Meet Briana Cohen, an active rider in our monthly Taco Tri community events and a winner of the Greg Siple Award that helps young adults get in the saddle and out on the road by providing the skills and the gear needed for a lifetime of bicycle travel adventure.
As a recipient of the award, Briana organized an outreach project, Fearless Tandem, an introductory workshop to bicycle travel for the students at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. When Briana asked our team if we would get involved with her Adventure Cycling project, we couldn't have been more thrilled to raise our hands up. Briana has been an outstanding community leader, a positive spirit, and an absolute joy to bike alongside.
We sat down with Briana after organizing this massive project to get her take on what #timeoutside means to her, what the students walked away with from this experience, and tips to get yourself started into the world of Adventure Cycling.
There are many forms of cycling and it goes by many names. What exactly is Bicycle Traveling or Adventure Cycling?
“Bicycle travel is traveling by bike as a form of adventure and exploration. The adventure begins when you start pedaling, and you are able to openly experience the land and environment in an intimate way. The bike is a mechanism to get you where you want to go - whether to a local or state park, scenic view, quaint town, or to remote places that are not easily accessible. The bike gets you there and there are no limits to where you can go. Bike travel is not much different from cycling, since you are still experiencing the joys and exercise of riding, but there are added layers of exploration, freedom, self-discovery, and fun depending on your adventure.”
Biking has been a large part of your life. You started biking as a young kiddo for fun and now it's your form of transportation to commute to work and venture on self-contained rides in the Pacific Northwest. How has that molded your experience for the outdoors and what does time outside mean to you?
“I value the outdoors because there’s space for everyone and endless natural beauty. When I spend time outside, I enjoy the fresh air and feel at ease, whether I’m on my own or with lovely people. Biking allows me to reach farther distances than I can’t otherwise, while still being outside.”
“So many favorite moments outdoors on the bike. The first time I rode with the Lend Your Legs ride with Texas School for the Blind: it was my birthday and I rode alongside a blind girl on the back of a tandem who was completely overjoyed as we went down a hill. She threw her hands up and shouted as if she were going down a roller coaster. She could not see where she was going, but she could experience the thrill. The burst of excitement she felt from biking has always stuck with me.”
Why did you apply for the Greg Siple Award?
“What led me to apply goes back to last summer when I did a workshop with VieCycle to learn about basic bike maintenance and the art of bike touring. One woman who led the class said anyone can do a bike tour and the bike you already have is good enough; so after the class I went on my first bike camping trip. I did not have any gear for camping and before that weekend, I never imagined I could ride 75 miles in a single day. I borrowed a tent and panniers the night before from someone on Team Snacks and set out for Palmetto State Park. I learned a lot about myself and abilities, and gained newfound freedom knowing I can ride anywhere, anytime.”
“The trip was awesome and transformed my perspective; I applied for the award because I wanted more people to have that moment of discovery. I thought back to the blind rider going downhill on the tandem, and immediately knew what my project would be. My reasons for applying to The Greg Siple Award were to 1) feed my love of biking and traveling, 2) inspire others to ride, and 3) spread bike access and awareness.”
The Fearless Tandem workshop and community ride was a great success! What did the students learn from the workshop?
“Students learned about tandem bikes basics, cycling resources, parks and trail conservation, and the principles of Leave No Trace. They shared their favorite memories spending time outside and also heard stories from a blind athlete and partner who discussed linking up with sighted guides to explore, stay in shape, and race tandems with Paracycling. They got to take home hammocks, reusable water bottles, t-shirts, wooden camping spoons, Adventure Cycling memberships, stylish socks, and other giveaways.”
“Students walked away with the tools and confidence to go on their next adventure, which was the group bike ride later that day. The workshop served to inspire them; the gear to equip them; and the ride to have fun with the community. The Lend Your Legs ride has the students pair with cyclists on tandem bicycles to ride. Over 70 people joined for the ride! It was so cool to have such a large group come together and you could tell that bike travel is accessible to anyone. Someone even sent me a direct message on Instagram saying he and his partner had a tandem bike we could use - and they brought it so another student could ride. I love when the community supports each other like that.”
Now that the event is over, any plans for doing something similar or more community events to get more people to spend time outside?
“Always! I’m aiming to continue the momentum of the Fearless Tandem project to provide sustainable cycling resources, access, and awareness. I’ve also been instructing some city cycling classes for beginners so they feel more comfortable and confident riding in Austin. After receiving this award, I switched my job to a role in which I lead group rides with a team for anyone to join.”
Do you have any suggestions to get riding or involved in the adventure cycling community? Anything else you’d like to share?
“Bikes are a revolutionary tool, not just as a means to get places or for recreation, but to open people up to the outdoors and an upbeat community. The best thing I can recommend is to get out there and ride! You don’t need a fancy bike or gear and there are lots of great trails in and around Austin to check out. If you want to do some bike travel throughout the US, check out Adventure Cycling Association, which runs the Greg Siple Award and has maps featuring rural and low-traffic bicycle routes.”
“Applications for The Greg Siple Award 2020 will open on November 1st, 2019! Anyone between the ages of 18 to 30 can apply. I definitely would recommend for anyone who is interested in bike travel to apply! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions! My project page can be found here.”
If you asked our team what #timeoutside means to them, you’ll receive a slurry of answers. It comes in many shapes and sizes, different experiences, emotions and memories. It molds how we interact with the world and community around us. Briana radiates our Kammok values of community, love, and adventure. We’re proud to support her and everyone in our community who inspire others to spend time outside.
Photos provided by the talented Ali Mae.