On any given Monday, a group of female cyclists takes over the curvy, rolling country roads near my hometown, their laughs and chatter carrying across the fields. The riders are diverse in age and ability but united by the love of the bike. This weekly event, started in 2016, has fostered the growth of a close-knit community of female riders in my hometown.
After encouragement from a local bike shop owner, the Monday Ladies’ Ride was born. The first summer of the ladies’ ride series saw our numbers climb from 2 to 4, to 12, to the season-high of 17 riders on a Monday night. For our city, this is a big deal! Our more experienced riders often lead the group, and I ride behind and make it a true no-drop ride. Seeing new riders show up is a testament to the power of the supportive community we have built. They know that they’ll learn local routes, they’ll spend a little over an hour outdoors hanging out with like-minded women, and they know they won’t be left behind, an initial fear for many.
Some riders join because they desire to ride with a group instead of logging miles on the city’s Greenbelt, a 26-mile path through the city; others simply love the social aspect of it. Jessica, who completed her first triathlon this summer, was nervous about riding alone on the road and wanted to learn the “good, local routes.” She knew she would need more than the stop-and-go of the Greenbelt to properly prepare her for her first triathlon. Another newer rider, Lisa, was also ready to expand beyond the Greenbelt and wanted to meet other women, finding security in the no-drop ride. I saw Lisa’s transformation from a nervous beginner to a confident, strong rider who now often rides in the front, leading the group.
Hosting the ladies’ ride has been an extension of my ‘real’ job: during the day I teach in my classroom, but on Monday nights, I teach from my bike saddle.
In the few minutes before we roll out on Monday nights, we visit, chatting about the stress of a workday or family issues. However, with each pedal stroke, the stress of the day fades away and when we return, we are different people: happy and proud of our climbing, PRs, or even QOMs.
Lisa summed up the experience that most of us know well: “Who would have thought that at an older age I could achieve so many wonderful benefits from riding and learn so much?!” Lisa and other women in our group just rode their first centuries this year. And no, not metric centuries – these are the real deal!
Cycling has changed my life, that’s for sure. But being able to be a part of the force that impacts other women in my community has been immeasurably satisfying. Not only have these women become more confident riders, but they also inspire me to keep riding, teaching, and guiding more riders.
A popular sticker claims, “Good cyclists help new cyclists who become good cyclists who help new cyclists.” Couldn’t agree more.