by Jennifer Von Geldern
Lisa Anderson considers herself a Transformer and has even named her bike Megatron with that theme in mind. She has undergone an incredible metamorphosis, one that required effort, willpower, and commitment, in just a few years as she transitioned into her fifties. Megatron and Bike Like a Girl have played significant roles in her rebirth.
Lisa, from Spanish Springs just outside of Reno, says,” All my life, I’d been overweight, wasn’t good at sports, had been picked last for class teams and bullied in school. When I turned 49, and my two daughters were grown and moved out, I found myself needing to focus on me. I had been living for my children, and identified with myself only as a wife and mother.”
“I told my husband I didn’t want to be fifty and fat,” she continues, “so I started a weight loss journey on my own and without surgery.” After losing about 45 pounds, she became aware that she needed to address her bad hips. Her orthopedist recommended that both hips be replaced, and she had both surgeries in 2012, two months apart.
Lisa felt her new hips had given her a whole new life, and she vigorously continued her weight loss journey. This one-time non-athlete began to participate in triathlons, competing in almost a dozen between 2013 and 2015, from the St. George Ironman Relay in Utah to the Rancho Seco, Folsom, and Lake Berryessa triathlons in California, and several closer-to-home events around Lake Tahoe, including the Donner Lake Triathlon in which she placed second.
Once he found out, however, her orthopedist shut down her triathlons. “He told me the running had to stop. I was very young for hip replacements and new hips have a lifespan that shouldn’t be compromised by the impact of running. They need to last. The upside is that he told me I could do as much cycling as I wanted. So I got more into cycling, and still swim.”
All in all, Lisa has lost a total of 190 pounds. Today, she cycles frequently, riding with Bike Like a Girl group rides once or twice a month. In addition, she’s become a Bike Like a Girl ambassador, which carries several responsibilities. “It’s more than just wearing the kit,” Lisa explains. “It’s a volunteer position that expects that you understand the Bike Like a Girl mission and what the organization stands for, that you represent the organization honorably out on the road, that you help spread the word, and that you volunteer at bike events, races, or rides when possible.”
Lisa has volunteered at cycling time trials and at events featuring a Bike Like a Girl booth with merchandise and information. She’s also undergone the training needed to begin volunteering at kids' cycling camps. She finds it deeply satisfying to assist and educate anyone interested in cycling and Bike Like a Girl. She also acts as the sweep rider on Bike Like a Girl group rides. “Riding sweep is my favorite,” she notes. “I love to help new or struggling riders. Sometimes all it takes to get them up a hill is ‘let’s just downshift, let’s just get a better cadence, or let’s just spin it out’.”
She’s been riding with the larger, organized Bike Like a Girl rides since the beginning of 2016, but this summer she began taking women on her own fun rides. “My smaller group rides happen about once or twice a week and are like mini-Bike Like a Girl rides because I represent the group when I’m there. Whenever I show up, I’m in a Bike Like a Girl kit and represent the group’s goals and philosophies.”
This year holds even more for Lisa. “Some of my friends were doing Cycle Oregon, but I couldn’t afford it,” she says. “I contacted the ride organizers to see if they happened to have a scholarship. As it turns out, they have the Mark Bosworth Fund, which sponsors riderships for a few select applicants.” Of about 100 applicants, Lisa was one of three selected. “It’s an incredible honor to be chosen. I had to answer many questions and write an essay about why I’d be a good candidate for this fund, which represents Mark Bosworth, a Cycle Oregon participant in 2011 who simply vanished during the ride, never to be seen again. My ride begins September 9, and I’ll be representing Bike Like a Girl and proud to carry Mark’s name on my jersey.”
Lisa sums up her cycling and her reinvigorated outlook on life this way. “Riding my bike is my meditation. All my life I’d never felt much self-worth. The only things I was ever any good at were being a wife and mom, but not for being me. It’s very important for women to take time for themselves so they don’t lose who they are. As women, we need to stand strong and independent – we are fierce as a tribe, and there’s no hill we can’t conquer. At the end of my life, I want people to recognize that I transformed from a caterpillar into the butterfly I am now and that I truly loved life.”
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.