Kathy Gray and friends are proving black girls do bike for fun, exercise

Kathy Gray is a leader of Black Girls Do Bike, a group that introduces women of color to cycling. (Provided photo)
  Kathy Gray is a leader of Black
  Girls Do Bike, a group that
  introduces women of color to
(Provided photo)

How long have you been riding a bike?
I got my first bike in 2014. I’m obsessed. I’m like a junkie. Last season was my first full season, I did my first century. This season, I want to do a couple centuries a month. I want to go further, I want to go faster. I want to get all of the women I can on bikes. I’m just counting the days until we get back out there. It’s not even the cold weather, it’s the ice. My group, Black Girls Do Bike, that I co-founded with Celeste Adams, would ride all year if we could. That’s how crazy we are.

What do you love about biking?
I want to educate women of color to the freedom you get, the mental release you get while you’re cycling. It’s like a drug. It gets in you. I had no idea how competitive I was; I’m a competitive monster now. I could ride all day. Women and people of color are showing up on bikes, and we’re holding our own. 

Let’s talk about Black Girls Do Bike, why is reaching this demographic important?
The whole purpose is to put all women of color on bikes, because cycling can be so many different things to so many different people. As black women, we find ourselves as the mom, the wife, the maid, the care giver. We don’t take time for us. Cycling serves as exercise, therapy, a social outlet. It just offers so many different things, even just being able to take time for yourself – and becoming better than you were before, and become so much bigger than you thought.

Do you ride alone, or with others?
I can’t stand riding by myself. You get to know the art of cycling when you ride with other people, and it’s an easier ride. With two to three people, you can do a pace line. The person in front pulls, the people behind draft. I pull. I take all the wind, all the heat, so the others can basically coast behind me, just riding. The sense of keeping up and chasing — and when you pull, you get better — it’s just fun.

Do you have a favorite bike? 
I have four total: three road bikes, one hybrid. My endurance bike, Black Lightning, is my favorite. She’s the one I completed my first century on. She’ll always have a special place in my heart. 

Now, Purple Reign, she’s purty. She has all kinds of bells and whistles. I usually ride my hybrid instead for my Black Girls Do Bike rides. Cycling can be intimidating, and I don’t want to further intimidate the novice riders. I want to bring people to the sport, not scare them away. 

Do you have a most memorable biking experience?
The day I did my century, it was a long day. If you told me a year before that I would be riding 12 hours, I would have told you that you were crazy. Like, who does that? and why? But once we finished, it was the most euphoric sense of accomplishment. Now that I’ve done it, there’s not anything in cycling I won’t try at least once. That attitude transcended cycling; it carried over into other areas of my life. When you bring others along with you, they share in that huge sense of personal accomplishment. I’m more interested in being a cycling educator. I’m like, “What’s taking us so long? Why aren’t we out there?”

What advice would you give anyone just getting started in biking?
You’re not riding my ride. I’m riding your ride. I want you to feel comfortable in what distance and speed we choose — because I’ll get mine, I’ll ride my ride regardless. I want you to get yours, so you can get into the sport and want to ride longer, faster. My goal is just to bring you into the love and purity of the sport.

My words to novice riders are that we can start out with a 30-minute ride: 15 there and 15 back. Not to worry about speed, distance. Fall in love with cycling. Learn the gears on your bike. Once you do that, you go into a whole other realm. There is a whole different stratosphere where you are into the purity of cycling, it’s so much more than how fast you’re going. That’s my advice to novice riders: let’s just go.

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