Last weekend, I took part in the ‘Tour de Essex’ organised by Sportive UK. The cycling event offered routes of 42, 72 or 110 miles through the quiet countryside lanes, many of which were used in the third stage of the Tour de France last summer.
Although sportives are non-competitive events, I was pleased to see that I was the 3rd female to complete the 42 mile route. I must admit, I did get slightly lost, taking a detour which added 2 miles onto my ride! I’m not quite sure how I missed the turning- it was very clearly signposted- I must have been in the zone!
As usual with sportives, I noticed there were so few women taking part- probably less than 10% of the riders were female. I always wonder why these events are so male dominant- where are all the female cyclists?
My thoughts were quite timely as British Cycling have just launched #WeRide week, an initiative highlighting the range of opportunities open to women who want to get involved in cycling. Their strategy aims to get one million women cycling regularly by 2020. Currently there are 254,000 women cycling, so there is still a way to go to reach this target.
I think there are several reasons why women are discouraged from cycling- it can be an intimidating sport with the perception that it is dangerous, expensive and confusing. However there are several schemes and initiatives out there to make it easier to get out there on two wheels…
I’m yet to actually try a Breeze Ride myself, but I hear fantastic things about these all female rides. Breeze organise fun, social, local bike rides for women. Rides go at a speed that suits everyone, and they often start or finish at a cafe so that everyone can have a drink and a chat. This weekend sees the ‘Big Breeze Bike Ride’ with hundreds of bike riding opportunities all over the country. Find your nearest Breeze Ride here.
Sportives and Challenge Events
I’ve ridden several sportives myself now, and always enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, well sign-posted routes and of course, the feed stations! These events are suitable for all abilities and have a range of distances which are both challenging and achievable. Check out Sportive UK, UK Cycling Events or the female-only Macmillan Cycletta.
If like myself, you are feeling inspired by the Aviva Women’s Tour, there is the opportunity to learn the skills involved in cycle racing. I recently did an Race Training Session with WERL– we practiced riding in peloton formation on a closed road circuit which was quite an exhilarating experience! Check out the WERL League for more information.
Female-specific Cycle Shops
Many bike shops only have a limited area for women’s cycling products, so it is exciting to see more stores opening which cater specifically to the female cyclist. I popped into Bella Velo when I was over in Surrey to check out their range of bikes, equipment and apparel. I came away with a pair of shorts and several other items on my wishlist! There is also Everyone Bikes in Battersea, London and online retailer Velo Vixen.
Cycle Training Courses
Last summer, I had a few training sessions with Cycle Training East. These sessions are perfect for new riders as they focus on basic skills such as mounting the bike, starting and stopping safely, signalling and carrying out a bike safety check. Being new to cycling, the course really helped to boost my confidence, we practiced negiotating roundabouts, traffic lights and making U-turns safely. Check out British Cycling for more information.
If you don’t fancy cycling yourself, but still would like to support to sport, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer at an event, race or club.