Post By Harry Bradley, New Malden Velo Diversity and Inclusion lead
New Malden Velo prides itself on being a cycling club for everyone. In 2021, Harry was appointed to actively drive diversity and inclusion in the club.
Improving diversity and inclusion in NMV
We realised that we could be doing more to actively encourage more members of the local community to cycle with us. Our constitution states that ‘anyone interested in the sport regardless of sex, age, disability, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or other beliefs’ can join in. We wanted to return to that original goal of actively pursuing expansion of the diversity and inclusion agenda.
Therefore, I was appointed as the Diversity and Inclusion officer to lead this initiative. After conducting a club survey, it became apparent that we should initially focus on encouraging more women to join us. Our active members are mostly men.
Drawing up an action plan
Between January and April 2021, we held several meetings that included conversations about how New Malden Velo can support women cyclists. To ensure that that they feel empowered to participate in and enjoy the sport, drawing on guidance from British Cycling. With input from the Exec. committee and club members, I drew up a diversity and inclusion action plan that considers how we can implement successful change in our club demographic. A change without altering our core values (as coffee and cake-loving cyclists). On top of promoting women’s rides and updating the website ‘so it looks less blokey’. We detail here, what we are going to do in the coming months.
New Malden Velo want everyone to feel that they can integrate seamlessly into our club. For me, New Malden Velo has been nothing but supportive and inclusive since I joined two years ago. I’ve learnt a lot about cycling and achieved distances that I thought near impossible. Yet when I first joined, I remember being worried at the thought of the longer Sunday ride. I was hyper-aware of being a woman in a club of mostly men.
Common concerns that I used to have before a Sunday ride manifested as a self-imposed pressure not to be the slowest, or the least-mechanically minded. A fear of fulfilling a stereotype of a woman who was weaker and less able to, for example, change my own tyres. A women-only ride would have provided space where I could have more quickly alleviated any worries I had about being slow or less mechanically equipped.
I know I’m not alone with these worries. Several women cyclists I spoke to said they’d be concerned about being left behind. Also, not having people around who they could easily relate to if they were joining a male-dominated club like ours.
Evolving our rides
Even for more experienced cyclists, women-only rides are popular for many reasons, including ‘the camaraderie, the lack of pressure to perform, the chance to discuss topics such as saddle sores, families and friendship, as much as the technical or physical challenges…not being in the minority for a change’ (We Are Cycling UK, 2017). Therefore we now have a space on our Ride Spreadsheet for a women-only ride every Saturday. These will be led initially by myself. The distance and pace of the ride will vary depending on who is coming. I’m quite happy to ride 20km round Richmond Park, or out for a long ride into the Surrey hills. We could even take a pootle across to Windsor for a cinnamon bun (a personal favourite). We want this to be a space where women can become more confident and stronger in their cycling. They should feel empowered and supported as part of New Malden Velo.
This is not to say that women shouldn’t join the other rides that we offer, but simply that there is a space for women to ride together each week. Be able to ride without societal, religious, psychological or physiological barriers (whether real or perceived) getting in the way (We Are Cycling UK, 2017).
Women’s cycling kit
As part of the drive for making women feel included in New Malden Velo, our most recent kit order included extra women’s jerseys. This is so that when more women join, they have the option of wearing club colours without having to wait until the next kit order.
‘Bridging the Gap’ in diversity and inclusion
We are expanding the variety and type of rides we offer as a club, focusing on how we can ‘bridge the gap’ for cyclists (of any gender) joining us. This includes first-time club members, those who enjoy shorter distances, off-roading, or who want to improve their fitness before joining us on longer rides.
At the moment, New Malden Velo officially offer an Intro ride on the last Sunday of each month (approx. 45-50km and relatively flat), Tuesday evening Richmond Park laps (approx. 25-30km), and a range of more challenging Sunday Rides anywhere from 50-160km, and varying in the numbers of hills included, from virtually flat to very hilly indeed. There are also specially organised trips to further flung destinations such as the Alps, the Pyrenees, Girona and Majorca.
Adding variety to the rides
We therefore want to introduce more opportunities for shorter, more varied rides to take place during the week and at the weekend, as this will allow a wider variety of cyclists to join our club, including those who just enjoy shorter and mid-distance rides, as well as those who are trying to improve their fitness and cycle further/faster.
Changes driven by the pandemic
The pandemic has served us well in this respect, as we now have a very organised Ride Spreadsheet for riding in groups of 6, with GPS routes from Strava and Ride with GPS, where people can set up rides with each other on any day, at any time, for any length. We are already seeing the benefit of this within the club, with more variations of rides going out at the weekend and during the week.
As we begin to emerge from yet another lockdown, we are very excited to implement these changes in our club. We hope to see you on the roads with us in the near future. If you want any more information, please don’t hesitate to visit our women’s cycle group page. You can also contact us on Facebook or Instagram.
We will ensure that we track progress against our diversity and inclusion goals and aims. We hope to see improvement in the future and bring cycling to even more people in the community.
Post By Harry Bradley, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, New Malden Velo