British Cycling have also done a tremendous job with Breeze Rides, and I’m sure those female-only, women-led rides have done an enormous amount to help increase the number of women riding. Women’s rides are empowering and sociable, but they must be in place alongside wholly supportive, inclusive, all-encompassing group rides, where women are cyclists, no matter gender, age, or ability.
This is not an exercise in man-bashing either. We are not asking men to change their behaviour within cycling clubs. Another point put to me on Friday night was that women should simply “get on with it”. As harsh as it sounds, this is a sentiment I can agree with. Are women holding themselves back? Are women making excuses, allowing a life on the bike pass them by because they are too afraid to step out of their comfort zone, where life truly begins? I am fortunate perhaps, I have never viewed my gender as a barrier to getting on a bike, joining a ride, or a club. But many will have. Many women will see cycling as a man’s world, and who can blame them, when so much of cycling media is aimed at, and solely reports on men’s cycling? You can forgive women for thinking that sport - and especially cycling - is not for them.
But if you are riding a bike, and have thought, as one lady did who messaged me on Instagram, that you are too slow, too unfit, too weak to join a club, JUST BLOODY DO IT! I can’t emphasise that enough. Contact your local club, and ask about group speeds, group etiquette and distance. If it is a good club, no one will get dropped, several speed groups will be offered and newcomers will be welcomed with open arms.
So are women’s only rides the answer? It worked for me, and proved the pathway to joining my local club in Cheltenham. But this is not a one-size fits all model, and different personalities will respond to different approaches. It’s about seeing women as individuals, and not a group who need special treatment. The key is ensuring your club offers women both mixed beginner rides, ladies-only rides, as well as challenging training runs to cater for all needs.
Finally, look at your club’s social media posts and images. Ensure women are as prominent as men, and therefore seen to be as well-respected and appreciated in the club. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. Visibility is key in showing women that cycling truly is a sport for them too.
Ladies, clubs are calling out for more women. Step up and get involved!