On Riding Bikes & Being Female

Watch out for these girls in pink. They’re going places!

Over the last two years or so, more and more attention has been given to the gender inequality in the sport of cycling. Slowly, more and more events are offering equal payout to male and female competitors, and slowly, progress is being made to encourage girls and women to join the sport. While I greatly appreciate both of these things and wholeheartedly endorse the #moregirlsonbikes and #morewomenonbikes movements, I generally just like riding my bike, and don’t take too much time to worry about the politics of it.

Last week, I attended one of the very first initiative meetings for getting a local NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) team up and rolling. (Exciting!). Several of the NICA guidelines for rides, coaching, and racing are directed to the equality of the sport, including a rule about team scoring that requires one of the top four (scored) riders to be female, meaning that a team can’t have all male riders. This is cool, and beyond ensuring that girls are merely on a team, ensures that they are valued, because their score counts too. All of that being said, the question at the meeting was, “How do we get girls interested?”

I’m not entirely sure how valid that question is. I think it is honestly more about exposure. Of my sixth graders, only one or two had ever heard of mountain biking until I became their teacher. Many of the women I know who are cyclists (myself included) wish that they had gotten involved earlier, if they would have only known about it.

Then, on Sunday, I had the awesome opportunity to meet two middle-school aged girls for a training ride at a nearby mountain bike trail. Their coach had suggested we train together for an upcoming race, and so we did: we followed their workout guidelines, and had a blast doing it! Afterwards, we all talked about how fun and unusual it was to be able to ride with other females. A variety of reasons were named: not enough fast girls in the area, too much drama among female riders, a sense of competitiveness that caused divisions, etc. Those last two reasons are disappointing.

I’m as competitive as anyone, but realize that healthy, friendly competition can only make both riders better. If we aren’t willing to ride together just because we are on different teams, or prefer different bike shops/brands, then we aren’t helping anyone. The girls and I are racing each other this coming weekend. That doesn’t make me any less eager to help them train–in fact, I hope they beat me. It would force me to ride and train harder, which would only help me in the long run. And drama… don’t even get me started. I really can’t handle it. Can’t we just all ride bikes and be friends?

Perhaps the Joker and Peter Sagan were right…

Why so serious?

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