Thursday, May 10, 2007

Boy Howdy! I just realized today that I have had the privileged to meet two very instrumental women of Sport! As I wrote last week I met Kathrine Switzer. Who did and still does so much for women's running.
Yet one of the great highlights for me was being trained and hanging out with Jacquie Phelan. Ah so you say you've never heard of her. Yeah, I know. Well she is the Grandmother of women's mountain biking and she never gets any God damn credit for it. Last month Velonews did an article about cycing and the people who have made it what it is. Well she was left out again. It pisses me off!! Jacquie is a freak, really she's a true and lovable freak! She has rats as pets, and the last time I spoke to her she lived in a tree house. Jacquie plays the banjo, smokes cigars and is the founder of the WOMBATS. She's even been known to ride top-less! Yup, your damn Right I joined in! What a hoot. We even did nude Mountain bike rides. Those were the days! Drinking beer, smoking..well just having fun in the Mountains of WV! Anyhow, read the below bio about her. If you have time check out the site.

Jacquie Phelan On Jacquie Phelan
Just exactly who is Jacquie Phelan? What makes her tick? One person's strategy for survival in a revved up world.

I was born to enthusiastic lovers, but reluctant parents. I never grew up, because because grown-up has "groan" in it. My early years were spent mastering the miniature tea set ceremony, reading Nancy Drew, and catching frogs. We moved a lot, from Rhode Island, to Kansas, to Tarzana, a planet that orbits Los Angeles, California.

I learned to ride a bicycle in Topeka at age 9, and it wasn't easy. I was on Mom's huge bike. "Let me learn this" I bargained with God, "and I'll never ask for anything again." It turns out I lied to God. Riding a too-big bicycle turned out to be easy, compared with babysitting five younger siblings. I ran away a lot, just to get out of the house. I prayed for admittance to a college as far from Los Angeles as possible. I got my wish, and attended Middlebury, a college that usually knows better than to accept my ilk. Now I owe God two favors.

At Midd, I was a San Fernando Valley Girl in Vermont's dairy country, and swam naked as much as possible on the two warm days that inevitably occurred during finals week. I was an OK scholar, but a great host to my friends who came by for waffles on Sunday in my dorm room. I made snow sculptures for laughs and collected beer cans for cash. I got disciplined for speaking French in sociology class, and socializing in French class.

After graduation, I did not apply to medical school: this would prove to be my first concrete contribution to the betterment of humanity. Moving to San Francisco changed my life; it's a town an ordinary human can circumnavigate in a day by bicycle. LA cannot be circumnavigated by bike; by the time you complete a lap, there's more city added.

I decided to become famous. For a Tarzana kid, it's ridiculously easy: glue a toy duck on your bike helmet, and ride a minimum of 15 miles a day in heavy urban traffic. Fame will be yours in a month. This home-grown fame has little resemblance to the glitzy big screen recipe. For one thing, it's a lot healthier, less toxic. It never runs away from you. If you don't like it, you tear the duck off the helmet. You'll never suffer strangers who walk up to you and start talking like they know you. Your secret will be safe. So, why did I take up bike racing? Especially off-road bike racing, when it's always on the road that I'm riding? The only people they notice racing bikes are men. Ah, yes, but there are other reasons to ride than fame, and racing isn't the only way to ride a bike. I biked San Francisco streets for survival. Financial survival. It's just plain cheap to ride everywhere, compared to Muni, or owning a car that you can't find a parking spot for.

But this survival plan wasn't very well thought-out. It began years earlier as an anti-plan, hatched half-consciously when a "health" teacher at my high school pointed out how we would divide up our efforts as consumers of the future. Health was the LA City School System's answer to sex education. Mr. Vadetsky was a very right-on guy, pretty nice, he seemed fair. He'd show us vivid anti-drug movies, and try to stifle the snickering that implied that probably half the class was stoned that morning. One day, to illustrate our use of time and resources, he drew a sort of peace sign on the blackboard. More like a luxury car logo, actually.

Three equal segments. "If you think school is a bore" he intoned, "adulthood has a few surprises in store for you. Like how hard it is just to keep your head above water, to survive financially". This classroom didn't have any kids who worried about financial survival.

"Here's how much time you'll spend on earning the money to buy and maintain a car" and he shaded in one third of the pie.

"Here's how much time and work goes into purchasing a home" Another third of the pie took a dose of chalk.

"And this last third, that's for sleep, recreation, and leisure time".

It was a pretty scrawny slice. I raised my hand. "If you rode a bike, and rented your apartment instead of bought a house, would that give you a bigger hunk of the pie?" "How would you like to visit the vice-principal's office?" He was joking. Mr. V always counted on me to have the off-camber opinion. So here we are now, nearly a lifetime later, with me pigged out on all the pie I could possibly eat, trying to figure out about the other two thirds. Since I don't know the answer to the question, "Is it better to take your retirement when you're young and fit, risking a lifetime of marginal survival, or after you've got financial security, like probably after you're 65?"

Thanks to WOMBATS, and my ability to jot down a thought or two, I've managed to share some of that pie-saving strategy with many thousands of people, women and men, but mostly women since they are better listeners. If just a handful of women take control of their right to hog a little of the fun pie, and then show their friends how they did it, then I can rest easy that I've done a better job than I would have traveling the road I was expected to take.

(Dear readers: if you'd like a Part Two, please send an email to to tell me you will read it. I need feedback.)

Other Articles by Jacquie
The Girl's Selfish Team

Zen and the Art of Crashing Gracefully

Take a Full Moon Ride

Getting Lost Can Be Fun! A short treatise on the art of disorienteering

Golden Testicle Award

Also this is from the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame
Induction Year: 1988

Mountain biker, bon vivant,
World traveler, writer

* Pioneer status assures worldwide name & face recognition
* First mountain biker to produce camps for aspiring riders
* Indelible character in fat tire history
* Articulate, quotable spokesperson
* Experience in every aspect of the sport: events, camps, racing
* Understands women's market
* Excellent access to media. Her writing appeared in BIKE monthly, guest columnist for Outside, Bicycling, Whole Earth Review.
* Speaks and reads French, German, Italian, Swedish & Spanish. Can squeak by in Dutch.
* Is published regularly in various European magazines (currently in MTB
Plus, a Dutch magazine)
* Natural public speaker
* Founder of WOMBATS, Womens Mountain Bike and Tea Society, a network that caters to the recreational women's market
* Producer of mountain bike skill camps since 1984
* Loyal promoter of sponsor's product
* Writes creative, effective ad copy that speaks directly to the reader:
Wombat Camps, Rock Shox mud ad, Powerbar "remember when" ad

The "Q" stands for QUALITY

An abbreviated look at seventeen years in the dirt with Jacquie

*1980 First off road ride, using a Raleigh girl's five speed
*1981 Began racing, road and off-road, and placed 4th at Nat'l Road Time Trial Championship--suspicion of some talent
*1982 Competed in Coors Classic Stage Race, won Texas Triathlon (tenth human) Raced Tour of Texas, many high placings. Help create NORBA with ten others in Marin County.
*1983 Win inaugural NORBA Mtn Bike Championship
*1984 NORBA Champion again, also attended Olympic road trials in Texas.
Co-produced the first off-road camp for women.
*1985 NORBA Champion, also first American to race offroad abroad, where I beat all the men in the Man V. Horse in Wales.
*1986 NORBA vice-champion. End of winning streak
*1987 3rd place, World Championship in Villard-de-Lans France
*1988 Inducted to Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, produced Marin County's first Mtn Bike Festival
*1989 Coached at Carpenter-Phinney Camps. Produced second annual Marin County Mtn Bike Festival
*1990 Top ten placings in every NORBA points series race, 8th overall in
Nat'l Pt. Series. Denied by NORBA the right to race senior Pro (at 35, considered "too old"), took bronze medal in vet (over 30! What a rip) division at World Championships, Durango Colorado
*1991 Raced World Cup Circuit, won Vet Nationals at Mt Snow, captain of US veteran team, placed 9th at World's in Il Ciocco, Italy.
*1992 Created Wombats Road Team for Ore Ida Women's Challenge, star rider:
Susan DeMattei. Created another Wombat road team for Celestial Seasonings Stage Race, Colorado. Raced World Cup Circuit in Europe, took silver at Nat's and World's in Bromont Canada.
*1993 Wrote, announced and did voice over for six segments of Bicycling's Mountain Bike Show on ESPN. Placed third at National Championship (vets), my only race that year, simply to qualify for World Championship Team.
Represented US in France, placed 15th. Sports Illustrated, Vogue features come out Nov. 1. Camps growing more popular, first ever East Coast camp.
*1994 Soft pedal competition, focus on coaching, writing, advocacy. More stories written (Life In The Fat Lane, BIKE magazine) and interviews given than ever before. Initiate a women's industry group, WOPITI, Women of Power In The Industry.
*1995 Camps most popular year, six in all, including one 7-day road camp.
Middlebury College confers Alumni Achievement Award. Manage the Breezer
Women's Team, write PR for Breeze Cycle. Visit Borneo and sell first big travel story to BIKE.
*1996 FIrst of three annual West Virginia Camps, first North Carolina camp.
Watch a Wombat nail the Olympic bronze in Atlanta. Still writing for BIKE.
Sports Illustrated commissions a story about Wombats. Historic trip to share skills with Hawaii's Big Island Wombats. Begin to learn banjo to gracefully wean off the 4-5 hr epic rides that were once a weekly staple. 1997-1999 3 Wombats Jamborees in Colorado, 65 women from around US, Mothers and Daughters, friends and friends-to-be descend on Fort Lewis College in Durango to apprehend the mysteries of mud with Jenny Skorcz and JP. 1999 Sept-Oct return to Europe with bike and banjo to cover the World Mtn
Bike Championship for two foreign magazines, and then attend Funky Day, an annual Italian non-racing event sponsored by JP's Italian magazine, Tutto Mountain Bike. The Italian Mtb cognoscenti have never gathered for purposes other than competition or equipment exposition, so this is a radical concept: family fun on a mtn bike. JP's specialty.

Media Coverage: Over ten million media impressions, over fifteen years has made Phelan's name synonymous with women who ride off-road. Potential sponsors have access to the most quotable cyclist in mountain biking, a professional communicator.

Television: Claim to Fame (NBC), Hot Streak (ABC), Home Show (CBS), ABC Sports, Sundry local features in Montana, Arizona, California, Iowa, British Columbia, Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Idaho. ESPN commentator and writer of 1993 summer season for "Bicycling's Mountain Bike Show" (shame about the name...)

Print: Rolling Stone, Women's Sports and Fitness, Outside, Bicycling, Winning, VeloNews, Self, London Observer, San Francisco Chronicle, Ladie's Home Journal, Elle, Los AngelesTimes, San Jose Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, Chicago Tribune, Tutto Mountain Bike (Italy), All Terrain Bike
(Holland), VTT (France), O2 Biker (Belgium), Bonecracker (Denmark), Bike
(Germany), Mtn Bike Action (USA & Hungary) Shape, Chevy World, Life, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, Mountain Living, Sojourner, Vermont Chronicle, Snow Country, Victoria

Books where JP is featured, quoted or has contributed a section:
The Woman Cyclist (1987) Dell, Elaine Mariolle
A Woman's Guide to Cycling (1990) Ten Speed Press Susan Weaver
Are We Winning Yet? How Women are Changing Sports and Sports are Changing Women (1991) Random House, Mariah Nelson
The Meaning of Life (1991) Time Life Books
Mountain Biking For Women (1994) Acorn Press, Robin Stuart
Adventures in Good Company (1994) Eighth Mtn Press,Thalia Zepatos
Bike Cult 1999, David ________
Losing It, America's Obsession with Thinness (? LOST THE BOOK)
(1996) ____Laura Fraser
Short Rides in & Around San Francisco (1996) Globe Pequot Henry Kingman
Richard's Mountain Bike Book Ballantine Books 1988 Charles Kelly
Handbuch Radsport (Swiss book on history of cycling) 1996 BLV Zurich
No Hands Rise & Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Co, an American Institution
Judith Crown Henry Holt &Co. 1996

It may look to you from the above list that she has gotten lots of attention. Let me tell you in the last 10 years she has been neglected. She is older now but that is not reason for her to be forgotten. If you want to be taught by the best and learn about the life of riding she's the queen!

I will end my rant about Jacquie on this note. Thank you Jacquie you've helped me keep sight of what fun is! Keep turning your wheels!


Jerry said...

Thanks for posting this...what a story, what a life, what a woman!

I'm going to go Google WOMBATS to see what it's all about...

Christine Petty said...

That's a woman that will be able to look back at her life and say "screw the pie chart, that was ****ing fun"

And we, as faithful readers of your blog require said naked biking pictures. For proof. ;) kidding!

CyclingEdinburgh said...

Jacquie has a new blog