Black Girls Do Bike Takes on Empire State Ride Long Island

For Katia Celifie Aime, cycling means community. The sport has the power to heal, unify and empower people, especially women of color. Katia runs the Long Island chapter of a group called Black Girls Do Bike. As a “Shero,” a local leader in the group, Katia has created a safe space for women of color in her community to gather together and share their joy of movement and biking. Now, the group is setting its sights on Empire State Ride Long Island.

Black Girls Do Bike Long Island 

Black Girls Do Bike is a national organization with more than 100 chapters across the United States, plus a chapter in Antigua. The group welcomes people of all genders and races who share a common goal of advancing the health and wellbeing of women of color.

On Long Island, Black Girls Do Bike meets twice weekly during the summertime, offering options for everyone from advanced to beginner cyclists. They also offer workshops on riding fundamentals and bike maintenance and repair.

When Katia founded the local chapter a couple years back, she sought to break ground. As someone who loves cycling and has been riding for more than a decade, she was often discouraged by how few women of color were involved in the sport.

“Women of color historically have not been cycling so much,” Katia says. “Now, we’ve created a place where we can come to and say, ‘I am welcome here.’ But everyone else who wants to support us is welcome, as well.”

Thanks to Katia’s hard work and dedication, the group now has close to 300 members who gather together to stay healthy while inspiring and uplifting one another. Now, Katia and her team have decided to set their sights on tackling a health issue that hits close to home: cancer. Specifically, breast cancer.

“Empire State Ride came in right on time, because we’re seeing a lot of our cyclists — a lot of our females — being diagnosed [with cancer]. We’re getting this kind of news constantly,” Katia says. “When I heard about the Empire State Ride Long Island, which is a beautiful, beautiful cycling event, I said, ‘It’s a win-win.’ We’re raising awareness. We’re showing the world that we’re cycling women of color, and we’re here, too. We are battling and fighting for a cure while empowering women to cycle for their health.”

Black Girls Do Bike Across the Nation

Monica Garrison, the founder and executive director of Black Girls Do Bike nationally, says each chapter has naturally been drawn to different health causes, and she’s proud to see the Long Island chapter taking a stand against cancer.

“I think we all know that getting on the bike and cycling regularly can help stave off diseases and conditions that affect our community and people of color disproportionately,” Monica says. “It’s almost a no-brainer to want to do something to get in the fight and help these causes.”

For Monica, cycling also helps with mental health, allowing her time to think and process the busyness of day-to-day life. As the founder of this national effort, Monica oversees the photography, design work and other creative concepts for the organization. She often comes up with some of her best ideas while in the saddle. For that reason, and many more, Monica wants to see more women taking up the sport.

“Just get on your bike and go. The rest will follow,” she says. “If there’s a Black Girls Do Bike chapter within 10 or 20 miles of you, then seek it out. We want to open up a new world to women and women of color.”

Getting ready for the ride

Katia will cover the 62-mile route this July in Oyster Bay with her fellow Black Girls Do Bike Long Island “Co-Shero,” as well as her husband. Katia hopes to motivate more people in her group to get involved in the cause while enjoying an activity that she describes as pure magic. She’s already started to get her nine-year-old granddaughter, Bella, involved in the sport. She’s doing everything she can to bring together her love of biking and helping others. 

“In life, we have to put our best foot forward. We have to try to make a difference, and it’s my belief that exercise can cure everything. So, if I can help you to exercise to get you through this, and I’m raising money for the research, I’m doing my part.”

Tackling Hills

Whether you’re new to cycling or an experienced cyclist, tackling hills can be a challenge. Riders for the 10-mile course for Empire State Ride Long Island can expect a relatively flat route with one hill in the final two miles, but those completing the 25- and 62-mile courses will experience greater elevation changes. Don’t let that scare you! Preparing for elevation makes you stronger and helps you get the most out of your ride. We’ve got you covered with tips from two of Long Island’s most avid cyclists.

To start, familiarize yourself with the course. Check out all three routes here.

As you can see, the starting line at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park sits at sea level. From there, there will be a series of rolling hills for the 25-mile route. For the 62-mile route, you’ll need to tackle a larger hill during the final stretch of the ride. Once you’ve conquered that hill, it will bring you to Theodore Roosevelt’s beautiful summer home, making it well worth the challenge.

So, what’s the secret to successful hill riding?

Name Your Enemy

For long-time runner turned cyclist Phil Zodda from Brooklyn, it all comes down to naming your enemy. Phil helps organize a group of riders every year for the weeklong Empire State Ride called the Dragon Slayers. The name, inspired by a patch made by a fellow rider, has come to symbolize the grit and determination it takes to “slay” the difficult, uphill portions of the course. The “dragon” represents both cancer and obstacles like hills. Anytime you’re riding uphill and reach the peak, you’ve just slayed your dragon.

This takes practice, Phil says. “It’s a matter of putting time in a saddle. Change your RPMs and your pace. Push hard for a few minutes, then back off. Simulate what it would be like to expend energy going up a hill.”

Practice Riding on Hills

Richard Noll, a cyclist from Oyster Bay, regularly rides around with an unofficial cycling group called the Long Island Rough Riders. The group is named after Theodore Roosevelt’s historic cavalry and rides together on the weekends, often covering between 40 and 100 miles.

Richard says that you should seek out hills before event day to practice riding through elevation changes. Find hills and practice going up and down them. If you live in an area that’s relatively flat, he suggests finding a bridge or using a vacant parking ramp (when it’s safe to do so) to simulate an incline.

Above all else, though, Richard says that you should remember the real reason you’re tackling hills and riding in Empire State Ride Long Island: to end cancer. And you’re riding with other people who are riding for the same reason. Plus, you get to challenge yourself in the process.

“In terms of a physical challenge: What greater way to improve yourself than to do something you’ve never done before? Hop in, take the challenge,” he says.

A Few Final Tips

Our route expert at the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, Thomas Johnston, added that new riders should remember a few additional pointers for success:

  1. Shift gears on hills. If you don’t know how to, talk to your local bike shop before the event.
  2. Watch for sand. On Long Island, there can be sand accumulations on the bottom of hills. Take it easy on the downhill to stay safe.
  3. Most importantly: Have fun! You’re going to ride past beaches and the Long Island Sound. You’ll find narrow winding roads and quiet lanes. Afterward, you can enjoy everything Oyster Bay has to offer. Don’t forget to enjoy the sites.

Fundraising Made Easy: Connect Your Dashboard With Facebook

Fundraising is a challenge, but when armed with the right tools and attitude, it’s easier than you think. One of the best tools to help with your fundraising is integrating your online fundraising dashboard with your personal Facebook page. This utilization allows you to easily spread the word about your fundraiser and track your progress right on Facebook.

You can also quickly send updates on your progress, making it that much easier to reach your goal. Additionally, your friends and family can donate when scrolling through their newsfeeds. The best part? Your progress will be reflected in your fundraising thermometer, both on Facebook and on your Empire State Ride Long Island fundraising page.


1. Log in to your fundraising dashboard

Access your dashboard through the Empire State Ride website, by clicking “log in” in the top right corner. Open Facebook in a separate tab and log in.

2. Scroll down and click “Edit Fundraiser Content”

Locate the blue box in your dashboard that says, “Raise Money Directly on Facebook.” In that box, click, “Edit Fundraiser Content.”


  • If mobile doesn’t work for you, try connecting on a desktop and make sure that pop-ups are not blocked in your browser.
  • Edit your Facebook content, including your title and story, before connecting to Facebook.
  • When you’re ready, click “Save and Connect Fundraiser to Facebook.”

4. After being redirected to Facebook, follow the prompts.

  • If you’ve used Facebook fundraising for the Empire State Ride Long Island before, you will not receive any pop-ups. Instead, you’ll receive a notification on Facebook saying your fundraiser is live. On your fundraising dashboard, the blue box button will change to say, “Go to Facebook Fundraiser.”

6. Promote your Facebook Fundraiser by sharing or inviting people to your fundraiser to start getting donations!

This tool will allow you to spread the word about your fundraiser, engage directly with donors and reach more people than you ever thought possible.

Seven Creative Ways to Fundraise

Empire State Ride Long Island will be here before you know it!

One critical part of a successful charity bike ride is the ability to raise funds and make an impact. Check out our favorite tips to help you reach and exceed your fundraising goals – and have fun while doing it.

  1. Get social. They don’t call it social media for nothing. Share your fundraising page on all your social platforms to spread the word that you’re raising funds to end cancer.

  2. Tap into tech. When it comes to fundraising, there are tons of ways to use technology to your advantage. Try going live on social media and talking about fundraising, make a video asking for donations or share a link to your ESR Long Island fundraiser on your Twitch stream.

  3. Be daring. Use your fundraising as an opportunity to challenge yourself to get outside your comfort zone. Do a pushup for every dollar you raise. Make an origami swan each time someone donates. Whatever you choose, make it a challenge that will get people buzzing.

  4. Play to your strengths. Everyone’s good at something. By playing to your strengths — be it crafting, singing, running or anything else — you can take your fundraising to the next level.

  5. Make it an event. Fundraising can really bring people together. Try hosting an event like a dinner, jam session or art class where the proceeds go toward your fundraising goal. Just be safe and follow recommended COVID-19 precautions.

  6. Find a community partner. Visit local businesses and ask them about ways they can help raise funds for your Ride. They may donate, match your donation or offer you a space to promote your Ride. Click here to see if your business has a matching gift program.

  7. Tell a friend (or 10). Nothing beats word of mouth. Tell your friends and family what you’re doing and ask them to spread the word! You can also talk to other riders for more inspiration.

Follow any of these 7 tips and you’ll exceed your fundraising goal before hitting the road on ESR Long Island.

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