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Women & Bicycles

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Businesswomen, activists, club riders, commuters, bloggers and adventurers all came together at the Women & Bicycles event in Oxford over the weekend to network, learn and gain inspiration.
 
The weekend kicked off with some lively panel discussions including 'Making space for women in cycling' and 'Going places by bike', incorporating discussions about social, educational, professional and emotional journeys by bike and through life.  There was a lot of discussion about overcoming challenges and also prejudices/resistance from others, often family members.
 
The afternoon session incorporated workshops to help women overcome barriers to cycling, including the physical (bike maintenance, saddle soreness) and mental (e.g. how to prepare for a long-distance cycle journey).  
 
I took part in a 'Fix a Flat' puncture workshop with the Broken Spoke Co-op, a not-for-profit do-it-yourself bicycle workshop in Oxford. When asked about my best puncture experience I replied "Cycling the entire North Coast 500 without getting a single puncture!” And the worst?  Pushing 5 miles home from work last week in the dark and rain after getting a puncture and not feeling confident enough to fix it myself. Well that's all changed now thanks to a brilliant masterclass from Ellie and Karen of Broken Spoke.
 
The keynote speaker on Saturday was the brilliantly hilarious and self-effacing Rickie Cotter, former 24 hour MTB champion and endurance cyclist. Hearing about her difficult upbringing in the care system and her rebellious teenage years makes her progression to one of the best female endurance riders in the UK even more impressive. If you could bottle her enthusiasm and drive, it would sell for millions.
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Sunday morning brought torrential rain and high winds, however, the bravest souls headed out on their bikes to take part in various rides ranging from a pootle around town to a serious training ride with the Cowley Road Condors. Everyone came in from the cold to enjoy a warming cuppa and brunch before the days' talks and films.
 
First up was a panel discussion on 'Cycling as a family' where the enormous and wide ranging benefits of cycling with children were discussed.  Frustrations were voiced by all that more parents do not cycle to school with their children, especially given the short distances this usually entails.  
 
Women bikes talk Women bikes talk BW

Quote of the festival goes to Josie Dew, an author and accomplished touring cyclist who, upon returning from a long cycling trip became pregnant and declared “I know what to do with my bottom bracket and my headset, but what on earth do I do with a baby!”  
 
This panel was followed by, for me, the highlight of the weekend: The Adventure Syndicate's film of their epic, record-breaking North Coast 500 ride. Grit, determination and teamwork with a good dose of hard-core thrown in; the definition of a women's cycling adventure. The film itself (edited by Anna Kubik) was truly awe-inspiring and should be released by the Scottish Tourist Board!  I have a feeling it will do well at the various adventure film festivals this year. 
 
After a final cuppa and cake we all headed back to our corners of the country feeling ready to take on the world. As Naomi Mahendran of The Cycling Store so succinctly put it - building confidence is key to getting more women on bikes - and this kind of event is a sure-fire way of doing just that.
 
A massive thank you to the organisers of Women & Bicycles (Broken Spoke Co-op, Adventure Syndicate and all others) and to the catering staff who kept us all fed and watered with delicious cakes and veggie fare all weekend.

Women and bicycles festival board

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