Thursday, March 6, 2008

A two wheeled strategy to promote women's cycling in WA

On Wednesday 5 March 2008 a group of WA women cyclists gathered to discuss ways in which road racing in WA could be improved. The outcomes of this evening have been formulated into a draft strategy.

We are seeking feedback on this draft strategy through out March please post a comment in response to this blog or if you’d prefer contact Cycling WA direct or call 08 9328 3422. Once we have finalised this strategy we will then be calling for volunteers to make it happen.

The two wheeled strategy

The rear wheel: generate interest and support for new women to participate in road racing
The front wheel: improve the current experience of road racing in WA for women

The rear wheel: generate interest and support for new women to participate in road racing

The greatest barrier to participation is the current low numbers of women participating in racing despite many women riding. To drive the sport forward it will be critically important to generate interest and support participation.

Action 1) Women’s specific come and try day

Description: A free or cheap event for women that includes
-skills session
-exhibition race
-participation race
-information stalls
-goodies and information pack
-options for progression

When: Annually

Who: Hosted by a club, coordinated by a lead volunteer, supported by the CWA

Action 2) 4-6 week skills course

Description: A course designed to teach basic road racing skills and build confidence. The come and try day will be a key feeder for this course.

When: Annually

Who: Coordinated by a lead volunteer, run by a qualified coaches and assistants, supported by CWA

Action 3) A women’s focused event or series of events

Description: An event that is specifically designed to give women a positive first race experience. The come and try day and multi week skills course will be a key feeders for this event
When: Annually
Who: Hosted by a club, coordinated by a lead volunteer, supported by the CWA

The front wheel: improve the current experience of road racing in WA for women

Once an interest has been generated it will be important to ensure that there are races for women to progress on to and enjoy participating in.

Action 1) Best practice checklist for clubs hosting events

Description: Develop a checklist for clubs to help them ensure that their event is friendly to women and supports other new comers to the sport. The checklist should cover:
-Course selection
-Welcoming of newcomers

When: By December 2008

Who: Coordinated by a lead volunteer, lead by a club, to be endorsed by the Race Management Committee and supported by CWA

Action 2) Publish race reports by women on CWA website

Description: Encourage women to write race reports for publishing on the CWA website to promote a culture of sharing the race experience.

When: Ongoing

Who: Individuals who participated in the March 2008 forum to set an example and encourage others to also do so.


Holly said...

Yesterday I emailed the Tour de Perth organisers asking about the support womens event. No answer. There has been no explanation for the off/on/off status of this event on their website either.

The fact that it comes and goes with no explanation says a lot. I get the impression that it is too hard to run and not wanted.

Innaccuracy in information has to be expected if no one is willing to provide an explanation.

The outcome for the women's support at TdP will give us an indication of where women stand in the racing pecking order.

The forum held last week was the perfect opportunity for someone to bring up the problems associated with running a women's support event. It seems to me that it is not the lack of women supporting the event that is the problem. The event, or more specifically the event organisers are showing a lack of support for women's racing with the way that they have dealt with this problem.

It now seems that the fate of the event is dependent on the involvement of Cycling WA and of course, the costs. Who knows, the event may run - but will women have time to support it.

Beck said...

I think that there a many many reasons as to why these things happen. There are a number of volunteers trying to come up with a creative solution, which is great.

So any comments about the draft strategy?

For it to have an impact in the future we will need to get constructive feedback, finalise it, seek support from key players and roll our sleeves up and do something.

Anonymous said...

Thank you chicks cycling WA for trying to pick up the pieces and get cycling in WA for chicks happening. It is a very tough subject and I think there are a number of problems that seem to keep arising. I must admit I am one of those people that would love to be elite but just are not 'one of them' due to work and life commitments but would love to race more still (at a lower level).

I would like to get back into women's racing if some changes were to happen. I haven't raced recently because of injury however I have been getting back into it lately. I must admit that I have been considering triathlons and time trials more as those events provide the opportunity to race against myself whilst still giving that buzz from pushing myself and not the disappointment from being spat out or from going home with no race(due to lack of numbers etc).

I did go to one of the women's meetings that was a year or so ago and thought things may happen however for some reason they didn't. I tried to support crit series that had a women's section however that seemed to lack interest and fell through. So it does seem to be a combination of things (both lack of support from women racers and organisational support) and there obviously is no hard and fast answer.

I think organisations such as ATTA and some triathlon clubs seem to have found the right mix and I think they should be praised for the way they organise events. I have only competed in two triathlons however I can see why more and more women seem to be taking up the sport because there is definitely a positive atmosphere and a great attitude radiating from the events. I have also been involved and watched some adventure races and they too have a great 'have a go' type approach/feel.

I think the two-wheeled approach sounds great and maybe that will be what gets things off the ground and will keep the bike staying upright!


Anonymous said...

During my short spell with the TdP organising Committee, I was unaware of the CWA session about Woman's Cycling, and consequently this forum. This would have been a more appropriate place for my TdP posting, but am grateful to ATTA, with whom I also ride.

Count me in as male supporter.

As with all Sporting Clubs, what goes on behind the scenes is a major driver. Many unseen mums and dads support the junior levels, and many of the adults are there because they joined as a kid!

Cyclosportif, a club started by adults for adults, may be able to offer some advice and support? For a start they don't just organise, they ride! Nevertheless many of the volunteers on the day are their partners. So ladies possibly you also need to consider where your supporters are to come from? Where are the husbands and boyfriends who are going to man the rego desks, organise the refreshments, provide the first aid, etc?

Last year, Mickey, then from Bike Force Freo, now South Perth, during Fremantle's Fashion Week, organised a fashion parade of cycle wear, modelled by lots of current and master elites. A couple of the ladies had 6 packs that I was envious off, but I digress, there was standing room only from the many supporters that attended this gala evening.

Most of WA riders are not club members. The serious recreational rider, a potential source for your more competitive rider's, do the regular bike shop rides, every week, and there are many ladies amongst them. I would like to see CWA being pro-active in getting these many rides into the information loop. There may also be ways of getting them into the CWA organision, but it shouldn't be the primary driver for their involvement, eg, insurance, as Bicyle Victoria is doing over east.

It is interesting that much of what you are discussiong for both the front and rear wheel applies across the board. It seems however, that possibly ladies are more cautious about taking the step to compete, without the training, etc. As an example, the recent Perth Crit series, clearly demonstrated on several occasions, in the Men's Support, crashes due to skill shortage, braking in corners being the most obvious. May be seeing some of the gravel burns put future lady riders off. I know one guy, did the first event and pulled out, as he said it was terrifying.

I did the basic coach level to assist in coaching non competitive riders, the pre-cursor to your objective, eg, bike shop, non competive clubs, but also school age riders. I mention the latter particularly as it could also be an area for your focus, is it 'cool' for school girls to cycle, how do you make it so?

Although on the DPI list to assist in training at schools, nothing has progressed as volunteer coaches like me can't get insurance coverage? Another area where some pressure is required.

Wish you every success, if you need someone to cheer you own I love it.


Bec said...

As a new female to the sport of cycling (approx. 2 months) I am excited to read about the new initiative that has been put forward.

I must admit it took me a few months to take the plunge and head get back into cycling, as I just didn't know where to start. Although the initiative to provide females with the opportunity to particpate in a safe, non-threatening "practice" events, it should encourage others to come down and have a go. Since I started I haven't looked back and am excited to particpate in my first race when the opportuntiy presents.

Coming from a triathlon background I am sure there are plenty of other females who would be interseted in participating, especially in the off season.

I look forward to hearing more about the upcoming events. Keep up the great work!


Davina Summers said...

Hi All,
Congrats to Rebecca Armstrong for putting this Blog site together and organizing a few of us to come together and create a plan. I think we have some good ideas and suggestions, but most of these come from women who are actually racing (as opposed to our current target audience of those who ride but not race). We need the women who want to race, but have not quite taken the plunge, or have only tried it a couple of times. WA must be missing something, as other states have high level of women participating in races.

When I race, I like to see:
• prompt posting of event results and easy link to previous results (ATTA do this well)
• race reports (ATTA also do this well)
• Start/registration Lists (Cycling NSW do this well)- so you can see who is racing as soon as they register
• online registrations- more than one week before (Cycling WA seems to be doing better with this)
• clear, printable maps for the courses, outlining the start/finish and distances (this makes me feel more comfortable when I have not done the course before) available well in advance of the race so you can arrange to drive/ride the course well in advance
• dedicated women’s event (and women’s support if a bigger race) or inclusion of women in the handicapping
• Elite women’s presentations being given the same acknowledgement as the Elite Men
• Lots of new women turn up and have a go and chatting to them at the end of racing.

The situation that we are currently in is a little bit of a “chicken and egg scenario”. Some of the ideas can only be implemented if we are able to attain sufficient numbers of women racing, but to encourage these women to race we need to implement some of these strategies. I haven’t been riding for long enough to see the efforts of years gone by, but it seems that significant efforts have been made in the past, but to no avail. I don’t want this effort to be just another ‘try’ at improving women’s racing in WA, so women themselves need to be the drivers of this change, and initially, some of the women who would like to race need to help out by putting their hand up to volunteer ideas, a supporting role, or jump out and race. There is a couple of us who would be happy to ‘buddy’ up with you for some ‘intro to racing information’ and ‘what to do on the day’ guidance.

I think there is a lack of coaches, or availability or access to these coaches. I have had a number of women ask about coaching for specialized skills (for cornering etc- which is a skill I am a long way off mastering and should not be giving out advice to anyone!) and only have one or two names to give them really and I am not too sure how to best contact them. I suggest to Cycling WA that they call for coaches who wish to have their details listed on the website so new adult athletes could inquire about where to get some coaching in an adult environment. It would be good to see clubs taking on this role with it all tied together through Cycling WA. We could have a list of women-friendly coaches on this sight?

There has been much banter about the Tour de Perth Support Women’s event (being on and off again). I will be interested to see just how much support this event gets, I am hoping that the women of WA are able to show the TdP organizers that they were of poor form for cancelling the event and that the lack of numbers will not justify the organiser’s decision. Take the Freeway Bike Hike (March, 16th 2008) for example, Tri events has a history of well-organised, well-run and supported events. They put on a Women’s race as well as a Men’s race prior to the start of the punter’s participation ride with equal prize money (first prize for the women was $800, paying up to 5th place), yet there was only 8 female starters (anything less than 10 usually means that it is combined with the men). So why would Tri events continue to support women’s racing, if the women don’t seem to be supporting their events? Whilst I am on the Freeway Bike Hike; if I was a social, female (or male) cyclist looking at getting into cycling racing I would come to an event like that expecting to be able to find someone/a stand/some information in my participation bag about what to do if I wanted to step up to the next level or an event calendar etc. I suggest that about 10-20% of the 7000-odd people who participated in the FBH would consider racing, why are we not actively marketing racing to them? Whose responsibility would this be?
I have asked NDCC (my Club) to put a link to this blog site on their webpage, if others have affiliations to other clubs if they can do this also. I am sure that Cycling WA will have the link available on their site soon too. As for encouraging participation, I still get emails from TriWA regarding events, since last (and only once) competing in the half ironman in 2006. Despite never being a TriWA member I know exactly when and where all of there events are and how to enter them, what the courses are etc…so why does enews from Cycling WA only go to members?
Why does Cycling WA not report on Masters events and ATTA events that many women participate in?
Until we can get the numbers increased, how could we go about getting a Women’s A and B grade category set-up? This might come back to an agreement or minimum standards between Cycling WA and the Clubs holding races. Such that the distances would be the same (so no extra volunteers, start times etc) but you would nominate either starting in A or B grade for women. As they would race together it would provide an opportunity for B graders to transition into A grade whilst (for a period) getting recognition for finishing on the podium for B grade. With increasing numbers this could be then separated into two different races of differing distances. It would not be that hard to organize, and would be no worse off than how we are now, but would need the support of women to make it happen.
MT has posted some comments about race atmosphere, and I agree. I do think it is improving however; there was a positive atmosphere at the first SRS race in Pemberton this year created by the organisers. Do we make clubs aware of the need to create a positive ambiance, who should be responsible for doing this and how can it be achieved? MT- there is a few of us that would love to see you come out for some races and share your experience if you have raced in the past, please let us know what we can do for you to make that first step, sometimes with women if there is a couple of people taking the plunge, it is easier for others to follow.
I suggest that the Blog site post links and comments to up and coming ‘women friendly’ cycling events and be in contact with the organizers of those events letting them know that we are actively supporting and promoting their events as they have the women’s categories listed.
I also think that we should put together a ‘noddy guide’ document of women’s racing in WA as an overview for someone new who knows nothing about what happens with the racing/clubs/cyclingwa/state series etc…stuff that it took me my whole first year to work out.
I think we have a great opportunity with the end of the triathlon season approaching. Surely, some of the trialthletes would like to do some off season cycling racing? Maybe some of the triathletes reading this would be able to suggest how best to contact these women. I would like to post a link on the TriWA website/forum and may do in the next couple of days.
Anyway, I think that is long enough. Well done if you have read through it all.
All constructive comments, requests for guidance and seemingly silly questions are encouraged.
Come on WA Women Cyclists, we can make this an awesome state to race in, we just need to get it together.

Davina Summers

Anonymous said...


I just wanted to congratulate you ladies and say what a great job you are doing in promoting women's cycling. Helping it to get recognised as well as trying to increase the number of women competitively racing.

I am a novice cyclist, only getting into the sport in September 2007. It is an addictive sport to say the least. I ride Saturday mornings with a group in which some members from NDCC also ride in the group. They advised me about the WA Women's Cycling forum how they are trying to encourage more women to compete.

Being a novice rider and never having competed before in cycling, I believe the workshops suggested in the blogs are a great idea, and would be successful in encouraging more women into cycling and further to compete (it would for me). Cycling is not just about jumping on a bike and making the pedals go round, as some may think. By having these workshops it would help to build confidence as well as cyclists skills sets. Thereby when us novices go to compete we will at least look like we have some idea of what we are doing:)

Another comment, from a novices point of view, I understand the women's race circuits start at 60kms. Whilst we are all capable of riding 60kms when it is in a race situation it can be quite daunting, as in effect you are competing and it is no longer a casual ride. If the circuits were smaller say 30-40kms I believe it would encourage more women to get into racing - well it would encourage me. I believe once you have done a few at that length you would have built your confidence up for being in a competitive situation and further your skills and technique enabling you to confidently tackle a 60km race!

Lisa Rowe

Erika said...

There are some very constructive comments made, and I thought there would be more, considering the hits.

The two wheeled strategy is a great start. Definately need to tap into the end of the tri-event season as I know of 2 ladies who complete triathalons and would like to do more riding in their off season, which is coming up.
But the start is in providing information.

I am in the category of commentators you seek here. Novice to bikes; been riding for 18 mths; commenced at bike shop buying a bike to ride to/from work - 20km each way; commenced saturday morning rides a year ago; bought a better road bike last August; entered in the large group participation charity rides where I got the buzz wanting to do more; hubby thru his work got to know a biking family and I have been greatly appreciative of direction; joined a bike club very recently; completed the Pemberton Classic Support Women Cat and did comparitively well for novice; managing a team for Cyclosportif entry - all new to me; have commenced attending bike club training sessions; entered in Peter Clark Memorial Race in Support Women Cat.

My opinion is joining clubs will assist - you need a CA licence to race the events in Cycling WA. But there is no info or suitable events to get the girls there. Websites, whether they are Cycling WA or Clubs, don't tell anything to a newbie to the world of novice adult cycling. It would be good to see information packs, website/email or introduction on joining as to the ethos of club and where to go from there. What training nights entail? Who is who? Guidance. Building confidence. Advice on where to go from the stage presently at and who to approach for all this. (I am only new attending 2 training sessions and could be jumping the gun here, but thus far I have been asking the questions).

Interest for novice women begins at the local bike shop where the first port of call occurs when a bike is purchased. How about an info pack given with every womens bike purchased? This can entail shop rides info and local club info. Also, at those charity events because that is when the bug starts. Then we need events to cater for novice racers.
It is good clubs are great with juniors and they are the upcomers (if they stick with it after their teenage years); but you gotta also look at the older novices. I have a has-been ex-track-racer hubby ready to come back from his long gone junior days and a 6 yr old for the future, if she is interested. Don't forget that bike purchases again have far exceeded car purchases and you wonder what these people are doing?
Women are great at networking and love coffee. The idea of have-a-go-day will sit well for the newbies to riding overall - eg school mums wanting to get back into fitness once kids are at fulltime school. It will require 'getting the word out there' if such an event did occur. And that goes for all.
All of "Things we can do to make a difference", will, if we get the information and interest out there.

So, outa the 214 hits on this site with 4 being me, I would like to see some novice girls enter in the Peter Clark Memorial Race set for 13 April. There is a Support Women category catered for. Just have a go, like me.