Women only group rides or mixed group rides?
Do you prefer riding solo? In a small group with a few friends? In a large group? It seems like many women prefer riding on their own or with a few friends. Sometimes it is simply a personal preference, while other times it depends on work/family/school schedules, convenience, specific training needs, etc. In many cases, women find group riding intimidating and default to riding solo as a result, so before we get into some pros and cons of women only group rides, lets start by squashing some of your objections to riding with a group and go from there!
I can't find the right group
Finding the right fit for your riding needs isn't always easy. Many women sometimes feel alienated in a group ride environment, which is never feels great! The best way to find the right fit is to try a few different groups. There are a lot of personalities, experience levels, etc in every group, so not every group is going to work for everyone.
Do some searching in your area - what clubs are active? How big are they? What is the typical level of riding? If you are a novice, joining a club that is focused on racing might not be the right fit at the time (this could change down the road, of course). If it is important to you, does the club have a women specific focus/events/rides as well as mixed rides? Is it a formal club with set training sessions, or more geared towards social riding? Is coaching available? How about ride leaders?
I am too inexperienced
Everyone starts somewhere! Cycling is a growing sport, and every rider was inexperienced at one point or another... The right cycling community that fits your needs will welcome you, encourage you, and help you gain much needed experience in a supportive environment. Not to mention that you will likely gain experience much faster than you would have on your own. The key is to be receptive to learning, soaking up the advice and having a positive attitude.
Im not fast enough
Most clubs will have various ability levels and split the group rides into sub groups so everyone have others to ride with, so you are very likely to find a few others riding at your pace. Some groups also have a 'no drop' policy, meaning nobody gets left riding alone. A good ride leader will be there to help you out if needed and if for whatever reason you have fallen off pace or plan to leave early, etc - communicate that to one of the ride leaders. Communication is quite important when riding with others!
Riding in a group is scary
Sure, it can be intimidating and a bit scary at first, but its a learnt skill! There are several skills needed to ride in a group: drafting, adjusting speed based on what the group is doing, being predictable, pointing out hazards and communicating effectively. The group is there to help you learn how to ride in a group and many clubs also offer intro clinics to riding in a group, so you feel a bit more comfortable and gain some experience before jumping into a group setting. You can also practice in a small group of friends, where trust has already been established, before joining a bigger group.
Of course, always riding in a group and never riding on your own isn't necessarily a good thing either. Sometimes you need to be out there on your own, battling the elements, working on your personal weaknesses on the bike, honing your strengths and just having some chill 'alone' time. Its a balancing act!
Pros of women only group rides
- Camaraderie, confidence & community. While this can be said for any group rides, many women feel that having a tribe of other women to ride with is better for increasing their confidence and sense of community in an environment that might be perceived as more supportive and nurturing
- Sometimes (not always!) the pace is a bit more chill, the ride is a bit more social and you can have some quality 'girl time', while riding a bike. It's a win-win.
- If you race with other women, perhaps it is a good idea to ride with other women in training too? Just be sure to ride with other women who are similar to your pace and skill level
Cons of women only group rides
- Women can be just as skilled and fast on the bike as men, if not more skilled and faster in some cases!
- Power in numbers - if you want to ride in a larger group, you are more likely to make that happen in a mixed group vs women only group
- The pace of mixed group, or ones with predominantly men can sometimes be faster and the environment more competitive. If this fits within your goals and personality, it might be a better fit than a women only ride
Personally speaking, I (Noa) mostly ride solo (or with a few friends) these days. It is more so because of my work schedule and time constrains than anything else though. Back in my racing days, I loved large and fast group rides and was often the only women around in a pack of men, mostly because there were so few women racers around... I liked that environment and even if there were other women around, my goal was to always be the last one standing, holding onto wheels for dear life. I did lead many women only group rides over the years and have seen the benefits to some women, especially beginners, first hand.
At the end of the day, pick whatever environment that gets you on the bike, increases your confidence, skill level and enjoyment!
What is your take on group riding in general, and women only ones in particular? We would love to hear your personal experience and thoughts, as there is no one size fits all!