Photo: Kristen Smith

How To Make Biking More Inclusive

Brooke Goudy is on a roll broadening the spectrum of who rides bikes. Here’s how the do-it-all Colorado mountain bike ambassador-organizer works to cultivate communities, grow the sport, and share the transformative power of taking on hard trails.

Brooke Goudy only started riding a mountain bike during the pandemic. Sitting at home in 2020, the Denver-based registered nurse decided to get on a bike and go for a ride, where it didn’t take her long to make a pair of life-altering realizations.

“I just remembered how amazing it was as a kid to be on my bike,” says Goudy, who quickly made another discovery that kept her from relishing in pure joy. “I was having so much fun, but I looked around me, and thought, ‘There’s not very many people that look like me.’”

She immediately noticed the lack of women—Black women, in particular—out on the trails, and wanted to change that disparity. Goudy started writing blogs about her trail experiences. As the national conversation shifted to racial injustice following the May 2020 death of George Floyd, she explains, the bicycling community got behind her and her voice. “I had the privilege of being given so much opportunity,” she says, “‘I thought, ‘What can I do with all this opportunity?’” 

And do, she did. She co-founded the Denver chapter of Black Girls Do Bike, where she leads BIPOC group rides around the Colorado Front Range. She coached a high school mountain biking team. She serves as an ambassador for bicycling brands like Yeti Cycles and the VIDA Mountain Bike Series. And in 2023, she’ll be traveling around the country leading cycling clinics for BIPOC and women’s groups, spearheading trail-building clinics for women, and leading bikepacking trips to show women just how strong they are.

Sitting down with Goudy, she recently shared the following thoughts on how we can all make mountain biking more inclusive.

On Doing What She Can to Make a Difference

For me, it’s really important to introduce all types of cycling to marginalized communities, communities that have not been as invested in, and communities that have been left out of cycling.

It is really important that we’re all committed to using our voice to take whatever we have, the privileges we have, to really uplift and support social justice. This is one of the ways I do it—through cycling…and to take the platform I’ve been given, and to really call out and help folks acknowledge that there are barriers for marginalized communities, whether that be women, whether that be women of color, whether that be Black folks, Brown folks, Queer folks. 

I’m using this platform to help people acknowledge that, and to celebrate diversity, and to champion equity and inclusion. One of the ways I’m doing that is traveling all over the nation speaking my truth and doing that in the cycling communities.

On Building Community

Recently I was able to be a keynote speaker for a major mountain biking organization. That was such a joy [to talk to them about community]. I was very nervous; the folks there don’t look like me and have lots of opportunities and privileges. Building community has been a driving force. Because when we build community, it’s like family, and we get opportunities within that community to challenge one another, and challenge our thoughts, and challenge our behavior, and challenge our way of thinking…even what our community looks like and why our community looks that way, and what we want our community to look like.

In my keynote I talked about a community being more of a salad bowl than a melting pot, where everybody gets to come with their unique, shared experiences. When we’re a melting pot, we’re all just kind of melting in together. When we’re a salad bowl of folks with unique and varied experiences, that causes conflict. But through that conflict we get to grow and become more enlightened and rise to a higher level. 

On Barriers to Entry

There have been gatekeepers. There’s evidence of it: written material that suggests…the adventures of the Great Outdoors—the way in which we celebrate the outdoors in the United States—are a privilege. And for a while, that opportunity and privilege has only been granted to a few. 

Sometimes, when we say we want to invite other people to the table, there are some people who have been at the table for a very, very long time who believe that bringing others to the table means we want to kick them out of the table. There are folks who believe the more people we invite in, the less opportunity they get to enjoy that space and make decisions about that space.

I also think we’ve always seen outdoor adventure sports in a certain light. People at the table have created an image that doesn’t represent the beautiful world that we live in. That’s really intimidating from the outside looking in: When you don’t see yourself, it doesn’t mean that you can exist or be. There is something calming that ignites the spirit when you do see yourself represented. 

On Financial Barriers

For a lot of Black and Brown folks, there’s not the generational wealth that exists for folks that are not of color. There is evidence, research, that generational wealth does not sit in the communities of Black and Brown folks like it does in the white communities. That’s not to say there aren’t white communities without generational wealth. But I get really uncomfortable harping on financial barriers; it forces us not to dig deeper and gives folks a pass to say, ‘It’s them, not me.’

There are other ways of triggering trauma, unconscious biases, those all contribute to whether a space is safe or not. So, concentrating on building safer spaces is big. It’s easy to donate money, but that doesn’t make as large of a difference than folks digging into themselves and organizations to root out anything that might make it unsafe for marginalized folks.

On What Individuals and Organizations Can Do

Plenty of people and organizations out there ask where they can put their money. Sometimes they give white organizations their money to be able to support Black and Brown communities. As we’re moving forward, one thing I want to concentrate on is: How do we involve Black communities to enjoy outdoor adventure sports in a way they see fit? Instead of showing up one or two times and saying, ‘We have done our part. We are allies, and here is the evidence of our allyship…’ True allyship is true sacrifice, pulling yourself out of the picture and allowing communities to truly be able to thrive in ways that they see fit.

Photo: Matthew Jones

On the Best Way to Help Communities Thrive 

We invest in community leaders. I would love to see organizations, brands, companies really invest accordingly: in having someone from the community they’re supporting sit at the table to make the big decisions on how that money is spent.  

The difference is in the small things. When I put on a clinic for Black and Brown women there are things that look different from when an organization comes in and puts on a clinic. Black women aren’t afraid to talk about their hair. They can talk about how their helmet is going to fit with their dreads. That this helmet doesn’t fit with her dreads. If a Black woman shows up without a helmet and a community that is different from them is holding a clinic, they might be easy to scold: ‘Oh no, you can’t get on your bike without a helmet, That’s just nuts.’ There are a lot of helmets that don’t fit Black hair. There are a lot of women that care about the style of their hair when that helmet comes off.

That might be tiny, but community leaders know those things, those little nuances. They know that their community might not be using the same type of language. Black folks in my community are not using the word ‘stoke’ as much as white folks over here in this community. I use the word in my vernacular, but when I go to a clinic, I don’t. These little things make people more comfortable. Especially with adventure sports, which is already intimidating, you want to make people feel very comfortable. You want them to trust you because there is a lot of trust in mountain biking.

So, I want to see more investment in creating leaders or investing in leaders that already exist in these communities. And if these leaders want to come to the table, I want there to be room for them. The more diverse table you have doesn’t mean that your opinions or ideas will cease to exist. They might even be validated.

On Who’s Doing It Well

I really love Grit Fest. It’s run by a Black woman who is unapologetically herself and who acknowledges that there are barriers, and really works to bring people to the table as their authentic selves.

Roam Fest has always been a leading predominantly white organization (PWO) that I really respect. And for a PWO run by a white woman, Ash [Zolton], her goal is not to be defensive, but to really use the voice of the community and those surrounding her to make her organization better. 

I see both those women showing up and thriving from conflict and growing from conflict. 

On What 2023 Holds 

I’m going to be partnering with Roam Fest, leading clinics. My sponsor, Yeti [Cycles], has invested in it, Pearl Izumi, and others. We’re trying to get people into a sport. This is the next level. How can we get people, who have been dabbling in the sport and take them to the next level of intermediate and advanced, to feel comfortable in all different types of environments and levels?

I’m doing a program called She Digs, because trail advocacy is really important to me. Trails just don’t appear. A lot of people do a lot of work. How can we make trails sustainable so that all people can get on the trails. I hate to hear, ‘There’s not enough room for everyone.’ There’s room for everyone. One way to get people to understand that idea is to get involved in trail building.

The Southeast is blowing up with trails. I want to make sure that women—Black women—can be the start of this mountain biking phenomena. I’m doing three She Digs events across the nation this year.

I love, love, love bikepacking. It’s such a joy. It is so hard. There’s nothing like getting on your bike and riding for a week. The first day, you’re tired, you’re hungry, you’re setting up camp. To wake up the next morning, to wake up and do it again…I love taking folks bikepacking because they tap into a side of themselves they didn’t know was there. And I can remind them of a side of themselves that I know is there. Especially women. Especially Black women. 

On Bikepacking, Generational Trauma, and Strength

People want to talk about genetic trauma for Black folks. We see how that manifests, on the news, etc. But one thing I see less of is that I also come from a people who are so fucking resilient…who have so much strength that they’ve passed down to me. They’ve passed on resiliency. When there was nothing, they still danced, they still sang. They survived: a people beaten down. They survived, they had will—that has been passed down to me, too.

When I’m riding my bike day after day, and it’s really, really hard, I love to look back at the Black folks that I’m leading, or look ahead at them and see that resiliency, see that strength and continue to remind them of it. That joy—the ability to come together and laugh and push through—that is in us. Bikepacking is such a great way to do that. We get to show that you can do hard things—bikepacking is a joyous thing, but it’s a hard thing. You get to transfer that off the trail.

If life is tough, I can say, ‘Shit, I rode my bike from Canada to Mexico’ [she did]. I can do hard things.

On Women Doing Hard Things

In this society, with women doing things in the real world—being a mom is hard, being a woman in a job is hard. Every day, we’re doing really hard things. What’s one more hard thing? I’m just asking that people harness the same power, resiliency and love that they do every day and come out on the trail and do it.

What it teaches us—especially what it teaches us as Black women—is really important to me. I want to continue to use bikepacking to teach those lessons. I’ll be taking women on bikepacking trips around the country next year. Some Black and Brown women, and I’ll be showing them the trails in their own backyards.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.

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