Bicycle Network: Women's Cycling
Emma Ringer: girl + bike website creator
Nicola Dunnicliff-Wells caught up with Emma to talk bikes and binary code
How did you get into cycling?
My father and brother were both into racing, and I specifically didn't want to do cycling as a sport because they did it. I started out of necessity, cycling to uni when I was 19 when petrol prices were going up and I couldn't afford petrol. From there I got into road racing and from road racing into track racing. I started riding for fun, and then cycling became part of my job.
[A former Bicycling Australia staff journalist, Emma has also guided mountain bike tours across Australia and the Simpson Desert and spends most Saturdays working in a bike shop, giving friendly advice to women and answering not-so-dumb questions.]
There seems to be more out there for women these days, with women-specific bikes and clothing. What's your feeling about women's cycling becoming more mainstream?
From an industry point of view, women's cycling is very much on the radar. Some of the smaller companies have been doing it for a while, but now with all the major companies having a women's range, it's going to infiltrate the market. Women are going to see that there are products specifically for them and ask for them at their local bike shop.
What are the challenges now for the industry?
I guess the challenge is always going to be getting the products out there, but as the participation of women increases, it's going to be easier for the industry. Part of the challenge is raising exposure, like having women's only events to give it a profile. I think there are more people in the industry who are becoming more passionate about women cycling.
Are we reaching a critical mass in terms of women and cycling?
I think there's still a way to go. I think one of the key points is the retail trade. If you want to ride a bike, you go to a bike shop. Women are very savvy consumers, but bike shops are not necessarily set up to be attractive to women. I don't mean necessarily making it all pretty, but it needs to appeal to women and have staff who are approachable to women - ideally female staff. A lot of women will come up to me and say "I hope this isn't a dumb question, but...". I think there's things that they wouldn't feel comfortable asking men because they're worried about looking stupid.
What stops women from riding bikes?
I think a big part of it comes from their own self-perception. To ride a bike you don't have to be super fit already and look like a racer in Lycra. I think that's a big put off for women - and the helmet.
I think there's lots of women that think riding a bike is something they couldn't do, but it's pretty achievable. So I'm passionate about challenging that self-perception and giving women the encouragement that they can do it. Probably lots of women would like to give racing a try but they're too scared.
What is your goal for www.girlplusbike.com?
I want it to cover a wide range of issues for women's cycling, with more of a magazine type feel. And to create an encouraging environment in whatever genre that says you can ride a bike for a range of reasons and that it's achievable.
You studied fine art at uni - did you do the website design? It has quite a contemporary fashion feel.
Yes, it's influenced by the magazines I like to read.
Finally, what are your own cycling goals?
I'm about to buy a downhill bike. There's a race on the first weekend of November, so I'm going to race that! I've had a season off track racing so my other goal is to start racing track again. And beyond that, to have fun on my bike, wherever it takes me - around Australia or around the world!