By Lisa Bourne,
CTS Contributing Editor &
Senior Director of Diversity, Inclusion & Social Impact at Zwift
So, there’s something quite spiritual about my three hour solo rides. This is the fourth year I’ve worked with a coach and trained for a May cycling holiday in Mallorca, though I’ve only been fortunate enough to visit twice due to Covid cancellations, and this year’s trip has been cancelled as well. Nevertheless, as my spring fitness begins to peak in late March, it’s like I discover the joy of riding outside all over again… tracking the weekend weather to plot out my routes for the best tailwind home, coordinating my most colorful kits to be better seen on the road (Dallas roads are not for the faint of heart), saying my protection prayers before I hit the road, and then finally taking those first few pedal strokes into the cool spring wind that jolts my whole being into being fully alive and fully present in the moment. Solo riding for me is being perfectly present – mind, body, and soul. In recent months the spiritual and soul connection has intensified as I continue to grieve the loss of my Mother.
My Mother died quite suddenly in August of 2019 after suffering a heart attack and an allergic reaction to the contrast dye ordered for an MRI. She was my best friend, my brightest love, my biggest champion and my soulmate. In one moment she was here and the next she was gone. No time for goodbyes and no time to take care of her like she took care of me. The horror, anger, shock, guilt, and pain is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. In the last year and a half I’ve learned new ways to communicate with her spirit and I know she was instrumental in helping me land my dream job with Zwift, finally doing the diversity work I was meant to do. We both loved the color orange and she now sends me kisses in the form of orange monarch butterflies on my rides! (I have witnesses to prove it!) My Mom knew how much I loved cycling and I love it even more now because I feel her presence on every ride and I see the beauty of our love in the butterflies she now sends my way.
My obsession with colorful kits and coordinating my entire ensemble–all the way down to my water bottles–is not new, but it’s been reborn now that I don’t spend my professional life working in fashion. For more than 15 years I devoted myself to learning the ins and outs of the retail clothing business–buying, selling, inventory planning, and marketing–as I’ve always loved fashion. I grew up playing in the clothes racks of the now closed Lord & Taylor in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and waiting (most times impatiently) for my Mom to finish her shopping with her salesperson of choice. Looking back it’s so clear how I fell in love with fashion and retail even if it wasn’t meant to be my lifelong career path.
Side note on cycling apparel
If there are newer riders reading here, and I hope there are, your bike clothing selections (i.e. jerseys, shorts, bib shorts, socks, etc.) involve a lot of personal preference, but I can tell you that fit and fabric quality are the most important things to consider. You can find quality apparel at a wide range of prices, but what you’re paying for at the higher end is better fabric, fit, and customer service. And it’s worth it! I may be small waisted, but I’ve been graciously gifted with powerful (a.k.a proportionally large) glutes and quads, which has always made traditional sizing an issue for me. To this day I hate trying on jeans of any kind because it’s always so hard to find one size that simultaneously fits my waist, my butt, and my quads! That said, I recommend trying different brands until you find the fit and quality that suits your riding style. If you’re a female rider look for companies that have invested in female-specific design testing and steer away from those that merely develop “shrink it and pink it” versions of their male dominant offerings.
Back to my solo riding theme… Cycling is one of the only things in my life that I can say I fell in love with completely on my own. Unbeknownst to me at the time, much of my life was shaped by my Mom’s dreams and her dreams for me–a prestigious education, a graduate degree, an executive path–and I never really questioned if it was really what I wanted. When I discovered my own passions, I ended up educating my Mom and the rest of my family on the bike and my love for the sport. When we spend time thinking about our passions and truly listening to our inner voice I believe we connect to our soul journey. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from the French philosopher, Denis Diderot:
It’s as if our passions are the clues that lead us to our soul’s purpose here on Earth. If we can find the time to be still, to really listen, we can start to put together the puzzle pieces that give purpose to our lives. I can’t say I’ve reached the point where I know with 100% certainty what my soul’s purpose is, but I can say that every time I get out on a solo bike ride I listen more intently for pieces of the puzzle. The pride with which I select my clothing is not only a reflection of my self expression but has become a true homage to my Mom’s wonderful sense of style. The routes I select are generally the roads I know well, because the familiarity provides me a greater sense of confidence and enables me to steer my mind towards a more open and relaxed state. Finally, the challenges I decide to pursue (i.e. a Strava segment PR or a normalized power target) or the ‘sunshine sit in the grass’ breaks I decide to take are all part of my journey toward becoming a stronger cyclist and a better person. As Martha Beck talks about in “Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming The Life You Were Meant To Live” any time we think we don’t know what we want, we’re out of touch with our essential self and listening to our social selves. I come back from my solo rides renewed, each time more confident in my “essential self” and more clear headed in terms of what I need to do next.
When my Mom was alive I’d text her pictures from my rides once I’d come home. Now, I feel her spirit when I’m riding, as if she’s taking in all the beauty at the same time I am, and I know she finally understands my soul’s love for cycling. Now, as if I needed a reason to love my solo rides even more, I’m treated to my Mom’s butterfly kisses each spring and cherish every moment!
Lisa Bourne is the Senior Director of Diversity, Inclusion & Social Impact at Zwift, and an avid cyclist with 18+ years professional experience (Retail, Ecommerce, Consulting, Non-Profit), an MBA degree from Harvard Business School and 20 years on the bike. As an African-American woman and one of the only active members of her family, Lisa’s primary goal has been to try to inspire and motivate others by riding 5,000+ miles per year on her bike. She has also volunteered in various cycling ambassador capacities (i.e. Team Luna Chix Seattle, Bicycles Plus Dallas, Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, etc.) with the goal of driving diversity and inclusion within the sport. Follow Lisa on Instagram and Linkedin.
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