HEre at Bike New York, some of our favorite success stories are those that start at a class and end at the finish of one of our rides. In this Bike New Yorker spotlight, Jordi Frank takes us on her journey from signing up for her first Learn to ride class to the victory she experienced at the Twin Lights Ride… all within the span of a single year!
Why did you decide to learn how to ride a bike?
Iʼve always wanted to learn, but unfortunately I never really felt that I had the time. My first attempt was when I was 13, but that did not go well at all. This past summer, though, my schedule was finally flexible enough for me to commit to learning a new skill, and I wanted to pursue one that would last me my lifetime. To me, that’s what biking is. Generally speaking, bikes allow you to travel without breaking the bank and keep your fitness intact without having to go to a gym. Thereʼs also the sense of freedom I feel I can’t get from just walking or taking public transport. I cannot put it into words, but I feel like Iʼm flying when I’m cycling on the streets, especially when I’m heading downhill in the Bronx or Manhattan.
Tell us your Bike New Yorker story.
I found out about Bike New York last year, and since then it was always in the back of my mind. Early this year, I started watching some New York-based bike Youtubers, and their videos made me even more determined to learn how to ride.
I was able to join my first 101 class very close to where I live, and the instructor, Cristian Aponte, was such an excellent teacher. I was really surprised that we weren’t being taught to ride a two-wheeler the “traditional” way–I was expecting them to hold the saddle and handlebars until we got our balance. Instead, we went from a few rounds of balancing on the bike sans pedals to riding independently by the end of the two-hour class. I couldnʼt believe it–I didnʼt even fall down once!
Iʼm grateful that Bike New York goes out of their way to reach lower-income neighborhoods. Also, although it wasnʼt a Gear Femmes session, all of the students in that first class were women. It was such a sight to behold!
Besides learning to ride, what’s the most important idea, concept, or practice you learned in ONE OF OUR class?
Scanning, definitely. Everyone, pedestrians and alternative transport enthusiasts alike, know that streets across the boroughs are crazy. Sometimes I do get caught up in the moment, feeling the breeze on my cheeks and getting a rush from speeding around, but I’m able to quickly snap out of it and look around, checking to see where cars are going to turn, stopping at traffic lights, signaling where I’m headed to drivers, and so on.
Has riding led you to make any new friends or expand your community?
For sure! Gear Femmes in particular was such an easy way for me to meet other women around the same skill level as myself. After one of the 201 rides, some of my fellow students and I formed a group chat to share class updates and other rides happening in the city and beyond. Weʼll also sometimes talk shop, discussing must-have equipment or the best bikes to get for traveling around NYC. One of the class volunteers, Andrea, made an apt and funny comment about how the 201 and 202 session students with the best attendance should become Bike New York’s official “poster children” since they’re so dedicated… and, honestly, I have to agree!
Have you bought a bike? If not, what’s your dream RIDE LIKE?
Not yet, definitely saving at the moment! Iʼm looking for a reasonably-priced hybrid to get me around the city and can handle shorter rides–probably around 15 to 25 miles on average. Iʼm not sure if my back can handle drop handlebars, so Iʼm looking for more upright builds at the moment–I’m okay with sacrificing some speed for long-term comfort. My goal is to get my own bike in time for the Five Boro Bike Tour in 2020.
How many miles did YOU TRAVEL BY BIKE THIS YEAR? What was your most challenging, unique, or rewarding ride?
Tallying up the mileage from all the classes I took, plus the Twin Lights Ride, Gear Femmes group rides, Summer Streets, and some other bike tours Iʼve done, Iʼd say somewhere between 130-175 miles. The most rewarding and unique ride was definitely Twin Lights for sure, and Iʼm not just saying that because Iʼm being interviewed by you guys! The sights were really something else on that ride, going through the picturesque trees at the start of their fall transformation, the very, very green and lush farmlands, the long stretches of highway that make you anticipate your next stop… I could go on! I felt so at peace with myself at the ride just because of the environment.
what advice would you give to someone who is considering learning to ride?
Take the plunge, but wait until you know you can commit the time. Biking goes beyond just transportation–it makes you view your community and environment in a different light. You’ll become more aware about the best way to get from point A to point B, and that will incentivize you to advocate for more and safer bike paths so that people can use those routes more effectively. It will give you a pathway to the community of your choosing. Itʼll improve your physical and mental health–you’ll have to take it from my anecdotal evidence, but my mood is always improved after a bike ride. You’ll become more vigilant. There are so many benefits to biking that it would take me half a day to list them all!
Also, there are so many ways to bike. Thereʼs BMX, street racing, road racing, mountain biking, cross-country… you can bike on a unicycle or a 4-wheeler or a recumbent bike. It almost seems limitless, but I do believe thereʼs something for everyone in biking.
How do you feel that cycling makeS a positive impact on the world?
Biking really is a gateway to so many intersecting fields: transportation, economy, health, community, environmental justice, and sport. There are just so many net positives for cities to accommodate bikers! If you have a boost in your mood from a good bike ride between home and work, itʼll spur you to be more productive while youʼre plugging away at your job. If you want your city to become carbon neutral–or if you’re at least aiming to lower carbon emissions–look no further than biking! If you want to lessen the congestion of traffic on the streets, well, hello? NYC has definitely come a long way to improve its biking infrastructure, but we can go further. We can go the distance to truly change our streets.
What’s next for you in your cycling life?
I havenʼt biked this yet, but I would love to ride the trail to the Palisades. I did an outing with the Shorewalkers–highly recommend this group for anyone who wants a taste of the outdoors on a tight budget!–from the GWB to the Palisades, and the sights were amazing. My goodness, the shore on that day was beautiful, and I can only imagine experiencing it from a cycling perspective!
I’m also giving more thought to downhill, cross-country, and/or mountain biking. Ever since I started to ride, I do feel like a “speed demon” seed was planted in my psyche–especially after long weekdays at the office. Iʼm a cautious person in many other respects, but with biking, I do need to make sure to offset my need for speed with being a vigilant city cyclist!