Once she got a bike – a hybrid Specialized that she still owns and loves – and started riding, she noticed something immediately.
“There were very few African American women on bikes in my city,” Garrison, who is 36, says. “It was hard to see people in the bike lanes that looked like me.”
Instead of just questioning whether other women like her existed, she decided to create a Facebook page, that she says, answers in the affirmative. She called the Facebook page Black Girls Do Bike.
And then the next surprise. Monica hoped that if she got a few hundred people to ‘Like’ the page, she would feel a sense of community and know that other women wanted the same kind of support she craved.
Instead, very rapidly, Black Girls Do Bike (BGDB) gained thousands of followers.
Even more amazing, Garrison said, is that in just two years she went from zero to 45 national chapters of the organization across the country.
The first chapter of BGDB wasn’t even her own city’s. A woman named Victoria Livingston called Monica, completely enthused about Black Girls Do Bike, and set up the Central Florida chapter within weeks – it now has over 100 members.
Instead of a standard road-bike club format, Garrison said her BGDB chapters decide themselves how to organize rides and what kind of ride they’ll do. One thing that all of the chapters do is have one monthly no-drop, ‘no woman left behind’ casual ride so that new riders can meet others in a non-stressful atmosphere.
“The average road ride can have a competitive edge, and that can be intimidating,” Monica says. “Everyone has to be a beginner some time. We want to take away the intimidation – it’s casual, bring the kids. Then different groups will congeal on their own.”
Garrison herself, with two young children, may not ride as much as she always wants to, and she says sometimes other BGDG members might be disappointed that she nearly always chooses these days to do trail rides, and with her children.
But she says ‘feeling the joy’ is what keeps her bike riding when life gets full and stressful.
“With this kind of ride I know I can stick with it, and that’s important,” she said. “This way, it’s one of the things in life that remains pure joy.”
Black Girls Do Bike has become a nationwide resource for women, especially but not exclusively African-American women, and is providing the kind of support for women/girls of color who cycle for function, fitness, freedom, and fun.
“Thanks Black Girls Do Bike and Nutcase for protecting my head out on these streets!”