Staring at the wall of spandex (apparently called “Lycra”) outfits in the clothing section of my favorite bike shop, I quickly devolved into pep-talk mode, “If I want to be a cyclist, I have to look like a cyclist. Confidence comes from within, right?” I then imagined myself bending over reaching for the handlebars, the mental image of the resulting Lycra-encased muffin-top made me shiver.
And then there were those bikes. Bikes that cost more than my first car. Shiny ones, colorful ones, oddly shaped ones, expensive ones. The choices equally overwhelming and equally enticing. I was drawn to them because they seemed to make other women look so fast, graceful, and strong.
Those women seemed to have something I didn’t. Something I wanted. Their confidence and grace oozed from their pores as they rode by, laughing together, chatting about their weeks, their lives. They were friends. It was no wonder they were surrounded by attractive men with zero body—fat in equally tight clothing—these women were fabulous.
Wait. am I back in high-school? My early perception of women’s club cycling seemed to parallel those tumultuous years. Perhaps you can relate; wearing uncomfortable name brand clothing to try and fit in, saving every dollar for that all-important first car, staring at the ‘cool’ girls wishing to be just like them. Maybe you were smarter than me and longed to be a part of something more productive like a sports team, or math club but if at some point you’ve wanted to be a part of something bigger than yourself, but weren’t sure you were good, strong, smart enough, whatever enough, you know what I am talking about.
And if you can relate to any of this when thinking about joining a cycling club I have some great news for you. The ‘cool’ girls want to be your friend! Or more accurately, our group of amazing women would love to ride with you. And if you keep telling yourself “I am not strong enough, not fit enough, not good enough,” you are wrong, I promise. I know this because I lead Edmonton’s largest women’s road cycling group and I meet women everyday who think they are “not something enough” and then they become better, stronger, and more capable on and off the bike. We absolutely want you to ride with us and I know the women in the other Edmonton based clubs think the same.
YEG’s women’s cycling movement is gaining speed and momentum and it’s not just for those who look perfect in Lycra. Our movement is for all women. Bring your old bike, too tight shorts, cellulite, sense of humor and zest for life and you will have the time of your life.
We are lucky, Edmonton has women’s groups for all disciplines: road, cyclo-cross, mountain, and even fatbikes. Groups that teach beginner skills, offer training to help reach goals of all levels, and provide women with the kind of supportive and understanding environment that can only be created by women. I know this because I started Edmonton’s largest women’s road cycling group two years ago and worked to create a group of amazing women (40 strong so far this year) who are accepting of everyone who rides with us.
You might be thinking it’s too late in the season to give it a try. Kind of like trying to avoid changing schools in the middle of the year. Being the “new kid” when everyone is already established sucks. But that’s where cycling differs. We always have “new kids” joining our group and our established members take each of them under their wing to help get them up to speed. Literally and figuratively.
I know of other groups working with us in tandem towards the very same goal. Creating a women’s cycling culture in YEG that makes every woman feel strong and confident. No matter what your discipline or goal, there is a women’s biking group in YEG that would be excited to have you join them. And I promise you, the butterflies you have are shared by almost every woman when they start. So, come and share those butterflies. We promise you that riding with other women will help you to feel strong and confident. Even in Lycra.
Share my aversion to Lycra? We’ll introduce you to the Spanx of cycling: bib shorts. Come ride with us (or any YEG women’s group) and we’ll share some other great tips and tricks.
Tiffany Baker - Women’s Cycling Manager, ERTC