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Beautiful by Bike

Beautiful by Bike is a series of autobiographical blog posts and interviews with women and girls on how a bike in the past or present has made them feel vibrant, strong, and beautiful. Would you like to share your own story here? Send us a note with "Beautiful by Bike" in the headline to





Interview with Michelle and Antonia Molina by Melissa Balmer

Image: Kirk Saylin of Saylin Studio. Hair & Makeup: Toni by Michelle Salemi, Michelle's Makeup by Michelle Salemi & Hair by Vanessa Benevanate both of Atlantic Studio. Toni's vintage 1970's bike courtesy of The Bicycle Stand, Michelle's vintage 1970's bike is Melissa's regular ride.

May is National Bike Month, but it's also Mother's Day and this month we are so very pleased to bring you an interview with Michelle Molina and her daughter Antonia. In honor of the upcoming "Vintage Bike + Fashion Show" at BikeFest Michelle and Antonia recently dressed in 70's inspired hippie bohemian wear and jewelry from the super chic local "Twig and Willow" boutique for a photo shoot with the very talented Kirk Saylin to help celebrate Long Beach's love of bicycling and our rich vintage culture.

Michelle Molina and her husband John Molina (CFO of Molina Healthcare) are one of the most dynamic and community committed couples in Long Beach. Michelle has served as the Chief Executive Officer and owner of PeacePartners since its inception in May of 2003. Prior to the creation of PeacePartners, she served as a teacher in grades 4-8 and administrator for the Paramount Unified School District in California for ten years. She has been a PeaceBuilder since 1994 and a PeaceBuilders trainer and curriculum developer since 1998.

Michelle Molina is also managing partner of Millworks, a socially-responsible investment, development, and property management in downtown Long Beach. Their current projects include a South Pine entertainment district restaurant resell and a $60 million adaptive reuse of the former Press Telegram newspaper building and the historic Meeker-Baker building on 2.5 acres of North Pine property. She is a member of HOPA, Historic Old Pine Association, and participates in many North Pine charitable and arts projects.

Daughter Antonia Molina is the reigning Miss Teen Long Beach and will be attending Orange County School of the Performing Arts this fall with a focus on creative writing.

The entire Molina family embodies a wonderful spirit of active living and demonstrate regularly how easily the bike can be utilized for fun, errands and exercise.

MB:  Antonia why do you think having May as "National Bike Month" and special events like May 11th’s “BikeFest” celebrated here in Long Beach are important to engaging people in a bike-friendly and active living conversation.

Antonia:  My favorite part of where I'm from is the fact that for a city of this size, it's such a tightly woven community and I love that. The more we inform people about how bike-friendly the city is, the more likely is it that someone will go, "Hey, I need to go to ____, and its only this far away, and there's bike paths and bike lanes, and it's better for the environment and my health, so I should ride my bike!" People sometimes assume that riding your bike around is a bigger hassle than it actually is.

MB: Antonia in your role as the new Miss Teen Long Beach what message would you like to share with fellow teens in your new leadership role?

Antonia: The biggest thing I think young girls can do is to stop being so judgmental towards one another! So many teens are afraid to be who they are because of all the negativity that comes with being yourself. They tell us constantly to express ourselves and to not be afraid of people that tease you, but it's so much harder than they make it out to be. I guess that's the biggest thing I'd like to teach people. Beauty comes in every shape and size and color. 

MB: Antonia tell us about your current bike and your favorite places to ride with your family & friends.

Antonia:  I have a navy blue Cafe 8 by Felt Bicycles. Just this past weekend a friend and I rode to Shoreline Village-- according to MapQuest that's 4.36 miles one way.  With my family, we ride to Mom's Cafe at Mother's Beach on Sundays for breakfast.

MB: Michelle you are a woman who wears many hats! You’re a wife, mother, the CEO and owner of PeacePartners and Managing Partner of Millworks and many philanthropic endeavors. How does your own commitment to active living for yourself personally help you stay grounded and healthy with such a busy schedule?

Michelle: I could wax poetically here about the mind/body connection, however, this is a simple example of the laws of physics.  Bodies in motion; stay in motion…bodies at rest; stay at rest.  I have a lot of energy and I owe that in large part to my physical movement.  I thank Lisa and Casey Kammel at Executive Fitness for that.  And once you feel you are capable of a higher level of physical activity, you try a lot more adventure.  We kayak, paddle board, bike and hike as a family, and my  son and I add indoor rock climbing/zipline, ice and roller skating and camping as the "adventure" members of the family.

MB: Michelle enjoy riding your bike locally with your children – how does this help you model both good active living behavior as well as being a good steward in the community?

Michelle: When the kids were little we had a bike trailer, as they grew up we had a trail-a-bike for Giovanni and Toni was on her own, so it was something we experienced as "going on a bike ride".  Now that we are all mobile, we still do that, but have added the commuter aspect.  Giovanni actually has two bikes; a motocross bike for fun, school and stunts, and a single speed/fixed gear that he uses for training and junior lifeguards.  It has bright orange handle tape and purple pedals…that says a lot about who he is.  Watch out Long Beach.

John and I ride together a lot also.  In the last year we both moved from beach cruisers to Electra Townies. Getting used to the control you have with multiple gears and hand breaks has been a dream for us as commuter cyclists.  We certainly take a "ride" still, but we consider the potential to ride each place we go.  We have enjoyed riding to Flugtag, Rose Park Blue Grass Festival, Grand Prix among others, but always use our bikes to go to parties or dinner on the Peninsula or to the Shore without question. Saves parking spots, get exercise and fresh air…win-win.

I assure you we do not set out to be good stewards or role models, that is just how we live.

MB: Michelle Recently Molina Healthcare brought on Olympic Cyclist Tony Cruz to be its Health Ambassador. A little bird told me you played a role in bringing this about – can you share with us why Tony is the perfect role model for Molina?

Michelle: Tony was the perfect person to lead the health charge at Molina.  There were already wellness initiatives in place being lead by Mario and John with a gym going in at Molina Center and yoga and Zumba classes already waiting list-full.  Mario is an avid runner and John rides his bike to work often, so the vision and priority was in place.  Having Tony on board to coordinate all of that was key.  He is building new partnerships, helping coordinate programming and collecting data.  He practices what he preaches, has a approachable spirit and has made many friends at Molina already.  I am happy to admit to being the connector…I am proud to possess that skill!

MB: Sadly we live in an era of a sedentary disease pandemic in our country with experts proclaiming that the youngest generation won't live as long as their parents. 40% of trips we make in the U.S. are under two miles - as very easy distance to travel by bike. If you had a magic wand and could create a dream campaign to get people biking and walking to be healthier what would you do? What would you say? And how would you get the word out.

Michelle: Setting an example is a start.  Ride when you can; save money and your heart.  Educate people both formally and informally about logistics, safety and community about biking and walking.  Advocate for walkability and bikeability with our city leaders.  And lastly, encourage others to join the cause.  Lastly, there are lots of great bike organizations in town, the more they can work together with a common agenda and vision, the easier this work will be!

About Our Photographer Kirk Saylin

Making great images for clients has been Kirk's passion since 1993. He attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and has worked for such clients as Nissan, Infiniti, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Dodge, Cleveland Golf, Samsun and Callaway, as well as many others. Articles have been published on his work in PDN online and his work has appeared in Communication Arts. When not on location Kirk works out of his 5000+ square foot studio facility on Pine Ave. in Downtown Long Beach. Find out more about him and his work at

A Red Bike - by Krista Leaders


I wanted a red bike more than anything in the world for my 5th birthday. So on a summer day in July of 1971 I was given a beautiful, red, Schwinn Stingray bike with big handlebars, chrome fenders, black "banana" seat with a silver stripe down the middle and a "sissy bar." The front tire had a brick pattern and the rear tire was a wide slick tread. This bike was a no frills bike, I wasn’t having anything to do with flowers or pink or tassels.  The bike was way too big for me, but I didn't care, it was mine and I was going to learn how to ride it. My dad took me out on the sidewalk, steadied me and then ran behind me countless times until I was able to ride; training wheels were not an option.  I must have fallen a hundred times before I rode it down the street. That single gift changed the trajectory of my life more than any other. On my Stingray I was able to go farther, faster, and be more brave and confident. In a neighborhood of boys and at a time when Evel Kneivel was our hero and BMX was just beginning I learned to be a daredevil on my Stingray. It was only a few years before I had the bike going off jumps, and doing wheelies.

My bike was the center of my world.

By the time I got to junior high I had outgrown my Stingray and was ready to move up in the biking world. I had to have a Schwinn Varsity with a rack to carry my books. I scraped and saved and begged and pleaded and finally got a used Schwinn Varsity from a local bike shop. I had found a new love, my 10 speed. I rode it everywhere; to school, the library, friend's houses, the beach, around the block a million times, to my old neighborhood across town, there was nowhere too far. So it went for rest of my adolescence. My bike was my transportation. If I wanted to go somewhere I went by bike. I rode on hot days, cold days, rainy days and at night. This continued until I graduated from high school and went through every teenager’s rite of passage in 1984 and bought my first car. Over the next several years as I was forced to go farther for school and jobs, my bike sat in the garage neglected. I still felt I should be riding it though. Periodically I would take it out, but not as often. Then one day my younger brother, hot rodding in the driveway in his car, skidded into my Schwinn Varsity and bent the frame. I was angry and devastated.  Now what do I do? I went on a quest for a new bike. What I settled on was a rugged, red Univega Mountain Bike with knobby tires and 18 gears. It was awesome until I crashed it on a dirt road, over the handlebars and into the stream I went. I bent the forks, the rim and popped the tire.  The bike was never quite the same after I fixed it, so I sold it and moved onto a newer, sleeker more agile mountain bike.

Over the years I dabbled in mountain biking, riding for the adventure and reliving my daredevil days as a child.  My life got busy, responsible, and overbooked and my bike got hung up in the garage.  It hung there until I had enough of a busy, responsible and overbooked life.  My days of mountain biking were over so I decided to get a new bike.  I thought long and hard about what type I wanted.  Did I want a beach cruiser? Hybrid? Road?  How did I see myself as a bike rider?  How far did I want to go?  I always thought bike touring would be fun.  After much thought I decided I wanted to go far, a road bike was what I wanted.  I plunked my money down on a Giant Avail road bike, red and black.  When I road it for the first time I felt like I had just been put behind the wheel of a sports car.  It was swift, agile, and light and the most comfortable bike I had ever ridden.  I bought it to be a recreational bike rider.  Little did I know, six months later I would become a bike commuter.

A year ago I sold my car and have been on my bike ever since. Surprisingly, it was an easy decision. The car at the time was an unnecessary financial burden and could be used to pay off some debt. When things are meant to be they happen without effort. A few days after deciding to sell the car, a coworker was driving it away and I was on my way to being a bike commuter.

Interestingly, when I told people what I was going to do, the one question I was asked the most was "What if it rains?" I thought it was such a strange question since I live in Southern California where rain is not the dominant weather condition. Nobody asked about 100 degree and humid days, fog, 37 degree morning commutes, or inattentive drivers. 

So for the past year I have been on the bike logging nearly 1800 miles commuting.  I have learned how to get groceries (pannier bags are awesome). I can get 30 pounds of dog food and a case of cat food (a trailer is a miracle).  I ride to work, doctor appointments, errands, and just for the fun of it. People have offered to pick me up or let me use their car and most times I politely decline the offer.  I will not be a fair weather bike rider or let distance define my world.  This is what I have chosen to do and I will learn how to adapt. 

This past year has been an adventure in trying on a new life and it seems to fit pretty well.

Krista Leaders has been mostly car-free since November 22, 2011.  She lives and works in Long Beach, CA. as a Project Manager for the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, a bike-friendly business district. She recently became a League of American Bicyclists, LCI Cycling Instructor as a scholarship recipient from Women on Bikes.