2018 Do Better Together Winner Abugo Ongiri
Words By Abugo Ongiri
It’s 11:30 on a cold winter night in January. The temperature says its 14 degrees but it feels more like -7 with the wind-chill according to my weather app. But it’s snowing. Its’ snowing a lot actually and my two riding partners are at the back door. They are careful not to knock because they know all four kids are asleep and to wake them would be a literal catastrophe. But they make their presence known by repeatedly shinning their bike lights through the window until I come to the door. When I come to the door, Parnee tells me to hurry up and get dressed before “it gets too late.” When I protest about the snow and the cold and the late hour, Katie reminds “that’s what these bikes are made for” as she lifts the front tire of her fat bike by the handlebars. Out I went and we three road together for about an hour that night covering about five miles through the woods and a cemetery in the fresh powder snow.
So, what were we doing out long after our kids have gone to bed but not too long before we all have to get up again to go to work? We were literally “Doing Better Together.” The “Do Better Together Virtual Ride Series” is three-part series that runs for one week of each month of January, February and March. I initially signed up because I wanted to keep riding during outside the winter months. In the past, I had tried using rollers and a trainer but by the time it got to be mid-winter, I found myself getting progressively less motivated to get on the bike. Riding all winter in Wisconsin, where it snows a lot and is frequently below zero is no small feat but for me nothing beats riding outside. I knew that I just had to try it. Once I signed up, I realized the “virtual” aspect of the ride would make it a cool way to ride with friends in other states so I encouraged as many of them as I could to join also.
A great thing about the ride was that you set your own mile goals each time. I set mine at a low ten miles hoping to exceed it but wondering if I could even make it in the sometimes brutal Wisconsin weather. The first night of the ride was an actual ice storm and the temperature was below zero. We went out anyway and did a few miles before it actually seemed too dangerous since none of us had studded tires. I made it all the way home safely just to crash spectacularly as I attempted to make it up the driveway. The only thing stopping me from actually crying in that moment was the fact that in this weather your tears can sometimes freeze to your face and it hurts. It was sometimes really disheartening to see people in places like San Diego, Atlanta and San Francisco racking up the high mileage when we were struggling to even make five-mile rides.
The way we met the challenge was to actually form a group for rides. This turned out to be fantastic fun as we not only battled the elements together but also got to decompress about our jobs, partners and kids. Sometimes it felt like being a kid again since our busy lives mean that we rarely have time to just have fun with friends. It was also great to see riders riding the ride in other parts of the state knowing they were going through the same type of stuff that we were struggling with to meet our goals.
What did I learn from the Do Better Together Ride Series? I learned that you really can “do better together.” We started out as a loose group of acquaintances and friends. But the camaraderie that only comes from sport is a real thing. We started calling ourselves a bike gang and even adopted the name “Badass Bitches (+Brian and Tai).” Through “Do Better Together,” I learned the confidence that comes with setting and achieving cycling goals. We continue to do group rides and I personally have met and even exceeded many of my cycling goals. Cycling in my area is very white, young and male. I’m fat, Black, disabled and middle aged. It’s sometimes even hard to walk into a bike shop knowing that you will get treated like you don’t belong there, like maybe you are there either to rob the place or to buy something for someone else. I learned through “Do Better” that there are cyclists of color all over the US and even groups like “Black Girls Do Bike” in my state. Now when I go to cycling events in my area, I walk with the confidence, strong legs and lungs that the “Do Better Together Virtual Ride Series” gave me. Lynn says “Badass Bitches” may even do the 100 mile “Race Around the Lake” event later this summer as a group. Who knows? Maybe we will.
We’ve got some fun stuff planned for the 2019 series, the sky is the limit. I hope you’re as ready as I am! January is around the corner, send out the signal to gather your bike gang now and mark your calendars! Subscribe to my mailing list (below), and follow me on social media if you’d like to be one of the first to know when registration is open! Woot!