It’s Labor Day weekend 2022, and you are sitting at the starting line of the biggest ride for Black cyclists: MACC One Love Century. The sun is still rising, yet you can feel the Georgia heat along with 2,000 other riders. It’s a sea of cyclists, donned in kit combinations of black, red, and green.
Suddenly, a group of 100 cyclists ride into the event together on their bikes. It's a grand entrance in size but also style, as this impressive team sports peach jerseys with maroon bibs, standing in stark contrast to the rest of the crowd. Someone yells, “It’s KRT!”
“We aren’t the first generation of Black cyclists to come out of Philly...” comments Curran Swint, Co-Founder of KRT/QRT Cycling, “...we’re just the first generation to publicly document it.”
Fast forward to 2019, while cycling on the Schuylkill River Trail, a group of young Black men ride past her. Familiar with Black cyclists in the community, she’s awestruck by these young kids she’s never seen before. After an Instagram picture and an exchange of numbers, a mentor/mentee relationship was born. In the early days of KRT/QRT, Washington showed up to group rides teaching everyone about proper nutrition, gear, and cycling clothing.
After riding in several Gran Fondos where he was the only person of color, Mekonnen was determined to host a Gran Fondo in Philadelphia. He did just that. TCR hosted its first Gran Fondo in 2019 and later expanded into wellness rides such as the Health is Wealth ride.
It was at TCR’s 2020 Health is Wealth Ride where cyclist Siddeeq Shabazz connected with Bill Strickland, writer and editor for Bicycle Magazine. Recalling the fateful encounter, Shabazz simply states, “Right place, right time.” Months later Shabazz was featured on the cover of Bicycling Magazine. Since then, two more Black cyclists from Philadelphia were also pictured on the cover. And they come from this incredible network.
“It’s easy to complain about things, easy to write down reviews, but why not make it happen? I decided I wanted to be the change that I wanted in the bike industry.” - Michael “Cycle Michael '' Brown. Brown has since opened another bike shop, Velo Jawn, located in the heart of West Philadelphia.
Beyond the racing kits and a cool looking bus, SOAR uses a portion of its fundraising towards community programing. This past year SOAR has sponsored bike builds for youth in West Philadelphia and hosted financial literacy seminars open to the community To Brown and Harshaw, its more than just jerseys, it’s fueling the community with “Strength, Optimism, Achievement and Respect.”
Story by Emily Dawn Clauna. Photos by Chanea “Shay” Whittington