Bike ownership isn’t the problem. It’s likely you already own one, and if not, you can get one very affordably through Cyclescheme. You might be a little rusty if you haven’t ridden much lately. If so, a refresher session or two of cycle training can help; search for providers via the Bikeability website. But being unable to ride a bike isn’t what’s stopping most women from cycling either. There’s a bigger factor: confidence, or lack of it.
Confidence is something that builds slowly by yourself. A better way to boost it is to go out riding with a group – specifically, a group of other women. While not all men want to push the pace when they go out cycling, it doesn’t take a lot of testosterone in a group for the speed or distance to ratchet up to a level that any returnee rider may find uncomfortable. Women-only groups work brilliantly for anyone woman coming back to cycling.
British Cycling’s Breeze rides are the proof. These rides take place every week, year round, across the country, and are organised and run by women for women. Breeze is on course to get a million more women cycling by 2020.
Breeze rides are free to join, and you can easily find one near you using the ‘ride finder’ on the website. As well as where and when to meet, there’s information telling you how far the ride is, how long it’s expected to take, what sort of bike the ride is suitable for, and, best of all, what the pace of the ride will be: easygoing, steady, or challenging. Regardless of the pace, however, the ride leaders and assistants won’t leave anyone behind.
You don’t need all the latest gear to take part – just a roadworthy bike, comfortable clothing, a drink, some money for a coffee, and ideally a spare innertube and pump. (Don’t worry if you can’t change an innertube yourself – someone on the ride will be able to help if you get a puncture.) Once you’ve booked your free place on the ride, you can chat online about it with the ride leader and participants.
In addition to British Cycling’s Breeze rides, there are regular women-only rides run by Cycling UK. There isn’t the same nationwide coverage as Breeze, but Belles on Bikes in Scotland is worth checking out if you’re north of the border, and if you’re anywhere near Chester, look up the Fabulous Ladies. Elsewhere, it’s worth seeing what rides your nearest Cycling UK group puts on. Non-members are welcome to take part in a few taster rides before joining, and some groups have rides specifically for women.
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