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Bikes. Parts. Chaos.

Location: Kimberley BC Canada

Athena standing outside in snow behind her Surly Skid Loader cargo ebike

Who do you think you are anyway?

My name is Athena Knibbs and I am a Surly rider. I am a wife, mom, psychiatric nurse, surface pattern designer, bag maker and volunteer to name a few things.

Collage; Athena standing with fully loaded bike and child on gravel road, biking with kids on paved road

How'd you get into bikes?

It all started in Kimberley BC, a small mountain town in a bedroom community approximately 30 kms outside of the nearest city. As a family we wanted to be less reliant on four wheels and live as a single car family. I can’t speak about my love of Surly bikes without speaking about my family and the bond that was created through our love of bicycles, namely our first Surly, the Big Dummy which we purchased about 13 years ago.

Surly Big Dummy loaded with two children and gear on paved road

Tell us about your Surly Bike(s).

(What do you use it for? Where do you ride? Why do you like? What makes it special? Etc.)

We purchased a Surly Big Dummy for me to get around town with our two kids when they were toddlers. My husband either drove to work in Cranbrook or cycled between the two communities on the Rails to Trails. We realized cycling in a mountain community and driving as little as possible was an ideal way of life. My husband then added a Surly Ogre to the fleet and started exploring bikepacking as it started to gain traction here in Canada. The commuter rides lead to long solitary gravel rides and eventually family rides as he wanted to carry on his love of long distance riding with his family.

Sitting on concrete wall with loaded bikes and trailer with dog parked family takes a break on side of road

As our kids got older and then started to mountain bike we had to diversify. Soon we were making sure they had the right bike for bikepacking, mountain biking and then dirt jumping for our youngest. It was so hard to keep up with all their loves. To cut costs in the name of “the love of the bicycle” we had a Surly Wednesday for fatbiking that my husband used for trail riding. The fatties had to serve as adequate suspension as our kids mastered the need for speed. With a second wheelset, the Wednesday then became the perfect bike for bikepacking trips.

Split image; riding with kids on desert gravel road in Utah, man riding loaded bikepacking bike on gravel road

I recently purchased a Surly Skid Loader upon a long introspection of “what kind of rider am i?” . During Covid we had a few years of hiatus with the family bikepacking trips. In addition, our kids were full on with mountain biking and dirt jumping, resulting in some broken bones that canceled a long planned adventure to bike the northern part of Vancouver Island. To make up for it, last year we finally planned an Island hop on the Western coast of British Columbia. Sadly en route, we were rear ended with all of our bikepacking bikes, consisting of two Surly bikes. It was a long anticipated family bikepacking trip that we all needed for various reasons. We craved another family bike adventure now that the kids were teens; in a stage of life where we feel as parents, we are “on borrowed time”. The trip never happened. We were devastated as we turned around and made along drive 23 hour drive back to our interior BC town. It was during a long hot summer where historically it was the worst fire season for British Columbians. We were feeling unlucky but finding optimism at how lucky we were as we detoured around communities suffering greatly due to wildfires. Life could be worse for us and really, 6 busted up bikes was the least of our problems.

Returning home and sorting out bike repairs, insurance, write offs and replacement bikes took some time and mental energy. It may sound trivial, but much of our family experience has revolved around the various types of cycling we do. Now that my kids are teens, enjoying suspension fueled trails and the steeze of bikeparks I am often left behind in this aspect. We are no longer equal in abilities and to be honest, I am on a bike for the least amount of hours compared to my family.. I had this opportunity to replace my bikepacking bike with a new steed and I had to decide “what kind of cyclist am I?”I am a busy mom with work. I am quite invested in my personal interests of sewing and surface pattern design. I am a volunteer with our local Trails Society and for the past two years have been fundraising to rebuild our local community bike park. I can’t keep up with my wildly talented riding gal friends. I am a better shuttle driver at Bootleg Mountain than a mountain biker. All of these things considered I thought, what Surly bike would serve me best?

After some consideration, I thought. I value my family, our environment and relying less on our vehicle. I value contributing to my community and giving time to my art. I can’t do all of these things well at times as I am sure every time crunched mother feels. I decided to replace my bikepacking bike with a Surly Skid Loader. I love how I can run multiple errands in a day! I can get so much done! I seriously feel like a little kid with the wind in my hair as I zoom up Townsite Hill. It’s the perfect bike for me right now and I know it will last me a lifetime.

Favorite bike-related memory.

Athena with child on forest trail and fully loaded bikes with dog and child trailer

There are several biking memories that are special!! Our two boys were 4 and 6 when we started bikepacking with them. In fact our first trip on the Slocan Valley Rail Trail the Big Dummy was crammed into our Mitsibushi Delica with the seats turned sideays. There was no way to mount it to a bike rack. We researched routes that were kid friendly that they could pedal, as we reserved the chariot for the family dog. We also didn’t know about tow ropes and to be honest I really doubted my fitness to pull even a four year old. Instead we set our pace to their ability and made it as fun as we could, planning frequent stops at swimming holes and coffee shops until we pulled up to our campsites. In the early years we sometimes only did 20km for the entire day but the fun was in the adventure. It was a good lesson in patience and building capacity in the kids. Most importantly, it gelled us as a family and gave us memories that are ever so sweet now that our boys are 13 and 15 years old. Our boys still talk about a certain failed bikepacking trip in Utah where we had to turn around after two days due to muddy conditions and a slow pace that prevented us from making our water drops.

Fully loaded Surly with bikepacking bags propped up hanging from cattle gate on gravel road

One year I put fat slick tires on the Wednesday to bike the Trail of the Coure D’Alene, a paved rail trail in Idaho. Ask our kids about the hilarious “tightie whities” in the middle of the trail outside of Harrison after a rowdy regalia at the pier. I think that is what I love about our Surly Bikes. They last forever, easily diversify and always look cool even when I don’t. Our Surly bikes have been part of some fun car free adventures, pulled the family pets and dried our towels during the beach stops and are in our fondest memories.

If you could ride anywhere in the world, where would it be? (And why?).

Where can people follow along with you?

You can find me at @athena.knibbs on instagram. It’s mostly art. Some bikes. And some bikes on art.

What charity/organization did you did you choose to support and why did you chose it?

World Bicycle Releif. I worked with a psychiatrist who used to practice in Africa. He would walk to work many miles to practice in a hospital without power and running water. Bicycles as transportation can solve so many problems. Plus I feel so privileged and quite spoiled to be honest to own so many bikes.