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


  1. I completely echo your thoughts. I hope there would be more riders, specially women in the days to come.

  2. these women definetely. # respect

  3. these women # respect

  4. @cutiemeow...More power to us : ) @aakash yadav...much appreciated : )