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GET ACTIVE: Cycle Chat kicks off Bike Month

A torn meniscus and stress fracture stopped Bertie Ford in her tracks — that’s when she realized she needed to switch gears.

The longtime avid runner turned to cycling to feed her need for fitness and friendship.

“I had always been a cyclist, but not to this extent,” Ford said. “I rode as a kid and in college, but it was all leisurely stuff.”

Fast forward a few years after her surgery and Ford was doing more than casual cycling. She founded the Black Girls Do Bike Columbus chapter. From just a handful of riders in 2014, the chapter now has more than 160 members. Ford will share her insights and inspiration at the upcoming Cycle Chat program on May 1 at Star City Brewery. The chat and 11.5-mile bike ride will help kick off National Bike Month activities in the Miami Valley.

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May is National Bike Month and the Miami Valley has an active cycling community, boasting the nation’s largest paved trail network with more than 330 miles of paved, multi-use bikeways. Ford has pedaled along many of those trails.

“We do bike rides in the Columbus area and around the region – some are fundraisers and some raise awareness and some are just for fun,” Ford said. “We also partner with other groups to promote cycling.”

Cycling itself is only part of the organization’s mission. Black Girls Do Bike – with close to 70 chapters from Alaska to Antigua – was established to grow and support a community of “women of color who share a passion for cycling.” The organization, supports efforts to introduce the joy of cycling to all women, but especially, black women and girls.

“Not all of our members are black, it’s not exclusionary,” Ford said. “It’s about education, leadership and mentoring.”

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While Ford enjoys the challenges that cycling provides, the mentorship aspect is equally rewarding.

“Coaching someone to ride better or helping them build the confidence they need to ride on the road is incredibly rewarding,” she said. “Black Girls Do Bike is a social thing as well as a group of cyclists. And there is definitely an aspect of giving back.”

And age is never an excuse for the 57-year-old Ford or her fellow riders. The women in the Columbus group range in age from their late 20s to their late 60s.

“I rode last year more than I’ve ever ridden,” Ford said. “One of my best friends is 10 years older than me and when I see what she can do, that motivates me.”

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