New site aims to tell women about the benefits of riding a bike

Sustrans today went live with its Bikebelles website the organisation's first step in it's bid to encourage more women to cycle.

The new site focuses very much on addressing the reasons women currently don't ride bikes with a lot of tips on comfort and appearance while also stressing the many benefits of cycling in terms of getting fit, losing weight, and looking younger.

Melissa Henry, Sustrans' Communications Director, underlines the reasons for the campaign: "Getting on a bike brings many benefits. Cycling raises your metabolic rate, helping the weight to stay off; it costs a fraction of keeping a car or even a gym membership; and regular cyclists are as fit as an average person ten years younger."

As reported in our earlier story on Bikebelles the site has been put together by women and and all-woman panel of Bike Belles will feature prominently giving their views on bikes, clothing, and everything to do with the cycling experience.

Sustrans commissioned research shows that in spite of high profile women such as Duffy, Hannah Montana and Madonna taking to two wheels - the majority of women, 79%, are coming up with a variety of reasons why cycling is not for them, with less that one in 10 women cycling more than once a month. Something that Sustrans is keen to change.

This research echoes a similar study undertaken for Cycling England last year, which headlined on 'helmet hair' and the fact that many women were put off cycle commuting because they didn't want to get hot and sweaty on their way to work and because they were worried about the affect it would have on their appearance.

According to the Sustrans research women aged 35-44 are the most likely group to cycle – 50 per cent more likely than younger women in the 15-24 age group, even so 69 per cent of 35-44 year olds never rides a bike despite 68 per cent of them having access to one. According to the research women in the South West of England and Wales are the most likely to cycle while their sisters in the North West and Scotland are the least likely with one in five women in these areas saying they were “too old” to cycle.

Overall 17 per cent of women questioned considered themselves too old to cycle, this compares dramatically to the Netherlands where women over 65 ride three times the distance of 19 year old British men.

Sustrans will also be organising female-friendly cycle rides in the summer using traffic-free sections of the National Cycle Network.  

Have your say on how more women could be encouraged to cycle by voting in our poll

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.


WheelWoman [2 posts] 8 years ago

Well... I just had a look through it and I didn't glean much helpful information, to be honest. I’ll stop short of calling it patronising but I would say it just states the obvious a lot and says it offers hints and tips when it doesn't really.

Sad but probably true enough to say lots of women are put off cycling by the idea of getting all sweaty and looking horrible, but I think the site needs to be far more imaginative in its tips and hints designed to combat the problem.

eg. on the subject of avoiding helmet hair, it says: "Helmet hair can be an issue. If you have long hair, you can simply tie it up into a bun and tuck it into your helmet." (actually this is not true, I've tried it and if your helmet fits correctly to start with, it won't when you tuck your hair into it!).

So what else can I do?

"Take a comb or brush to revive your style when you reach your destination." This is kind of obvious and doesn't really qualify as a "top tip" in my view...again, if you've been on your bike long enough for long-term flattening to occur, it won't really work anyway and you'll still look like an idiot!

It also recommends wearing earmuffs (as the lovely celebrity cyclist Dawn Porter does in the pic on the home page) as they're fashionable and keep your ears warm (wow, really!). You can't wear them with a helmet though - I would recommend a headband with ear-shaped flappy bits to prevent windchill-induced earache - it also helps keep your hair out of the way (there you go - a fashion tip!). And on the subject of helmets - there's precious little mention/advice/comment on them, apart from saying it’s up to you whether you wear one and there’s a staggering range, although few for the fashion conscious. Perhaps it would help if bikebelles could find some for us!! None of the women in the photos are wearing helmets at all, which is a little unrepresentative. Seeing as safety and fashion fears seem to be the main issues stopping women getting on their bikes, I hope BikeBelles will put a bit more effort into providing answers in these areas!

The rest of their top tips are a bit rubbish too. Things like saying, hey, you can still be fashionable on your bike and don't need to buy any special gear or equipment…except a lovely pair of sexy waterproof trousers. Oh no, wait a minute, "Waterproof trousers aren't sexy, but they do keep you dry,” really? “Put them on top of your normal clothes and whip them off on arrival to reveal your clean, dry, stylish self." I would much rather see a link to a fashionable bike gear website or examples of well-fitting waterproof trousers as an antidote to those horrible baggy things which make you look like you've got a family of ferrets stuffed down em. I’ve tried bike shops too and can’t find anything decent. A friend has a pair of “Rainlegs”, which are ok, but I don’t think they protect you from a wet bum if your bike is without the benefit of mudguards in the rain. I think there's a general shortage of women-centric bike gear, and if I knew where to get it, I'd buy it!

Also, they say you can wear high heels on a bike. Not sure that's good advice. I wore my cowboy boots this morning and even they were a little treacherous as the soles have no grip and I had to anchor them onto the pedals with the heels - not a great riding position, spose they're designed for stirrups though. Certainly not sure about cycling in stilettos - those things can do you enough damage walking, actually you're probably safer wearing them on a bike.

As a concept I think it's a good idea to have this site and they've got some interesting stuff on the homepage, which will presumably be updated. I expect they'll improve the content and it will benefit from the views of their bikebelles panel. At the moment though, it's a bit lacking.

Ruthe [50 posts] 8 years ago

Agree on all of the above, saved me typing it! I actually will go as far as to say patronising. The "It can be a confusing business buying a bike" sounds as if we ladies don't know a saddle from a pedal. We are female, not stupid.  26