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The Cyclist I Am and Was - by Suzanne Mooney

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 for more information or to register. 


It's Just Like Riding a Bike by Terri Ryder

Image: Adrenalinapura/

That phrase never quite fit for me.  It is supposed to mean that you have never lost an acquired skill and that reclaiming it will be as easy as “riding a bike.”  Riding a bike, for me, was never like “riding a bike”.  I struggled.

I struggled the first time as a child.  I wasn’t (nor am I now) particularly coordinated.  I wanted to ride a bike, desperately.  I saw my playmates riding and longed to join them.  I had a freakishly coordinated friend who was riding a unicycle while I still had training wheels. I wanted to accomplish that childhood rights of passage.  But it didn’t happen as quickly as I thought it should.  My father ran along side of me, coaching me with encouraging words.  I felt supported, but not capable. After considerable time and practice, I eventually learned to ride my bike.

I started to ride again about three years ago, many, many years later.  When I first got back on the bike, I told myself that it’s “just like riding a bike”—except it still wasn’t.  I was shaky, fell off, ran into things.  I bought bandaids. It was like being seven years old all over again, but not in a good way.

As I learned as a child, this was not one of my natural skills.  I decided that I was going to do as much as I could, and not be too hard on myself.  This meant that I walked my bike up too-hard hills and between obstacles, despite what my more coordinated ride-mates might be doing.

The thing that helped me the most was remembering Calvin. 

Calvin was one of one of my young students. Even though he was only 4 years old—he was very wise.  He was a hearty boy, but wasn’t much of a risk-taker.  He was very bright, but not particularly coordinated.  One day, he was watching his classmates play hopscotch and was encouraged to join in.  Try as he might, he didn’t quite have the balance and couldn’t hop on one foot.  As children do, they started pointing this out and started to tease him.  Calvin was also very sensitive and his feelings could get hurt easily. 

Not this time.  

He drew himself up to his full 4 year-old height, widened his stance, placed his hands on his hips and loudly announced, “I can’t do it today, but I WILL!”

Beautiful!  Bravo, Calvin!  I was so proud of him at that moment!  I was also envious.  Why couldn’t I have that same sense of self?  How could I learn (and know deeply) that my limitations of the moment did not define my entire experience or my future?

In the beginning I just took short rides—to my local grocery store, less than a mile away.  Although the distance was short, it defeated me every time—there was that damn hill.  Each time I was determined to conquer it, and each time I got off my bike and walked it to the top.  Eventually I mastered the fear of looking down long enough to shift.  Who knew this would make things so much easier?  After that ground-breaking discovery, I could make that trip easily.   Next it was riding to the beach –a flatter route, but with discouraging headwinds either coming or going.  I checked that box after a while.  The 8-mile trek (each way) to the farmer’s market used to take forever, until I stopped thinking about how far it still was to reach the destination and decided to enjoy the scenery.

On my bike I feel more connected.  I’m more connected to people, because I interact with them on the ride, I even connect with people in cars because I look them in the eye so I know they see me and won’t inadvertently run me over.  I’ m also more connected to my environment.  I’ve never heard anyone talk about the smells.  The smells are amazing!  I know who is having a charcoal fire to cook food from those who have a wood fire for warmth in the fire pits along PCH.  My favorite is discovering which neighbors have jasmine blooming in their yard.  I can tell, just by taking a breath as I ride by.  It is intoxicating!  I know so much more about my neighborhood than I could ever know from the seat of a car.

I borrow a page from Calvin’s book all the time now.  I’d love to report that I’ve become a daredevil on wheels—but I’m not, I never will be.  But I am comfortable riding a bike.  I’ve ridden hundreds of miles.  Riding has become a pleasure, not something to be feared.  I’ve not only gained strength, but also confidence

My bike is a bike, but also a metaphor.  When I am trying something new, or am trying to reclaim past skills, I try not to heap hot coals on myself if I don’t get it right immediately (even though I still secretly hope I will).  Calvin’s lesson comes to me in those moments of fear and frustration.  I widen my stance, put my hands on my hips and tell myself “I can’t today, but I WILL!”

And I do.

About Terri Ryder

Terri has a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from Boston University and a Master’s in Education (EdM) from Harvard University, specializing in risk and prevention for children and youth.  She has completed the League of American Bicyclist's Traffic 101 bike safety course and is an active member of Huntington Beach Bicycle Advocates (HuBBA) and Women on Bikes SoCal. A dynamic and innovative educator she offers private coaching for those with special needs. Terri is collaborating with with Women on Bikes SoCal to create a version of the new "Street Savvy" adult bicycle safety course for tween and teen audiences to be available for spring/summer 2013.