What a magnificent summer ride we had last Sunday!
The Rapha Womens 100 km challenge was a tribute to the Etape du Tour, the day of the Tour de France when amateur cyclists can ride a hill stage of that epic race.
The inspiration may have been the Tour (Rapha sent 100 women to Lake Annecy to ride the Etape), but celebrating women’s cycling through crowd-sourced rides around the globe and sharing the adventure virtually via social media was the real prize.
Here’s how it worked: Local organizers listed more than 115 rides, including two in New York City, inviting female cycling enthusiasts to join in or to organize their own – which is what I did. I led a 100 km (62 miles) ride along a favorite route from East Hampton to Montauk on Eastern Long Island for a small group of wonderful women (from left in top photo): Lauren Matison of OffMetro.com, (me), Leah Flickinger of Bicycling Magazine, Tanya Quick of Language Dept. and Julianne Idlet of Cycle Kids — all passionate about road riding and involved in different facets of the cycling world.
Although some of the non-cycling friends to whom I related details of our morning ride in sizzling heat seemed puzzled by the point – It’s not for charity? There are no trophies? – I think the value lies in presenting a platform, or “official” excuse, if you like, for women to treat themselves to a long ride, just for the fun and community of it.
Who needs anybody’s permission to take a chunk of time off to ride on a Sunday morning? Well, I think lots of us do. Many women seem less likely than men to give themselves that gift. We often put family or household tasks or never-ending To Do items first, in front of enjoying a bike ride, or another leisure pursuit that requires a commitment of hours on a weekend.
Beyond encouraging people to get out on road bikes, these events can also be a source of inspiration to others. I perceived in glances and waves as we pedaled across farmlands in Bridgehampton and a breezy stretch of Napeaque along Route 27 — an appreciation for a paceline of women. It sets a worthy example for cycling in general: Come ride a bike. It’s fun. It keeps you fit. It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors. To challenge yourself. To build confidence.
What’s more, amidst the great camaraderie of the ride, and at stops along the way, we inspire one another: by sharing our road skills, in conversations and exchanges of ideas that occur as the trip unspools, and in the joy of crossing the finish line (my driveway in this case) together. For me, the ride was a chance to share with friends a locale that I love for its natural beauty, from the leafy serenity of the Northwest Woods to the sugary expanses of the Atlantic Ocean beaches to the historic lighthouse at Montauk Point. It was really a thrill to ride, as well as to enjoy hang-out time and an evening beach barbeque, in such great company.
In the sum of all the parts is an energizing power that lingers long after the ride is over. Satisfaction lies as well in taking part in a global celebration through social sharing. The personalities and spirit of participants around the world were reflected in more than 2,600 photos posted to the Instagram hashtag #womens100.
It’s true that nobody should need an excuse to go out for a long ride on a bike, but to the extent that events like the one we enjoyed last Sunday provide encouragement, there’s room for plenty more.
Here, more photos from our ride:
Photos: top and third from top, Lauren Matison, others, velojoy