About Vie Cycle
Vie Cycle (pronounced /vee/ like the French word for "life") teaches mobile bike maintenance workshops for women+ (folks who identify as female, trans, intersex, queer, non-binary).
The way we see it, bikes make people's lives a little bit better. In the early 20th century, bicycles helped to expand women's access to the world. You can thank bicycles for women's liberation, changing gender norms and pants. On top of all those wonderful things, riding makes people happier, healthier, more self-reliant and contributes to a sustainable life style. So how do we keep this cycle of good stuff going? We learn about bikes! We become empowered to ride more and repair our two-wheeled freedom machines so they can keep rolling.
Vie Cycle's goal is to connect women+ and bikes by offering education and empowerment. Together we'll build a community that is more sustainable and self-reliant.
The Inspiration for Vie Cycle
Caring for the environment
Environmental impact has been a weight on my heart ever since I was twelve and decided it was time to make my school district ban disposable styrofoam lunch trays. Fighting to make school cafeterias more environmentally conscious influenced me to adapt my daily routines also. With sustainability in mind, I started cycling everywhere. It seemed obvious that this was the ideal mode of transportation. Not only was it better for the environment than driving, it was more efficient than walking, it strengthened my body and made me feel capable and empowered. My love for cycling took me in many directions, both literally and figuratively.
The intersection of women and bikes
The beginning of my bicycle education happened at Pitzer College, where I started wrenching at a student-run bicycle workshop. A few years later I did an internship at the LA Bicycle Kitchen/Bici Cocina and discovered that many bike cooperatives run a monthly workshop exclusively for women and gender minorities. The atmosphere in a space full of female identifying people is markedly different from the normal feel of a bike shop. It's as if you're a part of a welcoming and supportive community. I became intrigued by this need for women and LGBT+ only shop time and decided to learn more. My curiosity culminated in a thesis about women in bicycle cooperatives.
To sum up my research in a a few sentences: Women have a long history with bicycles and cycling needs women almost as much as we need cycling. Women are considered a "species indicator" for bike-friendly cities. That means that the prevalence of women on bikes is directly related to the quality of bike resources and infrastructure in a city. If you don't see a significant number of women biking in your hometown, then it's not doing enough to make cycling accessible. The other side of this is that women are movers and shakers when it comes to influencing changes. If more women are excited about cycling and feel empowered to bike more, we can start to transform the places we bike. But at the same time, biking can transform us by making us stronger, happier, more capable, and independent.
Empowering women+ through bike maintenance
Six bike cooperatives, three bike shops and two bike share programs later I was working at Switched On Bikes in Wellington, New Zealand as a mechanic and an electric bicycle tour guide. At the shop I was often approached by women who wanted to know how I learned to repair bikes. More than that, they wanted to know how they could learn more about their own bicycle. I decided to teach a four-day maintenance course exclusively for women and gender minorities. It was a bigger success than I imagined and we had to double the class size and get three instructors in order to provide the level of facilitation that we envisioned. From my own experience, I knew that learning to repair bikes was empowering, but the reaction from the students showed me that it could be life changing. They hadn't just learned about bicycles; by working together for four weeks they had cultivated competence, self-confidence, and a community with a genuinely encouraging learning culture.
Sylvie Froncek- Founder & Instructor
Sylvie realized her love of cycling when she was 13 years old, training for her first century (100 mile ride) with the AIDS Ride for Life. She learned about bike repair and culture at Pitzer College, where she received a BA in American Studies in 2010. Over the past 10 years she has worked as a mechanic at bike shops and collectives all over the USA and New Zealand. She co-founded the Ontario Wheelhouse (Ontario, CA, USA), The Big Red Bicycle Collective (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA), Big Red Bike Share (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA) and Wellington Wünderbike (Wellington, New Zealand). Sylvie has been a teambuilding facilitator with Cornell University's Team and Leadership Center since 2005 and worked as an Outward Bound Instructor in North Carolina in 2013.
In 2017, Sylvie developed a women's bike maintenance course in Wellington, New Zealand. A year later, during a two-month long bike tour in Patagonia she decided to start Vie Cycle.
Qualifications: League Cycling Instructor (LCI) with the League of American Bicyclists (since 2019)
Bike Shop Experience:
- Swan Cycles, Ithaca NY
- The Green Bike Program, Claremont CA
- The Ithaca Outdoor Store, Ithaca NY
- LA Bike Kitchen/Bici Cocina, Los Angeles CA
- Ontario Wheelhouse, Ontario CA
- Recycle Ithaca's Bicycles, Ithaca NY
- Bicycles Junction, Wellington New Zealand
- The Mechanical Tempest, Wellington New Zealand
- Switched On Bikes, Wellington CA
- Cycleast, Austin TX
- Tsunami Cycles, Austin TX
- Bikes del Pueblo, San Diego CA
- Summer Cycles, Del Mar CA