How to start a cycling group for women

Chester Fabulous Ladies
Cycling UK’s ‘Five Miles to Fabulous’ project 2007-08 generated several groups that still exist today and which encourage women to get out on their bikes for relaxation, fresh air and fun. Fabulous volunteer Sue Booth explains what makes her Chester group so successful

The Chester Fabulous Ladies cycling group was formed in June 2008. As part of Chester and North Wales CTC, it holds monthly rides one Saturday morning a month, averaging 12-20 miles at about 10-12mph. Since autumn 2012, it has also offered choice of a ‘faster further’ group for more experienced riders, which travels at about 13-15mph; and in February 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:

  • Hold your rides in the morning.
  • Have a café stop.
  • Aim for about 10 miles out and 10 back.
  • Make sure there is free parking at the start.
  • If there is a café at the start that’s an added bonus.
  • Aim for a pace of 10-12mph. Note this is not average but riding pace.
  • Hold your rides once a month.
  • Start a Facebook group or page where you can share information and photos.
  • Twitter (with links to the Facebook page) isn’t essential, but can be another useful social media outlet.
  • Having a blog is 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 ideas on what to include).
  • I was collecting emails at the start and emailing people individually, but I now use a Google group email. I email a week before each ride to remind everyone – it is amazing how many people forget.
  • Now I have more leaders, I email them two weeks prior to the ride so I know who is available.
  • Set dates for the year. I now also set venues as it takes the pressure off me each month wondering where to go and where we’ve not been recently.
  • Have good knowledge of the local area or the ability to plan using OS maps (yellow roads and tracks). Do not rely on GPS. If you’re not familiar with the area or unsure of the route, ride it the week before.
  • 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 that happen, but stay true to your original goals, too. 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 don’t have one, Halfords will probably do it. If there isn’t a female member of staff, encourage women to have a go at changing their tyres or fitting new inner tubes. Fixing punctures are the main thing. Freebies are always welcome, and maybe refreshments. Our local bike shop has taken it on and also arranges speakers on occasions. Chris from Trek is an excellent speaker about ladies’ fit bikes and saddles.
  • Take photos! I don’t expect anyone to do what I do, which is to whip my camera out of my back pocket while riding and take selfies, rear pics and other shots. But I do get lots of nice photos.
  • Remember: enjoy it! If you’re not having fun, then you won’t be motivated to continue. There will be small fracture groups, people will come and go, they may come back. If not, and they go onto other things, be proud you set them off (even if they give no thanks, acknowledgement or even a backward glance!).