How to start a cycling group for women

Chester Fabulous Ladies

How to start 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 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 cafe stop.
  • Aim for about 10 miles out and 10 mile back.
  • Make sure there is free parking at the start.
  • If there is a cafe 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 and/or page.
  • Twitter (links to the Facebook page) is not essential but another 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 pages).
  • I was collecting emails at the start and emailing out, but I now use a Google group email. I email out a week before each ride to remind everyone - it is amazing how many people would forget.
  • Now I have more leaders, I email them two weeks before 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 have not been recently.
  • Have a good knowledge of local area or the ability to plan using OS map (yellow roads and tracks). Do not rely on GPS. If you are not familiar or unsure of the area, 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 it, 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 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. 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.
  • Take photos! I don't expect anyone to do exactly 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.
  • Remember: 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!).
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