This article first appeared as the Cyclist of the Month column in the June 2012 issue of the Cascade Courier, our membership newsletter.
Cyclist of the Month: JENNY ANDERSON
Wheels: 20-year-old Bianchi touring bike; Specialized carbon-fiber road bike
Occupation: VP, Instructor at Union Bank
When Jenny Anderson arrived at Log Boom Park in mid-May to lead that morning’s Cascade Daily Ride, one of her regular riders was riding around the parking lot, looking lost. “Oh, Jenny!” he said when he spotted her. “I didn’t recognize you. You’re not wearing your striped socks.”
Jenny laughs, “I didn’t know that was something people recognized me for. I just wear them.”
Jenny sticks out among Cascade’s clan of Ride Leaders in other ways, too. For one thing, she rides an “old dinosaur bike.” A few months back, at the cajoling of fellow Ride Leader Scott Boggs, she invested in a fancy new bike with a carbon-fiber frame.
“He asked, ‘How much does your bike weigh?’ I had no idea,” she says. “I weighed it with all my stuff on it, and it was 43 pounds! That’s ridiculous. His is 17 pounds.”
“I thought the right bike would make me go fast,” she adds. “It doesn’t. I’m still the last person on the hills.”
She says it’s her conditioning, but her overflowing rack trunk probably doesn’t help. “I carry fifty Band-Aids, two pairs of cleat covers, two bike pumps, two multi-tools and one piece of chain, since apparently I might need one if my chain breaks. But I have no idea how to fix that.”
Efficiency isn’t Jenny’s top priority. Instead, she focuses on fun. On her first ride of spring, she had each of the riders sign the waiver in a different “spring color” of ink. On April Fool’s Day, they all signed upside-down. “I never break the rules. I just have fun with them,” she says.
She and her partner in crime – friend and frequent co-leader Julie Pearl – “do lots of random stuff.” In February, they led a Bob Marley ride in honor of Marley’s birthday. People showed up for the 42-mile jaunt in tie-die costumes and dreadlocks, and they stopped for coffee halfway through.
“There’s a sense that you have to ride really slowly to have fun and have a sense of community, but you can ride at a brisk pace and still do wacky stuff,” she says. (For the uninitiated, a “brisk” pace, as defined by the Rides Committee, ranges between 16 and 18 miles per hour on the flats.)
That “sense of community” is what speaks to Jenny, and it’s something she saw on her first Daily Ride, back when she moved to Seattle four years ago. “I registered for the STP, then I realized that it was two months away, and I freaked out. A friend suggested that we try the Cascade Training Series, and we did.”
She continues, “On that first ride, everyone was helpful and encouraging, saying, ‘You can make it up this hill!” I still have friends that I met that day.”
She continued to ride as many Daily Rides as she could fit into her schedule, and eventually became a Ride Leader herself. “Everyone else on the rides was doing it. I felt like I was missing out.”
From there, she joined the Cascade Training Series (CTS) Steering Committee and the Rides Committee, at the urging of Scott Boggs (that same Ride Leader who convinced her to switch to carbon-fiber). “I wanted to help create that sense of community. I’m passionate about CTS. And I’m very opinionated,” she says.
There are things she’d like to change about CTS and the Rides Program, but making changes has been more difficult than she anticipated. She’s come to see that every rule is there for a reason. For example, “having 500 people show up to ride with two Ride Leaders doesn’t make sense.”
Huge rides are a no-go, but she has brought other changes to the Daily Rides program. For example, she saw a need to implement a mechanism to predict how many people will be at the rides. “I led my first ride last September. It was raining, and I was hoping there wouldn’t be a lot of people. But 30 people showed up.”
She started posting rides on meetup.com, a popular website through which anyone can organize a group of people to pursue a common interest. Using the website, riders can RSVP, as well as post reviews, comments and photos, which helps create that sense of community she’s looking for.
“People fear change, but we have to change,” she says. “How can we embrace technology to reach the people we want to reach and create that sense of community?”
She doesn’t have an answer yet, but she’s on the right track. I have a feeling those striped socks are part of her answer.