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The rise of female cycling clubs

Four of the biggest brands in the sport are paving the way for a new kind of group fitness.

Cyclists are turning up to ride in droves across the countryin grassroots groups and with leading brands in the space, such as Rapha. “There has been a nine percent increase in cycling clubs created in the last year, and a 25 percent increase in the past two years,” says Andrew Vontz, the communications lead at Strava, a global fitness tracking app and social network for athletes. Strava details which of these 134,000 clubs are morning bike commutes or “workout Wednesday” lunch rides, are near you, and whether you have friends who are participating.

Women are a big part of this rise in group riding’s popularity. “It's been really fun to be part of what I can only describe as a movement of women getting other women on bikes,” says Jeanne Meyer, a New York City-based marketing consultant and ride leader for local retailer Bicycle Habitat's WomensCyclingNYC group. “I became an ambassador because I remember how intimidating it was for me to start cycling in the city and how hard it was to find other people, men or women, to ride with. Knowing that I had a group waiting for me was the difference between me getting my kit on, tires pumped, and out the door—and staying home,” Meyer says.

Pro mountain biking champion Rebecca Rusch, who leads #JoinTheRusch camps and clinics in conjunction with local bike shops, has also noticed a surge of interest in group cycling. “This year alone, I've done local rides in Dallas and Chicago, race course previews on the California Central Coast, in the Bay Area, Telluride, Arkansa, Minneapolis, Washington, DC, Napa, and more,” says Rusch, who also recently led rides in Vietnam and Laos, where she filmed “Blood Road,” which talks about the most important ride of her life (watch it for free on Red Bull TV starting November 11).

“Community is what makes any endeavor more fun, provides motivation, keeps you accountable, and helps you develop and share your skills. You do a lot more than exercise—you build friendships,” Rusch says.

Helping to cultivate these riding groups and clubs, particularly among women across all disciplines (road, mountain, cyclocross, fat biking, and even e-bikes), are some of the biggest brands in biking, including these four.

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  • Trek Bikes' Women Advocate Program

    Trek Bikes' Women Advocate Program

    How it works: Fifty-five women, handpicked from 215 applications, kicked off the inaugural program at a three-day summit set at Trek headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin last year. They flew in from all over the country to learn about this grassroots initiative which asked them to collaborate with their local Trek retailer to lead one group ride a month, organize and host four clinics and one women's-focused event, and post on social media once a week using #trekwomen. These “advocates,” as they are called, took the call-to-action to heart: In 2016, they led 217 clinics and 808 group rides with a total of 15,601 women, says Emily Bremer, Trek's women's marketing manager and curator of this community. In its second year, the program now has 72 advocates across North America with plans to expand around the globe, adding some 50 more women in 2018.

    Get riding: Sign up to become an advocate in the spring (March or April) or join a free riding group near you right now. Just look up #trekwomen on Instagram or ask your local Trek retailer about their women's rides.

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  • Specialized's Women's Ambassador Program

    Specialized's Women's Ambassador Program

    How it works: Some 1500 women applied, but only 12 were selected this spring to help support their local independent bike retailers by hosting monthly women’s rides and in-store events.We were seeking women who were already actively engaged with their communities via their own means and had a tangible passion for the brand and growing their women’s cycling community,” says Victoria Hunt, who manages Specialized's national-level program.

    Get riding: Follow @iamspecialized_wmn on Instagram for updates on how to apply to become an ambassador in the future. If you are interested in getting involved in your own community, Hunt says to start by locating a Specialized retailer to see if they are currently hosting group rides and, if not, how you can help start one.

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  • Rapha Cycling Club

    Rapha Cycling Club

    How it works: The road cycling apparel company, Rapha, is also, literally, a clubhouse with 22 brick-and-mortar places located in cities around the world, including Amsterdam, Boulder, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Mallorca, Manchester, Melbourne, New York, Osaka, Portland, Seoul, San Francisco, Seattle, Sydney, and Toyko. Where there aren't clubhouses just yet, you may find a chapter, bringing like-minded cyclists together via an exclusive app and mailing list that shares info on scheduled group rides and other events, like exhibitions, talks, and workshops. Membership grants you access to all clubhouses and chapters wherever you are in the world. Member or not, all cyclists are welcome to swing by a Rapha Clubhouse for the free organized rides rolling out weekly. “Rapha is a brand that speaks to more just the spandex superheroes,” says Zach Piña, who handles PR for Rapha. “There's a ton of community and camaraderie off the bike as well.”

    Get riding: Visit the Rapha Cycling Club (RCC) website to find a clubhouse or chapter near you. Also, consider signing up for the Rapha Women's 100, which calls all female cyclists to ride 100km on the same day every year. In 2017, more than 7,000 women participated. Search #raphawomen100 on Instagram to get a sneak-peak.

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  • Betty Designs' Betty Squad

    Betty Designs' Betty Squad

    How it works: Every September, starting in 2014, thousands of female endurance athletes apply to secure a coveted spot (up to 75) on the Betty Squad. “We seek women who live a very positive, active lifestyle in our core sports (swim, cycle, tri), and are very active in their local communities and social media,” says Kristin Mayer, who founded Betty Designs in 2010. New for 2018, the Betty Squad will be segmented into three groups: Elite Racing Team, International Bettys, and USA Bettys.

    Get riding: “We hope to start organizing a local women's ride soon and plan to post it on Facebook and Twitter,” she says. Follow Betty Designs on social for updates.

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