She36 Exhibition: Women in Cycling

She36 Exhibition: Women in Cycling

Kimberly Coats was contacted several weeks ago by She36, a fixed gear women's cycling club in Berlin, Germany. They were collecting stories for an exhibition to travel throughout Germany.
Africa Women Cycling Kim Coats

written by Kim Coats on March 14 2017

Could you please tell us a bit about your cycling background??

I describe myself as a recreationally competitive cyclist.  I raced a bit when I lived in the US but never at the professional level.  Although I would kill it with all the other “older” girls in the Cat 4 races, just because, that’s how I am. 

In my early 30’s after years of running, the chronic injuries became too difficult to manage.  A lovely doctor of mine with a brutal reality bedside manner simply told me I was never going to be a great runner and maybe I should just pick a new sport…”crazy lady”. 

In 2008, at the age of 42, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to do three things with my work and my life:

Travel
Help people
Do something around my love of cycling

In April 2009, I moved to Rwanda to sell cargo bikes to coffee farmers and I began helping the National Cycling Team.  Fast forward almost 8 years and I’m still in Rwanda working for Team Africa Rising, traveling the continent growing the sport of cycling but now with an emphasis on women’s cycling.

What do bicycles mean to you?

Freedom….pure joy….opportunity to connect people from all over the world from all cultures, races, religions.  The bike is the ultimate common denominator.  The bike is literally my world.

What was your most inspiring cycling experience so far?

In 2012, Adrien Niyonshuti, became the first Rwandan to qualify for the Olympics in cycling.  Being in London during his race and praying throughout the race that he would finish and make history was the most nerve racking, anxious, joyous moment of my life.  As he came through the tunnel for the final, I knew he had done it.  I began crying.  This young man from a small town in the Eastern province of Rwanda became the first black African to ever finish an Olympic mountain bike event. 

To be a part of those minutes, with the crowd cheering for him, encouraging him, it made every difficult moment worth it.

What advice would you give to other women who are beginning their own cycling stories?

Stay strong sister!  Beat down the intimidation and fear you feel walking into a bike shop.   Do not let your negative self-talk (we all do it) talk you out of doing your first group ride. You will find your place, your community if you keep pushing through the doubts.

Find out your own personal “why”.  That’s what will get you up in the morning and keep you turning the pedals.  For me, it’s simply to keep my sanity. 

Describe in one word what bicycles mean to you.

#HOPE

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