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  1. #1
    Senior Member karenashg's Avatar
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    Why aren't there more women randonneurs?

    My husband has gotten into randonneuring, and after a couple years of listening to his ride stories, I'm about to get a bike and possibly work up to joining him on some brevets.

    When I look at the registration/results lists from brevets though, I'm always struck by how few women there are (unless the Seattle Randonneurs are atypical). Some things I've read suggest that women may actually have an advantage in ultra-endurance events, and my husband always describes the people on brevets as a very welcoming. So, I'm curious what might be some reasons for the gender imbalance? (Though part of me thinks that it's because most women have better sense than to do something like a 1200k...)

    Thoughts/experiences?

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    In the BC Randonneurs club, the Manitoba Randonneurs club, and over here in Victoria, Australia there are a fair number of women. When I cycled with the Manitoba Randonneurs it was about a 50/50 split between men and women. These clubs are welcoming to women.

    However, when I cycled with the Alberta Randonneurs I was the only woman, and didn't feel particularly welcome. Many of the men in the Alberta Randonneurs look at brevets as races so they aren't too keen about having slower cyclists out there.

    It depends a lot on the club.

    But as for why there aren't more women in randonneuring ... randonneuring takes up a lot of time. If you've got a job and kids, and your evenings and weekends are spent shuttling the kids between ballet practice and soccer practice, you don't have time to go for a 27 hour bicycle ride, let alone do all the training required to build up to that.

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    Karena, what were you reasons for not getting into randonneuring earlier? Maybe you can extrapolate your comments into the wider female population.
    Last edited by Rowan; 05-08-10 at 10:43 PM.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member karenashg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    But as for why there aren't more women in randonneuring ... randonneuring takes up a lot of time. If you've got a job and kids, and your evenings and weekends are spent shuttling the kids between ballet practice and soccer practice, you don't have time to go for a 27 hour bicycle ride, let alone do all the training required to build up to that.
    Good point--when I was one of those kids whose mom was shuttling me around to ballet practice and violin lessons and such, I once added up the hours she spent driving me around and waiting to pick me up--it was easily around 20 hours a week.

    I wonder--in clubs that are mostly men, do they perhaps self-perpetuate being unwelcoming to women (even if unconsciously)? I've seen male cyclists comment, only half-jokingly, about being passed by--horrors of all horrors--a *woman*. Perhaps some guys aren't used to women being able to do what they do, and don't take it well? (And before I get called out for sexist comments, I think it cuts both ways--I've seen groups of women be very unfriendly when a man "encroached" on what they considered "their territory"!)

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    Randonneuring is one of the few sporting pursuiits where women can participate on an equal footing with men (yacht racing is another). This is a point often missed. I couldn't care less if a woman of any standard finishes ahead of me on a randonnee, just so long as I finish within the time limit.

    Also men's testosterone levels may drop somewhat after the age of 50 or 60, so their need to exude this particularly potent male hormone in an effort to be first across the line is less compelling. The average age of participation in PBP, for example, is in the upper range of the 40s.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  6. #6
    Senior Member karenashg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    Karena, what were you reasons for not getting into randonneuring earlier? Maybe you can extrapolate your comments into the wider female population.
    To be clear, I technically haven't gotten into randonneuring or even bicycling at all yet! I finish up grad school in 4 weeks, and when I head home I'm getting a bike, and we'll see how it goes.

    Two years I didn't even know that randonneuring existed. My husband had started bicycling, first just to commute, and then was pulled into doing longer and longer rides by some buddies, one of whom is a member of the Seattle Randonneurs. Watching the enjoyment and sense of accomplishment that he's gotten out of riding in general started getting me interested, and in the Pacific Northwest there is some amazing scenery to enjoy.

    I will say that as a dancer and dance teacher I spend a lot of my day sweating and making extreme demands of my body, so cycling is not too much of a conceptual shift. From reading another thread on barriers to female cyclists, I think that perhaps a lot of women perhaps feel a societal pressure not to get sweaty and dirty that isn't there for men. They might be willing to go work out at the gym where they can shower and do their hair and make up before they emerge back into public, but would feel very uncomfortable going into a mini-mart or restaurant after riding 200k.

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    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    The local group here does have a fair number of women, so the problem is not universal.

    I suspect that the idea of being on a bicycle by yourself in the middle of nowhere is on average more acceptable to men than to women. I haven't tried to conduct a poll to confirm that.

    I suspect that if you have a lot of women in a local club, it's going to be a lot easier to get other women involved.

    As far as I know, the local rando group here draws a fair number of people out of one of the regular bicycle clubs. If that club has a lot of active women, then you can expect that to carry through to the rando participation.

    I don't fit into the normal club rider/racer/rando pattern that some people seem to expect. There are some of the local randonneurs that are friendly and encouraging anyway, while I get the impression some others would just as soon not have me around. I can imagine if you had a whole club like that second group, it would take a pretty thick-skinned individual to stick with it, male or female, if they didn't fit the mold.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    sch
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    I think StephenH has hit an important point. It is relatively unusual for large groups to stay together on long bike rides. It is an unusual rando event that attracts more than
    20-30 riders. So you end up at the back end of nowhere at 3am with another 12-18hrs to go on the bike by yourself. With luck you might find a compatible group that is willing to
    stay together through a 400k or longer ride but so many factors begin to pop up: hunger, fatigue need to sleep, different slump times that staying together can be
    extremely difficult. 5 mile long hills also tend to do that as well. Read some of Machka's older posts to get the flavor of riding long rides. (See her website).

    And to give you a little incentive read this: http://www.slowtwitch.com/Features/E...dent__495.html
    A truly formidable woman who would probably leave 96% of rando males in the dust . One obit mentions the twins doing a TWIN Ironman (swim some, bike 200, run 52mi).
    Last edited by sch; 05-09-10 at 07:46 AM.

  9. #9
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    I don't know why there aren't more women in SIR. It's a sport in which women might have an advantage, since it's not a race so max aerobic capacity really isn't an issue. Women are often light, have good lower body strength, good endurance, and good pain tolerance. I do hear the "why an earth would I do something like that to myself?" kind of talk from women. You know, the whole hair shirt, flagellation, chest beating thing that men are into. Were there female flagellates? And they don't call it The Dark Side of cycling for nothing. But women can be very strong minded. They had to kind of stuff a woman into the aid car last year. She wasn't about to quit.

  10. #10
    Senior Member karenashg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    I don't know why there aren't more women in SIR. It's a sport in which women might have an advantage, since it's not a race so max aerobic capacity really isn't an issue. Women are often light, have good lower body strength, good endurance, and good pain tolerance. I do hear the "why an earth would I do something like that to myself?" kind of talk from women. You know, the whole hair shirt, flagellation, chest beating thing that men are into. Were there female flagellates? And they don't call it The Dark Side of cycling for nothing. But women can be very strong minded. They had to kind of stuff a woman into the aid car last year. She wasn't about to quit.
    Maybe women get their self-flagellation impulses taken care of with pointy-toe stilettos...

    I'll admit that while I can see the appeal of a 200 or 300k, when I heard about PBP and read some ride reports, I thought it sounded like a pretty insane thing to do willingly, and definitely something that I was smart enough not to get caught up in. Of course, some people think that dancing on the tips of your toes in pointe shoes is a pretty insane thing to do willingly, but they are just silly

    If I do get to the point of doing some rides with SIR, I will be interested to see what my perception of it is compared to my husband's.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by karenashg View Post
    ...I'll admit that while I can see the appeal of a 200 or 300k, when I heard about PBP and read some ride reports, I thought it sounded like a pretty insane thing to do willingly, and definitely something that I was smart enough not to get caught up in...
    A lot of guys have the same opinion of long distance rides, I'm not sure that's gender specific.

    I believe (generally) there are just more guys out cycling to begin with so therefore more doing long distances. Shephen's suggestion of women not wanting to be out in the middle of nowhere all by themselves is also an issue.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I would like to point out that riding by yourself is not something that's really ever required, but just something that is liable to happen from time to time. Some of the local women have husbands or the equivalent in the group, and that gives them a ready-made riding partner in a lot of cases. If they don't ride at the same speed, there's always a tandem, and I think we have at least three couples that ride tandems part of the time. Some of the local rando people have ridden together a LOT (as in 200k's every week and stuff), so they know each other a lot better than I know them, and they are used to riding in groups. If someone else rides more or less my speed, or is willing to slow down to my speed, it's great if we can stick together, but I'd feel awkward trying to intentionally arrange that- but it can be done.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  13. #13
    Senior Member karenashg's Avatar
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    That's a good point about the gender balance in cycling as a whole, as well as outside factors like the possibility of being out alone in the middle of the night.

    If outside factors do keep women away from randonneuring in greater numbers than men are kept away, it seems a pity--as opposed to something like racing, where men will generally have a significant physiological advantage, randonneuring seems like something where there could be advantages to being a woman, and certainly where women can at least participate on a pretty equal level with the men. And the sense of accomplishment/empowerment after a brevet is something a lot of women could use in their lives.

    Of course, I say all that from the comfort of my couch! (Though I know my husband is pretty astonished at what he's done on a bike, and I'm super proud of him). I'll have to post back after actually trying a brevet and see what I think about accomplishment, empowerment, riding alone in the middle of the night, and insane things to do with a perfectly good Saturday...

  14. #14
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    I talked to my dancer friend on the ride today. She said that, in her opinion, dancing and riding went pretty well together. As you say, dancers have great core strength and that's a huge help. She also said that cycling much easier than dancing, because your body only moves in one plane, instead of moving through space on several planes. But she also said that cycling does not help flexibility and you'll have to be careful to keep up with the work on your dancing fundamentals.

    We had a lovely ride today, though the hills north of Snohomish, about 60 miles and 4000' of climbing, just Stoker and I, the dancer, and two other couples on tandems. When you get some miles and if you feel like it, PM me and I can point you toward some fun things.

    For my #2 bike, which I call my rain bike, I went with an aluminum frame, carbon fork, and Ultegra components. You might think about a cyclocross bike, carbon fork, and Ultegra or similar level components. Quite a few year-round and rando riders use stuff like that in the PNW. Good for fenders and still light enough to climb well. Try Sammamish Valley Cycle: http://www.sammamishcycle.com/ Sort of SIR HQ for gear. They even have SIR mudflaps.

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    There is another factor that hasn't been touched on yet, and that is spousal pressure to not participate when that spouse has no interest in cycling, let alone randonneuring.

    There was a female poster on another non-BF long-distance forum who was very good at randonneuring, but she hooked up with a non-cycling guy in a permanent relationship, and she basically disappeared from the scene through that spousal pressure. I believe there was almost an ultimatum situation.

    Chauvinism is alive and well in the West, and it doesn't have to be within cycling ranks... in fact, the majority of it can be very strong outside cycling.

    The fact, Karena, that you have your husband already riding and who has inspired you makes you the exception rather than the rule.

    I do have to say that there are women who ride randonnees with their husbands' blessing and you won't see him anywhere. There is a woman here in Victoria who is a top-notch randonneuse, and she rides a lot (almost weekly) and usually with another guy who isn't her husband but also is an excellent randonneur. It all seems to work wonderfully for everyone involved.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    I believe (generally) there are just more guys out cycling to begin with so therefore more doing long distances.
    This most of all, I think. You're talking an extremely thin slice (randonneuring) of an already-very-skimpy pie (road cycling in general) in which women are already a very tiny part of the filling.

    I think the time/childcare/housecare issue is probably a big one, too. Rowan already alluded to the average age of PBP riders; I wonder, if you did an age breakdown of regular U.S. rando riders, male and female both, whether you'd find mostly under-25 and over-40 (i.e. young kids likely not on the scene) as being the largest percentage.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member karenashg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    There is another factor that hasn't been touched on yet, and that is spousal pressure to not participate when that spouse has no interest in cycling, let alone randonneuring.
    I know it's a prevalent attitude, but I've never understood saying to a significant other "you're doing something you really enjoy--you need to stop it." I realize that both my husband and I are lucky to be in a relationship where we support the other's interests and goals--to the point where I'm going to grad school in Ohio (and am counting down the days to rejoining my husband in Seattle). But even before I started developing an interest in bicycling, I was really happy that he was getting so much out of it, even if it meant some time apart.

    I'm about to get goopy about how great my husband is, so I'll stop now!

  18. #18
    Senior Member karenashg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    I talked to my dancer friend on the ride today. She said that, in her opinion, dancing and riding went pretty well together. As you say, dancers have great core strength and that's a huge help. She also said that cycling much easier than dancing, because your body only moves in one plane, instead of moving through space on several planes. But she also said that cycling does not help flexibility and you'll have to be careful to keep up with the work on your dancing fundamentals.

    We had a lovely ride today, though the hills north of Snohomish, about 60 miles and 4000' of climbing, just Stoker and I, the dancer, and two other couples on tandems. When you get some miles and if you feel like it, PM me and I can point you toward some fun things.

    For my #2 bike, which I call my rain bike, I went with an aluminum frame, carbon fork, and Ultegra components. You might think about a cyclocross bike, carbon fork, and Ultegra or similar level components. Quite a few year-round and rando riders use stuff like that in the PNW. Good for fenders and still light enough to climb well. Try Sammamish Valley Cycle: http://www.sammamishcycle.com/ Sort of SIR HQ for gear. They even have SIR mudflaps.
    Thanks for talking to your friend! That's reassuring to hear from a dancer.

    I'll see how this riding thing goes, and hope to take you up on the fun suggestions.

  19. #19
    Senior Member karenashg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maxine View Post
    This most of all, I think. You're talking an extremely thin slice (randonneuring) of an already-very-skimpy pie (road cycling in general) in which women are already a very tiny part of the filling.
    Good thing the filling is the best part of the pie

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    Quote Originally Posted by karenashg View Post
    I'm about to get goopy about how great my husband is, so I'll stop now!
    Just get him to join the forum here and tell us himself. We like mutual admiration societies here... because we're the only ones who understand why we do what we do!
    Last edited by Rowan; 05-10-10 at 06:01 PM.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member nkfrench's Avatar
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    I'm intrigued, but ...
    * I don't want to find myself out in the middle of nowhere with bike mechanical issues (I am inept)
    * I am a huge fan of clean indoor plumbing
    * I am afraid of being out in the middle of nowhere running out of drinking water
    * Sleep deprivation makes me more prone to seizures and other neuro issues
    * Most riders having my slow speed level aren't interested in riding more than 20 miles
    * Still working on improving my physical conditioning

  22. #22
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I'm intrigued, but ...
    * I don't want to find myself out in the middle of nowhere with bike mechanical issues (I am inept)
    Not often a problem. One solution is a cell phone and the phone number of anyone back home. I haven't had mechanical issues, but have had my wife come fetch me on two or three occasions when things didn't go according to plan.
    * I am a huge fan of clean indoor plumbing
    On the Lone Star Randonneur routes, the controls are generally convenience stores around 30 miles apart, or if the controls are farther apart, there's usually stores you can stop at in between. The rest room facilities are usually on par with what you'll find at most other businesses. Meaning, unless you just refuse to use anything but your own bathroom, you're probably going to be okay.
    * I am afraid of being out in the middle of nowhere running out of drinking water
    Solution: Plan ahead. Rest assured, none of the rest of us want to be in that situation either. You will generally always know where the next water is. What you won't always know is how long it will take you to get there and how much you'll be drinking as you go.
    * Sleep deprivation makes me more prone to seizures and other neuro issues.
    Generally, a 200k ride will take 8-12 hours depending on your speed and fitness, so sleep deprivation shouldn't be an issue there. A 300k might take up to 18 hours or so, but that's still more or less normal waking hours for most people. Rides over that length may get into sleep deprivation, but if you're just starting, that's not a concern.
    * Most riders having my slow speed level aren't interested in riding more than 20 miles
    What exactly is your slow speed? LSR does have some slower riders, some in the middle, some that are fast. One challenge they've been working on for the slower riders is trying to get them all at the same ride. Anyway, it's hard to say how you fit in until you've been out there to see the pace.
    * Still working on improving my physical conditioning
    Ditto. And let me tell you, riding 130 miles is a heck of a way to work on it.

    Speeds are pretty relative. There are people who will do a 100 miles, average 18 mph, and feel like they were slow, whereas I've never managed to be that fast.

    You may want to check into the Fort Worth Bicycle Association, I think it is. Some of the people there are also in LSR. They have a bunch of organized rides of different lengths. Charity rides are another good way to see how you're comparing to some of the other riders around.

    When I started out in randonneuring, I wasn't sure if I could make the cut-off times or not (I was riding my Worksman single-speed cruiser). So before I did a 200k route, I did 100k and 160k permanents by myself to see how it worked, and then went on to the 200k. I had previously done the HnH 100 and a number of 100k charity rides as well.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by karenashg View Post
    ... because most women have better sense than to do something like a 1200k...)
    You've met my Wife, then?
    "The automobile became a hypnosis, the opium of the American people..." -James Agee, Fortune, September 1934

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    Quote Originally Posted by karenashg View Post
    I know it's a prevalent attitude, but I've never understood saying to a significant other "you're doing something you really enjoy--you need to stop it."
    When it happens, I don't think it happens in that way. I have felt this pressure before, and it pretty much put an end to my cycling for a while. Family responsibilities are real, and as my family grew, I needed to adjust. I was perhaps too immature at the time to understand this on my own, but my Wife made sure to bring it to my attention. To look at it as if "she" were trying to quash it is pretty unhealthy. The reality was that it wasn't quite fair for me to take off on a 6-hour bike ride every Saturday and leave her with all the parenting duties and house chores.

    Now I'm getting back into it all, but I'm more of a grownup about it. I still have young children, but my oldest has shown an interest in riding with me. I still don't really have time to train, but I'm trying to maximize the riding time I have. I don't get upset when a planned bike ride gets superseded by more important things. Biking is for life, but my kids are only in their formative years for a very short time. I don't see me attempting the longer rides for a few years, yet. Heck, I'm only 43.
    "The automobile became a hypnosis, the opium of the American people..." -James Agee, Fortune, September 1934

  25. #25
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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