“It was hard and I loved every minute of it,” said Amanda Coker, the new holder of the World Record for the greatest distance cycled in a year by a man or a woman. Coker stood at the podium at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg and spoke to the crowd at the Bike/Walk Tampa Bay Fall 2017 Summit. She was beaming. “It’s about overcoming challenges every day.” Bike/Walk Tampa Bay (BWTB) honored Coker at the Fall Summit to celebrate her astounding accomplishments. The Tampa Bay region is lucky to have someone like her leading the way for bicyclists and demonstrating the vast potential of the human spirit to inspire all of us.
At just 24 years old, Coker has overcome multiple health challenges. Ian Dille’s Bicycling.com article, Is Amanda Coker for real? describes these challenges in vivid detail. Before starting her first year of school on a bicycle scholarship to Fort Lewis College, one of the top collegiate cycling programs in the country, doctors discovered a hole in the upper left chamber of her heart that would require open heart surgery. After she recovered, Coker got back on her bicycle, but a near-tragedy would necessitate yet another recovery when she was hit by a driver and thrown 100 feet. It was 2011 and Coker was riding with her father, Randy, in Clayton, North Carolina, just three miles from their home at the time. A distracted driver hit them, leaving both with a broken back, and, more painful still, leaving young Amanda with a traumatic brain injury.
The driver was cited for an illegal pass and did not face charges.
Randy, Amanda, and her mother, Donna, moved to Florida in 2014, and Amanda was interested in getting on a bike again sooner than imagined. In 2015 she began planning a cross-country bicycling trip with her father from Florida to California. Randy, still recovering from his back injury after multiple surgeries, drove behind her in a scooter he’d lit up like a Christmas tree to ensure his daughter’s visibility. Amanda wanted to complete the cross-county ride to face her fear of bicycling after the crash that nearly took her life.
And complete it she did.
Between May 15, 2016 and May, 14, 2017, Coker rode 86,573.2 miles (139,326.34 km), the greatest distance ever cycled in a year by a man or a woman. The record was verified by the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA). Amanda also won the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Challenge for 2017 and, as our BWTB Strava Bicycling Club undertook the National Bike Challenge in Tampa Bay, the mile count of our most dedicated member pushed us to ride harder.
After Coker received her award at the BWTB Fall Summit, she was asked to say a few words. She raised her fist in the air when applause erupted from the audience. “This feels like a community,” she said, gesturing toward the room. “Thank you, Tampa, for welcoming me to the community.” When she spoke about her accomplishments, she said that she was inspired to keep going by family, friends, and anyone who was inspired by her. When asked how she maintains the sort of mindset necessary to accomplish such tremendous and physically demanding challenges, she said “I would tell myself, you’re riding a bicycle, hush your thoughts and keep pedaling. You have a chance to ride your bike, so just do it.”