This is a topic that has been discussed and will continue to be discussed many times in the coming future.
I have read many articles, blogs and comments on social media about what the industry needs to do to to attract more women to the sport. And yes, I agree there is room for improvement to make all women feel more welcome to the sport, into bike stores, to join clubs and to spend money in the industry.
But what I would like to touch on today is what we as individuals can do to support the growth of the sport. At the end of the day a community as big as the female cycling community, (and yes I know it is small compared to the male side of the community), can have a large impact if we all work together.
So here are some of my views;
- Never forget what it was like to be new! Never lose touch with how hard it was to walk into a bike store because you wanted to get a bike, but didn't know what to ask, or how hard it was to show up for that first group ride. "What to wear? Am I good enough? Will I be able to keep up?" I recently introduced myself to a women's group ride at a cafe. I had heard about this group through a friend. She said it was an open group and anyone could join. So when I was grabbing myself a coffee one day, dressed casually, I said hi. And instead of saying hi and making me feel welcome. I was met with comments such as 'well, it depends, ...what kind of rider you are? We do long rides at the moment'. I immediately felt uncomfortable and started questioning my ability. I continued past my feeling of discomfort to ask some more questions, only to learn that I was more than capable of keeping up and doing the distance they did. In fact it would be an easy ride for me. What I was upset by was the fact that someone who was new and less confident may have just walked away and questioned themselves. And I hated the thought of this! I want ALL women in our community to feel welcome. So I urge us all to remember our first group ride when we meet new riders. Let's make them feel comfortable! Let's support them with the knowledge and skills we have already learnt.
- Never judge a book by its cover. We have all heard this saying many times before, but I feel its something that happens a lot in the cycling community. And we are all guilty. We judge a cyclist by the kit they are wearing, the bike they are riding, their riding abilities, if they did something you consider wrong in the bunch, and even how they wear their socks or arm warmers. Lets be serious!! Are we trying to recreate school-like behaviour? Cycling isn't about how "cool" you think you are. Its about being fit and healthy, sharing a passion with like minded people, challenging yourself, learning new things, and venturing to places you would never have gone otherwise. If someone doesn't know what they are doing, don't mock them, help them and teach them.
- Give praise not criticism. I know there are a lot of bike stores and cycling groups that give the sport a bad name, or make it unpleasant for women and beginners. But there are also a lot of groups, clubs and bike stores who are going above and beyond to make women feel supported in the sport. So lets start to share our great experiences! Spend your money in the store that makes you feel welcome, that teaches you something new every time you go in and never makes you feel silly for asking a question. Join the cycling club that spends time and money running women specific events and rides. Support the brands that value the female market. Give a thank you or a shout out to those that are great ambassadors for the sport!
So today I urge every female in the cycling community to join me in being part of the solution, we are the future of an industry that values the female market as much as the male market, in an adventure that will shape the cycling industry in the future! Lets start sharing the stories of the extraordinary! And eventually the rest will follow.
Owner, Designer & Adventure Planner