Cycling is not a sport exclusively reserved for men.
The contributions of Black women cyclists are often lesser known. However, Monica Garrison— founder, executive director and chief storyteller of Black Girls Do Bike (BGDB), is a trailblazer who makes significant leaps to close the cycling gender gap.
“She is tasked with fueling 100+ BGDB chapters worldwide and a network of 180+ lady leaders. She believes that the simple act of riding a bike can be a catalyst for wonderful, life-changing experiences for women of all ages,” according to www.blackgirlsdobike.org.
Garrison founded the nonprofit in the spring of 2013. Through it, women who embrace cycling “as a tool for function, fitness, freedom and fun” can find camaraderie, advice, organized rides or skill sharing.
Kim Dennis lives in Baltimore, Maryland’s Pigtown neighborhood. She explained more about BGDB.
“Ride leaders are called ‘Sheros’ in Black Girls Do Bike. Since May of 2022, I have been ‘co-Shero’ of Black Girls Do Bike: Baltimore of which there are over 1,100 Facebook members,” Dennis said. “There are over 100 Black Girls Do Bike chapters across the United States and internationally.”
Dennis mentioned that her love of cycling began when she was a nine-year-old girl who received her first 10 speed Sears Free Spirit bicycle. The Baltimorean grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey.
“I enjoy cycling because it’s fun. There’s something so exhilarating about feeling the wind on your face as your legs pedal in the open air,” Dennis said.
Her cycling passion grew when she relocated to Baltimore and began participating in athletic events called duathlons.
“I found out about Black Girls Do Bike: Baltimore in 2015 after talking to friends who suggested that I join so that I could meet other women cyclists. I’ve met many who I now call friends,” Dennis said. “Black Girls Do Bike: Baltimore has grown greatly in numbers which is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many women were looking for a safe place to join and with a gendered group who understood their needs and concerns.”
BGDB’s Baltimore chapter meets Saturday morning at least once a month in the Baltimore area.
Dennis added, “The rides are a blend of Short & Sassy (0-10 miles) and Bold & Beautiful (10-30 miles). The rides are specifically for all female cyclists.”
Riders from beginners to triathletes are welcome to join the chapter.
“We ride together in a group and don’t leave anyone behind. It’s helpful whenever the more experienced cyclists join our rides as they tend to have helpful tips to educate the group,” Dennis said.
Denise Calloway, a Baltimore City resident and Facebook administrator of BGDB’s Baltimore chapter, is a casual rider who enjoys riding with less competitive pressure. She noted that most of the time when newer cycle members are present, chapter rides begin at Thomas Dixon Park (BWI Loop).
“It is a good network to find others who cycle at your same ability, to have safety in numbers on a ride, and to be there for those that need the encouragement to go get out for the day to ride,” Calloway said. “BGDB is more of a support group where women of color can find a supportive space to enjoy bicycling. There are no fees, just sign up on the Facebook group and people are asked to not solicit members. I am a member of both the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. group.”
Carla Douglas resides in Chesapeake, Virginia. She has been a Black Girls Do Bike in Hampton Roads member for a little over five years. Douglas averages riding 100-125 miles a week all year, peddling four or more days a week. She said that 500 members are in her chapter.
“I’ve been cycling since 1995 but I’ve been consistent for the last five years,” Douglas said.
She also serves as a “Shero.”
“As a ‘Shero,’ my primary responsibility is the admin [administrator] in our social media group. Also, it’s my responsibility to organize monthly rides for the group members. I provide information about cycling; its health benefits; nutrition; upcoming rides in the area; safety information and equipment recommendations,” Douglas said.
She further noted that being connected with other women who look like her and who also enjoy being outdoors, are health conscious and value a healthy lifestyle, are enjoyable elements of membership.
“The support and encouragement is unmatched. We share everything from recipes, off-season virtual rides, to hotels for out-of-town events,” Douglas said.
Dennis added that cycling is a therapy session that helps her to keep moving, literally and figuratively.
“I’m at peace on my bike,” Dennis said.