A report into the factors preventing female cyclists from signing up to 'challenge events' or sportives has listed three key concerns women have about taking part.
The Women in Sport report was commissioned by British Cycling in 2015 and forms a part of their drive to get 1 million more women riding by 2020.
Investigators spoke to women from three key groups: regular challenge riders, recently transitioned challenge riders, and recreational riders. A challenge ride was defined as 'a large, organised, noncompetitive ride where you don’t race each other'.
The data collected was qualitative - meaning it was probably hard to put numbers into the results, but the information would have been far more in-depth. The three key factors they found cropping up repeatedly were:
Fear of not fitting in
Women felt “It’s not for people like me" – there is a perception among recreational riders that they would not fit into that type of ride. One recreational rider said: “It’s for lycra-clad whippets, not for the likes of me."
Fear of what might happen on the day
One recently transitioned rider said: “My biggest concern when I was thinking about entering [a challenge ride for the first time] was that I would let everyone down."
Lack of confidence
This is something we've written a lot about at TWC recently and clearly it's something bothering lots of women. A recreational rider said: “In my mind [to enter a challenge ride] you go from pootle rides to Bradley Wiggins overnight."
British Cycling will be using the results to help them encourage more women to take part in events. Their first steps will be encouraging Breeze champions to address fears and boost confidence but they also plan to work with event organisers to make them more female friendly.
Becki Morris, women’s cycling project manager at British Cycling, said: “We are determined to encourage as many women as possible to cycle, and the recommendations from this study which we can now integrate into our work are hugely positive steps."
She added: “We have identified eleven sportives to work with this year to run a pilot project with the objective of gaining different female experiences to share more widely. This will hopefully work towards changing the perception of sportives that some women may have, and breaking down some of the barriers identified in the research."
Though they're an incredible force, British Cycling of course are not the only people able to make a difference.
We recently spoke to Britta and Emma at '2 Wheels and a Piece of Cake', a sportive event company run on a shoe string budget - aiming to put on female only and mixed sex events that are appealing to women.
Speaking about the inspiration behind the events, Emma told us: “We noticed that the atmosphere [at sportives] 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!"
The women make sure their events have roving mechanics, plenty of home-baking on offer at feed stations, and they also organise training rides with local women in the run up to the big day.
At TWC, we're passionate about encouraging more women to ride. Of course, not everyone wants to take part in sportives, but we hate to think of women not riding them out of fear or a feeling of not belonging. We've got a selection of guides, hints and tips to help you out if you're thinking of riding a sportive below.
However, if there's something we're not covering that you think would help, please pop it in the comments so we can get more advice up ASAP!