The woman with the creaky old mountain bike was about to give up and go home.
As Sarah Perdue tells it, the woman had come to a group ride hosted by the Bella Donnas, a Milwaukee women’s ride group, and saw immediately that she was the odd duck among the dozen or so bike-shorts-wearing, road-bike-riding women.
She was older than the rest of the group, she hadn’t ridden in years, and the 25-mile hill ride seemed utterly beyond anything she could ever do.
But the Bella Donnas’ rule is that any woman who shows up is welcome in the group. If the group’s ride is too hard, they’ll find a ride that works for her.
Sarah recounts how one of the ride leaders stayed back with the newcomer and took her on a ride through a flat, 10-mile bike path. She enjoyed it so much that she kept coming back, working up to more advanced routes.
Ultimately, she even made it through the hill ride that sounded so daunting on her first day.
Sarah, a St. Paul Women on Bikes member who recently moved here from Milwaukee, tells this story to illustrate the importance of having a supportive women’s ride group.
“With the Bella Donnas, there was a huge range of riders,” Sarah says. “Not being a hard-core super-fast cyclist, it was nice to join a ride group that cares about encouraging riding and improving at it, without being judgmental.”
This year, she’s been helping WOB build a women’s ride group in St. Paul. Inspired by the Bella Donnas, Grease Rag, and other bike communities around the country, WOB is moving toward a member-led model for its group rides.
Women are trading tips, advice, and ride ideas on the St. Paul Women on Bikes Ride Group. This summer, WOB will be training volunteers to take turns leading weekly group rides.
We hope that these rides will provide opportunities for women to support and motivate each other—at all levels of biking ability. They will be no-drop, all-inclusive rides whose pace will be set according to the needs and interests of the group.