An extra one million women with their bums on saddles is the goal that has been set by British Cycling.
This week the guys at BC invited us to a morning of coffee and pastries – and they also told us all about their new vision to get 1 million more women on bikes by 2020.
British Cycling will be using Sky’s Annual Cycling Survey to measure the growing numbers of cycling women, and they already know the figure has gone from 800,000 to 1.1 million over the last four years.
There is a long way to go, though. At the moment, only 15% of British Cycling members are female, and of the total number of people who cycle once a week, just 27%, are of the fairer sex. The guys at BC realise they’ve set, as they call it, an ‘ambitious goal’ but President Brian Cookson said: “We are not saying that we are going to be perfect… but we are determined to make this happen.”
Why aren’t more women riding?
When asked by BC in a survey, over 30% of women said one of their main concerns about cycling was safety; they also said a key problem was a lack of local knowledge, and that they simply had no one to go with.
On top of that, other issues they pulled out were a lack of knowledge of bike maintenance, and a negative image of the kit and muscular appearance cyclists tend to be associated with. Lack of role models, lack of time and the cost of cycling all came into the mix as well.
What are they doing?
British Cycling have identified their sport as one with a 50 year history of under-representation of women. And they are looking to combat these issues in a number of ways. They offer organised ‘Breeze’ rides already, where women can join local groups – meeting other women on wheels and broadening their knowledge of the local lanes – and they’re going to continue to celebrate and encourage these.
Having more women in positions of authority in the sport could help too, and they’re looking to recruit more female coaches, volunteers and leaders – so new women can have a same sex guide welcome them into the sport. The pledge has been supported by double track world champion, Becky James, and Olympian Jess Varnish, too. Jess says, “I’m looking forward to seeing more women riding bikes and, more importantly, enjoying every moment.”
On top of that, they’re also encouraging event organisers to make more entry level womens races available so women making steps into road racing have more opportunities to compete if they want to. There has already been a noticeable increase in races at our local track, Cyclopark, in Kent – and it’s safe to say the number of girls rocking up to the start line has been rising, too.
What are Evans Cycles doing?
We’re keen to support British Cycling in their aims, and are currently working on ways we can encourage more women into the sport, and help those already riding to feel happy in our stores.
Last month, we ran some focus groups to find out what women want from a bike shop. Combined with asking our female staff what they thought we could do better, we’re putting all this together to come up with our own plan of action.
For those women who worried about maintenance, we do offer FixIt! classes at all our stores, so anyone who is being held back from riding with worries about their mechanical skills can learn the basics in one of our stores. The class costs just £15 and every FixIt! pupil gets a goody bag full of bits and bobs to that value to help them put their new knowledge into practice.
In answer to worries over kit, we think we’ve got a good range of items available so there is plenty of choice, whatever your style, and we’re also working really hard to offer even more choice. We also know some women have asked us for more advice on kit in-store and online, so providing that is a top priority for us too. We can’t change the way people see healthy, athletic muscles – but we can say we think the women who cycle on road, track and trail look pretty good to us.
Though not designed especially for women, plenty of girls and ladies get their bikes out and take part in our RideIt! events. These mountain bike and sportive rides are fantastic ways of making a day out in the saddle hassle free- routes are way marked, and mechanical assistance is on hand if you want it (though we know plenty of girls who can change a tube quicker than the men).
We’re really excited by the pledge British Cycling have made, and we’re hoping to be a part of the womens cycling boom. If you’ve got any suggestions on ways we can be more inclusive for our female customers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.