Women Involved Series: Echo Rivera

Meet the creator behind echo in the city, a blog I stumbled upon during one of my searches for other women who cycle.
Actually it was this particular post that really resonated with me! (Being that I'm in a relationship with the owner of a bike shop.)

I didn't actually realize when we first started talking on Wheelwomen Switchboard or Twitter that Echo was such an influential woman! It's inspiring to be able to talk to those who are being part of a greater change in the cycling community.

So check out her blog, follow her on Twitter, and see what all Echo is up to!

When did you first start riding a bike?
Oh, I was a small child when I rolled around on my first set of training wheels. A little blue bike with pink handlebars and a purple bag.  

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I was in grad school, gaining weight and getting more and more stressed out. I needed a way to shed both.
What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I live in a pancake known as the midwest, so I'm pretty much stuck with road biking here. However, I dream of the mountains in Colorado because I like hills. Big, dirty hills. So, I'd still have to say mountain biking. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
Hah! YES. I screamed, and cried, and almost peed my pants. We must have gotten lost or misread the signs, because the "beginner" course we were on led us to a steep rock hill, followed by more scary parts. I must have walked half of that entire ride! And then we got lost and it started to get dark, so I had some serious panic moments where I was convinced we were going to get lost in the woods and die, and our dog (Biscuit) would be all alone. That didn't help me stop crying, either. 

 If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I wasn't nervous, I was TERRIFIED. But, I've always enjoyed doing things that are scary + fun--whitewater rapids, that one ride at six flags where you drop down and swing on a cord...So, I still had fun on that mountain bike ride and just talked to myself the entire time: "you can do this, you got this, keep going." We eventually made our way back home, obviously.  

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
Yesssssssss, and now I have a hard time biking without them. I recently rode on a Divvy--Chicago's bike share bike. It was a very painful ride, and the most annoying issue was having to keep my feet on those pedals. It's so much better when you just click in and don't have to think about it. I don't even have to actively think to clip out anymore; it's just a natural reaction now.  
My best tip is that you're going to fall and you need to just accept that. You'll fall once, maybe a few times, but you'll be fine and then you won't fall again. And it'll be worth it.  It's kind of the same attitude I had when I first learned how to ride a bike. If you were too scared of falling, you'd never even get on in the first place. 

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
When I lived in mid-Michigan, I was starting to commute by bike a lot. The speed limit was pretty high, but there were wide shoulders and I usually felt pretty safe.  Then I moved here, to Chicago, and now I rarely commute by bike. One reason is that I work from home, so I don't have to commute to work. But I hate to admit that it's also because I'm scared. And each time I ride, it gets harder and harder to do it again. 
I wish I had some good advice about how to overcome that. The best I've got is pretending my mom is telling me to get my 'big girl' panties on and just do it. 

Do you commute even if the weather isn’t ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
No way. But that's because I don't need to be at work and I have a lot of choice regarding when I go places and how I get there. Kudos to all y'all who do, though, I admire you greatly.  

Have you had a bike accident? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I've had several. A few of them were from when I was much younger, and just doing stupid stuff like trying to hop a curve (I can still remember waddling into that convenience store, asking the clerk for some tissues and a rubber band...instead of a band aid...). 
But recently, I was biking on a path and there was a group of teens blocking the whole thing. I slowed down and almost had to come to a complete stop before they all turned around and then split up, leaving a path for us in the middle. They were all watching me; we made eye contact and everything. As I was biking through, one of them got the grand idea to run to the other side...right in front of me...BAM! Over the handlebars. 
I recovered just fine though. Now, I just give people triple the side eye as I pass them on paths. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
Many, many things. But nothing comes close to that feeling when you're connected to your bike and everything around you. Like, your super sensors are engaged or something. You are completely and hopelessly stuck in the present moment. And it's beautiful.  

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I *only* have two bikes. 

Mildred, she's my road bike and she's elegant and lovely. When my partner and I started biking, we were on some junk big-box store mountain bikes that were falling apart. That's what I always had growing up. But, Jason convinced me that I needed a road bike. Because blah-blah (I don't remember). While he had several choices at the store, I pretty much had one. And she wasn't hideous...I was kinda sad that she was blue and not red, which was my favorite color. Plus, that was my first experience with the sexism that's embedded within cycling. So, in all it wasn't a pleasant experience to buy her.

But once I started biking, I started to love her and, oddly, the color blue. Now, she's polka dotted and striped -- custom painted by my partner (sorry, Trek!). And ohh is she a tank. She's been through so much. That crash I mentioned, rough roads...and not a single flat in years! She's amazing and bad ass, but also fun and silly. 
My mountain bike is an Airborne Skyhawk. I survived that deathly mountain bike ride thanks to her, and have done other things like gravel/limestone roads. It's a really heavy bike, too heavy duty for the midwest. She's needs more hills and rocks to play with. She's currently in storage at my parents' house because there's no room in our apartment and...well...nowhere to ride her anyway. It makes me sad thinking about her, locked up in that closet.  

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I'm a huge advocate of bike specific shirts, socks, and shoes. Bike shirts are longer in the back, which is helpful while you're biking, and why I don't generally just by athletic tops that are meant for people who stand up straight while wearing them. Bike socks are also just more comfortable, have a better feel, and handle sweat better. I already mentioned clipless pedals, so along with that goes the shoes. My Chrome shoes are perfect for pedaling and then walking around, and they're making more and more shoes that are clipless but just look like normal shoes.  

I have yet to find biking pants that I love enough to recommend. I have a couple pairs of the REI jeans, and I really like them because they've been making women's jeans for a while (unlike LEVI's...). But I just haven't worn mine much to have an opinion yet. When it comes to pants, I tend to just buy workout pants at any ol' store. 

You have a blog: echo in the city, tell us what it's all about and why you started it!
I started it when I moved back home to Chicago (from Michigan) and was all excited about biking in the city. Kind of funny, now, considering I hate it. Plus, I wanted a space where I could write and talk about social equity, because that's really important to me. My regular job is involved in advocacy for social equity, and I just saw a lot of parallels in the bike community. But, at the same time, I wanted a lot of it to be light hearted and fun to give me a break from all that. So, I also started a comic series. I haven't been able to make as many as I had hoped, but it's still always on my mind. 

What has been the most interesting thing about keeping a blog?
That other people enjoy what I write, especially the serious posts. So often, when I hit that "publish" button, I get a knot in my stomach that there's going to be a horrible backlash. That happens to a lot of women writers and advocates--the harassment, rape and death threats. It's pretty scary stuff. But, so many women cyclists out there have encouraged me and given me their support, that it keeps me writing about the hard stuff. 

You are married and it seems you are also married to a bike-loving guy, how has that been?
Getting back into bikes has been a journey that we started together, so it's worked out pretty great. Biking is a priority in both of our lives, and in complementary ways. He's the bike mechanic. I can't even change a flat on my own bike. I'm over feeling embarrassed about it, too. I simply do not have the time or mental energy to learn anything about that right now. One day, maybe, but not now. And then I'm the one who is writing about bikes and connecting with others who ride. So, it works out pretty well.

When it came to biking, was it something you did on your own prior to meeting your husband? Did he introduce you to any aspect of bike riding that you hadn't done before?
I did more biking than he did growing up. I lived in the suburbs for a while and it was how I got around before my friends got a car and we started driving everywhere (I know, sad!). But, we've both influenced each other. He got me into clipless pedals and road bikes. I pushed him toward mountain bikes and focusing on having more fun (and less about stats) during rides. 

Do you both ride together often? Where are your favorite places to go?
Anytime it's a recreational ride, we go together. We have no car, so we have very limited options. There are only three paths that we can bike to, and there is a ton of aggravation in either getting there, or dealing with overcrowded paths once we get there. Our favorite places to go are another state for biking. 

What would you like to have happen with your community (in terms of bike riders/bike riding?)
I usually say better infrastructure--more space and lanes for bike riders. However, the overall car culture here is very aggressive and hostile. So, I'd really like a friendlier attitude overall towards cyclists. That drivers oppose separate bike lanes baffles me, because then they will also complain about cyclists being "in the way." But I think that just shows the general attitude people have towards cyclists: really, they just don't want us to be there. It'd be so nice to pedal around without feeling like everyone hates you just because you're on a bike! 

What would you like to see happen with the bike riding culture in general?
More acceptance of all the varieties of biking we have. Some only bike to commute and that's all it is--a bike is nothing more than a way to get to and from a place. Others bike for fun and recreation. Then others do it just for exercise. For some, it ends up becoming an extension of who they are/part of their identity. And there's a whole combination of the above.  

For some reason, there's fighting or hostility between these 'camps.' I honestly just do not get it. And, frankly, it's frustrating sometimes because it distracts us from some very real issues and problems that actually DO exist within the bike culture or community. Forgive me if I don't have time to waste on a post about roadies vs hipsters vs MTBers when we have problems like women getting sexually harassed while riding their bike by dudes on bikes. Or how people of color get left out of bike initiatives. Can we talk about (or, well, DO something about) that instead, please?

Do you consider yourself an advocate for biking? For the bike culture?
Yes. I think more biking can solve a lot of problems that we have in this current world, so I would love to see more people on bikes. 


  1. Great interview. Also, an excellent thought-provoking response to "What would you like to see happen w/ bike riding culture...?" I agree that the in-fighting among cyclists can distract from the larger problems we should be addressing.


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