WTF Bikexplorers does a lot of great things to open up the whole cycling world for more people, which is why we were so happy to find them and chose them as the initial beneficiary for the A11y program. But rather than filtering their mission through our words, let's let WTF co-founder Sarah Swallow tell you in her own words.
Tell me about how WTF BX began. What were you inspired to change and what did you want to accomplish?
WTF Bikexplorers was founded in the fall of 2017 when six friends, who share a passion for adventure cycling, were inspired to collaborate on a movement toward more connection, gender inclusivity, and racial diversity within the bicycle community and industry. Our collective mission is to support, celebrate, and connect communities who identify as femme, transgender, women, and non-binary who use their bicycles to explore.
From 2018 to 2019 we did this by organizing two annual three-day national summits that brought together 400 voices from across the glove to share skills, cross pollinate ideas, and connect with one another over rides, clinics, storytelling, and campfire. Prior to the summit we organized campaigns to connect our community and fuel the stoke for this movement through the SJ Brooks Scholarship, Grassroots Ride Series, and WTF BX swag.
In 2020, WTF Bikexplorers headed in a new direction. Instead of holding the annual summit we applied our energy to reaching more people in the FTW community and the industry and gaining more exposure for the movement through the following programs; The Cycling Industry Pledge, Gravel Program which includes a club and a team, The Get Rad Be Radical Publication, Within Without Podcast, The Bikepacking Ride Series, and the SJ Brooks Scholarship.
Who were the original founders, and how did they come together? Had you known each other for long when you started WTF BX?
The original founders are Molly Sugar, Mary Lytle, Tenzin Namdol, Whitney Ford-Terry, Jocelyn Gaudi-Quarrell, and myself. Prior to founding WTF BX, we had all met on various different bicycle tours. Our time together on these bike tours inspired us to create more space and connect the community of FTWN-B (Femme, Trans, Women, Non-binary) folks who use their bicycles to explore. We all lived in different states and met once a week via video calls to eventually form WTF Bikexplorers.
This year we are starting a new stage of WTF BX with a new name and a new group of leaders joining our team! Stay tuned for all of that.
What are the "wins" that you've accomplished so far? What kind of changes have you seen WTF BX helping to bring?
When it comes to this work, it is important to look at it from the perspective of an endurance event, rather than a race and just one result. WTF BX is only three years young. We are a small organization but our voice is loud and we are making a substantial impact.
This year we saw a huge shift with cycling companies prioritizing their hiring of and marketing to FTW and BIPOC folks. A lot of that momentum peaked after George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter Movement this summer however WTF BX helped lay some of that ground work. We call ourselves a grassroots organization for a reason-- because we are working to shift the culture of the cycling industry from the ground up. That is why so much of what we do is focused on programs that build, connect, celebrate, and support the FTW community. I’m proud to see so many FTW folks centrally connected through our programs.
The attendance at both of our summits (2018 and 2019), as well as all of our ride series events sold out. We have 200+ companies within the cycling industry who have signed our Cycling Industry Pledge and we have nearly 300 people connected through an online network specifically about gravel riding, over 3,500 emails subscribed to our newsletters, 16,000 followers on instagram and we have inspired numerous regional chapters of WTF BX throughout the United States. This tells us that there is a demand for what we are doing and that there is a growing number of people who want to be a part of this community or want to support this community who has always been here.
How can individuals who aren't part of the bike industry become allies for WTF BX?
Spread the word. Share the information we put out to your audiences. Donate to our organization. Also, the following list is a great place to start with allyship in general, whether you are in the bike industry or not. It is taken from The Guide to Allyship.
Take on the struggle as your own
Transfer the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it.
Amplify voices of the oppressed before your own.
Acknowledge that even though you feel pain, the conversation is not about you.
Stand up, even when you feel scared.
Own your mistakes and de-center yourself
Understand that your education is up to you and no one else
We'll post the second half of Sarah's thoughts tomorrow. In the meantime, remember that 100% of net profits from A11y merchandise goes directly to WTF Bikexplorers to fund their work.