Women across Scotland brought together by Belles Big Rides

A Belles ride in Falkirk
Women across Scotland have experienced the mental, physical and social benefits of getting out on their bike this summer, thanks to Belles Big Rides

More than 100 women took part in the scenic, social rides, which were run by Cycling UK and organised as part of the UK-wide Women’s Festival of Cycling.

Four events took place across July and August: in the Pentlands, the Forth Valley, Cumbrae and Banchory.

The Belles Big Rides events were organised by volunteers from local Belles on Bikes networks and supported by local travel hubs and community trusts.

There was no sportive element to the Belles Big Rides – no one was left behind at any point

Julie Cunningham, Cycling UK development officer for women and girls

Julie Cunningham, Cycling UK development officer for women and girls, explained that the rides give women the opportunity to widen their social circle.

“Some of the Belles who came along on their own or in small groups have made new friends and plan to arrange to travel to each other’s areas to ride together,” she said.

“There was no sportive element to the Belles Big Rides – no one was left behind at any point. That allowed some women to push themselves out of their comfort zone in a supportive environment.”

Belles on Bikes is a network of inclusive women’s cycling groups in Scotland, with 12 groups across the country, all run by volunteers.

The Belles Big Rides involved women taking in part in 10-60 mile journeys in small groups, with a ride leader.

Jennifer Gregge, a 67-year-old retiree from Glenrothes, attended the Belles Big Ride in the Forth Valley with her daughter; she was impressed by the event’s welcoming and supportive ethos.

“We were pleasantly surprised by how friendly everyone was and how everyone supported each other,” she commented. “We never felt under pressure to keep up with speedier cyclists nor did we feel we were holding others up.”

One of the highlights for many riders was the stunning scenery that the routes passed through. “The route was excellent, not too challenging and mostly on cycle paths or quiet roads and the scenery was lovely,” Jennifer added.

The Belles Big Rides encouraged women of all abilities to cycle – from beginner to seasoned cyclist, everyone was welcome.

Carolyn Shaw, a 54-year-old assistant care home manager from Banchory, attended the Aberdeenshire ride and was impressed with its inclusivity. “Belles rides work well because they encourage women, no matter what their cycling ability is, to get on their bike and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of cycling,” she explained.

“Being involved in a Belles group has given women new friendships, while exploring our beautiful countryside by bike.”

The Belles Big Rides acted as a supportive space, where women could improve their cycling abilities, make new friends and enjoy the scenic journeys.