The pursuit of performance is equal when you’re on the bike. No one partakes in cycling as a token gesture; it’s not something that’s picked up and put down at random. Cycling has the same rewards and challenges for everyone who partakes in it: irrespective of age, ability and gender, everyone suffers on a mountain pass or in the gutter. But there’s the same feeling of achievement and freedom for everyone on two wheels. So that’s why we’re continually investing in female riding. From sponsoring world-class American and Swiss riders in myriad disciplines to the Herne Hill Women’s Track League in London amongst others, these female riders are proof that, if given the platform and the products, they’re unstoppable.
The sight of female riders shouldn’t be remarkable, but women’s cycling is often frustratingly wafted away with a ‘well, they’re quite strong for a woman.’ We believe this is the sort of off-the-cuff remark that encourages the notion that strong female cyclists are the stuff of myths.
We refute these myths. We’ll champion female riders, both on the road and on the trail. We’ll applaud the cycling industry for recognizing this, for expanding the UCI Women’s WorldTour, for fighting to raise budgets and equalize prize money, for supporting local leagues, for training more female coaches and nurturing the next generation.
We know how it feels to sit on that bike, grinding out everything from your legs to hold onto the wheel ahead. We recognize the obsession to go out in all weather conditions, hunt new roads and make new friends. But we also spotted those looks that were thrown in your direction when you turned up to the club ride a decade ago. We’ll say it again: the sight of female riders shouldn’t be remarkable. Being a female rider feels brilliant at times, but it can also be isolating as the male-dominated ‘banter’ abounds
We caught up with some of our ASSOSwomen ambassadors for their thoughts:
The reasons I ride are numerous and varied. Fortunately with cycling, there’s a discipline to suit my every mood and whim. I like to challenge myself and to learn, to acquire new skills and to surprise myself. And though sometimes a poor performance can make me feel bad, generally I ride because it makes me feel good. The focus of cycling, the sense of purpose, the endorphins and the fresh air help regulate a brain with a tendency to spend too much time looking inwards and not enough looking out.
As a female cyclist, you can’t help but notice inequality in the industry and it angers me how little we value women at the top of the sport. On a personal level, I get so frustrated when I feel we are not being catered for (in races for instance) but it’s not a straightforward sitbetaion with a clear solution and solely blaming organisers is short sighted.
We need more women cycling and more women trying racing if we ever want parity and if that’s not happening, we need to look at why. I feel that currently, we need a different approach to growing women’s cycle sport than that you’d use to appeal to men because we’re coming at it from a totally different place. You can’t just wipe out years of social conditioning!
Dalany Watkins, PR and Marketing Manager ASSOS UK SBO:
A lot of my non-cyclist friends often ask me why I ride or how I find the motivation to get up in the morning, look out of the window at the pouring rain, or the snow, or the frost, and think “I’m going to go and sit on my bike for a few hours”. For me riding symbolises freedom, independence and the motivation comes from the immense sense of achievement and the exhaustion at the end of a long ride. Nothing can beat that feeling.
Majority of my miles on the bike have been spent in the company of men. I’ll always remember riding across Scotland last year in a group of five women, all working together for hours and riding as hard as we could and wondering why this doesn’t happen more often. During the same trip, my friend and I took turns at the front of a group of men for the best part of 20km. This was met with utter confusion and disbelief from the trail of men behind us.
From my experience at a very basic level of racing, the disparity between the numbers of male and female riders never fails to shock me. Programmes such as “women’s only sessions”, or “getting into racing” will help this but with such huge inequalities at a professional level, it’s easy to see how it sets a precedent for women getting into the sport.
Jessie Walker, brand ambassador and ex-professional racer:
Cycling for me is all about the culture. It’s the people you meet and the lifestyle that comes with it that keep me involved. I’ve grown up in a cycling family but every cyclist I meet there is that certain connection that I don’t feel anywhere else. With the sport you have to suffer. You go through the good and bad so it makes you a well rounded person and I love that.
I am happy with the person I have become and that is hugely down to the sport carving me into who I am today. Cycling gives you a sense of freedom and well being that you can harvest to progress in life, in whatever that may be.
I have had several low points from the sport but they have only made me a stronger person by teaching me my true values in life. It has taught me discipline and patience but also to aim high in whatever I do.
I want as many women as possible to ride a bike and they will for sure develop the love for it. Cycling is more than just turning pedals; it’s the community, the good health, the friendships that come with it that make it special.
For more info head over to www.assos.com