Machines for Freedom: Contest Winners

Machines for Freedom: Contest Winners

ON April 26, 2020 by Kate Veronneau

Drumroll please…

We rode. We swarmed. We bee danced on the pedals. Thank you for showing up for the Machines For Freedom Join the Swarm series. The turnout was incredible–some events were 300+ strong! With the magic of riding together at home, the sense of community you helped generate was beyond anything we had imagined.

Stay tuned, we’re going to keep some rides going through the month of May! Check the “Join the Swarm” homepage for more events to be posted soon.

Now onto the nominations. We were honestly blown away by the sheer number of beautiful submissions we received! Things we learned: there are a lot of queen bees out there who deserve all the recognition. So many of you are busy doing so much and somehow balancing it all. Lastly, every single nomination left an impression on us, and we’re grateful for your participation. Here are the five winners.

Brittany Perez

Brittany tapped her killer quads for good and helped fundraise over $700,000 for cancer research and relief organizations. As a Latina in cycling, she has made big strides to promote inclusivity in the sport by getting her fellow women, especially LBGTQ women, more involved in the Austin cycling scene. Now she’s based in Japan, working as a health educator focusing on nutrition and holistic wellness within her community. And she’s a new member of Zwift.

“My job is to educate our community on a variety of topics, such as physical fitness, injury prevention, nutrition, weight management, tobacco cessation, and chronic diseases. I mainly focus on education for our active duty population, but I also hold a variety of educational events for the dependent and civilian community aboard the base.”

“It’s amazing to be apart of a community of badass women who uplift each other and support each other. It’s not about watts or QOM’s (okay, maybe sometimes it is), but about building better people, a better community, and a better world through cycling.”

Natalie Sauro

Natalie is a firm believer in the power of the bicycle to uplift and liberate women. Cycling helper her find fitness and wellness after her 4 daughters were born. So naturally, she converted her garage into a Zwift haven to offer the same opportunity for other women. She provides bikes, trainers, computers, and TVs and encourages women in her community of Peach County, GA to ride together. Homemade healthy snacks keep them rolling.  Natalie is a wonderful role model for her 4 daughters, all under the age of 8! She proves nothing is impossible and is an inspiration to her local cycling community.

“There are so many barriers of entry for a woman to get out and ride a bicycle. Some of these barriers include lack of self-confidence, intimidation, fear, and cost to purchase equipment. My husband and I decided to turn our workshop in our back yard into a Zwift studio for ladies to come and ride together”

“The Swarm Rides have shown how women can be supportive of each other and encourage each other to overcome fear and intimidation. My hope is to inspire other women in all walks of life, whether it is a new mom who needs that break, or a budding college lady who needs a break from all the stress of school. I strive to connect with them personally either in my Zwift studio or out on the road group ride.

Esther Walker

If you ride bikes in Southern California, you probably heard of Esther Walker. A multiple TT champion and tower of the local cycling community, she wears many hats. Director of Data Science at a startup, mentor, bike racer, and team director for San Diego Bicycle Club. Not only does she show up super early on race days to cheer her friends on, she’s out on the track and winning too. A brand new member of the Zwift community, we’re excited to see what she’ll bring to the roads of Watopia.

“Taking on the role of the San Diego Bicycle Club (SDBC)’s women’s racing team director was just one way I could give back to that community. I wanted to act as a resource for anyone curious about the sport, and to help build a community of women that was supportive, inclusive, and, of course, loved cycling.”

“I was really touched when I first saw the nomination on Instagram. Then, when I started to get alerts about comments supporting the nomination, I was just blown away, and almost had tears after reading everyone’s stories. Of course, there are so many amazing women right within our club, as well as the wider community, that I truly couldn’t do this without, and I’d like to thank them for everything that they do; I’m only one part of an incredible network!”

Shelley Merth

Spreading the good vibes is what Shelley does best. She created “Pedal for a Purpose,” a virtual charity relay ride for her school division in Canada. K-12 students Zwifted to collectively ride across Canada, while also raising money and goods for local charities. She integrated geography and literacy throughout the virtual journey, teaching while training. An avid cyclist, she positively impacts the lives of others and has undoubtedly inspired kids and adults in her community to ride. Her daughter, who is an avid cyclist, nominated her for the prize.

“Lots of passionate students and staff can quickly generate funds for charities. While the concept of an activity such as a bike-a-thon is not new, using a smart bike trainer by our students and staff was a first for us.”

“Local companies purchased and donated smart trainers and bikes. Students worked together to cycle as fast and as far as they could when they took their turns on the trainer. They gave their time as relay leaders as they had to manage rider schedules and instruct participants on how to ride and shift gears. We had full support from the school division and schools, and local media helped to spread the word. I’m glad I started this project but its development and implementation were truly a team effort!”

Malini Kannan

In Malini’s nomination, she was described as ‘an environmentalista and badass woman of color.’ Riding in all weather conditions out of Humboldt, CA, she’s a regular in the Bay Area bike scene and up for dirt and city adventures. As an engineer at the forefront of renewable energy projects, Malini expertly navigates the male-dominated field with confidence, intelligence, and grace. She strongly believes in the value of women mentoring women in the engineering field, and has managed the Women in Cleantech & Sustainability mentorship program. She is currently initiating a Los Angeles chapter and hopes to make social cycling and group rides a fixture.

“For life, I like to hike, bike, dance, travel and spend time in the wilderness with loved ones. For work, I’m an engineer, and help to design renewable energy microgrids that help universities, hospitals, municipal governments and private companies have a resilient solution to power outages. I’m super passionate about renewable energy, and spend a lot of time outside of work thinking of ways we can transition to a clean energy economy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Biking is a great way to start! ”

“I’ve found the women’s cycling community to be really supportive and encouraging. From some of my first road rides with my past co-worker Carolyn to group rides with clubs and meetups, I love how friendly everyone is, how rides are structured so they’re welcoming to beginners, and how theres always someone shouting words of encouragement on a climb.”


A big thanks to our partners for the incredible gift packages. Each rider gets:

  • SARIS: 1 full trainer set up (H3 direct drive, MP1 platform, TD1 desk + any accessories/adapters needed), plus one entry to one of the following gravel races: Dirty Kanza, Rasputitsa Spring Classic, Steamboat Gravel or Rooted Vermont. 
  • Machines For Freedom x Zwift Hive Collection: jersey, bibs, bottle set and cap. 
  • 12 months free membership to Zwift.