We've all been in a situation which makes us question our cycling skill, ability and even fitness, usually when we head out with new groups of people. It's a natural thing for us to question, but Anna Glowinski has noticed this initial worry has become more of a barrier in women's cycling...
Words by Anna Glowinski
Recently, I have started promoting a couple of road cycling holiday packages that I’m involved in for March/April in sunny Malaga. The packages are awesome, they’ve been carefully crafted to cater to wholly different experiences - Escapda is a through-and-through cycling trip that focuses on big, mountainous riding days.
Love Your Legs is my passion project with VeloVixen, a just for women cycling and yoga trip that focuses on helping riders to become stronger, know their bodies better and the bringing together of women in the cycling community. And the InnerCycle Retreat, which is a mental health and cycling fundraising holiday that brings to life values about moving forward.
Ok, so now that you have a little idea of what’s on offer, it’s pretty clear that each package aims at different segments of the cycling society, men and women, experts and beginners, die-hards and toe-dippers. In doing so, I have been speaking to a large spectrum of people, I like to let potential clients know that I am to-hand if they have any questions. In answering questions, I have noticed that when women ask me about the Love Your Legs women’s trip, the main questions are based on reassurance. Not one bloke has said to me “I love the sound of this, but I don’t want to keep all the others waiting."
The thing is, I understand that there can be logistics behind this question, quite simply someone might not quite be up to it yet for whatever reason. But what I am noticing is that it is the very people who are perfectly capable, those who are regular club riders, who ride 30 miles every weekend, those who have risen to challenges, notched off a long sportive etc.
“Nobody gets left behind, we ride at the pace of the slowest rider, and every loop out has at least one hill that everyone can attack it at their own preferred pace"
If they have a quick look at the routes, it is obvious that they’ll be capable, even if it is a push up from their usual riding - it’s an achievable goal. If they read the holiday mantra “Nobody gets left behind, we ride at the pace of the slowest rider, and every loop out has at least one hill that everyone can attack it at their own preferred pace" they’d know that this was within their league. Yet still, they ask.
I was curious about this and contacted cycling traveller superstar, Emily Chappell who organises many rides and events through the Adventure Syndicate. She had this to say “I've organised numerous rides and trips, and found that around 50% of female riders will get in touch in advance, telling me that they're slower, fatter and less fit than they planned to be and that they're worried they're not trained enough and will hold the rest of the group up. And in almost all cases they turn out to be absolutely fine!"
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Why do we feel the need for permission, for reassurance? Why do we instinctively feel apologetic to all the other riders, who we assume are going to be stronger than us? Where does it come from? I do it too, at times. I have my theories, but I don’t want to go into that here, I want to think about the solutions. The best way out of it is to take a step outside of yourself for a sec, become that external person that you’re seeking reassurance from. Ask yourself? Do I think I can ride 50 hilly kilometres? If the answer is “yes" (even if it’s an “It’ll be a challenge, but yes") then think about it realistically…
How would you feel about someone riding slower than you in a group? Would you despise them? Or are you more likely simply to be happy getting to know a new friend, with shared values, who also loves pedalling in the outdoors? Are you going there to beat everyone and show them how fast you are? Or would you prefer to just meet some like-minded women in a beautiful setting?
I’ve always been an advocate of seeing more women riding bikes, I’ve worked on various projects for about 11 years. The landscape has massively changed but it saddens me that we’re all still asking these questions. And that it’s just the women. I love that there are more bums on saddles than ever but this recent, accidental little study has gone to show that there is still a lot more to be done. I want to see women taking ownership of their enjoyed sport, I want to see them unapologetic for wanting to be somewhere and looking for reassurance from nobody but themselves.
Emily’s solution run alongside the same lines as mine “I think it's not only important that we find way of boosting people's confidence, so that they don't turn up for a ride assuming they'll be the slowest, but also make it clear that it's alright to fail, to struggle, or to have bitten off more than you can chew. We've all been there, and we understand"
I believe that sort of confidence comes with time and I’m happy to tell someone a million times over, as many times as they need “Yes, you can do it" until they believe it themselves. And that’s a part of what the Love Your Legs trip is for - hopefully most riders will find it at least a bit of a challenge, but they’ll be given all the right tools and daily structure to use that to become a better rider.
It’ll be a chance to realise what you can achieve, and how much fun it is when you are surrounded by a group of equally excited women, who are all probably asking themselves the same questions that you’re asking yourself!
For more information about Anna's cycling and yoga trips, head over to the website here.
To find out more about Emily’s trips, head over to the Adventure Syndicate's website here.