Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ride, Ladies, Ride

Did you know that only 24% of women ride bikes, down from 30% ten years ago? In general, ridership has increased—and we should celebrate that—but guys overwhelmingly rule the road.

Enter Charlene Wallace, Director of Operations at Local Motion. She recently attended the National Women's Bike Summit in California. Inspired and moved, she vowed to get more women on bikes. The theory is that women need to be introduced to biking. Here along Champlain's shores, Charlene provided two safe opportunities; the October events took advantage of Burlington's and South Burlington's recreation paths.

The premise of these women-only gatherings—for novice and experienced riders—is to support and enrich their overall experience. Charlene advertised that she'd conduct a simple flat repair clinic, if there was interest.

While October isn't an ideal time of year to recruit new riders, the energy was there. Weather for the first ride was nasty: chilly and windy, with light rain. I was coming down with a cold so I stayed home. No one showed up. Undaunted, Charlene tried again.

On Saturday morning's ride, a pretty fog cloaked the waterfront. One lady arrives. There are four total, perfect for riding in pairs. Leaving the golden trees in front of Local Motion's office, we head north, entering a surreal landscape. Geese are honking. We laugh because we can't see them, but their presence is comforting nonetheless. I am beside myself with the fall colors; this is the last hurrah at lake level before stick season claims its gloomy grip.

Charlene and Karen.
Conversation flows. Karen is drawn by the companionship. Her husband doesn't ride much anymore. Interestingly, she's encountered a similar experience to my own, hooking up with a local club ride. It was billed as a "tour", but the pace was more race-like, leaving slower folks behind. I recall that it felt like I was riding alone. 

All too soon we stop on the Winooski River bridge, original turnaround. The fog swirls. We are game to go farther. More talk. We try the Causeway Trail, but the surface is still covered in coarse rocks, allowing heavy equipment operators the ability to make final repairs. A quick jaunt around Mills Point then we swing back. The ladies humor me while I stop for a lawn sale. I bring home a stuffed monkey for my son's collection. Another woman buys little cars for a work display. We chat about how fun sales are by bike; little space equals little purchases.

Riding with women can be relaxing and social. I follow Let's Go Ride a Bike's Women Who Bike Brunch series, wondering if I should organize a similar outing.

Repair stand, pump, and tools outside Local Motion's offices.
By the time we head back over the bridge, the fog has lifted. Sunshine warms the morning. More cyclists cruise the waterfront path.

Karen, who's never had a flat and is now without her husband's mechanical know how, wishes to learn the repair basics. Charlene obliges.

Karen and Leah inspect the work station.
Charlene is excited to continue the events in the Spring. These organized ladies-only rides are in their infancy, of course, but the possibilities are promising. Want to come along for the ride?

1 comment:

  1. "Interestingly, she's encountered a similar experience to my own, hooking up with a local club ride. It was billed as a "tour", but the pace was more race-like, leaving slower folks behind."

    I think "tour" and "touring" are the two most misused and abused terms in cycling over the last half-century.

    (Though over the last few years "cruiser" has become the most misused and abused term in the Portland Craigslist bicycle section.)


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