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Blog #5: Women cyclists - why are we so rare?

Earlier this year Sustrans announced stats that almost three quarters of women 'never cycle'. As a female cyclist I was not at all surprised.

As mentioned in a previous blog I've not been cycling very long but I've been bitten by the bug and I love it! Yet I know that I am the exception rather than the rule.

At the moment both the Mad March Hare and Mad Summer Hare sell out every year which is awesome, however only 15% of entrants are women. I really hope this isn’t taken the wrong way as it’s great to have so many riders, you really are all very welcome, but I think this is a tragedy.

Cycling can and does change lives - physically, mentally and spiritually.

More people should cycle. More women should cycle.

There are several local women cycling groups including the Hopwood Ladies and the Belles on Bikes.

There are several excellent articles about why there are so few women in cycling on the BBC and Cycling UK.

I've been mulling over what the barriers were for me:

Firstly cycling was never on my radar as you rarely see female cyclists either out and about or on the TV. This is best epitomised by the fact that this years women's 'Tour de France' was only a 1 day race (the men's is a 21 day race) and then was given next to no airtime. In complete contrast is the very well run and highly successful 5 day OVO Energy Womens Tour - where the public came out to cheer the riders on in their masses -proving that the public are interested in a well marketed and promoted women's cycling product.

Secondly, there were more immediate reasons:

  • Dangerous roads - I dont want to get hurt!

  • Clothing - you have to wear all that lycra and a helmet!

  • Unwanted attention - you have to wear lycra!

  • What if my bike breaks? I don't know how to fix it, how would I get back.

  • Drivers hate cyclists - do I want to be hated?

  • They go so fast - I wont be able to keep up

  • Cyclists are slightly (very) crazy...they cycle such a long way!

  • It costs so much!

  • How would I start anyway?

I think the list could go on…

I'm very grateful to the riders who showed a lot of patience and persistence to help give me the confidence to overcome a lot of those barriers. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we help to reduce these barriers for others.

I definitely think though that we need more female role models in what is a very male dominated sport - therefore I'm absolutely delighted that former World Champion and Double Olympic silver medallist Becky James and her family (including her mum!) will joining us and riding the Mad Summer Hare. Becky is great ambassador for the sport and, despite retiring from professional cycling still loves riding with her local club, Abergavenny RC.

Former World Champion and Double Olympic Silver medallist Becky James will be riding the Mad Summer Hare

Becky has this to say:

"Cycling has made me the person I am today. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have cycling in my life. I might have retired from competitive cycling, but there is nothing I love more than getting out on the bike…whether it’s just a leisurely ride or really pushing on the pedals and getting my heart and lungs working hard."

Amen to that.



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