Breeze - Bike rides for women by British Cycling
British Cycling is about to launch Breeze, a new national network of fun, local and flexible bike rides for women designed to close the growing cycling gap between the number of men and women riding regularly and introduce 80,000 of women to cycling.
To roll out the programme across England, British Cycling is supporting hundreds of women to become 'Local Breeze Champions' to help more women enjoy being on the bike in a fun and friendly environment.
Could you help women in your area fall in love with the fun, freedom and fresh air that bike rides can offer? Full time Mum, Angela Gaunt from Yorkshire plans on doing so and we caught up with her to find out how...
Angela organises bike rides for local women in her home town of Wetherby, Yorkshire, planning great local routes and opening up the rides to any interested women.
She also helps local women access bike hire or bike recycle schemes - pointing them in the direction of cycle training courses if they need more tips before setting off. Her rides include a coffee break, giving more women like her the chance to make friends, socialise, enjoy time outdoors and get a bit more active.
Angela is just one of scores of volunteers who are changing the future of bike rides for women through the new Breeze network, a unique network of fun, friendly and social bike rides for women, led by women. It's all about bike riding for fun, in small sociable groups, on local, accessible routes.
British Cycling is now training hundreds of female volunteers like Angela to become Breeze local champions and help thousands more women have fun on a bike. This is just one of the many ways British Cycling is addressing the ‘cycling gap' between men and women. Sport England figures show three times as many men take part in bike rides regularly, and this gap is growing.
"We're creating new opportunities for more women to enjoy a fun bike ride," says Breeze programme manager Natalie Justice. "We know that lots of women would like to ride a bike more often, so we've made it easier with a bit of support and other local women to go with. Together we will close the cycling gap."
British Cycling has found that some women face some pretty hefty barriers to enjoy a bike ride. Concerns over safety, lack of motivation, fitness, knowledge of good routes and people to ride with are widely cited. This is all before many women worry about whether it's acceptable to look good in a cycle helmet, push your bike up the hill or have a basket with a jingle bell. As a Breeze champion, Angela, 38, can see why so many women are missing out.
"For women like us who are juggling motherhood and school runs, or hectic jobs and busy lifestyles, there's a real lack of opportunities to do some activity on a casual basis. Breeze bike rides are a way of women making friends and even spending time with the children if they want to bring them along. My role is to make sure everyone has a good time."
Whether it's a ride round the local park or country trail involving coffee breaks, cafe stops or a picnic, women of any age and ability can socialise, have fun, make friends - oh, and ride a bike!
"I think it's great for women to experience bike riding as a fun, social thing you can do at any level," adds Angela. "I always stop for a coffee on my rides. You can have a natter with friendly people, enjoy being active, and take it at your own pace. People can get wrapped up spending lots on bikes and I think that puts women off.
"I've got a 15 year-old bike and it's great for riding around the streets or through the park. You don't have to go fully clad in lycra either - I ride with my kids to school in my jeans. Other women have approached me at the school gates, saying, ‘We've seen you do it, so we're going to have a go with you.' That's what the Breeze network is all about."
Through Breeze, women can access bike hire, bike recycle schemes, or basic cycle training just to build confidence riding and maintaining a bike. The network has already grown the number of female tutors available and as programme manager Natalie Justice explains, there is a long term aim. "Over three years we want to introduce 80,000 women to cycling and get over 20,000 of them to become regular cyclists."
Be part of Breeze
Find out more about Breeze and how you can become a Local Breeze Champion and help British Cycling change the face of women's cycling, email us on Breeze@britishcycling.org.uk or call us on 0161 274 2117.