First, Last & Best: Meg Fisher
Since a tragic accident shifted her life's course, Meg Fisher hasn't stopped pedaling. Now she's making space for cyclists of all abilities in her gravel-riding pursuits and sports medicine practice.
Meg Fisher is seriously talented. She’s an 11x World Champion cyclist, she’s earned gold, silver and bronze medals at the London and Rio Games, and she’s a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Since retiring from Team USA racing, Meg shifted her focus to endurance gravel and mountain bike events – becoming the first para-cyclist to finish such races as Unbound 200 and Rebecca’s Private Idaho Queen Stage Race. Fair to say, Meg knows how to get the best out of herself. But that’s not all she’s about. She’s been pioneering the development of para-cycling categories at off-road events. All the while, she’s been caring for her physical therapy patients at her clinic in Missoula, Montana.
Meg’s cycling story is one born of hardship, but her infectious enthusiasm has driven her to countless personal heights and many wins for the para-cycling community, and those of all abilities. Read on to learn how Meg has turned tragedy into treasure.
When was the first time you rode a bike?
Before I learned to ride a bike, I learned to ride a horse on my family’s cattle ranch in rural Alberta. When I was a little older, I learned to ride a bike. I have a strong memory of my mom taking the training wheels off of my bike and patiently teaching me to ride a two-wheeled bike. She spent hours with me that day. Eventually, she had to go inside to do unavoidable grownup things. I refused to go inside until I’d mastered riding all on my own.
What was your first bike?
A hand-me-down BMX bike from my cousin.
When was your first bike race?
My first race was a triathlon in 2004. It was a sprint distance triathlon eleven months after I’d had my second amputation surgery following injuries sustained car accident. My first bike race was a 24hr mountain bike race in 2005. My first road race was in 2009.
Can you remember the first time you thought, ‘riding a bike is going to be a big part of my life’?
After my car accident in 2002, I had a complicated recovery. At one point, a doctor told me that I’d never walk again and I resorted to using either crutches or a wheelchair for mobility. During that time, I was paired with a service dog to help me with daily tasks. Her name was Betsy the Wonder Dog and she infinitely changed my life for the better. Eventually, I was fitted with a prosthetic leg and regained the ability to walk. Betsy’s endless energy inspired me to try mountain biking because I’d seen people do that with their dogs around my hometown in Montana. At first, Betsy was significantly more fit than me. She had to stop and wait for me! My goal became to keep up with Betsy. She helped me rediscover the joy and freedom that come with riding bikes.
When was the first time you were genuinely lost on a bike ride?
I’m not sure I’ve ever been lost. For many years, before I got the layout of our local trail system permanently etched into my memory, I always set out with the goal to get lost and then find myself. Those adventures were always the best- following new trails up and around the mountains.
What’s the first thing you grab when you go for a bike ride?
My cycling specific prosthetic leg.
What was your very first big trip with your bike?
My first big journey on my bike was a solo 24hr mtb race in 2005
Who was your first cycling hero?
What was your last race?
My last race was Rebecca’s Private Idaho Queen Stage Race in Sun Valley, Idaho. In 2021, RPI opened the first para-cycling categories in a gravel event. Absolutely awesome to team up with my idol Rebecca Rusch to increase diversity and improve inclusion in our sport.
What was your last big injury?
Thankfully, I didn’t have any injuries in 2021. The year before, in 2020 when the world was reeling, I developed a blood clot in my left leg and was bed-ridden for 6 weeks. I couldn’t use my prosthetic leg during that time and my outlook on life spiraled down. I had also been laid off during the pandemic like a lot of people. So being out of work, confined to the couch, and unable to exercise was mentally hard. I felt useless and hopeless. Of course, none of that is true. Still, our minds can take us to some dark places. Exercise and endorphins are easy ways to brighten a person’s mood. Getting back on the bike after two months was pure joy.
What’s your last meal prior to a big day on a bike?
Banana with almond butter on toast and a hard-boiled egg.
When was the last time you rode somewhere completely new and surprising?
Last month I got to spend 10 days in Baja, Mexico. The gravel roads and the trails were amazing. What a treat to ride in the desert in the middle of a Montana winter.
What was your best time on a bike?
It would be too easy to say winning the gold medal in the London Games Time Trial was my best time on a bike. Of course, it was an amazing experience and one that I will treasure forever. However, the best time on the bike for me is when I get swept up with gratitude and joy for what my body can do. I remember all too well laying in a hospital bed or the couch last winter.
What was your best bike race?
I love 20k road time trials. Absolutely love them. I love the control, the physical and mental challenges of convincing your body to keep going, the nuances and the naked simplicity of racing the clock.
What’s the best trip you’ve ever been on?
I had a great time at a bike camp with The Cyclists Menu in Patagonia, Arizona. I went to their camps just after retiring from the National Team. Training camps with the National Team are fun because it's great to see teammates. But they are also a ton of work. I loved exploring the Arizona desert with the Cyclists Menu and the food was top notch.
Who, in your opinion, is the best bike rider ever?
That’s impossible. I have met too many amazing riders over the years - having spent the better part of a decade racing around the world with para-cyclists. The athletes I have met have overcome and accomplished incredible things. They inspired me come up with the saying "two legs, too easy."
What’s the best bike you have ever owned?
It's like you’re asking me to pick my favorite child! Ha!! I’m super excited about my new Topstone Carbon. I took it to the gravel roads and singletrack trails in Baja. It was comfy on the flats, climbed like a sunrise, and descended trail like water.
What would be the best advice you would give a younger version of you?
I try to avoid using words like would, could, and should. Those words are in the subjunctive tense (for grammar nerds) and refer to concepts or actions that have never or will never happen. I prefer to use the indicative tense with myself and my patients which includes words like need and want. I can't go back and tell myself anything that will change the present or the future. Of course, I wish that I could go back and change a few key things. I wish that Sara were still here. I wish that I still had a left foot. I wish a lot of things for a lot of people, too.
What does Meg ride?
Here are a couple of the bikes in Meg’s stable.