Author Archives: Nicola

Women’s cycling participation – the latest research

imageI’m always interested in research relating to women’s cycling. It helps me and others understand what barriers women see to cycling. Is it the lack of safe places to ride? Is it the blokey bike shops? Is it that they have to wear a helmet even for a short trip? (in Australia where I live helmets are mandatory for any type of bike).

A US group called PeopleForBikes commissioned the US Bicycling Participation Study in late 2014. They measured all kinds of riding by all kinds of people, including women. Here are six important and interesting findings from the study:

1. The gap between men and women isn’t so large

They surveyed more than 16,000 individuals and weighted that sample to represent the US population and found that 104 million people—a third of the population—rode a bicycle last year and of those, 45 million (43%) were women compared to 59 million men (57%). The findings revealed less of a gender gap than the 2009 National Household Travel Survey which (using a different methodology) found that just 24% of bicycle trips were made by women.

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Self-guided cycle tours around the world

imageI was contacted recently by a company called Pure Adventures that offers self-guided cycling tours around the world and when I looked into the detail I realised they are exactly the type of cycling tour I’d like to do myself.

Self-guided touring offers almost all the conveniences of a guided trip with more flexibility and personalised style and the cost is closer to doing it yourself. In short, Pure Adventures organises the itinerary for you, books the hotels, arranges luggage transfers, hands over the maps and instructions and off you go. Sounds like an ideal to way to tour on a bike to me.

Durations can be modified to meet your needs, hotels are available for many budgets and there is no minimum participation, eliminating the threat of cancellation by the operator.

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Happy 4th birthday Women Who Cycle

imageYou’ll have to forgive me for this slightly self-indulgent post but I’m really proud of myself. I’ve been writing Women Who Cycle for four years. My first post was on 13 August 2011 and ever since then I’ve been writing a weekly post to share with the world. That’s around 200 posts on all sorts of topics.

During those four years my own life has changed quite a bit and I hope through reading my posts there are other female (or even male) cyclists who can say the same. Since I bought my first road bike nearly seven years ago, cycling has had a positive impact on my life. I know it sounds dramatic, but it is completely true that riding a bike on a regular basis has changed my life in a number of ways.

Writing this blog on a weekly basis has given my life a real purpose. It’s not that I was unhappy or without purpose before cycling, and before this blog began, but I really feel it’s my life’s mission to share the positive benefits of riding with other women.

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Top tips for following the Tour de France

imageMy partner and I have just finished our third trip to the Tour de France so I thought I would share a few tips for following the mighty race. I know it’s not strictly a women’s cycling topic but I know many female (and male) cyclists who would like to undertake a similar trip.

Choose your transport wisely

Lots of people follow the Tour in campervans but it can also be tackled by car and either camping of staying in hotels. We hired a campervan so I can’t really tell you about the other options and in my opinion a camper is the ideal way to see it. You can park at the side of the road in just about any location making it completely flexible.

If you go with the camper option make sure you book early. A lot of companies are booked out in October the year before because that’s when the full route for the following year is announced. Also make sure you check inclusions on the hire like bed linen/towels, kitchen equipment and outdoor furniture. A lot of hire companies charge extra for just about everything.

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Bravo to La Course by Le Tour de France

imageA lot of others wrote about La Course by Le Tour de France before the race took place on Sunday. Many wrote about its significance for women’s cycling and I definitely agree with them. I had the pleasure of watching La Course on French TV in the middle of a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon in a bar appropriately named Cafe de Paris in the French Alps.

I was keen to watch it to see the women’s pro peloton race in front of such a huge audience but also for the pure enjoyment of seeing them race. Unfortunately for the riders it rained throughout the race which meant there were quite a few crashes and plenty of abandonments. I found it exciting to watch and really admire the women who made it to the finish line. It was predicted to conclude in a bunch sprint but a dutch rider, Anna Van Der Breggen from the Rabo team broke away right near the end and survived to cross the line first.

La Course is in its second year and as a standalone event it’s not really a big deal. Just one 89 km race around the city of Paris. The reason it’s so important is what it represents. It’s organised by the Tour de France to show their support of women’s racing which to me is really symbolic.

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Will cycling make my thighs bigger?

imageI’ve had a few women comment about their fear that cycling could make their thighs bigger so I thought I’d do a bit of research and clear this one up. In short, cycling will not make your thighs larger. In fact in my own case I’ve slimmed down in my thigh and bottom area since I took up cycling, even though I actually weigh more than I previously did.

Here’s a few reasons why your legs are not going to expand:

Muscle is leaner than fat

Muscle weighs a lot more than fat. Cycling will change the shape of your legs, but unless you’re doing a lot of squats, and maintaining the same levels of fat (by eating a lot), you’re not likely to get “bigger”.

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Podium girls are outdated

imageI know this will probably not be a popular post with traditionalists, but I’m of the view that podium girls at men’s professional cycling races belong in another era and need to go. For me this topic is very top-of-mind because my partner Phillip and I are currently following the Tour de France in a campervan and I write this from the foothills of the great Pyrenees.

The use of pretty women on podiums is demeaning to all women. It says that women are there just to look good in photographs, and to compliment the athleticism of men. I know that women line up for the privilege of standing beside a man on the podium. Apparently 500 apply every year. Most are models who see it as an opportunity to get a break and perhaps to travel around France for three weeks. I’m not trying to say that these women are worthless, but they are putting themselves forward as trophies not human beings.

When Peter Sagan pinched one of them on the derriere a few years ago I actually thought it was pretty funny. To me he was pointing out how stupid the role of podium girl actually is to many people. Instead it was interpreted as rudeness and he was forced to apologise to her. Maybe we take it all a bit too seriously.

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Loren Rowney – enjoying the European life and racing her bike

Loren RowneyI caught up with Aussie pro cyclist Loren Rowney a couple of weeks ago via email. Loren is a member of the Velocio-SRAM women’s team. Some of you may know it by its former name Specialized-lululemon. Over to Loren.

Q: How did you get started in cycling?
When I was 13, I went to watch my brother race a local club race on the Easter weekend. I spotted a girl from my neighborhood, whom I was competitive with, racing the men. And thought to myself, “hey, if she can race a bunch of men, so can I”. I wanted to beat her. The funny thing is I am still best friends with that girl today.

Q: You’re probably sick of being asking about your famous crash so I won’t dwell on the details, but can you tell me how you recovered both physically and mentally from such a high profile incident? How hard was it to get back on the bike?
The first two weeks were really painful and frustrating because I didn’t have any answers as to why or who even, caused this crash. I’m a hyperactive person, so being confined to a small apartment wasn’t fun. It was the spring too, and I had big ambitions for all the races I was now going to miss. I’ll admit, I got depressed and it was very challenging mentally to come back. I’m still struggling a bit now.

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Giro Rosa 2015 competing for coverage

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Marianne Vos on the 2014 Giro Rosa podium

I know I’ve whinged about this before but it’s very disappointing that the only Grand Tour of the women’s pro cycling calendar, the Giro Rosa is run at the same time as the Tour de France. It actually starts with a prologue on Friday, 3 July, the day before the TdF begins but it’s not surprising that it receives very little media attention.

As a fan of women’s pro cycling it’s pretty disappointing to line it up against the biggest race on the men’s calendar.

Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv Women) won last year’s edition in commanding style, winning four of the race’s ten stages and holding the race lead from the second day. Her teammates Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Anna van der Breggen joined her on the podium.

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Great news – Cycling improves your brain health

Brain cyclingI recently read an interesting article about how cycling is great for your brain health. I find this area of study quite fascinating. It seems that only 10 or 15 years ago, the learned professionals in the study of the brain were saying that our brains are relatively unchangeable and simply deteriorate as we age. Now it seems there are lots of people saying that the brain is far more malleable than we originally thought and I think it’s great news. So I’ve plagiarised the article I read and provide a summary here. I also found that undertaking a simple Google search on this topic brought up some other really interesting material.

Several new studies have found that cycling improves the way your brain works by making several important structures bigger so you can think faster, remember more, and feel happier.

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