When Susen Freemyers got her first bike in 2013, she was 350 lbs and cooking was her main hobby, “it was my happy place,” as she describes it. Living a pleasant life with her husband and working as a commercial artist, little did she know that fate was about to intervene and would introduce her to what would become one of the greatest passions of her life.
Following a car accident, which thankfully did not result in injury but totalled the car, Susen suggested to her husband that they get themselves bikes rather than replacing the vehicle. It took a bit of convincing on her part but ultimately – he agreed. Although they didn’t start off riding anything too fancy, it wasn’t long before Susen realized she had definitely made the right call.
Since 2014, she has ridden 25,527.11 miles, or “has been around the earth one time.” She has also used cycling to successfully treat two health conditions, has made many new friends, and is feeling healthier and more excited about life than ever before. We Love Cycling talked to her about the joy of discovering a new passion, the support of the cycling community, and how the freedom of cycling has helped her overcome a troubled past.
Where did you get the idea to buy bikes, what got you excited about cycling in the first place?
Well, it was pretty simple for starters; I could see the potential of saving money on gas and started to imagine all the places we would be able to ride instead of driving. There was also the health factor, at the time we got the bikes, I weighed 350 lbs and my husband weighed 375 lb.
I have always enjoyed the outdoors and as soon as we got the bikes, I experienced a new kind of freedom. I love to explore and the bike can go places that a car just can’t, this was definitely a big draw.
What was your first memorable experience on a bike?
Getting back from our first-ever 6-mile ride and feeling awesome! I wanted to do it again and go even further. I’ve been cycling for seven years now, three years figuring it out and four years hitting the pavement. I knew it was the sport for me when I discovered it can help me find my focus and peace of mind.
It must have been a great feeling to take to it so quickly. What keeps you riding?
I ride for overall fitness, after ditching cooking for cycling, I lost 95 lbs and gained a lot more muscle. But, more importantly, I cycle for my mental health. Being candid; my childhood was very difficult, isolated, and abusive. Despite knowing that I was good at many things, I had no support at home. Quite the opposite, I had a mother who was determined to destroy me.
What she didn’t realize is that I was actually very mentally strong and knew I had value. Even at age five, I knew she was wrong. It hasn’t always been easy but the freedom I experience on the bike is empowering and has helped me overcome the negative feelings associated with my troubling childhood.
That’s really inspiring. You keep mentioning the feeling of freedom, that is such a special and unique about cycling.
Yes, and it has made me free from other kinds of pain too! I have two conditions that cycling has helped with a lot. I have obturator nerve entrapment in my hips so, in the beginning, the pain was off the wall. It would come out of nowhere and literally stop me in my tracks. But since I started cycling, it is practically gone.
The other thing is I have femoral nerve damage from a deep vein clot resulting in Bernhardt-Roth Syndrome. It used to cause the worst burning sensation ever, my thigh would feel like it was on fire and the pain was excruciating. Cycling has totally gotten rid of it! I’ve been pain free for about eight months.
Wow! Well, it sounds like you’ve got plenty of motivation to ride then. Do you stick to a specific schedule? Do you ever struggle to get out?
My training schedule is like this: get on the bike and ride. I’m an all-weather rider, it doesn’t matter. Rain, wind, heat, hail, thunderstorms, I’m in it. I actually have two “bike cops,” as I call them, my husband and my good friend Jenni. They sometimes try to stop me when the weather looks too crazy. Even when it’s storming so bad that the house is shaking, I’m up and getting dressed for my ride, sometimes my husband has to physically stop me. (laughter)
Well, it’s important to be safe but it sounds like you’re a woman on a mission!
Yes, my goals as of right now are to maintain 1,000 miles a month and ultimately get to 30,000 miles. I’m at 25,713.57 miles currently so I have 4,286.43 miles to go. My second goal is to make my second lap around the earth, which is 24,901 miles. So, I’ve got 24,088.43 more miles to go for that!
That’s some very impressive mileage! You really never run out of steam?
What I discover in the beginning on some of my 12-mile rides is that the first 5 to 6 miles were hard, then after that the adrenaline kicks in. So I started using this as a benchmark, ride past 6 miles and if I start feeling really good, then I keep going. That being said, there were a few times I would get past that mark and feel awful. So that is when I know, ‘OK I need a break’.
But even on my really bad days, I know once I get past a certain point, the endorphins will kick in and my whole day will turn around. That is what I look forward to. There is also the anticipation of what I could discover on my ride.
It sounds like you’re really able to get in zone and almost find cycling meditative. Has cycling changed how you look at the world at all?
I’ve realized that happiness is not a constant! Happiness is hidden in the places where you find joy; a baby bird on a branch, flowers, clouds. The key to happiness is to learn how to hold on to that instant of joy, by learning how to be in the moment. We all have these special experiences! And cycling is an awesome way to find your moments of joy.
We couldn’t agree more. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about your experience? Maybe some advice for new cyclists?
When I started out, I was bending my back wheel and breaking spokes left and right. That is how heavy I was. For the first three years, it was really rough, I did a number on that bike with my weight. But I didn’t give up.
The point of cycling is to have fun so don’t worry about all the technicalities. I did my first rides in blue jeans. I didn’t care about what people thought, I just cared about feeling good. Focus on how you feel in the moment and just keep pushing forward.