Real Bike Girl Shit: A Year+ Into the Pandemic


Real Bike Girl Shit: A Year+ Into the Pandemic

This article is a follow-up to Cinthia‘s piece she penned for us last year entitled Bike Racing, White Privilege and the Coronavirus. Read on for a somber reflection on the time that’s passed from Cinthia below…

What do you do when your whole world starts falling apart? Your wedding canceled, bike racing canceled, your whole fucking life canceled? The only thing I could do was chat with my girlfriends, mainly my bike racing girlfriends and teammates. I was fortunate enough to be a part of several group chats of bike racing women that had originally started to discuss group rides, races, the latest Shimano, and arbitrary bike nonsense. Our casual chats morphed into Corona Virus information centers and update logs from our quarantine bunkers/apartments. The chat became a roller coaster of human emotions during the global pandemic experience.

In the beginning, we all joked about the quarantine thinking the lockdown was a two-week vacation. Eventually, the severity of the situation dawned on all of us, it was a modern-day plague targeting our families and communities. The grocery store was empty, some of our loved ones had lost their jobs and the news seemed increasingly grim. We felt guilty together for grieving mundane activities like haircuts and group rides. We shared memes, articles, and a heavy amount of chisme. I went through some substantial depression and weight loss from the stress of worrying about my family and from the realization that there was nothing in my life to look forward to. We all watched online as George Floyd was brutally murdered by a police officer. We discussed the pain of that moment in and out.

During summer the group chat turned even more somber when we lost a member. My teammate and longtime friend Shelby Bean passed away suddenly in a car accident. We were notified in the group chat that she “didn’t make it”. She was 28, the brightest person in the peloton, fierce, beautiful, a physician’s assistant, and a future doctor. It was a devastating blow for all of us. Shelby was the first friend I ever lost. I can still smell her rosey jasmine perfume.

We tried to grieve together as best we could, six feet apart, outside, crying like babies and sharing stories about her spicy attitude. At Shelby’s funeral, we smoked her weed in her honor and cried through our snot-filled masks with her family. We discovered there is an awful type of strong bond that forms with a group of friends after someone in that same group dies.

After mourning together our small network of imperfect women solidified and developed further to support each other through family disasters, breakdowns, breakups, cheating scandals, failures, and job losses. There were also zoom hangouts, recipe sharing, dank memes, group Zwifting, and a lot of socially distanced outdoor drinking. Sometimes we argued or vehemently disagreed with each other but it was just part of it.

At different times when the group chat was notified that other bike girls in our community were experiencing a low point, we formed a compact cohort of compassion, reaching out to whoever for whatever support we were able to offer. And that’s how it continued. They brought me flowers when I got married without a formal reception. We sent cookies to our friend who lost her mom. We discussed at length the significance of Cardi B’s WAP. It was a year of learning how to be ok with not being ok and of finding joy where you could. We saw each other on our worst days. We took turns having shit hit the fan in our lives and we also took turns helping to deal with the pain of the worst year of all of our lives.

During this turbulence, I decided to stop training and leave my race team. The leader of our team ascended to the ranks of the professional women’s peloton and some of us lost touch with each other joining new teams or moving in different directions. At times I’ve felt like bike racing teams can be a shallow interpretation of friendship and at other times I’ve felt that some of my best moments are with the people I’ve met through bike racing. Maybe both are true. What I know with certainty is that we went through some real bike girl shit this past year.