This post is part of our Women’s Bike Month interview series written by Steph Routh and sponsored by the Community Cycling Center and Gladys Bikes.
If you have found yourself on or even near a bike polo court, chances are you’ve met Jackie Mautner. She has graced bike polo courts and on both coasts when not cultivating some serious acumen as a bicycle mechanic. Her most recent challenges have been framebuilding and cyclocross.
Jackie and I sat down at Tiny’s Cafe in inner northeast Portland for a quick interview last week…
How did you get involved in biking?
Aside from biking as a kid, I started commuting when I went to college in New York City at Cooper Union.
Shortly after I started biking regularly, I came across bike polo totally by chance. The court in NYC is right off a main bike artery, and I would ride by on Sundays. I would see them swinging mallets. I got curious about what they were doing, because they were on bikes. I started watching, and this person who’s been playing since almost the time that bike polo started in NYC — he’s almost 70 years old now — invited me to play. For someone his age, he’s not the fastest on the court and gets heckled, but he puts up with it. I thought if he could put up with the heckling, I could, too.
We learned more bike handling skills specific to ‘cross and how to overcome barriers, which could be a great segue to overcoming sexism in the bike world.
Why did you think you’d get heckled?
Because I was a newbie. Among some players, I felt like I wasn’t wanted there. Some of the people were assholes. Bike bros and messenger bros who want to teach someone to keep their heads up would check me off my bike. I guess I stuck with it because, besides a few people here and there, the community was welcoming. I could travel to almost any city and find a couch to crash on through the bike polo community. It was a fun reason to travel. I could feel myself getting good at bike handling, which has come in handy in cyclocross.
What is the overlap between polo and cyclocross?
A lot of bike polo is about sprinting up and down the court, tight turns, close proximity to other riders, quick acceleration, and quick reaction time overall. And learning how to fall off your bike!
Was [September 12th] your first ‘cross race?
How did ‘cross racing in your mind compare to the reality?
I had a really hard time trying to think what to expect. I hadn’t thought about sprinting for 40 minutes while cutting across grass and dirt and steep hills. I went into it without knowing. I went to the Gladys Bikes Cross Curious Club, which is women-focused but all-inclusive. I learned mounting and dismounting, which I felt comfortable doing from bike polo. We learned more bike handling skills specific to cross and how to overcome barriers, which could be a great segue to overcoming sexism in the bike world.
Were you nervous about competing as a trans woman in a women’s category?
Oh yeah. If you look at any trans athlete, there are going to be supporters and detractors/haters. I think that the people who are critical and invalidating of trans peoples’ experiences are very vocal. So it’s not hard to come across blogs and podcasts about trans athletes. Joe Rogan is an example of someone who came out strongly against Fallon Fox competing in the women’s category of MMA [Mixed Martial Arts]. He even used transphobic doctors’ opinions to support his claims. So if you are Googling trans athletes outright, you never know what you’re going to find.
What gave you the courage to compete?
We need visibility and representation. With each wave of people leading the way and creating spaces where trans people are validated, it makes it easier for everyone who follows. But it is, of course, a struggle.
With each wave of people leading the way and creating spaces where trans people are validated, it makes it easier for everyone who follows.
Who supported you in this particular race?
Gladys folks were all super supportive. I also happen to know some of the organizers of the Portland Trophy Cup. I checked in with them, and they said it was totally fine to choose the women’s category, that if anyone gives you problems, we’ll deal with it. My friends and Rachel and Molly at Portland Bicycle Studio were supportive of me racing. And Team AF; they have a really relaxed way of looking at ‘cross. They were all super supportive. Hazel, who sometimes pops into Breadwinner Cycles, where I work, gave me a PDW water cage that is a cat. My partner was also a huge supporter. They were on the sidelines saying, “Go, Jackie, Go!”
You work at Breadwinner, which I want to get to. But you worked before that as a bike mechanic. What did you love about wrenching at a shop?
I really loved helping people get what they want out of their bike and making customers happy, which I think is much harder than just fixing their bike and getting it up to speed. It’s really about what they love about biking and just relating as two cyclists.
Do you remember any particular moments that stick out?
I think there were a number of times I helped people out who didn’t have the means to buy what they needed for their bike. I was always able to work out a solution that didn’t put the Cycling Center out of business but allowed them to ride their bike safely.
What do you wish more bike shops were like?
I wish more bike shops were open and welcoming and could drop some of the presumptuous attitude in favor of meeting people where they’re at. Because when someone enters into a shop, there’s no way to tell what level of competency they have. What turns people away often is being talked down to or walking away feeling ridiculed for not knowing something. I think that’s a huge barrier, especially for women.
How could a bike shop promote a welcoming atmosphere?
Mostly, it comes to remembering how you started biking yourself. We all started from a place of knowing nothing. It’s a scary place to be, because you have to put your full trust in someone else to fix your bike.
And that trust can be so easily broken.
What is one dream you have for the bike industry?
I wish the bike industry had a better analysis of the effects of the gender binary. I feel their marketing strategies are so easy to ridicule because they don’t have an analysis of gender. Pink colors don’t have gender. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes across the gender spectrum. It would be great if the bike industry understood that and took the lead in the fight against the patriarchy and the gender binary instead of dragging its heels.
Is that why you became a frame builder?
Yeah. I’m interested in tailoring bikes to specific people and bodies.
And speaking of framebuilding, we cut our interview short because Jackie needed to rush back to Breadwinner Cycles to do just that!
— Steph Routh is the communications director for the Community Cycling Center. Browse all seven of the interviews in this series here.
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