Buttcrack Jenny: Bicycles as a Vehicle for Creativity

Jenny Acker, also known as “Buttcrack Jenny,” is a cyclist and artist. She has combined these skills to create “Stravafarts,” a term Jenny has coined to describe the GPS art she makes while riding her bicycle. You read that right, “Strava-farts,” and for those who know Jenny, that makes perfect sense. Jenny’s energy is infectious. She shares her Strava art, pictures of out-of-the-ordinary items she finds on bike rides, dog photos, and a revolving fashion show of her creative, handmade costumes made for bike racing under the handle @buttcrackjenny

So you’re probably wondering, “what’s with the name Buttcrack Jenny?” Jenny was an art major in college when she acquired the nickname. She preferred to paint and draw while sitting on the ground. One day, she was drawing while sitting on her living room floor and her roommate noticed that her buttcrack was hanging out of her pants. Her roommate called her “Buttcrack Jenny,” and it just stuck. Jenny herself will admit, “It’s a great name because nobody wants that name, so it’s available for all kinds of things like Instagram, Facebook, and Strava.”

Jenny lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and she’s heavily involved in the cycling community there. She was born in Mexico, moved to Illinois in high school, and went to college in Michigan “I never thought I’d stick around here forever, but here I am. I love it here in Michigan. Especially in West Michigan we have such an awesome bike culture. It’s just such a welcoming community here. Lots of people put on free events and fun rides and I think that’s kinda how I got into [bikes].” Jenny’s cycling background includes a little bit of everything. She started out riding her bike to different ice cream shops, then found herself racing in Ironman triathlons. She eventually dabbled in bike polo, gravitated to gravel, and raced mountain bikes. She fat bikes in the winter and has toured the Baja Divide. She even went so far as to ride all the streets of Grand Rapids. Jenny started making Strava art as another way to diversify her experience on the bicycle.

Jenny first discovered Strava art through an Instagram account called “@dick_run_claire.” Claire creates all kinds of routes, drawing a penis every time– Jenny loved it, “it’s so funny.” When one of Jenny’s friends asked her, “how come you don’t do these?” things were set in motion. With her inspiration from Claire and encouragement from a friend, Jenny set out to make her first Strava art. Although Jenny isn’t above drawing a GPS penis and has created at least one, her first Strava art was an image of Bart Simpson. One of Jenny’s favorite cartoons to watch when she was growing up was The Simpsons, and Bart was one of the first characters she learned to draw, so she decided to go back to her roots for her first Strava art attempt. “I think I just looked at a map and tried to visualize where the eyeball would be and where I could draw, like, a nose.” Jenny said her first attempt was very rudimentary, but she’s improved throughout the years.

Now, years later, Jenny has perfected the Strava art process. She takes a picture of the character she wants to draw and uploads it to an art computer program. After that, she looks at a map where she lives. Jenny superimposes the picture where she thinks it might fit on the map, changing the opacity of the picture to make it easier to see which roads might suit the outline. She draws along the roads in the program illustrator then pulls up Strava to transfer the drawing into a route. “Sometimes I have to do a little trespassing through people’s yards, and over the years I’ve discovered I can pause my Garmin if it needs to connect where there’s no road. I pause my Garmin, ride around, start it up again, and then it connects the dots.” Jenny says that sometimes it doesn’t look exactly the way it’s supposed to straight out of Strava, so she started using Photoshop to add colors so that other people can see what it looks like in her head, “that helps a ton.”

Jenny can typically draw the head of a character by riding between 20 and 30 miles, though she doesn’t always get credit for all the miles she rides if she has to pause and restart her Garmin. Sometimes Jenny goes out for bigger drawings using a road along the Grand River which surrounds Grand Rapids. “A lot of people refer to it as ‘just the tip’ so it kinda looks like the tip of a penis but it also kinda looks like Homer Simpson’s head.” If Jenny takes advantage of the unique shape of this road, she knows it’s going to be a big ride — between 80 and 100 miles.

Jenny created one of her favorite Strava drawings on a mid-winter group ride. At her friends’ request, she took them on a Strava art mission. They knew they were going to draw something, but Jenny kept the finished product a secret until the big reveal when they uploaded their rides. Since a lot of Strava art includes out and backs, Jenny’s friends blindly followed her on a crazy ride where they’d go halfway down roads and turn right back around. They had no clue what they were drawing but she told them, “You gotta trust me.” At the conclusion of their ride, one of her friends had the GPS track pop up on her watch. She yelled, “Jenny what did you make me draw?!” It was Bart Simpson with his pants down!

Another equally impressive work of Strava art is her GPS version of Maggie and Lisa Simpson. This was a tricky one for Jenny to figure out. Jenny reports that the hardest part of GPS art is finding roads it’ll work on. While Grand Rapids and the surrounding area offer a nice grid system, it’s difficult to draw diagonal lines in her art. Jenny found a solution in the dead of winter. There’s a lake by Jenny’s house that is rideable on a fat bike with studs when it freezes over. “It’s an open, blank palate,” creating the perfect canvas for irregular shapes, like Maggie and Lisa’s hair.

Jenny’s creativity on the bike doesn’t end with Strava art. Despite riding bikes for more than a decade, Jenny continues to find joy in racing by dressing in costume. Jenny first started racing in costume because it was the easiest way to spot herself in photos, “and if you’re in a costume everybody’s cheering for you no matter what.” 

Jenny has a poop emoji permanently attached to her helmet as her everyday wear. “That’s my most aerodynamic thing now. It came off of some kind of candy that somebody gave me. I just have it on my helmet all the time now. I get so many compliments on it. I’ve worn all kids of silly stuff but it’s not the most aerodynamic, so when I am actually trying to do well in a race this little poo emoji doesn’t really hurt my chances too much.” Jenny doesn’t like taking herself too seriously, and dressing in costume is a good reminder that riding bikes is supposed to be fun.

On her rides from home, Jenny has found new entertainment by scoring “ride finds.” One day while she was riding around town, she found a dildo in the middle of a busy road. Naturally, Jenny posted it to her Instagram stories and asked, “Should I pick it up? Yes or no?” Most people said no, but she did in fact go back and pick it up. Jenny continued finding interesting things on her rides and discovered the Instagram account called “@ridefinds” that shares all kinds of weird things people find on bike rides. Last year Jenny found a wallet with $500 cash in it. “It had the guy’s ID in it and probably could have just as easily found him that way but there was also a weird business card that said Ben Schmidt is a stinking pile of dog poo.’” So she posted on Instagram asking if anyone knew Ben Schmidt. Jenny was able to track down the owner of the wallet who gave her $40 for her time. Jenny continues to look for “ride finds” because, “it really makes you look at where you’re riding. For me, it’s made my rides fun again because you can go out looking for something or you can randomly find something like an unopened lunchable or a hammer or some weird thing. It breaks up your ride and it’s fun to find stuff I guess.”

A project that enhanced her chances of scoring impressive ride finds was riding all the roads in Grand Rapids. Starting as a COVID project, Jenny completed this challenge in a year, riding mostly during the summer. This project led her to discover Wandrer Earth, a game that gives you points for each new road you ride down. Now Jenny has ridden 87% of the roads in her county. Jenny acknowledges that the points aren’t important, “going down a dead end or a cul-de-sac or some random neighborhood that you wouldn’t go down, I might find a cool ride find item […] or find a fun park that I would’ve never discovered that I can bring my dog to later […] That’s motivation for anybody. I mean a lot of people do ride bikes to be fast to win competitions or get fit, but sometimes riding your bike can just be fun.”

Jenny’s approach to riding bikes is a reminder that the bicycle can be a vehicle for creativity and joy. If you want to participate in Strava art, Jenny is happy to draw something for you so you can participate where you live. You can make a request on her website. You can also follow Jenny on Instagram or Strava at (you guessed it) @buttcrackjenny

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