Editor’s note: Fredy Ramirez was interviewed in Spanish. Quotes are translated from Spanish to English.
Fredy Ramirez, a 49-year-old mountain biker, turned to the outdoors for peace of mind and exercise. Ramirez also hopes to bring people, especially Hispanic people, together through the sport of mountain biking.
“When you like something, you want to share it with people. Especially if it’s something that’s very beneficial to your health,” Ramirez said.
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control published in February 2022, 32.1% of Latinos are inactive outside of work. That puts them in danger of myriad health problems from heart issues to cancer. It’s also the highest rate of inactivity among racial and ethnic groups. That disparity, the report found, is mostly due to a lack of access to safe and convenient places to exercise. But for those who can find time and resources to get moving, studies have shown exercising in the outdoors can reduce blood pressure and boost mental health.
Ramirez went on his first biking trail five years ago after tagging along with a close friend. Since then, his perspective on health and exercise has changed.
Ramirez fondly remembers buying a 10-speed road bike and barely being able to ride when he first entered the world of mountain biking. He wasn’t able to make turns or ride on the rough terrain because he didn’t have the appropriate “vehicle.” He said he simply didn’t know any better.
“In the mountains, the ups and downs of the trails require tougher bikes,” Ramirez said. “It’s like driving a Honda Civic but then driving a Cadillac car-of-the-year when you buy the proper gear. There’s a drastic difference.”
Despite not having the right equipment, the ride was still fun for Ramirez. Later on, he used his first experience as inspiration to start a group called Colorado Latino Mountain Bikers. His goal was to help those who are interested in trying the sport and changing the perspective of self-care and well-being among Latino and Hispanic people.
“Unfortunately there’s not that many Hispanic people involved in outdoor sports like these. One time there was a person on a trail who told me that it was rare to see someone like me, a Latino, participating in mountain biking,” Ramirez said. “But they also told me they were happy to see more Hispanic people participating in this sport and being in the outdoors.”
Ramirez said there are various reasons why so few Latinos participate in the sport of mountain biking. Oftentimes it’s related to financial reasons, as Ramirez recognized the sport can be expensive. On average, a basic starter bike can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000—that said, bikes under $1000 are not recommended. Frequent riders will often choose a bike that costs closer to $3000. Ramirez recommended for those who are just looking to try the sport, mountain bikes can be rented for a much lower cost.
In addition to financial barriers, Ramirez said there are cultural hurdles as well. He turns to the outdoors for health reasons and self-care but said those topics in Hispanic cultures can be complicated, especially for Hispanic men in the United States.
“We grow up in the customs of our countries and then we come here [to the United States]. We immigrate here to work and to work and to work. We forget that there are things to enjoy and participate in, but unfortunately, our mentality revolves around working which diverts our attention from things that are beneficial to our well-being,” Ramirez said. “The years pass, we get older, and then we are told by our doctors that something is wrong. Prior to that, our health and well-being weren’t prioritized by ourselves.”
Ramirez also added that frequently, when Hispanic people do try to prioritize their health by losing weight or improving their general health, they tend to do so by dieting or taking supplements that don’t interfere with their work or personal life.
“Many times we try to replace exercise with something that you can take while you’re working or sitting down. Something that replaces what your body does while you exercise without the exercise,” Ramirez said.
The Latino mountain biker hopes to encourage people to prioritize their well-being and health without spending a great amount of money. While mountain biking can be expensive, it’s not the only sport or activity that one can do, Ramirez said. The idea behind Colorado Latinos Mountain Bikers is to create a community among Hispanic people and to speak more about the importance of having hobbies or participating in sports that are beneficial for one’s well-being.
“We don’t grow up with customs of having hobbies or participating in things that benefit our health and wellness, but being here and surrounded by a different culture, well that changes things. It’s nice because we are then able to pass that down to our children,” Ramirez said.