Women’s cycling clubs aren’t exactly new. Having been on the edge of male cycling clubs as early as the 1870s, female-only clubs began popping up in the 1890s and well, they’re here to stay. Women love hanging out with other women, occasionally to the dismay of their male peers (sorry, boys). Usually, the rule applies that what happens on a women’s ride, stays on a women’s ride. But it might be helpful to let you in on a few of the key components to prepare you for your first foray.
1) You turn up a few minutes early only to find everyone drinking coffee and eating pastries.
Having joined a few female sports clubs, one thing is for sure: the focus is ALWAYS on good food and/or drink. We’ll get to the cycling eventually but this is all part of the preparation. So take a seat and grab a coffee. Someone will definitely bring baked goods so I hope you like second breakfast.
2) People are wearing clothes that aren’t LYCRA.
Colourful t-shirts, high-tops, a dress. Nobody seems to care. If you can cycle in it, you can wear it. Though if you have opted to wear padded shorts, there’s a big trade secret: going commando (i.e. no undergarments) is a game-changer!
3) You’ll talk about hair. There’s a lot of it, it’s inevitable.
You’re preparing for the main event and the sole reason for your journey to this car park today and, whilst putting your helmet on, inevitably get into a conversation about the various ways you can style your hair best under the helmet. Plaits usually win but it’s good to have tried-and-tested options with a thorough discussion from a range of voices.
4) The pace is FRIENDLY!
You set off from the car park in your all-female pack and start climbing. The dread returns. But oh, what’s this? The pace is friendly. You can keep up! You can even hold a conversation. You’re laughing. This is great!
5) Nobody gets dropped.
You heard me. Nobody gets dropped. No woman is left behind. The pace is friendly and so are the people! It doesn’t matter what speed you’re going, you’re all going that speed. So there’s plenty of time and energy to discuss what to do about the patriarchy, obviously.
6) There are at least two snack stops.
Everybody brought snacks. Somebody might even pull out another tray of baked goods. Wait, where were they hiding those? Whilst you’re snacking away, you might compare the colour of your bikes and how they match your shoes. You might even discuss the more technical stuff because you are women and totally capable of both.
7) You get a puncture.
OK, so this likely will not happen on your first group ride with a bunch of women. BUT if it does happen, everyone is super helpful and not in any way patronising. It’s magical stuff. You learn from each other, someone shares the best way to get your tyre off without breaking your thumbs, you appreciate the help. Incredible.
8) You have a GREAT time.
All that worrying was seriously for nothing. After the event, the group WhatsApp is alive with pictures of you looking cool on your bike and you share how excited you are for the next one. You just moved your body in a way that made you feel alive and so good about yourself.
9) You make new friends.
Honestly, making new friends as an adult is HARD. But one of the best things about riding with other women is that you already have so much in common. You can be vastly different in so many ways, and yet you spur each other on over the hill climbs and share packets of wine gums.
10) You return the next week to do it all over again.
Go on. You know you want to.
This article was inspired by my recent foray into joining an all-female gravel group: Lakes Gravel Gang. Since joining, I’ve discovered a world of sociable cycling clubs. Cycling for fun has always been hit and miss for me, and the prospect of joining a club was terrifying. The group has welcomed me with open arms and I encourage you to seek out something similar if that’s what you’re after. Standard cycling clubs have their place but it’s nice to have other options.