By Sheila Ascroft
Some women need more than just a bike and an open road. They want the cycling skills to feel confident and companions who won’t intimidate them.
“We want people to NOT feel intimidated about joining the club,” says Sylvie D’Aoust, creator of the “CHICKS” club. “This is a place for women of any age to improve and get in shape, have fun and become better cyclists.”
If the first few weeks are any indicator, it definitely appears that the “women are eager to learn how to ride their bikes better and more efficiently, or learn to bike faster and be stronger. They all want to improve upon their cycling skills and technique – and so they shall!” says Sylvie.
In the Ottawa area, one women’s-only club – CycleFit CHICKS Club – has become so popular in just three years that it is capping its membership this year to 80. It wants to ensure that its services: the Monday night technical rides and Sunday group rides are not compromised. Currently, there are 70 members, so if you are sitting on the fence, don’t wait any longer. The cycling season has started!
Only three-years-old, last season saw 50 members join up, ranging from their mid-20s to mid-60s. The club is affiliated with Euro-Sports bike shop.
The club has started this season with three weeks progressively introducing the technique of group riding, drafting and rotating both single file and double pace line. The women are encouraged to become comfortable with riding close to others both from the side and behind. They also learn how to shift gears and apply the brakes with control and ease.
“We feel that it is very important that the club members become very comfortable with all aspects of group riding, it is the very basis of cycling,” says Sylvie.
The first week, we had everyone riding in groups of eight with one group leader, making sure everyone stayed together, while I drifted between the groups and assisted those who need help with their gearing.
Sylvie also noted that a hybrid/mountain bike group has developed within the club. So, if you have a hybrid bike, you would still fit in!
Club membership currently costs $100. It includes a free but mandatory basic bike skills course and two 2-hour bike maintenance workshops.
Sylvie says that a vital part of the club is being actively involved with the community. “Each member is asked volunteer some time during the season either with our own club or with Somersault Promotions, which conduct local triathlon, duathlon and Kids of Steel races. In turn, members get a $30 discount towards the next year’s membership fee.”
I’ve been cycling for 20-some years and writing about it for the last 10. My articles have been published in newspapers and magazines — and now on the women’s cycling website! I’m a member of the Ottawa Bicycle Club and the Canadian Kilometer Achiever Program. www.sheilaascroft.com