Choose To Challenge!

by Alina

Ladies, we got this! ‑ #Choosetochallenge
I have opened up discussions about inequality in cycling before. With today marking international women’s day, it is only appropriate that I post about the world of women’s cycling and open the floor to see if you believe that the cycling community is all‑inclusive.  

My mission is to inspire women to get on their bikes and spread the information we can’t necessarily find online as a woman. I am not writing this to spread negativity or encourage any animosity towards men or anyone else on this beautiful earth. However, I do feel compelled to bring it to your attention if only to reassure you that you are not alone. If any men are reading this, I hope this helps you to understand how (perhaps sometimes subconsciously) your words and actions make women feel. 

I would love to empower more women to get in lycra and experience the liberation that comes from cycling and experiencing the world from two wheels under your own steam. I can only talk from experience and share how I was made to feel when I was starting out cycling. By being honest and open with each other, I hope, we can join forces and create a cycling community that ignores gender, age, and race. Instead, use our collective voice and experience to better the cycling world and the future of humanity. 

Arriving in Amsterdam with my friend Susi after 200 km of bike packing. We couldn’t be any happier, such an amazing girls trip!

Empowering women to discover the joys of cycling

March 8th is International women’s day, so I am focusing on the inequality towards females in cycling. However, I do not want to be misinterpreted to sound as if ALL men are in the wrong here. The industry is male‑dominated, but already in recent years, women are starting to be represented much better (Womens pro cyclist is finally on television…). There is a long way to go, but I am proud of those who have gone before me and fought for women to have the same opportunities as men.

A bicycle does not discriminate, and the joy of cycling can be felt, shared, and embraced by all humans that are fortunate to experience riding a bike. On a day such as today, we need to take a moment to be grateful for the opportunities we do have while also being able to have an open discussion about what can be done further to help ensure that ALL cyclists feel valued and part of the cycling community. 

Choose to challenge

The theme or strapline of International Women’s Day in 2021 by @ridecannondale was #Choosetochallenge. This is an empowering statement that reminds us that we have a choice to bring positive change to ourselves, our lives, and our community. It is not promoting hate or fear but pushing you to be curious and ask the questions that until now you may have been hesitant to ask.

My challenges to the cycling industry are:

Why aren’t components made for small hands? ‑ get the big stuff out the way first ‑ Yes, this transcends gender, but it has been an ongoing frustration for me throughout my cycling journey. All levers seem to be just out of reach of my tiny fingers. This can not only be a personal experience. I should not have to stretch or strain to change gears or pull the brakes. 

Why do most bikes come with men’s saddles? Surely at the checkout, they could ask whether you want a men’s or women’s saddle? It would be little to no extra cost to the bike shop and would 100% encourage women to feel like they are being represented and not give up soon after receiving their new bike due to discomfort. 

Unisex cycling apparel is men’s clothing with a sizing guide to “match” women’s sizes. Why can we not celebrate our physique and have a wider range of clothing to choose from that fits our bodies just as well as it fits men. I understand that there may not be the same “market” for women’s cycling clothing. Still, we are certainly going in the right direction, and I hope that more and more clothing brands see the potential of creating attractive, comfortable, and empowering apparel for women cyclists. 

My challenges to you as a current or future cyclist are:

#1 – Do not let the fear of being patronized stop you from asking questions or being curious. Mansplaining has no place in cycling or anywhere else for that matter. We need to empower each other. My challenge is for us all to have empathy and compassion for our fellow men and women. If someone needs help or advice, then share what you can that is relevant. If you do not know the answer, then be honest and ask the community. Do not let the “Nigel know it alls” in this world silence your voice. We have a right to have an opinion and can share and discuss it as we see fit. 

#2 – The cycling community is dominated by men. If this intimidates or puts women off from cycling, then we (female cyclists) need to be more vocal. Do not let the majority rule the community. There is plenty of cycling for all of us. By encouraging each other, our friends and our family to jump on the bike we will grow the community of female cyclists and force the industry to respond. 

Let’s close the gap together

Just one example of the inequality in professional cycling is the prize money awarded to the winners of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (One of the six Flanders Classics spring races). Anna Van Der Breggen earned 5.5% of the price money, compared to the men’s winner Davide Ballerini who netted 94.5%. I appreciate that a lot of prize money is donated by sponsors, so the more viewers, the more money will be ‘allocated’ to that event. But, come on, nearly 95% going to the men just does not seem fair. 

How to help close the inequality gap in cycling:

  • Watch Women’s cycling
  • Follow women’s teams and riders on social media
  • Encourage women to try the sport
  • Highlight and discuss the issue of inequality
  • Buy from brands that support women’s cycling

‘The bicycle has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.’

Susan B. Anthony

By engaging with female cyclists and supporting the professionals we can help to build a close knit community that will drive a positive change in the cycling community. We may not be facing the same affront to our rights as Susan B. Anthony fought to overturn, however we cannot sit back and let the cycling industry continue to openly promote sexism or inequality (in any form). 

Cycling is (Female) Empowerment

I have written a blog article about this previously as I feel so passionate about the subject. For me cycling is empowering as it has helped me reaslise just how powerful and strong I am. To truly learn how strong you are, you need to be able to push beyond limiting beliefs and what you thought was your limit. 

Cycling can and does empower women to realise their own potential and have some bloody fun while also staying healthy. I want this day to be about solidarity, a collective decision to look out for each other and bolster our campaign to bring true equality to the cycling community. 

Today is about love, we should focus on the solutions and not the problem. As far as I can tell by celebrating and supporting each other we can and will make the men and antiquated systems and organisations see that female cyclists are freaking awesome and deserve just as much recognition and reward as the men. 

And do not forget we female cyclists have each others back. We are on the same team and by working together, realising and harnessing our own power there is nothing that can stop us (a puncture or menstrual cramps might slow us down a bit). 

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