Our latest “Roll Model” is Amy of Bobbin & Sprocket, who bicycle commutes in East Tennessee—when she’s not making cool bike accessories, that is. We asked Amy a few questions about her mixte obsession, the reasons she loves working on bikes, the riding scene in East Tennessee and more.
Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Go. To. Work. Really, that’s pretty much it! I have two jobs. One about 1/2 mile from home in which I can wear whatever, and the other 5 miles from home that I need to dress grungy for. My bike has been adapted to fit these two lifestyles. It’s fairly upright, can hold my travel mug of tea in the morning, can carry what I need to take with me (and I usually have to haul a good deal to and from the barn in the evening), it’s comfortable and speedy and has worked out to be just a really good tool for getting around on. Now, once the Pashley arrives this may change a little. ;)
You’re a mixte girl–tell us why!
The first adult bike I had was my mom’s ’73 Fuji Dynamic 10, which is a mixte. It was the bike I learned how to shift a derailleur on, and to ride with drop bars. I just always liked the sporty yet practical feel of the mixte frame. I still have the Fuji, having been reunited with it over the summer. It’s in pieces right now, waiting for me to replace a bunch of parts.
How long have you been riding a bike?
Most of my life really. My dad was big into cycling when I was little, so he started me out young. By time I was 10ish I was getting around to all my friends houses (and some forbidden places mom didn’t know about!) by bike. By the time I was in high school though, we had moved way out into the country (My fault. Bought a horse and mom and dad din’t want to have to pay boarding.) We were half an hour car ride to the nearest shopping center and cycling ceased to be a practical way to get around. So from about 1991 to about 2 years ago I really didn’t do much cycling. Then I picked up a 1969 Hercules 3 speed on Craigslist and it all started coming back to me!
Where are your favorite places to ride?
I usually find favorites by accident. Just set out along some country road and see where it goes. Since I live in a mostly rural area, I love taking advantage of the scenic routes. I live about 4 miles from Boone Lake, and have a couple of favorite routes to get there. I also like hauling out to Kingsport to ride on the Greenbelt. I’m hoping to try the Virginia Creeper this summer too.
You have an etsy shop that sells handmade bike accessories — how did you get started with this?
I’ve always been a maker of things. Usually if I see something that I want, I figure out a way to make it instead of just buying it. Skirt guards are hard to come by in this country, crochet guards especially. So since I can crochet I sat down one night with some yarn and a hook and went to town. I decided put them up on Etsy and make them available to others. I’ve got two crochet guards now, available as ready to use items and as a pattern for the DIYrs as well. I’m also working on some stretchy netted guards and tooled leather accessories.
Tell us about cycling in Eastern Tennessee–what’s the culture like? Do you see a lot of other riders?
Cycling in Eastern Tennessee is pretty much for sport/ recreation. During the summer months I see some sport cyclists on the roads, and tend to see lots of MTBs on car racks. There are lots of bike trails around like the Virginia Creeper Trail and the Kingsport Greenbelt. We do have a couple of bike lanes on Johnson City, though they don’t really take you anywhere. Every once in a great while I will see someone riding for transport (in the 4 years that we have lived here I can count those times on one hand though). There may be a little bit more cycling around the ETSU campus. I have a co-worker who is a student there and she brings her MTB to campus in her car, then uses it to get around to her classes. She says that there are other students there that do the same. I’ve also seen a handful of bikes downtown. Now, in Kingsport I’ve seen just a little bit more transportation cycling. They have the Greenbelt there, which connects a good deal of the neighborhoods to businesses.
What inspires you to keep cycling?
I just love it! The fresh air, the exercise. Not needing to own two cars. Fitting into size 1 jeans again while still enjoying copious amounts of chocolate! Also, I love working on bikes. Finding old bikes and taking them apart, getting greasy, figuring them out and making them work again is a lot of fun for me. So if I’m going to keep a bunch of bikes around, I need to be riding to justify the herd!
Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
I think that they first thing I would say to do is start small and work your way up. Buy a bike, any bike that feels comfortable and just ride it around in your neighborhood, apartment complex, a park or wherever you feel safe. I did this every evening for about 6 months before I felt confident enough to go back out on the streets. Plan a trip! The first time I decided to venture out by bicycle I actually went and drove it, paying attention to the terrain, condition of the roads, whether there was a good shoulder or not. I looked for safe places to stop if I needed to. For while I would plan a trip using Google maps street view to try to get an idea of the lay of the land if I was going down a road I had never been on before. Now I just get on and go, figuring it out along the way. Learn your local laws regarding cycling too. Reading up on TN’s laws actually made me feel more confident about getting out there. Don’t let rude drivers get you down, and have fun!