Riders leaving New Brighton on the Wirral Celebration Rides attended by 80 women
Riders leaving New Brighton on the Wirral Celebration Rides

Cycling UK's inaugural Women's Festival of Cycling declared a great success!

Cycling UK's first Women's Festival of Cycling has finished, with over 70 new female-friendly rides and events taking place throughout the country during July. Festival Coordinator Julie Rand sums up the highlights of what has been an exciting month of cycling activities.

When we first came up with the idea of putting on some kind of initiative aimed at female cyclists back in early 2017, we weren't sure what shape it would take. We knew that we wanted to build on '5 Miles to Fabulous', the first such project aimed at women by Cycling UK, which last took place back in 2007. With the tenth anniversary of that programme, it seemed the time was right for another but in the intervening decade, the notion of 'women's cycling' had evolved from relatively short trips to a coffee shop for cake to include other types of riding also enjoyed by women, such as technical mountain biking, 100-mile road rides, and everything in between. However, the fact remains that women are still underrepresented in cycling, although the statistics are gradually improving.

With that in mind, we decided a month-long celebration of women's cycling, with organisers being able to register rides of any length or type, would be a great way of showcasing the current range of cycling activities aimed at encouraging women to take part, as well as attracting new riders who will continue cycling after July is over. Rides took place throughout the country from the Outer Hebrides to mid-Wales to Liskeard in Cornwall, and many points in between. They were put on by over 50 different organisers.

Ashiana Community Cycling Club, Birmingham, with their goodie bags

Cycling UK supported the rides with a pack of goodies for both the ride organiser and up to ten participants around the theme of 'a summer picnic ride'. Fortunately, the weather for many of us throughout the festival has meant that these goodies, such as a picnic rug, bunting and bicycle-themed paper napkins have been put to good use! The rider goodie bags have also proved popular and include: a Cycling UK bicycle bell; a Women's Festival of Cycling key ring; a small pot of Bum Butter; a Women's Festival of Cycling lapel badge; a water bottle; and a small box of festival jelly beans.

 

Awesome day....thank you SO much  for organising and telling me about it!  :) The girls totally RULE !"

Ellie, mountain biker

So here is a brief round-up of just a few of the highlights of a fabulous month of cycling this July:

  • More than 70 rides and events throughout the UK aimed at women
  • Several century rides, including 100-mile road rides in Wales and England and a 100km off-road ride in Scotland organised by women from The Adventure Syndicate.
  • Six rides in and around London looking for British Cycle Quest clues.
  • Three women-only bike maintenance courses.
  • Wirral Celebratory Rides of 35, 15 and five miles aimed at all abilities with around 80 participants in total
  • History-themed rides exploring where famous people such as Florence Nightingale and Percy Bysshe Shelley lived
  • A 15-mile ride in Stevenage to a lavender farm
  • Several rides in the Birmingham area aimed at women from a diverse range of backgrounds run by our community cycling clubs
  • Closed road entry level circuits for women in Curborough throughout July

The Birmingham rides were put on by, amongst others, Cycling UK Community Cycle Clubs Ashiana CCC, Balsall Heath CCC, and Share Calthrope CCC. Organiser of Saturday 29 July rides Sajida said: "Together we cycled to Cannon Hill Park, Highbury Park and along the Cole Valley route.  It was a gorgeous day, as the sun was shining plus we had the opportunity to meet and have some fun with a number of ladies from these groups. Finally, we ended the event with some tea/coffee/ice cream and some good old natter ." 

It was a gorgeous day, as the sun was shining plus we had the opportunity to meet and have some fun with a number of ladies from these groups."

Sajida

Some people expressed scepticism about the need for female-specific initiatives but the feedback from both organisers and participants was overwhelmingly positive:

"Thank you so much for the ride - you gave me the confidence to keep going riding."

Sarah, new rider, Surrey Hills

The bottom line is many women, although happy to ride with men sometimes, do enjoy cycling exclusively with other women from time to time not only to build confidence but also for the enjoyment of riding in female company. As part of the festival, we commissioned ComRes to carry out a survey into the barriers women face and our research shows that 20% of women say they have never ridden in a cycle group but would consider doing so, while 54% of women are most likely to say that they have been on cycle rides for fun.

Cycling UK is already looking forward an even bigger and better Women's Festival of Cycling next year. In the meantime, there are plenty of groups offering female-friendly and women only rides throughout the year - to find one near you, just take a look at our list of local groups, we also will provide you with help and support if you want to start your own.

 

Julie Rand