Rahsaan Bahati, one of the world’s distinguished Black cyclists, couldn’t be more excited to make the trip from the West Coast to Baltimore for the second annual Maryland Cycling Classic.

Last year, he participated in the Maryland Cycling Classic as a presenter and announcer, and will be doing the same this year.

“I’m excited to be back, I’m excited to visit the schools, I’m excited to do the bike rodeo, do the Bike Jam, charity ride and just be a part of that community,” said Bahati, who retired as a professional cyclist about seven years ago after an 18-year career.

Born and reared in Compton, California, Bahati took interest in cycling at a young age. His endeavors took him to extraordinary heights in the sport, and now Bahati, 41, is one of the most influential Black bikers of the modern era.

After winning multiple competitions at the amateur level, Bahati’s professional career began with the Mercury Cycling Team in California. He went on to compete for a few other teams and achieved massive success at the elite level, including first-place finishes in the Barrio Logan Grand Prix, Tour of the Gila (Stage 4), Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, Dana Point Grand Prix, Roger Millikan Memorial Criterium and THF Realty Gateway Cup Criterium, among others.

In 2010, Bahati founded the Bahati Foundation to improve access to opportunities for youth in Los Angeles. He also co-founded the Los Angeles-based Methods To Winning Elite Cycling Team LLC.

The rarity of Black professional cyclists has been an ongoing topic of interest in the broader world of sports, race and culture. 

“As much as I love that the race is in Baltimore, a predominantly Black community, especially when it comes into the city, we need more representation,” Bahati added. 

“I’m happy to be there on the grounds with a microphone showing young Black boys and girls that you don’t have to be a bike racer; you could also [take up other roles in the sport].”

Summing up his experience as a Black cyclist, Bahati said he has always considered himself “a raisin in milk” — a metaphorical phrase highlighting the absence of diversity in cycling in the professional ranks.

“I always said that I was the raisin in milk,” Bahati said. “I’ve raced in North America, South America, Central America; I raced Europe and I was always the only one.”

Biking has taken Bahati around the world, and while his experiences and excursions have been nothing short of enjoyable, the theme has remained relatively consistent when lining up against opponents for a race — more often than not, he has been the only biker of color in pro competitions.

“I was racing in Belgium when it hit me. I was like, ‘I’m a raisin in milk.’ My experience – it’s kind of a double-edged sword because cycling has brought me so many incredible things and opportunities, and I’ve met some incredible people… but then there’s the ugly side as well,” he said, acknowledging the obstacles that legendary figures like Major Taylor had to endure.

“I’ve always been the type of guy not to let circumstances like that dictate where I go and who I am. I think with that upbringing from my parents – that [sic] allowed me to rise above those circumstances. Everyone can’t do that and I’m aware of that, so I feel like I was one of the lucky ones to be able to navigate those treacherous waters, if you will, and still be who I wanted to be.”

Demetrius Dillard
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