Mary bikes around Greenville, South Carolina and loves getting people involved in cycling and bicycle commuting. Get to know more about Mary in this Q&A.
You can follow Mary at @rebelwithoutacar on Instagram.
Tell us your bike story. How did you get into biking? What kind of biking do you do? How do you stay motivated? Do you have any bike goals for 2019?
Like many people, I rode my bike as a kid but switched to driving a car when I turned 16 because it was what everyone else in suburban America was doing. Fast forward to my post-college broke grad school student days, and I wasn't so in love with my car anymore. I had tried cycling around European cities while studying abroad, and after reading a blog about a woman going carfree for a year in my city, I started a journey that ultimately led me to selling my car in 2015 and bike commuting full time. My commute to work has varied over the years but is currently only 4 miles; I can get to my city's downtown and parks in only 3 miles, and I shop as locally as possible. I work for a school district and travel a lot in the summers; I tend to take vacations involving cycling, whether I rent a bike in a city or go on a long distance bike tour.
Since giving up my car primarily to save a boatload of money, I keep finding more reasons I love cycling: cleaner air, no parking hassles, engaging with the community, learning from and advocating for people who don't have transit choices, meeting my neighbors, shopping locally, reducing traffic and infrastructure wear, and of course getting great daily exercise and reducing/relieving stress.
I turn 30 this year and to celebrate, I'm crossing several things off of my "bike-it" list: in 2019, I will ride the NYC 5 boroughs ride, take a "dirty 30" 4-day gravel bikepacking trip with friends in Western North Carolina, introduce friends to entry level bike touring with an overnight on Bike Travel Weekend June 1-2, and this summer I will ride through several National Parks out west, including Banff, Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons.
As for my commuting goals in 2019, I want to encourage more people to try cycling, even if it's just to a friend's house or to a nearby store. I also want to stay more organized and intentional with the things I carry with me, which means using my PoCampo bags to keep my essentials handy!
Where do you live? What are some of your favorite places to bike there?
Greenville, South Carolina - I bike to commute around town.
Two words that best describe how biking makes you feel.
Liberated and invincible
What do you do to make biking better where you live?
I serve on the board of two nonprofits that do work I am passionate about Bike Walk Greenville advocates locally for multi-modal infrastructure design; as my town continues to grow by leaps and bounds, we have a lot of work to do to provide safe transit choices and access for everyone to be able to get around on foot or by bike. I also volunteer with Momentum Bike Clubs, an after-school program serving middle and high school youth, providing mentoring support and personal and job skills training along with a platform of a social cycling club. It is important to me to make cycling accessible to and equitable for people from all different walks of life!
A suggestion for people interested in biking but have safety concerns? Or, how did you get comfortable with using your bike for transportation?
I started riding as an adult while studying abroad in Vienna, Austria - so the infrastructure was well designed for cycling and there were many other cyclists I could just imitate to learn the ropes by simply buying a secondhand bike and jumping in. When I returned home to the US, it was a little more complicated and a slower process - I started the transition from driving to cycling by buying a folding bike that I could stash in my car's trunk (where I lived at the time, you often had to drive to a place that had access to a good biking route). From there, everything was an experiment: what if I rode to the store when I just needed a few things? What if I added a basket so I could buy more? What if I lived in a different part of town where I could easily ride to work and the store? Finally, what if I lived in a city where I could ride to everywhere I need to go in a typical month? I'm now carfree but still experimenting with new products, routes, and ideas to improve my commute!
Tips for dealing with helmet hair?
I have very curly hair, so I use my Po Campo bags to carry a small spritz bottle to freshen up and extra hair ties if I need to throw my hair up into a bun after my ride! I also throw on a buff headband to wear under my helmet, which prevents a lot of snags and frizz :)
Tell us about some things you do to live an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Aside from bike commuting, I enjoy finding ways to reduce my use of single-use plastics, composting food waste and growing my own food in my garden, shopping locally and especially supporting local farmers, contacting my representatives and advocating for sustainable and responsible policies at the state and local level (ex. localized plastic bag bans, state tax credits for using clean energy), as well as nationally (renewable energy investment, climate change policies and the Green New Deal).
If you could take a bike ride with anyone (living or dead) who would it be, where would you go, and why?
I'm lucky enough to still be able to bike with my parents - my mom signed our family up for a bike travel trip in 2007 and we've all been hooked on them ever since! My dad and I have experimented with camping and self-contained bike touring as well, and that has been a really incredible experience. I would love to do more international trips with my parents because the wonderful memories made will stay with me forever.
If you could take a bike vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go, and why?
I have a really long bike-it list, but one that hovers around the top is the EuroVelo 6 route in Europe - so much history and beautiful scenery, and miles and miles of carfree trails!
Tell us about a time you surprised yourself by accomplishing something that you previously thought impossible or super hard.
When I moved to Greenville in 2014, I started to hear about the Ride to Remember event, an annual ride across the state of South Carolina to benefit the Alzheimer's Association. In just two years I went from riding a beach cruiser a mile or so to work to riding a road bike 252 miles in 3 days in memory of my grandfather, who passed away in 2006 from Alzheimer's Disease. It was something I wasn't sure I could do right up until I crossed the finish line in Charleston, and was one of the most emotional and affirming experiences of my life to date. Now every time I try a new climbing or distance challenge on my road bike, I have a lot more confidence pushing me onward.
What do you like most about your Po Campo bag?
I love that Po Campo makes bags that are both stylish and functional. Sounds simple, but so many bike accessories aren't made with women in mind!
How do you describe Po Campo to friends - or - what do you think is special about Po Campo?
I love so many things about Po Campo - that it is woman-owned, the products are thoughtfully and sustainably crafted, that they support World Bicycle Relief - and their bags really do make biking better!
What are you hoping to accomplish/contribute as a Po Campo brand ambassador this year?
I hope to reach more potential bike commuters, review products and answer questions, and share my love of Po Campo bags, as they have really helped me on my own cycling journey!
Interested in becoming a Po Campo Brand Ambassador? Applications now open for our 2019 Brand Ambassador program. - apply now!