CTC cycling Case Study
Chester Fabulous Ladies

Advice from Chester Fabulous Ladies on starting a cycling group for women

Cycling UK's Five Miles to Fabulous project from 2007 to 2008 was the genesis of several groups that exist today and which successfully encourage women to get out on their bikes for relaxation, fresh air and fun. Fabulous volunteer Sue Booth explains what makes the group so successful.

Chester Fabulous Ladies cycling group was formed in June 2008 following an initiative by Cycling UK (formerly CTC).  As part of Chester and North Wales CTC, we hold monthly rides one Saturday morning a month, averaging 12-20 miles in the morning, at about 10 - 12 mph.  Since Autumn 2012, we have also offered choice of a 'faster further' group, who travel at about 13-15 mph, for more experienced riders; and in Feb 2014 a beginners group was also added.

Here are founder and main organiser Sue Booth's top tips for establishing a successful group aimed primarily at women cyclists:

  • Morning ride
  • To a cafe
  • About 10 miles out and 10 back
  • Free parking at the start
  • Cafe at the start (bonus)
  • Start is close to where I live, so I can always get there (if weather awful, or no-one turns up, or I am unwell)
  • Pace is 10-12 mph.  Note this is not average but riding pace.  
  • Once a month
  • Facebook group (closed) and page
  • Twitter (links to the Facebook page) not essential but another social media outlet
  • Blog - an excellent way to capture all your rides and photos in one place.  I use it for additional information people may need to know (see my blog for pages)
  • I was collecting emails at the start and emailing out, but this failed on me so I now use a Google group email.  I email out a week before each ride, to remind.  it is amazing how many would forget.
  • Now I have more leaders, I email them two weeks before, so I know who is out
  • Set dates for the year.  I now also set venues as it takes the pressure of me each month wondering where to go and where we have not been recently.
  • Good knowledge of local area - or ability to plan using os map (yellow roads and tracks).  Not to rely on gps.  If you are not familiar or unsure, ride it the week before.  I do not have time for this but have been riding since I was 16 - so now 30 years! - and in this area.  Can I just say I can still find bits I have not done.
  • Stick to your format.  Others will come along and have great ideas.  You can be flexible when you have the numbers and enough leaders but maintain the original plan.  Mine was to introduce women to group riding and our area, to build confidence and hopefully come out on Sunday rides.  Surprisingly few do! It will become it's own thing, let it, but stay true.  See the 'history' page on my blog for our evolution.
  • Be consistent.
  • In the winter, arrange women's mechanical evenings at a local friendly bike shop; if you really do not have one, Halfords will probably do it. If there is not a female member of staff, encourage women to have a go at changing the tyre.  Punctures are the main thing really, and an 'm' check - much more will baffle.  Freebies always welcome, and maybe refreshments.  Our local bike shop has taken it on, and also arrange speakers on occasions.  Chris from Trek is an excellent speaker - about ladies fit bikes and saddles (although maintains bib shorts are fine cos you can probably do a ride without needing the loo - not on my rides!)
  • Take photos!  I do not expect anyone to do what I do, which is to whip my camera out of my back pocket whilst riding, and take selfies, rear pics and other shots.  But I do get lots of nice photos.
  • Enjoy it.  If you are not having fun, then you will not be motivated to continue.  There will be small fracture groups, people will come and go, they may come back.  If not, and they go on to other things, be proud you set them off (even if they give no thanks, acknowledgement or even a backward glance!).  I guess my riding is based on the 30 years riding with our local CTC, including weekends away off-road (rough stuff).