Biking, Brain Injury, and the Road to Recovery: Why I Love to Ride.

Woman riding bike

 

I love to ride my bike because…

I can fly.

I’ve been in love with riding since I was a kid, standing on the back of my brother’s bicycle with arms spread wide open, feeling like I was soaring through the air. That sensation has stayed with me into adulthood, evolving into a passion for road bikes, mountain bikes—anything with two wheels brings back that same experience of freedom and joy.

My passion for cycling is also how bicibits was born. It began with a line of cycling apparel I began working on while I was a school teacher, which grew into a concept for a non-profit bicycle program that would reach out to women and girls in Central and South America, improving access to schools, supporting sustainability projects, and connecting and supporting modest entrepreneurs. I wanted to inspire others, to contribute, to help educate children around the world and to share the experience of freedom that cycling had given to me.

However, in the summer of 2010, I was run over by a car, while out riding and everything changed.

There was not much severe, outward crippling physical damage. But I incurred a traumatic brain injury -TBI. The invisible damage was one that impaired me, and still affects me, in a multitude of ways I could never have imagined. For over two years, I had no memory, and growing cognitive and neurological issues. I couldn’t return to teaching or launch my business, could hardly remember conversations from one moment to the next. I couldn’t even ride my bike.

So, not straying from my true self, I turned my dreams of a new business into an outlet for my abundant energy. I re-learned skills I once had pat, like stringing beads or drawing, as part of my recovery. I learned, slowly, how to coordinate my brain with my muscle memory. It was challenging, but eventually I rediscovered old aptitudes and artistry, like making the sun catchers I used to design back in my 20’s. This time, I started to work in bicycle designs, dreaming of the day I could start riding again.

Each day, with each sun catcher, I got a little better at coordinating my vision with my hand movements. Most importantly, those sun catchers represented hope. Throughout my early stages of recovery, I was focused on returning to teaching, and my big beautiful life and all my plans for the future. I wanted it so badly, but then I’d have setbacks and reality would catch up.

Some of the biggest challenges are mostly due to brain fatigue and stimulus sensitivity. Things that other people find easy can be mentally exhausting and debilitating. Bright lights and loud sounds can overwhelm my senses. My brain injury has had a big impact on my life, my career, and my family. It can be difficult to communicate at times, especially in crowded gatherings, restaurants and retail outlets, anywhere there is a lot of noise and bright lights.

Yes, it’s been a tough, long bumpy ride. Nevertheless, some wonderful things have come out of this experience.

My accident has opened up new opportunities and connections. I have met some amazing people and fellow survivors. I volunteer at the BIND.org and participate in events of BIA USA. I’ve heard inconceivable stories of setbacks and witnessed extraordinary survival. I am one of the lucky ones. It could have been so much worse.

I have gained a greater appreciation now for the fragile and complex wonder that is the brain, and how much we depend on it for every aspect of life. I have grander empathy for others and enormous respect for each moment in time, and I’m acquiring new ways to live my life and reach my goals daily.

All these new challenges and perspectives have led to a new future. This vision for bicibits is simple:

I want to inspire people to “get their ride smile on.” I want to enthuse people to get up and get outdoors, to be active, and to be happy doing it. My wish is for this business to succeed so that I can provide for myself, continue to learn, explore, and grow. To encourage and expand the connection of cycling and a life well lived.

The dream for bicibits is to inspire, to learn, to give hope, and to continue to give back. I want to share my message.

And yes, I was able to get back on my bike. Yes, I still love it.

I love to ride my bike because, after everything, I can still feel those moments where I am flying, free, with the boundless journey before me. My bike, my brain, my body, my company, my new world—they are interconnected for me now, and together they propel me forward.

Pedal on!

~ Silvana

 

by Silvana

Founder and designer at bicibits.com Living life with fierce determination. Building dreams. Chasing the sun. Spreading ride smiles.