What's Right in Cycling: Square1 Women's Cycling Collective, an Interview
Today, we interview the founders, wife and husband Melissa and Barry Pugh, from Square1 Cycling, a new cycling collective in the Greater Denver - Front Range area out to help support women cyclists.
PANACHE: What is SQUARE1?
Barry: SQUARE1 is a concept whose goal is to get more women on bikes riding together and being supportive of each other in an easy-going, no stress environment.
PANACHE: and Square1 means…
Melissa: SQUARE1 is the beginning; it’s where you start, at square one. SQUARE1 is the place for women to start their cycling experience or for women who have been riding to start anew.
PANACHE: How did Square1 get started?
Melissa: It all started from experiences that I had when I first got into cycling. I didn’t ride before I met Barry, who has been riding for a long time. I saw how much he enjoyed it so I decided to give it a try. I found that I really enjoyed it… BUT as I got further into it, I found that finding other women to ride with wasn’t easy. So, I often rode alone. And I noticed a lot of other women who were riding alone because for that same reason.
Then, overtime, I did find teams, but none that had that mix of socializing, fun, and competition that I was looking for. I like to be competitive, sometimes, but not always and I mostly I enjoy the camaraderie of it all. A bike is a great place to have conversations.
PANACHE: So you created your own club to reflect what you saw was a void in the team landscape for women?
Melissa: Yes, but Club is only part of it. Collective is a better term. We kept asking, "Are we a team? Are we a club? Neither seemed right. The collective concept resonated, though. We don't like being called a team because women were thinking that they had to always show up and go fast, but that’s not the idea. You don't have to do anything other than show up when you want. We are more a collective of women who enjoy riding, talking, and living life.
PANACHE: But there are aspects of a team?
Melissa: There are. We want to have the same support structure that a team would have – matching kit, gear and nutrition deals, wrenching and ride/race support. We want to be able to provide that type of support so that when we do go to an event or if we go on a big group ride, we are supported.
But we don’t require exclusivity. You can be on a race team or a mtb specific team or whatever, AND be a part of our Collective.
PANACHE: So, is there a membership fee to help pay for this level of support?
Barry: No. There are no fees. There's no qualifying factors, you don't have to pay any kind of fees, there's no dues, there's nothing. Really the only thing we expect is, if you're in our gear, or even if you're not in our gear, just be cool to the community. If you see other cyclists, maybe say something friendly, don't be afraid to help a stranger out because they're fellow cyclists, they're riding a bike just like you.
PANACHE: There are men wearing your sweet Sq1 kits – what is their role or connection to this collective that supports women?
Barry: The guys in the kit are guys that support their wives or girlfriends cycling endeavors. It really boils down to supporting women in cycling. …and having a cool kit to ride in! But none of the resources go to the guys. The resources are spent on the women. Men have existing infrastructure and there already exist teams and clubs that cater to men. The guys, including myself, have been part of previous teams – a number of them. We take this experience – what worked, what didn’t – and apply, hopefully with success, to Square1.
PANACHE:What disciplines does the Collective focus on?
Melissa: We aren’t too focused on one over another. We love them all. Road, Cross, Mountain. We even have commuters who come “play” bike with us. It’s not really about a discipline, it’s more just the bike that is at the center. Any bike.
PANACHE: That resonates with us. The bike, in all its forms, has the power to transform and take us anywhere. The type of bike is more like the right tool for the right place.
PANACHE: So, why cycling? What does the bike do that other things don't?
Melissa: I like the challenge. I like that it's something that you're always working at and you can always be better. It’s an activity that can be fun at time, it takes you to places you might not otherwise see, and it’s social. You can have conversations with your peeps while doing something fun and healthy.
PANACHE: Makes sense to us! So, how many people? How many members? When did you start?
Barry: We just started…
Barry: Yeah, January.
Melissa: 55 at last count, and growing.
PANACHE: Fifty-Five in six months! Nice. You said you’re a Collective, but you also have a Club component. What’s that about?
Melissa: We expect a little bit more of the club members. We don’t expect them to race a certain number of races – nothing like that, but we do expect them to volunteer at events and help with Square1’s outreach into the community.
PANACHE: Let’s talk about that. You recently volunteered for an organization called Soul Day Foundation…
Barry: Soul Day Foundation, Soul Day. Where they basically give back to various community entities. One of their founders, Frank Dorr, is an avid cyclist. He really saw a need to give back to youth cyclists and so he partnered with an organization called Denver Kids, both these organizations are nonprofits in Denver. Denver Kids is an organization that provides services, support programs for at-risk youth in the city of Denver and surrounding areas.
This year, the foundation helped 60 kids not only learn to ride bikes, but also outfit them with bikes, helmets, water bottles, and other accessories needed to ride and maintain a bike.
So that's what we did this weekend, it's called Roll with Soul, we just have the kids show up with Denver Kids, their parents, grandparents, friends, family, whoever can bring them there. We help them get outfitted, make sure the bike fits them appropriately, make sure things are adjusted, make sure they have a helmet, and give them a bike and let them enjoy the day. There's a meal provided, there's always a healthy meal. It's really about promoting good stuff in the right way.
PANACHE: So, you got to teach someone how to ride?
Yes. Teaching someone how to ride a bike is amazingly rewarding and exhilarating because you've taught them something that, now, hopefully they're going to have the rest of their life. They can use the bike as a tool to explore their neighborhood, or even beyond. And perhaps that perspective can inspire them to do great things.
PANACHE: Okay, that's awesome.
PANACHE: So how do you become part of SQUARE1?
Melissa: It's simple. You can go to our website, www.square1cycling.com or just go to our Facebook group We have tried to make it as simple as possible, no barriers, no hurdles, no second thoughts or decisions about, "Am I good enough to reach out to these people? Should I be reaching out to these people?" Just super simple.
PANACHE: Thanks for sharing. You guys are doing great stuff. You guys are what’s right in cycling. We wish you luck. Keep us in the loop on how things progress!
Melissa & Barry: Will-do, and thank you.