Shown: Rahsaan Bahati at the finish of a professional cycling event.
Rahsaan Bahati is a professional cyclist. Bahati was born in 1982 in California. His sixth-grade teacher, Reggie Garman, introduced him to cycling. Based in Los Angeles, Major Motion cycling club nurtured his talent and helped Bahati’s family afford the high costs of bike equipment and entry into and transportation to races. He participated in training rides with the group until he started training and competing full-time in elite cycling (though he took a hiatus from professional cycling to attend Indiana University).
As a professional cyclist, Bahati biked for SKLZ-Pista Palace Team, Rock Racing Team, Mercury, Saturn, and TIAA-CREF (also known as Slipstream). Between 2000-2013, Bahati placed first in 40 different competitions. In 2000, Bahati won the USCF National Criterium Championships. In 2008, he won the USPRO National Criterium Championships.
Bahati has succeeded in a sport that is almost all-white at the elite level but he has not always felt welcome. In 2010 at the Dana Point Grand Prix, Bahati was crashed out by another rider. Bahati’s angry response earned him a fine. Despite the fact that the incident was recorded on video, the offending rider was not punished. This experience bears an uncomfortable resemblance to how Major Taylor was treated over 100 years ago though Bahati does not face the legal bans that excluded Taylor from bike racing in the south (of the U.S.A.).
While there are more diverse recreational bike riders than ever before, the racial diversity in elite cycling has not improved in the last thirty years. The high costs to purchase cycling equipment puts the sport out of the financial reach for most working class African American and Latino families. At the elite level, customized bike frames for competitive cycling can be as expensive as cars not to mention the cost to purchase cycling clothing, rims, premium components, carbon fiber handlebars and seat tubes, pedals, and accessories.
In the last 10 years, Bahati mentored several professional cyclists with similar community roots as his own. Rahsaan’s foundation, The Bahati Foundation, aims to increase the number of “inner city kids” interested in cycling. The lack of diversity owes to the dearth of funding for bike teams, which are the pipeline for professional competitors. Few public schools (which educate the vast majority of diverse youth) feature cycling teams. While public schools pay for equipment, facilities, and competition for baseball, basketball, and football, the high cost of cycling equipment makes bike teams cost prohibitive. For this reason, Bahati convinced bike manufacturers to donate bikes, equipment, and accessories to groups that otherwise would not be able to afford a cycling team. He also speaks to groups of children all over the country to encourage them to try competitive cycling. Bahati describes his Foundation’s work and his career in the video clip below.
Bahati lives with his wife and three daughters in southern California.