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Top tips on how not to discourage even more women off the road and out of the sport

This week a BT Sport survey found that 80 per cent of women athletes polled felt pressure to conform to a certain look and body type.

Hold that thought for a second - the vast majority of athletes, women at the top of their game physically, are facing pressure from the media, social media, coaches, sports officials and other athletes to look a certain way - as Rebecca Adlington put it on that jungle programme through a curtain of tears: ‘stick thin, big boobs and a pretty face.’

76 of the athletes said their behaviour had been influenced - so they might change their diet (87 per cent), or their training (58 per cent). One athlete said she developed an eating disorder, while another said: “Sometimes it has meant my diet no longer is optimum for performance but becomes optimum for looking slimmer/thinner....which isn't my body type.”

Perhaps some of the pressure comes from the way women athletes are constantly being pursued to pose naked - although perhaps the highest profile British woman pro cyclist, Victoria Pendleton, didn’t seem too concerned about going nude in GQ magazine before the Olympics.

“I don’t suppose it does bother me really,” she said. “I have done a few sexy photoshoots, I’ve been told I’ve got a nice bum, plus when I compete I am wearing a skin suit, so really, what’s the difference?”

Having said that, she’s also said that she was ‘saddened’ to have her muscles airbrushed out of media images, to make her look ‘more feminine’, and told BT Sport this week: “I think that it would be really valuable if women were celebrated for their achievements more.”

It’s easy to think these superstars should get over it - stop looking at the abuse on Twitter, ignore the insecurity and think of the pound signs - but there’s a more insidious side to all of this.

Women already battle a number of reasons not to get on a bike every day. From bike shop assistants who don’t understand women’s cycling needs or patronise them, to employers who don’t provide showers or decent changing facilities, to clubs that don’t know how to cater to women, to traffic fears when cycling with children - the list of reasons not to get onto a saddle can seem endless.

The Australian Heart Foundation’s report into women and cycling last year found the need to transport children and cycling clothes being unfashionable were the reasons a third of women gave for men cycling more than them.

Whether or not you think these are valid excuses to choose a car over a bike, it’s hard to argue it’s a good thing these women aren’t cycling.

So let’s not give women any more reasons to leave the bike at home.

 

Here’s how not to be a dick to a female cyclist in six simple steps*

 

1. Do not fetishise her

Women on bikes don’t want your pervy comments any more than they want your rude ones. Victoria Pendleton probably gets a tiny bit of sick in her mouth every time some guy tells her how much he likes to look at her in cycling shorts.

Many women already feel self-conscious putting it all on show, so make like you haven’t noticed it, okay?

If you have some creepy thing about tight Lycra, keep it to yourself, or look online for some like-minded weirdos to share it with instead.

2. Do not harass her

I know you might not be one of them, but those guys exist. The ones who shout things out of car windows, or worse, film your arse as you ride along (yep, it happens). Don’t do it - it’s probably illegal and it’s never ended well for any guy who’s tried it with me.

3. Don’t put mean comments under reviews of women’s clothing

When we review women’s clothing at road.cc, we do it so women know whether a bit of gear is worth forking out for. When we photograph a woman wearing it, we do it so she gets a vague idea of whether she likes the look of it.

What we don’t do is photograph it so you get to leer all over that woman in tight clothing, comment on whether or not she is ‘really’ a cyclist or suggest some super-helpful diet or exercise tips for her to look more like a ‘real’ cyclist.

Besides being unpleasant for the woman in the picture, take a second to think about how an 'ordianary' woman thinking about taking up riding is going to feel about the reception she might get.

4. Don’t put mean comments under reviews of men’s clothing, either

One of our male reviewers often gets mocked for being too skinny, and some bloke last week decided to point out that he doesn’t have 'proper cyclists legs' - which was quite funny as he's just got a semi-pro contract with a Belgian team for the season.

Just don’t body snark - it just makes you look like a dick.

5. Do speak out

If you see a woman (or a man) getting abused for any reason, do speak out. Tell that person their Tweet wasn’t cool. Call out the pervy guy on the club run. The person on the receiving end will be grateful and if 0.00001% of knobs change their attitude because of what you said, that’s still progress.

6. Don’t give unsolicited ‘advice’

The girls you know who cycle might really want your advice on what protein shakes to have for breakfast, or how sprint intervals will make them leaner, or whatever. If they want it, they’ll ask.

If they don’t, they’ll just carry on riding whatever bike they chose, wearing whatever they picked out for the purpose, eating whatever tastes good. But thanks for your concern.

 

*There are probably loads more ways not to be a knob to women on bikes. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

105 comments

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russyparkin [570 posts] 3 years ago
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i like this post, my main training partner is a girl and she can smash most blokes i know,

agreed about the comments on people in photos appearance, theres no need for it

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aslongasicycle [389 posts] 3 years ago
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Nice one Sarah. I'd add:
Make women's races as long as men's. Women are as tough (often tougher) than men, are pre-disposed to endurance and withstanding pain. Not that it really needs explanation. Just make it the same. Easy.

Don't market clothing for women as though to men. Porny images of hot chicks with bodypaint. Etc.

Women racers are athletes, not sympathy cases. They could probably crush you on a bike.

Elite women will have a higher body fat % than men. Its nature. Not a sign of commitment. They'll still f*** you up.

You look more of a dick attacking to pass a woman who just passed you, when you blow 400m down the road and she passes you again.

Lots more. Great blog Sarah. There's a good girl.

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Trull [81 posts] 3 years ago
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7. Don't surge after she overtakes you.

Accept that she was is a faster rider than you, you have been caught, you need to concentrate on your ride. Don't surge to overtake her, fall back and then try again.

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aslongasicycle [389 posts] 3 years ago
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Ooops, forgot.

Podium girls (bad) and equal prize money (good).

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VeloPeo [353 posts] 3 years ago
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Cracking article. Needed saying.

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guyonabike [11 posts] 3 years ago
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Nicely written, although I don't think I've understood point 6. Do you really mean to say no advice should ever be given to anyone (note: not just women) unless it is asked for?

I'm sure the point is aimed at those who think anyone perceived to be stereotypically 'weaker' needs coaxing along at any opportunity, but having seen a similar attitude based on age and other irrelevant metrics, I think you're looking at it from the wrong angle.
From my own experience of giving and receiving advice, I think the distinction should be on the offering of the advice.

Compare these generic techniques:
"You're doing it wrong, you need to do it this way..."
"I think I can help you with this, would you mind my input?"

I'll take reasonable advice from anyone, but for me personally, much more rests on being able to explain and/or back up your advice, rather than falling back on "...because I'm experienced and I say so."

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guyonabike [11 posts] 3 years ago
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Nicely written, although I don't think I've understood point 6. Do you really mean to say no advice should ever be given to anyone (note: not just women) unless it is asked for?

I'm sure the point is aimed at those who think anyone perceived to be stereotypically 'weaker' needs coaxing along at any opportunity, but having seen a similar attitude based on age and other irrelevant metrics, I think you're looking at it from the wrong angle.
From my own experience of giving and receiving advice, I think the distinction should be on the offering of the advice.

Compare these generic techniques:
"You're doing it wrong, you need to do it this way..."
"I think I can help you with this, would you mind my input?"

I'll take reasonable advice from anyone, but for me personally, much more rests on being able to explain and/or back up your advice, rather than falling back on "...because I'm experienced and I say so."

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racingcondor [238 posts] 3 years ago
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I continue to be embarrassed and amazed by the number of otherwise sensible male cyclists who turn into complete idiots when they meet a woman who rides.

If you wouldn't say it to a woman in any other situation don't say it just because she's in lycra.

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Sarah Barth [87 posts] 3 years ago
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Hmm, I knew some people would say that, guyonabike.

It's maybe something you only find irritating if you're a girl, idk.

Some advice really is helpful (like the time it was pointed out to me tipping nose of the saddle ever so slightly up or down can make life a whole lot more comfortable) - most of the time it's a way guys point out their 'superiority' in a cloak of 'advice'.

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JonSP [71 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree with every word and it needs saying again and again. And it needs to be shouted down the (cloth) ears of an awful lot of people in sales and marketing.

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koko56 [330 posts] 3 years ago
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It has crossed my mind a few times and undoubtedly many other's as to how our perception must be so heavily influenced by "the media". To the point that normal is not normal anymore.

Good bit of sobriety above.

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JonSP [71 posts] 3 years ago
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The advice thing is a tricky one. If you see someone who is struggling on a bike that is obviously too big or too small or has saddle set way too low, do you let them carry on wasting energy and possibly wrecking their knees?
I know someone who finds it virtually impossible to pass someone whose bike is set up wrong without offering a comment. But she's a cycling coach and runs two bike shops...

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kraut [150 posts] 3 years ago
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Women are as tough (often tougher) than men, are pre-disposed to endurance and withstanding pain.

Hear hear. Women often do way better than men in ultra marathons..

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mattsccm [360 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

No problems with the above but it suggests that we should treat women differently. You would tell a bloke if he was pedalling like a monkey so why not a women.
Ah of course, They are sensitive things aren't they.
Tosh

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allez neg [496 posts] 3 years ago
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I managed to not be a knob to a couple of female roadies only this afternoon. It was easy, they were fixing a puncture by the roadside. I did out of courtesy say 'alright?' as I pedalled past, to which I got a positive reply and thus I singlespeeded my way away secure in my knowledge that women can fix bikes too and that I ought to focus my thoughts on the bastard-steep little climb in front of me (Croydon Hill, for the Bedfordshire types here)

No wolf whistles or leering or Leslie Phillips Well Hellos or anything. See, its easy really.  4

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Sarah Barth [87 posts] 3 years ago
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mattsccm wrote:

No problems with the above but it suggests that we should treat women differently. You would tell a bloke if he was pedalling like a monkey so why not a women.
Ah of course, They are sensitive things aren't they.
Tosh

I think you might have just confirmed yourself to be a knob...

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Flying Scot [1005 posts] 3 years ago
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Trull wrote:

7. Don't surge after she overtakes you.

Accept that she was is a faster rider than you, you have been caught, you need to concentrate on your ride. Don't surge to overtake her, fall back and then try again.

I don't treat female cyclists any different to men, though in general they go past me on climbs, but I always seem to pass them on descents, I'm not trying to prove anything, it's just where fat boys make their time up.

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rich22222 [166 posts] 3 years ago
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7. Always assume females wear pink everything all of the time and portray as such in every article relating to female cycling.
Tick

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don simon [1433 posts] 3 years ago
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Advice from a stranger? I wouldn't thank you for it, unless, of course, you knew the history behind why I'm doing what I'm doing and had a reasonable relationship with me, and finally that you were a person whose opinion I would respect.
Hopefully the article will make a few think twice before entering into a bit of banter.

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Dizzy [68 posts] 3 years ago
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I would actually like to say a big "Thnak you" the all the knobs of a local cycling club, the ones that used to fly past me, as a puffed along, blubber wobbling, trying to shed the 9stone I gained after surgery & the hospital acquired infection, the ones that made snide comments, the ones that sniggered, the ones that made Mooing noises.
Yep I thnak you all.... 7yrs later I ride for another local club, and my Strava stats wipe the floor with yours.

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Sarah Barth [87 posts] 3 years ago
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hugebob wrote:

I'm from the United States. So, I'm not quite sure what a "knob" is. Is that like being a jerk? If you're a guy and you see a woman having difficulty, you want to help. So, as did the poster above, just slow up and ask if she needs help. If she answers yes, give her the same help you would if it were a man and move on.

I'm not sure what a 'knobe' is but a 'knob' is a 'dick' to you guys  1

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hugebob [3 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm from the United States. So, I'm not quite sure what a "knob" is. Is that like being a jerk? If you're a guy and you see a woman having difficulty, you want to help. So, as did the poster above, just slow up and ask if she needs help. If she answers yes, give her the same help you would if it were a man and move on.

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bikemadjo [72 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree with Russyparkin, I train with a young lady that can and does tear the men to pieces on as bike including me at times. Though advice should be given regardless of gender and we should fear giving advice in case we offend people.

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msmtb [9 posts] 3 years ago
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Startling sad that it is necessary to post a piece on how men should behave around women.

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aslongasicycle [389 posts] 3 years ago
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mattsccm wrote:

Ah of course, They are sensitive things aren't they.
Tosh

Its just Sarah trying to add balance to the comments and stir it up a bit. Weak Sarah, weak!

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Sarah Barth [87 posts] 3 years ago
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aslongasicycle wrote:
mattsccm wrote:

Ah of course, They are sensitive things aren't they.
Tosh

Its just Sarah trying to add balance to the comments and stir it up a bit. Weak Sarah, weak!

It's not me, promise! I'm basking in the glow of comments actually being nice for a change...

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Colin Peyresourde [1820 posts] 3 years ago
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mattsccm wrote:

No problems with the above but it suggests that we should treat women differently. You would tell a bloke if he was pedalling like a monkey so why not a women.
Ah of course, They are sensitive things aren't they.
Tosh

I feel a little patronised by this article - or is that matronised?! I'm not sure you'd get away with an article about how to treat male cyclists either - though I grant the patronising usually goes one way. Why not an article about how to respect other cyclists - no gender bias - you can then talk about sexist behaviour under general topic areas of bad etiquette.

Actually the point about being overtaken is something that men do to anyone - I can't say I do it a lot as I don't get over taken a lot by anyone, but given a rabbit, fast or slow, male or female, I would probably use it to better my effort. Just don't take it personal (as a sexist attitude or otherwise). Just be confident in yourself.

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aslongasicycle [389 posts] 3 years ago
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Things aren't quite so cute on the road.cc Facebook page. Why is FB always the lowest common denominator?

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700c [1167 posts] 3 years ago
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Unsurprising that the mantra 'don't give unsolicited advice' is something that some on here have difficulty accepting (it's a forum of knowledgeable enthusiasts, after all)..

I do try to live by this but easily said, not as easily done!

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stuartp [68 posts] 3 years ago
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Just read the comments on fb following any updates from the Wiggle Honda team to get an idea of the that are out knobs out there.
Cringeworthy doesn't even come close  31

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