“Our partnership was formed with a shared belief that bicycles provide independence, self-empowerment and joy,” said Katie Bolling, Fund Development Director for World Bicycle Relief. “Together, World Bicycle Relief and CycloFemme are amplifying the voices of women and empowering women to change the world. We are thrilled that our shared efforts will provide over 200 bicycles directly to girl students in Kenya and we look forward to building on this incredible impact.”
To celebrate the sixth annual Mother’s Day ride, CycloFemme challenged its community to tap into its socially-driven, grass-roots origins to help create change for girls in Kenya. Historically, the bicycle has been a positive empowerment tool. In an effort to multiply this impact, riders were encouraged to add a fundraising component to support World Bicycle Relief, a global non-profit that designs and distributes high-quality bicycles to students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in developing countries.
“CycloFemme began as a celebration, and has become a movement. This year, the community that formed through giving – energy, time, passion – has transformed into a community that also gives independence to others,” shared CycloFemme co-founders, Sarai Snyder and Tanya Quick. “Bicycles change lives. By using this opportunity to empower the girl, we also ignite ourselves.”
In Kenya and other developing countries, many factors contribute to girls dropping out of school in much higher numbers than boys: obligatory household chores, distance to school, sexual assault and child marriage. These barriers stand between young girls and bright futures. A high-quality bicycle can remove these barriers, keep girls in school and keep them safe as they travel to school. World Bicycle Relief is committed to breaking down these barriers for girls, helping them achieve their educational goals and become change-makers within their communities and around the world.
To see photos from CycloFemme rides around the world, follow the #CycloFemme hashtag on Instagram.
CycloFemme is a grassroots organization of women on bikes, created in 2012 by Sarai Snyder of Girl Bike Love, and Tanya Quick and Jenn Cash of Language Dept. The socially-driven, volunteer-based community works to empower women and girls through cycling in order to create social change.
CycloFemme hosts an annual ride, which takes place on Mother’s Day weekend. Rides take place all over the world and anyone can lead one—just create a ride event, sign up and register your ride online.
This year, CycloFemme is partnering with World Bicycle Relief with their driving theme “Empower the Girl. Ignite the Woman.” CycloFemme riders are encouraged to fundraise for the organization, though it’s not a requirement to participate. All funds raised by CycloFemme riders will be matched 1-to-1 for a donation to World Bicycle Relief that will be used specifically to provide bicycles to schoolgirls.
Founded in 2005, World Bicycle Relief mobilizes people through the power of bicycles. World Bicycle Relief accomplishes its mission by distributing specially designed, high-quality bicycles through philanthropic and social enterprise programs. These purpose-designed bicycles are built to withstand the challenging terrain and conditions in rural, developing areas. Entrepreneurs use the bicycles to increase productivity and profits. Students attend class more regularly and improve their academic performances. And health care workers visit more patients in less time, providing better, more consistent care.
World Bicycle Relief also promotes local economies and long-term sustainability by assembling bicycles locally and training field mechanics to service the bicycles. To date, World Bicycle Relief has delivered over 350,000 bicycles and trained over 1,200 field mechanics in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.
“Partnering with World Bicycle relief is the next step in growing CycloFemme. Those who choose to participate in the fundraising component will see tangible results from their efforts,” said Sarai Snyder, Co-Founder of CycloFemme. “In addition to riding together in solidarity, by empowering a girl with the opportunity that a bicycle brings, we ignite in ourselves and one another a special shared feeling. That feeling of riding a bike for the first time, pedaling toward something, with power and strength that suddenly becomes limitless.”
World Bicycle Relief and CycloFemme share the belief that bicycles provide independence, self-empowerment, and joy. They also believe that bicycling creates community and momentum—two forces that lead to positive personal and social change. Historically, the bicycle has been a large scale empowerment tool all over the world.
CycloFemme riders will experience how good shared momentum feels as rides and celebrations occur worldwide May 13-14. All are encouraged to participate, either planning and leading a ride or join in. CycloFemme is open to all regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, ability, or bicycle preference.Tweet Print
Photos by Jesse Lash
When I spoke to Ayesha McGowan, she was in the car making the 2-hour commute to her part time job as a preschool music teacher. “I like to take calls while I’m driving,” she’d told me when I called her to set up the interview. “It helps keep me awake.”
This spunky lady is an expert at multi-tasking and planning, making use of every minute in her day. She’s a tireless planner. “I even plan my downtime,” she laughs. But apparently something she is doing is working, because Ayesha is on track to become the first ever professional female African-American road cyclist after racing for only 3 years, while also acting as an advocate for minority groups in cycling and putting effort towards a number of different projects and volunteer work.
Ayesha moved to California last year for better outdoor year-round training opportunities, but she’s originally from the East Coast. She grew up in New Jersey, moved to Boston to study music at Berklee, and starting riding bikes because the public transportation system in the city wasn’t great. “I’m the type of person who wants to find the most efficient way to do everything,” Ayesha says. So she grabbed an old bike from her parents house that still had a baby carrier attached, got it fixed up, and started commuting to class on it.
Soon after, she got involved in her local bike shop, learned about bike mechanics and advocacy, and became a bike messenger for a short period of time. After school, she moved to New York City, where she found it hard to make friends, until she got involved with a number of different cycling groups, including We Bike NYC, an organization dedicated to empowerment of women through bicycles, and InTandem, a program that helps get people with disabilities on bikes.
The community of people she found through these groups encouraged her to stick with riding, and helped with her fear of trying new things, such as racing. “The hardest part of trying something new is being vulnerable,” she says. “I like having someone to try it with.”
Ayesha took a track racing clinic while living in New York, and thus began her journey as a competitive cyclist. She started out with alleycats, but soon realized she wasn’t as aggressive in traffic and city riding as those races demanded. She then enrolled in criterium races, took a few more classes and learned the ropes, and had a great first season in 2014.
As she continued to upgrade in rank and class, she realized something. There weren’t any other African-American women in professional cycling. “Representation is important,” says Ayesha. “If I’d seen another black person in cycling when I was a kid, maybe I would have been inspired to get into it sooner.”
That’s when she made it her goal to be the first. And not because she just wants to be first, but because she wants to inspire other people to overcome obstacles and odds stacked against them. Her mission is so much bigger than cycling. It’s about inclusivity, chasing dreams, and realizing potential. It’s about getting black people, or any other underrepresented group, to realize that they too can reach their goals.
This year, Ayesha is racing at Cat 2 level. She has the opportunity to compete in pro races, and she’s at a level where she could be recruited at any minute. This is her time. “I’ve made a big noise about what I’m trying to do,” she says. “It’s up to them to decide whether or not I’m worth it.”
Currently, she rides 16-20 hours per week, goes to the gym at least twice a week, and practices yoga. In addition to riding and training, she also juggles her part-time job as a teacher, producing a podcast called Fix It Black Jesus, work for non-profits like InTandem, writing for her blog, and getting other people feeling empowered and stoked on cycling through projects such as her virtual ride series, called “Do Better Together.”
I asked Ayesha what some of her favorite and most rewarding moments have been in her journey as a cyclist. “I love planting the seed in people,” she says. Like last spring, when she convinced her 80-year-old grandmother to ride a tandem with her around Atlanta. Or, when she gets messages from other black cyclists and people of color going after their dreams.
“Don’t just talk about it,” Ayesha urges. “Write it down, make a plan, and do it. You’re totally capable.”