Whether you want to be car-free, carefree, or simply in-control of your health; 2017 is the year to become a female on two wheels.
Updated June 2019
As with anything new, getting started is often the hardest part. If you don’t already own a bike, 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 their 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.
Getting started with cycling to work
You know your commute like the back of your hand, but that route can be a different experience on two wheels. Planning your route always pays off when you’re new to something. It’s a great idea to do a trial run of your journey to work during a quiet time of day. That way you know exactly where you have to stop, signal or slide into a designated cycle lane. Doing something on your own terms to begin with will help grow your confidence, so when you’re cycling in real time you can relax and enjoy the experience.
It’s worth remembering that being a cyclist doesn’t mean you have to cycle everywhere, all the time. Start small and build up to a level of activity that feels good for you. Set realistic goals, like cycling to work two or three times a week for the first month, and celebrate the success you have.
Do you need to revolutionise your commute?
All dressed up
When you’re a newcomer to a fitness activity, it’s natural to not want to stand out from the crowd. For most of us, that means trying to hide away in the baggiest t-shirt we can find. And if it’s in a dull colour, that’s even better. Cyclists favour a distinct skin-tight uniform that keeps them streamlined. Showing your silhouette to the world can be a daunting prospect, but with cycling dressing right goes a long way.
You don’t have to brave a unitard, or even purchase a full sportswear wardrobe from day one. Fitted leggings, a t-shirt, a comfy pair of trainers and a helmet are all you need to get started. A high vis. jacket is always worth the investment. Neon colours may not be your thing, but a bold, reflective colour will keep you safe and seen at dawn and dusk.
Outdoors to Office
Helmet hair is a part of cycling, but that doesn’t mean you want to rock that look all day. Knowing you can get showered and ready when you’ve reached your destination is a practical part of traveling by two wheels.
Have a chat with your employer about the facilities they can offer to make cycling to work fuss-free and efficient. You might feel like this is a vain conversation to have - a woman talking about her appearance - but you could be raising an issue that others haven’t felt confident enough to approach. Most office environments demand a certain appearance, and your conversation could pave the way for more people to get involved in fitness before work.
For many of us figuring out how cycling fits around family is a big consideration – especially when your daily commute includes a drop off at school or nursery. With Cyclescheme you can choose a Child Safety Seat as part of your accessory package, so you and your little one can get out on the road. Don’t be limited by the ‘9-5’ - make the most of the weekends and explore the open road together.
Nervous about staying safe on the road with your precious cargo? As a parent you’re the biggest advocate of your child’s safety, and cycling won’t change that. Follow the rules of the road, and you two can take on the city or countryside safely.
Be a handy(wo)man
Even with the best intentions, things don’t always go to plan. From a loose chain, to a puncture; the unexpected can happen but you don’t need to be a damsel in distress. Knowing how to maintain, adjust and apply simple temporary fixes to your bike lets you stay in control. You’re a strong, capable woman, and this shouldn’t be any different when it comes to your bike. To kick start your knowledge, chat to the experts at your local cycle store. These passionate people are full of handy hints for keeping your bike in shape.
Hopefully our guide has kick started your confidence to get out and enjoy life on two wheels. Make sure you follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and share your cycling story and inspire other females to get in the saddle.