20 January 2017 4:47:52 PM AEDT
When women race bikes, magical things happen. Whether you’re a race promoter, team captain, bike shop owner, or just someone who wants to race in bigger and more competitive fields, here are 5 tried-and-true methods that you can use to get more beginner women racing bikes...
Make a Team
Having a strong beginner women’s field and having a number of strong women’s teams go hand-in-hand. If there’s a need in your community for a certain type of team that appeals to beginner women, create one! Gather up some friends, come up with a name, write a manifesto, find a couple sponsors, design some sweet kits, and get racing! Then, once you feel like you’ve got a handle on everything, encourage others to do to the same.
Hold Racing Clinics/Info Sessions
Hosting race clinics for different disciplines is a great way to empower women who’ve never raced before to give it a try. Connect with local experts to see if they’ll help lead the clinic and offer advice to new riders. Cover things like what to expect on race days, how to warm up, how to pin a number, what to expect during the race, and what kinds of equipment they’ll need. Tip: You may need to go through your region’s cycling governing body for insurance purposes (in our case, we went through USAC).
Info sessions are another great way to help bridge the knowledge gap between newer and experienced riders. Free (or donation based) classes on nutrition, training, gear, etc. are always helpful.
Host Group/Social Rides
Before race season starts, host an unsanctioned race (alleycat, fixed gear crit, etc) or throw a couple social rides! Both of these are great ways to showcase your sponsors as a team, create an environment for women racers to connect, and practice racing skills like drafting, cornering, or sprinting in a more relaxed setting.
Create an Online Community
Online groups are a great way to organize bike or ride shares, hold each other accountable, and reassure beginners that they’ll see a few friendly faces when they show up to a race (tip: do a social media “roll call” before races to have people informally RSVP and build excitement!).
Go the Extra Mile, It’s Worth It
If you’re a more experienced racer and you see someone who looks like they’re new to racing, introduce yourself, offer to pin their number, ask them how they felt about the race afterwards, and encourage them to come back. Those simple gestures help to welcome in new women who might not have a team yet or are intimidated by racing.
If you’re a race promoter, give beginner women the same amount of attention, resources, and time you give the beginner men. They’re racing just as hard as the beginner men, if not harder (smaller field = less people to draft off of). Don’t make comments about the pace, or chide them for having a smaller field than the men. Support them. Period. Everyone (including you, race promoter!), benefits from more women racing bikes.
*The term “women” applies to anyone who identifies as woman/femme.
Photos & words by Koochella Racing