Bike Overnights: Riding with Intention

Nov 8th, 2021

Adventure Cycling is honored to have Jess Kim (she/they) serving as a valued adviser and Bike Overnights Ambassador, a volunteer who leads Bike Overnights and shares their knowledge in their own community. Jess chatted with us recently about their experiences in the bicycle travel community. 

On an autumn bike ride, Jess Kim passes canary-colored maple trees while riding a greenway east from Seattle to connect to the Snoqualmie Valley Rail Trail. The 32-mile trip crosses lands home to the Indigenous Coast Salish peoples and the Snoqualmie Tribe. Sometimes Jess stops and camps for the night, and then rides home the next day to make a loop around Lake Washington.

“Cycling is a personal journey,” Jess says. “I’m testing my strength and my limits. But it’s also important to understand the spiritual connection between myself and the land that I’m traveling through. I want to feel grounded with my journey while I’m there.” 
Riding a bike solo for long distances or patiently leading a trip for beginners is an everyday part of life for Jess, who approaches bicycling personally as a queer Asian American woman and professionally as a multi-modal engineer for the Seattle Department of Transportation.

“There are many barriers in the industry, but there is room for everybody to be a part of the bike community,” Jess says. “That has shaped my career, how I organize, and for who I organize.”

At work, Jess designs roadways to ensure that they accommodate all types of travel, including bicycles. In her spare time, she volunteers as an Adventure Cycling Ambassador and Seattle community bike groups.

Jess grew up in San Francisco, where they found a love of cycling in a diverse community and could connect with other cyclists of similar lived experiences. When she moved to Seattle as an adult, Jess found a thriving bicycle travel community but one where it was harder to find people who looked like her.

Jess eventually found their way to bike clubs that make space for people from under-represented communities, including Seattle Friends on Bikes, a group that specifically welcomes women, trans, femme, and nonbinary people of color. Jess says it’s enormously valuable to meet other bicyclists who can relate to her experiences.

“I feel, as a person of color, bikepacking is a very different experience than for someone who is white,” Jess says. “Fostering connections between melanated bodies in cycling and witnessing the experience is really rewarding.”

In 2020, Jess led a Bike Your Park Day ride with the BIPOC Ambassador stipend and says it was a great time with friends. The stipend was funded through Adventure Cycling’s new Bike Overnights program.

Newbie bikecampers pose for a photo among the tall trees of Kitsap Memorial Park. Each rider is straddling their loaded bikes with various poses and all smiling. The speckled sunshine beams upon their bikes and bodies.
Kitsap Memorial State Park northwest of Seattle

“I feel honored to be a part of the Bike Overnights program. I hope to model an approach that is intentional and fosters better relationships with the land, people, and ourselves," Jess says. 

In 2021, Jess partnered with cyclist Roxy Robles, who also happens to be an Adventure Cycling Ambassador, to lead a ride in August specifically for people of color with Seattle Friends On Bikes. The leaders sent out a pre-ride survey to address questions and partnered with a nonprofit community bike shop to borrow gear that riders needed, such as panniers.

The leaders also checked in to make sure each rider felt supported during the ride, which took place in the beautiful Kitsap Memorial State Park northwest of Seattle. Jess says it was a fun, relaxed time, with plenty of stops for water and snacks.

 Big Maple and other deciduous trees stand tall on either side of the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail. Her back faces the camera and she is pedaling her bike on the fallen yellow-leaves carpeting the paved trail.
The Snoqualmie Trail

One of the participants in the Seattle Friends on Bikes ride posted this enthusiastic review of the trip: “Bike camping was an exciting, nerve-wracking, and challenging experience. However, I knew I would be in a supportive and good community which was why I decided to try bike camping. How? Everyone answered all of my questions pre-trip, people set me up with the proper equipment, and everyone waited for each other as we rode our bikes.”

Jess appreciates that Adventure Cycling is seeking to build relationships with grassroots advocacy groups such as Seattle Friends on Bikes and Radical Adventure Riders. She also recently helped host an online Bike Overnight planning guide (watch it on YouTube!).

“I see Adventure Cycling naming specific riding groups that have established audiences that cater to certain demographics, and I think that’s a really great start,” Jess says. “Adventure Cycling as a currently white group has a lot to learn from already established groups, and I think the first step in diversifying is to learn and collaborate with those existing groups.”

Follow Seattle Friends on Bikes on Instagram @fob_sea and Asian Bike Club @asianbikeclub. Request to follow Jess’s personal account at @kimcheekillr.

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