Today is International Women’s Day. It’s an opportunity to celebrate women in sport, and a call to action to create a more balanced world. “Balance is not a women's issue,” says the organizers of #IWD2019. “The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage."
We’ve borne witness to the transformative power of the bicycle in elevating the life experience of so many passionate riders from all walks of life. And we’ve had the incredible fortune to have been able to support some of the most accomplished women in professional sports. Our very first bike was created for the legendary triathlete Paula Newby-Fraser. Since then, we’ve aided other triathlon world champions such as Michellie Jones, Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae, and Daniela Ryf. We’ve long supported the Sho-Air TWENTY20 race team, and are now proudly crafting bikes for the Rally UHC Cycling pro team, as well. And we’re proud to have assisted in writing a chapter within the storied careers of three-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, multi-time World Track Champion Sarah Hammer, and the women of USA Cycling.
But despite the steady proliferation of female cyclists, there is still work to be done.
“I came into the sport over 30 years ago and I’ve been running teams for 15 years, and it’s been slow progress,” says Nicola Cranmer, General Manager of Sho-Air TWENTY20. “I’d love nothing more than to scream from the rooftops how incredible the progress has been, but the reality is that we have a very long way to go. We have industry partners who share the vision for a strong future for women’s cycling and who continue to help us move the needle. Women’s cycling is nothing but pure opportunity for brands to enter into the world of cycling.”
“With Title IX and women's equality in general, we have come a long way but we still have a long way to go,” says Sho-Air TWENTY20 rider and two-time Olympian Lea Davison. “I feel grateful that in the sport of mountain biking, we have equal race opportunities to the men, we race on the same courses, and we have the same media coverage. We also have fought for equal prize money. But, if you look to women's road racing and women's cyclocross, there's not the same equality. This needs to change.”
With the clear goals of continuing to grow the presence, quality, and equality of women’s bike racing, as well as women’s cycling in general, the focus then becomes on determining how to effect change. Many agree that it starts with improving our cycling communities, and creating both opportunities and welcoming environments for female cyclists and young girls.
“I think that as a society we are heading in the right direction by identifying some of the problems that women face to a greater degree than their male counterparts,” says Sho-Air TWENTY20 rider Erica Clevenger. “Identifying issues like these signals to young girls that they are heard and that they aren't alone. Furthermore, not tolerating behavior that is degrading to women, even when a woman isn't present, is an excellent way to ensure a more balanced environment for young athletes.”
“We are pushing for equality through our work with Little Bellas, the all girls mentoring on mountain bikes program non profit that my sister and I started ten years ago,” says Davison. “This provides a safe space and a welcoming community for young girls to get involved in the sport. We have found that if daughters start riding then the whole family starts riding.”
“I think the greatest weapon women have in this fight is our ability to create strong communities and to support one another,” says Sho-Air TWENTY20 rider Melanie Wong. “In other words, I believe the concept of ‘by women, for women’ ultimately leads to more sustained success. What does this look like? This means getting women in positions of leadership within the sport, developing programs to educate and promote more female team managers, mechanics, race directors and industry leaders, and build strong peer networks for female riders to speak out and express their concerns without judgement or fear. Supporting grassroots programs that focus on women's development is also important. They are too few and far between. But as with any other career, in order to attract young females to the sport, we have to build the environment in which they can envision themselves being successful and see a path for their future. The more we can connect the dots across the cycling industry, the tighter we can bring the weave to ensure that women are an essential, imperative, and equal part of the sport.”
Today is International Women’s Day. It’s an opportunity to celebrate women in sport, and a call to action to create a more balanced world. But the work cannot be confined to today alone. We encourage all bike riders to interact more with their local cycling communities, to motivate the women, young girls, and others in their lives to ride, and to actively strive to create inclusivity in our riding culture. We love nothing more than pedaling, and what it brings to the human experience, and we dream of everyone being able to join us for the ride.
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