Background To The Recommended Cycle Clubs Project
There is a lot to be said for cycling with a club.
Clubs are a great place to feel part of a community and make fantastic friends. They can also offer opportunities to push yourself, to develop your skills and to try new aspects of cycling. If your family do not share your passion for all things bicycle, then a club can also be a great place to talk bike with an appreciative audience!
Like so many aspects of cycling, ‘club cycling’ is still very much male dominated.
I refuse to believe that this is because women are not interested in cycling with clubs. After all, women are known for being sociable and enjoying company (although obviously we are all unique and not everybody or every woman wants this). I hear from women all the time who would like to cycle with a club but are too intimidated to go along and try. Sometimes this stems from a negative experience with a club, sometimes it is down to a skewed perception of clubs. Often it is just down to our own lack of self confidence.
I also do not believe that the lack of women in clubs is always down to an unwelcoming attitude from clubs. Clubs have changed so much over the years that if you have had a negative experience with a club in the past, it might be time to give it a second chance. There are clubs which you can read about through this project which are doing incredible work to support more women to join. Yet even these clubs often still have low numbers of female members.
The Recommended Cycle Clubs Project Aims
It is hard to do something new. Turning up, just you and your bike, knowing nobody (yet) to a club ride is likely to feel intimidating.
Reading up on a club on their website is fine, but clubs are run by volunteers who often would rather be out riding their bikes than building a website and keeping it up to date.
There is also no way to create the perfect club for women. There are no concrete guidelines as to what women want from a club because obviously what women want differs massively. We are all unique. Do you want to ride fast? Do you want to ride distance? Do you want to race? Do you want a pathway to become a coach or a ride leader? Are you looking for a club with a great social scene off the bike? Do you want women-only or mixed rides?
Through this project, I want to create a kind of ‘directory’ of cycle clubs which are recommended particularly for women, by the women who cycle with them. What I want to do is to offer information about each club in a similar format so individuals can judge whether a club offers what they are looking for.
The one thing which I think all women (and men) are looking for in a club is to be welcomed and accepted. There is an element of self-selection in this. If a club member or committee has taken the time to contact me and supply information on their club, then you already know that they are a welcoming space for women…otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered.
There are a few important points to note before you use this directory to find a club, or use it to promote your club.
- To include your club as a ‘recommended club, please download the Recommended Club Information Sheet and return it to me with some photos.
- Only one entry per club. Anyone can contribute about their club, but I am asking contributors to check the information with their club committee before submitting it. If you are a member of a club which is featured and you have some fabulous photos you would like added, please do email them in to me. I think the more pictures the better (a picture speaks a thousand words and all that).
- Clubs can amend their page at any time by contacting me. I will also endeavour to send out an annual reminder to all contributors to check their entry. Each club page has the date it was last updated at the bottom.
- Any cycle clubs are welcome to contribute – any level, any discipline, any size! To be included your club does not need to be women only or doing anything in particular to encourage women – you just need to be welcoming.
- If you think this is a good idea, please please help spread the word to more clubs and potential club members.
For those looking for a club:
- All the information about individual clubs is provided by members of those clubs. Much as I would love to set off on a tour of the country joining club runs and writing about them, I think my family might have a few objections to that. I take all information I am provided with on trust. It goes without saying that I am very grateful to all the clubs and individuals who take the time to contribute.
- I will not publish anything negative about clubs. There are a minority of clubs out there who are less friendly than they could be. If you are unlucky enough to turn up to one of these please, please don’t give up – they are the minority. Move on and try another one. Equally, don’t write me a negative ‘review’ of that club because I won’t publish it.
- These pages are still developing and will be constantly added to as the project grows. If there is nothing in your area yet, please check back later. If a club is not in here, that does not mean that it is not a fantastic club, it probably just means that they haven’t had time to contribute yet.
- As above, if you think this is a good idea, please, please help spread the word to more clubs and potential club members.
A really important point about contributing and using the information:
In the form which clubs complete, I ask about what rides the club runs. This information is often in the form of a distance and speed for each ride. I have asked clubs to be really honest about this information. As someone who got dropped from a ride which was going considerably faster than advertised, you really need to know honestly the likely speed and distance of the ride you are thinking of joining.
If you have never ridden in a group before, it is really important to understand that you are likely to be capable of riding faster and further in a group. This is for a for a number of reasons, such as drafting (see here for more) and having other things to focus on (like chatting!).
Make sure you look at the section headed ‘What is the minimum standard you would expect from new club riders?‘. This is a better standard to judge whether or not you are ready for the club.
Also remember that we women can be somewhat prone to underestimating what we can achieve. Be honest with yourself, you’re probably better than you think and certainly better than you publicly admit.
The idea behind including the ‘minimum standard’ information is that honesty about minimum standards for joining a club will benefit everyone. It is not a pleasant experience to struggle with a group you are just not ready for. Equally, having to cut your club run short or significantly drop the pace to accommodate a rider who is in the wrong group, is no fun either. It works both ways.
It’s Not Just About Women
As a woman and a cyclist I have a massive interest in encouraging more women into cycling. However, I do not think it is only women who find the thought of joining a club ride for the first time intimidating.
There is a focus within this project on what clubs are doing to support women, but the vast majority of the clubs included are not women only. The information in the club pages may be equally helpful to men who are looking for a club to join.
There are women out there who want to join a club.
There are clubs out there who want more women to join.
Ultimately, it is the women who want to join who are going to have to take that leap of faith and turn up. Hopefully the information in these pages will help you to decide whether a club is right for you. But chances are it will still feel slightly intimidating when you turn up for your first ride.
Nobody can make that first move for you and the positives of club riding can be huge.
It’s time for the big girl pants (or cycling shorts!)