Thanks in part to the pandemic, cycling has become more popular than ever, opening up the sport to new riders in a big way. And for good reason! It’s no surprise that riding a bike offers major health benefits: research shows that regular aerobic exercise like cycling can improve your heart health, boost your mood and even extend your life. Not to mention, cycling allows you to cultivate fun adventures and challenge your body in new ways. But riding also taps into your freedom of expression, whether that’s through the surface — road, trail, gravel — you choose to grind, or via the awesome gear you rock while you’re in the saddle.
Bottom line: Every rider has their own unique story, and every new cyclist helps diversify and bring welcome individual style to the biking community. In partnership with goodr, the affordable sunglasses brand that creates polarized, non-slip shades that are perfect for biking, we spoke with three inspiring bike ambassadors of the brand about how cycling became an integral part of their lives — and how they flaunt their personal style during each and every ride.
Biking wasn’t always Celesia Smith’s passion. Truthfully, she had not done much riding since elementary school, when she regularly competed in, and lost, elementary school bike rodeos. Instead, the San Antonio native grew up running, and in college was a member of the cross-country and track teams at the University of Texas at Austin. But the sport lost its luster for Smith, and she ultimately quit the team. The only problem? “I felt like my identity had been lost because I had been an athlete my whole life,” says Smith.
Looking for a way to fill the void, Smith applied to the Texas 4000, a leadership development program open only to UT students whose cornerstone event is a cross-county bike ride. She was accepted and embarked on a 70-day, 4,000-mile cycling trip through the lower 48 states to raise funds for people battling cancer. The experience taught Smith about the power of harnessing your individuality. During the trip, she wore a different pair of goodr sunglasses every day as a way to showcase her personal style, radiate her endless source of energy, and brighten up the muted cycling gear all Texas 4000 riders have to wear.
“I learned so much about my teammates on the ride, just being a part of the community,” says Smith. The 22-member team included riders of varying abilities and from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The ride through the Rockies was especially empowering, she says. “We really valued riding together. We had a general rule that if someone started to fall behind, they would call ‘gap’, and we would slow down, reset the pace, and ride together, ”she says. “We used all of our individual perspectives, experiences, and strengths to get up that mountain.”
As Celesia looks to her next cycling adventure, which she hopes will be a NY-based bike-packing trip with friends, she’s sure about one thing: “Bike rodeos have nothing on me now.”
Adina Crawford can not think of a time when cycling was not a part of her life. One of her fondest memories is her 13th birthday, when her father gave her a blue Raleigh 10-speed, a present that brought her much joy.
Crawford, who is an ambassador for Black Girls Do Bike, currently rides a Trek Domane she calls “The Purple People Eater,” but the Maryland resident definitely has not let go of the happiness that cycling brought her all those years ago.
“What I love the most is that you can see things more on a bike than you can in a car,” says Crawford, who uses her time on two wheels to declutter her brain and recharge. “You can stop and look at the daylilies on the side of the road, see Mother Nature, and breathe in the fresh air. You have so many options when you’re on a bike. ”
Cycling also gives her the space to show up unapologetically as herself, Crawford says, helping to dispel the image of what cyclists are supposed to look like. Showing off her personal style is important. That means bright, comfy gear that always matches, from her helmet to her jersey to her goodr sunnies (She has at least 32 pairs!). “I just think color shows your energy,” says Crawford, who works for a local law enforcement agency and is also a yogi and avid runner. “I feel when I wear dark colors, they do not expose all of my splendor. When I wear color, I am showing you all of my energy. ”
Crawford hopes this vigor is contagious and will inspire other women to take up cycling so they can enjoy the benefits of friendship and togetherness.
“I found that when I started building a mini-community, that other friends told other friends that told others, and then we all became like this family,” says Crawford. Her ultimate goal is getting new bikers — regardless of their shape, size, or what they look like — to feel comfortable taking up the sport. “When you start riding a bike and you become consistent, you are a cyclist,” she says.
Whether cycling around the neighborhood with friends or biking to high school each day, Mark Yanagisawa loved cycling when he was growing up. But when he went off to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, riding fell by the wayside. A mechanical engineering major who was also on the swim team, he was so busy that he just did not have time. After graduation, he moved to Philadelphia, and — in search of a sport that would get him outside — circled back to biking.
“I bought a single-speed, and started riding,” says Yanagisawa. From there he hooked up with a few riding groups in the city, quickly upgraded to a road bike, and started entering triathlons. “And then I graduated to more gravel, riding long distances just for the fun of it,” he says.
Now Yanagisawa is totally immersed in the biking culture: He leads experienced and novice group rides for the Philly Bike Expo and is also part owner of the bike shop Paper Trail Bike Café, which hosts the popular Wednesday evening Gravel Espresso Ride. And he still manages to get out for his own personal joy rides to the farmlands on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
As his cycling skills grew, so did his sense of style. “I like to stand out,” says Yanagisawa. Being visible and safe plays a role, since it’s vital to make sure cars can see you on the road. For Yanagisawa, that means making his way along various Philadelphia trails in his signature pink helmet, bright kits, and cool colored socks. “I just like the brighter, louder summer-y type of colors,” he says.
At the end of the day, Yanagisawa says, cycling is all about having like-minded people to chat with and to connect with. “It’s the diversity of people, the shapes, size, color, and skill background, that is really inspiring,” he says of his close-knit cycling community.