Imagine the thrill of reconnecting with a playful childhood pastime.
Fancy riding the depth of a passion that brings you door to door collecting orphaned bikes, in an effort to share your fervor with others like you.
Envision an alternate reality where, after being skewered by your bike’s kickstand at the age of 6, you get back in the saddle.
Life on a bike opens a window of freedom and opportunity. There is nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of heightened senses, the thrill of nature’s tapestries or the absolute clarity of purpose it cultivates.
At times, mountain biking can be wholly meditational. Such was that day. By the time I managed to press the “pause button,” they were long gone…
As I began to process the event in delay, I was hit by the enormity of what I had just witnessed.
In the 10-plus years since my husband I have been mountain biking, we’ve seen a steady rise of Arab mountain bikers on the trails. Sporadically at first, paving the way for the abundant polished jerseys and bikes which followed, but men, they were always, always men.
Men these were not! It was not your ordinary group of bikers. The eclectic collection of orphaned bikes, hijabs and helmets made for one extraordinary moment.
Luckily, our paths crossed once again about two weeks later. I bolted from my group and raced to catch up with the mystifying women ahead of me.
Ever speculated upon the power of chance encounters to shape our tomorrows?
Fast forward almost two years in time. Meet my friend Eman. She is small in stature but what she lacks in height, she makes up for in spunk, spirit and resolve.
Alongside of her psychodrama career, Eman, mother of two, a woman of big visions, is on her way to becoming a certified bike coach. A biker at heart from the age of seven, she wanted to bike and she darn well made it happen. With unwavering tenacity, she gathered birds and bikes all around town. For the most part these were women who had not been on a bike since they were young girls. A contagious blast of frenzy danced on air as the ladies found their mount. At first it was “fix me up” steeds, haphazard dress and short rides. Today’s mountain bikes are rentals and in good working condition. The original short four-kilometer ride length has long since been surpassed. More and more of the women are purchasing bikes and sport specific gear.
After I met Eman, we masterminded “Ride and Reach” playshops, bringing Arab and Jewish women together for early mornings full of adventure, bikes, connection, dance, eats and fun. We even managed to splash together below ancient Jewish/Roman ruins in the Zippori Stream.
Eman says that bikes are freedom, fresh air and no borders. Bikes too are a wonderful tool to further liberate the modern independent Arab woman. Just as Eman loves biking off road, discovering and sharing nature’s pearls tucked away from sight, she longs to bike with her brethren, yonder behind the man-made barriers.
Not long after our joint adventures began, Eman was pregnant with her second child. We recently began riding together once again, when her son was but seven months old. Besides Eman, there are two other Arab women from the original “Ride and Reach” playshops who are ripe for the next step up. All three have purchased bikes and gear. We ride together whenever we are able to synchronize our schedules.
For Areej, our resident prenatal nurse and mother of three, biking is life, positive energy that charges her come rain or shine: moments of pure pleasure and delight. In her words: “Whoever hasn’t tried it has no idea what she is missing!”
As Eman is small, Heba is large, larger than life. Heba emanates strength, courage and willpower. It is my privilege to bear witness to the metamorphosis of this amazing woman. Heba is an orthopedic nurse and mother of two. She aspires to be a supportive mother, to instill seeds of awareness, never taking life’s gifts for granted, neither personal accomplishments nor the family’s journey towards its ideals. Biking? For Heba: “Biking is yoga!”
We are a group of five friends: three Arabs, Muslim and Christian, and two Jews. Dalia is the missing link. Dalia is a mosaic artist, interior designer and a mother of four. She has initiated a number of joint Arab and Jewish community mosaic art projects. In Dalia’s words: “Biking together is heart, all heart. It’s the perfect combination of fresh air, nature, exercise, women and optimism.
And me? I’ve always been an all or nothing kind of a girl. I have often decided to veer sharply and pledge my allegiance to that choice of direction, be it left or right, backwards or forwards, health, passion or politics. In my experience, whenever I have chosen this pattern of behavior, I’ve always paid a personal price.
What do I love about biking? Hands down I could requote every last tidbit of all of my friends. Their passion and purpose are mine too.
It’s the hurdles on my path that speak to me. As I bike I find myself thoughtlessly clearing obstacles which not so long ago were reason to dismount and lead my bike around. Suddenly the “mountains” became “molehills”. How was I ever afraid to go over that?!