I recently went to an event at Cycle Surgery where Laura Winter a TV presenter, journalist and avid cyclist spoke about her experience as a female cyclist in a predominantly male oriented sport and how we get more women into cycling. So how do we get more women into cycling and what are the barriers?
Getting into Cycling
Women’s only rides – So there were mixed feelings on whether marketing them as women’s only rides comes across like women are not good enough to ride with the guys. However there was a general consensus that it’s a gateway into cycling and that if going to a women’s only ride is the way you get into cycling then that’s the main thing. As let’s be honest joining a club can be daunting. This is exactly what Laura did with her mum who jokes that her mum is now dropping Laura on mountain climbs and has given her mum a whole new lease of life.
Commuting – another gateway for many people into cycling is commuting to work. One way to feel comfortable on the road whether you have prior experience or not is signing up to a session via Bikeability There are even free sessions that may be run by your local council. If commuting isn’t an option but you want to start small then cycle to your local shop or rent a Santander bike and ride around a park with friends (where cycling is permitted).
Sign up to a sportive – Sportives are personally some of my favourite ways to ride and that’s not just because of the feed stations that are usually filled with cake. Check out the British cycling website for a list of sportives near you.
Barriers to Cycling
It is not just down to the individual, it’s the media and the cycling industry who are responsible in making the greatest change. Laura spoke about visibilty of women in sport and that “if you cannot see it you cannot be it”. She followed with a study from Getty Images where they found that the majority of female images are passive, still or posed. Most likely on the red carpet rather than captured actively taking part in their sport.
Then with some statistics from 2015 which are shocking but not surprising:
- 7% of all sports media coverage are of women.
- Just over 10% of all televised sport is dedicated to women’s sport.
- 2% of newspaper coverage is of women’s sport.
- 5% radio coverage is dedicated to women’s sport.
- 4% of online coverage is dedicated to women’s sport.
So back to Laura’s point that if you cannot see it how can you aspire to be it? The media has a lot to answer for to ensure that women are represented properly within sport.
Bike maintenance – something that Laura herself said she used to be guilty of but it is often a barrier for women getting into cycling. Cycle Surgery host bike maintenance workshops for £10 which are redeemable via gift card at the event.
Other barriers that were mentioned were road infrastructure and motorists. Again these are things that cannot be solved by the individual and are down to governments and councils to ensure the roads are safe for everyone. However we can research and educate our fellow road users, without sounding patronising!
REMEMBER – Every body is a cycling body. It doesn’t matter what clothing you are in, you don’t have to wear lycra. It also doesn’t matter what bike you have the point is to be out in nature and enjoying the ride.
To hear more from Laura, sign up to one of Cycle Surgery’s series of events the next event is on Tuesday 30th April in store Leeds, check out there other events here.