Mason Wilson grew up in western Massachusetts and fell in love with bikes early on.
“Riding was very freeing,” he said. “Getting unplugged and moving through nature allowed me to live in the moment.”
At 17 he began downhill bike racing. “We would take a chair lift to the top of the ski slopes and race down,” he remembered.
Over the past 18 years, Wilson has attended renowned bicycle institutes in California and Colorado while enhancing his expertise as a certified bike mechanic, and in 2012, Wilson met his life partner, Alissa Hull, in Vermont.
Hull and Wilson shared a deep appreciation for the outdoors and adventure. Hull worked as an attorney at Prison Legal News, before becoming a staff attorney with Prisoners Legal Services in Plattsburgh. For the past two years she has been the manager of PLS’ Ithaca office, while still maintaining her love for adventure.
"It's always been frustrating that, just because of my size, people are surprised that I do so many outdoor activities,” Hull said. “Being judged for size, age, or perceived ability turns people off from learning new skills and finding new adventures.”
The couple embarked on their newest adventure when they opened Black Cat Cyclery out of their quonset home located in Dryden, New York this past winter.
“The birth of Black Cat Cyclery came from the desire to empower people to participate in cycling without judgement or assumptions. It's about trust and mutuality before profit. As a transgender- and woman-owned business we wanted to bring something different to the folks who are often under-represented in the cycling community,” they said.
“The bicycling industry has a narrow lens of portraying cyclists as athletic, able-bodied, white, cis-gender men. We really push to challenge those assumptions and think about ways to include people who need accommodations, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), large and small people, and people with varying abilities. It's one of the main reasons we participate in community bike repair events, and do pick-up and delivery service. It's not always possible for someone to get their bike to a bike shop, whether because of transportation, schedules, or accessibility. We also really strive to not make anyone feel like they have no options for cycling just because they don't have the budget. If we can do minor repairs or modifications to keep someone riding, that's our goal."
Black Cat Cyclery currently provides individual or group maintenance lessons, a full-service repair shop and pick-up and drop-off services at no additional charge. The shop also sells parts and accessories.
A new customer lauded Wilson’s helpfulness and expertise.
“With the pandemic I knew we needed to exercise. My partner and I are both old and creaky, and years ago gave away our bikes. When I saw a Community Bike Sale advertised by Way-To-Go and other community groups promoting
safe transportation alternatives to cars, I drove down to look at bikes. A friendly young man came over and chatted. When I professed my lack of knowledge, he led me to a specific bike. He pointed out the features that matched my needs, and he lowered the seat a bit. He suggested I try it out in the nearby parking lot. When I mentioned I had a small car, parked far away, Mason said he would walk the bike to the car with me, and he would fit it in. And so, he did.
Every day I thank my lucky stars I met Mason, who is as dear as he is an expert. Each day I learn a little bit more about biking. Each day I ride a little bit further. And now I have a new friend, and a bike mechanic. Recently I ran into Mason and he told me how to easily convert my road and trail bike into an exercise bike at little expense.”
Already well-known at GreenStar, where he works part time, Wilson also credits Steve Gelb of Old Goat Gear Exchange and Glenn Swan of Swan Cycles with being particularly generous with their support. He has no complaints about his transition to life as a homeowner of a non-traditional dwelling, as a bicycle repair shop owner, and to a Tompkins County resident. This guy exudes satisfaction.
Wilson is thrilled to see bikers of all ages out on bikes around here, and is proud that Black Cat Cyclery offers a non-traditional, all-inclusive welcome to anyone who is thinking about getting into bicycling. Stay tuned for Wilson’s next column, which will answer readers’ bike questions, among other fun things.