1×10: Jude Gerace, Sugar Wheel Works

Welcome to 1×10, where we ask 1 inspiring human 10 questions about how they are using cycling as a force for good. Jude Gerace is a wheel builder and the owner of Sugar Wheel Works in Portland, OR. Two of our interviewees separately recommended that I interview Jude, so I felt honored to get her on this 1×10. Read on to meet this inspiring business owner and community builder.

1.How/why did you fall in love with cycling?

Well I think that’s a tough one.  Cycling has always been a part of my life, since being a kid and running errands for my mom using my bike.  As kids we loved going on “Adventures” to parks and riding on bike paths–our bikes gave us so much freedom and as long as mom knew where we were, and we stuck together we were given a huge radius to explore.  So, I think I take it for granted and I feel suffocated when I haven’t been on my bike. I go in and out of cycling as a sport but have always liked moving from place to place using a bike. What I really appreciate about the bike is how efficient it is and as cliche as it sounds, the freedom it offers.  I appreciate that my partner also rides his bike and that when going somewhere it’s just assumed we’re riding. I also love riding with my pup and the joy of bringing him to work with me. 

What I really appreciate about the bike is how efficient it is and as cliche as it sounds, the freedom it offers.


Ozzie – THE shop dog!

2. Favorite bike?

I’m getting my coveted bike–a Breadwinner B-Road!!  It’s due any day now!!

Editorial Comment: Proper jelz!!!!!

3. What’s the most memorable ride you’ve done, and what happened?

So many!  In the last year, it was a mountain bike trail–the ATCA which is 27 miles, 5,000 feet of climbing, and deeelicious cross country riding!  I’m still newer to mountain biking so this felt like a huge victory to me. I wasn’t fast but I did it!

4. Who do you admire in the cycling world?

Katie Compton as a rider, Leah Benson as a bike shop owner, Diana Rempe as street librarian for Street Books–the most fabulous non-profit bike-centric business.  Three strong women who cuss liberally and are sharp as tacks.

5. Top tip for a new rider, or a cyclist about to take on a new challenge?

Don’t give up…and you have to keep working at it.  The first three years of mountain biking I was terrified.  I still am but I can get over things that I wasn’t able to do previously and I’ve conquered trails that looked impossible to me when I first started.  

Sugar Wheel Works selfie!

6. Favorite trend or innovation in cycling?

Gravel Riding!  It’s been there but has only recently been picked up as a trend.   I enjoy being on low traffic roads, I like how hard it is, and I like that you can move faster than single track.  I appreciate all the blogs and routes that people are putting together in the interest of discovery and sharing. I also like the range of tire options available–it feels so sweet to be surfing over gravel!

7. What are you doing to use cycling as a force for good?

I’m on the board of a local non-profit “The Street Trust” and I use my position and skills to inspire the next generation of riders by offering shop tours to the Community Cycling Center Kids camp.  I also offer scholarships to women to take wheel building classes. Working with The Street Trust on a broader level to make changes at a policy level has been tedious and interesting work. It moves quickly and slowly at the same time.  

We’ve also undertaken a few other projects.  For example, I started a fundraiser for Bike Safety Education Programming which raises funding for schools to teach bike safety in two week sessions as part of the PE program.  In the 8 years we’ve run this fundraiser we’ve raised over $100k. The fundraiser is a storytelling event which showcases the diverse voices from our community. The money raised has also helped us advocate for funding at a state level so that Bike Safety Education can be experienced on a regional level.

We’ve also hired an employee with Autism (he’s been employed here 7.5 years).  While he only works about 4 hours a week, we make sure that he is a part of our team. I really admire and respect the crew I work with and I know that everyone loves a good founders story and it’s hard to shed light on the magic of an entire workshop, but we are special.  This crew is great at problem solving, coming to work with a professional spirit, and work/life balance.  We’re always sharing our adventures and feats and celebrating the victories.  I feel truly honored to work with this crew.

When I started Sugar ten years ago, I wrote down my mission statement:  Build the best wheels to the highest standards and be an asset to our community.  We’re not perfect but we strive for this every day.

When I started Sugar ten years ago, I wrote down my mission statement:  Build the best wheels to the highest standards and be an asset to our community.  We’re not perfect but we strive for this every day.

8. Thinking about the work you’re doing, what do you see as the potential change for people or the planet? If you are successful, what impact will you have?

I think my work is so micro.  Hand-built wheels are so much more sustainable as they’re easy to repair and the hubs can be used for many iterations of wheel (provided the industry doesn’t change a standard too drastically).  So, wheels last longer in general and stay out of the landfill and riders can quickly repair their wheels quickly. So, it’s micro sustainability but that’s what I can contribute from where I am and what I do.  If we’re successful, people will stay riding bikes longer and recognize that wheels can be repaired, rebuilt and re ridden. Even parts that are no longer useful are much easier to recycle.

Scaling my business while maintaining quality–it’s slow.  I also want mechanics, in general, to be valued. In Portland, where housing costs are quickly rising, it’s harder to pay mechanics a fair and living wage but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for every opportunity to do so.

9. How can people help?

Support your local shop.  Don’t buy parts on the internet and bring them in for a shop to install and balk when they charge you a service fee for bringing in new parts.  Being a mechanic isn’t rocket science but it takes time and dedication and I think that’s worth at least a living wage.

10. Where can people go to learn more about your work?

You can find Sugar Wheel Works on Instagram and our website.

Jude Gerace is a wheel builder and the owner of Sugar Wheel Works in Portland, OR doing her part to build community and run a sustainably-minded business.

Edited by John Kim. When he’s not out for a ride, John uses his expertise in Corporate Social Responsibility to help companies do well by doing good. Find him at virtcyc@gmail.com or VirtCyc on twitter or instagram.

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