Women Who Love to Ride – Together
There was this boy. A cute boy, and he rode a road bike. A lot. With no prior experience, suddenly I too owned a road bike, helmet, things that locked my bike shoes to my pedals, bike clothes so tight that I avoided all mirrors, and no kickstand!
This boy rode with the Edmonton Road and Track Club (ERTC), and suddenly I too was a registered member. Sensing a theme?
There I was, new to cycling and group riding, but excited to be part of a cycling club. A club full of . . . guys who rode fast. To be fair, there were wonderful supportive women, but women were definitely the minority. The guys were great, but sometimes they spoke another language (Mars versus Venus, right?).
Thank goodness for that boy with his support. I’m not sure many women have that kind of cycling support system, and thus are intimidated about joining a cycling club. Sound familiar?
When the opportunity arose to ride beside another woman, I was elated. I had questions – female cycling questions. It’s difficult to attain strategies on female issues on a predominantly male-attended group ride.
On a whim, I decided to organize a women’s 100km ride in conjunction with the 2015 Rapha Women’s Ride. I sent out notices, found a safe route that included a stop for cinnamon buns, and hoped for the best. Fifteen women came! Half of whom I had never met before.
There were other women cyclists in Edmonton and a need for someone to organize a group and encourage them. I could be that person.
A week later, the Women of ERTC was born. Our focus was on the non-racing female cycling enthusiast. We spent our first season (2016) improving group-riding skills, increasing comfort with drafting, learning new cycling routes in and around Edmonton, understanding different components of cycling, integrating women into regular club rides, all of which built encouraging friendships. Weekly emails with ride information and a simple FAQ section helped address the natural lack of cycling knowledge in our new group. Twenty-five women attended our second annual Rapha Women’s Cinnamon Bun Ride. The word was spreading.
In one season, we increased female membership by 80%, supported three women trying their first races, encouraged 10+ women in long-distance gran fondos and cheered for 10 women through their first cyclocross season. We helped many new women integrate into ERTC, and created relationships both within our club and in the larger cycling community. We hosted three large women’s-ride events for more than 50 riders, and even organized fatbike rides in the off-season.
Our group isn’t just exciting women; the men in the cycling community now have a group that they can promote to the women in their lives who have not been comfortable in taking the leap to club cycling. Now there is an encouraging stepping-stone for women that makes that leap less intimidating.
If 2016 was exciting for the Women of ERTC, then 2017 is going to be thrilling. We will continue to focus on growing our recreational group and will add a women’s Learn to Race program.
One of the biggest barriers to new female racers is the number of elite racers and lack of newbies. Not this year. This year, with the support of a trained coach, we are offering information seminars, skill sessions and race support. We will flood the start lines with new racers. Most importantly, we will face the intimidation of our first races together.
If you are from the Edmonton area, check us out (www.ertc.org/ women). If there is no women’s cycling group in your area, consider starting one. I can guarantee you that there are other women in your area who want to ride with other women.
Be that person and start with one ride. It would be great to have a network of women’s groups across Canada who share ideas, support each other and increase the number of new riders and racers.
Approach local businesses for support. Our partnership with Revolution Cycle has been invaluable. The Grounded Café in Devon, Alta., popular for its fresh cinnamon buns, opened on a Sunday specifically for our Rapha Women’s Ride (now coined “The Cinnamon Bun Ride”). All because I asked.
Who really wants to ride alone? If I can go from never having ridden skinny tires to teaching new riders about the ins and outs of group riding, you can as well.
Start your own women’s
group in your area.