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Nice try, fridge magnet, but there aren’t enough “inspirational” cushions, magnets, mugs, or peppy milk cartons on the planet to make you feel like a “hero” when you’ve had an awful day.
At home and work, it feels like you can often be fighting an uphill battle: tight deadlines, tough bosses, personal and health challenges. But guess what? In our eyes, if you’ve put on your helmet and got your spokes spinning, even for a minute, you’re amazing.
And, if you haven’t, here are six unexpected reasons why we think women who cycle daily are phenomenal and why you should try it, too.
Oh, don’t worry: We won’t go all “Live, Laugh, Love” on you…
Creating Liveable Cities
You thought we were going to say exercise, didn’t you? Slow down. We’ll get to that later…
But, have you ever heard of the ‘liveable’ or ‘ten-minute city’ movement?
In brief, the idea is to create cities that promote better well-being among residents, and that means more cycle paths, fewer cars, and parking bays, plus amenities you can access on your own two feet or wheels.
It’s been claimed that swapping your car journey for a short jaunt has the same effect on your happiness as if you’d fallen in love. Phenomenal, right?
So, if you’ve ditched diesel for a pedal-powered commute, you’re a) prioritizing your mental health and b) contributing to creating urban spaces that benefit the entire community. Less ambient noise and air pollution, more inclusiveness and safety.
Rooted in Activism and Protests
You might not consider cycling as a political act – but cycling was viewed as crucial to rights campaigners and feminists as early as the nineteenth century. And if you’re not convinced, take it from American activist Susan B. Anthony herself, who said:
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel – the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood.”
Women who cycled became known by the curious name of ‘velocipedestriennes’, and cycling quickly allowed for increased independence and self-reliance, at least for the upper classes in America and the UK.
Annie Cohen Kopchovsky was the first woman to travel around the world by bike, a highly publicized event covered by newspapers and advertisers, supposedly as a wager – but it wasn’t until around one hundred years later that Connie Carpenter became the first woman to win gold in a cycling race at the Olympic games. But, what’s any of this got with whether or not you cycle to the shops?
Well, cycling and activism still go hand in hand to this day. Despite repeated pushes, a Sustrans survey showed that as many as 76% of women never cycle. Movements like Black Girls do Bikes have boosted participation in cycling, especially for women underrepresented in cycling communities.
Another example is Velicoposse, a welcoming London cycling club that hopes to get more women and non-binary people onto the saddle. Being a member means you can try track cycling and slow skills sessions led by a qualified British Cycling coach.
And who knows, maybe by getting on your bike, you inspire friends, family, and others around you to cycle too.
No More Getting Lost
How are your navigation skills? Do you know your East from West and your Left from Right?
These days, we’re increasingly reliant on digital navigation. Could you find your way around your own neighborhood if left to your own devices, or should we say device?
The Guardian has reported that three-quarters of UK adults but cycling can help you regain the lost art of navigation. Exploring on your bike can help you discover neighborhoods that your phone might need help to take you through.
Looking up, rather than down at a screen, means finding hidden landmarks and getting to know some of your neighbors better.
If you need a helping hand, why not plan out your route on a paper map? The OS maps that chart England are incredibly detailed, and you might learn something new about the trees, geology, history, and familiar streets of home.
Great for Mental Health
There are days where everything feels like a struggle – and the thought of putting on a raincoat and your helmet and trudging out into the cold feels even worse.
We’re not going to pretend that daily cycling is always a breeze, and certainly, we’ve all found ourselves aggravated by unthoughtful drivers or gusts that don’t stop. But science has shown that if you cycle, you’re actively improving your mood, and as part of a multifaceted approach, exercise can benefit your mental health.
So, what does your brain look like on biking?
Josie Perry, a British Chartered Psychologist, says we know that exercise might be as effective in some cases as antidepressants in helping deal with depressive symptoms. A bike obviously isn’t a replacement for therapy or SSRIs, but it can improve your mood.
It’s why some local authorities are trialing exercise prescription as part of holistic treatment plans. Perry stresses that your attitude to cycling should be balanced.
It is possible to become overdependent on cycling – as is the case with other forms of exercise – and if you find it the ‘high’ of bike riding interfering with your daily life and functioning, remember that there are professionals and organisations that can help you.
Fitter, Stronger, Better
We all know cycling helps build muscles and reduce visceral fat, but have you given any thought about your skeleton any time recently? We don’t blame you if you haven’t, but those creaky old bones deserve some attention.
Women are unfortunately exposed to higher rates of osteoarthritis: this is thanks to a cocktail of hormones and genetic predisposition. Higher body weight can elevate this risk further.
Cycling is a non-weight-bearing exercise; it has a lower impact on your joints than running and can help you lose pounds if extra weight is also causing strain. It also preserves cartilage, so it might be a gentle alternative if you already suffer from muscle strain or foot troubles.
In the face of the climate crisis, you can sometimes feel like the underdog. The idea of a personal carbon footprint was popularised by a well-known energy firm as part of their advertising campaign in 2004 – and with the global supply chains of multinational companies accounting for a fifth of global emissions, whether or not you put on your mudguards feels, well, futile.
However, according to Cycling UK, cycling emits some of the lowest levels of carbon of any form of transport, even lower than walking. This seems paradoxical, right?
But, ask yourself, what do cars and walkers have in common? It’s the need for fuel!
Of course, a cyclist needs a bite to eat, too, but to travel the same distance, they need less food than a walker. Okay, maybe it seems we’re picking at straws – but at 56g per kilometre for regular bikes and a miniscule 14.8g of carbon for e-cycles – cycling will help you tackle the current climate emergency – if your actions are joined by timely, collective action in policy and law.
Being a woman who cycles makes you powerful in some surprising ways. If you haven’t considered cycling before, many local councils run cycling proficiency courses and have a look online for clubs that are looking for new members. Cycling might not always be a breeze – we’ve climbed enough hills to know that for a fact – but it might make you happier, stronger, and even a better navigator. Not bad for a daily commute.