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Storytelling for Giving: Rally for Love
“For me as soon as I get on the bike, roll around the corner and go down on the throttle, it’s the burst of air and exhilaration that hits you…” – Cyndi Brandt
For Cyndi Brandt, one of the true loves of her life developed at an early age. “My mom found notes on a paper I had written when I was only five-years-old,” says Cyndi. “I wrote about growing up and I mentioned motorcycles on that paper. My mom found it when I got older and framed it for me.”
If you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hands. It wasn’t long before a TV commercial prompted Cyndi to take her developing love of two wheels to the next level. “There was a Honda commercial on TV,” says Cyndi. “My brother looks at my parents and says, ‘I would love one’, “and they said as soon as you have $200 you can get your own. He was nine and I was five. The next thing I know my dad went out and bought a Honda Mini-Trail 50 and a Honda Trail 70. I rode on the back of my dad’s Honda 70… the first day I got on the back of that bike the bug was there. I was in love.”
Over time her big wheels kept on turnin’ – and now we fast forward to today. Cyndi serves as the President of the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Motorcycle Rally, the premier women’s motorcycling event of the Mid-Atlantic. MAWMR was started with a vision of creating a community, but to also be a fundraiser in support of women who face breast cancer. Over the years, the rally has evolved to assist any woman with any challenge surrounding any cancer, (http://www.mawmr.org/). The non-profit has chosen two local organizations, H.O.P.E. and Pink Out that provide direct support to women and their families in the local Mid-Atlantic communities.
“There’s a huge rallying cry to empower women and to give back to the community through our fundraising,” says Cyndi. “We have women who come to us and have lost their sense of worth having gone through cancer. They come through our doors, or to our rally and feel this great sense of community, giving them support and bringing energy into their lives to get them back on track. I had a good friend who was so sad about her life and the rally and our organization and community helped her recover her sense of self-worth. We have essentially four-thousand women who have come through the rally over the years and many come back year-after-year and we are welcoming new women who come to us all the time. I’m always amazed every year by the progress we are making.”
MAWMR started back in 1993 by a woman with a purpose. “It all began with Nancy Warren,” says Cyndi. “In the early ’90s, there were not a lot of women on the road on bikes. People would see a woman riding her own bike and act surprised because it wasn’t a common sight. You’d see most women riding with their husband, or boyfriend on the back, but not so many riding on their own. Nancy put feelers out and got women to create this rally. In 1993 about 23 people were part of the first MAWMR, and it blew up in the early 2000s, and we recently had record attendance with about 300 female riders!”
It’s about women motorcyclists helping women. It’s girl power and the love of the ride. You’ve got to love it to be passionate about it and you won’t find many riders more passionate about their bike then Cyndi.
“For years I rode my motorcycle to work every day,” says Cyndi. “It was not uncommon to see me every workday with a helmet on my desk. The joke was always I had pretty boots for the office. In fact for a time, for four months back in 2010, I had no other mode of transportation, I had gotten rid of my car and didn’t know what I wanted to buy next, so I rode my Harley Davidson Road King everywhere. I’d come to work in a t-shirt and jeans, close my office door and then change into my work clothes.”
Cyndi continues, “we are just blessed to have the most beautiful roads in Maryland. You’ve got the beach, the mountains, straight roads, twisted roads and I feel so blessed to live in this state. I can do a quick ride to the office for 11 minutes, or go support a women’s event, or go on a much longer ride. I belong to the Baltimore Ramblers, a group that was formed back in 1929… a warm-up ride with them is usually 150 miles. I recently rode about 900 miles in 36 hours!”
For Cyndi and for other women, the motorcycle can represent much more than just the thrill of two wheels, it’s a metaphor for facing the challenges and taking control of your life.
“It’s very empowering,” says Cyndi. “The sheer power a motorcycle makes you feel connected to something you can fully control and something you can do. I talk to women every day who say, ‘Oh I can never do this, I can never ride a motorcycle’ .”But the answer is, yes, you can, you just need practice, just like anything else in life. I see so many women whose lives are transformed by riding a bike, whether it’s a small one or a larger one like I have. The accomplishment… specifically with women, is just overwhelming. And the sense of community… relaxation and the thrill of the ride is just one part, but it’s also the community we have been able to build. I’ve met people from all walks of life: rich, poor, different ethnic backgrounds and all have one common thread, their love of motorcycles and what it helps them to become.”
What the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Motorcycle Rally has become is something big, held every June, it brings together women motorcyclists and enthusiasts for a three-day rally full of friendship, games, educational seminars, rides, contests, and fundraising to support women with the challenges of cancer. The weekend culminates in the Parade of Chrome to honor women riders, cancer survivors and to pledge support to those that have been touched by cancer.
This year the ride is June 20-22 in Front Royal, Virginia. “It’s our third year in Front Royal and that town has been amazing for us,” says Cyndi. “It is the gateway to so many beautiful rides. There’s the Skyline Drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s just a great place to ride a motorcycle. Groups will fundraise throughout the year and then bring the donations to the rally, or they will participate in some of the fundraising activities on site and raise money that way. You can still participate in the MAWMR, visit the website and can sign up to ride until June 1st, (http://www.mawmr.org/). Nearly $21,000 was raised last year and the grand total for the history of the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Motorcycle Rally so far is more than $330,000!”
But it’s much more than money, it’s the camaraderie and community. Life is hard, so you’ve got to do it hard… and being on a bike is one way to ride along in life as few others have experienced. At this year’s rally, a living legend, Gloria Tramontin-Struck, will be on hand. Gloria, who is now 93, is well known as the reigning matriarch of the women’s motorcycling community. She was one of the early members of the Motorcycle Maids women’s club and she is both a member of the Sturgis Hall of Fame and in 2016 she was inducted into the American Motorcycle Association Hall of Fame.
For women, Gloria’s success can be a rallying cry. If she can do it, so can you. Cyndi herself is trying to lead the way when it comes to women and the passion and power of the motorcycle. “I’m super-passionate about bikes and the rally,” says Cyndi. “I’ve been the president for eight months now and it’s a real opportunity to get the word out about what we do. We support our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters in every way we can to make sure they are not alone in their journey battling cancer. And it’s all types of female cancers, ovarian, breast, fibroid… the hope is that anyone with cancer, not just the women, but their families as well can benefit from our efforts.”
Cyndi currently rides a Harley Davidson CVO Streetglide, her wife, Wrae, rides the Can-Am Ryker 3-Wheeler, but whether it’s two or three wheels it doesn’t matter, Cyndi says it’s as much about the bike as it is the woman, if you respect the power and feel the passion, then the two can become one and the same.
“The fastest growing segment of motorcyclists is women,” says Cyndi. “People love seeing all the women riding together and there has been a huge uptick of women on three wheels recently. The new Harley products coming out can extend riding for women later in life and they are great for those intimidated by the two-wheelers. For a woman, it’s simply about the empowerment of being on the bike, any bike. I do a lot of public speaking and I use a lot of motorcycle analogies. You go and your life goes, exactly where you look. The first thing they teach you on a bike is to pick up your feet and direct your gaze and then your bike will go exactly where you are looking. If you look right, you go right, if you look a the edge of the road, you’re gonna fall off that edge. That’s good life advice too.”
What Cyndi and the MAWMR are looking to do is change lives and have their best year ever with the 2019 rally. It’s a collaboration of givers and a community of women, all looking to help one another and make a difference. Truly a rally for love.
A reminder: You can still participate in the MAWMR, visit the website and can sign up to ride until June 1st, http://www.mawmr.org/
This story as well as all of the others on our website are written by Mark Brodinsky, an Emmy-Award winning television producer, speaker, popular blogger, and published author. You can find more information about Mark on his website at http://markbrodinsky.life/