I was lucky enough to spend the month of July in beautiful France and part of that trip was following the Tour de France from Stage 6 until the end. One of the great things about the Tour de France is the camaraderie that exists amongst all the cycling fans waiting by the side of the road each day.
That’s how I found out about the Austin Flyers which is a women’s only cycling club based in Austin, Texas in the USA. Jessica who is a member of the club came up to me and asked if she could have her photograph taken with our inflatable kangaroo, Daisy and of course I said yes. I noticed that Jessica was wearing a T-shirt with the club name on the front and asked her about it. That resulted in us exchanging details and me contacting her when I got home to write this blog post. So with Jessica’s help I posed some questions to club president Kate Sherwin and here’s her responses:
Q: Why have a women’s only club where you are segregated from men?
A: The Austin Flyers chose to be an all-women’s club because we want to provide a supportive, fun and safe environment for women to learn skills, improve their fitness and have a positive experience with cycling. There are a lot of women who just feel more comfortable riding without a bunch of guys. This also allows us to focus on women’s-specific products, from apparel to bikes, and women’s issues related to training, nutrition and fitness.
Q: Do some of your members also belong to unisex clubs?
A: Yes, some of our members also belong to and race for mixed sex clubs and teams. We do not see this as a conflict of interest but rather an opportunity to grow cycling in our community.
Q: How many members do you have? Is that number growing?
A: Our numbers have grown in the past three years. Currently we have just over 100 members.
Q: Do you get good support from sponsors? What sort of feedback do you get from them?
A: We strive to build mutually beneficial, sustainable relationships with our sponsors, and in turn we get phenomenal support from them. We are selective about who we approach for sponsorship, choosing only those we feel we can have this type of relationship. We receive good feedback from our sponsors, partly because we frequently check in with them and evaluate the success of our programs with them.
Q: I notice on your website that the club had shifted its focus to a more grassroots level. Why?
We feel this is the best way to grow the women’s cycling community – from the ground up.
Q: Do you know of other women’s cycling clubs in Texas or the US?
A. Certainly! Locally we support other women’s clubs by attending or promoting their events. On a national level, we try to learn from other clubs that are working well, for example we think that the Sturdy Girl club in PA is a good model http://www.sturdygirlcycling.com/.
Q: I noted that one of your sponsors is Mellow Johnny’s, does Lance Armstrong have anything to do with the club?
A. Mellow Johnny’s is one of the Flyers’ largest sponsors, but Lance himself doesn’t have any hands-on role in the club. The Flyers represent his shop as ride leaders, and support the Livestrong Foundation and the Livestrong ride. But that’s as close to Lance as we get. He’s welcome to ride with us any time!
If you want to know more about the club then visit their website.