Published: 7 March 2013
Feature: British Cycling
There are so many ways you can enjoy cycling and riding a bike is just one of them. Sure enough, nothing beats the thrill of being on two wheels but how about getting a cycling qualification, improving your cycling knowledge and giving something back?
It’s a sad fact that women are underrepresented in cycling, whether that’s racing or just riding along. And it’s the same story in coaching and leadership – female role models in cycling are essential if we are to narrow cycling’s gender divide. Thankfully, British Cycling has a range of ways that you can hone your skills, become a better cyclist or share your years of cycling experience with the next generation.
Teach the next generation of cyclists
British Cycling’s Cycle Training programme is managed by Vicky Spencer, who is passionate about creating a nation of better, safer cyclists. Lack of confidence, skills and knowledge in dealing with modern traffic conditions is one of the key barriers to women taking up cycling and British Cycling’s Cycle Training programme, run to nationally-recognised Bikeability standards, aims to break down that barrier with courses for both prospective cyclists and potential cycling instructors.
Vicky said; “We are passionate about creating the next generation of cyclists who can reap the benefits of improved mental and physical health, as well as extra money in their pockets, by cycling for recreation and transport. I see more and more women cycling to work every day and we would like to see this trend grow further by teaching the skills and building confidence to cycle on-road.”
Become a Breeze Champion
British Cycling’s Breeze women’s cycling programme is growing exponentially, but needs passionate, enthusiastic women cyclists to act as champions, support this growth and inspire other women in their locales to make the leap onto two wheels.
“You don’t have to be a cycling expert, just confident on your bike and passionate about helping other women discover the joys of cycling. Breeze is lead by a national network of amazing volunteers and there is plenty of support along the way” is the message from Natalie Justice (Women’s Network Project Manager)”. That’s the message from Natalie Justice (Women’s Network Project Manager) who heads up a predominantly female team of Breeze staff in British Cycling HQ, all dedicated to growing women’s cycling at a grass roots level.
Lead the way
Similarly, British Cycling’s Sky Ride Local programme is landing in more and more towns and cities every year but depends on a continual supply of qualified ride leaders to guide and inspire new, improving and returning cyclists.
Having an equal percentage of male and female Rider Leaders is a goal of Jill Puttnam, who manages the programme for British Cycling. She urges enthusiastic women cyclists to share their cycling experience and local knowledge with a whole new wave of riders. “Our female ride leaders are brilliant,” she said. “We get some fabulous comments back from people saying how impressed they were with the helpfulness and enthusiasm of our leaders. Seeing women in the role helps encourage others who might be a bit uncertain, to have the confidence to give it a go.”
Climb every mountain
You don’t have to have a voice like Julie Andrews to inspire people to climb every mountain. British Cycling’s Mountain Bike Leadership programme run regular courses designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge to lead groups of mountain bikers in some of Britain’s most inspiring natural playgrounds.
British Cycling Senior Education Officer Verena Lichtinghagen is a mountain biker through and through, so when she was offered the role of helping to develop British Cycling's Mountain Bike Leadership programme, she immediately grasped the opportunity to help others discover the joy of the trails. “For many people, riding in the mountains stands for adventure, friendship, beauty and an escape from everyday life," explained Verena.
"However, to truly experience the tranquillity of a remote landscape, effective skills of MTB Leadership are paramount to ensure you can lead a group and deliver a positive experience worth remembering.
“These necessary skills are outlined through practical and engaging courses at some of the best outdoor venues in the country to ensure you are confident and equipped to lead a group in mountainous terrain.
“Our courses will help you to learn all you need to know to share your passion for mountain biking and leave your ride participants hungry for more.”
Sound like a dream job? Get qualified and it’s within your grasp.
Become a coach
British Cycling’s coaching programme welcomes women (and men too!) to get qualified and give something back to the wonderful sport of cycling.
Whether you want to teach core bike-handling skills or have aspirations to coach Britain’s elite, our coaching programmes encompass every cycling discipline and offer three levels of qualification. This gives you an individual pathway to enable you to improve your skills and those of your riders.
While British Cycling has women on all of its Great Britain Cycling Team Olympic and Paralympic Programmes, only about 20% of qualified coaches are female.
Andrea Livesey (Coaching and Education Officer) says “In Coach Education we have attempted to make our coaching courses female friendly by employing more women tutors to deliver the courses. This has resulted in an increase in the number of female learners attending courses.”
Belinda Tarling, Level 3 Mountain Bike Coach, British Cycling tutor and Sports Coach UK Coach Educator of the Year 2012 explains “Women make very good coaches, they tend to have an eye for detail, good communication skills and can be more receptive to the riders needs – we are good at picking up non-verbal messages! All making for a good rider experience”.
Cycle sport relies on volunteers. They are the lifeblood of the sport. Without volunteers the sport wouldn’t happen, week in, week out. Women are a crucial part of that equation. British Cycling is working hard to create a professionalised structure for volunteers, with courses available for commissares, marshals and many other race officials.
Carole Leigh has been volunteering and officiating at cycling events since she was 13 years old, a career that reached its pinnacle when she was selected as an official at the London 2012 Olympics. “It was an honour to be a part of it,” said Carole, “it was something really special, quite moving at times. Being there, watching Sir Chris Hoy carrying that flag at the opening ceremony really was an incredible experience.”
Where will your volunteering take you? Get involved in volunteering today.