Momentum is building in the fight for the equality and increased participation of women in sport. Campaigns such as #TaketheStage fronted by Liv’s Marianne Vos, #LikeAGirl from Always and British Cycling’s #WeRide have all seen viral success over recent months.
Encouraging women to take part in sport is so important – the physical and mental benefits are endless – but how do we connect with ladies that don’t find time for exercise and inspire them to lead a more active lifestyle? Let’s take me as an example. I have never been sporty, was never on any teams at school, I’m a terrible runner and have spent most of my life being what I like to call ‘curvy’.
After I moved to Dubai in 2008, I threw myself in to the social scene and quickly found myself wearing an extra few stone, ballooning from a UK size 14 to an 18. I was too self-conscious to go to the gym. When my lovely dad died quite suddenly, my health deteriorated and my weight continued to rise. I was smoking and drinking too much and couldn’t pull myself out of it.
It was at that point my husband decided drastic action was required and he went and bought me a bike for my 41st Birthday – and entered me in to the Spinney’s Dubai 92km cycle challenge that was taking place just 14 weeks later. We’d raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Trust, the disease that stole my dad away. It was the motivation that I needed to finally make the change. It was a struggle, but after a couple of weeks I braved the local cycle club. I wasn’t a pretty sight in lycra, but actually no one seemed to care. What mattered was that I was out there, doing something about it.
I found my peace on those early morning rides with my husband. In the dawn light, listening to the whir of the tyres on tarmac, it’s like a form of meditation in motion. It gave me an hour of peace before the day started and helped me recover from the grief of losing my dad.
That December, I rode 92km around the sights of Dubai with my husband by my side. I can’t say it was easy, but with his support I made it. It was probably my greatest achievement and I have never looked back.
I’d met some amazing women while out on rides and we formed a really strong bond.
In 2013 we started a women only cycling club called the Velo Vixens. We rode together every Monday and those rides were the highlight of my week.
My husband was away working in Saudi Arabia, but I had this phenomenal support network of healthy, vibrant, fun women. It made a huge difference to my life and I wanted to share that with others.
It can be lonely being an expat, but it really doesn’t need to be. Luckily, word soon spread, as the Vixens invited their friends to join. Two years later and there are now 500 Velo Vixens in the UAE.
Receiving that bicycle for my birthday was a real pivotal moment. It provided me with new perspectives and opportunities to change my life.
I’m now a proud Brand Ambassador for Liv cycling, the first and only women’s specific bike shop in the Middle East. Liv is committed to the female cyclist.
Liv Cycling is the new women’s cycling brand from Giant; now a stand-alone brand completely dedicated to women, with its flagship store located on BOXPARK Jumeirah.
Offering the only comprehensive product collection designed specifically for female cyclists, ranging from beautiful apparel to premium bicycles.
Our shared passion is making cycling more approachable and appealing so that it can become a mainstream sport and fitness activity for women.
From complete beginners, through to the elite cyclist, Liv provides the best products to help women discover new possibilities through cycling.
We run regular free workshops and clinics, from teaching women the basic mechanical checks, to giving them the skills they need to ride confidently.
Liv runs a number of free women only rides in Dubai and Abu Dhabi every week, for all levels of ability.
Safety is a big concern for women who have jobs, houses to run and children to look after. Cycling on the roads here is not an option for many. However, since the cycle paths opened, there has been a huge increase in the number of women out on bikes.
You can cruise in complete safety around the hundreds of kilometers of cycle paths with your friends, enjoying the scenery, the company and the coffee, or you can push your limits on a fast paced group ride.
You may not have a fancy bike, or be dressed top to toe in high end cycling gear, or go very fast for that matter, but you are still a cyclist.
There are so many women of all abilities out riding now, that you’ll never be short of a bike buddy. I love cycling. I love the natural high it gives me, the sense of freedom, of confidence.
Above all, I love the women I ride with and the fun we have. It’s hard to remember how great riding a bike made us feel when we were little girls, so you’ll just have to come and join me and find out for yourselves.
Let’s start a revolution! www.facebook.com/groups/vvdxbwww.facebook.com/ livcyclingME