The Chubby Crusier: Kristina Rodriguez
Posted on 09 May 2017
The first time I met Kristina Rodriguez I was late. I all but flew through the doors of the Hudson Bar in Manhattan, breathless and scanning the room for my new friend.
She was impossible to miss; seated in the back corner with her electric blue braids and already deep in conversation with her signature Queens accent that knocked me on my ass. I sidled up to her table with a sheepish apology, but before I could get it out, she extended her hand. “Hey, sorry about the cabbies, man. That’s why I bike,” she said with a smile. And from there we slid into liquor-induced conversation as easily as she brushed off my apology.
A recent acquisition to the Artista Apparel team and our first cyclist on the roster, I asked her to take me back to the beginning of her journey. Her very first bike was a gift from her husband. “He swore he stole it from the Chinese food delivery guy!” she laughs. And while she didn’t just completely hit the ground running, (or rather cycling) she worked her way up from riding through playgrounds to commuting over three boroughs by bike. “It’s all a process,” she says encouragingly.
Cycling has since become a part of her everyday life. Whether she’s running errands, or going to the gym, she’s glad to have cut out most of the walking and public transportation. From her humble origins Kristina quickly outgrew her first fixer-upper and moved into a Kmart bike, then a bike shop bike before becoming a pro at putting her own bikes together.
As we talk, she credits cycling with helping her to evolve into the social and confident person she is today. From the incredible friendships she’s developed with fellow cyclers to a new perspective on her beloved city, she says, “I take on challenges differently too… You can see ways around and are able to be hyper-aware of not only yourself, but your bike, surroundings, everything.” But her easy-going mannerisms belie her tremendous accomplishments and the turmoil she’s faced to get to where she is today.
Kristina is a plus-sized athlete, a Latina and a mom. “I remember at a young age that my mother told me I will have plenty against me growing up. I'm a Hispanic woman, I'm brown, I'm big and loud and opinionated. And I'm standing there wide-eyed and like....what? I did not understand.” And while Kristina was raised to treat everyone fairly and equitably, she’s encountered resistance for nearly all of her identifying characteristics. However, it’s a challenge she accepts with open arms. “I like when I'm doubted, because then I get to rep for all my underdogs and sweep the proverbial house.”
When I asked about how easy it is to find cycling clothes that are geared towards plus-sized women, Kristina admits the options are slim. She realized early on that she would have to trade in her skirts, dresses and heels for more practical cycling gear, but she always makes sure to sneak in a bit of personal flair somewhere. “Kits and skin suits tend to run small and fitted” she says, so she stays away from those in lieu of padded cycling tights. “It would be cool to have a plus size cycling line one day” she muses, “it may encourage more women to come out and ride and change their lives.”
Kristina also works to manage a host of physical and mental health issues. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), is one such ailment she’s struggled with. Doctors told her getting pregnant wouldn’t be possible. However, at the peak of her cycling career Kristina became so healthy that she got her PCOS under control. “I’m pretty sure that riding landed me pregnant,” she says. Today she’s learning to juggle life with a little one in tow. Luckily her husband is also a rider, so integrating her cycling and family life has been relatively easy.
Kristina is a prominent member of many of New York City’s cycling groups like Bike New York, We Bike NYC, and Moms on Wheels. She’s also a proud volunteer with Transportation Alternatives, whose mission is to reclaim NYC’s streets through walking, bicycling and public transportation. “It's way more than putting in those ‘annoying’ bike lanes. It’s about making the city more equitable, greener, safer and livable.” In addition to her work with these notable groups, her personal goals include a return to courier work, and also earning a yoga certification with a focus on pain management.
We’re thrilled to have Kristina on-board the Artista Apparel team, and we stand behind her mission to get women everywhere on their own pair of wheels to transform their life. Follow her journey on Instagram @thechubbycruiser.