Jennifer Hardacker credits her mom for showing her how a family can bike together.
“My mom was a pretty big cyclist – though those were very different times, she biked to work regularly, Jennifer said. “And as a weekend recreation we all biked together.”
As she became a teen, Jennifer and her mom would do short rides together, and those rides took on a special significance when her mom died when Jenn was just 15.
“The summer after she died I woud ride and ride, and all the rides I did – they were a big and important thing for me,” said Jennifer. “And yet, then, I turned 16 and started driving and forgot how awesome biking was.”
For many years as she became a working person – a documentary filmmaker and instructor – and a mom, Jenn did not bike regularly. Six years ago, she got divorced, and on the first weekend when her two boys were with their dad, she pulled a bike out and went for a ride.
“I didn’t know what to do with myself, and I just biked around and explored a bit,” she said.
But that exploratory ride reminded Jennifer of two things: one, that riding her bike was a way to make her feel immediately stronger and empowered – an important boost to her self esteem at a difficult life moment. In addition, she realized something she had sensed intuitively: riding her bicycle was a great way to stay sane and shake off stress.
“You might be white-knuckling it through an entire week,” she said. “Then you get out for a ride and you can just feel everything get back – physically and mentally – to where it’s supposed to be. You somehow are working all those stresses out as you are out there riding.”
Jenn challenged herself to train for and do a century ride (100 miles), and these days, she tries to get out on a long ride each weekend. She also rides with her two children and her husband Mike.
Her experience of the bike as a self-esteem booster lead her to film a short documentary of women and biking called The Wind In Their Hair, which documents her journey and that of four other women cyclists as they give their reasons to ride.
Though she rides to ‘stay sane’ and to encourage other women on the benefits of biking, she also has a great practical reason to hit the road on her bicycle: “I earn my beer,” she said.
Watch ‘The Wind in Our Hair’ trailer below.