Sandra Rubesam blazes the trail during the 2018 UCI MTB World Championships, Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Olympic stars Sir Chris Hoy and Laura Kenny have backed a UK-wide campaign aiming to close the gender gap in cycling by addressing many of the problems and perceptions putting females off bike riding.
The One in a Million Campaign by national governing body British Cycling is a response to fresh figures showing barely a third of UK riders are females.
The campaign wants the UK to follow the example of European countries where there is a less significant gender divide among riders. Some nations, such as Denmark, have slightly more female riders than male, with many of its policies forming part of the solution to the UK’s male dominance.
The move comes as female mountain biking enjoys a surge in popularity, with riders such as German DH champ Sandra Rubesam enjoying a growing profile and inspiring the sport’s next stars.
Two-time German National Downhill Champion Sandra Rubesam
In mid-2018, Sandra’s rising stardom ensured her a place alongside EWS men’s champion Sam Hill, World Masters Downhill Champion Colin Ross, and road cycling legend Sean Kelly during Chain Reaction Cycles’ The Champion’s Choice campaign.
But despite green shoots on the trails, road cycling remains an issue for the UK’s female riders, with British Cycling’s own research finding women say they lack the confidence to ride on the roads because of driver behaviour and poor infrastructure.
Men have many of the same complaints but to a much lesser extent, the research indicated.
According to British Cycling, if the existing barriers were removed, more than one in three women say they would cycle more frequently. That could mean an extra 10 million more cyclists around the UK.
Campaign ambassador Chris Hoy said: “Cycling, in all its forms – whether it’s commuting, competing, coaching or as a career – must be just as appealing to women as it is to men.
Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy
“These heightened negative perceptions of confidence and safety on a bike amongst women are concerning as this is worsening the cycling gender gap and preventing women from getting on bikes altogether.
“We need to redouble our efforts to encourage more women to consider cycling and show them that it is safe, you don’t have to be super fit or have a wardrobe full of lycra and there are women-only Breeze rides across the whole of the country waiting to welcome beginners.”
The campaign follows a report from transport charity Sustrans which found increasing cycling levels could prevent 34,000 life-threatening illnesses in seven major UK cities by 2040.
By increasing cycling in cities at the same rate of increase London has enjoyed since the millennium, the nation would engage in almost 250 million additional hours of physical activity.
This would have serious implications for the levels of common diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, breast cancer, colon cancer and hip fractures. The report estimates the changes could prevent 628 early deaths and save the NHS £319 million by 2040.