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Pedal parity success story at Twickenham Cycling Club

One of the ambitions of Prudential RideLondon – the world’s greatest festival of cycling - is to get more people of all ages and ability on to a bike.

The introduction of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 19 into this year’s programme of events is another effort to provide a realistic entry into cycling for younger people and for those who have not had much cycling experience before.

Prudential RideLondon, which takes place this year on Saturday 28 July and Sunday 29 July, now has something for everyone, from the family-friendly FreeCycle, which takes place on eight miles of traffic-free roads in central London, to three sportives over a range of distances: the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100, 46 and the new 19.

Cycling in the UK is getting increasingly popular but there are sections of society where participant growth is much slower and one of the most notable discrepancies is in the gender split in the sport.

According to recent findings by the cycling charity Sustrans, about 50 per cent fewer women than men cycle twice a week or more and when it comes to cycling on roads, that number drops again.

Prudential RideLondon is committed to tackling this gender imbalance. So too are a number of cycling clubs including one south west London club which certainly bucks the trend.

In the four years since its formation, St Margarets Cycling Club in Twickenham has either had or been close to a 50/50 gender split among members.

Melissa Tarver was one of the founders of the club and she says the club has provided a home for cyclists who want to ride in groups but don’t necessarily want to join a traditional cycling club which places much of its focus on racing and performance. 

Tarver, who is now the chairperson of the club, said: “I only started cycling myself in 2014 and when I started I didn’t want to go and just cycle around the local park or along a tow path. 

“I wanted to get a bike but I didn’t really want to go and join a racing club because they are quite big, their ethic is racing and they are quite stringent about road protocols.

“So we created St Margarets Cycling Club mainly as a social club and one for people who are at a reasonable level of fitness but who are just not familiar with road cycling.”

The club meet for Sunday rides and split into four groups based on ability: Espressos, Macchiatos, Cappuccinos and Lattes.

“It is for men and women but I do think some of our female riders are more than happy to have somewhere to go which is a little bit more than just going down the towpaths,” Tarver said. “They know they are not going to be left behind, they are going to be helped if they have a mechanical [issue] and it’s a good social ride.

“I think women do get a bit intimidated by road cycling and cycling in traffic. There is still quite a lot of anger directed at cyclists from motorists and that can put women off, too.”

Tarver also believes the time an individual has to invest in cycling also makes it difficult for women, particularly for those with children.

She said: “There are a lot of women cyclists in their 20s or 30s but after that, unless they are serious riders, I think they stop and their time is taken up with home and family. Cycling is a time-consuming sport, much like golf, and it’s hard for women to find that time.”

St Margarets Cycling Club members have taken part in every Prudential RideLondon since the event first started in 2013 and riders will be taking part again this year.