Women Involved: Shannon Leigh Kehoe

When I moved back up to the area from Portland (where I used public transportation everywhere), I found that the buses didn't run often enough or to where I needed to go, so I started biking. I'm an environmentalist and graduated in Environmental Studies, so my motivation for riding was to get "one more car off the road". I commuted via bike for 3 years, and then was hired on as a salesperson at Woodinville Bicycle.
(Woodinville Bicycle’s Facebook Page and Website)

I've been at Woodinville Bicycle for almost 3 years. Working here opened me up to a whole different type of riding- it became a passion and recreation, rather than just a mode of transportation. I bought a new, nicer bike and started going on long (100+) mile rides. I fell in love with road cycling and then a couple years ago I participated in a cyclocross race.

Working here, some of my coworkers and a lot of customers are MTBikers and I was finally convinced to get on a mountain bike and head out to the trails. 

I'm still really new at it and have some friends (including Meg) teaching me how to do singletrack and cross-country MTBing.
I have always loved being out in the woods, and my career goal will actually be to work in ecological restoration. It's so awesome to be able to combine my love for nature with my love of cycling. MTBing is way different than road cycling, but I thoroughly enjoy them both.

You work at a bike shop, what inspired you to get involved with the cycling industry?
Just commuting- I thought I was a pretty big cyclist just based on how much I rode. I rode everywhere- I thought that qualified me to work in the bike industry. Boy was I wrong!  I have learned a crazy amount since I started. I don’t know why I was hired in the first place, looking back I knew nothing, but I’ve really grown both in cycling product knowledge and in cycling performance.

What has been the most interesting thing you've learned since working at the shop?
I am really interested in the differences in the men’s and women’s geometry in bikes. I compare every aspect I can to figure out what makes a bike women-specific. It’s really awesome how much thought has gone into the women specific bikes, and I love that the industry is opening the door for women by making bikes that will really perform better for us.

Have you encountered challenges with working at a bike shop? If so, what were they and how did you deal?
The most annoying thing to me is being blown off by male customers. Because there are so few women in the industry, they assume I know very little, and will insist on talking to a dude for something simple. If I feel condescended to, though, I enjoy showing them up. It feels pretty good, but man is it annoying to be looked down on by people who really could use my assistance.

Why should more women consider getting a job in the industry (be with a company or at a bike shop?)
I honestly think that female customers feel less intimidated having a woman in the shop. Especially when it comes to talking about more personal stuff like weight, saddles or chamois, sizing and so on. I am also trained to do bike fits, and there’s a lot of intimacy that comes up in that session that at least I would feel a little awkward going over with a guy. It helps to talk about components and such, too, I know it can be overwhelming, but it can be easier for some women to ask questions to a female than a male. It also demonstrates to men that women have a place in the cycling world.

What would you like to see happen with the cycling industry in the next 5 years?
I would really like to see equivalent women’s bikes come out alongside men’s bikes. In the few years I’ve been here, the men’s bikes get upgraded before the women’s. For instance, women’s road bikes didn’t get disc brakes until a year after the men’s bikes did. I think there should be equal options for both.  There’s also not really a good enduro women’s bike yet.

Why do you feel the Sisterhood of Shred is an important group and why are they beneficial for other women?
The Sisterhood of Shred is incredibly supportive and welcoming of all skill levels. It offers a place for skilled women to ride together and push each other to progress in their riding, while introducing new riders in a non-intimidating community.

Why has being involved with a group been beneficial for you?
I was intimidated to ride with my male coworkers because I’m such a newbie. I don’t know why, but riding with women was less intimidating, and I felt more comfortable getting out there as a new rider with no technical skills. Learning to ride from an awesome rider like Meg has been so helpful to me- I don’t know if I’d have stuck with mountain biking without her encouragement and her patience in teaching me the foundational skills. No judgement in this group, it was really encouraging to start riding.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
Feeling intimidated is my guess. Getting started from ground zero with no knowledge is scary, and I think it deters a lot of people. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think riding clubs are a great way to get both men and women involved. I think women would feel comfortable riding with other women. Having that supportive community to encourage you to get on your bike really helps.

Why is it important for more women to get involved with mountain biking?
Because mountain biking is awesome! I think more of everyone should get involved in it. I don’t like that society has labeled some things for girls and some things for boys. People should be able to enjoy what they enjoy without having any gender guidelines about it. 

It’s important for us to demonstrate to the next generation that you can do whatever you want as long as you enjoy it. I said before that biking is meditative for me, and I think if women get themselves out there, they’ll discover the same thing. Peace of mind- doesn’t even require being butch or tough or anything (goodness knows I’m not tough), you just need to be able to have fun. There are a lot of preconceptions and gender boundaries to get past.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
It’s fun, a good way get some physical activity in, great way to see places you otherwise wouldn’t, but honestly it provides such a relief from stress. That’s huge for me and I think a lot of people need to experience that, to spend some time with themselves and clear their heads. It’s more therapeutic than a spa! I think more women would ride if they knew how great it would make them feel, both physically and mentally. I love encouraging people to get out there, because it’s just so good for your mind, body and soul.