Always In Motion

OC Women’s Month Profile – Emily Graves

Emily Graves is currently the Vice President of the Ottawa Bicycle Club (OBC) and an incredibly active member of the club. Emily did her first century ride with the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour (RLCT) in June 2019 after doing her first long distance event (35 kms with the CN cycle) that May, and other group rides to various destinations (Wakefield as her favourite), getting herself professionally fitted on her bike, and learning how to ‘clip in’, one month before the RLCT. Emily continues to be a fun-seeking recreational cyclist and enjoys traversing distances to discover new destinations, either solo or in a group. This year, she got herself a new gravel bike which she plans to put into good use, including to a trip to PEI this summer for a tip-to-tip, multi-day cycling tour of the island. Personal pleasures aside, she is motivated in making cycling more accessible and enjoyable for women. She has revitalized the OBC women’s time trials program since 2020, and coordinated women-only group rides since 2021, promoting them as vehicles for kinship among our female cyclists, in addition to skills development.


How long have you been cycling?

Only since the summer of 2018, when I was simply content in taking my old beat-up hybrid bike when the Sir John A. MacDonald parkway would be closed to vehicular traffic on Sunday mornings, particularly as I was reluctant to bike on the multi-use paths and hesitant on my ability to safely manage the space with other cyclists, runners, strollers, roller bladers, etc. I decided to try a road bike at a bike rental place and was instantly smitten with the smooth way a road bike rolled. By that Fall, I was discovering new places and climbing the Champlain lookout with my first road bike.


What drew you to getting involved with OBC?

It was actually some sort of an accident. I didn’t know I was becoming a member of the OBC. In late 2018, as I was still learning how to become comfortable with my new road bike traversing various places with another bike group, I heard my fellow riders excitedly talking about registering for the RLCT the following year, in 2019, and they encouraged me to do it. Meanwhile I would pass by the OBC office which is near my home all the time and once I was tempted to google them, I was terrified; I thought they were just for professional cyclists. The photos on their website showed a lot of racing photos and I thought, oh no, this is not for me. However, when I registered for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, I was perplexed to see a suggestion that if I become an OBC member, I would get $50 discount for the RLCT. I closed my eyes and signed up anyway, availing of the discount. I did not know that the RLCT was run by the OBC at that time. So, I accidentally became a member, rode the RLCT, had an excellent experience, and started to receive newsletters from the club, including a call letter for a Board Secretary role for the club…that was where it all began…


What’s your favourite part about volunteering and running these events for women?

I think I have always been inherently a ‘gatherer’ of some sort. I like bringing people together. I am not immensely perturbed with constraints and limitations. We had covid-19 right in front of us, and I was willing to take the lead on how we could get around it. I am greatly motivated by creating a safe, friendly, welcoming space for new women cyclists, because I knew how it was like, remembering how tentative I was on the bike, and I was at the same time, elated with the participation of more experienced cyclists. The essence of being able to bring together different generations of women, and women of varying cycling skill levels together in one place, it was rewarding because the women were so supportive of each other. Overall, I seek the quality of experience and togetherness that women get from participating in our rides or our time trials. 


What advice would you give to other women about getting involved?

Pass it on. The time you give to get involved now multiplies into positive impacts you may not and need not seek to understand. 


What’s your favourite type of ride?

While I enjoy being the main coordinator for our women time trials, I personally prefer social rides for the reasons I cited above – the quality of experience and togetherness that is likely best achieved by sitting down, talking, and having ice cream or coffee in-between rides. 


I also enjoy solo rides as I find them very relaxing (my own pace) and these types of rides cater to my independent spirit. With solo rides I have to be completely self-sufficient and fend for myself by myself, like for instance, riding solo in the rain in last year’s RLCT 2023.

With a solo ride (solo training as well), I tackled an individual performance goal, by completing v-Everesting (the height of 8848 meters) in one sitting, with my indoor bike and trainer, resistance cycling for 14 hours within the same day in my bedroom in March 2021 (still during the time of on and off covid-19 restrictions)

Female cyclist in blue and black Ottawa Bicycle Club Kit enjoying a ride