Splendid Cycles

New ‘Friends on Bikes’ group wants to create a warm welcome for women of color

Posted by on March 6th, 2017 at 11:20 am

Posts from the Friends of Bikes Instagram feed (top) and a motif from their website.

One reason Portland’s vaunted bike culture keeps growing and evolving is because new people arrive in town, look at the local cycling landscape, and feel like something’s missing. Then they set out to create it.

That’s the story of how Molly Sugar and Gritchelle Fallesgon started Friends on Bikes.

They both recently moved from major cities (New York and San Francisco respectively) and saw a marked lack of diversity in Portland’s bike lanes. Friends on Bikes is their response. They want to help foster, “a community of women of color who ride bikes in Portland.”

To get started they’ll lead an inaugural Welcome Ride on March 19th. The event will include features very common to Portlanders — like a roll along the Columbia via Marine Drive and lots of donuts. But some features won’t be common: The people on bikes will will look decidedly different.

Molly was born in Seoul, Korea (and raised in Maryland). While attending college in Richmond, Virgina, she started riding bikes with her friends. The fact that they were all Asian made the riding that much sweeter (it also inspired the name Friends on Bikes, or F.O.B.). “Without them I don’t know if I would have loved cycling as much as I do now,” Molly shared with us via email over the weekend.


“It wasn’t a shock in how white and male Portland’s bike scene was because that’s how it is everywhere. But since Portland is labeled as the bike haven of America, we were surprised there were not more options for people of color.”
— Molly Sugar, F.O.B. co-founder

When Molly got to Portland she immediately noticed a lack of diversity in the bike scene. “It wasn’t a shock in how white and male Portland’s bike scene was because that’s how it is everywhere,” she shared. “But since Portland is labeled as the bike haven of America, we were surprised there were not more options for people of color.”

She added that for people of color, being part of a community is vital. “Especially in today’s political climate.”

Molly and Gritchelle (who is Filipina) want to help others have the same positive experience with cycling they’ve had.

To do it they’ve hatched a three-part plan. First are the rides planned this coming year — from beginner-friendly routes to gravel rides and even an overnighter (both women like longer, adventure rides). Second; they plan to highlight people of color who are “doing great things for the cycling community”. The interviews will be posted in the Minority Report column on their website and broadcast to their social media channels.

The third leg of the plan is to support local cycling nonprofits that support women of color. F.O.B. will look to donate, collaborate, and provide volunteer support. Their first project in this regard is to donate half the proceeds from sales of a topical zine from their online store. (You can check out the zine, Biking Across America, at Gladys Bikes on Alberta.)

“In the end,” Molly says, “We just want to see more women of color get rad on bikes! We need to have rad women that young girls can look up too. We don’t see enough of that in general.”

RSVP for the ride and stay in touch with F.O.B. at FriendsonBikes.com, Meetup, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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  • daisy March 6, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Way to go Molly and Gritchelle! This news is making me all warm and fuzzy. Best of luck!

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  • Phil Richman March 6, 2017 at 11:51 am

    This is great! Looking forward to watching it grow!

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  • Lester Burnham March 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    “Especially in today’s political climate.”

    What does this have to do with riding your bike?

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 6, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      It may be related to wanting to feel part of a community. That was clear from the context.

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    • Gary B March 6, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      Well, since she believes being part of a community has something to do with her bike riding experience, it obviously does. What does your opinion have to do with her personal experiences and emotions?

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    • Brian March 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm

      No surprise, of course, but the political climate is pretty divisive at the moment. Feeling part of a community without having to deal with any of that shit is, I assume, a goal for this ride. Just people being themselves while having fun on bikes. I love it.
      Nice work to the two people who are getting this off the ground. I appreciate the effort at building positive community.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy March 6, 2017 at 2:44 pm

        So why the assumption that all women of color will have political views that are the same or similar? What would happen if a PoC has a divergent political view? Are they no longer welcome?

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        • q March 6, 2017 at 8:25 pm

          I didn’t see that assumption being made. Where did you see it?

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        • daisy March 7, 2017 at 4:12 am

          This is a strawman argument. If you are a woman of color who wants to ride with these folks, I suspect you will work through these issues with them.

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        • Brian March 7, 2017 at 6:21 am

          Where is the mention of anyone’s political views?

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 10:39 am

            In a quote from one of the organizers.

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            • Brian March 7, 2017 at 10:58 am

              You’re splitting hairs for some reason. I am responding to the reply about having, or not having, specific political views and whether or not they would preclude someone from taking part in the ride. The organizers mentioned nothing of the sort.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 11:06 am

                I’m sorry — I thought you were claiming there was no way to ascertain the woman’s political views from the story.

                I would suppose the answer to your question depended on the personalities involved. People who just can’t shut up about politics are tiring if you don’t share their prediliction and viewpoint. We’ve all experienced people like that, on both the left and the right, some right here in this forum.

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    • q March 6, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      The article states:

      “She added that for people of color, being part of a community is vital. “Especially in today’s political climate.” ”

      The “political climate” remark refers to being part of a community, not to riding a bike. Her remark makes total sense to me.

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  • Steve B. March 6, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Very cool!

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  • bikeninja March 6, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    very cool, many often complain that new transplants move to town and drive up rents, clog the roads with their automobiles and fail to add to the Portland cultural Mileu. But here we have two women who move to town and jump right in to the bike community and immedietly make it better by working to improve its shortcomings ( lack of diversity). two thumbs up.

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  • Rebecca Hamilton March 6, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Donuts (and bikes)… Is there anything they can’t do?

    Welcome to town and best wishes for a successful kickoff ride.

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    • long gone March 6, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      I believe shift has been doing donuts and bikes for everyone since like 2003. I may be wrong. Oh we’ll, I ain’t gonna poo poo on this. I always personally proclaimed bikes were for everyone. Cycling has always been cliquish . That’ll never change.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 6, 2017 at 5:31 pm

        >>> Cycling has always been cliquish <<<

        What hasn't?

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        • longgone March 6, 2017 at 5:46 pm

          Cycling is pretty bad. IMO of all things I’ve participated in, I would say cyclists are the worst. But I get your point.

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          • Mark smith March 6, 2017 at 9:50 pm

            Compared to sports or cops? I would say bikes are pretty open. Although, someone did give me crap about my helmet once. My world was so over.

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            • longgone March 6, 2017 at 11:25 pm

              Cops? I’m at loss there . Please explain.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. March 6, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Awesome. 😀

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  • B. Carfree March 6, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    I’m torn between being disheartened at yet more Balkanization of cycling (what next, rides for left-handed people with attached ear-lobes?) and welcoming any and all efforts to get more folks out on bikes.

    The latter emotion wins again, but some day I’m going to get too churlish for that to be the case. Meanwhile, ride on and right on.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy March 6, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      Completely agree. And the more and more divided people get, the more difficult it is to come back together.

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      • soren March 7, 2017 at 9:02 am

        A community group for people of color divides us???

        Does the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland divide us?
        Does the All Ireland Society divide us?
        Does the Son’s of Norway Grieg Lodge divide us?

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        • Middle of the Road Guy March 7, 2017 at 10:46 am

          Soren, liberals have a tendency to self-segregate into splinter groups as well as a tendency to feel the need to consensus build. Since there is the overall sentiment to try and meet everyone’s needs, it is difficult for an entire group to coalesce. This is why liberals get their clocks cleaned in many elections. Conservatives are much more effective at coming together as a group.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 1:39 pm

            I find it kind of ironic that the right, which appeals to many proponents of individualism and self-sufficiency, are so easily united by those with authoritarian tendencies.

            I know it’s more complex than that, but there’s also some truth there.

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          • soren March 7, 2017 at 1:49 pm

            “This is why liberals…conservatives…”

            i find it ironic that you complain about division but assume that people are either liberal or conservative.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 1:52 pm

              Some of us are both! Non-binary!

              The truth is that our political vocabulary is highly limiting.

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              • soren March 13, 2017 at 2:44 pm

                some of us are neither. i do agree, however, that USAnian political vocabulary is very (and intentionally) limited.

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            • Middle of the Road Guy March 8, 2017 at 10:18 am

              Much like gender, the majority of the country identifies with one or the other. There are those who do not, but it is a subset of the larger population. Their views are equally valid, but this distribution is displayed in voting results.

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              • q March 9, 2017 at 10:21 am

                Actually, the majority is in the middle. Both main parties are losing support while independents are growing–in some polls, to the point that more people identify as independent than either Republican or Democrat. Some of those do vote consistently left or right, but many do not, and many don’t have views that are consistently conservative or liberal.

                Of course voting results show votes distributed to the left or right, but that’s because candidates are chosen by the two parties. Independents can’t even vote for candidates in the primary here. And obviously there is no “center” candidate available to vote for. Even those who are only moderately left or right get weeded out by their own parties during primaries.

                On top of all that, half of registered voters don’t vote at all. Some are lazy or busy. Others don’t vote because they feel neither the left or right is presenting them with voting choices that are worth voting for. I’d guess many of those who don’t vote don’t identify themselves as left or right, at least not very strongly.

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          • dwk March 7, 2017 at 3:32 pm

            Conservative talking points, you are usually better than that…
            Conservatives are one big splinter group. Lockstep…
            Look at the circling on the wagons around the lunatic in office.
            Seriously, an old man in his pajamas watching Fox news sending BS tweets at 3 am?

            We have a truly crazy person as president and you are bragging about coming together?

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          • q March 7, 2017 at 3:59 pm

            Soren’s point still stands. If you view forming a group for people who share some sort of characteristics or interests as being divisive, then every group short of the entire population of the earth is divisive.

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        • Pete March 7, 2017 at 10:18 pm

          What is divisive is your implication that MOTRG and I were mocking people because we pointed out that the term “non-binary” has multiple definitions (none of which I’d ever known as applying to gender). Frankly I’m a huge fan of people riding bikes together, although admittedly I still don’t get the Geisha theme.

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          • Middle of the Road Guy March 8, 2017 at 10:23 am

            Yeah. Plenty of my gay friends have trouble keeping track of all of the different flavors of sexuality. Pointing that out is not mocking any non-straight person, but finding humor in the situation.

            It would be like people trying to come up with different definitions for “variable” and not agreeing on them. The gender/identity doesn’t matter…it’s the situation.

            But you have some people who cannot separate themselves from the emotional component and will see an insult in everything.

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          • soren March 13, 2017 at 2:41 pm

            first of all, i never replied to you so your umbrage at my “implication” is entirely self-created. secondly, there is a difference between discussing a definition in a neutral way and “joking” about a minority demographic that is often the target of awkward “jokes”.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. March 7, 2017 at 9:05 am

      “left-handed people with attached ear-lobes” have not been historically disenfranchised and discriminated against in this country.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 10:30 am

        The world was built in ways that disadvantage southpaws. If you don’t believe me, ask one.

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        • q March 8, 2017 at 11:45 am

          Left-handers actually do face some real problems, and handle them remarkably well. But don’t take that as a left-handed compliment.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty March 8, 2017 at 12:04 pm

            The diabolical q strikes again!

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      • oliver March 8, 2017 at 1:35 pm

        The ambidexterity of my father’s next older brother (he’s the middle of 7) is the result of being beaten in school whenever he used his left hand.

        Of course that wasn’t in this country.

        “as late as the 1960s and 1970s, Catholic school teachers in particular routinely inflicted corporal punishment and psychological pressure on left-handed students, ranging from accusations of being in cahoots with the Devil to, bizarrely, being Communist.”

        source: http://www.rightleftrightwrong.com/history_recent.html

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    • Ladyfleur March 10, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      A ride for left-handed people with attached earlobes sounds exactly like Pedalpalooza to me. Isn’t that what Portland bike culture is all about?

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  • Pete March 6, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Totally had to look up “non-binary”…

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    • Middle of the Road Guy March 6, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      And there was more than one definition!

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      • soren March 7, 2017 at 9:03 am

        does mocking people’s gender expression divide us?

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 10:31 am

          That was a funny joke.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy March 7, 2017 at 10:47 am

          No, but those who are chronically aggrieved over perceived slights do!

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  • daisy March 7, 2017 at 4:04 am

    Bicycling as a “community” (sorry, JM!) can be notoriously sexist and unfriendly to women. Yes, there are some fantastic, friendly bike shops, but the success of woman-focused-but-open-to-all Gladys Bikes attests to the demand for explicitly-woman-friendly cycling experiences.

    I imagine folks of color might have similar experiences. Next time you go to a local bike race, look around for people of color. There aren’t so many, and it’s nice to have friends.

    Folks who are concerned about “Balkanization” (really?!) are likely not part of minorities within cycling.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 10:47 am

      Personally, I don’t care what you look like, I care what you are like. If you want to ride, you can ride with me.

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      • Jake March 7, 2017 at 12:17 pm

        Are you planning on attending a Friends With Bikes event?

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm

          No.* So actually, you can’t ride with me.**

          *Not because I in any way think the event is a bad idea, it just doesn’t appeal to me.
          **At least not at this event.

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          • Middle of the Road Guy March 8, 2017 at 10:37 am

            Your lack of support proves you are against it 🙂

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  • Pat Lowell March 7, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Not big on the oriental imagery. I guess maybe it’s an effort to reclaim, or whatever, but as an Asian woman myself, I would just like to be seen as a person riding a bike, not an exotic geisha-costumed creature.

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  • granny gear March 7, 2017 at 10:09 am

    I had to google “non-binary” just to understand the ad.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 7, 2017 at 10:26 am


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      • longgone March 7, 2017 at 10:55 am

        Like that. Most see me as a cis white male. I find it ironic that all the theory and structural language written about modern gender identity was written by a German male in the late 1990s. My brother died of HIV when it didn’t even have a title . I’ve hung out with drag queens since 1974. I used to march and yell. I haven’t for years. Most modern youth have no idea about the past. I laugh at them now. Carry on . This old closest case is just gonna go ride with anyone who wants to push a pedal.

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  • Smokey Bear March 8, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Are there any cycling clubs in Portland? I’d be surprised if there weren’t. Something like the Mazamas for climbing/hiking/snowshoeing/skiing etc?

    You might even start a cycling group within the Mazamas.

    There is the Chemeketans:
    They do have bike trips.

    Hopefully these groups don’t evaluate a person based on spectral emissions from their surface. That is getting old.

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    • q March 8, 2017 at 11:45 pm

      But what’s your point? That there’s no need for more focused groups? That it’s wrong to create a smaller group? That the large groups should be good enough for everyone? That people who may feel more comfortable in a more focused group should buck up and get over whatever reason they have for feeling that the larger groups aren’t completely satisfactory to them?

      I’m not meaning to be argumentative, I just don’t see how the existence of large groups that don’t even focus on cycling are relevant to the decision to start this group.

      And were the Chemeketans and the Mazamas the first outdoor groups in the country? If not, why didn’t their founders simply join an existing group?

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      • Smokey Bear March 9, 2017 at 1:06 pm

        My point is, why bring spectral emissions into cycling? Don’t we want cycling to be available for all?
        And as I mentioned, the Chemeketans already have cycling. AND the Mazamas might be enthusiastic about cycling trips if there are cyclists willing to lead the trips. I know the Mazamas have 3K members, they have a good newsletter to advertise trips, and it might be a good way to get more people into cycling. That’s all.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty March 10, 2017 at 1:50 pm

          What are these spectral emissions you keep referring to? Are you talking about people who glow?

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        • q March 10, 2017 at 2:17 pm

          I’m sure those programs are fine for many people. Maybe this group will introduce some people to group cycling who’ll later join one of those groups. Or not. It doesn’t matter. Often having a smaller group aimed at a particular age, gender, race, ability, location, lunch hour time, or whatever is valuable for its members.

          And remember, the difference between having one skin color and another isn’t likely just skin color, given that it impacts your life experience and other reasons. It’s not like wearing a blue coat instead of black.

          And skin color is already “into cycling”, in the form of lack of different ones. This group is recognizing that, and doing something about it.

          And of course cycling should be available to all. This group helps in that regard.

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          • Smokey Bear March 10, 2017 at 9:46 pm

            OK, just don’t tell Mr. King.

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            • q March 10, 2017 at 10:04 pm

              Are you referring to Martin Luther King, Jr.? If so, are you saying he’d think we’ve reached the point where people’s skin color has no impact on their experiences, other than how much light is reflected off of it? Or something else?

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  • Elly March 10, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I’m stoked that this group exists. Rock on, folks.

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  • Bobthebiker March 10, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    I know this is trivial to whole program but I just wish they did not have a sign that has the word “friends” at the top and then the word “bikes” upside down. There is too much of that going on already.

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    • q March 10, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      Not to mention the Helvetica font.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty March 10, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Hey, just curious: is using the geishas cultural appropriation?

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    • longgone March 10, 2017 at 8:51 pm

      They could be trans geishas. That would be awesome.

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  • daisy March 13, 2017 at 5:59 am

    Many of the commentss on this thread are an excellent example of why women of color might prefer to cycle with others like themselves.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 13, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      I know _I_ prefer to socialize with those like myself, especially Pekkle and Keroppi.

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      • longgone March 13, 2017 at 3:45 pm

        I had to look up Pekkle and Keroppi.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty March 13, 2017 at 3:46 pm

          We can’t all be Hello, Kitty.

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    • longgone March 13, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      And many groups inspire my love of cycling solo.

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  • daisy March 13, 2017 at 6:06 am

    For folks who are criticizing this group: when was the last time you invited a woman to cycle with you? Or a man of color? Or a woman of color? Or a non-straight person?

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    • Brian March 13, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Not a criticizer here, but I have found it can even be difficult to convince my wife to join friendly group rides. There can be a lot of fear that gets in the way, which is why I think ideas like these are so important.

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      • q March 13, 2017 at 12:58 pm

        Yes. Many activities I’ve done or still do have started via a group such as the one in the article, that aims at a subset of people. That’s a big reason those groups are formed–they can help people overcome whatever may be keeping them from joining a larger group. Sometimes I’ll join a larger, more general group later, other times not.

        It’s not like this group is seeking members by saying, “Don’t like riding with men or white people? Join our group!” There’s nothing in the article that indicates anyone of any sort wouldn’t be welcome, anyway, although it wouldn’t bother me if they weren’t.

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    • longgone March 13, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      Loooooonnnnnnngggg before your assumption that I haven’t.

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    • Pete March 13, 2017 at 7:18 pm

      Some of us neither judge nor choose our cycling partners by race, color, gender, or sexual preference (which I’m not prone to asking). Some of us just ride with those who can stay on our wheels and take a pull from time to time.

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      • q March 13, 2017 at 8:51 pm

        If you started a club with that as the club’s description, it could be a perfect group for others like you, and perfectly horrible for other types. I’d guess fear of slowing the whole group down by being unable to keep up is one of the main reasons people fear joining groups.

        On the other hand, people like you might be miserable in groups like the one in the article. That’s why different types of groups are great, and having them be a poor fit for some or most people isn’t negative, and may be quite positive.

        This isn’t aimed at you, but at people who seem unhappy with groups that aim at a small segment of riders.

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  • Pete March 13, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Is Portland’s Major Taylor chapter still active?


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  • Wait... March 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    I was surprised. It was too bad Molly grew up in the East Coast, and went to the college in the South.
    Molly, if you were born in Korea you should be proud to be a Korean. If you’re naturalized already, then maybe a Korean American.
    I guess people can decide on how they like to be called, but what they might categorize you may not describe how you’re actually are.
    By calling random people (?) “colored” you’re telling that you’re the kind of person who segregate people based on their race. It sounds sooo violent.
    Why did they use the picture of Japanese women in Kimono, by the way?

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    • q March 17, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      Nobody was calling “random” people “colored”. “People of color” is a standard way of referring to non-Caucasians. There’s no indication Molly isn’t proud of her heritage (and it’s not really relevant whether she is or isn’t anyway). She was referring to “women of color” because–exactly as the article states–that’s the community her group is targeting. It’s not targeting only “Korean Americans” or “Koreans”.

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