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Women’s Wednesday: Rapha Women’s 100

Photos and Video by Shannon McGowan

“What are you doing this weekend? Want to come ride 62.1 miles on the Cap Trail with me and a bunch of other rad ladies?”

These were the surprisingly un-sarcastic words of my dear friend Emma Troy, a bike mechanic at Cary Town Bikes who finds any excuse to get on a bike just about every day. As much as I would’ve loved to try and get out with them, I don’t think my mountain bike or my “10 miles is plenty enough” legs would enjoy it very much. So instead, I brought my camera to capture these badass cyclists in action as they show some love to the women of the biking community.

I give a lot of credit to Richmond’s outdoor community for helping me gain more confidence in the outdoors. The women I have been able to ride and talk with over the 5 years that I’ve lived here have opened my eyes to the importance of incorporating women’s outings into your regular lifestyle/training schedule. I’ve never left an outing feeling anything less than empowered.

This bike outing was a bit more exciting because it connected our own little cycling world in Richmond to women around the globe. The Rapha Women’s 100 is a globally sponsored event aimed at getting women out and riding together since 2013.

Nothing gets Troy more amped up in conversation than talking about women in the outdoors. So I asked her a few questions to AMP her up at this year’s Women’s 100.

What does ‘ride like a girl’ mean to you? 

‘Ride like a girl’ is a way to take back, re-possess, and give a new meaning to the phrase “like a girl.” There such a negative connotation to doing anything “like a girl.” I’m so sick of people thinking we can do less or achieve less just because of how we look or the colors we wear. For the longest time, I myself rejected my feminine side and who I was, a woman, because I was afraid that the men that I rode bikes with would think I was weak or couldn’t do the same trails as them or keep up with them. I was constantly putting myself down, or making jokes at my own expense, at the expense of women, so that I could fit in and be one of the guys. It was toxic-masculinity. I lost myself in “bro culture”. I wasn’t being fair or true to myself or my own people, women! 

After a lot of self-reflection, meeting other women, reading articles and riding with other women, I realized that I didn’t have to ride like a boy or act like a boy to fit into this tight knit industry that is the bike and outdoor adventure community. There is a place for us. We just have to make it. We have to shout about it and ride bikes about it. And demand it.

I like to wear pink and other “fem” colors as a badge of honor.

I want people to see me zip past them on the trail or on the road and see “Ride like a girl” and think oh dang, that’s a chick! 

I’ve been told (by a cis white male) the reason there aren’t that many women in the outdoors / outdoor industry is because it’s too rowdy. And that is the biggest piece of bullshit I’ve ever heard in my life. So here’s to continuing to fight the good fight, and show people HEY we exist! We’re here! With brightly colored jerseys and a literal badge of honor across the back. 

Why do you think women’s group outings are important? 

I think women group outings are important because I didn’t know half of these women existed. I’ve met some incredible people at the Women’s 100k that I would have never met otherwise. It’s so easy to feel isolated and alone in the bike industry because of the lack of women, but they’re out there. They just have been forced to do their sport discreetly and alone. I do not go on regular local group rides because I know I will be the only woman. I have experienced sexism and sexist comments out riding in groups of men and so I am not motivated and simply do not want to go back. It is so intimidating to go on group rides when you might be the only woman because of negative experiences like this. Even if the majority of the men are actual good humans who you are friends with and trust, someone will always have something to say or make sexist jokes even if they don’t realize that it is sexist. And you can only have so much patience and energy to correct them. I didn’t experience a single sexist joke or comment today at this ride. I never felt like the odd one out. I felt safe, and I had fun. And that’s why it’s important to have these outings. To meet like-minded individuals, and to be able to ride your damn bike in a safe space. 

What do you have to say to the men out there?

If I could say one thing to men it’d be: don’t tell me what to do. Don’t tell what I can and can’t do. I’ve had multiple men, on separate occasions, ask if I knew the mountain bike trail I was about to drop in on was a black diamond. It was insulting that they assumed I couldn’t ride a black diamond because I was a women, but even more insulting that they didn’t think I was capable of knowing my own limits or maybe they didn’t even think I could read a map of mountain bike trials. And to that I just say: do better guys. Just trust me, support me, and most of all listen to me. Listen to me when I say a joke is sexist and makes me uncomfortable, listen to me when I say I known I can do this advanced trail because I know myself and my riding abilities. Listen to me when I say there the way women are treated in the bike/outdoor adventure community is problematic. And don’t try to justify or stumble over your words to apologize. Just listen. Okay, I guess I had more than one thing to say to the men of the bike world.

What would you say to the women getting into biking? 

Stay strong. It’s going to be tough. Find people that will take you out and show you the ropes. And when you can’t at first, don’t be afraid to go out alone. You won’t have all the right gear at first. You won’t have the perfect bike at first. But you don’t need it when you’re just starting out. Just go out and get after it.

Big Shoutout to Erin Shahan, Emma Troy, Mati McCann, Allie Helmbrecht, Raychelle Bayley, Katie Jo Prince, Carolina Brewer, Lori White, Kelly Buis, Mike McGinley, Sandrine Thominet, Karen Hull, Sandra Dee Norman, Jill Williams, and all the other women to got outside to play on bikes for the Rapha Women’s 100.

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