Not the only girl in the club

Apart from an occasional guest I’ve been the only girl in my cycling club for 2 years. Hoping to change this I decided to start a monthly, ladies social ride, an opportunity for ladies to ride together and be part of Ampthill Velo Club. In my advertising I let the ladies know basic mechanical support would be available on the ride, if required and no one would be left behind. This ride is inclusive; all ages and abilities are welcome. I planned a route, staying local, 20 miles in distance with a stop off halfway at a local cyclist café, the Bike Bus in Cranfield. It’s a converted double decker bus, on a farm. They serve excellent coffee, delicious homemade cakes, cyclists flock there every weekend and the banter is always lively.

I advertised the ride on Facebook and via word of mouth. As the days passed, in the lead up to the date 7 ladies signed up to ride. I was a little overwhelmed by the response as the first ride coincided with the Easter Bank holiday weekend. On the actual day, the weather was a bit bleak, cold and windy and we even felt some rain so I was really happy to see 5 of the registered ladies show up but also another 2 join the ride.

I work as an Event Producer so I applied some of my job skills to the planning of this ‘event’. Before the ride started I did a short briefing, I was aware one of the ladies had experience of club riding but all of the others were new. Learning the skills of club riding would give everyone a better ride and help keep all participants safe. I explained the basics of group riding going through the signals, calling for cars, pointing at pot holes and other obstructions in the road, signaling when moving out and passing a parked vehicle or walker/runner in the road, how we slow for horses and signal we’re passing by calling out ‘good morning’ as this can prevent the horse from becoming frightened. I talked through formation riding and explained the route that included 2 significant hills. We have some decent hills in Bedfordshire, unfortunately nothing very long but they get your lungs and legs pumping. We took on Cranfield before our stop and Ridgmont on our route home. We also had the descent of Cranfield after our stop and it was interesting to learn, as many ladies didn’t enjoy descending as ascending.

The range of abilities through the group varied but we all managed to stay together and there was some great formation riding through the session. The ladies worked well together and most importantly everyone had a great time. The feedback and response has been really positive and we’re all set to ride again next month, ongoing we’ll meet the first Saturday of every month. I’m no longer the only girl in the club and I’m really proud of what we’ve started.

Riding up Ridgmont in sweet formation
Riding up Ridgmont in sweet formation

No one gets left behind, we always stop and regroup
No one gets left behind, we always stop and regroup

Destroying the hills
Destroying the hills

We ride all the hills, together we made all of them to the top
We ride all the hills, together we made all of them to the top

Another 2 ladies joined our ride at the Bike Bus so 8 became 10 for the ride home
Another 2 ladies joined our ride at the Bike Bus so 8 became 10 for the ride home

The only boy in the club, along for the ride and the cake my ride buddy Darren joined us to help out on the day
The only boy in the club, along for the ride and the cake my ride buddy Darren joined us to help out on the day

My smile says it all, so happy to be out with these ladies and enjoying the ride
My smile says it all, so happy to be out with these ladies and enjoying the ride

Post ride lunch and happiness
Post ride lunch and happiness

The perils of night riding

I’ve been riding with the club, midweek at night over the last months. It was an initiative of one of the club members, to keep our miles up in the winter. If we all got together and rode in a group it would be safer and we’d be more motivated to keep it up. One of the things that surprised me, that I found most difficult about riding in the dark is returning my bidon to the cage when riding at speed.

I was adding an extra light to the front of my bike tonight because only 2 of us were going out. However with my Garmin on one side of my handlebar and my other light on the other side I didn’t have any space for another light. Just as I was about to put the light away, I had an idea. I tried it for size around the stem and it fitted perfectly with the light pointing down. This gave a nice glow of light towards my bidon. Voila an illuminated bidon and safer night riding for me.

Illuminated bidon
Illuminated bidon

Only girl in the club

The week after Ride 100 I finally got to start riding with my local club, Ampthill Velo Club. They were a newly formed, social group, they ride out from our local town, every Sunday morning at 08:00. My Mum read about them in a local magazine and suggested I go out with them. I’d been looking for a new club ride since I’d moved to the area. I’d tried to ride with them on a few occasions before Ride 100 to help with my training but with a young daughter 08:00 starts can be quite difficult. It’s not the getting up, we’re usually up it’s leaving so early and getting back at lunchtime or later, feeling brain dead after exerting yourself, being left with no energy to look after a baby for the rest of the day. That’s the biggest problem. As I was working in London Monday – Friday my time with Savannah in the week was limited to 1 or 2 hours per evening when I got home so taking up one of my precious weekend days seemed quite selfish on my part.

However on this day I made it along, wrecked with nerves and still very tight legs from the week before. Ampthill Velo Club (AVC) quite proudly publish their riding speed as 16 – 17mph average, this isn’t the type of club ride where other riders pick up the slower riders at the back. If you’re slow you get dropped. This is a club of good, strong, fast riders. Given I’d ridden 100 miles the week before at 18.2mph I prayed with some optimism I’d be OK.

I arrived at the town square, I was early and the first one there. This is a terrible habit of mine; I waste a lot of hours of my life being early. After a short wait the riders soon started to appear and all very politely introduced themselves. I was wearing my Prudential Ride London 100 Jersey, not because I wanted everyone to know I’d done the ride but because it was the nearest match jersey I had to the AVC jersey. I didn’t want to stand out anymore than I would; I was the only girl in this club. My jersey did start conversation, the other riders asked me about the event and we quickly got on to the subject of times. Some other AVC riders had also ridden the event. When I told them my time I remember Richard reeling off a list of numbers that I can’t remember completely but he said, Nicole it appears you’re our fastest rider in the Ride 100 event. I wasn’t quite sure where to put my face, I didn’t know if this would get me off to a good or bad start on my first day.

Wearing my AVC jersey in Woburn deer park
Wearing my AVC jersey in Woburn deer park
Out on a club run, the boys come together to fix a broken derailleur
Out on a club run, the boys come together to fix a broken derailleur
I'm hanging out at the back on a club run
I’m hanging out at the back on a club run

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