5“The American woman had many difficult obstacles to overcome in order to cycle, but she was determined to enjoy the benefits men were already achieving. She too, yearned for independence… delights of Nature, and fresh physical activity…Those were adventuresome women!” Karen Knudsen, Cycling Historian
This statement about the origins of bike riding by women in 19th centuryAmerica may still apply to some aspects of women’s cycling today. Difficult obstacles still exist. When I first began riding, I was made to feel welcome and wanted…mostly. There was exuberant support from some male quarters and excruciating criticism from others.
The biggest source of conflict was my very quick competitiveness in the group rides, and perhaps my satisfied attitude about that. Abilities tend to equalize gender in a group ride. Mostly I was clueless and welcomed advice from big, strong men…well, really skinny bike racers. It was at a women’s clinic run by women where I learned the fundamentals of racing. But it was men who sponsored, supported, coached and equipped me. As a minority in a male-dominated sport this is the reality.
Current 6data shows female participation rates at a mere 12%. Men in the sport have got to support us, just as they must support men. Women in the sport have got to work with men, just as men must work with men. Like a parking lot criterium, you get around this fact quickly developing tough skin as you go to survive. Fortunately, more women in leadership are now working and supporting men and women.
Many are fighting a battle against chauvinism and expressing the issues better than I. For example, a sound 7argument is gaining ground for parity in prize money for top-placed female riders whose full-time race focus is on par with elite male counterparts. We are no less passionate, no less sacrificial, no less dedicated, no less ambitious about cycling. Our lungs and hearts may be smaller but our spirits soar equally on wheels.
Prayer for Women’s Cycling
“In Christ’s family there can be no division into…male and female. Among us you are all equal.” 8Galatians 3:27-28
We acknowledge equality doesn’t mean we’re the same. We celebrate our differences! We ask for equal opportunity and blessing on women’s cycling and on the men who love us – even when we out-ride them. We ask blessing on women’s cycling and also on female supporters of cycling men.
Ponder Do I treat female cyclists and female cycling enthusiasts respectfully? Affirm I encourage women in cycling by —. Watch that equality doesn’t mean deleting appropriate distinctions of gender.
5 “American Women Awheel,” by Karen Knudsen The Wheelmen Vol 1, Number 1, Summer 1970
6American data for female racing licenses as of January, 2008 Women In Cycling Coaches Conferences by USA Cycling, Colorado Springs, CO
7The argument’s logic doesn’t ignore the fact of less female participation rates and therefore a smaller registration fee income for a promoter to draw prize money for elite women. Instead, it advocates parity for the top-placed females on par with male counterparts inferring that those winning and placing are full-time riders also. There would be a cut-off after the top five or so places where prizes would reflect realities of female participation rates.
8The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson