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Looks good in lycra

A friend, Fiona May-Aylward, posted on social media recently, how they’d been verbally abused in a sexual way whilst out cycling in London, near Richmond Park. They showed an almost tearful face, full of distress and clearly upset. In an age where equality in sport , and in cycling in particular is often in the news, it was sad to see.  

When a man wears lycra, we label him as either cool or a MAMIL, and generally he’s allowed to cycle on his merry way unimpeded by onlookers - whatever his physique. However, if a woman puts on lycra and rides regularly, developing an athletic physique, she still seems open to the type of abuse that my friend suffered. This is in an age where we have male grooming and as many beauty products for men as we do for women. After all, everyone wants to look good … don’t they. 

Recent news articles highlighted issues at British Cycling, and there is the constant debate about podium girls in events such as the Tour de France, which is currently taking place. Watching the local bike races at Ilkley in Yorkshire recently, neither men or women had podium girls or boys, and it didn’t really effect things. We had good cycling and that’s all that matters.

Cycling is still growing here in the UK, with transport links and infrastructure making it easier to get out and about. One of the biggest growth areas is in ladies participation, with clubs forming all over the country, specifically for women. However, if cyclists like my friend, a keen racer and travelling cyclist, can’t ride without such abusive and sexual comments being made towards them, then we’ve still got a long way to go.

Looking at the equality issue, the Tour de Yorkshire now has 2 days for the women, and 4 days for the men. The ladies Tour of Britain is a week long, but this year they finished the race in North Wales, whilst the men’s event in September gets a parade in London. Let’s think about that. What it says I guess is that ladies cycling in Yorkshire need a rest after 2 days, and in terms of the national event, please don’t clog up the London roads  - unless of course you’re a man.  

I’m not the feminista and I’m not trying to be controversial. I’m simply viewing the current cycling culture as I see it – and I’m a man. Yes, one of those people who still occupy most places on the Sunday cycling club rides on country lanes, where the women are still largely absent. Whether we like it or not, like any other issue, it won’t be addressed until we recognise that a problem exists.

And, going back to my opening point, it is  unacceptable that Fiona, who rides her bike all over the world, doesn’t seem to be able to ride through our capital city without bearing the brunt of sexist comments, purely because she #looksgoodinlycra.