Whilst this year has a left a lot to be desired there’s still plenty to celebrate. There’s been a big cycling uptake with roughly 5% of the U.K. population buying a new bike during the first COVID lockdown. But this sudden uptake hasn’t been without its challenges. Experienced by those who want to start cycling yet feel intimidated by road conditions (safe space allocated to vulnerable road users) or by joining groups of more experienced cyclists. Especially for female cyclists joining predominantly male centric groups and rides.
This (nice to have in a way) problem has opened the door to the formation of two new cycle clubs in the Bournemouth area. Cycle like a Girl and Womxns Off-road Club. For me this is true testament to the growth of cycling in the U.K. and a great sign of things to come. Although it does show that there’s still some work to do for us guys (male cyclists) to improve the perception and inclusivity of mixed sex cycling groups/clubs. I’ve been chatting to the organisers of both clubs, and here’s the background and motivation behind their startups.
Cycle Like a Girl
Based in Bournemouth cycle like a girl was started by Roshanna and Grace after a move to Dorset from Hertfordshire, lovers of the active life they overcome the fear of making new friends in an unfamiliar area by joining some local sports groups. In doing so they found a lack of appropriate groups for female cyclists.
A combination of believing in the benefits of community, wanting to explore the best of what Dorset has to offer with like minded girls, and unfortunately too many patronising visits to bike shops (hate to say it but I’m not surprised, some bike shops need to take a good hard look at themselves), Cycle Like a Girl was formed.
The group regularly rides out of bournemouth (in all weathers) over mixed distances and terrain, and is inclusive of all abilities. Check out their Instagram and contact them through there for more ride info.
WOMXNS Off Road Club
The Womxns off road club is exactly as it sounds, a cycling club for women who want to ride off road. The club was started by Nicola after being concerned about mens reactions to her being on group rides, being concerned about holding other group members up, having to ask for help to fix a puncture, and being exposed as a ‘fraud’ for not having any ‘bike chat’.
Now Nicola admits that the overthinking of the above was of her own doing and it wasn’t anything that male cyclists had done directly. Her inexperience meant she didn’t know regular ride etiquette of ‘no rider left behind’, and that most of the time people ride to ride not to chat bikes. Cyclists are cyclists and are super friendly (id agree in the most part!)
After joining a Woods cyclery group ride and putting the above concerns to rest (including easily holding pace with the rest of the group), Nic got chatting to Tom one of the shops owners who actively encouraged her to start a club, running on the weekends from the shop. The rides were started but unfortunately with lockdown getting in the way only three took place, although with lockdown lifted these are now back on!
What has been super encouraging is in that short time the club has enabled two female road cyclists to make the jump to off road riding for the first time and the have had women join from as far away as Portsmouth.
Plans for the future include using Instagram to show the beauty of the forest and the encouraging environment of the club, explore and educate about the history of the New Forest, and to arrange some mechanic training sessions increasing womens confidence to ride off road solo.
Nic adds that her personal off road bike love affair started when her fiancé bought her a Genesis for her 30th birthday, she professes to be “super amateur”, and rides in jeans because thats all she has (getting into buying cycling gear is a slippery slope! trust me – Jon). So if you want to ride in the WOMXNS OFF ROAD CLUB, just turn up at one of their rides! you don’t even need a bike, The Wood Cyclery have rentals available (best to book in advance!).
To see more and keep up to date with their rides follow their instagram page HERE.
So there you go! two new female cycling clubs based in the Bournemouth area. Great news, and testament to the growth in cycling. Although it does show that the cycle industry still has some work to do to be more inclusive, make those trips to cycle shops less intimidating/patronising, and create an environment where new cyclists feel confident enough ride with existing groups without feeling pressure to be on the level immediately. Conversely the message to any would be cyclists is to not let anything hold you back, you need two ingredients: the will to ride, and a bicycle!
So whats holding you back? lets go ride!