When she was two years old, Cindy Sigler was involved in a really bad bike accident. She was t-boned at top speed and, until she got to Gainesville, she had not ridden a bike since.

Sigler, a plant genetics major at the University of Florida, discovered The Freewheel Project, a local non-profit bike collective and shop, through her roommate. Eager to overcome her fear of biking, Sigler decided to join the project’s weekly rides. But she found the co-ed ones unfulfilling.

“Some of my guy friends just get really competitive about riding,” she said. “Just how boys show off because they’re boys, so they’ll bike ahead.”

So Sigler decided to try the women’s rides. Though she’s only been on one, she found the ride to be empowering.

“It feels more like a teamwork kind-of-thing, like a little pod,” she said. “No one’s separated, we’re all just riding together.”

It was this feeling that Sigler described – empowerment – that led Ana Fajardo to create the Freewheel Project’s weekly women’s ride. It’s empowerment that comes from working together, whether it be the sweatiness of the Gainesville Roller Rebels, Alachua County’s first and only competitive women’s flat track roller derby league, or the scrappiness of the Florida Ultimate Elite Ladies, UF’s Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team. “Pleasant,” as Sigler said, or aggressive, what unites all these women is the power of the relationships they build while learning to rely on their teammates and learning to trust themselves.

Chelsea Hetelson contributed to this report.

Photos by Sean Doolan.

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