Over the past few years, the UK has seen a bit of a revolution in group riding, with a wave of inclusive cycling communities popping up all across the country.
It followed the big cycling boom of 2020, where the onset of the pandemic and UK lockdowns forced many people to reconsider their transport options, and take up cycling instead. The limitation of being able to exercise within a five-mile radius from home was the next step that introduced more people to two-wheeled life, and then as we were all released back into ‘reality’, the country had gained a whole new element to its cycling culture.
Wherever you live in the UK, there are going to be plenty of groups to cycle with, but they’re not all created equal. Many traditional cycling clubs are dominated by (usually white) men and not always beginner-friendly, with a minimum pace criteria for their rides, and slower riders being dropped. They’re perfect if you want a speedy ride and don’t mind being one of very few women in the group, and they certainly have their place. But these are not the only group rides available now.
Now there are groups that have women, trans and non-binary folks at the helm, with an aim to create a diverse and welcoming space for all. These inclusive cycling communities have proven to be incredibly important in making group riding a fun and accessible experience for anyone who wants to give it a try but feels underrepresented by the more traditional clubs.
So if you’re keen to make new friends and try some group rides, here’s a complete guide to the UK’s inclusive cycling communities, including how to find one local to you.
“I joined a wonderful ride with Women in Tandem last month. They were very friendly and supportive, even when I was struggling up the hill!” - Women in Tandem rider
Why do we need inclusive cycling communities?
If you’ve never joined a women-led bike ride before then you might wonder why these spaces are needed at all. While it’s true that there are plenty of women who love riding in traditional cycling clubs, the fact is that there are also many who don’t feel able to enter that kind of space.
Women and enby-led cycling communities can play a crucial role in injecting some gender equality and equity into the world of cycling. By having women at the forefront, these inclusive communities challenge those norms and break down barriers that often discourage women, trans and non-binary people from getting involved. Women-led spaces feel different; they’re hugely supportive and often more focused on people and their individual stories, rather than bikes, gear, and products. They’re there to enable folks who don’t feel represented by traditional clubs to share experiences and empower each other, fostering a sense of belonging and boosting confidence.
While communities will vary in their focus, generally there are some key things you can expect from these spaces:
Everyone is welcome
No one gets left behind
Boundaries are respected
People are there to make friends
Inclusivity extends beyond gender, including race, ethnicity, age, and physical ability. Women-led communities recognise and celebrate the unique perspectives and experiences that different individuals bring to the cycling community, thereby enriching the overall cycling culture.
“The inclusivity of the guided ride was second to none. We each had a varied background of biking experience, confidence and fitness levels, all of which were taken into consideration and catered for. Both Shazza and Christine ensured we all felt listened to and safe. Even the barrier of not owning a bike and helmet were taken care of by Shazza organising hire equipment for some women.” - member of Lakes Gravel Gang community
Where to find inclusive cycling communities...
So, you’re keen to join a group ride that’s led by women, trans or non-binary folks, and feels safe, welcoming and accessible. Now, how do you find one?
Fortunately there are a couple of great online resources to get you started.
Cycle Together is an online platform that acts as a database for cycling communities, mainly focusing on the UK, but also having several groups listed abroad. It’s all about connecting people with their local groups, while also providing carefully curated resources covering a range of subjects from bike maintenance skills to adventure planning.
It boasts a comprehensive database of clubs and communities, covering a range of criteria that you can use to filter until you find something you like the look of. Whether you’re looking for company on your early morning rides, people to go bikepacking with, or full-on training camps, there’s a lot to choose from and their platform is still growing.
"I nervously joined a ride as an injured runner trying out cycling… I’m now a complete convert. Without their welcoming rides, advice and support I would never have found the confidence to get out and give gravel biking a go. Certainly would never have dreamed I would be loving it so much and planning multi day bikepacking trips! I have found a bunch of fabulous people doing fabulous things and inspiring women and non-binary folk to be fabulous." - Reyt Good Bike Club rider
Bikepacking Buds is a free and inclusive community created to help people connect and share cycling adventures. In addition to having lots of useful resources on their website and organising group bikepacking trips, they have an interactive map of cycling hubs that’s a very quick way to find your region and see if any groups are already tagged there, though it’s worth bearing in mind that this map mainly focuses on off-road, gravel and mountain biking social rides.
Not only are there a huge number of inclusive cycling communities in the UK, but there’s also an amazing community between the club founders themselves, particularly on Instagram. Start following one, and you’ll end up following them all, because as you’d expect from a group of individuals dedicating their energy to fostering communities, there’s a huge amount of skills and information sharing between groups.
New Forest Off Road Club has put together a handy guide linking to the Instagram profiles of many groups, so you can start filling your feed with joy!
School of Rocks Map
The School of Rocks is a women-led community offering a toolkit to empower everyone to find joy in off-road cycling, building skills, confidence and community by organising a curriculum of rides over 6-week terms. Their chapters are spread across the UK and beyond, and they have a handy map to help you check if there’s one in your area.
“If it wasn't for Cycle Sisters I would never have tried cycling. The lycra-wearing, typical cyclist was so far removed from what I'd even try. I've gone from reluctant to giving it a go to cycling enthusiast and now owning my own bike and cycling with my family too. All without having to compromise what I'm wearing. Cycle Sisters has shown me how cycling can accommodate anyone.” - Cycle Sisters rider
What if there’s no inclusive cycling community near me?
While there are lots of groups popping up all over the country, there will of course be many people who don’t have a group near them.
This doesn’t have to be the end of the world, though, as we’ll be sharing a complete guide to starting your own, very soon. Keep your eyes peeled!
Here at Liv, we want to support your cycling journey. Our website is full of helpful blog posts to help you make the most out of every pedal and stroke. In need of a new ride? Check out our range of bikes.