It was a surreal experience. Atop her Specialized Dolce comfort road bike, Monica Garrison surveyed the scene at the first national meet-up of the organization she founded, Black Girls Do Bike. More than 300 women convened in Atlanta this past June to ride together during three days of cycling events. They also raised more than $21,000 for diabetes research.
“Meeting the ladies was inspiring,” says Garrison. “It was spectacular.”
In the summer of 2013, Garrison was searching for something. She was looking for a way to get outdoors, spend quality time with her kids and find mental solace. She bought a bike, familiarized herself with Pittsburgh’s biking trails, and even commuted on two wheels to work from her home in the West End. “I had found my Zen,” she says.
But she rarely encountered riders who looked like her. Inspired by the desire to connect ladies who enjoy biking and to encourage others to consider it, especially women of color, Black Girls Do Bike (BGDB) was born.
“Our mission is to grow and support a community of women who share a passion for cycling,” Garrison says. “We are establishing a comfortable place where female cyclists can organize rides.”
The Pittsburgh chapter was founded in May 2015, with Garrison as the “Shero,” the leader who organizes rides and events to keep members excited about cycling in the city. With recently built bike lanes, more women cycling, and a greater focus on self-care and health by women of color, the growth of BGDB has been fast and furious. From Pittsburgh to Alaska to Dallas to Boston, there are more than 60 chapters.
“It’s a bit of a perfect storm,” says Garrison. Across the country, women are experiencing the benefits of communal cycling: from weight loss to support in emotional times and reconnecting with old friends.
“Ladies send pictures and testimonials explaining how BGDB has helped motivate them,” Garrison adds.
Although the name of the organization is Black Girls Do Bike, Garrison says it is inclusive for ladies of every ethnicity. “BGDB operates under the belief that it is possible to value yourself without diminishing the value of another,” Garrison says. “Our focus is black women because they are underrepresented in the larger cycling community.”
Garrison says that BGDB is perfect for women looking for fellowship or a way to get off the couch. The group is judgment-free and rides with a “no woman left behind” mindset. It welcomes all bikes and skill levels.
If you would like to get in gear, upcoming Thursday rides are scheduled for Sept. 22 and 29. The rides start at 6 p.m. and depart from 885 Progress St., on the North Side. The updated schedule can be found by joining the group’s Facebook page at www.bit.ly/2ca3g9d.
Stacy Kauffman is an on-air personality at The Fan 93.7 FM.