Perseverance, Purpose and Community at Gravel Worlds

We recently came across the story of Isabel Berry, a gravel cyclist based out of Lincoln, Nebraska, America’s Heartland and home to a thriving off-road drop bar cycling community. Our friends at Pirate Cycling League, originally shared the story. It is one that not only struck a chord with the PCL community but a personal and beautifully candid account of perseverance and kindness that has inspired us all.   

After some e-mails and phone interviews with Isabel herself, we felt there’s no better way to tell her story than in her own words.

We hope you enjoy it too:

“I bought my first dedicated gravel bike in 2015 and my first PCL kit in 2016. I never wore it. I have always been a bigger girl, with ups and downs weight-wise. The XL size kit sat too tightly. Although I ended that year with over 5,500 miles, most of them on gravel, I felt I didn't deserve to ride in the PCL kit unless I lost a ton of weight.

I felt I would offend the PCL riders if they saw me in their kit.

I just needed more time to work out harder, diet stricter. Surely, next year I would be able and deserving to ride in the PCL kit!⁠

It didn't quite work out that way.

 

Life threw me a few curve balls and instead of slimming down - I gained weight again. But giving up on gravel riding was never ever an option. There is simply no place I am happier than on a bike on a gravel road.⁠

Then PCL announced they were launching the Privateer.

I was ecstatic! 75 miles, I knew I could do it! For the first time I could be part of Gravel Worlds! ⁠

Not going to lie, it was a struggle. The hills northwest of Lincoln kicked my butt andturned my legs to jelly.

I sat in Valparaiso leaned against the side of the gas station, staring numbly at my dusty shins and wondered if I could take one more mile.

But with a fellow Pirate's encouragement I got up and made it - and rolling across that finish line was a moment of pure ecstasy and accomplishment! Among all the dirt caked, sun burned, toned, skinny, and strong riders, nobody made fun of me. Corey hugged me and Craig gave me my finishers patch. It was a big celebration at Schillingbridge and everyone supported and cheered for everyone else.

And I was included!⁠

The next year, I rode the Privateer again – this time on a loaned single-speed bike. That ride was easily my most memorable accomplishment. The finish line celebration was out of this world. And that's when I said,

“Shiver me timbers, to heck with it! I'm getting that PCL kit!” I bought it in 3XL, so what? I AM a Pirate!⁠”

Mark your calendars for August 21, 2021 to celebrate the return of Gravel Worlds, with Isabel and the Rest of the PCL crew.

Check out Gravel Worlds here.

Words by Isabel Berry
Photos by Jason Strohbehn / JLS Photo