This interview was originally posted on June 20, 2013. The cover story from Issue #171 is Anna Schwinn’s interview with Missy Giove. Here’s an extended take on some of the questions that didn’t make it into print.
If you enjoy it, look for our special Personality Issue #187 with exclusive, revealing interviews that no other magazine can or will do available at Interbike and on newsstands in September 2015.
Schwinn: First question: Who was your favorite mechanic, Gravy or Monkey?
Giove: Oh! Not fair! You didn’t ask me which one was a better mechanic! Which one did I like better? Oh neither. They were both perfectly so classic. Gravy is, oh my God, Gravy is a kind, sweet, gentle hippy who’s one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever met in my life who is a character and so funny and so loveable. And such a perfect person. He’s just, I love Gravy.
Mechanic wise, he was amazing and built the best wheels in the whole possible world and he would also do whatever he was doing for you really slowly because he would do ten other people’s bikes, who were friends, at the same time which I loved about him—but I missed practice runs from it. He’s the best. He was awesome. And he made me a good practicer for exactly that reason; he made my time worthwhile on the hill. Thanks Gravy for that, he taught me that. And Monkey was fucking hysterical.
S: He made you the smallest cog on your current drivetrain
G: Yeah! Totally innovative, fun downhill mechanic, amazing downhill mechanic, methodical downhill mechanic who was a major problem solver and he loved the 50cc mini-moto, we both loved the 50, and we had so much fun burning brakes in when he was on his dirt bike and I was on my mountain bike and he was dragging me. So many funny moments. It was hysterical.
I’ll never forget all the images I have of Monk out of control on that 50 with me tied to him on a downhill bike. It was crazy. Crazy. I hope he misses that. I don’t think anyone else is making him do that. Plus he’d be towing me because a lot of times I wouldn’t want to go do a downhill run but I would need to burn the brakes in or I wanted to warm up and I might have missed a practice run, I’m not sure, so he would tow me up, like, a different part of the mountain so I could come down halfway. So he’d be on the 50 towing me up this gnarly single track. And then he’d have to come down.
This one time he was shuttling me and, he was such a good sport, and this fucking, like, mountain lion crossed his path and it nearly about ate poor Monk. He’s just funny as shit. He’d heat up salami sandwiches on the dashboard and eat them. The guy’s just classic. Unbelievable innovator and fixes every problem you could possibly have on your bike before it happens. So they answer is neither because they were both experiences I will never forget.
G: I can’t live without either.
S: Which bike was your favorite, and which was the absolute worst?
G: Well the absolute worst comes popping to my mind. Which would be the multiple drive chain Cannondale. That was hooptie.
S: It looked awesome!
G: Ughhh. I was so heavy that if—if I could have chosen only certain courses to go down on that bike it would have been a decent bike but, just changing lines, it was just totally extraordinarily heavy. If they lightened it up it would have been okay. Besides that it was fine.
S: And how tall are you?
G: I’m like 5’7″
S: You were hauling bikes around like that one.
G: It was okay, it’s just that there were lines that I wanted to get on that I couldn’t get on because it was a little heavy but hey, I learned. It made me a better rider.
S: It made you stronger.
G: It made me stronger. And hey, no bike is a bad bike, let’s put it that way. No bike is a bad bike, that’s the truth, but that was not my favorite piece of equipment.
As far as my favorite bike? My favorite bike has to—I have two favorite bikes, really. My very first Yeti. Full rigid. Pepperoni fork. And then my decade-long love affair with my Foes DH Mono.
S: Why your Yeti full rigid? Because it was your “first?”
G: Right? Just because of the experiences, the rides. It wasn’t just the rides. The way the bike felt, and just my interaction with this ride I was doing on that bike. For sure. The energy from that bike, from my full rigid experiences on trails. I had tons of fun on that bike.
S: When you look back at what is arguably the heyday of mountain bike racing, ’92-’99, what mistakes did the sport or athletes or promoters make in not solidifying it as a viable sponsorship investment?
G: Honestly, I think that the technologies with our cameras had a big part to do with the fact that most of everything that has to do with cycling, with the exception of track cycling—it’s one of the only easily viewable sports—but you can only see it where there are velodromes. And while there are getting to be more velodromes, you know what I’m saying. Basically, I don’t think it was anybody’s fault, I think it was the fact that our sport is not very viewable without access to all these big, heavy, expensive cameras and you have to be an athlete to capture it behind a camera.
S: Except for slalom. You can see slalom.
G: Yeah, but you had to drive. Like each one of those venues is like four hours away from a major city. It wasn’t very accessible to the average person. You’d have to have a car, you’d have to have the money…
S: You’d have to know what the sport was.
G: So basically I think it was just accessibility because people were literally not seeing it. So cycling just got spread through word of mouth through convincing somebody to get involved with it or try it. It was just referrals. Something that is only growing as big as something as a referral, there is only one median which you can see it. It’s with a referral.
So you have to know somebody. You don’t just have to know somebody, you have to know somebody who is going to let you borrow a bike or can fix your bike or wants to take the time and energy to invest to try to get you out and get you hooked. Cause a lot of people don’t do things like that, their first time on their own. As far as my own personal experiences that I remember, that’s how I got into it. If I wasn’t out doing it by myself, it wasn’t happening. I think that probably isn’t like that with everybody.
S: Yeah, I think so. Even with velodromes, you can go watch, but that community is so tight that, depending on the velodrome, it is not an inviting experience at all. There are people who like the fact that they can keep cycling private.
G: I hear what you’re saying.
S: My dad talks about it a lot. My little brother, Tucker, plays bike polo. Dad says, “Well, what’s going to happen if bike polo ever takes off is the same thing that happened to mountain biking in that you’re going to end up with a bunch of actual athletes getting in there, ruining it for all the originals.”
G: Cool people.
S: Cool people. Yeah. They’re just going to get in there and be athletic. That’s what athletes do. So I feel like there are some communities that want to keep it quiet. To keep it away from the athletes so they can still do it. So it can still be fun.
G: Yeah, I totally understand.
S: As soon as things get mainstream, people with physical talents get involved and ruin everything for everybody else!
G: I totally agree. I was not one of those rule followers. Now it’s very funny that you say that because it’s when things kind of get watered down.
S: You lose people who are just out there to be bikers, who embody all the spirit and everything you love about riding. You talk about communing with nature and your bike as an appendage and an extension of yourself and then there are these guys just out there to be really fast. They’re different people.
G: I know what you mean. And that’s a really good point because I try to tell people, I was never a racer. I raced so I could be a biker. It was a way that I got to do what I loved to do. If somebody could have just supported me and my family and my friends to just ride my bike in a way that I want to ride my bike every day I would never have chosen competition as a form, probably.
Not that I didn’t succumb sometimes to the fact that sometimes I wanted to have my best day, my best moment, trying to have a glorious moment on my bike by really riding on the edge, making it happen, having a good time, coming down really consistently and kind of linking a whole entire run together. Coming down a whole entire mountain ‘cause when you do that, it’s really fun.
There’s something about going from the top of the mountain to the very bottom of a mountain. It’s like a river. It’s fun when you can put it all together and it all just floats as opposed to doing all in segments and whatnot. So it was fun to give myself a forum, which I chose as like race day, to put that all together and just kind of paint a picture on the way down, trying to flow like… if I was a river, how would I get down this? And just have it be fun and interact with my bike and my bike interacting with the earth and the water. That was really fun too, riding in monsoons.
S: Where the path is cut for you.
G: Yeah so, I just love that experience about it. And I’m so glad that there are brilliant people like yourself that want to help people like me who want to do stuff like that. To have this very specific tool to do it with—not just a specific tool but a perfect tool.
Get a copy
Head on over to our online store to pick up a copy of Issue #171 for yourself!Tweet Print
Issue #171 isn’t the first time Missy Giove has graced our pages. Check out these two interviews we pulled from the archives.
Issue #33 – October 1, 1993
Issue #105 – February 15, 2004
Read the latest interview
Pick up a copy of Dirt Rag Issue #171 to read the full interview with Missy. It has shipped to subscribers and will hit newsstands on July 2. Click here to see more online extras from the story.Tweet Print
"Missy said she wanted a picture of me with one of the MANY Schwinn cruisers that were parked everywhere. I struck a Missy pose for the photo without thinking about it on account of being such a fangirl. She said ‘Oh, I see what you’re doing there.’ I was actually so insanely embarrassed for being called on it that I aggressively feigned ignorance."
Anna Schwinn, author of the exclusive Missy Giove interview in Issue #171 is a bit of a bike industry legend herself. She grew up with two parents heavily involved in the industry and as a result she had a social connection to Giove via her parents having been friends with John Parker (original Yeti Cycles founder) and Jeff Ringle (Ringle components). In the mid-nineties her parents were starting up Waterford Precision Cycles and both Parker and Ringle were primary sponsors of Giove as she began her career.
There were family vacations where the Schwinn’s went and hung out with them, according to Anna. Parker’s daughter used to hang out with Giove. From talking to John, they bunked together when Missy came to Durango in 1990 for the World Championships and his daughter was never the same after that experience.
Anna’s parents were fans too. “My dad remembers seeing Giove barrel down a course ‘balls out’ on a bare front rim after a flat— he still gushes about how fucking amazing it was,” she said. “Mom tells me that she had to defend her support of my fan-girl-ism to people in the industry. Mom had matching Gonzo gloves actually, and made sure to scoop up the Missy gear for me when she would be out west for tradeshows.
“I had a ‘What would Missy do?’ moment when I entered the bike industry, actually. I knew I would stick out like crazy as a loud, tall, chick engineer with a recognizable last name. I figured the best way to play it was to be very solid on what I was about, not to apologize for it, and to rock what I did as hard as I possibly could. That frame of mind has been invaluable to me.”
During the course of Anna Schwinn’s visit to Missy’s home the two discovered that through their early connections that they knew a lot of the same people growing up so throughout the weekend Missy kept turning the conversation to try and interview Anna right back. “But that’s what she does,” Anna said. “She is always trying to drag everyone else into the picture.”
Giove: How interesting is it for you being someone creating something that so many people have fun on?
Schwinn: Oh, It’s the coolest thing in the world.
G: Or making their living on, you know like messengers, people who use your tools to actually be able to eat.
S: It’s super cool. Bikes make people happy, they serve all sorts of awesome purposes, like as a mode for working, creating endorphins, or transportation. I’m bad at being interviewed also…
S: I completely lucked out. In product design, generally, there are a lot of products that you try to inject with emotion. You’re trying to get people to have an emotional connection with, like, a blender. It’s part of selling it. But at the end of the day it’s a blender, or a toaster. It’s kind of a shallow aspect of product development.
G: Well I don’t look at it like that…
S: Well it’s not like that with bikes.
G: That’s what I’m saying. It’s not like a piece of toast; you’re creating a whole kind of life.
S: You’ll read stuff about people getting on your product and having it help them recuperate from war or as a meditative device or that people go on tours with it or where it becomes like an appendage instead of just some product. To be able to affect people, to have people ride your stuff every day. It’s so cool. They love it every day and you make their lives better. That’s probably why I’m doing bikes and not anything else, because bikes should be something that does that. They get people excited about living, about the environment, about their communities, because you experience your world in a completely different way when you do it on a bike.
G: I agree. It’s true.
S: It completely recontextualizes your whole life and your relationship to your community and your friends. It’s pretty much the coolest and I’m super lucky and fortunate that I get to do it.
G: That’s awesome. The other thing is that I know you are an avid—that you totally take the bus everywhere.
S. Well, in the winter…I am worried about hitting my head again, soon.
G: Yeah, I mean, that’s great. I’m talking about, yeah, in the wintertime. That’s like a whole other thing.
S: Well, I don’t have a car. Someone crashed into my car, totaled it a few years ago. But you don’t really need a car. It takes a little bit of extra work, depending on where you are, but if you live somewhere with awesome public transportation—but yeah, I mean, I like the bus. You interact with so many people that you would never interact with otherwise.
S: It’s like back when I used to sell plasma for school supplies.
G: Because of your bike. You don’t want to stay on two wheels in an icy winter.
S: Yeah, I’m not going to bike if I’m not comfortable. It was terrifying after my head injury to not be able to do arithmetic or read a map. My brain is what allows me to do what I like to do and it wasn’t working. The idea that I could lose all that; there was nothing more terrifying. I was like, "I’m not going to be able to go back to work, I can’t earn a living. I have product out there that people like but I want to do more."
G: That’s not a fun part about it, but I don’t want to, and this is something but I don’t want to dwell on it, but it’s been a big part of my history, injuries. You know what, there are lots of people who don’t have a hundredth of the physical, of what my body has been through, but they slip going across the road and they suffer the same thing. You can’t live your life avoiding that kind of thing.
S: Yeah. Nothing pisses off a neurologist more than telling them straight up when they say, "Stop drinking beer" that, "No, that’s probably not going to happen." Or, "Stop riding your bike," it’s like, "No, that’s not going to happen either." I’m not going to tell them that I’m not living how I actually live.
G: And what you’re doing is perfect because it’s good to be able to recognize that, okay, I still want to be able to do this because I’m going to do it. But not doing it, like now, I downhill and I downhill like a maniac still but when my wrist is broken I’m not going to downhill. I’m putting myself at more risk as I said before, I would probably go downhill with a broken wrist, but this way I’m still able to downhill but I’m not compensating so I don’t have a crash that’s more likely to happen because I have this injury. I just try to zero out that risk factor. Just like you’re not going to bike right now because you could wreck your head.
S: And I get a lot of shit for it.
G: You’re just being realistic.
S: I get a lot of shit for it, for not riding, amongst some people. I’m like, "I’m going to take a couple months off" and they’re awful about it. I think it takes a lot of self-security to say, "I could go do this but I’m uncomfortable with it and screw you if you think I’m a wuss about it. Wait until you hit your head and start slurring." When I started slurring speech, shit, that was bad.
G: I want to talk about how incredible it is that you’re a designer in a field that is really, really dominated by boys who may think they know better. Your shit that you make is so dope. It’s totally got your, it’s your signature stuff, it’s just great. Riding is art, and what you do is create some pretty incredible art.
S: Bike art.
G: That’s pretty awesome. How do you like the fact that you’re in…
S: Pretty shit?
G: Yeah, as much, it’s functional and it’s really pretty.
S: If pretty gets people stoked on something and emotionally attached to it, if it is something better, if pretty is, like, nectar, to get people on, like, doing something that makes their lives better, then, well, you want to get people on bikes in any way you can.
G: I love all the art aspect in any industry but I love the art aspect in, you know, your designs, I just think it’s so cool.
S: Man, that’s so cool. Like with All-City, I love All-City when you pay attention to beautiful details all over the bike then you draw attention to those details. Details ask questions, like, "Why is this the way it is?" I also don’t like symmetry in what I design. I like asymmetry because if you make something asymmetrical, people have to figure out why it was done that way. It gives people something to obsess about later. It makes people want to understand more about their bikes.
Also, if they grab it in a certain way or work on it in a certain way and it becomes a pleasurable experience because, for example, the top tube cable routing is on the inside of the frame so when you shoulder it to go up to your apartment because that’s how you live, that’s what you interact with everything every day… and it makes you more excited about that bike…
G: I understand completely… you don’t want your dreadlocks stuck in there for sure.
S: It’s cool. Anytime you can get people excited about bikes, it almost feels like it’s manipulative but I feel like it is manipulation for a good cause.
G: Yeah, definitely. Like with a lot of the downhill stuff I do, I push or carry my bike, so it’s push or carry…
S: And there are a lot of things you could catch a dreadlock in.
Schwinn, a self-proclaimed professional bike nerd, is currently lead engineer for Civia Cycles, Whisky Parts, Foundry Cycles and All-City Cycles. “Carbon and steel are my jam design materials,” she proclaims. “I love bikes and I love that I get to work to get other people to love bikes. I love that I get to work on the variety of products that I do. I work my butt off, but it’s awesome. I have my bike shop and Park Tool stand in my living room. Bikes rule everything around me. It’s a good life.”
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Photos by A. E. Landes, Matt Kasprzyk and Maurice Tierney.
Then and now. On the left she is showing off Gonzo, the pirahna she wore around her neck during races.
Though she’s lived high atop the World Cup circuit, Missy is now her own mechanic.
But her old Foes DH1 Mono still works and she can certainly still shred.
Life is a lot more mellow now in her home of Virginia Beach. Missy says she has given away all her bikes to people who had ridden them and fallen in love with them.
She has a few relics from the past, but not many. She says she would love to compete again.
Only the trophy case would indicate the tidy apartment Missy shares with her wife Kristen is the home of a former World Champion.
Always an animal lover, she currently tears it up with her dog Dash.
Along with Gonzo the fish, Missy used to race with the ashes of her beloved dog Ruffian tucked into her bra.
“It’s all good, and I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to have had all the experiences I have had in my life,” she said.
Get a copy
Head on over to our online store to pick up a copy of Issue #171 for yourself!Tweet Print