Paula from Michigan, USA, has become our REID Rider of the Month for January on our Hercules Fat Bike after catching our eye on Instagram! We caught up with Paula, to find out a little bit more about her and her bike...
Introduce yourself… (A bit about yourself, where you’re from etc)
Greetings from Michigan, USA, everyone! My name is Paula, and I have lived in “the middle of the mitten” for almost eight years. Just over two years ago, I began biking again. At first, road cycling, and then back to the woods and trails for the majority of last year.
A bike ride is something I always look forward to doing. Those familiar “steps in biking” of preparing my bike, planning a route, and packing gear are always a mixture of calm and excitement. Some of what I love most about being on a bike, is that it can take me anywhere, it can be time for deep thoughts or thinking about nothing at all, and there is always a new challenge or something to learn.
Biking time is also my listening time to my heart, time set aside to reflect on the past, be in the present moment, and to imagine what may be ahead of me. As I learn to be some form of a cyclist, I write about my biking adventures while describing loss, hope, and love, with a position that grief is not a problem to be solved, but something that is a part of me. I’m not about telling others how to feel or what to do, just willing to share my story wrapped up in a biking burrito with a motto of, “Don’t judge. Don’t fix. Just read.”
I have always lived in the US, and hope to someday see all 50 states, but so far, I have only visited less than half of them! My international adventures have been very few, but most recently in 2017, I learned how to surf in Costa Rica. Instead of the roads, I was riding waves, and I will always remember the first time standing up on my surfboard.
When travelling, the most pleasant way for me to see a new place is always on a bike, to find local favorite foods, to closely experience surroundings, or to stop at any point along the way and take a picture. Chicago, Illinois, is my second hometown, it holds special memories, and I return as often as I can. Nothing compares to riding a bike through the city and on the Chicago Lakefront Trail.
When and how did you get into bike riding?
My bike riding history may be a bit lengthy to tell, but I would like to share it with you.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh is known for its hilly landscape, so it was the perfect place to fall in love with cycling and especially mountain biking. I can still remember my first 10-speed bike from the early 1980s! It had those metal pedals with shin-sheering teeth that would scrape and draw blood, clunky shifting was loud and sounded like a manual typewriter. If I weren’t on my roller skates, I would be on my bike, zipping around suburban streets with the wind whipping through my hair.
Fast-forward to the 1990s, after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University, I began my career as a graphic designer in Pittsburgh. At that time, I also bought my first mountain bike and was very proud to have a shock fork, click-shifters, and toe covers. My hands were so sore from squeezing its handlebars for dear-life on those first rocky descents! I rode with friends who were much more experienced, telling myself, “no matter what, just keep pedaling,” trying to keep up.
Then, I met my future husband, Jon. He was the sharp-dressed, Chicago-based printing salesman for an annual report I was a designing. During our long-distance romance, we discovered we both enjoyed mountain bike riding, so it became a fun part of our relationship. Once engaged, I moved to Chicago where we made a life together, biked in the city, and took weekend trips up north to ride at Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin. Those first few years together were some of the most happy, memorable years of my life so far. In 2000, unfortunately, I had a spine injury from a mountain biking accident, so I was off of my bike for about a year. Then we chose to start a family, moved for his new work to a different state, and I became a stay-at-home-mom with our two children. Our mountain biking together was put on hold, and my bike was stored in the garage, collecting dust behind the lawnmower.
Our lives went along, always in a rollercoaster-fashion, until everything came to a crashing stop. Suddenly, beginning in 2013, my husband had stage-4 cancer. Our entire focus was on his treatment and belief that he would beat it. In 2015, matters became more complicated when I was diagnosed with DCIS, a form of breast cancer. I had surgery and radiation treatments that summer. As a part of my recovery, I began to exercise with walking, then running and weights. His chemo treatments continued, and the uncertainty of my husband’s outcome still remained.
My husband-partner of over 20 years died in October of 2016, after a nearly four-year fight with cancer. When he died, our family’s whole world changed without him here. I had no idea how to go forward, but found myself at the gym most days and began spin classes a couple times a week. Being on a bike again brought back to me those wonderful memories of mountain bike riding from years ago.
After months of spin classes, on a crisp, blue-sky day in February of 2017, I made a decision. From the garage, I brought my nearly 25-year-old mountain bike out into the sunlight. It had two flat tires and I couldn’t get the air compressor to work, but I decided that day to be a cyclist. The details of my decision were unknown to me, but all I could think about was being outside on a bike and going somewhere, the dream of it restored and freed me, but in reality I knew it also meant a lot more sweat and hard work.
I was not confident enough to return to the trails, so instead, I started riding my original mountain bike on local country roads. After a 40-mile road adventure one day, it was time to switch to a touring bike, better suited for the road. In early spring, after helpful advice, I bought a used touring bike, and in 2017, rode over 1,200 miles in Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. During this time, I also found a supportive grief community and began to write. Through very sad days, biking was a kindness to myself and helped me to see new places, feel lighter, and be who I am now after loss.
Last year, road cycling continued, I joined a bike shop team, and competed in my first-ever triathlon. In early summer, I finally returned to the trails with a ladies mountain bike group and also rode with more bike shops. The people I have met and those I ride with inspire me, and I appreciate their encouragement to keep biking. There have been plenty of falls and slips, and I’m certainly not the fastest or an expert at anything, but I like knowing that I always have something new to learn.
And now, Hercules changes everything in 2019. I find myself gushing about my Reid bike on social media because of how much fun I am having and what a great riding experience it has been so far. My brand new bike has given me a huge boost of feeling stronger and the courage to do so much more on the trails. After each ride, all I’m thinking about is my next one, trying to decide and plan which trail or adventure to do next. What can Hercules and I do? I love imagining the possibilities!
So how did you come across Reid and why the Hercules?
Hercules was an early Christmas present in mid-December last year, chosen by someone who I ride with most often. This person knew I wanted to continue to ride in the winter months, and that a Fat Bike would be perfect for gravel, trails, and snowy conditions here. When I got on my new bike for the first time, seeing its name, instantly I shouted out loud, “Hercules!” and pictured in my mind returning to difficult trails and how this bike will take my riding to the next level. Hercules was chosen for me because it has a sleek, alloy-frame design that fits my body, and I can comfortably stand over its frame. I need to say, for being such a “fat bike,” it is surprisingly very light in weight, which has also been great for me to manoeuvre and carry.
Is this your first Fat Bike?
Hercules is my first Fat Bike, and I could not have imagined receiving a more fabulous Christmas gift! Everything about this bike, from its bright-green color to the sound of its precision-shifting, makes me happy. The suspension from the tires is incredible, even surpassing a full-suspension bike I ride, and the 4-inch tire-width gives solid control and a truly reliable grip. Hercules has changed my point of view about difficulty in any type of trail obstacle. If there is a log across the path, no problem, Hercules and I roll right over it!
So, how has Hercules treated you?
Oh my, I just can’t stop smiling! Hercules is a huge confidence builder. My biking partner says, with Hercules I have become fearless! I will say, the way I take on plank bridges, rocky descents, and sand has completely changed. I just ride through with very little hesitation, and think to myself, if I can do this, I can do other things that challenge me. I still have so much to learn, and I always look forward to my next opportunity to improve my riding skills with Hercules.
What and where have you been with it?
My first ride with Hercules was a short, 4-mile local route, hitting a checklist of riding scenarios to test-out shifting, my weight distribution, and to discover what various terrain feels like with a Fat Bike. Hercules passed the “curb test” with ease by rolling up and over with barely a pause, glided along some plank bridges, and chiseled through wintered field brush. My next 8-mile ride at Pickney State Recreation Area was a bit more challenging, with rocks, roots, climbs, and drops. I even got my first air, but there was also some walking up a few stubborn hills, though!
The longest ride, so far, has been 15 miles, including trails and gravel roads. This month, I will be returning to some of my favorite Michigan parks for a “re-do” with Hercules. I hope to improve mostly on my shifting and climbing abilities, and gradually add speed on descents with less braking. My overall goal with Hercules is to keep increasing confidence and skills as I ride through the winter, and as conditions permit, I will do that by first going back to familiar trails and then exploring new ones.
Do you have any other future adventures planned?
Along with my children, cycling, exercise, and writing gives me purpose, connects me to meaningful communities, and moves me forward in an unknown future without my husband-partner. It is most important to me this year to keep evolving as an athlete and as a writer, staying healthy both physically and emotionally. Always a work in progress, I anticipate future cycling and especially more mountain bike riding. It’s no secret that I have now chosen to ride Hercules all-year-round!
Starting this month, I will also begin triathlon training to prepare for a local race in June. In February, I will celebrate a “milestone birthday,” so no pressure to do something epic to mark that occasion, right? A birthday-themed adventure has yet to be formed, but most likely it will be on a bike. Last year, I had planned to begin a 4-year effort to ride the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile cycling route from Florida to Maine, through a total of 15 states in the US. So far, I have only completed a tiny section in Maine, which is where I was first inspired to do it. A big accomplishment in 2019 will be a trip east to begin a portion of the ECG. I will keep you updated in a few months about this goal and the details of its development.
Finally, what advice would you give to those who have never been on a biking adventure or even a bike?
Biking can begin at any point of your own life’s journey. It is important to choose a bike best-suited for your ability and what you would like to do. First, close your eyes, and see yourself riding a Reid bike! What kind of biking would you like to do? Where would you like to go? If making an ascent of Mont Ventoux pops in to your head, fully imagine your surroundings, the views, every detail from what you’re wearing to your lungs and legs burning while making that challenging climb.
Need a biking adventure idea? Look around you to find people who inspire you, places that excite you, or find a personal motivation or charity. Envision every detail, stay in every moment, and allow it to take shape. Ask your biking community for help to figure out how to define your goal, make a plan, and consider what you may need. Do not hesitate to create your vision, share your idea, or ask any question. You could be in your neighborhood or halfway around the world, and you will always find others who love biking.
Believe in "bike magic". Bike magic is that unexpected something special that can happen any time you ride a bike. It could be finding a feather, seeing a rainbow, or having the perfect cup of coffee after your ride. Whether you follow a path, or make one of your own, best wishes for your every route and may it always be full of bike magic. ~Paula
Check out Paula riding the Hercules!
Take a closer look at the Hercules...
- High spec hydrofromed tubing and fork with huge tyre clearance and internal headset
- Shimano 24-speed gearing and powerful Tektro mechanical disc brakes
- Kenda Juggernaut Sport tyres help you float over obstacles
- 6061 Hydro-formed alloy frame
- Lifetime frame and fork warranty for your peace of mind, and one year on non-consumable parts