Quick Brown Foxes | Chapter 1: Laura Solís Goes Further
Last week we met Laura in all of her vivacious charisma. Seeing as how she was so detailed I had to cut out what kind of smoothie she drank on her first ride with Kimberly Kinchen of Bike Train round Central park, and the fact that she stopped for puffy Cheetos on the way to Floyd Bennett Field with “that boy”. There wasn’t a whole lot of space for questions. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite things about Laura. She’s a generally perpared person, and an excellent communicator. When it comes to answering questions, if Laura knows, she’s gonna tell you ALL the things. ALL OF THEM. Btw, Buttockial is not a word, and undercarriage might not be the technical term for things, but I for one will be including both into future vernacular.
That being said, there were a few things left to know. Mostly because I forgot to ask them.
You identify as Afro-Latina/ Garifuna. Is there anything you'd like to add or clarify about that?
Garifuna people came from the Motherland, we "landed" in what is now considered Latin America. If you seek further information about what an Afro-Latinx is and/or the experience, please refer to Episodes 14s and S2 E9 of the Fix it Black Jesus Podcast.
What was the biggest catalyst in your very fast progression that first year of riding?
The biggest catalyst in my fast progressions was knowing that if other people saw me riding my bike in the Bronx, they could entertain it as a possibility for themselves. I knew that if there were more of us, we could affect many facets of the daily lives of Bronxites, whether that be their civic engagement, physical fitness, mental health, environmentalism, and even economically. Building community comes second nature to me as an extroverted only child, and I knew that if I wanted to see the number of Bronx riders grow, one of the most impactful things I could do, was be seen. I did it for my people, which felt incredibly fulfilling, especially when I was able to tap into the existing Bronx bike communities with similar aspirations. Riding my bike also allowed me to feel more in control of my own life.
You mentioned you don't ride much anymore, and it's no secret that you intend to find yourself back in the Bronx at some point. Do you feel you'll regain your lifestyle of riding regularly? Or is being a bike mechanic the new way you interact with bicycles regularly.
I'm currently in the Bronx for a month, visiting my momma and family/friends and initially, I was only going to be out here for two weeks, and even then I had one of my bikes shipped to me. Riding a bike and being in the Bronx go hand-in-hand for me. There's still plenty of work to be done to continue enhancing the borough for its people to continue to thrive in it with less resistance from the existing environment. The best way for me to do that at that at this time is on my bike. So to answer your question, absofuckinlutely, I think I will regain my lifestyle of riding regularly. Being a bike mechanic is currently how I interact with bikes regularly in Portland. I freelance and work from home, folks can swing by for me to give them tune-ups and the like. I prioritize POC.
Do you have a message for Eduardo (not José)?
YOOOOOOOO EDUARDO (not José), my bad on calling you by a different name and "saying it with my chest" (Kevin Hart reference), but for the people in the back, saying it and wholeheartedly meaning it with some umph. That said, I actually happened to see Eduardo a couple days after our initial interview, because Bicycle Habitat continued to be my not-so-local bike shop while I lived in the Bronx. I was able to thank him in person for his interactions with me and the great example he gave me as a salesperson and bike relationship builder. I also confessed about misnaming him, and apologized in person. We're good.
Where'd you get the phrase "Ride like a hippo?" Was that a Laura original, or did you hear/ learn it somewhere?
That's a Laura original. Hippos are massive and powerful and when you're on a bike, it is often advantageous and safest, particularly when taking a lane, to ride as if you are a motor vehicle and weigh a couple tons just like a hippo does :) I also would not mind being reincarnated as a hippo. That might have to do with the fact that I weigh a buck ten on a good day, being large does not come naturally to me. I guess I want what I can't have lol.
Bike racing? Or Nah? You've done a gold sprint or an alleycat at some point? Track clinic?
The short answer is nah. I've done all of the above and the thrill wasn't there for me. More importantly, at least at the time, was that I felt the resources it would take, primarily my time and money, were better spent with what I was most effective at doing and would have the most impact, which was community building in the Bronx for safer streets. I leave the community building around representation in the racing world to you ma'am. A person who is actually great at it. I'd do it for funsies though. Maybe.
Out of all your bicycles, past and present, which is your favorite and why?
Nope. All 7 have played a special role in my bike life development. I will not pick a favorite. Well actually, one of them did very little. It was sold last week in fact. Farewell to Babe the Blue Ox. And yes, they've all had names. Oh wait, that reminds me, I've had 8. I had to sell Grandma.
Last Question! What was the most empowering moment/ experience you've ever had because of bicycles?
Issa tie between returning home to the Bronx and seeing the work that continues to be done with folks whose shoulders I tapped while I was still a community organizer and the most epic fall I had on a full squishie mountain bike in Ashland, OR when I attended UBI on a QBP Scholarship back in 2017. I had avoided, up until that point, riding a mountain bike, based purely out of fear. Which is some punk a** sh*t, I know. But the way my self-preservation was set up, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. But again, a mental "safe space" presented itself on this technical trail by way of my instructors, but a special shout out to Rich from UBI, for his support and talking me out of getting in my own way and being impressed by my epic fall. Mountain biking is incredible. I'm going to need my people to experience mountain biking in the Bronx. And if you're wondering, yes I got up, and continued on and never walked! I felt the fear and did it anyway.
Thanks so much to Laura for her time and transparency. Show some love on my Patreon, and if you haven’t had a listen to her audio chapter, catch up here!
BONUS! Here is a list of some of the tools and organizations she mentioned that might be helpful for a brown girl in NYC trying to figure out where to get started for herself: