29 Mar 2014

The Real Reason Why Women Don't Ride

The ratio is 10:1. Yes, those are the stats we are talking about when it comes to the men vs women ratio in cycling! Have you ever wondered about the reasons for this gender imbalance? Well, let me tell you that it's got nothing to do with ability, but a lot to do with opportunity and the environment. 

I have been riding, or re-biking as I prefer to call it, for three and a half years now. During this period, I have seen that even in the near ideal location and infrastructure provided by the National Capital Region, the percentage of women cyclists as opposed to their male counterparts is a dismal 10:1. If you do some number crunching, you will find that the average strength of most cycling groups hovers at around 500 plus members. Out of this impressive figure, the regulars on group rides are at best between 20 to 25 riders. And how many of them are women...two or three at most on a very good day!! 

Why's that you wonder? Well, like I said earlier, it's not for the want of ability, but the lack of opportunity and prevailing mindset. Safety is the biggest stumbling block...whether it's personal safety being a woman or safety as a cyclist on congested and unsafe roads. The fear of riding alone, traffic concerns and the insensitivity of motorists towards cyclists, all combine to keep women off the saddle. In addition to that is the lack of cycling infrastructure and the apathy of the powers that be. The major factor, in my opinion, which contributes largely towards dissuading women from cycling is the lack of support and encouragement from the environment. Not to forget the feeling of intimidation, albeit in a smaller measure, felt in the company of the competitive, testosterone driven, stats oriented, number crunching male riders!

Women On The Saddle
It was about two years ago that I initiated women specific rides by the name of Women On The Saddle. The aim was to create awareness and provide a platform for women to experience the joys of cycling. It was based on a simple model - the core team planned the ride, route, distance and mentors. The event was created and word spread through facebook and friends while the logistics were provided by our support group in the form of cycles, helmets and refreshments. The first Women On The Saddle Ride had 19 riders, nine of whom were making their debut run. The follow up ride a week later supported those numbers and it seemed like we were on our way to a better gender ratio in the cycling community. Alas! As I write this, only two-three of those debut riders are still riding, albeit intermittently.

Babs Cyclists
My resolve to keep the flame burning refuses to be dimmed by the numbers and towards this end, I have started a small women's cycling group at my present location called Babs Cyclists. As of now, there are four of us who head out for our daily rides on the track and trails that abound in this small town in Central India. The route, distance and time are variable in keeping with the objective of combining our passion for cycling with the joys of discovering the verdant surroundings. 

The beacon of hope shines bright in the form of some amazing women cyclists who have made their mark in time bound endurance events like the Brevets and Desert 500; travelled the toughest routes, like Leh-Manali and the Tour of the Nilgiris; competed with distinction in triathlons and duathlons. With cyclists of the caliber of Divya Tate, Anju Khosla, Shailja Singh Sridhar, Usha Prasad, Vasu Ritu Primlani riding in these awe inspiring rides, the future of women cyclists is secure. Salute' ladies, more power to you all. As Susan B. Anthony said, "I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood." Watch this space for more on the Iron Ladies and their indomitable spirit. Cheers all!
Shailja Singh Sridhar
Divya Tate
Anju Khosla
Usha Prasad
Vasu Primlani

25 Dec 2013

Danger On The Roads ~ post by Ankit Laroiya

Through this blog post, I would like to highlight a dangerous aspect of cycling on roads. It was the winter of 2011 when an accident left me with severe injuries in my right eye. I was riding with my fellow riders from Delhi to Murthal when I had to face the ire of reckless bikers plying on the wrong side of the road, oblivious to the fact that cyclists also have a right to the road. 

As is the rule, we were cycling on the left side when a biker coming from the wrong side of the road hit my cycle. Instead of being apologetic for the accident, he got aggressive and shouted at me for using the road. We tried to calmly explain that we were riding on the left and it was infact them on the wrong side but it had no effect. They told us that the road was meant for motorised transport and cyclists had no right to be on their turf. In order to avoid the matter from worsening since we had to head back to Delhi, we told them to let it be and that we should just go on our way. As they drove off, we started to pedal on to our destination. Hardly had 10 to 15 mins passed when we saw the bikers returning and before anyone could realise it, they came head on towards me and attacked me with an iron rod. As they smashed my face, they shouted out, 'Cyclists are not allowed here' and sped off. 

I was badly injured and bleeding profusely, unable to see due to my injured eye as my fellow cyclists gathered to get me help. Luckily some locals seeing my condition called an ambulance but when the doctor at the local hospital saw the seriousness of my injuries, he suggested that I be rushed to Delhi if I wanted to save my eye. It was my good fortune that an unknown rider offered to call his support vehicle and rushed me to the AIIMS trauma centre where the helpful staff took my case on priority and provided me with the best treatment. And as soon as I was able to, I took up the case with the police administration in Murthal. Now, this is when I saw the bad side of the police who in spite of knowing the identity of the bikers who attacked me, made no attempts to nab them and instead told me that I would be the one who would be troubled. In my condition, I wasn't capable of plying between Delhi and Murthal police station on a regular basis as the police said they would make me do for the case. With multiple eye surgeries lined up and a large family at home, I was left with no choice but to let things be.

This incident left me thinking that although we have people in our city (Delhi) who encourage cycling and in other metropolitan cities as well, there is a large majority of people who have no awareness or concern for cyclists or their safety. I now make it a point to tell as many cyclists to take all the precautionary measures while riding and not visit any place without proper information about it. The incident happened on a busy road and though all of us were riding in the by-lane, still we were blamed, not the bikers who were on the wrong side, carrying iron rods and beating people recklessly. The fact of the matter is that the onus is on us cyclists to be careful while riding and planning rides, and our safety is in our own hands.

As I write this, it's been almost two years since my accident and my eye has still not fully recovered. I remain a passionate cycling advocate but underline the need for safety while on the saddle. I hope my story will go towards bringing awareness and the need for safety measures for all cyclists. At the end, I would like to thank all my fellow riders, the unknown rider who came to my rescue like an angel and the doctors at AIIMS who provided timely treatment.

Stay safe friends. Happy riding

Ankit Laroiya

7 Dec 2013

What Cyclists Say and What They Really Mean!!

       This trail is a blast.  (I hope you have good medical insurance
I think I might have a flat tire.  (Slow down, will ya?)

I definitely have a flat tire.  (Help me change it)
           I don 't have a low enough gear.  (I've gained 5 pounds)

          I've decided to buy a lighter bike. 
 (I've gained 10 pounds)
I'm carbo loading.  (Pass the beer)

I'm tapering.  (I haven't ridden in 2 months)

The rebound was off, so I modified the damping. But then the elastomers were too dense, so I changed the oil and got rid of the stiction.  (I have a new suspension fork and you don't!)

If you're a good bike handler, you don't need to wear a helmet.  (I'm so stupid a brain injury wouldn't affect me)

Nobody needs a dual-suspension mountain bike.  (I can't afford a dual-suspension mountain bike)

Dual suspension is the only way to go.  (I just dropped 3 months' salary on a dual-suspension mountain bike)

She's a hammer.  (She's faster than me)

He's a geek.  (I'm faster than him)

I bonked.  (All I took for a 4-hour ride was a half-empty bottle of month-old OJ and a moldy Twinkie)

If you don't crash, you're not going fast enough, dude!.  (I crash a lot)

I don't own a car.  (I'm a better person than you)

I'm on my beater bike.  (I had this baby custom-made in Tuscany using Carbon Fiber blessed by the Pope. I took it to a wind tunnel and it disappeared. It weighs less than a fart and costs more than a divorce)

I do all my own bike maintenance.  (When I squeeze the front brake lever, the bike shifts gears)

Thanks for waiting.  (Wipe that smug grin off your ugly face)

Hey, did you guys hear about those new 1.8 gram carbon-fiber quick-release skewers with titanium springs?.  (I am a very lonely person)

This section of trail looks doable.  (You first, sucker)

I want to ride my bike to work, but... (I don't want to ride my bike to work)

He's such a wheelsucker.  (I can't drop him)

She's always half-wheeling me.  (I can't keep up with her)

Been riding much?  (How fit are you ?)

Not much. You?  (My anaerobic threshold is 250 and my resting pulse is 14)

Nah, I've been really busy.  (My body fat is 2%)

Well, let's take it easy today.  (Ready, set, go!)
          Hold on, there's something wrong with my bike.  (Let's stop so I can rest)
My tires suck!  (This climb is killing me!)
           Can you clear that drop-off?  (I can, but I bet you can't)
It's getting dark.  (I wanna go home)

This bike is a piece of shit!  (I can't ride worth shit)

I think I broke my arm.  (There's a little bruise on my arm and I don't want to ride anymore)

I'd jump that but I don't want to tweak my new rims.  (I'm too chicken to try)
          This hill is easy.  (This  trail's pretty tough but I'm gonna try and lose you on it)

          That climb wasn't that bad. 
 (I'm going to puke)
That trail is boring.  (I know I can't make it)

Last one down is buying.  
(I'll make you feel like a loser and get a free beer too!)

My bike was acting funny.  (Otherwise I would have whooped your butt!)

He's pretty good.  (I know I'm better than him)

He sucks!  (He's better than me)
This is a no-drop ride.  (I'll need an article of your clothing for the search-and-rescue  dogs.) 
That thing's a piece of shit.  (I wish I had one)
          That wasn't that bad.  (Oh…my…god…I’m…having…a…heart…attack)

          Wow, that was at least 10 feet high.  
(5 feet max. probably closer to 4) 
          He spends a lot of time biking.  (I wish I was as good as him)                                                                                                           
         source: Bicycling mag