Persistence To Passion – One Cyclist's Inspiring Story

by Jennifer Von Geldern

There are so many themes to cover with Rosemary “Rosie” Hartman’s odyssey in the cycling world. So many poignant moments. So much significance on her road to ability and accomplishment.

Many of us learned to ride bikes as children. Rosie didn’t learn until she was in her mid-20s. She gave it several game attempts as a child in Rockville, Maryland, but a few troubled forays left her wounded and fearful. “At about age 11, I tried to teach myself to ride a bike, but the speed of riding alarmed me, then I’d panic and crash,” she laments. “After taking a tree stump to the gut on my first outing, and breaking my glasses on my second outing, I gave it up.”

Rosie spent many years not needing to ride and not trying again until she moved to Davis, California, in 2010. Bicycles dominate Davis, one of America’s most iconic bike towns, and to say they’re ubiquitous throughout town and especially on the University of California campus is nearly an understatement. As a UC Davis grad student, Rosie recognized that the need to ride a bike had finally arrived. In a town where cycling is universal transportation, she stood apart as a 24-year-old unable to ride.

She tried again, but fear won out again, and she settled for an adult tricycle. “It was an oddity, but everyone knew Rosie was around when they’d see my yellow tricycle with cheetah spots!” she laughs. For short jaunts in Davis, the trike did its job. However, Rosie found herself living a bit farther from campus as the years passed, and one day in 2013 as she battled a 20-mph headwind on the heavy, cumbersome trike, she determined that she needed to try a two-wheeler again.

Finally, success. With her boyfriend Erik’s help, 27-year-old Rosie learned to ride a beach cruiser. “He took me onto campus on a weekend when it’s pretty deserted, and I finally rode a bike without crashing. I was still afraid, but I was doing it,” she says.

Her old fear of speed gave way to frustration with lack of speed on the fat-tired cruiser within only two months. The next step on her journey came quickly – a brand-new Marin hybrid bike, with flat handlebars, road-bike size wheels, and efficient geometry. “That bike was like a quantum leap forward,” she says. “It was so great at its job of commuting to school and to work.” Rosie’s position as an environmental scientist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife put that Marin to use from Davis into Sacramento, across the Interstate 80 causeway, for an approximately 30-mile round trip on any day she could ride to work.

“Erik was a triathlete and avid cyclist at the time, and commuted to work. He’d given me the inspiration to bike commute,” she notes. “By 2015, I wanted to be better able to keep up with him, so I shopped for a road bike.” She selected a slick new Felt in bright red paint, sized and fitted by shop pros. “I love her,” she says with affection of her speedy two-wheeled partner she’s dubbed Miss Scarlet.

Cycling culture had taken hold by now, and though Erik’s road riding had waned by the time 2016 rolled around, Rosie was hooked. Erik continued his encouragement, and for Rosie, cycling had become more than transportation – it represented new challenges and a heartfelt passion. Cycling occupies much of her free time, and even off the bike, she incorporates her love of bikes into her other pastime, creating stained glass art, by using bicycle components in many art pieces.

When invited to try a century, Rosie envisioned the possibility and made it a reality by tackling the Tahoe Sierra Century’s 100k ride – with 3,000 feet of climbing from a 6,200-foot base – in September, 2016. Quite an undertaking for a rider with only Sacramento Valley flatland experience!

With one metric century under her belt, Rosie focused on her next goal – the 100-mile version of the Solvang Century in March of this year, only six months and a wet winter after her initiation into paid, organized rides. Within only three years, she’d gone from an adult learning to ride a two-wheeler with a death grip on the handlebars to reeling off a full century with aplomb.

Always ecologically minded, Rosie is a committed bike commuter. This year’s “May is Bike Month,” a nationwide endeavor to get people out of cars and pedaling, inspired her to up her game and see how many miles she could log in the month. She set a goal of 300 miles, and between commuting and recreational rides, she topped it by more than 200.

Rosie took part in Bike Like a Girl’s Second Sunday Ride on May 14, and like a seasoned pro, tucked in with the teeming pack of cyclists that opted for the 40-mile route out of midtown Sacramento. “It feels great to ride with a group,” she confirms. “I actually get to draft, and I really enjoy the camaraderie.”

Memorable in her Rosie the Riveter jersey and mounted on the flashy Miss Scarlet, she was a friendly, enthusiastic participant who can hold a line, exactly the person we all want to ride next to. I was the lucky one to ride with her for stretches of our route, and look forward to another ride with her. Whether she has company or not, be assured Rosie will be logging more miles as an admirable and accomplished member of the cycling community.

Jennifer von Geldern writes for Sacramento-based Comstock’s business magazine and the national publication Horse & Rider on a monthly basis, and her work has been published in a dozen magazines and online throughout her 20 years as a freelance writer. Based in Yuba City, California, she's begun applying her love of writing to her passion for bicycles and cycling, and has become a frequent contributor to Cycle California! magazine.