Mantova • Campo Canoa
7-9 giugno 2024

Mantova • Campo Canoa
7-9 giugno 2024

The Power of FLINTA*-Only Group Rides: A Personal Journey

mercoledì, 5 Giugno, 2024

“Most rides I’d show up to, I was the only woman,” said Lael Willcox during our intro call for this year’s komoot Women’s Rally. Her words struck a chord with me. As a world-famous ultra-athlete, Lael’s experience mirrored my own when I first started cycling.

Even though the cycling scene is slowly changing, it is still dominated by cis men. Women, trans, non-binary, and other marginalized individuals often encounter remarks that drain their energy and dampen their spirits. It feels like we have to fit a certain mold to be accepted into the boy’s gang. Even when we do, we’ll still be mansplained to and criticized for something—in my case, it was my too heavy (read: not carbon) bike.

My first FLINTA* Ride Experience

I’ve always been a cyclist, but it was only about four years ago that I felt it was ‘safe’ enough to join a group ride. My introduction came through a women’s group, and it was an absolute game-changer. Despite my initial nerves, I found a supportive community where I could learn, grow, and ride without the pressures and judgments often found in mixed-gender groups. It’s also where I saw first hand that cyclists come in various shapes and sizes, age groups, and skills levels. Everyone was welcomed just as they are. 

Joining the komoot Women’s Rally this April further cemented my belief in the importance of these spaces. There is something magical about FLINTA* folks coming together, and this magic was palpable during the rally. My friends from The Female Explorer asked a few of us for one word to describe the trip, and mine was “togetherness.” It truly was an experience of unity, with encouragement, laughter, and tears. The WhatsApp group buzzed with offers of sleeping spots, tips for places to refuel, gear assistance, and general moral support. Even if you came by yourself, you never felt alone.

Addressing the Controversy

So, we understand these spaces are necessary, but why are they still so controversial? Are FLINTA* only rides anti-inclusivity?

Men-only rides have existed for ages without being labeled as such, and they often don’t attract attention. When FLINTA* only rides are criticized as discriminatory, it overlooks the need for safe spaces where marginalized cyclists can thrive without facing sexism or intimidation. FLINTA* rides help participants grow stronger and more confident, creating an environment where they don’t have to deal with mansplaining or judgment based on appearance or skills. These rides are crucial for newcomers to cycling, offering a supportive framework to learn and enjoy the sport.

It’s essential for everyone, particularly cis men, to acknowledge their privileges and work towards inclusive, safe rides for all. This means standing against sexism and supporting marginalized riders, ensuring they don’t become invisible or isolated in mixed groups and don’t have to choose a man vs bear. 

Community Support: A Real-Life Example

“I am not expecting many women to sign up because the track is hard” – when I heard one race organizer say that, I was livid. FLINTA* people want to and are perfectly capable of doing hard things. The problem often is that they do not feel encouraged and safe enough to do so. 

One recent example of the power of community support combined with a thoughtful event organization is the completion of a tough ultra gravel challenge called Steppenwolf by a FLINTA* group from Berlin. Some participants had less than six months of experience in gravel riding, had never set up a tent, or ridden over 80km. Yet, through the support of the community, all 12 participants completed the 600km challenge within the cutoff time of four days. Witnessing that was an extremely uplifting and transformative experience. 

FLINTA* rides are about more than just cycling. They’re about connecting, sharing experiences, and planning for a better future. These rides strengthen not just our bodies, but our spirits too. They help build resilience against criticism and discrimination, creating a community where participants can push their limits and support each other. FLINTA* folks enjoy these rides because they offer camaraderie, reduce pressure, and allow open discussions about topics like saddle sores, family, and friendship. It’s also nice to not be in the minority for a change.

Women’s cycling groups are growing worldwide. If there isn’t one in your area, consider starting your own local ride club. Cycling with other FLINTA* people regularly will make you feel part of a wonderful, supportive community, both locally and globally. 

Leading the Women’s Ride at BAM!**

I feel extremely privileged to have been invited, for the second time, to lead the Women’s Ride at BAM!. Just as last year, the aim of this ride is for all women identifying, non-binary persons, and trans women to connect, exchange stories and experiences, make new memories, and perhaps even some friendships. 

It really is a come-as-you-are social ride, so an open mind (and a helmet!) are all that’s required to join. We’re here to support each other and have a great time! 

I am looking forward to welcoming the vibrant BAM! community on the gravel roads of Mantova.

Let’s pedal towards a more inclusive future together, starting on Saturday, June 8th with the BAM! Women’s Ride. 

* FLINTA* – FLINTA stands for Female, Lesbian, Intersex, Trans and Agender. It stands for anyone who is not a cis man. Cis or cisgender refers to people who identify themselves with the gender assigned at birth. 

**  The working title of the event is Women’s Ride, however, our event welcomes all women, regardless of their background, including transgender women and non-binary folks. If you identify as the above and have a passion for riding, you belong on our ride!

The author

Hi, I am Kasia (pronouns: she/her), your host for the BAM! Women’s Ride. 

In my professional life I’m a Forensic Scientist turned Operations Leader. 

In my private life, I’m an outdoor enthusiast deeply embedded in the local cycling and running communities. 

Currently based in Berlin, but with passion for la dolce vita. 

I thrive in spaces where adventure, diversity and community are the the forefront, as opposed to pure athletic performance and competition. Therefore I’m a huge fan of cycling festivals and ultra events where every participant is cheered on and celebrated 🙂