Bike Belles in Essex - Can cycling be a girl’s best friend?
If you discovered a simple secret to getting fit, saving money and feeling ten years younger, you’d give it a go, right?
Well there’s really no secret to it – the truth is that cycling regularly can help us do all of the above. But 79 per cent of women across Britain never cycle at all despite 43 per cent having access to a bike.
Come on Essex Girls
let’s take up the challenge, get cycling and become ‘bike belles.’
In a British Market Research Bureau ( BMRB) survey commissioned by sustainable transport charity Sustrans, women revealed a number of reasons why they won’t take to two-wheels, including worries about safety, poor weather, or even being too old to cycle. In the East of England, the biggest concern for women was that they were not fit enough to cycle – yet, getting on a bike would soon improve their fitness. Indeed, regular cyclists can expect to be as fit as an average person ten years younger!
It’s good for the purse too, as keeping a bike costs just a fraction of keeping a car, joining a gym or signing up with a weight-loss programme.
Sarah Leeming, Sustrans’ Active Travel Coordinator in the East of England, says:
“With many women spending vast amounts of money trying to lose weight, it seems we are still rejecting the cheapest, most efficient way of reaching target weight and shaping up – cycling.
‘Sustrans is keen to get more women travelling in ways that benefit their health and the environment. Cycling is the perfect solution.”
Throughout 2009 Sustrans is encouraging more women to cycle. It has launched a new website www.bikebelles.org.uk which includes advice for women on what to wear, where to go, how to get started and a specially recruited women’s panel are sharing their ideas and experiences.
Five female-friendly tips to get you pedalling:
1) Give your bike an MOT. People who find cycling a struggle are often battling with an unfit bike rather than an unfit body!
2) Switch some of the shorter journeys that you would normally make by car and do them by bike instead. Whether to the shops, to work or lunch with friends, travelling by bike is a great way of fitting exercise into your daily routine.
3) Put together a mini-kit of essentials for your journeys: A pump, puncture repair kit and lock to maintain your bike - a hairbrush, wet wipes and compact to maintain your look!
4) Check out cycle training in your area. Some local authorities offer free courses and it really helps to build confidence
5) Don’t be put off by the idea that you need special clothes to cycle in. There’s no reason at all why you can’t ride a bike whilst wearing a skirt and heels. (Sustrans’ policy is that adults should choose whether or not they wear a helmet but that children should be encouraged to do so.)
Buying your bike
It’s a good idea to make sure your bike has a saddle designed for women. These are wider at the back and narrower at the front to accommodate our bone structure.
On women's bikes the crossbar is dropped, allowing us to be more graceful getting on and off and to allow us to wear skirts when we cycle.
A good new bike can cost anything from £100 to £3000, so there will always be something to suit your budget. Second hand bikes can be even cheaper and you can find a real bargain if you are prepared to have a scout around.
Where to cycle in Essex:
Easy ride: The Flitch Way is a 7.5 mile stretch on Route 16 of the National Cycle Network, Sustrans’ flagship project. It’s great for beginners as it is level and traffic-free. It runs from Braintree to Little Dunmow.
Coastal: Feel the sea breeze in your face on a ride along Route 51, through Clacton-on-Sea.
Sustrans will send you a ‘Free your Bike’ pack, containing free maps and information about the cycle routes local to you. To get yours, simply visit this link: ‘Free your bike’.
Sarah Leeming, Sustrans’ Active Travel Coordinator in the East of England
For more information about Sustrans, the National Cycle Network and our other projects, please call or email us (please include your postal address, as this may enable a fuller response). Tel: 0845 113 00 65 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org