Words by Jami Blythe
The word ‘sisterhood’ means many things to different people. To some, the bond between two biologically related sisters. To others, a collective of women who are passionate about equal rights and opportunities for women across the globe.
Perhaps upon hearing the word, an image of a habit-wearing nun is conjured – in peaceful prayer or even Whoopi Goldberg style dancing with her fellow ‘sisters’ in the film Sister Act. Perhaps, it’s not so much a word that you would associate with cycling.
Why ‘Women’s Only’?
As more and more people take to transporting themselves from A to B by bicycle, logic dictates that the proportion of women turning to cycling increases too. It takes a fairly effortless search to find exclusively women’s cycling clubs, social rides and racing teams popping up around the country.
My experience of cycling with other women is something that is hard to put into words, and even harder to answer when male counterparts ask why are ‘women only’ events and rides necessary? I can only cast my mind to some examples which answer their queries for me…
I began cycling around four years ago, although having ridden as a child and teenager, my interest failed to stray past enjoying keeping fit. Returning to two wheels as an adult was a different story.
Fears of falling, hurting yourself, being left behind, not knowing how to mend a puncture and more importantly embarrassing yourself seem all the more over-inflated with mature age. My first social ride at the age of 37 contained a handful of women and I was encouraged along with the bunch, despite being less fit. During the first mile of that ride, thinking I was unclipped and wasn’t, I fell in front of everyone.
The knowing and unspoken looks of these cycling ‘sisters’ were evident to me. They had been there before. Of course, so too had the men, but the women just seemed to know how I felt. Working in a predominantly male-orientated professional environment, I had probably missed out on the bond that occurs between women. This was one of the first occasions I had experienced the shared cooperation between our variety and it kept me coming back to cycling for more.
Not long after this embarrassingly epic ride, I was persuaded to go along and try a time trial at my local cycling club. Terrified, I turned up with my aluminium stead, oversized helmet and borrowed cycle kit. My time was far slower than the other regular riders but I was never made to feel like I was less deserving to be there. Encouragement from the group of regular female riders as they took me under their wing got me back the following week. I’ve been going ever since and am now Chair of the club.