Queen of the road
September 27th, 2018
“Women in cycling tend to be very fit but very underconfident,” says Belinda Scott, Richmond Cycles staffer and founder of women’s cycle club BellaVelo.
A passionate exponent of equality in cycling Belinda is a key part of the Richmond Cycles team and a ride leader, putting us through our paces on the Café Ride every Friday morning. It will come as no surprise that she’s one of Cycling UK’s Top 100 Women in Cycling 2018. She’s also warm, approachable and inspiring. And she knows her stuff.
When we got together for a chat at the shop earlier this year she had just returned from providing support on Chase The Sun. This 205 mile ride sets off at 4:40am at the Isle of Sheppey and finishes on the other side of the country at Burnham on Sea. “It was just incredible, a really nice event,” she says. “It’s what I would call old school. You didn’t have to pay for it, you didn’t have timing chips, all you had was the timing of the sun rising and the sun setting.”
Chase The Sun was just one of many rides that Belinda has taken part in with BellaVelo. Others this year include the Berlin Velothon and L’Etape du Tour. But BellaVelo is not all about competitive racing or sportives. What started as a Facebook group has built into a community of 800 members with a club website, 140 club members and regular rides as well as bigger events. Belinda and her BellaVelo partner Alison Dex also run ride leader training and maintenance courses.
With anything from five to 20 people in a group, BellaVelo sessions are open to everyone. Choose from park laps (in Richmond Park), interval training and Saturday club rides. “We’ve had a few people who say, ‘I’ve been following your Facebook group and I just haven’t plucked up the courage to come along.’” Belinda says. “One of those people turned up today. She has cycled but she was quite slow on hills, so we had three groups – fast, intermediate and slow. If you’ve never ridden in a group before then someone will ride with you one-on-one. Afterwards I asked this lady how she’d found it and she said, ‘I don’t know why I was so scared.’ We are a pretty welcoming group.”
For a lot of women, BellaVelo is just the thing they’ve been looking for to indulge their love of cycling. “It’s made me realise – I’ve always just cycled, with whoever I could cycle with or on my own. And I’ve been very lucky,” she admits. “I met a guy and fell in love and we’ve cycled together all over the world, but other women haven’t necessarily had that opportunity. Women who are my age now who I cycle with never did what I did in their thirties because, for example, they had kids. But now they are discovering cycling.”
Belinda on Richmond Cycles
“I find it awful to hear stories about people being ignored or patronised in bike shops. When I met the guys at Richmond Cycles – when I was a customer – I thought, ‘What a nice bunch of people. Knowledgeable, but not arrogant, not cocky.’ We have a whole range of customers and I think we treat them equally, whether they’ve got a shopper bike or a fantastic race bike. And we have kit that’s specifically designed for both men and women. We cater for everyone. But if women cyclists see a woman in the shop I think it helps.”
Belinda on women cyclists
“We were in the park the other day and a guy said, ‘If I wear a skirt can I come and cycle with you?’. I just thought, ‘How patronising can you be?’. A lot of women come to us because they don’t like the ethos that some men’s clubs have of ‘we’re going to chew the handlebars, I’m going to show you how quick I am.’ But we’ve got some really fast women in our group and it’s funny when we go out on rides and we’ve overtaken guys. It’s called being ‘chicked’ if you’re overtaken by a woman. Some of them are great about it but some of them are like, ‘Grrrr…’