I meet Leyla at the McGarry Bowen office in Chelsea where she works as a content producer. When she arrives, she is much taller than me in her white heels, but I feel we level out as she greets me with a hug. She gives me a quick tour on the way to her desk where she throws her keys and her purse before we dip out to the balcony to talk. She points out the hammocks at the far end of the balcony, telling me that when she first started working here, she would lay on one after work, only to be told by a coworker that they actually belonged to the office next door. It's easy to imagine Leyla lying in a hammock on the beach, a string of shells around her neck, the bleached bottom half of her hair lifted by the wind, a bicycle leaning up against a palm tree. But as she speaks of her projects and her travels in her tone of calm certainty, I begin to see her swiftly projected over a whole slideshow of places and settings – never lounging in a hammock, but somehow in action: exploring, shooting photos, making friends, riding her bike.
My full name is Leyla Tatiana Rosario. I'm from the Bronx of New York City, and I am an only child. My father was a musician; he played in many bands back in the 70s. We're very big salsa fans. Music has always been in my household growing up. My mom's also an artist by nature, and art is very important to us. The other things that I'm really passionate about are making really awesome video content and telling new stories and meeting new people and traveling.
For the past three years, I've been developing a treatment for a travel show. I'm the host of the show, and I go around the world capturing stories of real people who are celebrating love through matrimony in traditional and nontraditional and unconventional ways. We all celebrate love but we do it differently, and I want to be able to see how a city defines love – how people define love. It's not a cooking show; it's about the human connection, and it's about the key thing that we all feel, which is love. But how we do that through matrimony is what makes us different.
The Ride Leader
I found out about CycloFemme two years ago, and two years ago is when I decided to organize a beginner's women's ride by myself. It was a very small ride, about 11 miles, and I was so nervous because I was thinking, oh my God, the responsibility of having a group of women following me is huge, and I've never done it before, and here I am doing it alone! It turned out to be a wonderful success, and I met new people and made new friends. Then this year was the second year, and I led it with a friend of mine, Lovelisa Dizon, and through Zen Bikes and with CycloFemme, we were able to organize a 35 mile ride. We had 18 riders of all levels – no rider left behind. It was a wonderful experience, and I can't wait to do the next one. It encourages me.
Leyla's colleague, director Christian Jackson, learned from her about CycloFemme and the ride she was leading. He took an interest in the story, and they decided it would be fun to document the ride. According to Leyla, "He and Chris (cinematographer) were like flies on the wall, out of our way, had their own car, and we're documenting us as much as possible." Once it was recorded, another of Leyla's friends volunteered to edit it. "It's all labor of love," she says.
“One of the reasons why I love bike riding is because it’s my release, my form of therapy, my way to kind of clear my mind, and just get out and not be dependent on anybody else.”
Cycling = freedom. It's knowing that I am the human vehicle. That it's my own body that's pushing me forward. That I'm driving myself to the future, so to speak, on this beautiful piece of engineering and mechanics. On this beautiful bike.
Early rides with the girls. I love long distance rides, and I would say I like riding to Nyack. Long distance rides are my favorite rides, especially with people that I am so close and comfortable with, you know, my girls. I love getting together with them early in the morning, and then just going on a long distance ride. That to me is just the best.
It's a social thing. I've met so many people along the way who I probably wouldn't have met under different circumstances. And because I and that group of people have one thing in common which is cycling, I have been able to form these bonds with people that I think I will have friendships with for many, many years to come. It also breaks me out of my shell, challenges me, and educates me too. We're all learning from each other. We all have a special skill. It's like being the Avengers; everyone has their own super power, and you come and you bring that to the table.
Starting small. Honestly, what made me feel like I could be a leader when I first did it was reading the information on CycloFemme. The marketing, the images, the public contribution with content, seeing content of different rides happening all throughout the world; that just motivated me to think, well I could do this! It doesn't have to be something really big; my first one can just be something small, and we'll see how it goes, and see how many people show up. So what encouraged me to become a CycloFemme leader two years ago was coming across the website and reading the information. That empowered me, and motivated me, and challenged me to say, "I can do this."
Getting over the bridge. There was a rider who didn't feel comfortable crossing the Brooklyn Bridge; she was having a panic attack. I helped her get through that mental block, and she passed me! She went across the bridge both ways. The second time when we were on our way home, she didn't even need any more motivation. Her motivation was us riding together. That just reminded me, this is big. This is important. Now she's still riding; she's part of the group! She rides with us, and she's challenging herself, so that's great.
The after party? Yes! We love our parties. We threw an after party, and Zen Bikes, who was very instrumental and so helpful in supporting us and helping us use their space as the foundation and meeting point for us to have our women's ride, were nice enough to say, we'll keep our store open for you guys to have a celebratory party for all the riders who rode with you that day to be able to just eat and be merry!
Riding in NYC. What's special about New York is that you have all types of riders. You see all types of bikes. So many different personalities, and styles, and you know, groups. The other thing is one time I was crossing the George Washington Bridge, and I wasn't feeling too well, and I stopped just for a minute, and I had a handful of riders say, "Are you ok? Are you ok?" And I feel like that says a lot about New Yorkers. People look out for each other, they really do, and that's what makes it special to me.
“CyloFemme? Empowering. Global. Community. Love. Exploration. The journey.”