- Eve Mullen & Tomisin Sobande
Ayesha McGowan, the First Female African-American Pro Cyclist
Cycling is a predominantly white sport, and Ayesha McGowan wants to change that. Especially for someone with a late start, being a pioneer in a sport is extremely difficult. When McGowan started, there was no definitive image for what an African-American woman would look like in pro cycling, and she strives to change that for future generations. After her dad passed away during her time at Berklee College of Music, she turned to athletics to act as a coping mechanism. Issues with her knees forced her to turn away from running, a fact that pushed her towards biking. “Biking helped me figure out how to be a person,” she reflected later in an interview with “Outsider Magazine.”
When she started biking in Boston, the whole city seemed to open up to her. At first, it was a casual hobby, but her love for cycling led her to take it more seriously. After upgrading her equipment, she focused on road cycling in the city. Her insecurities about her athleticism and abilities drove her to push herself harder and harder, and she became focused solely on cycling. She quit her job as a violinist and a music teacher to put all her efforts into the sport she loved.
Once she quit her job, she noticed a lack of representation of African-American women in cycling. In fact, there had never been a female African-American pro-cyclist. This information put a tangible goal in McGowan’s mind. The mission that she states in her blog is: “I have the goal of becoming the first African-American female pro road cyclist, ever. I am working tirelessly towards this goal and am determined to value every opportunity I come upon to make this happen. I am extremely passionate about creating representation in cycling that will encourage and inspire other African-American women and youth to follow their dreams whatever they may be.” Nike, a brand-supporter of McGowan, elaborates on this idea, saying, “Ayesha’s crazy dream isn’t just for her. It’s for an entire generation of black women who come after her.”
McGowan’s blog, “A Quick Brown Fox,” reveals her character through stories about her life experiences and her goals. Her quirky personality shines through her bike, named Juanita, and her twitter handle, @ayesuppose. In addition to her sunny disposition, her mental strength is evident to her former team manager, who commented, “She not only has the physical talent but the mental game as well.” Her uniqueness sets her apart with her perseverance notably “radiant.”
Overall, McGowan’s goal is to “knock down the door” for other African-American women and youth so that they feel like they have an opportunity to pursue their dreams like her.