In a world where more and more women are participating in athletic competition, why does cycling remain such a male-dominated sport? Just go watch your local bike race and it is easy to see that significantly more men are taking the line than women. But it hasn't always been this way. The history of women and cycling is actually quite strong.
At the end of the 19th century, women were gaining more rights and viewed more as equals to their male counterparts than ever before. The bicycle turned out to be a big part of the movement towards equality by giving women the power to travel further distances alone without having to rely on their male counterparts. Susan B. Anthony, a woman's rights advocate, claimed that the bicycle had "done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."
If the bicycle did so much for women in the past, why is it that the modern sport of cycling struggles to recruit talented women? There must be a reason why there were over 100 male riders in the under 23 category at the recent U.S. National Championships and fewer than 15 women cyclists in the same category.
In order to fix this problem, there are simple solutions that all cyclists can take part in—and you don't have to be a woman to make a difference. Here are five ways you can help women get more involved and motivated about the sport of cycling.
Create an Inviting Environment
The first step to increasing participation in women's cycling is to simply get more women on bikes! Creating a community for women to feel more comfortable and to participate together is crucial. Dedicated events like bike tours that benefit women-specific charities or all-female events are a way to draw more women to the bike. Building a feeling of community creates enthusiasm for the sport—exactly what women's cycling needs to increase involvement.
Another way to create an inviting environment is to organize a women-only group ride centered around teaching new cyclists about safety and the basic skills needed to ride alongside others on the road. There are also skills clinics for women who are new to the sport help to build confidence on the bike without making anyone feel intimidated. It also creates a relaxed environment where women can learn from other passionate female cyclists who are able to offer mentorship and encouragement.