By Maria Borowik / Bike Law Georgia
Superhero. Superwoman. Networking. Socializing. Fitness. These are the words that Bike Law Ambassador Katrena Hunter thinks of when she gets on her bike. When I see Trena riding in the city, or speaking to the media as a bike advocate, I think of words like: Empowerment, Strength, Passion.
Trena, as her friends and family call her, is also Joshua’s mom, she works in accounting, a born and raised Atlantan and perhaps the most enthusiastic daily user of the controversial Atlanta Streetcar. What was at first just a weight loss goal quickly turned into an unexpected journey of self-discovery, transformation and purpose. Today Trena is a self-proclaimed cycling unicorn with a motherly concern for every bike rider she meets. Talking to Trena often results in an increased desire to ride your bicycle every day or an urgency to dust off that bike you’ve been storing in your garage for years. Her energy is contagious, so readers beware.
Bike Law GA: I can only imagine that Atlanta has changed dramatically from when you were growing up on Auburn Ave to what it is now, especially when it comes to bicycling.
Trena Hunter: I’m from downtown Atlanta, Old Fourth Ward. I grew up across the street from where I live now. When I was younger, the only folks we would see riding bikes, were kids or homeless people. Then when we went out and ventured to Peachtree Street or further into the city, we would see white guys riding bikes, so we associated cycling with old rich white people. Then we started seeing the dynamics changing and we saw younger white people riding and younger people in general riding. I remember thinking, “ok, maybe this is a thing”. I watched it evolve as something that people did to get from point A to point B, kids just riding around the neighborhood and seeing rich white folks riding to seeing everyone riding. Now it’s an alternative to having a car and you can ride your bike and that’s an okay thing. When I grew up, we didn’t have car and my mom didn’t know how to drive. The bus was the only thing we had, now I ride the bus because I want to, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my financial status and it has everything to do with it being better for the environment and saving money. It makes sense, why not ride a bike, or walk, or take the train? Everything has changed now; everything is more diverse and inclusive, and I like it.
There was one black guy who had a bike when I was younger and I thought he rode for fitness; he rode all around and we didn’t realize that the bike was his car, his transportation. We thought he was just riding to go out for exercise and fun. Back then we thought he was the coolest, his name is Mr. Garrett, he is still alive. Now that we are riding, he thinks that Josh and I are the coolest, so it was neat to see how that flipped. He doesn’t ride anymore but every time I see him, he gives me a big thumbs up. I told him once that he was the first black person I saw riding a bike.
Did you have a bike growing up?
Since I lived in the city, in a high rise, the only place we could ride our bicycles was in the parking garage in a circle, on concrete. As a kid you had a bike but you couldn’t ride it anywhere, you could see the guys out riding on the street but I couldn’t ride out there so I could only go up the garage, down the garage, around the parking garage and that was all. There was no Beltline. My mom would take me to Hurt Park, but there were a lot of homeless people and Georgia State was there. We would walk there; she would walk the bike so I could ride in Hurt Park and then we would walk the bike back home and I would put the bike back up. I never thought I would be riding a bicycle as an adult.
The discovery of bicycles and riding as an adult. When did that happen?
May 10, 2015. That was Mother’s Day. Earlier that year, I realized that I didn’t like the gym and I was getting bigger and not smaller. I figured, “I’m going to get a bike because at least if I ride a bike and get tired I can just coast, this will be fun, I should just do it”, only later did I realize that it’s all hills in Atlanta or Georgia. I asked Josh to buy me a bike for Mother’s Day. He asked everyone in the family for $20 and everyone said, “you are wasting your money, your mom is not going to ride a bike”. His grandma helped him, and he got this bike for $60. The bike was blue, a hybrid something from Walmart. I cried like a baby. Everyone said I wouldn’t use it, so it gave me more motivation and incentive to ride that bike which is why I’m still riding now. Josh had a little Walmart bike and we would ride our bikes everywhere and I would post on social media that we rode 5 miles, I was proud, he was proud and that is how we got started. He got me my first bike.
The next year we both ended up buying each other bikes. My uncle helped him get a new bike for me and without knowing it I bought the same exact one for him. We thought we were moving on up, upgrading not realizing that Walmart was not the only place to buy a bike. We had no idea that our new GMC Denali bikes were not as good as other bikes. All we knew was “you just get on your bike and you ride down the street”.
By then, we had moved to East Point, Georgia because I wanted Josh to go to better schools and, in the City of Atlanta they weren’t that great. When we started riding, we would go riding down Headland Drive to Washington Road, it was dangerous. But you couldn’t tell us nothing because we were both on bikes with our helmets, riding together on those Walmart bikes.
My cousin Jason, he was a nurse at the hospital on Cleveland Ave. and he would always tell us about this doctor friend that he knew who would ride his bike from East Point to Stone Mountain. I remember thinking, “wow, OMG, that is far”. Jason would tell us about this doctor going on a weeklong ride called BRAG. We thought it was crazy, it was all foreign. Jason, Josh and I decided to go to the Silver Comet trail. He told us that it extended to the border with Alabama. When we get there are all these people on bikes, it blew my mind. I’m pedaling and pedaling, and I notice that my cousin can just do a couple strokes, that his bike is just going. He is just flowing. I thought, “why am I pedaling so much?”. Everyone would tell me, “work your gears, just work your gears” and I felt like I was doing that. Back at home that night and I told Josh, “you need to google how to make me faster”. I wanted to go back to the Silver Comet and make this bike thing work.
I don’t know what he googled; I’m still waiting on how to get faster. But he found out that we lived around the corner from the Dick Lane Velodrome, so he rode his Walmart bike over to the Velodrome and started riding there. He was trying to figure out how to make me faster. Later, the local team invited him to join the track. Josh was 12 years old.
My cousin ended up coming to live with us, so that summer him and Josh rode everywhere, farther than normal and to places we hadn’t ridden our bikes in before. I would follow behind them in my car because I was scared for them, people were not bike friendly.
Caption: Josh and cousin Jason ride followed by Trena in her car.
My cousin passed away soon after, but before he did, in a conversation with my uncle, he mentioned to him, “Josh is really into this cycling thing, he is really strong, he may be the next Lance Armstrong” (at the time that was the only cyclist we knew). After my uncle shared that conversation with me, I decided I would fully support Josh’s cycling passion and allow him to keep going with the cycling team. My uncle passed away a year later as well, now Josh says, “this is all for them”. My cousin and my uncle believed in him and his cycling when we didn’t know anything about it. He leaves it all on the track or the road for them so when I get on bike, I’m riding for Josh AND them.
So at this point you are riding an upgraded bike but still a Walmart bike and Josh is part of a cycling team.
I always made sure that Josh had whatever he needed after learning how expensive cycling is. I would make do with whatever I had. Our motto is: “He is the cyclist; I just ride bikes”. I would just putter around because even then I wasn’t thinking of riding to Stone Mountain or leading a bike ride. I was still trying to make it up that little bitty incline onto the road safely without anyone blowing their horn at me. I saved up some money and we went to Performance Bikes and there was this Fuji on sale. We didn’t know anything about sizing, what type of cassette he needed. All I knew was that I wanted my baby to have a decent good bike, a real bike. We get the Fuji and it ended up being too big for him, but the sales guy didn’t tell me that. He needed junior gears and I didn’t know anything about that either. On the same week, his racing team gives him a Blue, a really nice carbon fiber bike with the right gears on it.
What did you do with the Fuji?
I figured I was supposed to ride it! So that’s how I ended up with a real bike because he got a truly real bike. The more Josh got into cycling the more he taught me. He was eventually fully kitted out, people started giving him kits because he was riding in basketball shorts, t-shirts and tennis shoes. We found some shoes and learned that those things at the bottom are called clips. I started riding the Fuji still in regular clothes myself. I had one pair of padded shorts.
Josh ended up cracking the Blue and his team gave him a Schwinn which he outgrew soon after. Around that time, Josh met a guy at a race. He was all cool and encouraged Josh to keep it up and they exchanged social media handles. Well, that guy was John Butler, he raced with the 706 Project and some other folks. He was a known guy. When Josh was ready to get another bike, I told him to reach out to his friend and see if he had a bike for sale because by then I knew how all this works. John had a Stradalli that he raced with and I didn’t know that it was a really extra dope bike. He gave Josh that bike. We just had to drive to Athens to get it.
Then Josh gets into the accident and he was riding the Stradalli (Josh was hit and injured while riding his bicycle in 2018). The bike was badly damaged, so he took all the parts off it because they were Shimano Altegra, good parts, and put it on the Schwinn. He presented that bike to me for Christmas last year. Now the Fuji is just sitting at home, but I’ll never get rid of it. It’s our first bike, it’s a trophy and it was the beginning of all this. I’m super proud because I know where I came from, I started with a $60 bike and here we are now with a Schwinn with nice parts.
We have the argument still; is it the bike or is it the person? But regardless of whichever it is, to be on a nice machine, a nice bike is just nice and to keep up with other folks, is just nice too. And the fact that my son built it is even nicer. And I get to go out and ride with him. We went on this journey together where we didn’t know anything about cycling and now here, we are. I’m not saying we are at the top of the cycling game or anything, but we are in it and people kind of know us because of that. We are in this together. And that’s why my Strava handle is “Trena-Josh’s mom”.
Before I started riding on my own, I would take him to the MACC rides and wait for him in the parking lot. Eventually, other cyclists would ride their bikes all the way back to the house with him, make sure he got in and they would ride off. That was after my cousin had passed, they saw what my cousin saw in him as well.
When I started riding, people would recognize me as “Josh’s mom” because we are out there together. I wouldn’t be out there if it wasn’t for him and I love it. I love the way the cycling community embraced Josh and me as well. It didn’t matter what color he is, and it didn’t matter that when he started, he was on a Next bike, then a Denali, it didn’t matter at all. They just wrapped him up, embraced him and taught him everything and now here he is riding with a bunch of pros. He is doing things that are kind of unheard of for a 17-year-old, a black 17-year-old.
Caption: Joshua Meyers, 17, senior at Henry W. Grady Highschool.
You now live a life crafted around cycling and bike safety advocacy. Do you feel that you discovered your purpose through this journey on a bicycle?
I think its developing. A couple years ago I was writing down what were the things I like to do and it everything came back to talking, speaking in some form. I realize that in cycling, I am talking. I’m talking about something that is important and that makes a difference to me and to a lot of people. I wouldn’t have thought that I would be talking about bikes, but I love talking about bikes. I didn’t know what my purpose was, and I do feel I’m coming into my purpose through cycling.
Its bigger than being a black woman riding my bike. I just want everyone to feel how I feel about being on a bike, how liberating it is. This feeling I have is almost like a second birth. I can’t explain it. I know just I can’t ride in a car anymore. I love where I am now. I love the people I am meeting now and the connections that I’m making. And it’s all over a bicycle.
It’s a big deal for me when Josh sees me on the bike, because I’m not just telling him “go out there and do your training”. He sees that I am trying to cycle too, I’m trying to get better. I want him to know that if I can do it at 42, he can definitely do it at 17.
Caption: “He is the cyclist; I just ride bikes”
Then you became a Bike Law Ambassador…
I was upset, frustrated and mad after Josh was hit. The person who hit him stated that she just wasn’t looking for cyclist. I was mad that she said that, I wanted to be mad at her because she hit my son and I wasn’t here for him. How could she say that she wasn’t looking for bikes on Ponce de Leon Avenue where people are always on bikes. I realized that my anger was not towards her. My anger was towards our lawmakers. My anger was towards the City and State leaders for not implementing the laws and for not educating drivers. I saw that Bike Law was offering an ambassador program. I signed up and I was selected. I felt that everyone on the program was so involved and just as mad as I was. I realized too that it’s not just here, this is a problem that is happening all over the country. My voice can help here but it can help in other places too. And because of Bike Law Georgia and the ambassador program I have a voice. When I saw that I could be a part of something that was going to change lives I knew that Josh’s crash was not going to be in vain. I posted about the crash on social media to educate drivers and to make them aware of cyclists. I felt that if I showed you what happened to my child the next time you would see a cyclist maybe you would think “is that Josh?” and even if it wasn’t you would move around the cyclist safely. This I’m passionate about because Josh could’ve been anybody’s kid, dad, uncle or brother. Whatever I do to make the roads safer for him it will make them safer for everybody. So why not let my voice be heard for everybody else in addition to my son? Once he goes to college, I’m not going to stop this work. I’m just starting.
Caption: Trena is one of 7 Bike Law Ambassadors in Georgia.
Favorite bike things in Atlanta?
BRAG would be my #1 favorite because I feel that the diversity and energy at BRAG (Bicycle Ride Across Georgia) is amazing. The first year Josh did BRAG, he was supposed to do it with my cousin, but he passed away from a heart attack two months before the ride. Josh was 14 years old and he would be up in the morning riding with the fast guys. They were getting to each support stop before the volunteers could set them up. Every morning he would ride with a guy named Max McCallister.
Caption: Josh (2nd from the right) at BRAG 2017
After Josh’s crash, Max started a GoFundMe and later presented Josh with an incredibly beautiful, expensive and rare Specialized bike along with a matching kit, helmet and shoes. Bike Law Georgia added a full Bike Law kit and tool set. We met Max at BRAG, so that ride will always be special to us.
Caption: Bruce Hagen, Josh Meyers and Max McCallister
Of course, I think that Clutch Bicycle Shop and Aztec Cycles are the top 2 best bicycle shops in the city. I’m partial to Clutch because Josh works there now. Another thing I love about Atlanta is that we have so many social bike rides. We can ride every single day with different groups. The networking, and the social aspect is just amazing. Cycling is really a thing in Georgia.
What’s the best bike ride to participate of on a Sunday Morning?
My ride! L.I.P.S, Ladies Into Pedaling Successfully. I want people riding with me to learn to be confident, comfortable riding on the streets and in groups, to learn the laws and cycling hand signals. When we are out riding as a group, I tell them about cadence, staying two abreast and just cycling general. I try to teach them everything that Josh taught me. I’m constantly thinking about how I can help them to get to where I am.
Caption: L.I.P.S ride on November 2019 – Trena also plans to lead a monthly beginner only ride.
And is it a ride for black women specifically?
No, it’s open to anybody. I’m for everybody. I can’t understand the philosophy behind riding groups for black people only. They say, “white folks have their own rides too”. I often respond that if you went on a ride and they told you that you couldn’t ride because you are black, how would you feel? I disagree with the idea that folks have white only rides. I haven’t seen one. I would be hurt if Josh went to ride with one of these groups that he rides with and they said, “you know Josh, you are cool, but this group is just for us white folks”. I couldn’t be upset at them because I know some people that organize bike rides that are just for black people or black women. I disagree with all the separated, segregated bias. The bike is one of the things that brings us all together. It doesn’t matter what color you are; you just get on the bike and ride. I understand gender specific rides, but I can’t get behind race specific rides. I think we all share a common love, we are out there riding and we aren’t worried about you being black, Hispanic or whatever. We are just riding our bicycles and maybe we should try to translate that into everyday life and respect each other. When we are on a bike, we are respecting each other, we are riding together, we are blending in. If we can just put everybody on bikes and put a helmet on them then we will be fine.
What is your dream for the bike community in Atlanta or Georgia?
I have two dreams. Sometimes people in the cycling community are not aware of everything that cycling has to offer, for example crit racing. I would love for us to have more criteriums in Atlanta than just the Grant Park Criterium. I think cyclocross has it down pat, they got it. We could use more road racing in the city. Atlanta should have more races. That’s my first dream.
The next thing is that I think there should be a cycling store where we can go in and buy our cycling gear and not have to order it and wait 2 months. Which is something I want to work on. I would love to see me in a cycling boutique but without the boutique prices where I can offer cycling apparel on demand on the spot. I think that would be a nice addition because we have a lot of cyclists in Atlanta who would appreciate it and who need it. The more I talk to people about it, the more I see that there is a need for a cycling specific apparel store. Who knows maybe I start something next year. Stay tuned.
One last question, at Bike Law we often use the hashtag #rideproud. What does that mean to you?
It means a lot of things. It means I ride proud to be Josh’s mom. It means I ride proud to be a woman on my bike, a black woman, but to be a woman nonetheless on a bike. It means that I proudly share this road and this commitment that we have with other people who are passionate about cycling and making our city and state safe for people on bikes. I try to ride proud. I think I ride proud.
Trena pauses for a moment. She looks pensive, almost like she is replaying her whole journey in her mind and suddenly fully realizing the enormity of where she is now. She breaks into a powerful smile and adds, “I am proud. I ride proud”.
When I get on my bike, I feel like I’m representing women, black women too but all women. As far as being a woman cyclist, when I’m on my bike I’m like a cycling unicorn because most female cyclists are smaller, thinner, not as curvy and most of them are not black. But beyond that when I get on my bike, I know there is one thing I have in common with the next person who is riding in the opposite direction who is totally different from me. We are cyclists. – Trena Hunter