Salve! I'm April, aka "la donna mobile...in bicicletta." I hope that you enjoy my site and find it interesting and informative, perhaps nostalgic--and even inspirational. Most of all, I hope that I have succeeded in conveying the spirit of this place, and of cycling as practiced here in its spiritual home. Just how did I became a cyclist anyway?
I was undoubtedly the last kid in my New Jersey neighborhood to learn to ride a bicycle. As a reward, my parents bought me an "English racer." I still have that bike, to which I trace my love of refined, elegant, precision machines. Not that my "Eland" was any of those things!--it had but three gears, but that was more than any of my neighborhood pals had, equipped as they were with heavy, cumbersome, balloon-tired mounts. A romantic and dreamer even then, I was enthralled by the fact that my bike came from faraway Holland, and I imagined myself pedaling past spinning windmills and gayly-colored tulip fields. It was on that bicycle that I had my seminal cycling experience, a "bike hike" with my Girl Scout troop. Riding out into the country on a fresh summer morning to destinations unknown, then stopping to eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a picturesque spot while sharing the camaraderie of friends, was a splendid escapade. I still recall the sense of freedom, delight, and adventure I felt that day, and I experience those same emotions still, every time I clip into my pedals and roll out of my driveway.
But in my childhood and youth, serious cycling (either racing or touring) was virtually unknown in America, so I had no idea of the possibilities that the bicycle offered. And even had I known, I lacked the means and resources to take it up. So my bicycle lay mostly unused throughout my teenage and college years, and beyond (I did miss riding though, and had the desire to resume doing it). When I came to Italy for the first time in 1967, I was not yet a cyclist. It all began when we moved to a semi-rural area of New Jersey in 1972. There were lots of quiet, scenic roads to explore, so that summer I overhauled my trusty Eland (down to repacking the bearings and even taking apart the three-speed hub) and off I went, with no way of knowing that I was embarking on an activity that would redefine who I was, and chart a course for the rest of my life!
Although I had no cycling knowledge or experience, I already knew in my heart and soul that this was the sport for me. The following year I bought my first 10-speed, an inexpensive-model Atala made in Padua, Italy, my husband's birthplace. I rode, practiced skills, and learned all that I could about riding position, techniques, and so on--not easy in those days, when cycling books and magazines were scarce, and videocassette players hadn't been invented yet! For the most part it all came instinctively, intuitively, and naturally. But I was also fortunate to meet a friendly and welcoming group of cycling enthusiasts who eventually went on to form the Atlantic Bicycle Club, of which I am still a member. Delighted to have found others who shared my passion, I began riding with them regularly and was initiated into pack riding and cycling lore. In 1975 I rode my first century, and then with the help of Brielle Cyclery owner Kathy Penna, bought a white Legnano with Campagnolo Nuovo Record components. Cycling was now such an integral part of my life that I took my new bike to Italy for one of the many summers we spent at my in-laws' home. From the flatlands north of Padua I used to look northward to Monte Grappa and the Dolomites, feeling wonder, awe, and longing, never imagining even in my wildest dreams that one day I would not only live at the foot of those mountains, but climb them on my bicycle! It was not until I did that I felt I could truly call myself a cyclist. Since then, I have continued to meet new challenges, discover new places, make new friends, and live rewarding experiences and wonderful adventures--all in the saddle of my bicycle.
I believe that we cyclists possess the best qualities of children: a sense of curiosity and the desire to explore, the capacity to see even familiar places from a different perspective, to live in the moment and experience pure fun, to turn whatever comes our way into an adventure, and to take pleasure in the simplest and most elemental things: sparkling cold water gushing from a fountain on a sweltering day, smooth new asphalt on a twisting descent, a breathtaking panorama or picturesque spot, a new gadget for our bikes, an ice cream stop with friends, a shower and a hearty bowl of steaming pasta at the end of a hard ride. Whether we are sport riders, tourists, or racers, roadies, gravel, or mountain bikers, and regardless of our age, education, profession, or economic status, we share these qualities, experience the same emotions, and feel the same love for the simple and humble little machine that has the power to liberate us, transform our lives, and help us experience the wonder and magic that still exist in our world. Viva la bicicletta!
LA DONNA MOBILE
The Valbelluna / Belluno Valley