21 women take on 2021 by bicycle

Murals bring attention to bicycle/pedestrian space in Tampa
December 9, 2020
Signal cabinet art increases pedestrian awareness and encourages crosswalk use
February 4, 2021

A Message from Julie Bond, Bike/Walk Tampa Bay’s Program Director

Happy New Year! We begin 2021 by sharing the stories of 21 women who ride bicycles in the Tampa Bay area. During 2020, I logged over 6,000 miles, and crossed paths with many amazing women with diverse backgrounds and of all ages and abilities. For some, riding a bicycle brings freedom, good health, stress relief, and happiness. For others, it represents independence, and serves as a primary mode of transportation for getting to work or school and from one place to another. We know that women are underrepresented as riders and leaders in many aspects of the bicycle movement. As bicycling continues to boom nationwide, one of our goals this year is to encourage more women to ride bicycles. I hope you enjoy the 21 stories that follow, and maybe one will move you to support Bike/Walk Tampa Bay’s safety initiatives, or inspire you to hop on a bicycle and take a ride.


Becky Afonso

Why is bicycling important to you?

I began riding a bicycle as soon as one was handed down to me. I’m the youngest of five and learned to ride on my sister’s bike. I don’t recall my exact age but I did scrape my knee––that I remember. The “freedom” attribute and a real sense of personal/physical accomplishment mean a lot.  Sure, I could drive my car to the post office, but if I ride my bicycle, it becomes a fulfilling adventure of fresh air, exercise, and “git ‘er done.”

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

I’ve had some not so pleasant experiences in bicycle shops.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

Call me.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

When I travel, I bring a bicycle. It’s fun to plan a ride around work travel.


Ali Ankudowich

Why is bicycling important to you?

Bicycling makes me feel more in touch with my environment. I see things in more detail, interact with more things and people being on a bike as opposed to a car, enjoy the natural and built elements of the environment, and can go pretty far distances to get out of my usual sphere. This makes me more aware and connected–travel isn’t just a function to get somewhere but more of an experience in and of itself. Some of these trips have been transformative. I watch places evolve as I pedal; I can get out of a normal travel routine and see unfamiliar places, places I didn’t notice, familiar places in new ways. I feel resourceful figuring out some basic bike mechanics, deciding and navigating a route, preparing for and managing things that may come up like a flat tire or a scraped leg. Biking gives me new perspective and new skills.

In a more everyday way, it is great low impact physical activity to destress and also means I don’t have to set aside time in the gym–my commute or errand trips are my workout (I have the privilege to live near downtown Tampa where I work and can have access to a lot of shops and services). There are also interesting group bonding opportunities through the variety of group rides popping up. Biking in some ways can be more accessible than using a car, in terms of cost, not needing a license to use one, and aspects of basic maintenance.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

I have encountered some instances of gendered harassment on my bike, and I do often have a sense of vigilance when out on my own or out at night as a woman (Leslie Kern’s book Feminist City talks about this vigilance). I also think it’s important to consider an expansive definition of a woman and/or female cyclist since it can encompass a lot of diverse identities and experiences. I have many privileges and unique circumstances that make my experience as both a female and woman-identifying rider different from what others may experience. I have a living arrangement that allows me to afford to live near downtown Tampa where I work, so I had a really manageable Pre-COVID commute. My office building has a shower. I don’t have caregiving responsibilities, so I have a flexible schedule and don’t have other people like kids dependent on me for transport. I live in a place that feels safe to me, so I’m not afraid to go out on my bike alone or at night in my neighborhood. As a white person, I don’t face harassment, violence, or sense of not belonging in public spaces due to my race or ethnicity. Until some recent temporary injuries, I could use a two-wheel upright bike style that is commonly available, which is not an accessible style for everyone (and some people may be using something different from a bike). These are just some examples of how different identities, circumstances, and experiences can intersect; being aware of and recognizing this diversity can help make sure that discussions, spaces, organizations, and actions are inclusive and equitable to address the various issues and needs that accompany this diversity.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

Start with some small trips and ease into it so you can pick up some basics that can make riding more enjoyable without feeling overwhelmed (check out some routes ahead of time on Google Maps, learn how to keep tires properly inflated, and get a pump or locate a repair station to do so, get seat height adjusted properly). There’s lots of info and virtual communities on the internet these days, which can be a great resource. Building relationships with other bikers and folks at your local bike shop can also be a source of info, encouragement, and advocacy–advocacy to make more space for biking in the community and more space for underrepresented folks in biking. Some groups and group rides are specific to people who are often underrepresented in bicycling, which can be a source of support. Trying different things out can help you find something that works for you.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

Pre-COVID, I biked to work and showered in the gym at my office building. Using ultra-portable, no-spill toiletries like bar soap and bar shampoo was helpful. Investing in some gear like a back rack and saddle bag can also make it much easier to transport things with less hassle.


Bari Berger

Why is bicycling important to you?

I started cycling to relieve work stress as an E.R. nurse. When I got a trunk with panniers for my hybrid, I cycled to reduce the carbon footprint. Then an E.R. friend of mine gave me her old Trek with shifters on the down tubes. I took it out to the trail in Dunedin, less than a quarter mile from my house. I had a blast. I finally got up the courage to hook up with one of the local clubs, Suncoast Cycling. After six months of riding weekly, I needed more and the bike I was riding did not fit me so I finally got my own–and the rest is history.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

I’ve been very fortunate as a cyclist to fall into a club and an area that really has not discriminated me based on my sex. I did get initiated on a ride as a newbie by a harmless prank but that was all. Most people just think I’m crazy when they realize I ride more than a few miles. I used to commute to work, which was 25 miles each way, and then shower at the hospital.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

If you’re interested, start slow and motivate yourself with something that interests you. When I first started riding, my end point would be a park or a restaurant, plus the return ride home. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself riding because you love it. I center almost all my vacations around cycling. I can’t imagine a better way to see and hear the world.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

I don’t need a trick to make sure I ride. I ride because I love to ride. I have learned that, if I’m not feeling it that day, then I should not push myself.


Susie Cooke

Why is bicycling important to you?

Bicycling, to me, equals freedom and adventure. On a bike you can explore and see places you’d never even notice in a car. I’ve bike-toured all over the American West, including Alaska, enjoyed bike trips in France, and visited most of our nation’s large national parks on a bike. In the past ten years, my partner and I began cycling the East Coast, doing our own self-supported bike tours in places like the KATY Trail, the Great Allegheny/C&O Canal trails, the Florida Keys, and Maryland’s Eastern shore.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

I began bicycling as an adult in the early 90’s primarily as a way to meet people who liked to be outdoors. I rode with the Tampa Bay Freewheelers back then, but the problem I had with most of the guys in the group was that they just wanted to go fast. I could easily ride the distances but wanted to be able to talk and enjoy my surroundings as I rode. When the Freewheelers disbanded, several of us kept riding together on the weekends. That’s when I realized there was a real need for a bicycle group that encouraged newcomers and enjoyed riding together but at slower, or what I call “social touring,” speeds. This was the birth of the Tampa Bay Sunday Bicyclers. I built a website (tampabaysundaybicycle.blogspot.com), organized a weekly schedule, sent weekly emails, and advertised in the Tampa Bay Times calendar. And people came! My email list now has well over 100 names.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

I suggest finding a meet-up group (like ours) that welcomes new riders. This is where the internet and local bike shops can be great tools. Once you find someone to ride with in an atmosphere that’s comfortable for you, you’ll be encouraged to ride more often. Enter local or weekend bike events. It’s a great way to see new parts of the state and meet more bike-friendly people. Visit local bike trails. Join the Florida Bicycle Association. Sign up to take a ride leader course (no riding involved, but it’s an excellent overall explanation of bicycling laws and riding tips). And keep riding!

What I enjoy most about the Sunday group is teaching new riders (like I once was) how to ride a bike safely in a group and where there are safe places to ride in the Tampa Bay area. It’s so satisfying to watch a new rider come back each week, grow stronger and more confident in their riding skills, and then, before you know it, is buying a new bike and all the gear! I also love discovering and developing new cycling routes. I’m retired, so, since COVID-19, my partner and I have been riding most every day. It’s been such a fun adventure to explore the neighborhoods within 20 miles of the house and then to create new ride routes, linking many of these unique neighborhoods and short bike trails together.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

When it’s summer I ride early in the morning. My “trick” is to have everything organized the night before, including where I want to cycle, so that I can just get up and be ready to ride without having to think too much about it (after I’ve had my cup of coffee that is!!).


Tajuana Cox

Why is bicycling important to you?

Biking is important to me because it brings great joy and freedom––freedom of riding your bike to where you want to go. It’s also a great way to exercise without bodily stress.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

The challenge that I had to face being a female bicyclist is being seen by vehicles and securing my bike from thieves. I now use the bike aisle and ensure that I am seen. I have also bought a very secure lock to lock my bike wherever I go.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

Step out of your comfort zone and see what it’s like to ride a bike and feel freedom in everyday life… you have to find it. It’s joyful and it helps you with stress.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

I use a Fitbit when I ride my bike to challenge myself to ride better each day. I keep track of the calories and miles to help me reach the goals I strive for each day.


Angelina Daetz

Why is bicycling important to you?

Everyone has that sense of new-found freedom at some point in their life. I was four years old, thinking my father was still behind me holding my saddle after having removed my training wheels. Not the case. I was on my own, even though I hadn’t told him to let go. From that point on, riding my bike was a fun way to explore.

As a military brat, I spent most of my childhood in Panama City, Panama, and no matter what season it was for sports, we rode our bikes around the neighborhood, the causeway, or through the hilly trails year-round. The beauty of the bicycle is that you can ride solo, with friends, or make it a family affair.

Simply put, the bicycle allows me to convert bad energy into good energy, or good energy into better energy.

I always had a boy’s mountain bike, thanks Dad, until my early 30’s when I first hit the road on a time-trial bike. My wonderful friend, Gail Lohman, knew I ran marathons for fun and thought I should check out the triathlon scene. I wasn’t opposed to it. That was my first introduction to riding in the road and amping up the speed.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

The only negativity I’ve received from riding my bike has been as an adult. As encouraging as the woman was that introduced me to riding on the road, encountering that same type of female has been few and far in between. I once had a female cyclist, 15 years my senior, involved with stealing my cycling shoe at a local premier multisport event.  To avoid letting my female teammates down (one of them due to have their first child), I rode with one New Balance sneaker and one Mavic cycling shoe…we placed 2nd!

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

As silly as the “do you” thing sounds, it really is about you! It doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, what distance you go, or how fast your travels are—do what you enjoy doing. The moment you allow other riders or non-supporters to dictate the start/end of your ride, you’ve lost your freedom. My advice would be to pay attention to the seasoned riders that see your strengths and weaknesses and are always willing to offer help to you improve. I don’t have much time on a road bike, so I’m still working on being less timid. Stay committed and the confidence will come with time!

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

Still working on finding that “trick” to make it easier to incorporate cycling into my routine. I don’t have many kits yet, so making sure they get laundered right away means I’m that much closer to being prepared to gear up for my next ride!


Pauline Dockins

Why is bicycling important to you?

Cycling is my way of facing adversity. In spring 2019, I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia just weeks after competing in top-tier statewide mountain biking competitions. Continuing to ride my bike helped me face my treatment head-on and I rode even when I didn’t feel well. After my recovery, I took the Team In Training’s Resilience Challenge, raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I road 50 miles on my bike throughout the month of September, Blood Cancer Awareness Month, while fundraising and raising awareness for blood cancers. Blood cancer patients need our support now more than ever in these challenging times.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

Getting the cancer diagnosis was really hard to digest. Being around a community of cyclists really helped me cope. It was a way for me to forget about my condition and enjoy life in the present moment.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

The biggest message I want people to take away from my story is that we can all get through adversity in our lives. During my recovery, I was very open in person and on social media, hoping to encourage others by sharing my story that cycling can be a good escape from the struggles of real life. There is a very real mental health benefit. It doesn’t matter if you’re not feeling at your best––just get out and ride.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

For me, cycling helped me stay focused and made all the difference in my recovery. One of the silver linings were the friendships that were cultivated. I was able to connect with another fellow cyclist who is also a leukemia survivor and has been a huge support system for me. In return, I would like to return support for anyone else going through adversity.


Lorraine Duffy Suarez

Why is bicycling important to you?

I am a later in life cyclist. I rode my bicycle extensively through middle school and then nothing. After we moved to Safety Harbor, my husband bought me a bicycle, but I had zero confidence to ride. Then, along with some fellow urban planners and friends, I organized several bike friendly events like scavenger hunts on bikes and a lighted bike roll that got me on my bicycle and riding around.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

As a woman cyclist who had lapsed in cycling, my biggest hurdle was the lack of strength in my legs to keep on peddling in areas where there were steep inclines (hard to call them hills in Florida). My strength has improved but it still needs work. In recognition of that, I recently purchased an electric bike, pedal assisted, no power if you do not pedal. I call her Lila since her color is dusty lilac.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

The pandemic really pushed me to ride as it was the safest way to see my friends and getting fresh air was such a stress relief. I absolutely LOVE stopping in front a friend’s house and incessantly ringing my bell until they come out and ride! Middle school all over again. My riding friends encouraged me along the way, always checking on me to make sure I was feeling confident and not falling too far behind the group. My friends have been my biggest confidence boosters. Don’t be afraid to ask experienced riders to ride with you on slow easy rides, that’s what helped me.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

I am a destination cycler, that is, I like to ride “someplace” to one of the great parks in Safety Harbor, the local coffee shop, or just to visit a friend. So I commit to making those trips on my bike. A small thing but it keeps my bike present in my routine. I probably never will be a long-haul cycler but certainly I will continue to get out and around just to see what is new. Lila and I can be seen all over Safety Harbor now. Cycling is not only healthy exercise it cuts down on the use of the car for short trips, relieves stress, and just makes me feel good!


Linda Evans

Why is bicycling important to you

Riding gives me a sense of joy and happiness. The wind blowing through my hair and seeing nature when I am riding through the park is wonderful. Seeing all the houses decorated or finding new local businesses downtown on bike is great. Exercising that is fun and gives you a sense of accomplishment. There are a lot of things to be thankful for in biking.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

I think most of my challenges are internal. The good thing is that most of the urban rides and groups I have been in are tremendously friendly and look out for their riders. I want to include mentioning Bicycle Jim who goes to many rides and is involved with many bike organizations always encourages me and believes in me to do my best. He reassured me when I was nervous about my first Cranksgiving ride. I would also like to give a shout out to all the people who encouraged me and helped me and looked out for me on Florida Urban Restaurant rides, WellBuilt rides, and other social rides. Another good thing about groups is they give you a safe way to learn about your city so when you are riding by yourself, you know the area and the way to go. Self-confidence is key. The only other thing I struggle with is keeping up with the speed of the group for the whole ride and I am working on stamina both by my own rides and by working out at the gym.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

Don’t be afraid. You can start somewhere safe like riding in a park or around the block if you worry about traffic. Then generally increase your time and distance as you feel more confident. Having someone to ride with makes the ride much better because you can talk with them while you are riding and it is a stress relief for your brain and your body/spirit. You can take safety classes and learn the rules of the road. Talk to your local bike shops to help you fix your bike or select one that would be perfect for you. I am a big fan of City Bikes or WellBuilt Bikes.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

Think of bicycling as an adventure––a little adventure around the neighborhood or a bigger adventure downtown or, if you are really brave, a long-distance camping/bike tour adventure. Beautiful days and cool weather are big incentives for riding and, for me, a sense of accomplishment. Being able to log my ride in lovetoride.com helps me track how much I have done and see if I can beat my score from the previous month.


Sharon Faulk

Why is bicycling important to you?

I broke my ankle a year ago and had surgery on it. I have developed arthritis in that ankle. I do walk but getting fast enough to increase my heart rate is very difficult and painful. I can ride my bike as fast as I want and as long as I want and get all the benefit of aerobic exercise. I think it also keeps me (somewhat) sane. I have depression and anxiety and getting outdoors helps so much. I start to feel anxious on those rainy days when I can’t get in a good ride. I don’t listen to anything while riding and let my thoughts go where they will. With today’s technology, we can always be consuming content. It is good to let your brain have a rest and let the thoughts flow.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

I have been riding since the early 1990’s. Back then, finding clothing for women was difficult. Add in the extra weight I carried back then and it was impossible––I had to lose 50 pounds just to fit in to the plain black shorts that were available then. Finding bicycles sized for women is still limited unless you like pink.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

Visit bike shops. Not every shop is welcoming but you will find one that will help you get started. I love shopping at Oliver’s Cycle Sports in New Tampa. They are welcoming and just want to get everyone on a bike. Ride every day. Just a little at first––but you will want to do more. I had stopped riding when I got pregnant and didn’t ride again for 18 years. I could barely ride a mile. Within a few months, 20 miles was easy.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

I love routine but I can be very lazy. I get up at four a.m. so I can get in my ride before I start work at seven. I know that if I don’t ride in the morning, chances are slim I will ride after work. (Especially in the summer when it is hot and thunderstorms are looming.)


Dajana Gibson

Why is bicycling important to you?

Cycling has so many great health benefits, both mental and physical. Riding with my son has been one of the most fun activities we do together. Seeing him so happy on the bike is so very satisfying and a good reminder what biking is all about – freedom and joy. I have taught him the basic rules of the road, like saying “slowing” or “stopping,” “on your left,” pointing out obstacles, etc. Although we only ride on trails right now, I know he will be confident and safe on the road one day, too. Recently we got into mountain biking as well and are both enjoying that. I tell him “we’re exploring” and he’ll say “oh, so we’re lost.” A simple bike ride can turn a bad day into a better one. I started (seriously) biking with my friend who lives with MS, so Bike MS was my first big, organized ride. I love doing charity rides, like Cure On Wheels where we ride from Tampa to Tallahassee in support of raising awareness for cancer research/Moffit. I also love a good challenge – I have done 3 Six gap centuries and two XFL (Cross Florida) rides. My bucket list item includes riding my bike across America. My favorite and most scenic bike ride was around Sella Ronda, Dolomites, Italy.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist? 

I have been lucky over the last several years to have a great group of cycling friends that support me and everything I do on bike. One of my challenges is being taken seriously in a bike shop. A couple of years ago, as I was getting stronger and faster, I wanted to change my gearing set-up. A person who has never seen me ride, or knows anything about how far or how fast I ride, questioned my decision. I eventually got what I wanted and was super happy with it. Other challenges I have faced have more to do with family and work than being a female. I struggle with finding time to be on the bike, yet somehow manage 3,000-4,000 miles a year so not bad, I guess.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

The best way to start is to find a good group. Or even just one person. I find myself riding because I don’t want to let the person down that I said, “I’ll be there, see you at that start line.” The key in getting started and getting on that bike is being motivated. But having friends, a bike that you like, and comfy and cool clothes is helpful.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

I Keep a pump in my car, always. I have a cycling bag that’s always ready to go with my shoes, helmet, heart rate monitor, and sunblock. I have a cycling-clothes-only drawer and a charging station in my house for charging lights, Garmin, etc. I can be ready to ride in 10 minutes and that has been a big help in getting out spontaneously when time allows.


Danielle Greer

Why is bicycling important to you?

Cycling is the one form of exercise I found an immediate affinity and passion for. For years I struggled to get into a regular exercise routine. One day, after noticing a good friend of mine enjoying the activity of cycling, I went to my parents’ house and found my old bike (hardly used!). Just riding it around the neighborhood started a whole new chapter in my life. For many years I rode solo. In the last couple of years, I have joined group rides and have met people from all walks of life…different ethnicities, classes, beliefs, etc. Nothing I’ve ever known has brought people with so many differences together to a place where those differences disappear so quickly.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

Female cyclists are not that common in some of the more “hardcore” group rides, so it’s possible that, as a woman, you will struggle. However, it is NOT impossible to hang on in those rides! You just need to know how to ride smart, and you have the opportunity to meet and befriend women that will coach you. Other challenges include gear that may be more engineered toward males, but I’ve noticed there is plenty of gear designed for women. There are women that fare better using the same gear designed for men rather than women and they struggle when trying to stick with women-specific gear (clothing, bikes, etc.). Don’t be afraid to try things that are not designed specifically for women.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

You can start anywhere. I started on a basic hybrid trail bike, never caring about speed, just wanting to explore bike trails and get exercise and clear my mind. You never have to go further than that if that’s all you need––but trust me, I never saw myself arriving at where I am now. The bike is just a beautiful thing of freedom. Take it for what it is.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

I love biking so much that it isn’t much of a chore to get motivated, but having everything ready to go in the morning helps tremendously some days. Knowing how good you’ll feel afterward helps, too.


Emily Hinsdale

Why is bicycling important to you?

Including physical activity in my day is as necessary to me as breathing, but finding time in my schedule can be hard. I work on finding opportunities to replace a car trip with a bike trip––to the store, to the gym, to the library, to a restaurant, to school––and frequently find it faster and definitely more rewarding than time in a car.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

My biking centers on my most important daily commute: getting kids to school. As an adult, it’s hard to find safe biking routes. It’s even harder for children. In 2016, I co-founded Sidewalk Stompers, a school zone walker/biker advocacy nonprofit with the goal of getting more families excited about using active transportation to get to school and ensuring they have safe paths to do so. We create weekly or monthly events at schools around Hillsborough County to generate enthusiasm for the fun of using your body for transportation to school instead of being stuck in the car line. We have 10 partner schools (more coming soon!) and hundreds of students walking and biking with us each week. Walking or biking my kids to school has given me some of my happiest memories with my children. I’d love to see more parents out there with us, starting their kids’ days with fresh air and the natural world––and it’s a great way to prepare young brains for learning.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

The word “cyclist” makes me think of impossibly lean and fit professional riders. I prefer to think of myself as an advocate for all forms of healthy transportation, including biking. You don’t have to be dressed head to toe in spandex, racing down a cycle track––just get out on your wheels and have a nice time riding! If you need a little extra motivation, remember that every ride you do instead of a car trip makes the roads safer and the air cleaner for your kids and future generations.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

One bike ride replaces so many other chores in the day––you’ve hit the gym, gotten across town, improved your mental health, and volunteered to make the roads safer for all users with just one quick ride. Think of it as something easier than your routine. I think of it, too, as a gift to my children. If they can grow up incorporating healthy transportation into their daily activity, they will have stronger bodies and minds, as well as greater personal freedom, throughout their lives.


Ana Jackson

Why is bicycling important to you?

For me, cycling has always been a great form of exercise and way to get around. I grew up partially in Germany because my dad was in the U.S. Army, and I didn’t get a driver’s license until I moved back to the states in my 20’s. In the meantime, until I was in my junior year at USF, I did much of my local transportation via bicycle and public transit.

Flash forward ten years to being in a committed relationship with my now husband Mohammad. He had been romancing with the sport for a few months, inspired by a group of athletes who frequented Flatwoods park, including the amazing ultra-cyclist Amanda Coker, who at the time was working on her year-long HAM’R record setting goal of 200+ miles per day in 2016. When he began getting serious about road bicycling, I started getting into it, too, and ditched my cheap thrift store bike for my precious Fuji (whom I named “Bye Felicia”).

Adventures ensued, and when we aren’t trying to keep up with the best at Flatwoods, we like to go on 50+ mile day “boo rides” to different parts of Tampa Bay and beyond, for the challenge, and to see the beautiful sights you wouldn’t necessarily experience from a car.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

I haven’t really faced any challenges as a female bicyclist, as much of my inspiration came from watching Amanda Coker killing her daily miles. Thought if she could do it, I may have a slight chance of doing amazing things on my bike! I challenged myself once to get on her century challenge list by biking 100 miles in one day. Other than that, maybe there is the stereotypical feeling when riding with a group of male bicyclists that their perception is that I’m not as strong as they are, but that could just be one of those nagging things in my head to ignore. Many times, I not only kept up but also “dropped” a few of them along the way!

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

Do it (doo eeet!). It’s one of the best forms of cardio and it’s easier on your joints than running. Even a few dedicated rides a week will have you in the best shape of your life! Plus, there are many amazing female athletes out there who can attest to this.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

Hang that kit and equipment somewhere handy for you to jump in! Also, I sometimes would just keep my bike in the car in case I wanted to go for a ride after work.


Stephanie Jackson

Why is bicycling important to you?

I was always one of those people that owned a bike but rarely used it. I am a runner by trade so my preference had always been to lace up and pound the pavement; then COVID-19 happened. With races cancelled, I needed a new challenge. I committed to doing an Ironman in October 2021. With some guidance from my coach, I purchased a Specialized Tarmac and haven’t looked back. I’ve only been biking for three months, but I’m hooked, I love it! Bicycling is important for strength and recovery as a runner. Putting tons of miles on my legs hasn’t worked for me––low mileage and cycling has. It has made me a much stronger runner. I also have a one-year-old daughter that I want to show how important it is to challenge yourself and set goals. I want to set a healthy and inspiring example for her!

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

I haven’t had any cycling-related challenges yet, besides learning to clip in/out without face-planting. I do, however, have a challenge that I’ve overcome by exercising in general. When I was 18 years old, I was diagnosed with adult onset attention deficit hyperactive disorder. It got so bad at one point that I couldn’t complete projects or communicate properly, and I turned to some unhealthy behaviors to cope. I ended up seeing a psychiatrist that put me on three medications, which I took for years. Then I found marathons. I started training for my first 26.2 and it helped me ditch the stimulants and depressants. I’ve been living with my illness for 16 years now and, I’m happy to say, I haven’t had to take medication for eight of those. While I did this with running, cycling is just another layer of exercise that helps me combat my mental illness.

I think it’s important for everyone that cycles to be an advocate in our community. We need to work together to create change that will make our streets safer and make commuting to Tampa a viable transportation option. It takes all of us. I challenge anyone reading this to reach out to community leaders and demand the changes we need to make cycling a go-to commuter option. That’s my goal for 2021. Join me!

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

Find a seasoned veteran you are comfortable with that can show you the ropes. Learn etiquette and technique from them. I have a coworker who has done triathlons for years who graciously agreed to help me with my cycling. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her!

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

Get a plan together and map out your success. I know what I am doing for the week the Saturday prior. Print off a calendar, write in your cycling workouts and cross them off when you complete them. It feels so good to look back on a completed month when you’re done!


Lisa Snodgrass

Why is bicycling important to you?

Around 2007, my two now-adult kids began participating in kids’ triathlons, and it was so exciting to watch them on their road bikes tearing it up! It was really inspiring; however, having a family and working, I didn’t seem to have any free time to do it myself. Fast forward to five years ago: I pulled my old road bike out and started to ride for fun and fitness; that was two road bikes ago! So I’ve really only been riding on a regular basis for five years, but every ride is an adventure. Most of the time I’m on my road bike, but I also enjoy riding my hybrid. I ride primarily on our area’s trails, but also on roads with bike lanes. Among others, I’ve enjoyed the Pinellas Trail, riding along the waterfront in downtown Tampa and St. Pete, the Courtney Campbell Trail, and the Withlacoochee Trail. It’s never too late to start; I’m 57 now!

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

Aside from the obvious health and fitness benefits, cycling provides me with an escape to the outdoors, an “attitude adjustment,” and is an overall uplifting experience. Over the past few years, I have met many great friends through cycling. It’s hard to describe the peaceful, free, and even powerful feeling I get when riding my bike. When riding through a new or especially scenic area, I’ll suddenly realize that I’ve got a big smile across my face! A time I distinctly remember that happening is during a solo ride on the Ream Wilson Trail in Clearwater, which is beautifully scenic (and surprisingly hilly!). At this point, I feel like cycling for me is a necessary part of my life. During this especially challenging time for all of us, it provides ALL of us with freedom, a time for reflection, and a physical activity that we can do safely in the current environment.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

We have ALL been there. Find your “people” (or person); there is someone out there that wants to do the same thing you do! Facebook has several local groups for all types of cycling and could be a good resource, not to mention your local bike shop, and of course Bike/Walk Tampa Bay’s “Love to Ride” app and social media pages! A couple St. Petersburg bike shops hold “ladies’ nights” a couple times a year that are fantastic! You do NOT have to make a big commitment; you can always upgrade down the road. An appropriately-sized starter bike and the appropriate safety equipment are all you really need. As they say, “you do you!” Do not feel intimidated by other cyclists; you can take breaks, you can wear an old t-shirt, you can stop and smell the roses, or take pictures!

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

I’d like to learn some tricks myself! These are not really scheduling ideas, but I think things that make it easier to fit riding in are having a riding buddy to be accountable to and using a cycling app, like Strava or Map My Ride, which can be synced to “Love to Ride.” When I discovered the Love to Ride app and Facebook page, I enjoyed posting my monthly progress and pictures as well as seeing others’ travels. I really enjoy the app and the monthly challenges that are held; they are great motivators! Lastly, make sure your bike is comfortable to ride; if you are not completely comfortable, you won’t ride. Seek out a bike fitter at your local shop if needed.


Maria Thomas

Why is bicycling important to you?

Bicycling is important to me because, when I wake up each day, I try to do something positive for my body, whether it be biking or walking.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced as a woman is safety when biking alone.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

Not to put pressure on yourself––don’t try to compete with anyone else. Also, look for other resources to give you information about safety rules for biking (like Bike/Walk Tampa Bay) and find some beginner biking groups to help you along.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

My favorite trick to make it easier to include bicycling in my routine is to put my bike and bike gear in my car every Monday through Friday. If I can get a six-mile ride in before work or at lunch, or If I can hit a trail straight after work, it helps.


Wanda Vinson

Why is bicycling important to you?

Riding my bike, both as a commuter and for fun/fitness, allows me to demonstrate [bicycling] and enjoy so many things. Most importantly for me, as a teacher and bicycle commuter, is that I can model a healthy lifestyle and care for our planet. I especially enjoy when students say “you ride your bike to school?” I always reply “SURE! Don’t you LOVE to ride your bike? Well, I do, too!”

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

First off, I had to conquer my fears. Fear of falling, fear of crashing, fear of embarrassment, fears about unknown neighborhoods… the list seemed daunting. While I have never had any problems outside of the occasional abrupt stop, it does force me to be very aware of my riding technique and behavior, my surroundings (both vehicular and pedestrian), and that means I’m often hesitant to engage with the neighbors I am riding by. That being said, I’m fortunate enough to say that those neighbors have seen me riding their streets for years now, and as recently as this morning I had a group yelling “good mornin’ momma” as I rode by!

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

Try one short ride. Then try another. Plan one day to try a ride to work. Enjoy the ride and the scenery. Recall the days of your childhood, when riding your bike often meant freedom and fun. Don’t think you have to commit to a new lifestyle. I don’t own a single piece of “bike clothing.” I ride in a dress more often than I ride in shorts. Be brave, be bold, and trust in yourself. You can do it!

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

Make a plan. Visualize the route in your head. Check the weather. Know what you’re going to wear. I have a great big basket that attaches to the back of my bike, so I never have to worry about being unable to bike due to the things I have to bring back and forth. I also keep a full “bike kit” at school––wipes, powder, deodorant, some make-up, perfume, brush/comb… everything I need for those warm weather days!


Vanessa Wheeler

Why is bicycling important to you?

I’m a bike commuter. I started to ride my bike to work when I accepted a job downtown after college and it “stuck.” At first, I simply didn’t want to deal with traffic and paying for parking but soon found that I loved incorporating exercise into my commute–and I really loved the stress relief and how prepared for the workday I felt when I arrived at the office. At one point, I was commuting 20 miles round trip each day; now I work remotely but take care of as many errands as possible by bike. In fact, I drive my car so rarely, the battery died from lack of use earlier this year! (I’m kinda proud of that even though it was rather frustrating at the time.)

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

Riding at night. I pick my routes carefully when I am out late; I avoid unlit places and ensure I’ve got lights and reflective gear to help drivers see me.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

First, you don’t need fancy gear or to be a bike mechanic to get out and ride. Wear comfortable clothes and start by taking a ride to someplace close by. Go with a friend or meet someone for coffee. For me, commuting is a big hook. Having a purpose–a destination to go to–compels me to get out and doing so gives me a real sense of accomplishment (good for body, mind, and planet). Get to know your local bike shop–staff are usually very supportive and many shops offer free clinics to learn basic mechanical skills, like repairing a flat tire. Though I usually take my bike to a shop and pay a small fee to have a flat tire fixed, having the know-how gives me confidence that I can take care of a flat myself if I need to.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

My “tricks” are context-specific. When I was commuting to an office, I would dedicate drawer space for my favorite pairs of shoes and a refresh kit (towel, comb, wipes, etc.). These days, I mostly run errands… to make that easier, I made a list of my common destinations and planned how to get there and back so I don’t have to think about the route (one less obstacle). I keep my bike gear by the door and I put the extra garage door opener in a baggy so I can just toss it in my bag on the way out without worrying about it getting wet. (Being able to just push the button when I come and go, as if I were driving a car, is very satisfying and makes it easier for me!)


Mary Youngblood

Why is bicycling important to you?

Bicycling is an outlet that I find both relaxing and exhilarating. It gives me energy by relieving my stress. I enjoy being outdoors and what better way to experience a vast variety of terrain than on a bicycle?

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

Like many of my friends, I rode a bike as a kid. I feel like this gave me an advantage to view the sport as appropriate regardless of gender. I think female cyclists tend to have a heightened awareness for personal safety, but that’s not specific to cycling! Many women don’t enjoy the mechanical aspects of bicycle maintenance, but there are plenty of resources available to learn if you’re so inclined.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

Just do it! Enjoy yourself. I personally have made a point to be sure I never ride so much that I’m not having fun. Borrow or rent a bike before you buy one. Go with a friend. Educate yourself about equipment and techniques. If something is uncomfortable there is probably a simple adjustment that can help.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

Don’t compare yourself to other riders. You can learn a lot from others, but never focus so much on improving your abilities that you compromise your enjoyment. I’m not a pessimist but I always have my phone, I.D., debit card or cash, insurance card (can you tell I’m a healthcare provider?!), and a lock. I always have a replacement tube and small pump or CO2 cartridge so I’m prepared for a flat.


Yu Zhang

Why is bicycling important to you?

When I was a teenager, bicycling was the only other transportation mode besides walking for my school commute trip. The two bikes that I used at that time were my best friend’s. Shortly after I joined the faculty of USF, I recognized how important bikes are to students and led the Share-A-Bull bike sharing program at USF with the support of Student Green Energy Fund. Whenever possible, I like to ride bikes for short trips. It is a good way of exercising and enjoying the breeze and landscape in beautiful Tampa.

What challenges have you had to face/overcome as a female bicyclist?

I personally did not encounter gender challenges as a bicyclist.

What would you say to other women who are interested in cycling but lack confidence?

I learned how to ride a bike when I was in 7th grade, which was considered late compared to my friends. I was afraid losing control while on the two-wheeled machine. During the learning process, I fell twice from the bike and got injured. What made me successful was what my mom told me “peddle fast, as fast as you can.” I followed her instruction and never fell again.

Your favorite “trick” to make it easier to include bicycling in your routine?

I am not a bike commuter. I try to ride bikes whenever I can, e.g. to visit friends in the same community, to nearby UPS store to mail a small package, to accompany my son to his tennis clinic at community club, etc.


1 Comment

  1. Sherry says:

    What a great read! Love hearing from and seeing these inspiring women. I have fallen off my bike riding during Covid, for various reasons. But want to get back to it soon!