The freedom and exhilaration of cycling are unparalleled for many enthusiasts. It’s a feeling of liberation and mindfulness that allows riders to connect with themselves and their surroundings. For Izzy Sederbaum, biking is more than just a recreational activity; it’s a way of grounding himself and feeling whole. In a new documentary by REI Co-op Studios, Sederbaum’s journey of resilience unfolds as he pedals his way back to himself after surviving a harrowing cougar attack while biking.
The Tragic Incident
In May 2018, Sederbaum and a new friend set out for a bike ride near Seattle, unaware of the imminent danger they would face. They were attacked by a cougar, resulting in severe injuries for Sederbaum and the tragic loss of his friend. The incident gained international attention, as it marked the first unprovoked cougar attack on humans in Washington state in nearly a century.
The attack shattered the sense of freedom Sederbaum had always experienced while cycling. It replaced his joy with anxiety, survivor’s guilt, and the heartbreak of receiving hateful messages and comments. As a transmasculine person, Sederbaum faced discrimination and exclusion in the outdoors, exacerbated by the negative reactions to the incident. The onslaught of negative comments made him question whether he deserved the attack, perpetuating harmful stereotypes about trans individuals in outdoor spaces.
Discrimination in the Outdoors
Sederbaum’s experience is unfortunately not unique. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, including harassment and exclusion, is pervasive in outdoor recreational activities. Despite civil rights laws protecting against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and religion, there is currently no federal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Advocating for Change
In response to the discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in outdoor spaces, Sederbaum is actively working to promote inclusivity and change within the cycling world. As the co-director of Wild Composite Racing, a gender-expansive team of gravel and longer-distance racers, he collaborates with race directors to ensure inclusivity for trans and nonbinary racers. Moreover, he advocates for allyship to women, Black, Indigenous, and cyclists of color.
A Path to Recovery
Sederbaum’s personal journey of recovery was challenging, marked by ongoing fear and anxiety triggered by certain sounds and surroundings. However, he found solace in riding with supportive friends and fellow cyclists. Over time, he embraced his late friend’s passion for advocating for inclusion and change, determined to make a difference in the cycling community.
A Message of Liberation
Sederbaum believes that bikes offer a unique sense of liberation and joy that everyone deserves to experience. He strives to ensure that historically marginalized groups have equal opportunities to participate in cycling and find that feeling of freedom. His advocacy extends beyond the cycling world, as he joins the broader movement to pass The Equality Act, which would provide legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the face of tragedy and discrimination, Izzy Sederbaum’s resilience and determination shine through. His journey of recovery after surviving a cougar attack while biking serves as a testament to the power of cycling and the human spirit. Through his work with Wild Composite Racing and his advocacy for inclusion, Sederbaum aims to create a more equitable and accepting outdoor community for all. The REI Co-op Studios documentary sheds light on his inspiring story, reminding us of the transformative power of cycling and the importance of creating a space where everyone can feel free to ride.