The Radical Adventure Riders (previously known as WTF Bikexplorers) are women, trans, femme and non-binary cyclists, whose aim since 2017 is to promote gender inclusivity and racial equity in the cycling community and outdoor adventure scene. This past year they came out with their first annual publication entitled Get Rad Be Radical. As the front cover states, the zine “is about bikes”, but at the same time, “not about bikes”. What do they mean by that?
I think any cyclist who is interested in engaging with cycling – in a way that realizes that their bike, and themselves as a cyclist, are related to all kinds of societal cross-currents – should take a look at this zine. The zine is written from, and tailored to, a particular gendered and racial point of view, to open up representation around groups which are often marginalized in the cycling scene, specifically women, trans, femme, non-binary (WTF-NB), as well as black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
Even if the zine might not be written 'for you', I encourage you to read some articles – in particular Izzy Sederbaum’s “Shredding the Patriarchy Starts From Within”. But there are many other articles in this zine that I think would be eye-opening or insightful regarding how cycling overlaps with women's rights, body norms, colonialism and nation-building, or even just for practical tips on organizing a group bike ride, and route navigation.
For those of you whom it is 'written for' - and I include myself in this - then huzzah! I really appreciated reading something that is giving voice to these groups, and in a way that was positive and empowering. I have often read zines and journals for WTF-NB and BIPOC that tend to focus on negative hardships only, like sexism experienced while riding. Struggles within the patriarchy are definitely something worth documenting, but can run the risk of deflating one's energy and motivation for riding and for change in cycle communities.
What I enjoyed reading here in Get Rad Be Radical were articles that addressed these important issues, like gendered, racial, or bodily assumptions, while being able to overcome it. For example, pointing out the need to check our own assumptions of others, like assuming a person of color is new to riding as Izzy Sederbaum’s article points out, or that someone isn't a good rider because they are “fat” (see Kailey Kornhauser’s “Fat Bikers”).
Another example would be how the zine addresses the need to reframe not just how we see others, but also how we see ourselves, such as accepting “the true power of our bodies”. It is exactly this, the finding and accepting of ourselves, is why representation matters and why cycling is important, especially as WTF-NB and BIPOC. This whole zine encourages the reader to check our privilege at the front cover, and to work on shedding our “notions around race, gender, body type, and class (to name a few).”
The Radical Adventure Riders have groups around the US, and one in Berlin (that I know of) that host rides, and from the zine you can tell that they have hosted some bigger outdoor ride/camp summits too. So although this is written from the experiences of riding predominately bikepacking bikes, I really like that the most radical points and political agendas can be translated to all aspects of cycling and the cyclist experience.
The zine is visually stunning and a treat to look at – over 100 pages worth of full color and big, beautiful photos. However, I must admit that I was initially a bit drawn away from it because so many photos feature bikes that fit a very contemporary bikepacking aesthetic that is quite different from my own cycling and camping bike. For example, I saw a lot of framebags, seatpost bags, 'anything cages' on the forks, straight handlebars, and gravel bike geometry. It felt more on-trend and therefore potentially more expensive to me, which differed from my own equipment and experiences of bike/cyclecamping. So in that way I felt somewhat excluded – I could see myself amongst the campers in the photos, who look 'like me', but not so easily amongst the riders whose bikes told a different story.
That critique aside, I still got a lot out of reading this zine, and I believe that is important to acknowledge; one doesn't have to identify 100% with the text to be able to dig up nuggets of insight and information along the way. Nonetheless, I think this was an excellent first run from RAR, and hope it continues to be empowering, inclusive, and pushing boundaries!
I'm hoping that the next zine has more on adventure stories outside of the US and from a non-American perspective, more questioning of capitalism and class-based norms -- like how to be inclusive from a class perspective, or more practically, how to get all the outdoor adventure gear when you can't really afford it -- as well as more on ecology (though shout out to the No Fashion, No Adventures article!), and even more BIPOC voices writing articles.
You can get a copy of the zine from our shop. It also comes with a handy visual bikecamping equipment guide. You can also check out other literature and books (in Finnish and English) from our library that's at the shop, too.
RAR website (for even more resources and good stuff):
Other cycle communities (women/trans/non-binary, black, Latinx, etc):
Unicorns HKI, cycling network in Helsinki / pyöräilijöiden verkosto Helsingissä
Quick Brown Foxes podcast, hosted by Ayesha McGowan
Wheel Suckers podcast, hosted by Alex Davis (Look Mum No Hands! bike shop) and Jenni Gwiazdowski (London Bike Kitchen)
Also check out the High Vis film fest