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We recently had the pleasure of getting to know Monica Garrison, the founder of Black Girls Do Bike (BGDB) and learning about how she got into cycling and what inspired her to found the organization. If you’re not familiar with the group, Pennsylvania-based BGDB is an organization whose purpose is in “growing and supporting a community of women of color who share a passion for cycling.” They are working to establish a network of womxn cyclists who can support, advise, and organize rides and meet-ups throughout their communities. Their goal is to introduce the joy of cycling to all women, especially women and girls of color.
Where are you local to?
I live, work and ride in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
When did you start biking and how did you get into the sport?
Cycling has always been a part of my life. As a kid, it was one of my favorite activities. Riding my bike was my first real taste of freedom and adventure. Later in life, I rode my bike as a city commuter from my first apartment to my job in downtown Pittsburgh. Then in 2013, after a long hiatus from riding, I picked up a bike again. This time I was searching for something to help me manage my mental and physical health.
What inspired you to start BGDB?
In 2013 my love of riding was taking over my life. I was spending more time riding with my kids and I was reaping the benefits of cycling regularly. I found, however, that there were very few women who looked like me on bikes in my town. Cycling had become a lifesaver for me and I wanted to share it with other ladies. This was the birth of BGDB. I wanted to shed light on the amazing benefits of cycling and I wanted to get the word out to women who had not yet discovered the joy of cycling.
How has the organization grown throughout the years?
We have grown in so many ways. Our numbers have consistently soared above my expectations. I remember when we had a triple-digit following and no riding groups. Now we have thousands of engaged followers and more than 90 chapters around the world. Our leadership team numbers more than 160 ladies and these women are showing up at tables and influencing decisions on the local and national levels. Our vision has matured and we now have partnerships with Trek, REI, and USA Cycling that are helping us lay a course for our short-term and long-term goal setting.
The mission of BGDB feels even more important today than ever before. How do you feel the organization is evolving, especially in today’s current climate?
I feel like our mission was clear from the beginning and hasn’t changed. It does, however, feel like the cycling industry and more people around the world are more aware than ever before of the reason why groups like BGDB must exist. Our very existence calls attention to disparities in the cycling community that some folks could easily and might rather ignore. Our goal is not to divide but to meet womxn where they are and be a gateway into the beautiful, multi-faceted world of cycling.
What advice do you have for womxn who may be new to cycling?
Your comfort level on the bike will likely determine how often and how long you ride. A comfortable saddle and a basic bike fit can go a long way in making cycling enjoyable for you. Bikes are tools. The kind of riding you plan to do will determine what type of bike you need. And, if you are motivated by accountability, find other riders and ride together as much as possible. This will contribute to the longevity of your cycling life.
We’re thrilled to share Monica’s story and are glad that organization’s like BGDB are out there championing efforts to promote cycling as a tool for transportation, self-care, empowerment, and enjoyment. Just like BGDB, Kaden shares their passion for getting more women and girls on bikes and are ecstatic to see new riders get to experience and fall in love with cycling.
To learn more about Black Girls Do Bike, to find a chapter in your area, and to support their efforts, visit their website here.
Photos provided by BGDB.