Statistics show women cycling about one-third of the journeys that men do, and men cycle more than four times as far. Research by Sustrans and Cycling UK suggests the main factors stopping ladies cycling are related to safety fears, concerns about fitness and a general lack of confidence about ability. Although there are now fabulous female role models in both road and Mountain bike disciplines receiving more media coverage than ever still these barriers exist.
Helen Pollard manages a cycling business and would love to see more women cycling. She wrote this article about a route around Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales which appeared on the Getoutside.UK site, and she & they have kindly allowed us to “reprint” it here. Helen’s hope is to encourage more women cycling, either solo or with family. Helen is on Twitter and Instagram as @Stage1Cycles.
Why aren’t more women cycling?
From a personal perspective, I find the old chestnut of work-life balance is the most significant barrier impacting on my riding. Although as an instructor I work on my bike all the time, to find time to cycle for recreation is tricky for me too! Working full time running our business and a mum to the ever-busy Daisy is at times similar to juggling jelly. My personal riding choice is cross country mountain biking therefore as part of our Wensleydale Bike Club we host a ladies only mountain bike ride on most Sunday nights.
I was determined to challenge the preconceptions that some ladies have about MTB thinking it was not something for them. The sessions the bike club host are a free activity and 2 community owned mountain bikes are available to ensure universal accessibility.
Encouraging ladies to access mountain biking in a supportive social group provides a fantastic opportunity to improve fitness and mental well-being in an awe-inspiring adventurous outside setting. Learning to ride with ladies only automatically removes the element of competition that sometimes occurs in mixed-sex groups and allows riders to comfortably participate within their own riding capacity.
This adventure post follows our first ride back of the season. It is a perfect ride for beginners and improving riders and is also a great family route. Including short climbs, descents, gravelly track and a ford to navigate it has lots of opportunities to develop fundamental mountain bike skills over a relatively short distance.
Starting at Station Yard Hawes you cycle through the busy little market town of Hawes. Hawes is a great base for exploring, famous for being the highest market town in England, home to Wallace and Grommet Wensleydale cheese and the nearby Buttertubs. Family groups will need to take sensible precautions with young children on this section due to the traffic.
Turning out of Hawes at the school and travelling through the pretty connected hamlet of Gayle the road will lead you to the rear of the town toward the bridleway through a farm.
The bridleway continues on a clearly defined walled route. The surface is gravelly and at times washed away so a sensible speed is advised. The route offers excellent views of Fleet Moss, one of the top 100 road bike climbs in England.
Continue along this route until you reach a small ford (in the photo at the top of this article).
This ford can be cycled through under normal conditions. It is not appropriate in flood conditions.
If you are caught out there is a footbridge 150 m to the left by a barn over which bikes could be wheeled. After the ford, you will have a short sharp gravel climb to the main road. Follow this road back down to Gayle.
At one point the road is 25% descent so please check brakes are working after going through the ford. Also, when passing through farms the road narrows and although traffic flow is light close supervision of young children is advised.
At Gayle instead of returning through the town of Hawes turn right at the junction continuing around the back of Hawes auction mart and Bainbridge Ings caravan site. You will eventually reach the main road near the cemetery, at which point turn left to return to Station Yard.
Station Yard is a great base in Hawes for exploring the surrounding countryside due to toilet facilities, cafe, bike shop, NP visitors centre and Dales Countryside Museum. Parking Charges apply.
Fancy a bit of cycling? Not comfortable by yourself?
Many affiliated community clubs such as Wensleydale Bike Club offer sessions such as ourselves. Our Sunday rides are open to all not just the local community so if you are in the area on holiday get in touch. Don’t worry if MTB is not your cup of tea. British Cycling offers a scheme called Breeze and many of their free sessions are road based, led rides.
Cycling UK has a full list of their community club sessions throughout the country. Getting started for women cycling has never been easier. Cycling UK also offers bike maintenance and first aid qualifications which could be another route to developing the confidence to #GetOutside on your bike either by yourself or with your family.
The Map for this area is OS Explorer OL30: Yorkshire Dales – Northern & Central Area