Conversation with Josie Fouts

Each of the 55 women who have taken part in the Women’s MV Rally has a beautiful inspirational story behind her, but today I would like to focus on Josie Fouts who has become the first Parathlete to ride the MV route. We talked with her about her experience:

Photo: Johanna Jahnke @johanna_jahnke

-Who is Josie? tell us about you! 

-I am a Parathlete on a mission to save the world with cycling! In 2018, I quit my dream job to train full time for the Tokyo Paralympics because I truly believe in the holistic power of the bicycle. I love riding because it teaches me more about myself than I learned in 18 years of education including graduate school. The first lesson I learned is that I thrive in the face of adversity! For example, when the Games were postponed in 2020, I found a love for mountain biking and since then have been on a mission to get Mountain Paracycling to become a Paralympic sport. A part of that goal means pushing the image of what is capable for the para-athlete on a bicycle and the MontañasVacias was the ultimate test of my abilities! 

-And at some point in your life you felt that you could do your bit for the world around you… 

-That point in my life was recent, and sprouted from the pandemic in 2020. Without the pressure of results on the road, I had the opportunity to ride for fun on trails. With the fresh air in my lungs and the sun on my face, I was able to find my purpose riding in nature where nothing is perfect but everything adapts in its own unique way! 

 “The further I am from a society that focuses on what I can’t do, the better I can understand what I can do!”

-Inspiration is a global, multidimensional concept, we have seen it these days at Lael’s event. It has contributed so much in so many different fields! What has it meant for you to be able to cross the Atlantic to be part of this group of 55 women? 

-It literally means the world to me! I had a thousand excuses not to make this trip: my prosthetic is designed only for an hour ride, I don’t speak fluent Spanish, and my bike didn’t show up on time. But with the support of Lael, Komoot and the other 50+ women, I was empowered to keep on persevering and got to ride 332 miles of Montanas Vacias in 7 days!

Photo: Johanna Jahnke @johanna_jahnke

-How was your experience on the roads of MV? 

-It was magical! I best connect with myself while in nature because the further I am from a society that focuses on what I can’t do, the better I can understand what I can do! The roads of Montanas Vacias ungulate and accurately represent life’s ups and downs. 

-What advice would you give to colleagues who are thinking of taking on a similar challenge? 

-Believe in yourself! 

-It’s been an intense few months for you, any new challenges in mind? 

-My next challenge is to set the first Para-FKT (Fastest Known Time) along the White Rim Trail in Utah, USA, a 100-mile mountain biking trail. I’ll be unweighted so my time in Montanas Vacias was great training! 

We wish you the best in your projects, it was a real privilege to have you here in MV, and to feel your energy, you’re pure inspiration. Hope to see you soon on the road!!

You can follow Josie’s participation in a US TV show called the All Terrain Bicycle Challenge, and on her instagram profile @ms.stubbornness

Photo: Johanna Jahnke @johanna_jahnke

Riding with Josie

By Johanna Jahnke @johanna_jahnke

Josie and I didn’t know each other before Montañas Vacías, but had decided to share a hotel room for the first night. The weather forecast was terrible at that time and we both thought it would be cool to see how the riding feels and to make sure recovery is going well with a good first night sleep. From experience I knew that in cold and wet conditions my asthma could get worse and I was afraid of all the climbing and riding in altitude. 

Josie’s bike arrived later, so she had to build it in the hotel the night after I had already done the first ride. The two missing teeth of her chainring didn’t bother her too much. She made sure to treat her chain well, keeping it clean and lubricated and would later joke about the regularity she’d drop it – once a day!

This pretty much shows how Josie takes on the world. Something doesn’t work out? Well, fix it, live with it, keep going.. And I can tell you, I learned so much. Not only was she teaching me breathing exercises for my asthma, we also had long conversations about how the world separates abled and disabled people and how that influences people’s lives. As an abled person, I am very thankful that Josie shared her views, ideas and knowledge with me. Her perspective of the world. I deeply wished there was less separation.. 

Riding together was a lot of fun. After the first day, we just stuck together. We found a good rhythm and just enjoyed ourselves very much. The prosthetic made it necessary to stop once in a while, especially on hot days, because of the sweat inside. I learned to take it more easy, take photos, enjoy the scenery, take breaks, instead of just riding nonstop.. My inner Ultra Cyclist fought some battles. But looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted it in any other way.

Photo: Johanna Jahnke @johanna_jahnke

We were a team, like any other. We took care of each other and some things got lost in translation. Like in any group of cyclists. I lent Josie my hand twice, once when wringing wet clothes and once when pumping up her tire. Both things she could have done alone, but it was easier for me to do them. And that’s what team mates are for, right?

Johanna Jahnke is 1/2 of the only female team that ever officially finished the Transcontinental Race & Podcaster at Die Wundersame Fahrradwelt

If you are interested in reading about her whole tour, you can find it here.