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Building Community Among Female Riders

Women are far from a homogenous demographic. From spinning classes for fitness to leisurely rides on the weekend with family; from Spandex racers to Cycle Chic urban commuters, women represent the full spectrum of riding styles and motivations.

But one tie binds many of us: We all love that sense of community.

In our first report — Women on a Roll — we identified Community as one of the 5 Cs of Women’s Bicycling. Why? Because women aren’t just getting out and riding individually; they’re growing existing groups and initiating new collectives that are expanding female ridership.

Women already play a major role in some of the nation’s largest cycling events and the number of women’s rides and riding groups are increasing exponentially. Whether the Illinois Women Cyclists (aimed at racers), or the Heels and 2 Wheels ride series in Columbus, Ohio (geared toward social city excursions), women are riding for charity, competition and, perhaps most importantly, social connection.

Just a few key findings from our report:

  • 42% of American women say “people to ride with” would encourage them to ride — or ride more.
  • The top reasons women ride include Fun (73%), Fitness (69%) and Recreation (45%).
  • Women are significantly more likely than men to ride as a “family activity” (31% vs 18%).
  • Women make up a significant share of charity rides: In 2012, nearly 43,000 women (37% of all riders) pedaled MS150 rides and 25,000 (40% of all riders) joined a Tour de Cure ride.
  • Women are increasing among racers, too: In 2012, only 13% of USA Cycling members were women, but road and mountain races licenses increased 10% and 11% respectively from the previous year.

Since we launched Women Bike earlier this year, we’ve featured a wide range of female-oriented groups, from the national (and international) solidarity of CycloFemme, to the urban ranks of WE Bike NYC to the more race-focused Fort Collins Follies. Just a couple of weeks ago at Interbike, the largest bike industy trade show of the year, I had the good fortune of running into Shawn Brett, the marketing and development director for the Tulsa Tough ride in Oklahoma. Inspired by our Women Bike webinars and resources he created a new group that took off immediately: the Tulsa Tough Divas.

The mission was clear: “Promote and support cycling for women of all ages, experience and abilities, and build a women’s-only network so participants have someone of similar abilities and interest with whom to ride.” In less than six months, the group grew to nearly 200 members, with women ranging from age 15 to 67. And, on race day, there was a sea of pink Diva jerseys.

“The Divas program helped me overcome the intimidation of joining well-established events,” said Jessica Brent (31). “I’ve wanted to try these rides for years but needed someone to leade the way.”

“I enjoy coming together with other women to better ourselves and share part of our lives with one another in a fun, healthy way,” said Denise Bayer (52).

“Divas make me feel awesome on or off my bike,” said Jessie Thiel (61).

How are women coming together to create community in your area? Tell us in our Women & Equity Survey so we can share your stories, too!

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