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Aliya Tyus-Barnwell (35) got addicted to cycling through a friend who was training for a triathlon. “She invited me out for a ride. I dusted off my old mountain bike and went out with her. It was a real struggle: I was sweating, out of breath and slow… But I was hooked! I bought a beat-up bike and started driving around town. My collection has grown since then and today I’m totally addicted to cycling.”

6000 mile cycling goal in one year

Aliya was born and raised in New York. She works for ‘I Challenge Myself’, a non-profit organization that encourages high school students to use sport as an opportunity to learn outside the school, in the heart of the city that never sleeps. “I’m the coach and coordinator of the ‘Cycling Smarts’ program. Our classes offer students the opportunity to ride throughout all five boroughs, maintain their bike, gain cycling skills, develop strength and endurance, set goals, and grow their knowledge of nutrition and physiology. I think it’s great that my passion has become my job!” Aliya rides her bike to work year-round, from Brooklyn to Manhattan. “I love it most when the sun is out. But I’ve ridden through temperatures as low as -12°C and I’ll ride in the rain if I must. Snow is not good for road bikes so in that case I don’t ride… But I have a 6000 mile cycling goal this year, so I can’t take many breaks if I want to accomplish my mission.” In her free time, Aliya rides laps nearby her house, in Prospect Park. For longer rides, she heads outside the city: there are fewer stoplights and better climbs.

Cycling = freedom

“Cycling grants me a freedom that trains and cars don’t. Especially in the city, trains can be unpredictable and smelly, and cars are either stuck in traffic or fighting for a parking place. I feel that it’s important to share my love for bikes with the kids in my program. Cycling also teaches them some valuable life lessons. The harder you train, the more you get rewarded. And if you maintain your machine, it works flawlessly. Apart from that, cycling is healthy. When I ask my students how many of them have someone with diabetes or a heart disease in their family, almost all of them raise their hands. Some of my peers also get to deal with it, which is why I think it’s important to live healthy and exercise a lot.”

Tropical vibes on the bike

Aliya has an old bike computer but she generally rides ‘naked’, meaning with no sensors. “I’m considering to buy a heart rate monitor in the future, though. I must admit that it took me a while to go from riding in leggings to a full race-cut outfit. But I realized that if your clothes don’t fit right they could rub and cause a lot of pain. I tend to wear a lot of black as it doesn’t show dirt and it matches everything. But I have purposefully been trying to find colorful sports clothes so I was really glad that Angélique offered me the tropical outfit!”

Aliya about being a model for Little Black Bike

“I think it’s great that I can share my story with others in this way. I’m only where I am because other women helped me get there, such as my triathlon friend thanks to whom it all began. That’s how it goes with everything in life: we all help each other to find our way and reach our goal. Modeling really wasn’t easy! It was freezing during the shoot but that’s the nature of the work of course… It was a fun experience and Sylvie was a very kind photographer. I’m very happy with the result!”


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