During Black History Month, we’d like to shine the spotlight on four changemakers—Gayle, Adina, Tina and Geneva—known as Sheroes, who are spreading their love of cycling and building engaging communities for Black female athletes to thrive through their work with Black Girls Do Bike and Black Girls RUN!.
Black Girls Do Bike (BGDB) started in 2013 when Founder and Executive Director of BGDB, Monica Godfrey-Garrison, realized how seriously underrepresented Black women are in cycling. In just over 10 years, Black Girls Do Bike has grown to include over 100 grassroots chapters worldwide and has built a robust and encouraging network of riders. Within this network are over 180 leading ladies known as Sheroes, who have gone above and beyond to break down the barriers between Black women and cycling and serve as mentors across the organization. Black Girls Do Bike hosts local events, group rides, clinics, and national meetups to connect thousands of Black women through their love of cycling for function, fitness, freedom and fun.
Founded in 2009 to dispel the misconception that Black girls don’t run, BGR promotes the power of movement and living a healthy lifestyle. With 75 chapters across the nation, Black Girls RUN! aims to encourage Black women to go the distance and pursue running by creating an inclusive community that provides encouragement and support to both new and veteran runners. Under the leadership of CEO and Owner, Jay Ell C. Alexander, Black Girls RUN! has helped shift the consciousness of culture for over 250,000 Black women, empowering them to adopt an active lifestyle through running, fitness and community. Black Girls RUN! designs training plans and hosts a myriad of local events, races and group runs to unite Black women and change the perspective of what an athlete looks like.
MEET GAYLE LEWIS
Before 2020, Gayle wouldn’t have considered herself a cyclist. Now, it’s her mission to get women of all ages involved in the sport she loves dearly. She views Black Girls Do Bike as a pep rally on wheels and encourages anyone who is curious about the group or cycling, to shed their inhibitions and join a ride. As a Shero for the Richmond, VA Chapter of Black Girls Do Bike, she strives to create a fun environment where all feel welcome, even if that means showing up to cycling events prepared to hopscotch, double dutch and hula hoop. When she says there’s something for everybody at her rides, she means it. Follow along with Gayle’s adventures on Instagram: @Bgdb_rva & @majorknoxadventures | Facebook: Girls In Gear & Black Girls Do Bike – Richmond
MEET ADINA CRAWFORD
Movement is Adina’s mojo. Adina is an avid fitness and cycling enthusiast who loves building communities and creating spaces where people thrive. Her goal is to bring more diversity and awareness to the bike, track and yoga mat and to inspire growth at every level. She is a Shero for both Black Girls Do Bike and an Ambassador for Black Girls Run and serves on Black Girls Run’s Board of Directors. Adina is also a certified Yoga Teacher who teaches Gentle Yoga, Chair Yoga, Yin Yoga, Vinyasa, Restorative Meditation and Mindfulness. She has collaborated and taught with companies such as REI, Trek Bicycles, Oiselle Lululemon, Athleta, and many local groups in her Baltimore, MD community. Follow along with Adina’s adventures on: Instagram: @adinavcrawford | Facebook: Deanie The Yogini – For The Love of YOGA | Twitter: @Adinacrawford19 | TikTok: @chocolategirlyoga | LinkedIn: Adina Crawford
MEET TINA BEECHAM
Tina has always loved riding, whether it be on a big wheel or a road bike.
Tina began cycling as a child and hasn’t stopped since. While moving around the country with her husband, now retired Army, Tina used cycling as a way to embrace community. Now settled in Texas, Tina is a Shero for the San Antonio Chapter of Black Girls Do Bike and on the Board of Directors for Bike San Antonio and Activate SA. Tina is the founder of Pedal SATX and a member on the Far East Planning Team. Outside of BGDB, Tina is a leader of many group rides, organized events, and a steadfast advocate for safer cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Follow along with Tina’s adventures on Instagram: @TinaB210 | X: @Pedal_SATX | Facebook: PedalSATX
MEET GENEVA ANKAI
While Geneva grew up moving her body, she didn’t cons
ider herself an athlete until later in life. Now, as she enters her “year of yes” she has several marathons, triathlons, metric centuries and even a velodrome certification under her belt. As a Shero for Black Girls Do Bike’s Orange County Chapter, she encourages all to give themselves grace on their journey and emphasizes that it’s never too late to start something new, you just have to try. The next thing she wants to try? Surfing.
Geneva’s Story & Love Letter To Black Girls Do Bike
I’ve always moved my body, from bicycle riding as child, to running around the neighborhood as a teenager, but I never considered myself an athlete. It didn’t help that the high school I attended in my youth didn’t have any competitive sports teams.
I really started moving my body on a regular basis after I joined the United States Army Reserve at 17 years old. After basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and knowing I had to ‘qualify’ on a regular basis, I started working out more consistently. To stay active, I tried, or attempeted, just about everything that was accessible to me in Los Angeles, from rowing to boxing, archery, swimming, running, weightlifting and hiking.
When I was pregnant with my oldest child, I had ‘high sugar’ and was informed by the doctor that it was an indication that I’d be a diabetic by 50 years old. She informed me in such a nonchalant way, that my initial reaction was a calm acceptance. I recall driving home and calling my mother with the information and she informed me that she had high A1C during her pregnancy with me and she did become a diabetic by 50 years old!
Although I refused to claim future diabetes, life became more busy with a spouse, two children, a full-time job and all the other things we juggle with as women. I continued to run or take spin classes at least 3-4 times a week, but don’t get me wrong, I could go a couple of weeks and not do any form of exercise activity.
Since I had to get to work by 7AM, I would often run solo in the early mornings around 4-4:30AM. I was never afraid because I felt I knew my neighborhood, until one early morning I was chased by an unwell man who ran behind me on the median while I was running on the sidewalk. He was laughing and kept running faster as I ran faster. That was 12 years ago and the fastest mile I’d ever ran in my life. After that experience, someone told me about Black Girls Run (BGR) and I joined their Ladera Chapter for their weekly runs. Running more confidently with safety in numbers, I subsequently joined LA Road Runners and the LA Leggers to train for and complete the 2018-2020 LA Marathons.
Then, in March 2020 the pandemic brought everything to a halt. I didn’t physically do anything and I felt it and it showed. Needing to make a change, I and a group of ladies, mostly from the run community formed a group to train for and complete the 2021 Pasadena Triathlon. I took swimming lessons and started riding with Major Taylor Los Angeles (MTLA) on their Wednesday training rides to learn how to change gears, cycle rules, etc. I continued to run with BGR. After the triathlon, I continued cycling with MTLA and joined their Saturday rides. I was even inspired to try velodrome cycling. Although I completed the velodrome certification process, I fell and tore my acromioclavicular (AC) in 2022. While the 2022 surgery was successful, it has been a slow, long road to recovery, both physically and mentally.
Last year (2023) became my unplanned transitional year. I had as many joys as I had sorrows. I celebrated my children’s college graduations; I retired after 30 years in social work; I rode several metric centuries on my bicycle; and I Co-Sheroed Black Girls Do Bike Orange County (BGDBOC) Chapter. I also had to pause after laying to rest several loved ones, including my father; discovering I had osteoarthritis in both hips; and seeing my cholesterol and A1C numbers elevate again.
This year (2024) is my year of celebration, gratitude, grace and FUN! What I’ve learned over the years is that I have to move my body for my overall health. What I know about myself is if I’m not having fun, I’m not going to move my body in any fashion. Cycling is allowing me to move my body AND I’m enjoying the journey. I’m also giving myself ‘grace’ during this voyage. I can truly say that BGR, MTLA and BGDB communities have contributed the most to my physical and mental health because I’m having fun and sticking to it.
– Geneva Ankai, Black Girl Do Bike Shero – Orange County Chapter.
Q/A with Gayle, Adina and Tina
Q: What inspired you to start cycling?
Gayle: About 3 or 4 years ago, I started to have unknown health issues. I was having a lot of symptoms that kept getting more noticeable. The doctor(s) were not able to figure out what exactly it was even after numerous tests and exams. To date, I and the doctors, still do not know exactly what is causing the symptoms. I became a little depressed by this, but rather than let it get the best of me, I decided I needed to do something that my body would let me do. So, someone suggested I try cycling. I started riding around my block because I had not been on a bike in years. And when Covid hit in 2020, it was even more reason to cycle. I just wanted to do something physical that helped me manage my symptoms and feel better.
Adina: I have always loved riding my bike, even as a child. That was the one activity I did. I would cycle around the neighborhood and to and from friends’ houses. Riding to me means FREEDOM—of peace, thoughts and movement.
Tina: Growing up in Washington, D.C. I have been riding my whole life, from a big wheel to my first hybrid bike. In adulthood, as I moved around the country with my husband in the military, I still rode my bike off and on over the years but not as consistently. After he retired and we settled in San Antonio, TX I started riding more consistently. It was easy for me to get back into riding because I had always been doing it.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about riding? What motivates you to keep pedaling season after season?
Gayle: My favorite part of cycling is the joy and freedom I feel when I’m riding, as well as the fellowship I have found and the friends I have met. The cycling community is special. The comradery and support that I experience when I am riding is always beautiful. What motivates me to keep riding season after season are the people that I ride with; the opportunity to go to new places that I have not ridden in before; to see if I can push myself a little further than I did the year before. I love seeing the progress I have made throughout the last few years, and I hope that with each passing year, I will get a little bit better. Also, riding helps me to stay in a good mental space given my unknown health issues.
Adina: My favorite part about cycling is how it clears my thoughts and brings increased oxygen to my brain which boosts happy feelings and endorphins. I will be honest, when the colder months come I retreat to cycle indoors and ride through Zwift, but the benefits I get from riding are the same. That being said, the spring and warmer weather are my jam because I can take my ride outside where I can explore and adventure.
Tina: My favorite part about cycling is I guess the endorphins when I’m out riding and what motivates me to keep going season after season is that it’s good for my well-being and it gets me outdoors. I love being outside.
Q: When did you get involved with Black Girls Do Bike and what does it mean to you to be a Shero?
Gayle: I started riding with Black Girls Do Bike (BGDB) after someone informed me about the group. I did not know there was such a group specifically for women of color. I initially tried to ride with another group but because they were more advanced, I never quite fit in, so I only rode with them 2 times before deciding to quit. I didn’t really feel welcome, and no one took any time to explain anything cycling-related. I was super new to riding and did not know how to ride in groups, on the road, or anywhere. And heaven knows I had no clue about signals and callouts! I attended a BGDB Short and Sassy (0-5 miles) ride and had the best experience ever. The ladies were patient and welcoming. They explained the bike and they educated me on road etiquette. They never dropped me, even though I was not a strong rider and were encouraging the whole ride. I knew this was the group for me. I enjoyed the sisterhood and fellowship. I started riding more and more. So, when the previous Shero said she was leaving, my heart sank because I was afraid the group would cease to exist. When she asked me if I would consider being the new Shero for the group, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew I would need help, so I asked another cyclist if she would be the co-shero with me. I enjoy planning and coordinating activities, but I mostly enjoy riding with the ladies. It has been my pleasure to be the co-shero of this group of beautiful women. They inspire me and keep wanting to do more for them. I can only hope that I am serving them well.
Adina: You got time? This is a whole VIBE!!! I got involved with Black Girls Do Bike over 15 years ago. I joined the group originally as a participant and I enjoyed it so much, I had found my people. When the Shero of my chapter could no longer operate in the role, she asked me to step in and take over. Being a Shero to me means community, fellowship and fun. Black Girls Do Bike has been a part of my entire fitness journey. Being a part of this group is where I see women who look like me and there is no judgement. We are accountability partners, friends, pavement partners, BADDIES hitting the road either solo or with friends. Being a Shero is a constant journey of growth and excitement in the cycling space.
Shero Adina and her crew at the 2023 Black Girls Do Bike National Meetup in San Diego, CA.
Tina: I got involved with BGDB in 2016 during Síclovía, an event that turns San Antonio’s streets into a safe, car-free place for people to ride, roll, walk, exercise and play. From there, I was introduced by the previous BGDB San Antonio Shero, Althea. Being a leader/Shero in a women’s group means more than leading rides to me; it’s about fostering camaraderie, empowerment, and creating a supportive community where everyone can thrive on two wheels.
2023 Black Girls Do Bike Meet Up in San Diego, CA.
Q: Do you have any big riding plans for 2024? Events, cycling trips, charity rides; we want to hear about it all!
Gayle: There are too many to list! I have already had one big ride this year – ALL Clubs LA a few weeks ago. Cyclists from across the country were there, along with some of the major cycling organizations/companies like Strava, Zwift and People for Cycling. In addition to that, I also plan to attend this year’s Black Girls Do Bike National Meetup in Jamaica and Pedal with the Pros in Miami, just to name a few. My chapter of BGDB is planning a Breast Cancer Ride for October, and I really want to do a ride this month for Heart Health Month. My chapter of Black Girls Do Bike’s Annual Kick-off to Summer is scheduled for April 7th this year and it’s a great way to start the riding season off for our club. Each year brings new adventures for me to try, and I welcome each of them.
Shero Gayle and her crew at the 2023 BGDB Annual Meet Up.
Adina: Big cycling plans are always in the works! I’ve been designated as a 2024 Bike NYC Roadie, so I am very excited to be riding in their Five Boro Bike Tour (3rd time doing this) this May. In September, I will be partaking in the DC Bike Ride for the 4th year in a row. Black Girls Do Bike will be taking over Jamaica in November at our Annual National Meet Up and I look forward to catching up with all my cyclista friends. I also plan to participate in several runs, including the Gate River Run in Florida this March, the Boston 5K in April, Every Woman’s Marathon in November, and I am sure there will be other running, riding, and yoga events sprinkled throughout the year that I’ll attend!
Q: Is there an event, ride, tour or race that you attended in the past that particularly stands out to you? Tell us about its impact.
Gayle: The 1928 Legacy Tour is a 3-day cycling adventure that was envisioned by Keisha Robinson of Major Knox Adventures. Keisha created this event in honor of 5 black women—Marylou Jackson, Velma Jackson, Ethyl Miller, Leolya Nelson, and Constance White—who rode from Harlem to Washington, D.C. over the course of 3 days in 1928. As the story has been told, they did it for the sheer joy of riding and the fellowship. They challenged other women of color to do the same, so Keisha recreated the ride a few years ago. Last year, I signed up for the challenge to push myself beyond my comfort zone, and to prove to myself that I was capable of doing it.
Shero Gayle and her crew during their 1928 Legacy Tour.
Given that I was older than most of the riders, and not as strong a rider as some, I wasn’t sure if I was up for the challenge. However, I stuck to the training schedule that was provided. I attended all the zoom info sessions/check-ins, and I had a mentor who called me regularly to keep me motivated. When we (7 women of color, all ages) started the ride on that Friday morning in May 2023, I knew we would make it. We had each other and a great support team riding along with us every pedal stroke of the way. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for those 5 women in 1928 to ride that distance without any of the modern conveniences that we had. My hat is off to those women for what they did. And I am happy that I had the opportunity to recreate and participate in such an amazing event.
Q: Do you have any advice for new riders?
Gayle: Find a group that you connect with and just stick to it and enjoy the journey! It’s so much fun, I promise.
Adina: Find a reputable bike store to help you find the right bike, get fitted for a good helmet, find a cycling group to help you get to know the rules of the road and be patient with yourself and commit to having fun. And of course, get some Terry Apparel so you can look extra cute and feel confident on the bike!
Tina: No matter how big or small a ride you do, our community cheers for everyone whether you’re doing 5 or 50 miles. Get out there and ride even if it’s around the block.
Q: How about the best advice you’ve received?
Gayle:There are two or three pieces of advice that have stuck with me since I started riding. The first is “always ride YOUR ride”—never try to keep up with anyone else. The second is “find your own rhythm”—again, just set your own pace and you will settle into it. The third is, “Keep it fun”—once the fun of riding is gone, you won’t want to do it anymore. So,just have fun, find your rhythm and ride your ride!!
Adina: I keep these three things in the forefront of my mind:
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Whether running, cycling or practicing yoga—it will always be you vs. you.
Just have FUN, life is boring without it.
Tina: Having consistency is always a winner.
Q: Who are your role models?
Gayle: Oh wow, well I would have to start with a few ladies in my own BGDB group. Sandy is the first person I encountered when I started riding, and I give her credit for my continued desire to ride. She welcomed me and encouraged me, and her spirit was so supportive. I kept coming back because Sandy was so kind and caring. As my riding improved, other riders became my role models, too. Lynn is our mountain slayer—because she loves to climb mountains, literally. She pushes me to be better and she too encourages me to go beyond my comfort zone. Deidre and Deanie are also role models who keep me inspired. But one of my biggest role models is my “lil brother” Marlon. Although we are not actually related, we ride together so much that people think we are related! He pushes me harder than anyone else. I have gotten better and stronger because he has ridden with me several times per week for the past few years, and he pushes me!! I owe him so much credit for me being the rider that I am today.
Adina: Jay Ell C. Alexander, the CEO of Black Girls Run, and Brene Brown,a research professor at the University of Houston and a bestselling author of books on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.
Tina: My role models would have to be the women in my family. They have always kept the family together. They have been there for everyone, especially my cousin & my aunties. They have shown resilience and strength through the years in raising families.
Q: Do you and your group have a favorite route to ride?
Gayle: Living in Richmond is great because we have many places we can ride. Our most used route is the Virginia Capital Trail, which runs from Richmond to Jamestown. It’s 51 miles one way. It’s a nice route because it offers the rider a taste of everything (hills, flats, urban, and rural scenes, and not to mention historic landmarks). We spend a lot of time on the trail because it’s simply a beautiful ride. But there are a bounty of routes to ride as we have an amazing countryside that offers beautiful landscapes.
Adina: The Capital Crescent Trail which spans from Bethesda, Maryland to Georgetown, D.C. is a favorite. It’s a straight path full of cyclists, walkers and runners. It’s a really nice route to get down to DC and it even reaches into Virginia.
Tina: My favorite route my husband & I used to ride was from our house to do a four-city ride through Cibolo, Schertz, Universal City, and Converse. Riding on the Randolph Air Force Base was our turn around point for the 40-mile ride. Now it’s impossible to do that ride from our home with all the construction and traffic everywhere.
Shero Tina showing some San Antonio pride.
Q: Tina, it must be frustrating to find those challenges on what was once your favorite place to ride. Could you share more about your work in advocating for safer infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians in San Antonio?
Tina: I’m currently attending meetings and public engagements focused on redesigning safe streets for all. I sit on the board currently for Bike San Antonio & ActivateSA, advocating for completely safe streets. I’m also a stakeholder with the Far East planning team. We are all fighting for better bike and pedestrian infrastructure both locally and nationwide.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your trusty steed. What kind of bike do you ride and what do you love about it?
Gayle: Storm and Midnight are my trusty steeds. Storm is a BMC Teammachine and Midnight is a Pinarello Paris. I love Storm because she has electronic shifters, and she is lighter than Midnight. She loves the road, so we spend a lot of time together. Midnight is the prettier of the two. She is sleek and she also loves the road. She is a tad bit heavier than Storm and she doesn’t have those electronic features. She is reliable and she never complains about how far we ride. I love them both!
Tina: Currently I’m enjoying my DŌST E-bike. I won it in a bike challenge back in 2021. I never thought I would enjoy riding one so much.
Q: How do you explore joy off the bike?
Gayle: My joy off the bike is spending time with my friends doing just about anything—bowling, eating out, putt-putt golf, traveling, fellowshipping. I also find great joy in being outside and connecting with nature. There are so many beautiful things to see. I try hard not to take life for granted, so I make every effort to find some beauty in everything.
Adina: Movement, family, me time, reading and always finding ways to self-educate myself in the fitness world. Knowledge is power.
Tina: I find my joy by hiking, yoga, meditation, prayer, and family time.
Q: Lastly, do you have a mantra or motto you live and ride by?
Gayle: My Mantra for riding is: “Keep Pedaling Good People! Life is Short – Enjoy it” and my mantra for life is pretty much the same – “Life is short – enjoy the moments you are given”. We only get one go at this thing called life. Why spend time not enjoying it!
Adina: Approach everything you do with excitement, drive and a sense of purpose.