Professional cyclist Ayesha Rosena Anna McGowan, creator of A Quick Brown Fox, started cycling like most kids. “I got two bikes for Christmas when I was five, one from my parents, one from my grandparents. I taught myself to ride and rode as a child just for fun,” she told POPSUGAR. “It was not something that sporting directives were driven or specific. It was just me being a kid and having a good time on a bike.” In fact, unlike many of her competitors, she did not dip her toes in street racing until college and the years after, when she worked as a bike courier and cycled to cut down on her commute time.
When she moved to Brooklyn, McGowan joined WE Bike NYC, a volunteer-run organization open to women, female identities, and gender-promoting people who enjoy cycling with the goal of breaking down barriers to cycling and building communities. Shortly after, she decided to get more serious about road racing.
Now McGowan drives for Liv Racing and is the first black American woman on a professional cycling team. She uses her platform to speak for BIPOC cyclists and those interested in racing and reinforces the message that representation matters.
“I think the focus I’ve had so far is to get the cycling industry to recognize that there is a lack of representation,” she said. “So it’s been a slow process in my opinion, but a process of educating people enough to have the basic conversations necessary to first recognize that there needs to be more representation in cycling in the outdoor industry.” She added that the bicycle industry must not only acknowledge the problem but also have the difficult conversations about how to move forward and what the possible solutions might be.
“When you talk about issues of representation and diversity, justice, fairness, all these things, you have to talk about white supremacy,” she explained. “And it’s a really challenging concept for a lot of white people to understand because it feels like an attack, right?” McGowan said she spends much of her work removing the idea that recognition of white supremacy is an attack on white people. Rather, she explained that it is part of how our society is structured. “In order for us to move forward, we must acknowledge it [white supremacy] exist and find out how to disassemble it and be willing to reject it. I think it’s more of it is the problem, the will to dismantle it. “
After the assassination of George Floyd, McGown noted that many more people were aware of white supremacy and its influence, and while some people were receptive to that conversation, others pushed back. “It’s just a matter of trying to meet people where they are and understand that we as a society are all very different places.”
“I wanted to create a celebration of the joy of the things that keep us here because we are not here to educate white people to be better white people, we are here because we actually enjoy cycling or being outdoors. ”
After Floyd’s assassination, McGowan said many white people and businesses, industries and businesses reached out to people of color to be on panels and writing pieces. “It was always about struggle and trauma and really sad, oppressive things,” she said. “And those are things that we constantly experience, but no one ever asks us ever to talk about the happy things, the things that make us happy.” That’s why she created Thee Abundance Summit, a free two-day event that streams live on YouTube March 26 and 27, focusing on black and brown joy in cycling and the outdoors. The event includes fun and informative sessions such as choosing your first bike, storytelling on Instagram and outdoor self-care.
“Being a part of the cycling and outdoor industry is a choice we have made because we enjoy being a part of it,” McGown said. “I wanted to create a celebration of the joy of the things that keep us here because we are not here to educate white people to be better white people, we are here because we actually enjoy cycling or being outdoors. I wanted a room that was about that. And then the concept is that it is of us, for us, about us, and anyone can participate and see and participate. But focus does not put out our trauma, focus is to celebrate and celebrate each other. “
McGown noted that she just wants people to feel good. While she believes the summit will be productive by nature, it is not the priority. “In my head, it’s like a big family training celebration of all the great things we do in the great outdoors,” McGown explained. “And there are so many incredible people doing amazing things that are not about struggle and not about oppression, and I want to highlight that.” She added that she wanted to raise the voice of her friends as there are not enough colorful people represented in cycling. She also highlights young people in cycling as they are the future of the sport.
“I want to make these voices louder and send that signal so that people can know, other people of color can know that they are not alone and that this is room for us,” she said. “We belong, and it’s really amazing.”
Although Thee Abundance Summit is free, participants are encouraged to donate to the Summit Mini-Grant Program to create avenues for other women of color to break into or advance their racing careers and “strive for more, if that’s what they wishes.” Recipients of the grant will have access and support to the Tour of America’s Dairyland (TOAD), which is scheduled to take place in June if considered safe in the midst of the pandemic. The event is 11 days of shorter runs throughout southeastern Wisconsin, and it is the largest competitive road cycling series in the country for amateurs and professionals. McGown said the TOAD is a great opportunity to gain experience with other cyclists who are dedicated.
Since McGowan has served as a role model for future cyclists of color in the sport, what advice does she have for people thinking about road racing? “Go for it,” she said. “Go to a place that is comfortable for you. You do not need all the smart equipment at once. Just get a functional, safe bike and a helmet.” She stressed that if you like it, keep doing it. Once you found your community, McGowan said you learned more about the sport and about yourself as a cyclist.
“There are just so many different ways you can enjoy bikes,” she explained. “It’s not just road bikes or mountain bikes or commuters. I wish more people knew about the different entry points, which is kind of the point of the summit. So just get started and I want you to find out the rest of you , when you go together. “