Author Topic: Women and long cycle tours  (Read 5926 times)

arabella

  • no se porque yo no lo se
Women and long cycle tours
« on: March 25, 2019, 08:45:57 pm »
I enjoy reading the long distance tour reports that people put up (Greg, John etc)
BUT, I did start to wonder:  mainly blokes doing the long solo rides/tours and meeting other blokes doing long solo rides/tours (Emily once otp being an exception)
So why don't we women do long rides?
-Is it because society tells us it's "unladylike"
-Is it because fewer women cycle generally (and why is that?)
-Is it because if something (someone) goes wrong it's our fault for going on a long bike ride, alone, rather than bad luck etc?
or what?
In the dark, all views are the same.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2019, 08:47:13 pm »
Impact of caring commitments on Copious Free Time™, as usual, I suspect.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2019, 08:56:20 pm »
It's nearly 31 years since I took my bike and tent onto a plane and headed unaccompanied to the Arctic west coast of Norway from Stockholm airport. I blew 3 weeks' Annual Leave on this and wanted to retain my job.

Realistically I couldn't have gone further or faster.

Scandinavia was fine for the lone lady.

I found that men harassed me when travelling alone further south.

Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2019, 09:22:33 pm »
Have you read "Full Tilt" by Dervla Murphy? It's fabulous.


mcshroom

  • Mushroom
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2019, 09:26:49 pm »
This blog, by Helen Dowson (Helen123 on Cyclechat) of her solo tour across Canada was one of the big influences on me starting cycle touring. Unfortunately I can't see me being in the position where I could tour for more than a couple of weeks any time soon, and there are issues with my line of work if you go off grid for too long, but the idea of just touring for months is appealing. :)
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=1&page_id=145579&v=J8
Climbs like a sprinter, sprints like a climber!

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2019, 09:26:54 pm »
I know a couple of Aussie ladies who did long solo cycle tours a few decades ago that seriously impressed me. Neither had kids.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2019, 10:00:20 pm »
Also, I think men are statistically more likely to have jobs that pay enough for them to take the time off, and will then re-employ them.
Quote from: Kim
^ This woman knows what she's talking about.

Adam

  • It'll soon be summer
    • Charity ride Durness to Dover 18-25th June 2011
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2019, 10:10:32 pm »
Perhaps in the same way most train spotters are male, it's more men who fall for the allure of long distance cycling?
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” -Albert Einstein

Basil

  • Um....err......oh bugger!
  • Help me!
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2019, 10:26:26 pm »
I was inspired by the Josie Dew books.  Reading of her exploits was what changed me from a two day falling in the canal  type to a several day, get lost and still fall in the canal type.
Quote from: Kim
And remember that friends who organise things on Facebook aren't proper friends anyway.

Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2019, 10:27:30 pm »
Might there also be a gendered bias in the assumption that people want to listen/read/watch the holiday documentation? It may be that there are more women riding than we hear about.



Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2019, 11:49:14 pm »
Might there also be a gendered bias in the assumption that people want to listen/read/watch the holiday documentation? It may be that there are more women riding than we hear about.


My non-scientific survey of one shows a female friend who has cycle-camped abroad and never blogged/written/boasted about it.

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2019, 12:06:17 am »

I took my bike, and my bivvi bag and went to Hell last year. 1404km, 11 days, 4 countries.

Haven't yet managed to find a way to write about it. I did record 4 segments for the Queer Out Here podcast as I was going. Should be in the next edition.

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2019, 01:59:29 am »
I cycle a lot with my partner (female) In many ways she is more pragmatic than me when it comes to roughing it and embracing the minimalism. She doesn't generally gravitate towards racing. (I have  taken part in TCR a couple of times) but we both love a "journey" Would she cycle long alone? Probably not, but not through fear but because she is not a solitary creature by nature. She certainly wouldn't let fear dictate her choices There is no doubt that there is a degree of victim blaming if there is an incident and it is a female who is alone on a journey. Its tiresome, misleading and ignorant. I do kind of hope that one day we will do TCR as a couple, or perhaps a similar slightly less onerous event, but I would never try to push her into such a decision.  Plus one for the Dervla Murphy book.
often lost.

Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2019, 07:59:14 am »
Jenny Tough's Keep the Sea on the Right is a circumnavigation of the Baltic- well worth a read.  She also went bikepacking in the Balkans, saw her speak on that.  There are short films available on her Website.

Sarah Outen's Dare to Do covers her round the world trip (also rowing and kayaking)

The Adventure Syndicate is a group of women cyclists who are worth following - slightly more on the racing/competitive side(e.g. Lee Craigie's Joining the Dots on the Highland 550 is well worth a read)  but they seem to be a broad church and organise training camps/workshops with an emphasis on equipping riders with the skills needed to travel alone. 

I backed Waymarking on Kickstarter - a compilation of women's adventure travel writing and art- a beautifully produced book.

Anne Mustoe's books are also great- she retired from being a headmistress an her inspiration and focus is a bit more historical

I think there are plenty of good books out there - I've enjoyed every one of those above. Hopefully having them around the house will also inspire my daughters to be adventurous as they grow up.

Karla

  • car(e) free
    • Lost Byway - around the world by bike
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2019, 08:05:08 am »
I haven't kept a strict log but the largest group of people I've met doing intercontinental tours are couples aged somewhere around 30 - it seems a good time to explore the world together before having kids.  Most tourists these days tend to microblog on Instagram though, rather than writing full-length pieces.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2019, 08:15:33 am »
I note that most of the women mentioned so far have to some extent or other made a profession of writing connected with cycling: Dervla Murphy, Josie Dew, Emily Chappell, Ann Mustoe... whereas none of the men have.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2019, 09:09:33 am »
Anecdotal evidence based on my limited touring (a few months in NZ, a few long weekends in UK/France):

I only really recall meeting 1 or 2 lone female tourers. Most i met were in pairs or with a partner.

Could it be perceived (actual?) danger? Touring is certainly different from ultra/adventure racing in that there's a low probability that other riders are coming along the same route who could help in case of emergencies. Plus, you end up hanging around a bit and could become a bit of a target, be that camping or at a hostel.

I usually travel alone, but am quite a big bloke so i guess I am not subject to the same issues as lone females.  ???

Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2019, 09:10:27 am »
That Doctor who writes in Arrive has done quite a bit of long-distance solo cycling. Just doesn't write (brag?) about it.
<i>Marmite slave</i>

bludger

  • Randonneur and bargain hunter
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #18 on: March 26, 2019, 09:19:40 am »
If we could stop characterising sharing experiences with photos, videos and writing as 'bragging' that would be a helpful start.

I did my first race for years on Saturday, of the athletes on the day I think at least 40-45% were women. Which is a sobering contrast to my last Brevet (probably 5-10%).
YACF touring/audax bargain basement:
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fboab

  • It's a fecking serious business, riding a bike
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #19 on: March 26, 2019, 09:52:35 am »
It is bragging.
That doesn't (necessarily) mean it's not interesting.

How long was your race? I just remember LadyCav telling us at the start of a 200 once- "why am I doing this? Even running a Marathon I'm home for lunch"

I don't like roughing it enough to do solo touring, but there are an awful lot of women who don't even do a day ride on their own.
There are also women who won't travel to London on their own. Hell, some women don't seem to make it to the toilet alone.

My folks do warm showers. They get a fair few solo women, but not as many as solo men, or couples in their late 20s.
Lots of me thinks 'better things to do with their time'.
TSS is not Total Sex Score, Chris!

Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #20 on: March 26, 2019, 10:20:04 am »
time and family commitments are often cited. Children often 'get in the way' if you see what I mean and if your partner cycles/runs/participates in sport then there may be clashes. MTB seems to appeal to younger women as does Triathlon. My wife who did lots of audax and general bike riding doesnt want to be out all day and now does more running as she can achieve more fitness wise. Cycling is a v.selfish hobby in some respects.

Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #21 on: March 26, 2019, 10:41:20 am »
I suspect that, as nikki points out upthread, there may be a gendered aspect to whether you tell people about what you've done; a perception that writing about it is bragging almost certainly gets a gendered response.

I'd also imagine it's just because there's a smaller pool of women cyclists to start with. Are there more solo cyclists from places where the gender balance is better (NL?)

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #22 on: March 26, 2019, 12:20:44 pm »

So, a longer reply:

"You're crazy"
"That is the popular opinion"

I've just told a work colleague my plan for the weekend. It's a simple one, cycle 250km over night during a lunar eclipse, camp in Belgium, watch a race start and, ride 100k back to the first Dutch station, and get a train home. This to me is a mini adventure. But this exchange is a common one.

December 2017, I set out to ride the 540km from Maastricht to Basel via Schengen and Strasbourg. I left on Boxing day, it was my festive 500 attempt. I'd just built a bike to do it. I'm 1.68m tall. 50mm taller than Average height for a British woman. Average height for a Dutch woman. My bike is a size small frame. The smallest they make for that model. The other frame I looked at, I needed a size XS. I had to cobble together a mix of road and MTB equipment on it, to get gears I could turn, and even then, with just 6 weeks of cycling in my legs, I walked many a hill. It was tough. It's not easy for a woman to walk into a bike shop, and just buy a bike that is comfortable, and with gearing she is likely to be able to use to get up a hill.

I didn't make it all the way to Basel by pedal power alone, my trip became a mix of trains and cycling, skipping ahead a bit by train, cycling 50k or so across a border. I ended up in a cheap hotel every night. I basically took my bivvi gear on a tour, but never used it. You pack your fears.

In April I left Basel to try and ride north on the Trans Germany Bike Packing route. This trip made me realise I'm not as big a fan of off road as I am of road, so I ended up taking a different route, still a fun adventure. I camped a couple of times on this trip. Bivviing out in on the porch of a cabin on one night:



And in a shelter near a lake another night.



When I told people I was planning this adventure, the first question I got was "Who are you doing it with?". When I say solo, they look back incredulous. "Really?"

"Well noone else is crazy enough to join me" Is my usual reply. It's kinda true. I know there are plenty of people out there who would love to go on adventures like these, and I'd love for the company. But I've resigned myself to the fact that if I wait for someone to come along to go with me, I'll never go, so I JFDI.

In September I did my big tour. After insomnia led me to the discovery that Hell in Norway is 2000km from Amsterdam, and then a brief moment of rational thought made me realise it's 1500km from Hamburg, I set off to goto Hell. People have been telling me to go there frequently. It must be a nice bike ride, so lets do it.

I rode through Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. I did 1404km in total, in 11 days. I camped once in Sweden, twice in Norway. I ate in Gas stations predominantly. I wore one Jersey for 2 weeks (It took me a while to train and ferry back), this was a shake down ride for the TCR. The only kit I took that I wouldn't on the TCR was a pair of trousers and some underwear for the return journey by train/Ferry. But I made it.



I've been meaning to blog about it since. But I'm still trying to digest it all. I did microblog about it on Instagram as I went, but even then the last entry took a couple of weeks to come out. I wear a pendant made from the chain I used to go to Hell (As featured on the GCNtech show a couple of weeks back). I carry it to remind me what I can do. I've been through a really rough year emotionally, and Achieving what I set out to do was important.

Through Germany and Denmark I had crazy quantities of Punctures. Two on day 1, within the first 30km, 1km apart. In the first 600km in total I had 9. I had to detour to a bike shop in Heiligenhafen to get new tubes and PRK's. When I got to Sweden I was out of tubes, and desperate for a bike shop. It took me nearly 300km of checking every town I went to to find a bike shop that was Open, and had the parts I need. I eventually found it in the Specialised concept store in Gothernberg. I cycled in through the door. This was the day it had pissed it down and I was layered up with hoods, and buffs, and glasses and the like, so I stood there, astride my bike, dripping all over the floor of this Swedish bike shop, as I disrobed enough to be able to engage the staff.

"Hi, I need some help" I said it in English.

The shocked look on the face of the woman in the shop at this crazy Brit, and having taken all the stuff covering her face, a crazy British Woman, was worth it. I explained what I needed, and we wheeled the bike to the workshop bit. Unfortunately even with 2 of us, we couldn't lift it onto their work stand, so they said they couldn't work on it. I asked if they mind if I use their tools to fix the bike on the floor myself. Sure they said. So I set up on the floor by their work shop, and replaced an outer, installed a new inner. I walked out that shop nearly €200 poorer, but with a new outer tyre, several spare inners, and a better pair of gloves.

But while I worked, the staff talked to me.

"Where have you come from?"
"Hamburg."
"How long has it taken you?"
"Um, what day is it? I've lost track of time"

Then it would move on to

"Where are you going?"
"Hell"
"Where?"
"It's near Trondheim"
"Wow"
"How long is that going to take you?"
"Hopefully only 6 more days"
"Wow"

They fed me coffee, they talked to me, but I don't think they quite new what to make of this crazy soaked Brit that turned up one day in September, on the way to Hell.

I had similar conversations in the Hotels and Gas stations all the way along the road. Those with better English would ask why I was travelling alone. I gave the usual flippant answer as above.

In all that I do, it's the thing that annoys me the most. When I turned up to my first Audax last January, one of the first questions someone asked was "Are you here with your boyfriend?" As if a woman can only do something like this with a man escorting her.

On a recent Audax, I rode with a new cyclist who was doing her first 200. We chatted, I told her about some of my rides. She asked "Aren't you worried alone?". I explained that generally speaking the scariest thing for 30km is me. Lets face it, when you've bivviing in the woods somewhere, who's actively going out to seek lone women in such remote places? But the issue here is that we're conditioned to think this. A lone woman isn't safe. The media is full of horror stories of women being attacked, mugged, raped, murdered, when travelling. I could at this point go off on a massive feminist rant about this. But the reality is, the most dangerous thing I will do in my life, is walk out my front door and cross the road. Statistically that is the most dangerous thing in most peoples lives. Followed closely by walking down the stairs. Humans are fucking awful at comprehending and comparing risk. We have these irrational fears of sharks and lions and bears. But the reality is that the biggest killers in the animal kingdom are actually a flying insect[1], a snail[2], and snakes. It's the same when it comes to Terrorism. I grew up in the 80's and 90's, when there were mainland bombing campaigns, and my parents didn't let me go to London, for fear of terror attack. But if you look at the statistics, on the mainland UK, more people die due to Trousers, or Biscuits, than due to terrorism. We are shit at understanding risk. REALLY FUCKING AWFUL at it.

Now, for all that. When I arrived in Helsinborg in Sweden, on Election day. I checked into my Hostel, and went for a walk to find food. Within 200m of leaving the hostel I had been cat called and wolf whistled. I felt really uncomfortable. There were gangs of young men walking around aimlessly. Nothing was open. I quickly found a supermarket, bought some food, and walked back to the hostel very fast. I was glad to leave Helsinborg. It's the only time in all my trips I've felt uncomfortable due to men. Within 10km of leaving Helsinborg, I was in the Scandinavia I was expecting, everyone was a delight, the scenery was spectacular, and I enjoyed it.

Maybe I'll write a proper write up about some of these one day.

In the mean time, May I recommend people look at Emily Chappell's "What Goes Around?" (http://amzn.to/2hJqabi), Helen Lloyd's "A Siberian Winters Tail" (http://amzn.to/2hfNOso), Sarah Outen's "Dare to Do" (http://amzn.to/2i3XHcE), and Juliana Buhring's "This Road I Ride" (http://amzn.to/2q47iJ5).

Emily is the reason I got into cycling long distance, Sarah is the reason I discovered a love for winter cycling. Juliana, Emily, Lael Wilcox, and Sarah Hammond are who inspire me to ride. I've found myself riding along asking "What would Sarah do?" "What would Emily do?'

There are women doing long tours, there are women out there cycling. There's just not that many of us.

J


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schistosomiasis
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #23 on: March 26, 2019, 12:33:16 pm »
I explained that generally speaking the scariest thing for 30km is me.

This is my logic too.  Sure, it doesn't apply if you're hanging around in an urban area at drunk o'clock (but in general the bike avoids having to do that) or mixing with the city traffic (but meh, that's a risk we all take without thinking as pedestrians and motorists), but the rest of the time I reckon the biggest danger to me when I'm cycling is my own incompetence.

I've never done anything that epic, but that doesn't matter.  To the average muggle, the 4.6km ride from here to Mordor Central seems as insane as a world tour.

I used to write ride reports, when Silly Bike Adventures™ were new to me and still had novelty value.  I occasionally make an effort for forum stuff, or if someone's expressed an interest in a certain route or something, but in general I just feel bad for being complacent about not fearing the Bristol Road, or doing overnight rides, or audaxes, or silly bike racing.  Bragging by omission, I suppose.  When it's not impostor syndrome.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Women and long cycle tours
« Reply #24 on: March 26, 2019, 12:56:54 pm »
I'm 1.68m tall. 50mm taller than Average height for a British woman.
A curious effect of customary measures is that "50mm taller" sounds insignificant but "5cm taller" would sound worth taking note of.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.