As we don our arm warmers, vests and fleece-lined bottoms, we’re wrapping up our season and taking account of our inaugural year as Long Island’s only women’s cycling club and team. Kim recently posted about our race results, and there are still more to report by the week, as our cyclocross ladies are out there doing their thing. But for the moment, I would like to reflect on an aspect of building a women’s cycling organization that epitomizes what this year taught us.
Last year at this time, we opened up registration for Live Love Velo for the very first time. Our initial goal was to start parallel teams, a race team and a “club team”. We anticipated that we’d have about twelve women on our race team and that the club would be comprised of another five to six women who would be development riders, improving their skills and entering a few races by season’s end.
We never imagined the passion that we would uncover among the women in our Long Island cycling community. The interest in the Live Love Velo club outpaced our expectations, but over time, it was clear that our club members wanted something a little different than what we had initially offered. Our members were delighted to have like-minded women with whom to ride and were grateful for the clinics we provided. LLV offered the opportunity to learn all kinds of cycling-related matter from more experienced riders and expert coaches, without the intimidation factor.
Some club members were indeed interested in racing, but others agreed to try a couple of beginner races just to meet the requirements that we had set. Clearly, the most compelling part of membership for everyone was the support and camaraderie of other women cyclists.
We got that. We listened to the feedback and the big picture came into focus. We ditched the race requirement for club members and put in place more structure for upcoming group rides, so that club members can look to members of the race team for mentorship.
Camaraderie and mentorship. That’s what it boils down to. Whether looking to buy a first bike to start riding for fitness, or wondering how to get involved in the local race scene, women often need a little support and guidance to navigate the big bike world.
Statistics show that fewer than 25% of ridership nationally is comprised of women. That number is on the rise, but based on what I see while riding on Long Island, I would put my guess at under 15% female ridership around here. Perhaps cycling is seen more as a men’s pursuit, or maybe infrastructure problems make getting on a bike in most urban and suburban areas impractical or intimidating.
Another piece of the puzzle is that many women don’t pursue cycling until they are post college-age. Certainly the dearth of organized cycling clubs in public schools and universities doesn’t help. But women are often amenable to taking up cycling as adults and there are many examples of women who have discovered a passion for cycling– or a talent for racing– as an adult.
Certainly one of the most well-known examples of this is Evelyn Stevens, professional cyclist and US Olympian, who was working on Wall Street when she started dabbling in local and regional races, and winning every single one of them.
For me, it was a charity ride, in memory of my brother, that got me to go out and buy a bike. Had it not been for that tragic and unexpected circumstance, I may well have still been heading to the gym a couple of times a week (at best) for a mishmash of classes. But when I got on that bike, the sense of adventure and the feeling of “can-do” transformed me. At 37, I began to regard myself as an athlete for the first time in my life. Every day I am grateful for the many ways that cycling has benefitted me.
No matter the reason for wanting to see more women on bikes– health, fitness, social and emotional welfare, environmental, economic, or advancing the sport itself–we see Live Love Velo as a means to that end. Giving women the opportunity to discover how cycling can fit into their lives, and helping them to learn the basics in a safe, supportive and encouraging environment will encourage more women to start riding. Some may use cycling as a social outlet, others as a means of keeping themselves healthy. Still others may see it as an activity that they can do together with their children, while being a role model for an active lifestyle. Regardless of what motivates them, once they start, odds are they’ll discover that there’s more than one reason to continue, to learn more, develop their ability and maybe even compete. It’s all good. The future is two-wheeled. Join us!
You can become a member of Live Love Velo. Register here!
Please spread the word. Share this post with friends, and let them know that we’re here and ready to welcome them as a member of Live Love Velo!
Live Love Velo is Long Island’s only women’s cycling team. We are a results-driven race team where women can share their love for cycling in a safe, supportive, and encouraging environment. In addition to our competitive race team, we offer a club-level team, focusing on skill acquisition and development. We aim to be a positive and inspirational force for women’s health, fitness, and camaraderie in our Long Island community.