Why I Ride

Spokes and stories

Being an effective storyteller has always been important to me. Unfortunately, I often don’t have the right words to do those stories justice. I’m a dancer; I’ve spent most of my life using my body to tell the stories I didn’t have the words to share. The activity allows me to express myself as an individual while working with teammates to share stories via the movement of our bodies. Sounds kind of familiar, right? It took me a few years to realize that cycling carries the same storytelling power dance does, but, once it hit me, cycling became another avenue for me to convey the narratives I felt I needed to share with others. 

My mom was the one who inspired me to get on the bike. She underwent a pretty serious back surgery that required at least 6 months of bed rest, but she decided to ride in the MS150 (a bike ride from Houston to Austin) after only 4 months. Her determination to prove her strength to her doctors, friends & family, and, most importantly, herself was one of the most influential moments of my life. The next year, I decided to give it a try: along the ride, I shared my personal experiences of helping loved ones who struggle with MS. I heard others, felt the pain in their voices, and understood that this was just the beginning of using my bike to start important conversations. 

A few years later, I was accepted into a cycling organization at my university — a family of 70 like-minded teammates whose lives had been affected by cancer. It was our mission to fight cancer with hope, knowledge, and charity. Our jersey had incited countless exchanges on the side of the road and often on our hardest rides which pushed us to keep riding. It was actually through this experience that I heard of Pedal the Pacific and its mission for the first time. A small group of girls was going to be embarking on a ride similar to ours; they also hoped to turn heads and answer questions about their cause that they hoped their bikes would spark. I was enamored by their drive to undergo such a large endeavor with such a small team. Following their social media, I was able to watch and cheer in the comment section as four teams of amazing women made the journey and came back to tell the tale as well as the stories that fueled their continued efforts to end trafficking.

After a few years of watching others do, I had another epiphany: my stories are not the only ones my bike can share. 

I applied to Pedal the Pacific because I knew next to nothing about trafficking. If I’m being honest, I still think of the Taken movies or episodes of Criminal Minds when I think of the concept. But truly understanding the power my bike has to communicate narratives, I’m excited to properly educate myself while sharing the stories that I feel ought to be told. This is the first time where I’ve felt like I’m taking the back seat to the anecdotes and letting them lead: for once, it’s not how I’ve personally been impacted by something rather how I can help spread knowledge that I, too, needed. I am using my movement again in a time where words will likely fail me. 

My spokes have, for years, been tangled with stories. Mine. I’m excited to introduce them to new ones during these next 1,700 miles.

-Kasturi Bandyopadhyay

July 12, 2024
Chloe Aguilar

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