Black Girls Do Bike participants take a break from their ride in front of an Eastside mural. Photo courtesy of Tamisha Johnson.

Black Girls Do Bike (BGDB), a national organization dedicated to inspiring healthy lifestyles among black females, will host a free bike ride for its San Antonio members along the Mission Reach Saturday, Sept. 3, starting at 8 a.m.

Althea Smith, one of the two organizers who oversees the San Antonio BGDB chapter, expects 13-15 cyclists to attend what she anticipates to be a “leisurely, social kind of ride.” The route will start at Blue Star Arts Complex and pass Mission Concepción, where the group plans to meet with a park ranger for a quick history lesson, and continue on one of the trail’s newest routes to Cassiano Park. The round-trip journey will cover approximately 13 miles.

Black Girls Do Bike participants kick off their ride Blue Star Arts Complex. Photo courtesy of Tamisha Johnson.
Black Girls Do Bike participants kick off their ride at Blue Star Arts Complex. Photo courtesy of Tamisha Johnson.

Smith has been involved with BGDB as an organizer, or a ‘shero’ – a play-on word for female hero – for the past three months. The organization itself is only three years old and was rolled out in San Antonio in August 2015. The local chapter operates completely out of pocket. Rides like Saturdays are made possible by the two sheroes and other members who pitch in when they can and buy banners for their rides and supply food at get-togethers.

“We haven’t gotten to the fundraising part of our chapter yet,” Smith said. “I foresee the group growing. We are trying to now give the organization … more motivation.”

Black Girls Do Bike participants pose for a photo in front of Mission San José. Photo courtesy of Tamisha Johnson.
Black Girls Do Bike participants pose for a photo in front of Mission San José. Photo courtesy of Tamisha Johnson.

As a shero, Smith’s main roles are “to host events, to encourage, to motivate, to inspire the love of cycling … (and) to bring community awareness” to local black citizens. She also teaches classes on cycling essentials and bike maintenance.

After the previous shero of San Antonio’s chapter left earlier this year, Smith put it upon herself to help spark more interest for a cause she deeply cares about.

“Our main objective really is healthier living,” she said. The members of BGDB are driven to “get up and bicycle because we want to live.”

There’s a high percentage of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity among black women, Smith said, “and biking is just wonderful for cardio.”

Along with the health benefits, Smith – a Detroit native – initially became involved in cycling as a way of building community within her family.

“To keep my son and my daughter and myself as a solid family unit, we would always bicycle together,” she said. “That led on to me meeting other cyclists.”

Cycling became less frequent in Smith’s life upon her move to high-altitude Colorado Springs, Colo. However, she picked up where she left off after she relocated to San Antonio a couple of years ago. She now works as a trail steward for San Antonio’s Parks & Recreation Department, where she gets to ride her bike for a living.

“My mind, my spirit, (and) my body is biking, and I think I can be a great role model,” Smith said.

BGDB is not the only organization advocating for healthier lifestyles among black females. A BGDB shero recently met with an ambassador from Black Girls RUN! to discuss a potential future collaboration between the two groups. They share the same objective, Smith said, and she hopes to be able to work closely with them in the coming months.

A few weeks ago, a few members of BGDB contributed to the San Antonio Social Ride‘s back-to-school supply drive in support of yet another like-minded organization.

(Read More: ‘SATX Social Ride’ Draws Hundreds of Cyclists Downtown Every Week)

BGDB plans to host an all-inclusive bike ride this fall, open to women of all ethnicities. In addition, the two sheroes will put together a ride specifically for breast cancer awareness during the month of October.

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Top image: Black Girls Do Bike participants kick off their ride in front of an Eastside mural. Photo courtesy of Tamisha Johnson. 

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Arianna Flores

Rivard Report intern Arianna Flores, a high school senior at the Geneva School of Boerne, is a chief editor for her school's magazine, The Geneva Quarterly.