After making it her goal to inspire more diversity in professional cycling, Ayesha McGowan, aka A Quick Brown Fox, is on the brink of achieving her mission to become the first African-American professional female cyclist. Here, the talented American rider talks representation, conquering fears and being a badass on a bike.
#1. How did your love of cycling and racing come about?
I started cycling as an adult to commute to and from classes in college. I immediately fell in love. Racing came years later, but it sparked a whole new level of joy on a bike for me.
#2. A lot of women feel a bit intimidated at the thought of rocking up to a cycling club. Did you experience this or are you pretty confident trying new things?
I do enjoy doing new things, confidence isn’t the right emotion. It’s more so a desire to overcome my fears that drives me forward.
#3. You came pretty late to racing. How old were you?
26. It took 7 years for me to try road racing. I honestly just didn’t know much about it, so for me most of that time was due to a lack of access and information.
#4. You’re a category 2 rider. Do you feel that realising your goal to become the first female African-American pro rider is within your grasp?
I’ve known that it was within my grasp since the day I decided to do it. It’s only a matter of time.
#5. You’re a huge advocate for cycling diversity. What do you think we can all do to encourage minority groups to consider cycling?
Cycling is actually really diverse, but that’s not reflected in competitive cycling, or in the cycling industry. I think representation is the solution. In addition to showing more diversity in advertising and content created surrounding bikes, I think creating pathways and access for all types of people to get into riding both recreationally and competitively will go a long way.
#6. What’s your advice for women of colour (and women in general) who like the idea of getting into cycling but feel nervous about joining a ride or club?
Shoot me an e-mail, we’ll find you a bike friend! Bike friends are the best way to get started and stay motivated.
#7. You’ve been involved with several groups which aim to increase participation in cycling for women and minority groups. Can you tell us about them?
How much time do you have? My two main projects have been with WE Bike NYC, a women’s empowerment organization in NYC, and InTandem, a non-profit organisation that provides tandem riding access to folks with disabilities. Other than that, I’ve been working on my own stuff with A Quick Brown Fox – projects like the Do Better Together virtual ride series which encouraged people to set riding goals and overcome whatever barriers were getting in the way of accomplishing them.
#8. You moved from NYC to San Francisco not long ago. Has your cycling changed as a result?
I’ve definitely focused a lot more on [hill] climbing, but my time in California is coming to an end. I’m moving to the Atlanta Metro area. We’ll see what’s in store for me there!
#9. Tell us about your training – do you train by watts? What kind of races do you do?
For the first few years I was training with solely heart rate. I’ve recently acquired a Quarq power meter and I am in LOVE. I focused on mostly road stage races and crits this season. It’s given me the spark to learn to Time Trial. I’m also pretty excited to be moving really close to the Dick Lane Velodrome in Atlanta. Looking forward to some fun times there.
#10. Are most of your bike sessions outside or do you ever use a turbo indoors?
Turbo? Like an indoor trainer? I avoid the trainer when possible, but I really enjoy training on rollers.
#11. Are there any well-known road races you’d love to take part in one day?
I’m hoping the timing is right for me and a women’s Tour de France. That would be so rad!
#12. Which is your favourite: road races, crits or track?
Crits feel like home.
#13. What would you say is your proudest cycling moment so far?
The State Championship wins were awesome. Also winning the Cat 2/3 women’s omnium at Intelligentisa 2016 felt really great. This season it was tough, but I was really proud to finish every stage race I entered, and I feel like I had a really great run of racing in Europe.
#14. Can you tell us about the team you race with?
This year I raced for Jakroo p/b Chrome Industries, a local group of lady crushers based out of NorCal (North California). It was really fun having the opportunity to race Redlands and learn a ton from more experienced racers like Bethany Allen. I feel it really set me up to be less intimidated to try more things during the rest of my season.
#15. You competed in your first European cycling races this summer – can you tell us about them?
They were fantastic. It was incredible lining up next to the likes of Marianne Vos, Chantal Blaak, Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen, and more world class pros. Seriously, a dream come true.
#16. Who in sport inspires you?
Serena Williams is definitely my favourite athlete. As far as pro cycling goes, I’m really jazzed about Coryn Rivera at the moment. She shows up and shows out regularly.
#17. Which young black riders are doing great things that we should know about?
Nissy Cobb is always a favourite on the track. I’m really proud of Sam Scipio who just started racing last year and has grown tremendously in that time. There’s also Shequaya Bailey based out of Pittsburgh, and Maize Wimbush in the Maryland DC area. Josh “Pro” Hartman is making us all proud training with the US Track Team. Of course there are the Williams brothers, Justin, and Corey.
#18. What’s on the horizon this year now you’ve finished your big races?
I’m looking forward to giving cyclocross a chance this fall. Just for fun.
#19. Can you tell us about your favourite items of kit for racing and training?
I’m really addicted to podcasts. Some of my favourites being “The Read”, “Politically Re-Active”, and “Wait, Wait, Don’t tell me…” It makes me feel less alone when I’m training for hours on end.
I was really excited to discover Fabric brand saddles after a miserable couple of months of serious discomfort with my lady parts. You might not think about bum comfort, but it’s a serious issue. The saddle changed my whole situation, I don’t even use shammy cream anymore!