On a humid September evening, 20 women of color (a few with spouses and older kids in tow) gathered social-distance style at Eagle Greenway for a late evening ride. Years ago, this would have been a rare sight. However, thanks to Black Girls Do Bike, a national organization founded in Spring of 2013 by Monica Garrison, that is no longer the case.
The goal of the group is inclusion in cycling, said Chyri Jackson, the leader (or Shero as the group calls them) who started the Indianapolis chapter in June of 2014. “I participated in several endurance sporting events benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and never saw anyone training who looked like me,” Jackson said.
She discovered her love of cycling while competing in her first Olympic Distance Triathlon in Elkhart Lakes, Wisconsin in 2012, which involved a 1.5K swim, a 45K bike ride and a 10K run. “I learned to bike as a kid, but I didn’t realize how much I liked endurance riding until I did the triathlon,” she said.
Jackson likes to introduce cycling to women because it is low impact: “It isn’t going to be hard on your joints and you can go at your own speed and set your own mileage.”
Black Girls Do Bike was recognized as the 2020 Bike Club of the Year by the League of American Bicyclists. It has grown to 90 chapters in the U.S. and champions more women of color to get on bikes. “However, women of other races are welcome to ride, it is inclusive to all women,” she said.
While men are not part of Indy’s main group, they can join in on some rides. “Also, if we say it is a family-friendly ride, children can ride as well,” she said.
Since the pandemic, more women are participating. “Before COVID, I had 400 people in the group but only a core number who were coming to the rides, from four to six ladies or sometimes six to 10,” Jackson told us. “Now there will be rides where there are 10 to 20 people.”
As of September, there were 588 people in the Facebook group.
The official group rides are led by Jackson or one of her co-sheroes, Shaun Jones or Karen Smartt. They ensure that cyclists are being safe and that no one is left behind or dropped for riding at a slower pace or any other bike-related issue. “We welcome all skill sets; We meet women where they are,” Jackson said.
There is at least one official group ride per month during the March to October or November biking season in Indiana, but some members in the group meet up and ride with each other on their own.
Stephanie Patterson and Antonette Burroughs are two of the newer members. Patterson, who has been cycling for nearly 30 years, joined during the COVID shutdown when yoga and circuit training at the gym were no longer an option. “The idea that other black women would be biking and that I could be social, and bike was a win-win,” Patterson said.
Burroughs didn’t ride much before becoming part of the group and had some fear before her first ride in March. “I was nervous about falling or not keeping up.” But now she rides anywhere from eight to 28 miles per ride. “I enjoy the opportunity to connect with like-minded, health-minded people and the camaraderie of it,” Burroughs said.
Ladies who have a bike and are interested in the group can visit Black Girls Do Bike: Indy on Facebook.
Follow freelance writer Diane Moore on Instagram @whatdianeloves.