Do you fancy a Fancy Women Bike Ride?

Cyclists in Stevenage are invited to don their smartest clothes and join in with the Fancy Women Bike Ride this Sunday. Photo: Stevenage Cycling UK
This weekend sees the 10th anniversary of the Fancy Women Bike Ride. Volunteer ride leaders and cycle campaigners Jill Borcherds and Tina Walker from Cycling UK Stevenage are organising a ride for the global event this week; Jill tells us more about it
A group of women in fancy clothes cycling and smiling at the camera  Photography by GGA

How it all started

The Fancy Women Bike Ride was started in 2013 in Izmir, Turkey, by two amazing and inspirational ladies, Pinar Pinzuti and Sema Gur. They asked the mayor to help them celebrate World Car Free Day, saying: “We demand that cities create a welcoming space for women to cycle and interact with the city in a whole new way. We all deserve safe ways to walk and ride bikes.”

Rides now take place all over the world on the third Sunday of September to mark World Car Free Day, which this year is on Friday 22 September. The aim of World Car Free Day is to bring about car-free towns and cities across the globe for just one day and promote a more sustainable way of regular travel.

Today, about 50,000 people attend the annual Fancy Women Bike Rides, which happen across the world, including in New Zealand, India and Azerbaijan. This year they will take place on Sunday 17 September.

The campaign has received awards from several organisations, including the laureate of the 2022 Annual Special Award of World Bicycle Day of the United Nations for Pinar Pinzuti and Sema Gur “for their leadership and excellence in promoting cycling for all”.

Our first rides

Tina saw publicity for this worldwide event on social media a few years ago. Inspired, she suggested it to me and a couple of her female friends; we decided that we liked the idea and should try to set up a ride in Stevenage. We are both Cycling UK Stevenage members and campaigners, both using cycling as an everyday means of travel, and, in Tina’s case, for work too – she is a cycle instructor.

Our first Stevenage ride in 2021 was a small affair but it was fun and enjoyed by all who attended. In 2022, final publicity was paused due to the national mourning period for the late Queen, but we went ahead with a relatively low-key affair.

Everyone wears a big smile, celebrating the freedom that cycling can bring for women

Jill Borcherds, co-organiser of Fancy Women Bike Ride for Cycling UK Stevenage

Dress code

The dress code is ‘fancy’ – women wear whatever makes them feel fabulous. Bikes are decorated with flowers and, most importantly, everyone wears a big smile, celebrating the freedom that cycling can bring for women.

Women ride as role models, inspiring others that the bicycle is a realistic choice for everyday journeys as we are dressed for our destination. Men may join rides, but they are to cycle with us, not in front of us. They also wear smart clothes –no Lycra.

Pulling out all the stops

For 2023, we are pulling out all of the stops for this year’s Fancy Women Bike Ride and are hoping to really have a great event; we are looking forward to welcoming women from near and far.

Anyone arriving early can make a day of it and join our extra Stevenage Cycleway Showcase 11-mile ride in the morning. Starting at Stevenage rail station, this route gives a great taste of the unique Stevenage cycleway network, which was built as an integral part of the new town in the 1960s – we have more than 45km to choose from!

After lunch at our local family-run café, Costello’s in the splendid Fairlands Valley Park, the main four-mile Fancy Women’s Bike Ride will start at 2pm from the Stevenage Cycling Hub CIC nearby in the park.

Our Stevenage Mayor, Cllr Myla Arceno who cycles herself, will officiate at the start. There will be lots of pictures and, on the return leg of the ride, we will pause for a small picnic.

Both of these rides are free to join but please book to help us to plan.

Other events

There are other Fancy Women Bike Rides taking place throughout the UK this Sunday including in Belfast, Chester, Newcastle, Glasgow and London.

It’s too late to register any more rides for this year but it would be great to see even more women inspired to organise Fancy Women Bike Rides in their own towns and cities for September 2024! The founders of the Fancy Women Bike Rides encourage individual women rather than organisations to create their own events.

100 Women in Cycling

Jill appeared on Cycling UK’s 100 Women in Cycling list in 2017. You can find out who is on this year’s list when it is announced in November as Cycling UK seeks to redress the current gender imbalance in cycling by highlighting women who are successfully encouraging and inspiring others to ride bikes.