Today I am a cyclist. It’s hard to believe that a mere 73 days ago I wasn’t one, or at least I wasn’t calling myself one. But today I am. I bought my first road bike, what I’ve been referring to as my first real bike, 73 days ago, which was the catalyst for adding this new category to my life resume. In addition to being a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a runner and a world-changer, among other things, I am now a cyclist.
Yet, despite my very recent self-classification as a cyclist, I came to a surprising realization while riding the country roads of Georgia last weekend: this is not my first real bike and I may actually have been a cyclist at a much earlier point in life than I’ve been giving myself credit for. In fact, when I think back to the noteworthy bikes I have pedaled in my 36 years, they each conjure up distinct memories and eras and were as much a part of my life as the one I have now.
My first bike meant freedom. It was a powder blue Schwinn 10-speed and it awaited me in the living room one Christmas morning. I remember the moment I looked back to see my dad not holding onto the seat to help me balance as he had done so many times that day, but rather standing in the street some 50 yards behind me smiling proudly. In that moment I knew I could do anything. And then I was unstoppable. My universe expanded exponentially on those two wheels and some of my favorite childhood memories involve all-day summer cycling adventures with my older brother Sean.
That blue 10-speed met my needs for several years, transporting me to and from friends’ houses, shuttling me back and forth to junior high, keeping me connected to the world beyond my neighborhood. When it eventually sold at a garage sale years later, I was sad to see it go but comforted in the fact that it was now another young girl’s first bike. I hope it gave her the same wind-in-her-hair-freedom that it gave me for so many years.
High school meant a driver’s license and borrowing the family minivan or catching a ride with friends. I may have even been too cool to ride a bike, it’s possible. But before long I was off to college at the University of California, Davis, which I believe has more bicycles per capita than cars - no, really – and I soon found myself back on two wheels. I can’t remember exactly where I got the hybrid bicycle I rode throughout my college years. It may have been a hand-me-down from my older brother. It may have been a purchase from another student. I’m not sure. What I do remember though, is that I immediately needed to purchase fenders for it so I wouldn’t get the famous “freshman stripe” on rainy days.
That college hybrid got me to and from class, to and from parties, to and from rugby practice and to and from my job at the UC Davis Hog Barn. On weekend afternoons I would often ride it to a quiet corner of the campus arboretum and read for hours in the shade. And just like I’m not sure how the hybrid came into my life, I’m not exactly sure how it went out of my life. I may have sold it to another student. I may have given it to my younger brother. I don’t remember a distinct parting of ways.
Shortly after college I found myself riding a rusty black cruiser in Noceto, Italy, where I was working for a racehorse trainer. That bike was older than I was and I’m sure it had stories to tell. I mostly used it to commute back and forth between one end of the farm where I lived in an apartment and the other end of the farm where the horses lived in a stable. My most memorable experience with the rusty black cruiser was on a warm Saturday evening in July when I went out dancing with friends. Knowing the main gates would be locked before I got home - meaning I’d have to walk the ¾ mile back to my apartment in the dark - I stashed the bike in some bushes just inside the gates. When my friends dropped me off in the wee hours of the morning, I climbed the gates and rode that old bike back home. I rode barefoot, on a dusty road in Italy, under the watchful eye of a very full moon.
Throughout my late 20s and early 30s I remained mostly bikeless. From time to time I’d borrow a bike from a friend and, living in Seattle, it seemed like an available bike was never more than a few degrees of separation away. I often saw spandex-wearing cyclists zoom past me when I was out for a long run on the Burke-Gilman Trail, but I never anticipated that I would one day join their ranks. And then I did.
My current bike, the one I purchased 73 days ago, is the one I’m crediting with making me a cyclist. At least one of the spandex-wearing kind. Her name is Luna Bella Solstice - yes, she has a name – and she is a Specialized Secteur Sport. I never imagined myself calling a bike ‘beautiful’, but she is. She’s light and fast and graceful. And beautiful. And with this beautiful bike I am training for the La Bella Preme Women’s Cycling Challenge. In fact, this event is the reason I bought this bike and the reason I became a cyclist.
La Bella Preme is an event designed by women cyclists, for women cyclists. It’s about being strong and elegant, fierce and feminine. The emphasis on teamwork and camaraderie make this the perfect venue to attempt my longest and hilliest ride yet. La Bella Preme takes place on Saturday, June 1, in Malibu, CA and starts and ends at Triunfo Creek Vineyards. I’m not sure if I’m more excited about the riding or about the catered dinner and wine that will follow. There are three routes to choose from – 11 miles, 31 miles, 63 miles – and I’ve chosen the longest one. Luna Bella Solstice and I are up for the challenge.
I know not where my cycling journey will lead me after La Bella Preme. And I’m starting to realize that it doesn’t really matter whether I’ve been a cyclist for 73 days or whether I’ve been a cyclist ever since that Christmas morning so many years ago when my dad first let go of the seat and set me free on my powder blue 10-speed. What matters most is that I find freedom and joy through riding and I plan to chase that wind-in-my-hair freedom for as long as my legs will let me. My name is Suzanne Mooney and I am and was a cyclist.
About Suzanne Mooney
Suzanne Mooney is a Fundraising Consultant at Event 360, where she and her colleagues use events to help non-profit organizations make the world a better place. When she’s not riding her new bike you can usually find Suzanne training for a marathon or spending time with her husband and two geriatric dogs. A recent transplant to Savannah, GA, Suzanne is having fun practicing her Southern accent and exploring her new city. She’s excited to be heading back to the west coast very soon to participate in La Bella Preme and she’d love to have you join her. Click here to send Suzanne an email or visit www.labellapreme.com for more information or to register.