Women Involved Series: Monica Garrison

What inspired you to create Black Girls Do Bike?
I was re-discovering cycling as an adult and I was becoming completely addicted to that full on feeling of freedom and euphoria that cycling fills you with. As I rode around my town I started to realize how very few African American women I saw riding.  I thought, there had to be more of us out there.

Cycling is awesome, why aren't more women of color riding bikes? It really was a question.  Do black girls bike? BGDB was an attempt to find the answer. I thought, wouldn't it be great if there was a place where ladies could connect with other ladies in their towns to ride, share some bike knowledge and post images of their rides to inspire female cyclist and aspiring cyclist all over the world.  A place where no one was left out road warriors, moms who ride with their kids, BMX racers and everyone in between. 

How important has it been to encourage bike riding with the African American community?
The statistics are alarming. We are witnessing a health crisis.  Leading causes of death in the African American community heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are mostly preventable diseases. If we encourage ladies to get moving and they in turn encourage their mother, daughter, sister or friend to do the same, then we are all better for it.  As women we sometimes forget that taking care of ourselves makes us better caretakers for those we love.  It doesn't really matter how you move run, walk or cycle; just keep moving and give yourself a fighting chance.

How has your life changed since you started BGDB?
BGDB has allowed me to meet a lot of amazing people and discover how inclusive the cycling community really is.  I am inspired everyday by the women I've met who set out on adventures and cover amazing distances on their bikes and by the brave women who try cycling for the first time.  I am inspired by the women who use cycling in their recovery.  I love how cycling intertwines with their courageous comebacks stories.
 I was super excited to speak at the first ever Pittsburgh Women & Biking Forum in May.  I also traveled this year to the National Women's Bicycling Forum in Washington DC and spent the whole day star struck, surrounded by so many leaders in the cycling community whose blogs, sites and tweets I follow.
 An unexpected and pleasant change is that my family has become more active in cycling.  I had never seen my parents ride a bike my entire life and suddenly they have a new healthy hobby that they can do together.

What is the most common change that happens among other women who start riding a bike?
Biking is empowering. It’s good for body and mind. If you ride enough your body starts to change in lots of good ways.  And ask anyone who rides, they all say the same thing, "Cycling clears my head. It's therapy on two wheels."  Not to sound cliché but cycling is a metaphor for life. If you can climb that literal hill or cover that distance that once seemed impossible, suddenly other things seem within reach. 

How easy is it to get a BGDB chapter started?
Starting a BGDB Chapter is easy! Only 3 things are required.  1. A BGDB SHERO who steps forward to be the positive, encouraging and inclusive voice who leads the way.  She's got to be in love with cycling and have a strong desire to share her passion for cycling with others.  2. We ask that each Chapter organize at least one monthly ride or participate as a group in an organized ride/event.  3. Each chapter maintains a blog or Facebook group page to share upcoming ride information and post ride and event pictures. It's that simple. 

What challenges have you faced with BGDB?
In the early months of BGDB I struggled to find content that was relevant and engaging. No one knew who we were or what our perspective was. We were still finding our voice. Now that the community has grown so much, I find that most of the content finds me. Ladies are willing to share their stories of how cycling intersects their lives. I can now plan content ahead and hopefully keep my readers inspired. 

What have been some major accomplishments with BGDB?
We have attracted over 2200 Facebook followers.  Our followers are from all over the world and vary by age, race and skill level and come together over the shared interest of cycling. With that amazing wave of interest we have had a recent growth spurt starting 11 BGDB Chapters in major cities in less than 2 months. It’s kind of funny because BGDB riding groups were not the original plan but I quickly realized there was a demand for ladies to connect locally with us and it has been an extremely positive ride so far. 

What would you like everyone to know about BGDB and how can they support you and your cause?
BGDB runs on inspiration. These ladies would be doing amazing things on their bikes even if I weren't here to tell their stories. I hope to humbly be the voice to let these women tell their stories to anyone who will listen.  We strive to encourage all women to ride bikes. All shades and genders are welcome on a BGDB ride. Our focus happens to be African American women and girls who are typically under-represented in the cycling community and who statistically have the highest rates of obesity in our country.
 You can show support by sharing the BlackGirlsDoBike website with others, engage with us on www.facebook.com/blackgirlsdobike and twitter @blackgrlsdobike, purchase BGDB swag from our shop or simply donate to further the cause.  We use giveaways to keep folks engaged so if you have any bike related product to donate we would be happy to talk about it and use it as a contest prize. 

Tell us something interesting about you (can be bike related) that people may not know about you!
I love anything on two wheels bikes, scooters, and motorcycles. One of my favorite sayings is  “Four wheels moves the body, but two wheels moves the soul!”