Our Town: The Usual: Wheel Chix

Chris Newport, second from right, leads Wheel Chix cyclists (from left to right) Robin Baxter, Cassie Ramm, Sarah Zumbrum, and Natalie Lew on a ride through Cary on Friday, September 8, 2017. Newport founded the all-female riding group which now meets throughout the Triangle and includes rides for road bikes and mountain bikes.

“Our purpose is to make women feel comfortable and confident, and have more fun, and be fit, and have a group of women to support them.”

–Chris Newport, president, Wheel Chix cycling club

by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Madeline Gray

When the wheels go off for Le Tour de Femme, a annual women’s-only bike ride that includes a metric century (100 kilometer), half-metric century, and 15-mile route Oct. 14, the local Wheel Chix female cycling club members will be there. Four years ago, the club was created to ride in the event, says president and founder Chris Newport. “It was an excuse to ride with other women,” she says. “At the time, I had a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, so Wheel Chix was partly selfish. … I wanted to ride my bike and I wanted other awesome ladies to do it with.”

It began as a group of friends, many of whom Newport knows from the her day job as the owner of The Endurance Edge performance center in Cary, and today includes 60 regular members who gather for weekly rides throughout the Triangle. There are road bike rides most Thursdays, often easygoing loops through downtown Cary, and mountain bike rides most Sundays, often at William B. Umstead State Park. To supplement the riding, monthly socials “are like a social and a clinic combined,” Newport says. These beginner-friendly meetups are geared toward camaraderie. “We want everyone to experience that childish joy that goes along with getting on two wheels and riding.”

Newport says the group’s growth – including a 200-strong group of women who follow it on Facebook – confirms the power of female community. “I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, but I really wanted this to be exclusively women. Riding together, you become comfortable with each other, and then you’re supported by that community of other strong, confident women.”

A show of support will happen this month, when Wheel Chix presents another bike event in Cary the weekend before Le Tour de Femme. Tour de Cove honors club member Lori Cove, who was struck by a car last October and is recovering from traumatic brain injury. Proceeds from the 2.5-mile walk and 20 or 50 mile bike rides help Cove’s family pay for medical expenses. “Now it’s our turn to focus on riding safer and riding smarter, both as drivers and as cyclists. … This group has been an evolution.”