On a mission to add color and numbers to women's cycling, Ayesha McGowan is pushing and pulling to become the first female African-American professional road cyclist. From organizing tandem bike rides for differently-abled persons to bike discussions with pre-school aged tots, Ayesha is changing her community and achieving milestones- one pedal rotation at a time.
LifeCycle Biking had an opportunity to connect with Ayesha and learn more about her biking lifecycle.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Ayesha! Let’s get right to it- who or what brought you to the sport of cycling?
Some of my friends were getting into it, so we all started together!
Where are you from? Has your place of origin influenced how much you bike?
I was born in Atlanta, GA, but I grew up in Piscataway, NJ. I would bike around with my friends as a kid and even commuted to high school my senior year until someone stole my bike. Luckily, I got my license shortly after. I think, in a way, I love feeling the same way I did riding around Piscataway when I as 12.
That’s a prime example of our community motto- in every aspect of your life, there can (and should!) be biking! In your life cycle, what’s been your best moment on the bike so far?
If I had to pick just one, it would be riding with my mom, sister and nephew over the Queensboro Bridge for 2013 Cyclofemme in NYC. The ability to share my greatest joy with my closest family was incredible. Neither of them had been on a bike in years and they rode about forty miles that day. I was so proud of them, and they were beyond proud of themselves!
You are a huge proponent of women in cycling; particularly women of color. What advice would you give to women who are new to riding a bike? What has been the biggest improvement you’ve seen regarding women and cycling?
I would tell them to find a group of women to ride with. I grew leaps and bounds after I started riding with the women of WE BIKE NYC! It helped my confidence level tremendously, and I made several lifetime friends! I think the largest improvement is that people are talking about it more. There are also a number of groups being started all over the country geared specifically towards getting more women on bikes!
We couldn’t agree more! LifeCycle Biking hosts monthly rides throughout the five boroughs and internationally. We encourage any and everyone to join our inclusive, no-drop rides!
What do you do for a living? Has your occupation contributed to your cycling life?
I'm a Pre-school Music Teacher! Working with kids is a constant reminder of all the little things that make life great. It keeps me grounded and still helps me stay open to listening to my imagination. It also makes a great conversation piece when kids come to class wearing helmets! They make me feel really cool when they get excited talking about bikes with me!
What cycling accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my work in helping to develop the InTandem Bike program in NYC. It is a non-profit that provides tandem biking opportunities to people with disabilities. I was the Director of Programs until my recent move to California!
We love the InTandem Bikes mission!!! It’s so awesome you helped to develop that program. InTandem rides are prominently featured on our Community Calendar- check them out to be a ride leader.
While we serve and support others, we must also prioritize self-care. Keeping yourself going both on and off the bike is important, what tips do you have on nutrition?
Prepare ahead of time so you're not hangry trying to find food! Eat things that make you feel good and also make you happy. Last, healthy food doesn't have to be gross, there are lots of great options that also taste great!
Absolutely! Our favorite local, women-run catering company, Harvest & Revel, supplied us with some tasty nutrition tips that are super healthy and flavorful- check them out!
Tell us, is there anything you would change in the landscape of today’s cycling scene?
I really wish there were more women of color in the racing scene! I can still count the number of black women I've seen at road races on one hand. It makes me very sad.
Are there any notable cyclists that inspire you? Or any other people that are doing inspiring things in the cycling world that you think we should highlight?
Coryn Rivera is really representing women of color well in the pro peloton. She made her name as a crit racer, but has really shown herself as an amazing all arounder! I've enjoyed following her come up, and I have a feeling she's only just begun!
Last, but not least Ayesha- Can you finish this statement? In my life-cycle, biking has been . . .
The best thing that ever happened to me.