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Hi ladies. I am writing an opinion piece for BNA (i.e. this website) on whether or not cycling is intimidating for women and I would welcome your thoughts and experiences.
Feel free to PM me, or discuss here, your experiences as a cyclist who is also a woman. Do you feel intimidated on the road, on cycle/shared paths? Do you do anything to make you feel safer as a woman cyclist, i.e something that men don't apparently feel the need to do? Maybe you never ride alone or you avoid riding on roads. Perhaps you only ride at certain times of the day, or avoid certain times.
What about in your LBS? How do you feel you are treated by shop staff? Do you believe male cyclists are treated the same or differently?
How have your experiences and feelings as a woman cyclist changed in recent years? Why?
What hints/tips/sage advice would you offer to a woman taking up cycling? Would your advice be different for a man? Why? Why not?
You don't have to answer all (or even any) of these questions. They are simply thought-starters to get you thinking about your experiences as a woman cyclist.
Thanks in advance!
I personally don't find cycling intimidating for me because I am female - but then I grew up competing in athletics and football (soccer) and training with the guys, and perhaps that's shaped my attitude to things. However I tend to ride with women at the moment as I'm simply not fast enough at the moment to join the mainly-male group rides in my area. The biggest problem I have with group cycling is that I am not a beginner who needs the multiple coffee stops that seem to occur on my local BUG rides in order to recover, but I don't have yet have the legs to sustain the speed of bunch road rides.
I don't like to ride alone if it's too early or too dark, but sometime it can't be helped if I'm making my way to a group ride. I prefer to ride on roads rather than isolated or hidden cycle/share paths, and I also prefer to ride along well-lit roads. If I'm out early and I can see or hear a group of people still out from the night before I try to avoid them if I can as I don't know who they are. I'll just take the next street along or an alternate route if I know of one. Over winter I am far more likely to stick to main roads early in the morning, even if the side-streets are flatter just because there's a bit more traffic on the roads, so I feel safer in that circumstance. Now with mornings becoming brighter and more people are out walking and running at the time, I do take the side streets and sometimes through trails if it's only a very short stretch that connects a street. When I lived in Sydney I felt I could cycle safely at almost all hours due to living near a few blocks away from a shopping and restaurant strip that would have plenty of people about all night, and plenty of cyclists early in the morning (thanks to being near Centennial Park). I'm out in Melbourne's suburbs now, which are a bit quieter and so I don't apply the same attitude.
I haven't had any problems with any on my LBS's in recent years - at least not problems associated with gender. When I was shopping for my current bike in Sydney I received fantastic service from each of the shops that I visited - even in the early stages when making it clear that I was just find out about what bike type would be best for my needs and not making a purchase right there and then. Now in Melbourne, my closest major bike shop seems to be run by a-holes most of the time, but it's a sentiment that is shared with other riders in the area, so that's not a gender-issue. My closest small LBS was helpful the first time (I needed new brakes and the shop owner sorted me out quickly with zero fuss), but not so helpful the second time (looking to change a component on my bike, and was served by a different person). They took my details but never got back to me. Not sure if it's because I clearly didn't purchase my bike there (not a brand they carry), or if it was too difficult to get that component in (I have since come to the conclusion that I'm better off changing my whole bike than finding a seatpost with greater setback, especially after going on a different bikes at a recent Specialized test day - and the help I received that day was fantastic from everyone I chatted to). I have another LBS nearby, so I'll try them next time I need something or when I start shopping for a new bike.
I love that more shops carry women's cycling-specific clothing, or a greater range. I recently found a cycling-specific clothes shop in the area where a female was manning the shop at the time and she was especially helpful in pointing out which of the knicks she found best. I simply wouldn't have access to this advice in most stores, but it's not really the direct fault of the mostly male-run shops! As a female of about 180cm, I am also appreciating that women's geometry bikes now come in larger sizes compared to about 5 or so years ago. Or perhaps I've just become better at noticing that...
I've also noticed more shops now running women's-only no-drop rides, or encouraging women to join their slower mixed-gender rides (as was the case with my LBS back in Sydney). I currently make use of Cycling Victoria's Breeze Rides program for women which only kicked off this year (I think, I only moved here a few months ago), and also the Tenax rides which is a super-friendly mixed-gender bunch (although they're a bit of an effort to get to as I'm not near Port Melbourne). Most of my riding in Sydney was actually with mixed groups (there are a few on Meetup.com) and doing "social rides" where we'd head out somewhere have lunch/dinner/late-night picnics and then head back. Pace would vary depending on the size of the group as sometimes you would need to thin out in order to stay in single-file along shared paths! In more hilly rides we would re-group at the top of hills. The range of cyclists in that group was extensive, and often the more experienced (typically male) riders would lead the ride and then go for a longer/harder ride at the completion of the "social ride". I'm sure similar groups exist in Melbourne but I haven't gone for a ride with them yet (although I plan to next weekend).
As for giving out cycling advice - it depends on who I'm talking to! I know of local BUGs and very easy social rides that would be great for beginner cyclists, and the Breeze rides are great for women looking to step up their road cycling. Forums and Facebook have been great ways to become acquainted with other road rides. I tend to try and offer help to anyone with a flat if I'm on my bike (especially since I carry two spare tubes), but do limit my offers of assistance to women or non-lycra types if I've come across a flat when I'm out running. I assume that the more "pro" a rider looks (which tends to be the men), then the less assistance they need!
Not gender related, but there seemed to be more community-run bike maintenance courses available in Sydney, which I would recommend to everyone and strongly recommend to all new riders (especially the one at Sydney Park if that's convenient for anyone).
A bit of a long response, but hopefully that helps.
I don't feel intimidated on the roads, cycle/shared paths. Probably I did when I was first starting out and that would be due to confidence and lack of skills. As you get more confident and improve your skill the feeling of intimidation should go away.
My LBS, I try not to shop in Australia, I don't like walking into a store asking for a product for someone to say to me, "you know how much that costs right?" Just because I'm wearing a wiggle honda kit doesn't mean I'm cheap. Most of the time if/when I walk into a bike shop it's to purchase a new bike, I already know what I want, I know the spec and I'm simply there to hand over the money.
Treated differently? I don't think I've ever been treated differently, I just think a lot of bike shop staff are a bit rough around the edges nad maybe they need to start thinking high class boutique instead of self service at coles.
Lot's of changes in the last 5 years, not just to my feelings as a female cyclist but treatment from the industry and availability and industry moving away from the pink and shrink mentality.
My advice to anyone getting on a bike is take a skills class or find a group that is going to help you with the basics, people that are friendly and there to help. This is irrelevant of gender, men may find there confidence comes sooner as compare to MOST women.
My partner wrote a blog post that is sort of related - here. It's more focused on racing and why there are fewer women racing (especially MTB) but I think it's worth a read.
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Big problem I think you are going to have getting anything but "I cycle and it's fine" is that this is a forum for people into bicycles. If you are scared you wont' be riding and you certainly won't be putting effort into a riding specific forum.
The biggest problem I have as a woman is size. If you are female there's a good chance you won't find gear to fit because it's all for taller skinny men. There are slender women cycling but if you aren't boy shaped then finding kit is hard. Especially shoes. I have short wide feet and the only cycling footwear I have found that fits is Shimano sandals. (I ride a recumbent so I don't have to care about sandals not being proper cycling shoes.)
I got back into cycling riding recumbents, but when I was looking for upright bikes I did find that many bike shops didn't stock bikes that were suitable for the shorter rider. They also tended to think a female rider was only into short jaunts to the shops.
That may have changed in the last few years, I have stuck to specialist 'bent/transport/touring shops and haven't had problems there.
It is possible some women feel more intimidated by the inarticulate yells from boofheads in cars, I used to worry a bit until I realised they do it to male cyclists too. I find I get them on the Brom but not on the 'bent, the yells are more "cool bike" than "get off the road" when I'm riding the 'bent. Boofhead thinking processes are a mystery to me.
I agree that midlevel cycling groups are hard to find. I don't think that's a female thing though, I think men suffer from that too they just don't talk about it. Not all men want to do the fast roadie thing.
Another related question here is whether men encourage riding with women. I know how much I enjoy the diversity women bring to rides and I certainly make a point of making them feel comfortable. I would hope most male riders would.
I don't feel intimidated as such but riding on busy roads is scary. I ride to the station 3 times a week and my morning ride is along a 3 lane highway, I will only do it before 6am so there is less traffic but is still a bit daunting. No matter how careful I am I still have to trust the motorists out there to do the right thing.
Apologies for the delay in getting to this, especially if it is too late for your piece.
The road can be intimidating and I do get the feeling that I am less inclined to ride on busy roads than the male cyclists I talk to. You need to be confident and assertive to ride on the roads and I think sometimes that is an attitude that comes less easily to many women. For example, I often do repeats of Fernleigh track some days when I just don't feel like dealing with cars. Since the track has opened, it seems there has been a huge increase in female cyclists up here too. I don't ride at night (except the home time commute in winter) but that is as much about road safety as anything else. I always ride alone. I have recently bought a MTB though and am a bit concerned about going out bush on my own. I think guys would be happy to meet up with another forum user for a ride, but I would never do that. There is no way I would meet up with someone I only know from an internet forum.
The guys in my LBS are great. And I can't say I have ever felt that they treat me differently. It would be great to see more female bike shop employees though. But to be honest, visiting the shop to chat to fit, good looking, like-minded guys is no hardship whatsoever. I think perhaps I am more loyal than the average male customer. It has reached the point with my LBS that I would feel like I was cheating on them if I bought a new bike from anywhere else.
Confidence and fitness. But I would imagine that is no different for most men.
I imagine the questions they ask might be different. I can't see why my overall approach would be different. In each case it would be a case of listening to their concerns/questions and answering appropriately.
I agree with some of the earlier responses. Finding a bunch ride at the right level is quite hard. And I imagine most women are like me and are really concerned about being too slow for a group. One thing that happened at the start with the group I now sometimes ride with, was that when I did get dropped out the back, they didn't stop and wait. Rather, one of the strongest guys dropped back and paced me back to the bunch. I then noticed for the rest of that ride, and the next couple, that this guy was occasionally looking around, checking I was OK. It gave me the confidence that if I did get in to trouble, I wasn't going to be holding everyone back or be left behind. It is intimidating being the only woman in a bunch. But I don't want to ride with just women either. I work in a male dominated field too, so I may be more comfortable with being completely outnumbered than some women are.
I have a couple of gripes. Women's cycling clothing. Where is the stylish sporty stuff that isn't pink, purple or baby blue. And I don't want to buy online, I want to try it on first. A bike shop that had a big collection of stylish women's kit would go gangbusters.
Events often don't really think properly about women. If you are providing jersey, make a women's cut available. I have a drawful of event jerseys that are too big in the shoulders and too tight on the hips. "Unisex" is joke. It is just the men's cut relabelled so that we don't get totally offended. And provide more toilets. It is much easier for guys to maintain their modesty when taking a leak. I have spent many hours at event rides, with a bursting bladder, desperately scanning the vegetation by the side of the road for something that offers sufficient coverage to maintain my dignity. All of this pain and discomfort could have been avoided if there had been a port-a-loo at the last water stop.
Otherwise, to finish on a positive note. Discovering cycling has absolutely changed my life, and I would encourage all women to get on two wheels!
Being a bloke I don't see why a woman/girl should find cycling intimidating.
The bunch I meet up with of a Sunday there are two older ladies and on young girl and the rest are blokes. The two older ladies are not quick but the young girl makes me look stupid when it comes to keeping up after 10/15ks and she meets up with the quick bunch of a Friday.
Confidence is built by going out with the blokes and learning how to ride within a bunch.
I don't suffer fools easily and so long as you have done your best,you should have no regrets.
Well, I can understand this - I've spent hours searching the internet to buy gifts for my cycling-mad wife. I've identified quite a few reliable sources, but have also experienced the inconvenience of returning items when they are not right. In fact I'm going through that right now with her Xmas present jersey.
What I don't understand is - where are the entrepreneurial women who are ready to step up and take this on?
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I don't think there is anything cycling specific tbh. I'd say any differences in terms of intimidation equally apply to most sports. I don't see women in cycling any more intimidating to, say, tennis, or soccer etc.
If anything, men are generally more adverse to lycra!
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Some of us like pink, purple and baby blue.
Assos was a store in Port Melbourne where you could try kit on, there's a store down beach road in Melbourne, Rapha has a store in Sydney, Anna Meares bought out a range of women's clothing but it's Purple and Pink, Northsider Wheelers, Perth has a a few shops with a good range of kit for women, there's a shop in Leederville area.
I don't think so - but i guess it depends on what you want to do.
I used to do it all - racing, crits etc. Now i just commute to work and back and ride socially and don't have any competitive bones left in my body. If there's a knob out there in a car who should give way to me (eg an oncoming driver wishing to turn right across me), and it really comes to the crunch i'll grab my brakes and bail. The rules say the biggest car will win. If I read a situation that's potentially going to put me in a situation i don't want to be in - i'll do what i have to to save my own neck. Am I intimated by drivers - well, a very small percentage. You usually get the vibe of them first though. Am I intimidated by the regular driver? no - i think most of them don't ever hassle me in the least.
I feel hugely intimidated by 'serious' cyclists on the bike path , and group rides on the bike path & traffic on busy roads. I try to plan all my routes to avoid traffic/busy roads, usually by leaving early am or late pm to avoid rush hour (Ride to work is mainly on the road as is it early enough, ride home is on bike path so i leave as late as possible to avoid peak commuter cyclist time) . A lot of my riding is alone and I have not had too much hassle from riding alone/ in the dark or no more than you would walking. mostly just harmless ... but doesnt' make it any more pleasant .... The local bike shops have all been great as have local group rides and clubs
On that, though, I can easily see how the physiological differences between the sexes would be demoralising and possibly intimidating to women.
I'm strong enough on a bike to hold my own in a mediocre road bunch. Guys who are proper fast are much faster than me, but I'm faster than many.
On most Strava segments, I find I'm about equal with the QOM.
If I was a woman of comparable relative ability... she's going to be considerably slower than the QOM, just like how I'm usually considerably slower than the KOM. To be as fast as me - which, as I've said, is not all that fast, just holding my own - she's going to have to be the fastest woman in town, and that's way out of the reach of most women. Almost all women are going to be slower, with no chance of even being as mediocre as me.
Most _average_ women won't be able to keep up even with a _slow_ bunch of men. Half of all women riders are slower than average. And that's gotta be demoralising. Given that there are fewer women riding than men, that would make it really hard for a woman to find a group to ride with at her own level... and intimidating to try and ride with a group that's probably going to be too fast. Nobody likes being the one that gets waited for after every single hill.
My bunch is all men. Not deliberately, just by fact. We've had one woman ride with us a couple of times - I like to think she was made to feel welcome. But she was very quick - for a woman (and I say that with the utmost respect), and could keep up. She has obviously done a lot of riding, and may well have gotten over the hurdle of intimidation. I hate that a bunch as easy-going and good-humoured as these guys would ever be seen as intimidating... but yeah, to a slower rider, which is almost all women, it's going to be.
Wow... you've just insulted pretty much every single woman... well done.
Do me a favour, go put a bra on and get ready like a woman would in the morning, you know, make yourself smell good, look good, make sure you get your pantyhose on without a ladder, put some lippy on.... etc.
Go sit yourself in a boardroom with men and only men and then re-read what you've written.
What I got out of that post was that the average woman is slower than the average man.
That's a fact, not sexism.
That fact might make a woman feel (even more) intimidated riding in an all or mostly male bunch.
Prowess in a boardroom has nothing to do with physical ability, so there's no reason* for any discrimination there
(* Yeh, kids. That's your choice though, if a man were to take off the same amount of time they're not exactly going to be CEO either).
If you got that out of what I wrote, then I apologise unreservedly.
All I'm saying is that it's intimidating turning up to ride with a group that is faster than you.
Intimidating if you're a man, intimidating if you're a woman.
Men get an unfair advantage of naturally being that much faster. I don't think that's a controversial statement.
It must be horribly intimidating being a beginner female cyclist trying to break into the social side of cycling, trying to find a group that rides at the right speed.
There's a regular bunch ride of older women in my town, mostly at or near retirement age. They're fantastic. My wife has said she would love to ride more, get fitter, and aspires to riding with them one day (although she's some 20 years their junior). Luckily, she's friends with one of the regulars... without that connection, there is no way she'd consider trying to join one of the faster, male-dominated bunches. The sport would appear far too intimidating.
I'm really not sure where you're going with your second and third paragraphs, nor how to respond. I respectfully suggest you re-read what I wrote, imagining for a moment that I really do support womens' cycling and I'm honestly troubled by the fact that it is intimidating to the majority of them. Because... well... that's what I meant, even if I expressed it poorly.
Mate it's how you said it, specifically, "But she was very quick - for a woman." What does it matter about the gender? Simply she was quick would have been enough?
I'll apologise as well, I live in a state where men tell me that women don't want to race and that we shouldn't have development styled races that teach people (no gender specification required) about racing because they should already be competent with their riding before they race and yes, we're all born with the knowledge of full racing tactics.
And honestly, I don't know why women lack so much confidence, in so many things, I don't understand it and I'm a woman. You know, I'm pretty much scared poo-less every time I do an open water swim or start a triathlon, but I'll be damned if I'm going to sit on the side lines with the rest of them and wish that I could have the confidence to do that.
Don't have any confidence? Just pretend, it'll get you far enough!
Well, that's the whole point.
In a bunch of mediocre middle-aged blokes, with an informal motto of "if you were any good you wouldn't be riding with us"... she was nothing special. She kept up. She wasn't first up the hills, she wasn't last.
And, reality being reality, that means she's probably one of the fastest women in town.
Using Strava as a flawed yardstick, my riding mates and I are well down the leaderboard of any seriously contested segment. Well below the seriously fast guys. About level with the seriously fast girls.
I'll never be up there with the really fast guys. I'd be embarrassed to even try to ride with them.
Most women will never be up there with the really fast girls...
That's the spirit! Love it
When all else fails, persistence prevails -- Lew Hollander
Well, that's just lovely. It's my choice is it?! I'm sorry...my husband has actually recently left me after 18 years because he suddenly decided he wanted kids and a stay at home mum for them. Apart from my "inabilities" in that area, I preferred a career. It could be worse. I know someone in a similar situation, only her husband nursed her through ovarian cancer and a full hysterectomy to survive before he left as she couldn't have kids.
Of course it's our choice. We all love being a machine who stays home, cleans other people's crap, and the only interaction we get with the real world is in Coles
Anyhow...back on topic...cycling isn't intimidating to women. It's intimidating to anyone without confidence or belief in themselves. I might not be fast (only because of the rehab honest ) but I'm not intimidated. There are 2 things that intimidate me when on a bike - cars/trucks with complete disregard for other road users; and bike riders with complete disregard for other path/road users. In my experience, the pilots of these vehicles are most commonly male.
Perhaps the question should be posted on the "men's" forum is "do you think you intimidate other bike riders with your style of riding and expectations of others?". Can't see anyone putting their hand up to that.
Yep - this is what most of the blokes are doing after all - or at least, how they got started...
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