I’ll do anything for free kit but I won’t do that…

Sometime last year I saw an advert for a brand that was looking for ambassadors. That brand was Pearl Izumi. From the information available it sounded pretty sweet.

“We are looking for a diverse group of athletes…”

“Successful champions will receive limited edition Pearl Izumi kit, online discounts, invitations to exclusive events, entrance to races, monthly fitness goals and expert tuition to really test themselves.”

So I threw my hat into the ring and applied. I was successful. Wopeee!

Then today…

“For the 2017 season, you will be pink, black & hi-viz yellow (women) and blue, black & hi-viz yellow (men).”

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Gender isn’t a black and white issue. Nor is it pink and blue.

Now these kits are the same as what had been shown in the promo shots. Perhaps foolishly, I assumed that they wouldn’t do that again! I mean who is that backwards to make that mistake twice?! Turns out Pearl Izumi is that backwards.

So today I requested to withdraw from the programme.

I am not willing to be an ambassador for a brand that requires/encourages individuals to wear colours that are assigned to them according to their gender. 

People are individuals. We are not defined by gender. Yes I wear pink and I am a woman but this is a choice. Not all women wear pink, some men would like to have more choice of pink kit. Some people don’t identify by the gender they were born with, or with any gender at all! We should not stereotype and we should challenge those that do. Research shows that giving children blue or pink to wear affects how others treat them. Gender stereotypes can lead to little girls thinking that brilliance is a male trait. Over use of pink in advertising campaigns actually renders these campaigns less effective at targeting women. The cycling industry has a huge diversity problem. How are we supposed to build an increasingly inclusive cycling community when we reinforce gender stereotypes? 

Gender and stereotypes are not a black and white matter. Nor are they blue and pink. 

In other news, anyone looking to sponsor a ‘difficult’ woman?!

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One of the reasons I love my Casquette cap. It’s YELLOW! Happy yellow.
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Solo and unsupported, but not alone.

I have been incredibly touched by supportive and encouraging messages from the cycling twittersphere. Women that I look up to like Kajsa Tylen, Emily Chappell, Rickie Cotter and Juliete Elliot, women that I’ve watched as they achieve incredible things on two wheels are interested in my riding, cheering me on, telling me that I’m made of tough stuff. And also the men, Steve Abraham is never far away when I’m in need of a little encouragement or straight talking!

Someone that I’ve never met said that I had inspired them to ride a 200km solo Audax in February.

Still, my non-cycling friends think I’m insane and I’m still not comfortable telling my mum what I’m up to. She knows I’m doing the Transcon but I’m not embellishing too much about how much I plan on suffering in the saddle. She probably reads this so knows full well what I’m up to, but I haven’t got the guts to tell her directly. Probably because I’m afraid she’ll worry.

There are still a lot of cyclists who think I’m nuts, out of my depth and taken on a challenge that is beyond my capability. Tonight at the Bristol Bike Project a guy asked me ‘How long is your longest ride?’

(FYI this is probably the most common question asked by men after announcing that I’m doing the TCR. Women mostly go ‘WOW! Good luck!’. Maybe this comes form an innate male desire to compare sizes… anyway..  )

There are some reasons why this is a valid question.

  1. It is an ultra endurance cycling race. One does need to be able to travel far and fast.

There are a lot of reasons why this isn’t a valid question.

  1. Yes it is a bike race, but it isn’t just about the physical challenge. A lot of it is up here *points to head*.
  2. Nothing prepares you for riding the Transcontinental like riding the Transcontinental. Yes, experience is important but it doesn’t guarantee success. I posted on the TCR Women’s facebook group to say how intimidated I was to find myself considering athletes like Juliana Buhring (fastest woman around the world) and Shu Pillinger (first Bristish woman to complete the race across america or RAAM) ‘peers’. Shu responded with ‘Most of us are newbies to this race! Welcome to the level playing field’. TCR veteran Fran added ‘And as the last races have shown, experience doesn’t necessarily mean a guarantee for success.. TCR is a very special beast!’
  3. I’m not going to ride it tomorrow. I’m going to cycle my little legs of between now and July. I’m going to spend the next 6 or so months becoming the most competent rider I can be.
  4. If I fail it isn’t a ‘failure’. It will be a bloody good adventure and has been the start of a new chapter in my life where I stop doubting myself and start doing.

SO… in a very roundabout way. The point I was trying to make is:

Yes you are riding solo and unsupported, but you’re being cheered on by friends, strangers, fellow riders. Everyone loves a nutter on a bike and they are willing you to succeed.

The Adventure Syndicate are really the embodiment of this spirit. Emily contacted me around Christmas time asking if she could use one of the pictures from our Wales adventure on the Syndicate’s blog. It seemed appropriate as the Syndicate were instrumental in us getting our act off the ground. Her response wasn’t what I expected (because we look up to our heroes and think they are infallible)

‘This blog post is making me reflect on what it is we’re actually doing, and how we’re doing it, and sometimes I’m not even sure’

Well I think it does come down creating a supportive community of people who will support eachother, answer questions, share advice, encourage and empower. Then this can drown out the voices of the haters and non-believers.

The Syndicate also introduced me to Rickie Cotter who is THE most fearless and endearing person I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Oh and she is an incredible athlete to boot!

Rickie, 24h MTB beast and great taste in jumpers

So often we (and especially I think as women) are told that some things are too much/dangerous/stupid/silly/difficult. No wonder there was a shocking headline last week that little girls feel they are less capable and talented than little boys.

This is why the This Girl Can campaign is so strong. It strikes a message in nearly every woman. That fear of judgement. That fear of failure. The Adventure Syndicate just takes this to the next level my making a niche community for women who like to do unorthodox things on two wheels. I’m a scientist and to use science speak – they lower the activation energy required for an adventure (chemical reaction) to take place.

Other people believe in out abilities. We just need to believe them ourselves! I shall close with a quote from the organisers of London Edinburgh London.

‘My experience is that woman are more capable than they think whilst men are less capable than they say. Believe in yourself.’

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Some of the Adventure Syndicate doing their thing and rocking inspirational stand up!