Inspired by womenToday I’m feeling inspired by the wonderful women I ride out with. Sometimes, you have to take the bull by the horns and just do it.

Remember when this blog first started and I posted about the 12 Challenges for 2014 (that reminds me that a full update is well over-due on my 12 Challenges)? One challenge I felt particularly passionate about was: #3 ‘getting more women involved in cycling’. Shortly after this post, I was out riding with a friend who was on a not-so-trusty and quite rusty old mountain bike experiencing her first tastes of cycling. I was talking about how much I love cycling. The sense of freedom, the buzz afterwards and being out in the countryside. Up until that point I had been riding out on my own or with my OH. Riding out on your own has it’s place. Riding out with my OH does too – but that is always a huge challenge as he forgets I’m not one of his male cycling buddies and that I simply can’t keep up with him!

I happened to mention to my friend how lovely it was to ride out with another female. I had been thinking about starting a cycling group if my own but didn’t feel confident that anyone would be interested. I told my friend how I wanted to join a cycling club but was feeling a little, erm, intimidated about the joining any of the local clubs with all their folk that I perceived to be uber-competitive (OK, so I know now that it probably not the case!). All of the clubs within a twenty mile radius of where I live are predominantly male and, quite frankly, I was feeling extremely nervous about dropping myself into that environment and feeling pressure to keep up.

Aside from nerves, the other issue for women, I guess, is that we often have family commitments. My OH for example, works shifts and long shifts at that. His hours are unpredictable and I struggle to commit to anything really because of his hours and the fact we have two gorgeous little ones that need me around. Lots of my friends have similar issues…partners who work away, partner’s who own businesses and their hours are unpredictable, or those who are single parents and need to sort child care.

For me, joining a standard local club felt like a huge challenge in itself. I’ve not always been great in new groups of people – that initial walk in to somewhere new where people are more experienced, fitter and already have some expectations of me filled me with fear and ultimately stopped me from going along. I made the calls, I sent the emails…but I never went. I asked about women’s focused riding within each of those groups but there never was any already in place.


On the next ride out with my friend, I had decided that I wanted to start a women’s only cycling group. I mentioned it and she said she’d be up for it! I wanted it to be for women of all ages, on all different bikes and for all different abilities – with a strong focus on encouraging women out on to two wheels, offering a welcoming, informal, non-judgemental and flexible cycling experience.


Well, we’ve been going for a few months now and thanks to our facebook group, we quickly increased our numbers from two to nearly fifty.


It’s not been without issues! One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t please all of the people all of the time! And whilst our numbers increased quickly, only a small percentage have actually ridden out regularly. It’s a small town, I’m not expecting miracles and actually it didn’t bother me too much. But for some of the members, the lack of regular participants did. Fair enough.

Time to act…

So, last night, I called a meeting about affiliating our lovely little group with British Cycling and taking some steps to progress it and develop it. I thought this would dwindle out all those who were serious about taking the group further. And it did. From nearly fifty, we’re down to twelve! But twelve fabulous women, who are all keen to progress the group into something that will really work for us all. And as a result I’m feeling really hopeful that more women locally will join us and we’ll continue to grow.

So, these sisters are doing it for themselves. And we have lots of plans. Obviously there’ll continue to be tea and cake, that goes without saying, but we’re looking at more social events, fundraising, coaching and maybe even some team kit and some cyclocross competing! But I don’t want the club to forget the original ethos of riding out together simply because of our love of just that! Riding out together – no pressure & no expectations. Welcoming, friendly, flexible and supportive.

Just getting out on your bike with someone else by your side can be so inspiring and uplifting. Some company, a few words of encouragement and a little stop for a hot cup of tea and a slice of something sweet. And before you know it, you’ll be doing more miles than you ever thought possible and enjoying some great experiences together.

I love it when you get women together – we can be a real force of nature sometimes and I’m really hopeful we can make our women’s cycling club work.

Watch this space!

I’d love to hear if any of you have started a women’s section in your local cycling club or perhaps a women’s only group? What have been the challenges, the easy bits and what you’d do differently? Or perhaps you’re just gathering a few mums from the playground and encouraging them to get out with you?


29 comments on “Sisters are doing it for themselves: a women’s cycling club”

  1. This sounds fantastic – many congrats. We are just back from a cycling holiday and, although we were nervous beforehand, we all loved it. It was such fun.

    • I always find that the first step of finding the motivation to do something is the hardest bit! But I have definitely found that arranging to do something with a friend or a group of people makes me much more inclined to actually follow through with it and not find an excuse not to do it. And it always ends up being far more fun than I anticipated! Good luck with your targets. X

    • It does, Jen, completely! And I think lots of women suffer with this. It’s kind of a fear of the unknown and believing that we simply won’t be good enough. I think having solidarity in numbers, especially if you can find a close friend willing to give a new activity a go with you, really helps to build that confidence and to minimise fears.

  2. I’m cycling mad. I watch it on TV (loving the Tour of Britain and Vuelta at the moment), follow it on social media and I’m currently reading David Walsh’s Seven Deadly Sins. I use to be a cycle leader for British Cycling’s women’s only Breeze Network. I had to give it up because my husband has taken up running and so I am now banished to the house to look after the children. My son can’t sit in bike seat and is too young to cycle properly. I really miss going out cycling.
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    • I’m hoping to become a Breeze leader; I’m on the list and just waiting for a training space to come up locally. Such a shame that your cycling has had to take a back seat. You must miss it terribly, but it is great that there is a lot of cycling on the TV right now. It would be fab if we could get more women’s cycling on the TV though. I really hope you get the chance to go back to it soon. X

  3. What a great thing to be part of and kudos to you ladies for working to make it happen and progress!

  4. Thanks Michelle. Wishing you all the best with your plans to start your own cycling club – that is fantastic to hear. Keep in touch and let me know how you get. Perhaps we can help each other with some tips!!

  5. Hi, are you a Breeze Champion? Breeze Network has exactly the same ethos you have. I trained as one just over a year ago and love it, rides open to all women at all levels and best of all fully supported by British Cycling, look into it. I helped develope a ladies section of my local club and the hardest part is ride etiquette, some people just dont have any! But then the guys kept trying to put their slower guys with us, they just didnt or dont understand why women are intimdated by their style of riding!!!!!! You go girl, shoulds like your doing a fab job.

    • Hi Catherine! I’m not a Breeze Champion yet but I am on the waiting list to train! Great to hear that you love it and recommend it. You’ve hit the nail on the head – my fear in joining a mixed club has always been that the men are inconsiderate of the women and just don’t get it from our perspective. I don’t want it to feel like a competition, it should be a supportive environment. Whenever I’ve ridden with men I’ve left feeling like I’m just not good enough. That’s not how I want to feel! Thanks for your lovely kind words of encouragement! 🙂

  6. I would love to start a women’s cycling section of my local cycling club. At the moment there are a couple of women who are capable of keeping up with the men, but there are also a few of us, who can only go on recreational rides (about once a month) because we aren’t able to do the speed and distances of the Sunday rides. I have been on a few rides with these women and have recently been asked if I would start a weekly women’s beginner ride.

    My concern is that I only took up cycling in December and I’m not hugely experienced at it and the reaction of the male (more senior) members of the club. Let me know your thoughts.

    • Hi Frances, I know exactly where you are coming from and can completely understand your concerns. Don’t worry about the reaction of the men – I’m sure they will be very happy for a women’s regular ride to be part of the club. You could aim it at novices to begin with. You’re not asking people to choose between riding with the men or the women, you’d just be providing an extra option and that’s always a positive. If you’ve been asked to start one you obviously have some support from other female members which is a fantastic start! Perhaps you could share the responsibility?

      Maybe you could ask for a meeting with interested people to see what would work for them best?

      You’ll be surprised how quickly your fitness will improve after a couple of weeks of regular rides and if they’re successful and you get a good turn out of women wanting to ride separately from the men you could always organise a faster and slower paced ride and a longer and shorter ride, depending on needs. Give it a go, I’m sure it will be lots of fun! I’d love to hear how you get on and feel free to contact me via the contact form if I can help in any way or you just want to chat some more about it 🙂

  7. Sounds like a fab idea, the local club to me expects newbies to be able to ride 40-60 mile rides at an average speed of 10-15 mph and I’m just not fit enough for that sort of pace or distance yet, only been riding again for a couple of months after not riding since I left school, tho I have taken advantage of my employers cycle scheme and bought a decent road/cross bike; my plan being to leave the car at home a few days a week, some social riding and hopefully loose a couple of stone in the process.

    • I think that’s the problem – women are often intimated by the mention of miles per hour and distances and it’s enough to put people off (myself included). I think sometimes just riding out in a group without having to worry about how much ground you’re covering or at what speed, is all that is needed to increase confidence. When you’re out with others it’s amazing how much easier it is to cycle faster and further than you had expected – but without the pressure of having to. It really does spur you on! And of course, it’s nice to have someone to chat to on the way. You’ll be surprised how quickly you get up to those distances and I wish you lots of luck, but most of all, enjoyment with your cycling. A new bike always helps!! 🙂

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