When something Ayesha McGowan wants to see doesn’t exist, she decides to make it happen.
She is an advocate for inclusiveness and representation in the world of cycling. Her dream is to be the first African-American female professional cyclist, and she’s been working hard at it. Earlier this year, she competed at the Colorado Classic stage race among women’s World Tour teams.
This winter, McGowan is bringing her Do Better Together ride series back to Zwift to help others make something happen.
Each ride takes place during one week each month: January 6-12, February 3-9, and March 2-8. Set your own goals, then complete three rides that accomplish those goals. Ride a bike wherever you are - outdoors, indoors, or on Zwift - and log your workout in Strava.
Anyone can participate in the scheduled Zwift rides for free! Just log in, join the event, and ride. To officially join the ride series and enter a raffle to win prizes, though, you’ll need to register at http://www.aquickbrownfox.com/do-better-together. You can register for just one or two months and enter the monthly prize drawings, or sign up for all three and be entered to win a bike!
There’s also a special raffle just for Zwifters. Register for at least one month of the series on the website, and attend at least 3 out of 6 scheduled Zwift rides, and you’ll be eligible to win a SRAM Force groupset.
The dates of the Zwift rides are:
We recently spoke with Ayesha to learn a little more about her and what these rides are all about:
Zwift: How did you get started in cycling, and how did it lead to where you are now?
Ayesha McGowan: I rode bikes as a kid, and I started riding again as a commuter in college and became a bike advocate. And then when I moved to New York I worked with advocacy organizations, like We Bike NYC, which is a women’s empowerment organization. That led me to work with In Tandem, which is a nonprofit that creates tandem riding opportunities for people with disabilities. Most of the participants are visually impaired. I was the program coordinator who ran that program for a very long time. And then I started on this journey towards pro cycling.
Z: How did you first hear about Zwift and start using it?
AM: My mentor mentioned that it was something that I would be interested in... and I’d heard about it just being in the bike world. I first got into it because Zwift asked me to, to be honest. I was already a SRAM ambassador at that point, and they were doing some sort of competition, and they asked if I would participate – not even compete, just participate. And I did, and I enjoyed it.
Z: What do you like about Zwift?
AM: It’s really mundane riding on the trainer by yourself, so it’s really nice to have this video game type setup where you can ride with other people but not have to leave your house. That’s really cool.
Z: What is your favorite Zwift course to ride?
AM: I don’t know if I have a favorite... but the one that comes to mind is New York, because I trained there a ton when I was getting started. My first bike race was in Central Park, so the ability to ride in Central Park in Zwift is really fun!
Z: Do you listen to music while Zwifting? What are your favorite workout jams?
AM: If it doesn't make me want to dance, it's probably not going to motivate me to ride. My current playlist.
Z: Tell me about the Do Better Together ride series. How did it come about, and what is its mission?
AM: I was living in California at the time. Theoretically, the weather in California is favorable, but I am kind of a punk and don’t like going outside in anything below 65 degrees, and I don’t enjoy rain. (laughs) I have a hard time really staying motivated, like I feel a lot of people do, in the wintertime when the weather’s super unpredictable. And there are no real events in the immediate future, so it’s really hard to have that mental motivation, like “I am working for this specific thing,” or “I have a race next weekend.” There’s nothing happening in winter, really, so it’s hard to stay motivated.
I wanted to create this space where you had a reason to do things – just whatever reason at all. I wanted it to be a very low barrier to entry, and I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t exclusive as to who can participate and how you can participate.
It’s not just Zwift and it’s not just riding inside. That can be part of it! I encourage you to ride with me, because that’s really awesome that I get to directly connect with people in that way. But you can also ride outside, or you can do group rides, or you can ride with friends.
Z: What’s important for people to know about this ride series?
AM: You create your own individualized goals, and that means whatever is important to you. Some folks will ride a certain number of miles or a certain amount of time. One of my husband’s goals is, “I want to ride once in February when it’s cold outside.” That’s a real barrier! He does not go outside and ride in the cold. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you hate riding in the cold, it’s a huge endeavor.
It’s about creating goals that are challenging for you, whatever they may be. You literally create whatever you want to overcome for yourself, and that’s awesome.
I understand that setting your own goals and self-motivation is not always the biggest incentive for people. (laughs) So I was really happy to be able to offer other incentives – like a new bike! – to keep up the interest a little bit more.
Z: What goals do you have in mind for yourself for the Do Better Together rides?
AM: My goals usually involve consistency. I am a huge procrastinator when the weather is trash, so my January goal is to get my workouts done before lunch.
Z: How do you see Do Better Together promoting representation and diversity?
AM: A lot of times, people can self-divide. You’ll have group rides that are people of color, and then you’ll have rides that are mostly white folks. . . . Even cross-discipline, you’ll have, “only roadies are cool” or “only mountain bikers” or whatever. I think there are all of these division lines we create that we use to separate ourselves from each other, and I wanted to create this space where that wasn’t there.
We all like bikes and we all like riding bikes, and whatever that means to you is equally as important as what that means to the next person. If you like riding bikes to work, that’s awesome. If you like riding bikes for sport, that’s really cool too. If you just like riding bikes on weekends for recreation, that’s super cool. I love it! I’m glad that you like riding bikes, because I like riding bikes too.
I just want people to ride bikes together and see that we’re not all that different in this aspect. And that could be a bridge to start those conversations about the actual, meaningful differences that we do have.
Z: How can we, as people who like riding bikes, help break down those divisions?
AM: Having a sense of understanding and trying things that are new to you, and really learning how to appreciate the [disciplines] that other people enjoy and the things that other people like... We all naturally gravitate toward people who enjoy the things we enjoy, or people who look the way we look, or people who do the things we do, because that’s just in our nature.
It might just be more of a reflective awareness of – Where have you maybe been biased? Where have you maybe been ignoring the possibility that you are being a divisive person? I’m asking people to really take a look at themselves and see where they can be more open and be more understanding. Try to understand the perspective of others, and see how that might actually be important in this space.
It’s time to start setting those goals. Let’s get ready to do better together in 2020!
Learn more about Ayesha McGowan and Do Better Together at www.aquickbrownfox.com.