How One Woman Changed The Harlem Fitness Community Forever

Here at Bustle, we believe that in order to truly live your best life, you have to begin by learning about — and learning from — the women who paved the way. That's why we teamed up with Lexus to highlight some incredible women who are pioneering their industries, their careers, and most importantly, their communities.

Tammeca Rochester, owner of Harlem’s first boutique cycling studio Harlem Cycle, always dreamed of living in Harlem. Growing up in Atlanta, she fantasized about being transported to the legendary New York City community, made famous by pioneering poets who led the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts literary movements of the 20th century.

When Tammeca finally did arrive in Harlem many years later, it was not as an artist but as a creative of a different type: a brand manager for a leading consumer goods company. After beginning her career as a mechanical engineer, she decided she wanted to advance from the supply chain side of the company to the business side. Working her way through business school by taking night classes, Tammeca became one of only THREE people in the company’s history to successfully make that transition.

Managing a $500 million brand was an enormously stressful job that required some serious coping mechanisms. Tammeca turned to her favorite form of self-care, indoor cycling, to help process the anxiety brought on by her demanding day job. The only drawback? There was no indoor cycling facility in her beloved Harlem community. Says Tammeca, “I realized that despite all the arts and culture in Harlem there was still one thing missing: the ability for Harlem residents to take care of their health.”

One day while on a run, Tammeca’s pioneering instincts kicked in again. If she could manage a multi-million-dollar brand, she thought, certainly she could manage a small, local brand she created on her own. And best of all, this brand could marry her two great loves — Harlem and cycling.

“In a community with a high rate of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, we need cardio workout options. When it came to health and wellness, I believed we deserved better options to serve the needs of the people, and options that incorporated the spirit and soul of Harlem. Because of this, I knew I wanted to start Harlem Cycle here.”

Tammeca created Harlem Cycle to be an indoor cycling studio specifically designed to fit the needs of the Harlem community. She decorated the studio with inspirational quotes to inspire Harlem residents the way they had always inspired her. Drawing on the neighborhood’s cultural history, the studio features music-driven classes like Reggae Rundown, Spanish Harlem, and Hip Hop. The studio provides even greater value to the community through its Black History Month and Women’s History Month programs, in which the studio invites the change makers of Harlem to enjoy a few hours of health and wellness.

One amazing, unexpected outcome of opening the studio is that it grew to become an intergenerational community center of sorts.

“Our clients range from the 75-year-old grandmother to the 45-year-old teacher to the 18-year-old college student," says Tammeca. "It’s so fulfilling to watch them all ride together, sing along to the songs, and then high-five each other after class.”

Her advice to other entrepreneurs who want to follow in her footsteps? It’s all about activating your imagination.

“Take the time to write down your vision and make it clear," Tammeca recommends. "Without that, your vision will get muddied by outside influences and stray away from your purpose. Make sure you always refer back to your vision and use it as your starting point.”

Despite her success, Tammeca remains humble about her pioneer status.

“Harlem Cycle is what this community needed, and I am just honored that I was able to provide it," she explains. "Each day we are changing the way that this community views wellness.”

And thanks to Tammeca, Harlem residents have yet another reason to take pride in their community.

This post is sponsored by the first-ever Lexus UX.