International Women's Day - Women in Cycling

 
The Suffragette’s championed the bike as a tool for liberation.

The Suffragette’s championed the bike as a tool for liberation.

Today marks International Women’s Day around the world, a celebration of women, their achievements and independence. The connection between the bicycle and women’s empowerment may surprise you as it has been both a physical and metaphorical vehicle for the liberation of women.  Susan Anthony of the women’s suffrage once wrote. 

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling… I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride on a wheel. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”

In support of International Women’s Day we spoke with three inspiring female founders changing the shape of cycling today.  

Jacqui Ma, Goodordering

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What was your inspiration behind starting Goodordering?

Goodordering is all about getting people to ride bikes more. We do this through designing feel-good and functional cycling accessories for urban commuters, that simplify your ride experience, making it more enjoyable. I was designing bags for Puma at the time and wanted to start my own brand. My flatmate at the time spend a whole day looking for a bike pannier and then came home and said that i should design those, so I did.

What does it mean to you to be a women in the cycling industry?

As I design bags that happen to attach to bikes, I don’t feel like I’m deep in the cycling industry, my role and Goodordering’s mission is to encourage more non-cyclists to take up this activity, which ultimately is good for your health and the environment. I have been in male dominated industries in the past with my first job being in a carpet backing factory. I also have three brothers and two sons, so i don’t really see the difference between men and women in this industry, more so i see different approaches. Male approaches are more aggressive and competitive. Feminine approaches are softer, more intuitive and more collaborative. I know men in the industry who display these feminine attributes and equally i know women in the industry who have those male traits.

It’s important for women to be in the cycling industry because women need other women as role models, and especially with inspiration to cycle themselves. The global statistics show that girls cycle when they are kids but tend to stop for good as they become a teenager, unlike boys. Women working in bike shops, such as mechanics, are instrumental in removing the macho -sometimes intimidating- aspect of cycling. Being a role model for women to work in less traditional female roles is really important to me. 

What advice you give other women starting their own business/wanting to break into the cycling industry? 

I would say go for it of course, but ask for help when you need it and create a business model that works for you and the lifestyle that you want. For me, right now having a lifestyle business where I can also do my Mum duties works for me. In the future I will look at scaling and a more aggressive approach, but right now I’m finding it hard enough to juggle family life, health and work so I’m happy working from my kitchen table.

What does the future of cycling look like to you?

I think that in the next 10-20 years cycling will change dramatically. Firstly, we will see an increase in electric bicycles and scooters on the road as the ageing population increases. Cyclists who have seen the convenience and benefits of riding a bike will continue into their older age and electric bikes will help this happen. Also, there will be a lot more cycling gear and accessories that are designed in a more lifestyle oriented way. As more people will be self employed, there will be more casual dressing for cyclists and less formal dressing across the board as we move away from traditional workplaces. Thirdly, more people will be cycling as a reaction to increasingly congested cities and public transport systems, so i think we will see cycling infrastructure improve along with the acceptance and integration of cyclists on the road. I have a positive outlook for cycling in the future as you can see, with lots of opportunity for innovation and spreading positive messages to all ages.

Sasha Afanasieva, Blubel

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What inspired you to start Blubel?

I started Blubel because I started cycling in London and found it incredibly stressful. As a complete novice with no knowledge of most of London (apart from the Tube map!) I kept getting lost or getting onto really busy polluted roads, which were terrifying. So I wanted to create something really simple, that would show me quiet safe routes without breaking the bank.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in the cycling industry?

It’s really important to have diversity in the cycling industry - and not just for the cyclists. Men are twice as likely to cycle than women in major cities. Thinking about catering for women, and other groups that are less likely to cycle is key to making cycling mainstream. And if you help all people to cycle, it has a huge positive impact on everyone: cleaner air, less traffic and noise pollution, and also with a healthier population it puts less pressure on the NHS! That’s why when we designed Blubel, we were thinking not only about the avid cyclists, but also those who may be getting on their bike for the first time since they were kids.

What advice would you give other women starting their own business/wanting to break through into the cycling industry

My advice would really apply to men and women, but I would say the number one thing is to trust yourself. You won’t always get things right, in fact, most of the time it’s about trying out things and moving on if it’s not working, but I think it’s really important to be confident to make decisions and learn from them. The other thing is to ask for help. You can’t do everything and it really makes a difference. For women in particular, there are numerous initiatives out there to help female entrepreneurs: from mentoring to female-focused investment funds. Definitely look those up!

What do you think the future of cycling looks like?

The future of cycling is bright! It will become the main form of transport, outstripping personal vehicles and public transport. Amsterdam and Copenhagen are prime examples of how the bicycle can transform cities. Cycling will also incorporate new technology. There's already double-digit growth in e-bikes globally, which is fantastic as it makes cycling accessible and more practical for longer journeys. I think the next step is connecting cyclists with other forms of transport to make journeys safer, more convenient and enjoyable. 

Catherine Bedford, Dashel

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What was your inspiration behind starting Dashel?

I started her career designing accessories for luxury brands before specialising in trend forecasting and product development. Her role was to help global brands including Nike, Sony, Virgin and LVMH identify new materials, technologies and markets to create new product lines and campaigns. A keen cyclist, I saw a gap in the market for an urban cycle helmet made with the same qualities that draw us to bikes and accessories that we love: namely provenance, craftsmanship and the finest materials. 

What does it mean to you to be a women in the cycling industry?

Dashel is a unisex brand and men and women have worked with me on getting different aspects of the product to market, so for my business it has never been a factor. Interestingly there is no gender divide in our sales, we sell 50% to men and women.

What advice you give other women starting their own business/wanting to break into the cycling industry? 

You’ve chosen a good industry, fellow brands - whether male or female run seem to be very supportive.

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