The bicycle has been one of the most efficient modes of transportation since its inception in 1817. Xail Hernandez discovered just how efficient it could be in the summer of 2014 when dealing with public transportation in Tucson, Arizona. Her journey to becoming a full-time bike mechanic, year-round commuter and advocate for bicycle inclusivity was set in motion. From those first rides in the hot summer sun of Arizona, to a move to the harsh winter conditions of Chicago, the bike has helped her grow, lead and inspire. We are excited to name Xail Hernandez as our summer Super Commuter!
Xail grew up in Nogales, Mexico, a small border town just across the border from Arizona. In 2014 she moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. It was there that she discovered that life was better by bike. Her sister’s old red Magna provided her with the reliability and freedom to move through the city on her own terms as opposed to the frustration she faced when commuting to two part-time jobs by city bus. Straightaway, she went to work fixing up that bike and soon was riding all over campus and the greater Tucson community. Pedaling inspired her immediately and she was hooked!
In the summer of 2019, Xail moved to Chicago to pursue a graduate degree in Education from DePaul University. As luck would have it, the community-based bike shop where she worked in Tucson alerted her about a job opening for a bike mechanic position close to where she was living on the south side of Chicago. She landed the job at Working Bikes which is a non-profit shop that fixes up old, donated bicycles and redistributes them in local and global communities. For Xail, it was a perfect fit and the ideal introduction to the Windy City. As she puts it, “Working Bikes is huge! Our mission is to distribute bicycles, give bicycles new homes as tools of empowerment.”
Xial is now the Community Bike Repair Manager at Working Bikes and she finds that her master’s degree in education and bilingual skills are huge assets in her work. She has implemented specific volunteer nights for women and BIPOC and LGBTQ community members. Her goal is to “help other women stand out and gain skills and education in male-dominated spaces, like the cycling community.” Learning basic bike maintenance skills can have a huge impact on a person’s overall well-being. In her mind, “It starts with the bicycle and grows into helping yourself emotionally, mentally, physically. If you let it in, it will continue growing one’s self-confidence.”
Throughout the seasons, Xail uses her bicycle to discover her adopted city. She recalls that “the bike helped expose all different parts of Chicago. I have ridden all the way to Evanston, where they have a trail that is protected and covered with the Midwest green foliage.” This, of course, was a new vision for Xail who was used to the dessert landscape of Arizona. She was wowed by the vast network of trails and paths, and she asked herself, “Now that I’m here… how can I help? How can I get involved? How can I advocate?”
As Xail’s Chicago commuter miles started piling up, she grew enmeshed with her local bicycle scene and discovered the diverse communities around her. She blended her passion for bicycling with her strong desire to help build and improve her community. She devotes her energies to empower at-risk youth by working with non-profit organizations like Boxing Out Negativity and Think Outside Da Block. She also works to promote safe and accessible cycling through the SAFE (Streets Are For Everybody) Ambassadors program and Equiticity. Through these organizations she gets to work with both children and adults and has emerged as a leader in her community by sharing the benefits and joy of navigating the city by bike. She is grateful for the Chicago bike community that has embraced her and is honored to give back to her neighbors through classes, webinars and her job at Working Bikes.
Xail’s vast riding experience enables her to share safety tips to both new and veteran bike commuters. She encourages riders to communicate better with other road users by making eye contact or using hand signals to get the attention of others and clearly indicate their intended path forward. She also stresses the importance of being visible by using bike lights to alert cars that you are on the road. Her recipe for success is to “have multiple lights on her bike to create different, attention-gathering patterns.” Xail also suggests organizing your different bike gear for each season so you have easy access to the gear you need when the weather changes.
From her passion for riding everywhere, in every season, to creating spaces in which all people can feel welcome and gain the knowledge to become a full-time bike commuter, Xail Hernandez is an inspiration to all of us! We celebrate her commitment to using the bicycle as a form of transportation, spreading joy and empowering others! Congratulations Xail, you are now an official Planet Bike Super Commuter!
Check out how Xail is leading and inspiring new commuters through education and sharing her real-world experiences in the cycling community: