For most of my cycling life, I’ve ridden with men. Aside from brief stints riding in Australia and New Zealand where there are enough women riders to form our own groups, I’ve ridden with the guys. But even there when I looked ahead to groups of older cyclists there weren’t as many women. I remember when I started racing occasionally with the Vets in Canberra, Australia, during my first sabbatical year there in 2007-08.
You don’t need to be that old to join. “Started in 1993, the ACT Veterans Cycling Club was formed to cater specifically for veteran racing cyclists in the Canberra area. Veteran category for cycling is 35 and over for men and 30 and over for women.”
I don’t remember how many racing categories there were–lots, I know. And lots of older men, though not very many older women. There were jokes about needing a doctor’s note to continue racing after 80.
During my first race I let an older Italian-Australian man draft me. I was impressed that he was still racing at his age and I thought he needed my help to finish. If you’re a cyclist you likely know how this story ends. At the very end, he sprinted past me and beat me in the race. His wife, who was getting the post race tea and biscuits ready, said, “Oh, he does that with all the new people. Never let him get away with drafting.” I laughed.
We joked that in my category it was women over 40 and men over 60. But even then I wondered, where are the older women cyclists?
Now I am one of the older women cyclists, I’m really wondering.
I’m racing on Zwift with Team TFC. I’m the organizer of a team, in the Zwift Racing League series, Team Dynamite. We’re an all genders team, in category D. But I am the only woman.
In lots of races on Zwift there are open categories A-D and which category you’re in depends on your power to weight ratio. But the women all get lumped together in E category. If I race with the women, I’m competing against women who would be in the open A, B, and C category. As a D rider I don’t stand a chance. Some races have Women’s A-D categories but not very many.
There are lots of younger, smaller, speedier women racing on Zwift but to race with people of my size and power, I need to race in the open or mixed categories which really means racing with men.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like my male teammates. They’re a great bunch and they manage to be encouraging without being condescending, they’re helpful without mansplaining, and they are kind and funny. But sometimes I wonder where the D women are and where the older women are.
I joke about being Smurfette!
Of course, not everyone likes racing. There’s no need to feel defensive if it’s not your thing. But the proportion of men to women makes me think there are women who would like it, if they knew racing at all levels was available, if they understood the range of styles of bike racing there are, and they knew they wouldn’t be alone even if there aren’t that many of us out here.
I came across a fun Zwifter recently with her own YouTube channel, Zwifting with Granny.
Her description resonated because of osteoarthritis pain and cycling being a thing that helps make it better. Me too!
“I’m just a lifelong cyclist who, in my 60’s, developed severe osteoarthritis, and the only thing that would alleviate the pain was riding my bike. Riding in the winter didn’t help because the cold negated the effects of the riding. I had heard about Zwift for years but didn’t have room for the setup. In 2019…new house, more rooms, enter Zwift. This is my journey.”
Zwifting with Granny, YouTube Channel
Past posts about older cyclists:
Sharon on Cycling After Sixty