By Andrew Mohama
Andrew Mohama is a passionate year-round bicyclist living in Minneapolis. He learned how to ride a bike at the age of five and has since used the bike as a vessel for adventure, transportation, and challenge. As a Syrian-American, Andrew believes in the power of diversity and representation, especially in the sport of cycling. He thinks the best way to explore the world is from the saddle of a bicycle! Andrew just applied to join the Eliel Factory Team and shared with us the story of why he rides – we loved it so much we wanted to pass it along.
“See the world differently from a bike,” reads a quote on the wooden artwork my mother hung up days before I left for my 70-day cycling journey across America supporting the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. I did not think much of that artwork before I left. Little did I know, experiencing America from a bike would change my life forever as I pedaled from the inner harbor of Baltimore to the coast of San Francisco in the summer of 2017.
Day 38 was a day I will never forget. It consisted of an unforgiving ascent on the Colorado Rocky Mountain Range up Trail Ridge Road, one of the highest continuous paved roads in North America. In just the first 18 miles from departing Estes Park, we achieved 4,350 feet of elevation gain with a 4.6% average grade and a summit at 12,100 feet. Exhausted and emotional from what we had just accomplished, reality sank in that we still had 90 miles to go until reaching the destination for the day. This ride was both enriching and purifying. I remember calling my brother at the peak of that mountain to reminisce about the struggles we used to face biking up the 50ft hill to our childhood home. I couldn’t believe what I had just accomplished. At that moment, I felt more alive than ever before – and I couldn’t help but shed tears of joy. That ride and many rides that followed required focusing on the present moment, embracing every feeling. All of these signals were affirmative, telling me that I am truly alive and truly human – hardwired for exertion and programmed to endure.
Now, over three years since that memorable ride, I continue to seek out cycling challenges to learn about endurance and dismantle my self-imposed limits. Most recently, I completed the Day Across Minnesota gravel bike race. 240 miles of gravel. 24 hours to complete it. Midnight start. Through the mental and physical battles I faced over the 16 hours of biking, I came out of the ride with an incredible amount of pride, emotion, and affirmation. To remain mindful during a long bike ride, especially when alone, is desperately hard. Any slight discomfort becomes an all-consuming weight. The vastness of nothing is piercing. The roads are endless and painful. The body aches in despair. The mind attaches to simple measures of survival, and life gets reduced to the bare essentials. Eat, drink, breathe, sweat, survive. Nothing else matters. The mind whispers, why am I doing this?
I love it. These rides facilitate an opportunity to realize strength. To fight and overcome thoughts of quitting. To ride with the pace of the land. To listen to its stories. To be a guest in nature’s home and learn from her. During these moments of temporary positive suffering – when my breath is screaming and my heart is pounding – I find the strength to keep going. Push. Pull. Breathe in. Breathe out. The bike is still moving forward. The impossible hill is now behind me. The destination is one pedal closer. The mind whispers, you are capable of more than you ever imagined.
To me, cycling is about freedom. It offers a mindful escape from the confines of home, work, phones, and demanding schedules. It allows a chance to disconnect from routine but reconnect with the world living within us and also around us. It pushes us to overcome challenges, fears, and self-imposed limits. It gives us a chance to share the joy with others as we ride together but also experience the joy of a mindful ride alone. Riding a bike brings out the childlike wonder from the innocent days of our lives, and it informs us about awareness. Awareness of our bodies and the nature we share with one another.
As I reflect on my love for cycling, I often think of those beautiful summer days spent pedaling across the country. That summer spent cycling across America taught me to see each ride we went on as a mirror for how we should live daily. You wake up, get ready for the day, and you know where you’re going. But, you are not quite sure how you are getting there, what you will see, and how you will feel throughout that day. The one thing you do know for certain is that you have to live that day to its fullest and embrace everything you encounter because you cannot go back. A moment becomes special when you realize you cannot have the same moment twice. That is what riding means to me. The next time you go on a ride, ask yourself – what is your reason to ride?
Cheers and happy riding.