Trib: New BikeFest events fan interest in women’s cycling clubs

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cycling groups for women gained momentum in recent years, creating more opportunities for ladies to ride together and learn new skills while eliminating the “intimidation factor” some might feel on coed rides.

Groups like Velo Femme, Chic Velo and Velomuse help women take up the sport of bicycling in a comfortable, casual environment in which beginners don’t feel stressed, organizers said.

“It really does help to have a women’s-only ride to get rid of some of the nervousness,” Bicycle Times Editor Karen Brooks said.

The event is one of at least five scheduled just for women at BikeFest this year, up from just one ladies’ event the year before.

Bike Pittsburgh’s annual festival celebrates cycling and highlights the city’s attributes, said Eric Boerer, advocacy director for Bike Pittsburgh. It included nearly 70 events from Aug. 12 through Sunday, among them the group’s largest annual fundraiser.

Suzanne Atkinson, founder and head coach of Steel City Endurance, started Velo Femme, a cycling club in which women can learn the skills and safety necessary for bike racing, last fall. Now the group has eight to 12 members who regularly attend practices.

The Steel City Endurance Cycling team she started in 2007 is now a sponsored racing team that’s not open to the public, Atkinson said.

After the team got off the ground, she kept getting requests from women curious about bike racing, so she funneled some to another cycling club, Chic Velo, then started Velo Femme. “Velo” is a French word meaning “bike.”

“It’s very clear that once the momentum starts, it’s like a magnet,” Atkinson said.

Read the rest of this article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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