Turning the tables: Missy Giove interviews Anna Schwinn

"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…

G: Exactly!

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.

G: Exactly.

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.

G: Yes.

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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