This Cyclist Rides to Empower Others—and for Her Own Self-Care

Iresha Picot as told to Jordan Smith
Photo credit: Iresha Picot
Photo credit: Iresha Picot

From Bicycling

Age: 36
Occupation: Licensed Behavior Specialist and Therapist
Hometown
: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Weight Lost:
130 pounds
Time Cycling:
1.5 years seriously
Reason for Cycling:
Riding is so important for me so I can feel grounded in my body, and it offers me so many moments of joy.

I grew up in Franklin, Virginia, and in that rural area, there was all the space in the world to ride bikes. But when I moved to Philadelphia as an adult, I realized that it was more difficult to find space to ride. I even met a lot of adults who never learned how to ride a bike, and I stopped riding for a while.

I wanted to get back into it, so eventually I started riding to work and taking longer rides on the weekends. But I had a freak accident where I fell off my bike, so I stopped again. It wasn’t until about a year ago, and nine years after my accident, that I started to ride consistently.

Philadelphia has a bikeshare program called Indego, so I decided to check out an event for beginners and see if I even remembered how to ride a bike. Getting back on the bike felt really great, and it was a such a freeing experience.

Now, I ride about three times a week. I love it because it connects me back to when I was a child. Riding really makes me feel really free—it brings me so much joy. When I first started biking a year ago, I started biking on Sundays with other women. I started the Black Girl Joy Club, where we would meet up and bike for about an hour. It was such a great social environment and very therapeutic, biking with women who looked like me. These rides helped me increase my confidence cycling, and I started biking more on my own.


Over the last year and a half, cycling has aided in my wellness. I’ve lost around 130 pounds, but weight loss was not my primary goal—I’m still very much a plus-sized woman. But I knew I needed to start on a fitness journey, because I was struggling with being at risk a lot of health issues that come from being overweight.

I get a lot of messages from other plus-sized women who say things like, “Oh, I want to cycle, but I’ve been afraid it might be uncomfortable.” And I hope that by showing myself out there cycling, I can inspire someone to remove limitations they have in their minds. I’m hoping through representation, I can inspire someone who has been thinking about biking to get started and achieve their goals.

I’ve gotten so many positive reactions from people online who are trying to start their own wellness journeys, which is so inspiring. I didn’t realize how many people don’t see black women cycling, especially not plus-sized women. I didn’t realize that people like me didn’t see themselves reflected widely in the cycling community until I started cycling and sharing about it.

But now it’s all positivity. People hit me up and say, “I rode a bike today,” or “I signed up for a bikeshare because you inspired me to.”

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Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that shouldn’t keep you from going out. For me, cycling has been a great addition to my self-care routine. And, I loved being able to be around groups of women and share the experience with friends or community.

I love to get up and exercise, I love the high levels of endorphins that come with exercise. I feel radically embodied with myself, and it just brings a lot of joy and happiness. I get up in the morning and ride as part of my self-care routine. I also love to put on cute clothes when I go biking and take cute pictures. It brings so much joy and happiness for me.

With the coronavirus pandemic, I don’t cycle with all of the other women from the Black Girl Joy Club, just as an issue of safety. Every Saturday morning, I do a physically distanced ride with a few original members. We still use the ride-share bikes, but we carefully sanitize them, and we make sure to wear masks.

Coronavirus has made riding more of a solo mission. Initially, I saw myself as one part of this whole larger circle of the Black Girl Joy Club, but now I’m pushing myself more on my own.

You can follow Iresha here.

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