The first long ride for the Cycle Sistahs took place during the Fall of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic was reaching its peak and before any vaccine was available.
“What’s amazing about the sistahs, we come together at all stages of experience, from all stages of life,” Dawn Roberts, one of the Cycle Sistahs’ four founders, explained during the group’s most recent cycling visit to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in August. Roberts and three of the “sistahs” had just completed a 50-mile ride around the island the day before. Now, they were taking a break in Oak Bluffs, planning events for the next year.
Roberts, who is from Middletown, Delaware, and her friends started training for long rides to stay healthy. One was a 50-mile tour named for Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman. They rode nearly 37 miles from Middletown, Delaware, to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. “And it was pouring down raining,” said Cycle Sistah Karen Fontaine of New Castle, Delaware. “I felt if Harriet could do it on foot, we could do it on a bike in the rain.”
The conductor on that ride showed the women the holes in trees where the Quakers would place food and supplies for enslaved people who were traveling that Underground Railroad route to freedom. ‘It was very moving,” Fontaine said.
The group of four women has now grown to nearly 40 women who gather at various times and meet on Facebook. They offer workshops teaching women how to maintain their bikes and how to change a flat tire.
“I love the fact that we can get together and have a great time,” Roberts said. “We can be healthy and make each other better.”
For roughly the last decade, Roberts has also served as race director for the National Association of Black Journalists planned the 5K Run, Walk event, which takes place at the group’s in-person convention in the summer.
Cycle Sistah Elizabether Boyer, also of Middletown, said she did not start out her health journey as a cyclist but enjoyed riding a bike. When she learned of the group and wanted to prepare for the long rides, she started training on bicycles in her gym.
“We do no-drop rides,” Roberts said. “That means nobody gets left behind.”
The shirts they all wear when riding together were designed by Tina Young of Wilmington, Delaware. The bright yellow shirts feature the words Cycle Sistahs across the chest with a bicycle underneath.
On their Facebook page, the Cycle Sistahs explain that the purpose of their group is to “encourage cyclists of all ages to ride and be the best they can be. If you have a bike, you are a cyclist.”
Their motto is, “Cycle Sistahs: Enjoying life, friendship and the power of cycling.”