Co-founder of All Bodies on Bikes and PI Ambassador Marley Blonsky has seen a lot of doors open in the last year. As she preps to relocate from Seattle, WA to Fayetteville, AR she reflects on three pivotal moments during her time in the evergreen state.
How Did I Get Here?
My life feels a little surreal most of the time. As I sit here writing this blog post, I’m surrounded by beautiful bicycle chaos. One bike is in the middle of getting packed to be sent back to a sponsor, another is halfway disassembled in prep for an upcoming bikepacking trip, and a stack of All Bodies on Bikes water bottles sit waiting to be shipped out. Pure bliss.
While I’ve dreamed for a long time of quitting my job and doing bicycle stuff full time, it never really seemed possible or practical. Living a life of purpose—that was for people without student debt, people who don’t need ongoing prescription medication (hellooo health insurance), and most importantly, who have a grand plan or vision. In short, I thought I was tied to the corporate world for the rest of my life.
Even so, at some point in early 2021 I realized that I was spending more time on bike advocacy, size inclusion work, and building the All Bodies on Bikes community than I was doing my real job. My pipe dream of making my work in the cycling community into a full-time gig was turning into a reality. The cosmos seemed to be listening and I needed to jump on the wave before it crested without me.
With the release of All Bodies on Bikes film in March 2021, my life began accelerating even faster. I found myself doing multiple podcast interviews a week, consulting with brands I’d only dreamed of talking to, and seeing my face all over the internet. This was actually happening! It was now or never and, fast-forward to July 2021, I made the leap into the deep end. I quit my cushy corporate job with amazing health insurance, stock options, and a 401k to embark on a life of freelancing.
Looking back, it feels like it’s been a meteoric rise to where I’m at now, but I have to remind myself that I’ve been doing this work and laying the foundation for my current situation for a long time. The unglamorous grind of organizing, making connections, and juggling multiple responsibilities that all happened behind the scenes.
After 18 years in Seattle, I’m moving to Arkansas this spring. To honor where I started, how I’ve grown, and reflect before this next major life transition, I want to share three transformational moments in my bike life (up till now.)
My First Time Commuting to Work By Bike
I started bike commuting in 2013, after moving to Capitol Hill and realizing that a three-mile bus ride took over 45 minutes. I rode a Nishiki that was way too big for me, but that I adored anyway and set it up with a set of hand-me-down panniers from a coworker. The rush of riding downhill that first morning is forever seared into my brain. The cold morning air stung my nose and fingertips but I felt alive with possibility and excitement as I rode the quick route to work.
At some point on a fast descent, I hit a bump and I heard my pannier hit the ground. The car behind me honked (as if I didn’t realize my bag had flown off) and I gingerly pulled to the side of the road. I reattached my pannier, got back on, made it two blocks and my pannier flew off again. What the hell?! I was late for work at this point, so feeling frustrated, I walked to the nearest bus stop, loaded my bike on the rack and took the bus the rest of the way. Ugggghhh.
So, admittedly, my first bike commute to work wasn’t the most successful. But when have you ever learned anything from smooth sailing? I’m happy to report that it got better from there; I learned that I needed to adjust the mounting points on the panniers for them to work correctly. After far too many pinch flats, I learned to check the air in my tires before every ride. I also learned safer routes for bikes and which coffee shops give a discount with a bike helmet.
Now that I’m working for myself, I no longer have a daily commute. But boy do I miss it.
Moxie Summer Jam 2017 where over 120 riders turned out to race.
Moxie Summer Jam 2017
The Moxie Monday is a weekly social ride in Seattle for Femme, Trans, Women, and non-binary identifying riders. We’ve met regularly for 10+ years with the mission of creating a welcoming, inclusive community. Starting in 2010 we began hosting a huge annual alleycat for our community and welcoming over 100 riders to explore Seattle by bike in a scavenger hunt style race.
In 2017, we hosted our most ambitious race ever with over 120 racers showing up ranging in age from 18 to 70. Race planning started three months out and included scouting stop locations, recruiting and training volunteers.
I am so proud of the work that we did for this event. Getting to witness everyone’s smiles and faces of accomplishment as they finished what for many was their first race made all the months of work worth it.
Most importantly, this experience proved to me the power of a shared purpose and how much I love helping to build welcoming, inclusive communities. You could say it planted a seed for future projects.
My First Bike Camping Trip
My first bike camping trip was really hard. I joined a group of nearly 80 people from my regular Thursday night riding group for an adventure I’ll never forget. The only bike I had at the time was a super lightweight road bike that didn’t have a rack or fenders—far from the ideal bike for bike camping. Three days before the trip I found an old 90s mountain bike that had a rear rack, bigger tires and seemed perfect! Oh, I was so naive.
The “new” bike I had purchased was super ill-fitting and had pedals with a clip-in platform (that I didn’t switch before riding 60 miles). But dang it, it carried my stuff and I was excited.
Arriving at the ferry dock for the meetup, I quickly realized I had overpacked. We would only be out for one night but I had two full panniers plus a backpack. Looking back, I can’t even imagine what in the world I had packed.
The route took us out of Seattle, across the Hood Canal and into the Olympic National Forest. I rode over my first mountain pass and then did a two mile hike-a-bike around a washout. For my first bike camping trip it was like a firehose of adventure.
Waking up the next day, my body was exhausted. I did not have it in my legs to ride the 60 miles back home. Thankfully, I was able to catch a ride back, thus completing my first bike camping trip.
I’ve gone on innumerable trips since then, but this one will forever hold a special place in my memory. The simplicity and freedom of not knowing any better when it came to equipment, clothing, and how to pack. Because, none of that mattered—I had a challenging but absolutely awesome time, cementing my love of bike-fueled adventures.
So yeah, now that bicycles (consulting about them, riding them, hosting rides, etc.) are my full time job, I am so incredibly grateful for these (and other) experiences that have helped shape me into who I am today. My goals of making the bike world more inclusive and welcoming, especially for those of us who have traditionally been left out, is all rooted in my early days. I was lucky to find a community who welcomed me for who I was, and I hope to create that for more riders.
As for Arkansas, I really have no idea what to expect and that’s super exciting! But I can say that I’m really looking forward to a new community, new trails, and warmer weather! I’ve heard Northwest Arkansas is great for mountain biking, so maybe it’s time to learn a new discipline?