I dig Ward Griffiths. She’s a rad cycle tourist. And she’s kind of a hero. Rarely do people like Ward get acknowledged amid the hubbub of spotlight scrambles, Twitterfests, and PR jazz hands. And these under-radar folks probably like it that way (thanks for doing the interview anyway, Ward!).
Ward’s response to my request for an interview:
“Seriously?? Awww, crap… Are you that desperate for topics?? Maybe I can think of some other ones for you…”
After persistent harassment, I finally was able to nail Ward down.
She is one of those people who quietly slinks behind the scenes being epic without anyone noticing. I’m drawn to her story because, like most things having to do with cycle touring, the content isn’t glossy like a magazine feature flaunting people with bleached teeth in Photoshoplanida. The substance is more earthy, like a freshly-prepared raised garden bed in your backyard.
As a long time bike fitter at River City Bicycles, Ward listens to her clients, and because of that, she does a damned good job of helping people be more stoked on their bikes. In her free time, she rides her butt off all over the state and beyond. Because Ward sniffs out far-flung ribbons of gravel and pavement which weave through gorgeous, unknown places, she was a valuable resource when I was researching Cycling Sojourner.
“Touring is a great way to see things you wouldn’t normally see via some other way of travel. I like going where people aren’t.”
I pried it out of her that she’s also a freelance drummer for bands around town. No prying necessary to know that Ward loves her dogs. And she loves my dog, Winston, who attends the yoga class we do together. He loves her, too.
But back to bikes. In her late twenties, Ward was top ten in Road Nationals three times. However, in 1998 she found herself in a hard fight against cancer. Ward won, of course. Afterwards, she wasn’t strong enough to ride with racers with whom she used to cycle.
“So I rode by myself, and I wanted to do something besides road rides. I explored back roads that were off the beaten path.”
By “exploring” she means 100-mile+ days in the middle of nowhere. Ward’s beefy cycling touring resume includes longer trips, like spending five months touring through the US and Canada, and shorter trips, like doing high-mileage, long weekend treks in the Cascades with only a rack trunk.
I asked her what she liked about endurance riding.
“I don’t know. Why do you like it?” I wait for it. Silence gets longer. “I just like being outside. I like that good tired where I can eat something delicious and feel like I deserved it.”
I also I asked her what she values in a touring partner.
“Riding by myself,” she laughs, “But I do like touring with Rachel [Bagley] and Ira [Ryan]. They can do long days, and they don’t whine. Plus, they like to watch cheesy cable TV at the end of the day.”
Finally, I ask her how much she attributes her success to our yoga class of slackers. She responded, “It’s all about the Namaste…and Winston.”
As we were walking downstairs at River City after the interview, I suspect I caught one of Ward’s guiding philosophies when she chuckled and said, “Everyone always talks about what they do. Blah blah blah. Just do what you do, and shut your trap about it.”
*photos credit: Rachel Bagley