Why We Ride: PI Crew Members Share on Motivation and Purpose

August 21, 2019

New here? This is the second of of the two-part series, Why We Ride. You have a why, have you ever deeply considered it more?

Earlier this summer, our PEARL iZUMi Crew ventured out on an overnight bike ride into the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Crew members Annalisa van den Bergh and Erik Douds of Miles of Portraits photographed, filmed, and asked Crew members and PEARL iZUMi staff for their response to “why do you ride?” Feel free to add yours in the comments below!

Shawnell Engel

I have to say that I never imagined how my life would change with the purchase of one bike. It’s brought my life to a whole different perspective.

I ride because it sets me free. Free of worries; free to collect my thoughts. Free of the hustle and bustle of every day. I know my bike. I trust my bike. It has brought me closer to my spouse. It has led me to triathlons, new friends, and comradery. The wave, the smile, or the nod. I ride because it sets me free.


Jen Toops

I grew up in a family that has always ridden bikes. Every summer, we’d have a family ride complete with matching T-shirts. The whole family would get together for one day and ride a planned route that always ended at the dairy barn.

Having those memories growing up makes me who I am today. My late grandfather was my biggest fan and he reminded me every day to live life to the fullest. I ride because it’s my happy place. Riding lets me explore new places, smell the fresh mountain air, make new friends, challenge myself, and most importantly it makes me smile!

Dana Dobbs

Being deaf offers many daily challenges. The simplest things can become quite challenging. There are many instances where I lay down to sleep and I feel a lesser person because I am deaf. Sometimes I feel like I don’t quite measure up to everyone else that can hear.

There are times my deafness leaves me feeling stupid or inadequate. When I ride, I feel like I can level the playing field. Riding isn’t about being able to hear or even communicate for that matter. Riding is about oneness with my bike and with the world around me. It doesn’t matter if I can hear. If it happens to be a race, it gives me a chance to prove to myself and to others that I am enough, just the way I am.

True, I have to be more aware of visual cues as I ride –– but they just enhance the entire cycling experience. When I ride, I feel whole.

“The bike, for me, represents the truest connection I’ve found to this world.”

Dillon Caldwell

Randy Barcena

I’ve been riding a bicycle since I was a kid, growing up in the farmlands of the Philippines. It gave me the freedom to explore nearby villages. After moving to America, getting denied from the Navy, and being diagnosed with severe scoliosis, I picked up the bicycle again and I’ve never felt better.

Laura Schmitt

I ride a bike because I like the way it makes me feel. Free, fast, focused, fluid, strong, relaxed, imaginative, joyful, accomplished, and energized. It gives me a sense of belonging in the world and connects me to people in a real way.

Brittany Greer

Nothing makes me happier and more connected to the tune of the universe. Being on my bike allows me to more deeply connect with my inner stillness and that of the world. The moment I start pedaling, the day to day chatter dissipates and my mind becomes completely present. I feel my breath and every pebble under my tires. I notice the rustling in the grass, the sound of the creek below, the way the clouds are moving. Everything is in perfect harmony and my mind is able to tune in and hear it. Biking grants me a prolonged moment to let all of life’s troubles and distractions completely dissolve.

Kristin Gablehouse

I ride because for the last four years I couldn’t. After a seemingly minor bike crash led to a traumatic brain injury, I could no longer work, drive, read, buy groceries, watch TV, go to a restaurant, follow a recipe, or listen to music. Recovery has been a slow process and being able to balance and tolerate visual stimulus enough to ride a bike safely has been one of the last things to improve. I’m back riding because now I can and I am grateful to be back out exploring new routes with my husband.

“It brings out the pure child in me.”

Maria Cesca

Jennifer Hess

As someone who doesn’t have kids, it’s been amazing to coach them at bike camp; to watch the transformation of a middle or high schooler who might be called awkward into a full-blown teenager and then into a real adult and pro racer.

This summer I joked with one of these kids that upon entering the camp, their goal was to learn was to wheelie. Now, they’re riding things even I am too nervous to hit, all while being great mentors to the younger kids at camp. I love seeing these transformations and having a tiny influence on them along the way.

My favorite part about coaching adults is the face they make or the whoop they let out when they have mastered something. I always remember one of my riders saying to me, “Before this camp I was a two wheels on the ground kind of rider. Now I am a two wheels off the ground kind of gal.”

With both kids and adults, I find it pretty amazing how much laughter can occur from one day of camp–usually my abs are sore from laughing all day. The joy I get from watching those timid riders mastering skills and progressing, even if just a little bit, is the reason I coach. Gaining confidence in biking also helps you gain confidence in other aspects of your life.

Deanna McCurdy

My world became very dark after my daughter’s diagnosis of Angelman syndrome. I would get up in the morning after sleepless nights with my daughter, go through the motions of the day, just passing time, hiding from the rest of the world. I let the words I read consume me. I felt like all the beautiful dreams I had for my children and our future had died. My only solace was found in escaping to the trails for a weary run or bike ride. As I pounded the dirt, working my way through those stages of grief, disbelief, hurt, anger and sadness, I started to realize something. I didn’t have to let the darkness control my life. I could run. I could bike. I could do something.

I realized that I could either hide from the world or let the world get to know me and my child through the sport that I sought comfort in. I signed up for a race, then another. As my daughter was challenged in therapy to learn how to walk, to communicate, and to feed herself, I challenged myself with bigger races, bigger goals. What has followed in the years since that life-changing diagnosis has been an adventure more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.

I think I ride as much for myself as I do for my daughter. I crave the burning in my legs and lungs on a long hard climb or grueling hard effort. While physically the pain of pushing one’s physical limits hurts, it is living fully in the moment. It is a pain that I can control.

I love the feeling of conquering a climb, struggling and overcoming rocks, roots, and the brain’s desire to quit. The reward of the view at the top, looking back and seeing where I came from way down below, knowing that my legs pushed me and my mind willed me to this point, is a personal victory. Truly such a life metaphor.

Amalia Miller

Whether riding through rice paddies, redwood forests, or ancient temples, the bike brought me a sense of home. In 2018, I embarked upon a unique journey for my 35th birthday. My partner and I worked tirelessly to raise money for Parkinson’s Disease research in memory of his mother, which culminated in a trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa.

Having completed the San Francisco Marathon just two days before departing for Africa, I felt that I was fully prepared for the week ahead. Five to six days into the trek and passing my first fourteener, I was really struggling to stay with the group of eight, which included two Parkinson’s patients. By the time we reached base camp, I could barely lift my arm to bring a spoonful of soup to my mouth.

It was determined only after we reached 16,000 ft that I had hypoxia and a blood-oxygen level of 41%. The days and months after the emergency descent were filled with anger, confusion, fear, and anxiety. Surgeons closed up the hole in my heart, but it would take much longer to repair the mental block associated with exercise. The experience made me slow down and refocus my energy on why I started doing these things in the first place.

In a way, the mountain experience has both scared me and given me a new challenge to overcome. A month after Kilimanjaro, I bought my first mountain bike. A month after surgery, I bought my first gravel bike. A month after I got off blood thinners, I got my first mountain biking lesson. A month ago, I had my first bloody fall!

I’m taking it slow, but cycling is helping me get back into the outdoors in a fun and approachable way. It’s a way for me to get closer to nature and back on my feet — because fear isn’t going to keep me away from things that bring me joy.

Brandon Scales

I ride for health. Of all varieties, but mostly mental. Cycling is my form of meditation. It allows me to find my zen on two wheels out in nature. It lets life’s worries blow off my back–both literally and figuratively.

Kelly Paananen

I once had a friend ask me “What motivates you to get up so early and exercise?” Every day the alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. and I don’t hit the snooze button. I get up, feed the dogs and hit the streets to run four miles. Then I ride my bike to work and back instead of driving. On the weekends the real adventure begins. Either road, mountain biking or a bit of gravel grinding with my husband or friends.

Answering her question was very simple. But in a way, difficult. I said, “My mother motivates me.” She said, “Oh that’s nice….” but I said, “Not in the way most parents would be motivating.” You see I love my mom, she’s my mom. But my mom is not an active person–never has been. My mom was never there to watch us play sports, to cheer us on, to shuttle us to whatever practices or events we had. She was a single mom who raised three girls on her own.

These days my mom is almost 76 years old. She has a lot of health problems due to obesity, non-activity, depression, alcoholism. The vicious cycle. When I finished my first marathon my mom didn’t say “Congratulations! Nice job,” or “Way to go!” My mom said, “Why would anybody want to run 26 miles?” When I rode my bike 80 miles down the Weiser River trail, there were no kudos. Physical activity and the energizing boost and lifestyle rewards are foreign to her. To me, that’s sad. I ride because I am living the life my mom never made for herself. She isn’t able to get around without a walker or take even a few steps without pain. She rarely leaves her house or misses Judge Judy or a six-pack of beer. “I will never be like my mother”, I said to my friend. Never.

“I ride because I am living the life my mom never made for herself.”

Joshua Lawton

Bicycles, in many ways, are a representation. They allow you to be who you want to be and how you want to be it all from the saddle over two wheels.

The bike can shapeshift into whatever you make it. Bicycles can be used for so many things and so many different ways for so many reasons. For some it’s enjoyment, or work, or fitness, or transportation, or teaching, even learning, an escape, happiness, rehabilitation…the list could go on for some time.

Every time I push pedals, it’s a renewed awakening. An awakening that a ride can become whatever that person gripping the bars needs it to be. We all should embrace the freedom we have to ride how we need more. And react with a smile and a nod of understanding, never with a hint of judgment or question when we’re out there.

We ride because a bicycle is a license for inclusivity.

Carlos Torres

I ride because I like to push myself, because I like to explore new places, because it keeps me healthy, because it gives me space to evaluate myself, because I can set a good example and because it creates community.

When I ride I feel free. I’m myself. I can push as hard as I want to or not. I ride because I love it and not because I have to.

Michael Trimble

Within the past five years, I’ve gotten divorced, found out one of my parents has cancer, and the other has dementia. It’s a real wake up call. Life changes; people get sick and need help. That’s when my bike allows me to escape into a new place, feel the wind on my face, and push myself. It’s motivating to know you have limited time.

Cycling has given me a new outlook on life and how precious it truly is.

Melissa Grieco

My husband and I have been racing triathlons together for the past decade. I’m one of those people who doesn’t mind indoor training. But then there are the rides when it’s a perfect summer’s day and I head to Harriman State Park where the roads are less trafficked and I’m ensconced in nature. I’ll have those moments when everything seems to fall into perfect alignment and I become one with my bike. I get out of the saddle to effortlessly dance up the rolling hills with my argon rocking in tandem below me. The crickets chirp, the lakes sparkle, the sun feels warm upon my back and I feel strong, athletic and vibrantly alive.

Maria Cesca

Riding is a privilege; so many people can’t ride for different reasons. My mom never learned how to ride yet she was an adventure seeker. She never learned how to drive a car but loved to play volleyball. She never learned to swim but still enjoyed the ocean and pool and took her four kids to learn how to swim.

I ride because I can. Because doing so makes me feel alive, free, and happy. I ride because it’s magical; it’s meditation; it’s therapy. Riding a bike provides me a chance to meet new people or just smile and wave to somebody. It brings out the pure child in me. Riding a bike makes me be a better person, a better wife, a better mother, a better friend, and a better human being.

Lisa Luttenegger

As a kid I had a seat on the back of my dad’s bike. In college, I got my first fixie. I find riding to be a creative outlet. Your course is your canvas and how you interact with it is art. No two performances are ever the same and each evokes pretty raw emotion! I ride to connect with myself, my roots, new places, and like-minded people.

Some of my earliest-formed memories include riding a tricycle around my aunt’s driveway–a happy time in my life when my family was all together. I took for granted that I’d always have that when I grew up, but I’ve since lost many of the people from that picture.

As an adult cyclist and triathlete, I realized that the same area my family was from was also the best training venue in Chicago. I was hooked on riding there, riding by places that reminded me of my childhood, and creating new happy places with friends-turned-family.

“Your course is your canvas and how you interact with it is art.”

Andrew Hammond

For me, riding is the answer to the universe and everything.

Building strong friendships, staying fit and healthy, managing stress, having fun, getting in over my head, connecting with the wide world, learning my city and surrounding communities, feeling the speed, disconnecting, reconnecting, testing myself, nerding out on tech, and eating food out of little packages. It’s all pretty great.

Erik Proano

I have a passion for the remoteness of the backcountry and the peace that those places offer. I believe the mountain bike is the perfect tool to access the beauty of our natural sanctuaries. I ride to reach deep into and immerse myself in the splendor of our natural environment.

Brian Dokter

Sometimes riding is an escape. It affords me the ability to let go of whatever is heavy on me.
Sometimes riding is a celebration. It adds joy to an already joyful life.
Sometimes riding is a connector. It becomes a shared experience with friends and strengthens relationships.
I’ve found that as I travel through different emotional, relational, and spiritual seasons, riding adds to depth the journey.

Jessica Jones

I cherish my alone time. It’s something I look forward to when the noise of school, stress, and expectations crowd into my head, making me doubt myself. There’s something special about solitude and allowing oneself the chance to think.

Riding has eased me from my hermit ways and has created innumerable opportunities to create and build relationships with people I never would have before. There’s something about riding in a paceline at sunrise that brings people together. Suffering through hills and trying to keep up with the lead group. Laughing about a close call with a turkey, deer, or even a skunk on the backroads. Cycling bonds us.

“I ride because it’s the single-most stable thing in my life.”
– Lucas Marshall”

“I ride to challenge myself and see where the bike can take me.”
– Jake Magee

David Undercoffler

I ride because it holds my attention. It’s held my attention when nothing else could. I ride because when you throw a leg over a bike you enter a universe of one. I ride because doing so gives me perspective and a sightline of good decisions and a proper path forward. I ride because it’s rad.

Barrett Hoover

I like to ride because I can be present in the now. No screens, no distractions, no emails, no calls, no texts. Just me, my bike, the trail, and the reminder of how awesome it is to be alive in that very instant. That is why I ride.

Melissa Westergard

I ride to restore balance in my life. It’s where I’m able to find peace. Whether it’s a slow roll on the back trail or an intense sprint training session, I find that I return home with a renewed outlook and am able to tackle the challenges of life with a better attitude.

Dave Wonderly

I don’t really derive any sort of deep meaning to riding, it’s just great fun. I have always enjoyed athletic endeavors in the outdoors. Regardless of whether it’s hiking, running, climbing, skiing, mountain biking or dirt bike riding–the more remote, the better.

Abigale Wilson

I ride to feel free. Free from driving a car, waiting in traffic, looking for parking, changing the oil, and dealing with other drivers. Free to go as fast as I want, whenever I want, and however long I want. The only chain holding me down is the one propelling me forward.

Christen Brown

I ride to get “me” time. Often when I am stressed or overwhelmed I try to get out and ride. Something about getting out on my bike and burning some energy allows me to focus all the thoughts bouncing around in my head and things start to make sense. I am often able to think about things from a new perspective and usually have my best brainstorming sessions while on the bike!

Luke Frankow

I ride to seek an adventure. Whether it is cruising on gravel paths, a quiet neighborhood or bombing down some singletrack trails. There are sounds, sights, and experiences you can only get on a bike. That is why I ride, to gain new experiences and see new things all while pushing the limits of my body, feeling the wind blowing in my face, and smiling and enjoying the ride.

Crew portraits by Annalisa van den Bergh

“Life is like riding a bicycle.
To keep your balance you must keep moving”

Albert Einstein

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