Emma’s journey into the road cycling world, which encouraged family touring rider Britta to fall further in love with the discipline, is a tale in itself.
The 41-year-old told us: “My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and we lost my Dad after a long battle with a brain tumour. My sister, in an attempt to ‘do something positive’ and to regain some of her previous fitness suggested signing up for a charity ride from London to Brussels, via Amsterdam. We trained together each weekend, getting up early and leaving our young children at home with the Dads, and soon realised what fantastic opportunities for road biking were on our doorstep.”
“It was the perfect activity to find some space to deal with and recover from the stresses of the previous couple of years”
She added: “It was the perfect activity to find some space to deal with and recover from the stresses of the previous couple of years – the best therapy we could ask for -and we raised over £7000 for our two charities in the process. After the charity ride, we carried on riding together, and then we started dragging Britta along with us. Then Britta and I started dragging along everyone else.”
Britta, 46 and mum of two, was just as hooked as her new friend – she told us: “[Through road cycling] I discovered roads, villages and hills that I have since come to love. I loved the fact that I could ride so easily from my house, in practically all weathers and certainly all seasons. It [cycling] is so sociable and challenging, easy to do alone and great in a group. I sometime cycle with a couple that are in their 70’s, who regularly cycle 50 to 80 miles, 3 times a week – what an inspiration.”
“We noticed that the atmosphere was generally quite serious and competitive, and male dominated.”
Whilst exploring their new found love, the pair embarked on several sportives. Though they enjoyed their experiences, they noticed that events didn’t always feel geared for or welcoming to women. Emma explained: “We noticed that the atmosphere was generally quite serious and competitive, and male dominated. Some of them were certainly not designed to make newcomers to the sport feel welcome. As we cycled along on one of our long training rides, we got chatting about how we would do things differently – make more of an ‘event’ than just a ‘bike ride’. One day, we decided that we should stop just talking about it and get on and do it!”
5 Things Nearly All Sportive Riders Could Do Better
Check List: Everything You Need for Your First Sportive
When planning their own events, they set about making them more appealing to women – providing real, home made food and baking, hot drinks – including green teas, post ride massages, paper goody bags with thoughtful gifts, and a light lunch from a vintage trailer along with careful decoration of their HQ.
“Proper toilets are essential, and ideally we’d like a feed station that is not in the boot of someone’s car!”
Britta told us: “I think women generally appreciate the nicer things in life. Proper toilets are essential, and ideally we’d like a feed station that is not in the boot of someone’s car… I have been to a few very big sportives and the post ride meal is often in a huge leisure centre sports hall – complete with a sweaty smell and echoes but devoid of any atmosphere. Not a place that you’d want to hang around in for long after the ride and actually a bit of an anti-climax. Obviously it is challenging for organisers of larger events to keep the personal touch, but there are definitely things that could be done to help.”