This is a call to arms. Or, rather, a call to legs. This week, the Tour De France will pass through Yorkshire, leaving a legacy of cycling enthusiasm in its wake. We need to make sure that this legacy extends to those of us ineligible for the Tour itself, aka lasses. Because currently, I don’t know where all the women cyclists are.
The first time I used Strava on my bike, I was astonished to be crowned Queen of the Mountain on a local segment. A total n00b like me? On a segment that over a hundred people have ridden? Wow! Until I realised that only 10 women had ridden the segment, ever.
That 10:1 has been the rough gender ratio I’ve observed while out riding, too. We’re friendly up here in Yorkshire, giving fellow cyclists nods and how-do-you-dos. But on an evening’s ride, I will generally get ten “ey-up”s from male cyclists and only pass one other lady leisure biker, whom I grin madly at.
Last Sunday, I took part in the women-only “Summer Sun Sportive“, organised by local bike shop Blue Giraffe. It was a beautiful 30 mile route in the rolling countryside near Stokesley. The full route was signposted, with a feed station and a support vehicle riding the route. Designed to help build women’s confidence on their first big cycle rides, it did the job perfectly …for me, and the scant dozen women who participated, that is. As we all had tea and snacks afterwards, the organiser eyed the cake for forty on the table and sighed. “Maybe it was the weather?” (There had been drizzle early on.) Maybe.
I don’t know what is causing women’s lack of participation in cycling. Is it too expensive? Too dangerous? Too solitary? Just too masculine? Makes your thighs too solid? Is being told that your whole gender is too weak for more than one stage of the Tour a bit off-putting? Being grinned at madly by me too intimidating?
I do know what we can do about it though. We can tell other women how exhilarating it is being out on the road. We can join our local cycle clubs. We can take our nieces and nephews out on their balance bikes and trikes. We can learn to fix a puncture by the side of the road and be proud. We can pressure our works to join the Cycle to Work scheme. We can actually cycle to work! When they put up the signs of the Tour de France route, we can get our girlfriends together, with lots of snacks, and head up the beautifully named Côte de Buttertubs.
We can get on our bikes.
Allez, allez, allez!