Why the Future of Women’s Gravel Cycling is Bright
It was just a crazy solo endeavor, my idea to jump on board the 140 mile #DIYgravel Belgian Waffle Ride edition at eight weeks postpartum. A fun challenge amidst current events being canceled, but it’s not like it was a real race or anything. And yet, I was nervous like a race. I’ve missed that feeling after nine months of pregnancy: the feeling where you are excited for a big challenge and also a little worried that it might be too lofty of a goal. As soon as I began to put it out there, to my girlfriends and the internet, I knew I had a bit more accountability to put my idea and goal into action. What I underestimated and had eight and a half hours to ponder while riding, is just how special women supporting women can be. If this is the kind of support received for just a fun self imposed ride, it shines a light on the state of the sport as I see it today.
One might say I have some pretty special friends, and I’m certain I do, but it wasn’t just my personal example that I’ve been observing. I’m a member of Girls Gone Gravel, a movement and community aimed at encouraging women to adventure. @girlgonegravel hosts a Women’s Gravel Cycling facebook group with over 500 members (and on the rise). This is the most active community on facebook I’ve been a part of and a quick scroll through the posts showcases the spirit of gravel: women encouraging other women, women sharing information and knowledge, women inviting the community to join them for a ride in their state or country. I haven’t observed one bit of showboating or ego. I see leaders and mentors in the sport stepping up to share knowledge and encourage. Women brand new to the sport are excited to share photos of their new rides and ask questions. The excitement and the genuine enthusiasm is palpable for women attempting their first ride, or a new goal or event.
So while I know that the statistics for most races show 20% or less female participation, we not only see that on the rise, but racing and event participation is only one indicator of the health of the sport. The participation and interest in gravel riding, anecdotally speaking, seems to be skyrocketing from my vantage point. Even my stylist at my neighborhood hair salon messaged me recently to ask how much it might cost to buy her first gravel bike. She doesn’t own a bike but she’s been observing the community and the sport just in our little town in Vermont and there’s an attraction to it, it’s inclusive, encouraging and most importantly, FUN.
Camaraderie. Encouragement. Pushing each other to reach for new limits and goals: the future of women’s gravel feels bright. We hope you’ll join us.