Written by: Olivia Nicholls
Student-athletes pick up the bike for many different reasons. They want to challenge themselves, to be a part of their community, or to connect with their families. No matter why they join, with no bench, and no tryouts, every NICA athlete gets to ride.
For Madison Bess, cycling has become a way for her to free her mind. Now, she is aiming to create change in her community because of her uplifting experience with NICA.
Madison first found the Prime Ability NICA team during her freshman year of high school. As part of the Maryland League, the team is dedicated to empowering BIPOC kids through the power of the bicycle. Immediately, she fell in love with the sport. Like many students, cycling started out as a way for Madison to be with friends and build connections with other girls. She made friends on her team and with her competitors at race events, meeting girls she felt she had something in common with — toughness, and grit.
“NICA…gives me the opportunity to meet new people and girls my age who are just as tough as I am. During one of my first races last year, I was having a bad day and one girl from another team decided to stay with me until a sweeper came and I was so grateful for that.”
After three years on her team, as Madison has faced the struggles of growing up, cycling has become more than a hobby. It became a getaway for her from the stressors of her personal life.
“I'm starting to ride more because of how much I went through in this past year. I've noticed that when I'm riding and something negative has happened on that day or during that week, my anxiety starts to get really bad. So, I take deep breaths as I'm riding to calm myself down. When my anxiety starts to act up and I see a hill, I make the hill look like that problem I had and attack it. In other words, get up or over the hill."
As a leader on her team, and a Pathfinders scholarship recipient, Madison has noticed that not as many girls or kids of color are involved in the sport as she’d hoped. She worries that they might think it’s harder than it is, and wants to help them overcome the challenge.
Currently, about 23% of NICA participants are girls. This percentage has been growing since NICA’s implementation of the GRiT Program in 2019, in large part due to the outreach efforts of team-level advocates like Madison.
With the support of her team coach, Coach Clark, it’s become Madison’s goal to motivate and encourage more girls in Washington D.C. to join the Prime Ability NICA team. She hopes that cycling can have the same impact for other girls and kids of color as it has for her.
“Cycling is a joy I hope every kid who comes from similar circumstances as myself can experience.”
No matter why Madison rides, one thing is for certain— access to mountain biking and the Prime Ability team has changed her life for the better.
No matter why YOU ride, there is a place for you at NICA! Check out our suite of programming for student-athletes, our coach licensing tools, or find a team near you.
Do you want to support NICA’s mission of getting #MoreKidsOnBikes? Consider donating as part of our end of year campaign, and make an impact on the future of cycling!
Check Out More Stories!
No Matter Who You Are: Phinneus McKenna’s Story – Riding with NICA While Legally Blind
No Matter Where You’re From: How The UrbanPromise Trailblazers Are Bringing Mountain Biking to Wilmington
No Matter Where You Start: Ambra Baldwin Hart’s Story
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