RIDERS WHO INSPIRE
Grace Ragland reached out to us a few months ago to tell us her story. Many riders do that via
our “Trailgrams” section, usually to tell
us when we make a mistake, or in our
“Trail Mix” section, where riders love to
show us photos of themselves riding their
home trails. Grace’s call was different,
though. We were so impressed with this
woman after a single phone call that we
wanted to showcase her amazing story.
Grace has multiple sclerosis, and that
hasn’t slowed her down one bit. We’ve
heard many times about how difficult
intense exercise can be with this lifelong
disease, which is why we nearly dropped
the phone from our hands when we
learned she has competed in some of
the most grueling races in our sport.
She’s an inspirational woman who shares
her love of riding with others every time
she gets on the bike and also works
as an ambassador for Giant and Liv
bikes, which is why we’re dedicating this
month’s “Riders Who Inspire” to her.
And She Shreds Harder
Name: Grace Ragland
Hometown: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Number of years riding: Most of my
life; racing since 2007
Favorite go-to bike: LIV Lust
Favorite trail, ride or race: My favorite
trail is anywhere on this planet. My favorite
race is the Breck Epic Six-Day Stage Race
in Breckenridge, Colorado.
MBA: How did you get into riding?
Grace: Actually, it all began when I
learned to ride a bike at about age 4! As a
kid, and even through college, biking was
my form of transportation. Once I graduated I went to Yosemite on a backpacking trip
where I rode my first mountain bike. About
five years later I purchased my first of many
mountain bikes. At that time I knew of no
girls who rode the trails in my town, so I
would ride with the guys. Those guys were
extremely patient and encouraging. Most all
of us still frequent the trails on Monte Sano
in Huntsville, Alabama.
MBA: Can you explain a little about MS
and how it affects a person?
Grace: Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling, disease of the
central nervous system that disrupts the
flow of information within the brain and
between the brain and body. The symptoms of MS run the gamut from extreme
fatigue, blurred or double vision, and vertigo to numbness, tingling, muscle weakness
and, in severe cases, paralysis.
MBA: More specifically, how does MS
affect your riding?
Grace: My symptoms vary from day to
day. One of my main symptoms is a weak
right side (leg and arm), another is my
eyesight. Heat is my nemesis and is tough
on most individuals living with MS. While
riding in the summer heat, my speed drops,
and if you are a mountain biker, you know
the importance of momentum. I seem to
have more trouble with my balance in the
summer as well. Also, during the hotter
season, I have blurry vision most days, and
the weakness on my right side is more
MBA: When were you diagnosed with
MS, and was it before or after you started
riding mountain bikes?
Grace: My first symptom of MS was
when I was 10 years old, but I was not
diagnosed until 1980 at age 18. I did not
have a mountain bike until a few years after
college. Nowadays, I probably would have
been diagnosed at my first symptom. The
understanding of MS has changed tremendously with the development of technology.
When I was 10, there were no MRIs for
testing and diagnosing or disease-modify-ing therapies.
MBA: What rides and races have you
worked hardest to train for and compete
Grace: A quote from Arthur Ashe—
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation”—resonated with me
many years ago. Realistic goals are very
important for me. Number one: do the very
best you can! Number two: finish with a
smile. Number three: finish and still want
to continue training and racing. The races
I feel I have worked hardest for have been
stage races, such as the BC Bike Race,
Has Multiple Sclerosis