Cycling Advocates Aid Foreign Students

Story by Jeannie Stone

There was a time when Michelle and Bryan Moudy, owners of Highlander Cycling and Outdoors in Russellville, were very unhealthy. But the dynamic duo is a competitive, wiry, philanthropic, humanistic cross between a Lance Armstrong and John Muier — except their names are Michelle and Brian.

Brian graduated from Arkansas Tech University and was a graduate student at the University of Arkansas when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. In a state of shock, he withdrew from school and regrouped. He fought the cancer and endured a year and a half of treatments including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Ironically, another, more famous American was diagnosed with the same cancer, caught at the same stage and fought the battle during the same time as Brian. That person was Lance Armstrong. And his mirror struggle infused Brian with the belief that he, too, could do whatever he put his mind to.

When Brian had regained his strength, he managed to locate a job in a bike shop where he developed his cycling skills. He later contracted with government and private agencies as a GIS consultant (geographical information systems) assessing the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and comparing those findings, such as water quality and habitat destruction, to the rest of the world.

The merging of his cycling and his passion for conservation issues propelled he and his wife, Michelle, to open the shop in 2004. “After cancer, I didn’t care about anything else but living my life with passion,” Brian said.

Through the shop, the Moudys, along with his parents, Roy and Linda Moudy, are able to promote the personal and environmental benefits of cycling to a diverse community, and a large contingent, dependent on his knowledge and services are located a mere two blocks away at Arkansas Tech University.

Brian has taught an introduction to mountain biking class at the university for five years and started a cycling club two years ago based on the enthusiasm of cycling within the student body. Last year, Brian initiated the ATU Cycling Team, the first collegiate cycling team in the state of Arkansas.

“We are collecting sponsors, so we can compete in our five-state conference,” he said with a smile.

The ATU administration approached Brian when they were unable to house 300 of their foreign students on campus. Considering the lack of public transportation in Russellville, cycling was identified as a potential and viable means to transport the students, who were assigned to various apartments and homes in surrounding neighborhoods.

Brian knew many of these students were from more bike progressive cultures, so he agreed to assist students in purchasing bikes at a discount and acclimate them to their adopted neighborhood. He rides with new students, teaching them the traffic laws and how to navigate in traffic, and where to pay bills and buy groceries.

In an attempt to promote the endeavor, Brian donated two bikes to the VISTA Place Apartments where many of the foreign students were moved. Wilson Tay from Malaysia won one of the Electra bikes.

Tay has a cousin in Little Rock. “He can take care of me if I have a problem,” he said, but, otherwise, Tay is on his own. Although his apartment is only half a mile from the school, “riding a bike is easier than walking,” he said. “But, here, it is totally different. The roads are opposite.”

Highlander offers free service to all bikes purchased through the store, and that’s for life. “That way,” Brian said, “when they graduate or transfer out of state the bikes are still valuable and can be sold or recycled within the community, unlike a lesser bike bought at a discount store which is never serviced.”

Many times, customers take such bikes to the shop only to find they are not salvageable, so they leave them for junk. But Brian repairs what he cans and, every year, donates restored bikes to Friendship Community Center which assists children and adults with developmental disabilities.

“It’s all about sharing our resources and enabling everyone to ride,” he said.

Brian has been a vibrant part of the cycling community in the river valley and has promoted the Tour de Arkansas since it began (as Tri-Peaks Challenge) four years ago. He has also served as the pro men’s mechanic, often riding alongside one of the cyclists at 40 miles per hour, just to work on their bike because they didn’t want to slow down.

Brian admits that he runs the shop much like a non-profit organization. He is, in fact, working on two projects. The first is an ATU cycling internship and the second is a non- profit designation, so he can continue to A local orthopedic surgeon refers patients who have knee problems to Brian.

“Those patients are considering knee surgery but are willing to give cycling a try,” he said. “Fifty percent of those folks regain full use of their knees – without pain. I’ve seen a few even try running after recovery.”

Brian credits his customizing methods, called Body Geometry, to the successful rate of recovery. It is a combination of physical therapy and biomechanics. The couple has studied the rather-new science since 1995 and each earned certification as Fit Masters; they are the only certified enthusiasts in the state.

The health potential of bike riding cannot be underestimated.

“I have seen, with my own eyes, a diabetic, who was on daily insulin, switched to pills, and now manages the illness through exercise and diet alone. Bicycling did that for him,” Brian said.

Brian elaborated, “One of my customers went from 320 pounds to 180 pounds because of cycling. Even my wife lost a lot of weight when we met because I introduced her to bike riding. She now competes in the top expert level.”

“Yes, I was pretty chunky,” Michelle said. “Cycling allows you to feel better. I also like the fact you’re not increasing the greenhouse gases.”

Brian confirmed that most of the most dedicated riders he sees are people who entered cycling simply to lose weight.

Brian, who can’t compete beyond the beginner level because of lung damage due to his cancer, rides for the sheer joy of it.

“When I ride, I’m 5 years old again,” he said. “And if you’re smiling, you’re not stressing.”

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