“An unprecedented number of people are riding mountain bikes as an outlet for exercise and exploration and, as a result, discovering a truth we all eventually come to know: Every ride is an adventure. Freehub’s 12.4 edition is a celebration of this truth and a meditation on how adventure leads to discovery, both of the outside world and within oneself. In our cover story, ultra-endurance racer Alexandera Houchin writes about how her relationship with the bike has instilled a deeper understanding of her identity as a Native woman—and how she’s come to realize the act of racing is a ceremonial expression of her Ojibwe spirit. Transformative adventure pervades this book, with feature stories on a life-changing family bikepacking journey in the Alaskan wilderness and the existential reckonings of a rider attempting to clear a long-neglected trail in central Nevada’s remote Toiyabe Range. Welcome to Issue 12.4—a tribute to self-discovery and embracing the unknown.”
Read on below for Alexandera’s thoughts on this experience…
I opened the attachment to an email from Brice at Freehub this morning to see a photo of me on the cover of their most recent print issue. I didn’t know I cared; I didn’t know it mattered.
I didn’t know that I was even going to be on the cover.
At face value, it’s just a bike magazine.
But it’s more than that because I’ve spent my life spanning through these bike magazines, journals, and articles to learn more about this community I belong to. There’s an overwhelming feeling, though, of still being misunderstood, of being invisible, of being romanticized and misquoted or taken out of context. I never thought a body that looked like mine would win anything. There’s this anger, resentment that fills me when people approach me to be in their videos or to write a profile piece about me. They are being compensated to tell my story, to profit from the content I provide them. I hustle, working 60+ hours a week to bring home an Americorps stipend, juggle a position at the university and keep my part-time gig at the bike shop as well as trying my best to stay fit so I can show up to the few races I care about. All in the interest of being able to afford to buy last-minute parts my sponsors can’t help with (because they live far away) to race my bike, have a place to live, and pay for food, gas, and the regular life stuff.
I’m trying to be true to myself because I know the ol’ GM (gichi manidoo) sees me at all times. It’s hard when there are so many “low-hanging fruits”. I sometimes want to say yes to a sweet deal, a job, an opportunity; in ten years when I look back at that choice, will I still be happy I said yes? When Freehub approached me to include a profile of me, I said sure, but that I had a different idea. I wanted to write it and tell my story as true as I know it to be. They were totally down, and I think the piece turned out awesome.
I just wanted to let you all know that being on the cover of a magazine I never imagine being on is a huge win for us; it’s a huge win for my vision of increasing the visibility of contemporary Indigenous people in the outdoors, of Indigenous people following their dreams, it’s a huge win for everyone who has helped me get to this point. It was fun to try to put into words the ways in which ultra-racing has revealed itself to be a ceremony for me. I’m Indigenizing spaces I was too scared to bring my Indigeneity into. More so now, than ever, I’m realizing that my bike self and Anishinaabe self aren’t two separate beings, but that I am both, in both worlds in all that I do, and they fit together perfectly. I hope you all get a chance to read the piece!
We’d like to congratulate Alexandera on this momentous occasion and wish her tailwinds on her next race! Pick up this issue at Freehub and if you have a Freehub Subscription, read the full article at Freehub.