raising kids.”

Each ride is limited to 50 women but around 800 women participate throughout the year, Culver said.

Learn more about the Biker Chicks at bit.ly/3CYLHW9. On Facebook at bit.ly/3CCFHkG

You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at mya.constantino@pressdemocrat.com. @searchingformya on Twitter.

Mya Constantino

Features reporter

Stories can inspire you, make you laugh, cry and sometimes, heal. I love a feature story that can encapsulate all of those things. I cover the interesting people that exist around us, art and music that move us and the hidden gems that make Sonoma County pretty cool. Let's explore those things together.

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