Cycling | 2 comments
Source: Western Daily Press
Biking’s a breeze for the ladies who love to cycle.
Three times more men than women cycle for fun, according to statistics. Suzanne Savill meets the women hoping to change that in the West Country. Cycling through the Cheddar Gorge is an impressive accomplishment by anyone’s standards.
However, for the three leaders of a group of women who pedaled their way up and down the steep roads that pass through the spectacular limestone cliffs at the weekend, there was a particular sense of achievement.
Emma Ruffle, Madi Hearne, and Anna Winter had never envisaged tackling such a demanding route when they began organizing free group bike rides for women earlier this year, after attending a British Cycling course at Tone Leisure Centre in Taunton.
“We’d finished a ride, and I said jokingly to the women who had taken part that if they’d like to ride up Cheddar Gorge one day we’d take them there,” recalls Emma.
“Then I could hear all these voices saying things like ‘I’d like to go up Cheddar Gorge’, and ‘I’d like to go too’. So we decided to do it.
“When we started the rides in August, the emphasis was very much on holding sociable events. That’s still the case, but the women who have been cycle with us have become so confident it was possible to try something more challenging.”
Emma, Madi and Anna started the rides after gaining British Cycling (Level One Ride Leadership) qualifications by attending the course in Taunton in June. It was arranged by the Breeze network, an organization set up by British Cycling to encourage more women to cycle for fun.
According to British Cycling statistics, men are three times more likely to cycle for fun than women. The Breeze cycling scheme for women – the biggest initiative of its kind – has been set up to tackle this.
Since becoming voluntary Breeze Cycling Champions in charge of North Somerset Breeze Network, Emma, Madi and Anna have organized seven free cycle rides for women along routes including the Strawberry Line and across the Clevedon and Nailsea moors.
Usually about a dozen women take part in the rides, which are always preceded by Emma, Madi and Anna checking on the helmets and bikes of participants, including ensuring helmets fit properly and saddles are at the correct height.
Madi, who lives in the North Somerset village of Winscombe and works as a fitness instructor and Pilates teacher, cycled regularly when her children – now aged 22 and 21 – were younger, but then got into running.
“I got two dogs, and I found running was a good way of exercising them at the same time,” says Madi, who along with Anna attends a weekly running group that Emma holds in Winscombe.
“But I did miss cycling, and when Emma asked if anyone wanted to take part in the Breeze course with her I decided I would.
“I’ve always felt safe cycling, but I’ve spoken to a lot of women who have told me they are nervous of the roads and the traffic, or they don’t like going out cycling on their own, or they don’t know where to cycle.”
Anna, 23, who works as a legal coordinator for an insurance company, says that before becoming a Breeze champion her main experience of cycling had involved going on bike rides with her family.
“I run on my own, and I don’t mind cycling on my own, but I enjoy cycling in a group because it is so sociable,” she says.
“I’ve lived in Churchill all my life, but since we started the Breeze rides I’ve been meeting women who I didn’t even know lived in the area.”
Emma, 38, a personal trainer, adds: “Women seem to have all sorts of doubts, such as thinking they aren’t good enough at cycling, or they aren’t fit enough, or they don’t have the right equipment.
“It’s not mountain biking or anything like that. We go along quiet roads, and the emphasis is upon showing women that the roads are safe for cyclists, and that they have as much right to be on them as drivers.
“There’s always a great atmosphere, with lots of chatting as we cycle along. Then at the end we always go to a café or to a pub.”
The Christmas Breeze Bike Ride in Weston-super-Mare is on Sunday, December 16 at 10am in Weston super Mare. For more information about this or about bike rides in North Somerset in 2013 go to www.facebook.com/bikeridesforwomensomerset or go to the cycling section of Emma’s website www.thebodyworksfitness.co.uk. To find other local group bike rides for women, or to enquire about training courses for group leaders go to www.breezebikerides.com
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