There’s no hiding from the facts: at participation level,cycling in the UK today is a male-dominated activity.
Recent figures suggest that nearly three-quarters of all journeys made by bike in this country are made by men, a figure far above that of our European neighbours. Even more disappointing is that just 4% of British women cycle more than once a week.
So why is this the case? And what can be done to get females on their bikes? We asked one local female cyclist to find out more…
An enthusiastic member of Leighton Buzzard Road Cycling Club, Alice’s passion for cycling demonstrates that women can enjoy the benefits of cycling just as much as men. But even she admits that the disparity between the genders can be off-putting for women.
“I love encouraging everyone to cycle, not just females,” she explains. ‘”I love riding with everyone, but because of the amount of men in this field, it can be very daunting to a female. You can see that kind of problem in other sports and even in jobs. The good news is that we’re seeing a few more women locally get involved, and so that should make it easier for other women to join in, too.”
Alice personally cites watching Victoria Pendleton’s successes at the London Olympics in 2012 as one of her main inspirations for taking up cycling. Since then, the publicity, coverage and backing that women’s professional cycling has increased hugely. But despite the likes of Laura Trott and Lizzie Deignan becoming household names, Alice feels that watching the pros is a double-edged sword when it comes to encouraging participation.
“I think that women’s pro cycling has its pros and cons,” she says. “On one hand, it can promote cycling to women as a sport, help engage people and get them eager. But on the other hand, they ride at such a high level of fitness that it looks impossible to the average person. I have personally looked at pros at times and said to myself: “I’ll never be at that level, so what’s the point in trying so hard?”
So alongside the new female cycling heroes we see on Eurosport or ITV4 on a regular basis, Alice feels there needs to be more attention paid to promoting cycling as an activity that women can do at any speed and in any way they like.
“Cycling is for everyone! Look at the Cycle 2 Work scheme: that can help lots of women start riding, even if it’s just short distances to work and back, and then hopefully they can gradually start riding longer, faster and more regularly.
“I enjoy so many aspects of cycling. Socialising and meeting new people is amazing, getting fitter and stronger, racing with so many other females, and getting competitive but also looking after each other. No matter who you are, cyclists always look after each other.
“My advice to a new rider would be to start at a level where you’re comfortable. You don’t need to “kill” yourself every ride: take it at your pace on a bike that is comfortable to you, and then push yourself just that little but once you’re used to it. And if you can find a friend to ride with, it makes the motivation to go out and ride much easier to find.”
At Dorvics, our friendly and experienced team can help aspiring female cyclists like you find a bike that’s perfectly suited to your height, build and riding needs. What’s more, we can give you all the advice and information you need to start your cycling adventure, whether you want to start cycle-commuting, just want to keep fit or anything else in between.
To find out more, pop into our store in the centre of Leighton Buzzard (our opening times are below) or contact us here.