Belles on Bikes: cycling, cake and confidence!

Belles ready to head off into the hills..
Suzanne Forup, CTC’s Assistant Head of Development in Scotland, packed her panniers and headed to the beautiful Perthshire town of Pitlochry for the first Belles on Bikes leader training weekend.

The original Belles in Glasgow have continued to grow, supporting hundreds of women to get cycling. Since January, the Belles network has been spreading across Scotland, funded by small grants from Cycling Scotland and 2014 Communities. Groups have been established in Edinburgh, Stirling, Falkirk, Moray and the Scottish Borders, with ladies in Cumbernauld and Inverness joining their fledgling women’s cycling groups to the network too. There has also been interest from women in Ayrshire, Aberdeenshire, East Lothian and Dumfries and Galloway.

Each group is different, but they are all committed to supporting other women to get cycling in a supportive, inclusive and friendly environment. The funding has provided Belles leaders with Cycle Ride leader training, mechanics courses and marketing and promotion support.

When I asked what they needed next, the Belles put First Aid training at the top of their list along with meeting other leaders. When the Scottish Youth Hostelling Association offered us discounted accommodation it seemed that a training weekend was the next obvious step!

On the Friday evening, over gin and tonics and a chaser of ginger cake, the Belles immediately started sharing stories, experiences, challenges and inspiring moments. My community worker workshop ideas weren’t needed as the ladies got down to talking through how they resolved mechanical breakdowns, disparities in rider ability and converting participants to ride leaders.

The next morning, after a brisk five-mile ride, the Belles took to the First Aid training with enthusiasm, showing off some impressive bandaging skills to our Red Cross instructor. Between the bandaging and recovery position I was able to elicit some ‘high five’ moments from the Belles.

It was brilliant to see women grow in confidence, one woman had only ever cycled a mile in either direction from her house. First ride out with the Belles and she managed 26 miles."

Suzanne Forup 
CTC Assistant Head of Development Scotland

Another lady who wasn’t convinced she could cycle 23 miles got pep-talked by the Belles on Facebook. She came along and was faster than most there - what a confidence boost!

Over lunch the ladies wrote some postcards to our funders, expressing their thanks for the support to get groups off the ground with training:

"Being a ride leader with the Belles has been a great experience. I’ve met lots of new people and learned more about local rides and routes. The main positive is that without Belles most of the women wouldn’t ride or be as confident. So thanks for supporting us!"

"I moved to Scotland from the US a year ago. Belles has helped me learn my way round my new city, meet new people and keep with my cardio-exercise, which is important for my heart condition. Thank you!"

Out of the classroom the following day I was able to see the Belles in their natural environment, enjoying being cycle ride participants for a change rather than leaders. We had barely got home when the emails started flying in about arranging a joint ride to complete the filming that we'd started at the weekend!

Developing the Belles has been a superb experience and I hope that I'll be able to support the network to grow over the next few years. I'll be talking about the Belles at the Cycling Scotland conference in November so if you are in Glasgow come and hear some more.

If you would like to set up a Belles on Bikes group in your community in Scotland please do get in touch:


Twitter: @backonmybike