A bike might be a way to get around campus for some. For one Knight, it's much more than that.
It was at the tender age of 6 that Chelsea Fietsgodin began BMX racing. Now, she finds herself branching out in BMX freestyle events and mountain-bike racing as well as road bike and fixed-gear riding. In her own words, "anything with wheels I'll play with."
Fietsgodin, who races neck and neck with male racers in the 19- to 27-year-old expert class, is competing in two racing series this year, one in BMX freestyle and another in BMX racing.
A series is essentially a group of races all over the state where racers rack up points for their performance. At the end of the series, the individual with the most points wins the championship.
With school and her job as a mechanic also taking up a fair bit of time, Fietsgodin, a senior political science major, said she's had trouble making all the races in the past. The last year she was able to make all of the races and accurately test her skills. She took third place — her best finish yet.
But while the trophies might be a good reminder of her accomplishments, the other award she received that year stands out more than anything. As someone who actively volunteers and races in the community, namely mentoring young racers, Fietsgodin was awarded the State Commissioner's award, which makes note of racers' positive contributions to the racing community.
One major concentration of her mentorship is for younger transgender riders who might not have someone to look up to. Having identified as transgender since 2012, Fietsgodin maintains that, to her knowledge, she is currently one of only two openly transgender riders in the U.S. BMX racing community.
Fellow racers and even parents approach her to talk about transgender issues. Randy Konsker, a principal at Matlock Academy in West Palm Beach, uses her as a point of reference and referral for his students who may be struggling with transgender issues.
"I try to be a role model in that sense and break though a wall so that younger kids don't have to. I am pretty hard-headed," Fietsgodin said.
Fietsgodin, who races in the men's class, said that, aside from Internet trolls and one particularly transphobic fellow racer, she hasn't had any major outside challenges in conjunction with her identity.
However, Fietsgodin said the only other major challenge to her racing is how her hormone therapy will affect her riding. If she finds herself unable to keep up in the men's class, Fietsgodin said she'll move to the women's class. Until then, Fietsgodin is staying put.
What makes her so successful and helps her give the men a run for their money, one fellow racer said, is her distinct love for the sport.
Bette White, who Fietsgodin met on the popular blogging website Tumblr through their appreciation for female bikers, has been best friends with Fietsgodin for three years and said Fietsgodin is one of the best racers she has ever seen.
The Tallahassee native, who has been an avid BMX rider for 12 years, said Fietsgodin is successful with any bike she rides.
"She's got a true passion for all two-wheeled things for all the right reasons," White said.
In her current racing series, Fietsgodin has to compete in eight local races to make it to the state qualifier. But looking at all of her scores thus far, Fietsgodin said that, for the first time, she has a shot at taking home the top prize. Her next major race is in West Palm Beach at her home track on April 12.
Adam Rhodes is the Entertainment Editor at the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @byadamrhodes or email him at AdamR@CentralFloridaFuture.com.