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Drop Vigland’s name within the open, airy walls of Brick Wheels on Eighth Street in Traverse City, and you can feel approval spin through the bike shop. David Bucholtz, sales rep, bike fanatic and all-around advice and wise guy, playfully offers a bow. “She has the respect of every man on the team,” he says, unprompted.
But before the words have made their way across the rack of pink jerseys (Ride Like a Girl!) and helmets of blue and
neon green (macho colors swirled into flowery patterns), that mark the change in cycling in recent years, Buckholz has
corrected himself: “She has the respect of everybody on the team.”
Vigland has found her niche in the boys club—playing hard, clean and fair. “I want to win as much as anybody,” Vigland says, “but we’re all in it for the fun too.”
Female cyclist and fellow Hag, Johanna Schmidt, 35, calls Vigland the “ultimate competitor.” “When she rides up to the
start line, she is all business. She is there to win or to do whatever it takes to help a teammate win, and all of our competitors know and respect that.”
But when Vigland pulls off her helmet and lets her dark, shoulder-length hair fall, you look, look again. Blond highlights?
Hey, aren’t biker chicks supposed to be tough? And that’s where Vigland bends the stereotype yet again. Tough biker babe isn’t part of her vibe. She’s testament that nice girls don’t always finish last.
“You can be nice and win races,” Vigland says. “I want to be respected by my competitors, and I enjoy getting to know them.”
Vigland makes way for new members on the team and passes on all she knows, from training to nutrition to technique.
She loves to bring new people to the sport with encouragement and the push they need. (Thinking of walking a hill while biking with Vigland? It’s not an option; that’s why there’s granny gear.)
“One quote from Susan that I think everybody has heard at least a half a dozen times is, ‘Great job, buddy,’ ” says Schmidt, whose signature line on her email reads, “Did you ride your bike to work today?”