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8 Uplifting Stories from the Cycling Community in 2021

By Megan Flottorp

The truth is that you usually don’t have to look too far to find inspiring stories that involve a bicycle. From incredible health transformations to commendable feats of raising awareness or funds, it seems that people often feel motivated to use a bike both for the betterment of themselves and the society around them.

And one thing we are really loving about the broad swath of uplifting stories that pour out of the cycling community? They are becoming increasingly diverse—representing people of all ages, physical conditions, abilities, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds. Cycling is for everyone, and it is a pleasure to see our beloved bicycle having a serious impact on so many lives.

Both intended to fill your heart with all those warm, fuzzy sentiments of the season and to get you excited about heading out for a ride—here are just a few tales of the wonderful things people did on bikes in 2021.

Syrian women resist the traditions that have kept them off bikes

I Want a Bike marathon
A gender gap is still present in the cycling community, and the discrepancy is particularly sharp in parts of the world where it is still considered unusual or even improper to see a woman on a bike. © Profimedia

One of the many encouraging initiatives to get women around the world cycling is the “I Want a Bike” campaign in Syria. Following other brave Syrian women who have forged alliances and promoted cycling over the past several years, a new group of young cyclists, in cooperation with the Sports Federation of north-eastern Syria, has established one of the country’s first women-focused cycling organisations. Set to achieve big things, “I Want a Bike” held its first bike race in 2021 and is going forward with the bold mission to help more women discover the joy of cycling.

Sisters in the Wild make bikepacking more diverse and accessible

Sisters in the Wild is a dynamic, UK-based community working to create an environment where people other than men can feel empowered to discover the incredible freedom of bikepacking. This year, they hosted a weekend in the beautiful Lake District that saw people with various backgrounds and experiences in cycling come together to explore some of the best gravel in the country. From long-distance bikepackers, bike mechanics, commuters and those who’d never ridden off-road before: a real breadth of knowledge was present—creating the perfect environment for learning, sharing, and discovering a new passion.

Women's Bikepacking Seminar
75 women, non-binary and trans folk embarked on the English Lake District to take part in a community-building weekend focused on bikepacking. © Roxanna Barry

Big names in cycling come together to help Afghanistan

In co-operation with Sylvan Adams, owner of the UCI men’s WorldTeam Israel Start-Up Nation, the NGO IsraAID, various governments, the Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC) as well as FIFA, the UCI has aided the evacuation of 125 Afghan citizens, including female cyclists, members of cycling management bodies, artists, a judge, and several journalists and human rights campaigners. All of them have been able to reach Europe via Tirana in Albania. Thirty-eight individuals are being settled in Switzerland, with the others travelling to Canada, France, Israel, and the USA.

Iraqi women organise a rally for freedom and safer infrastructure

This spring, an all-female bicycle rally took place in Mosul, Iraq. Powered by around 35 riders, aged 15 to 30 years, the crew rode through the streets of the Old City of Mosul to encourage more girls and women to take up cycling and point out the need to restore the ruined roads and infrastructure.

The Iraqi rally
The all-female bicycle rally took place in Mosul, Iraq in April this year. © Profimedia

In a bold move demonstrating a commitment to providing a different future for the next generation, the event started at The Great Mosque of al-Nuri. This location holds symbolic importance as it was this very site that the leader of the Islamic State chose for his speech to declare Mosul a self-declared caliphate. Years later, the city is still rebuilding but these brave women came together as an inspiring sign of the progress that has been made.

Cycling Without Age continues to go strong

A global movement started in Denmark, Cycling Without Age, continues to spread its mission of sharing the joy and freedom of cyclists with senior citizens. The concept has proved particularly popular with so many seniors whose social contacts were limited by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It brings back my youth,” exclaimed one senior in London, Ont., who now enjoys regular cycling outings thanks to the volunteers who keep the vibrant program cruising along.


A man literally saves the life of his fellow cyclist

Dr Jesse Coenen didn’t expect to perform an emergency surgical procedure in the middle of the forest on his day off but the man he operated on is glad he showed up when he did. An emergency physician at the Hayward Area Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin, Coenen was riding the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails in Minnesota this fall when he came across an unconscious man surrounded by paramedics desperately trying to intubate him.

The man had fallen off his bike and was losing oxygen fast. Coenen had to perform an emergency cricothyrotomy on-site, feeding a tube through an incision in his throat to help him breathe. The procedure was successful and saved Todd Van Guilder’s life.

An indigenous youth bikes for the future of his community

An Indigenous youth from Canada, Rylee Nepinak, had no experience as a cyclist when he decided to bike from Vancouver to Halifax. Still, he knew he had to do something to raise money and awareness about Indigenous youth suicide and particularly the crisis unfolding in Manitoba’s Tataskewayak Cree Nation. Not only did he complete his route but he also managed to raise over $27,000 with his online fundraiser along the way.

Rylee Nepinak
Rylee Nepinak greets youth from Tataskweyak Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba. © Profimedia

He marked the end of his trip by jumping in the Halifax harbour with some members of Tataskweyak Cree Nation who drove across the country to surprise him at his endpoint. The scene also saw about 20 supporters carrying “Every Child Matters” flags and photos of their loved ones who were victims of suicide.

Britain’s oldest papergirl continues to brighten her neighbours’ morning

Pauline Bridge started her career as a paper carrier about ten years ago and plans to carry on until 90. Every morning, Pauline jumps on her 40-year-old bike and, regardless of the weather, brings the day’s news to her community. Over the years, Mrs Bridge made about 50,000 deliveries and cycled roughly 5,000 miles.

As you can see, the cycling community is full of ambitious and kind-hearted characters who continue to surprise and delight with their creativity and determination on the bike. Looking back on what has been a challenging year for many of us, we are so grateful to share these stories and know that 2022 will bring plenty more!