Women & Bike Riding – The Intimidation Factor

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I’ve been talking to a lot of women lately about bike riding, & I’ve asked a lot of questions. Do you bike ride, where do you ride, why don’t you ride?

I knew nothing about bike riding when I moved to Colorado in 1989. The intimidation factor was high! Sure, I knew how to ride a bike. I’d learned in my granddaddy’s driveway, and I tooled around a lot as a kid. But, I didn’t start actively riding a bike until I moved to Colorado at the age of 32. I didn’t know the first thing about bicycle maintenance, how to choose a bike, or where to ride.

Lucky for me, I have a good friend who helped me figure these things out. I bought a turquoise blue & pink Specialized Hard Rock, and I beat up the bike paths around Colorado. I even rode that Specialized on my first long-distance ride, the MS 150. And yes, it was intimidating to ride a mountain bike in a long-distance ride, with cyclists passing me on road bikes. Mentally, I told myself I was in better shape having trained and ridden on a heavier bike, & I compensated by putting on slick tires.

I’ve come to realize that the intimidation factor (aka fear) came in many forms for me as a late-blooming woman bike rider. Here are a few that came to mind:

– I don’t know what kind of bike to buy/ride

– I don’t have the right kind of bike

– I don’t want to ride alone

– I’m afraid of getting lost, caught in weather [insert fear here]

– I want to learn to ride a bike but can’t find anyone to teach me or give me guidance

– As an adult woman, I’m embarrassed that I don’t know how to ride a bike

– I haven’t ridden a bike in years

– I’m afraid of traffic

– I don’t know how to change a tire or fix a chain

– I’m not fit enough to ride

– I can’t keep up

– Long distance rides are too hard

– I don’t know what questions to ask when I go into a bike shop

– Bike riding is geared for men

– I feel REALLY intimidated by hard-core, strong women cyclists who look fantastic in lycra

I’m happy to report that I’ve overcome many of the fears associated with riding a bike as a woman (ok, I still fell REALLY intimidated by hard-core, strong women cyclists who look fantastic in lycra).  But guess what? I’ll never be as hard core, as strong or look as good in cycling gear as they do. And that’s ok.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, women accounted for just 24 percent of bicycle trips in the U.S.  in 2009. The League launched Women Bike, which is the first national advocacy initiative to encourage, engage and elevate more women bicyclists in the United States. Plus, bike riding is great for reducing women’s risk of heart disease! I encourage you to check the League out here.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you struggle with similar issues as a women bike rider? Or, have you helped other women overcome similar or different issues? Sharing your story  may be exactly what another woman needs to hear to help her overcome her fears and become a confident bike rider. We can overcome our fears together! Send your comments and I’ll post them in a related blog. Or, post your comments on our Facebook page.

P.S. If anyone you know is struggling with bike riding, please share this post!

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