In March 2016 my teammate Elizabeth Reeder and headed to South Africa to take on one of the most difficult mountain bike 8-day stage races in the world: Absa Cape Epic . We’re challenged ourselves to feel that freedom, that conquering something huge on a bike provides. And, while had the opportunity to help share bikes and bring a sense of freedom to women, children and families, everywhere.
Why did we do all of this?
Because bikes make us feel powerful. Because, regardless of what’s going on in our professional or personal worlds, our bicycles remain the place where we make the rules, and where our perceptions of what we can conquer are the only limitations on our ability to achieve. This liberation – to go forth bravely wherever our spirits will carry us – is one that we know bonds us to other women in our cycling communities and beyond; the freedom of spinning on two wheels with wind in our hair is undeniable, whether we’re rolling to the grocery store, or into the mountains to do intervals. And yet we recognize that the way that we’re able to enjoy the freedom of a bicycle is a privileged one; we lie on one end of the cycling spectrum, where riding bikes offer opportunities for adventure and personal success.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lie grassroots efforts to connect less fortunate women with bicycles to empower and inspire them. The Treepreneur programs sponsored by Qhubeka + World Bicycle Relief are among these efforts in South Africa, and there are countless more here in the United States. For the women involved in these programs, growing trees and trading community services for bicycles offer them the freedom to access better education, eco-commerce, natural resources and reliable transportation that better the lives of themselves and their communities. This is freedom on two wheels, and eventually adventure and personal success as well.
By documenting and illustrating our training, preparation and competitive racing experience for the Absa Cape Epic over broad, yet accessible media channels, we aimed to inspire women across the world to do the things they perceive are unachievable. And, by connecting our Cape Epic experience to projects that empower women through bicycles, we hoped to illustrate that by being diligent and dedicated to the mission of bicycles, by enjoying individual freedom bicycles offer, we’re enabled to provide strength and inspiration to women, worldwide. We’re part of something much larger than ourselves. Competing in the Cape Epic was a large mission, and we aimed to make it even larger; if freedom is cyclical, we hoped to set the wheels turning.
With the overwhelming support of cycling industry sponsors Trek Bikes, Oakley, SRam, Skratch Labs, Qhubeka and World Bicycle Relief, we believe we succeeded in demonstrating that – as empowered women in the world, with bicycles as tools, we are closer than we know. To see, and learn more view the video and read the story of this incredible project – called “Closer than we Know.”