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One of our own marketing creatives, Janeen McCrae, was invited to take part in “A Seat at the Table” this past June—a Dirty Kanza Women’s Panel discussing women in today’s cycling industry. Here, we follow up with Janeen to hear what she believes we can all be doing to encourage and inspire women to get out and ride.
“Leave clear tracks for others to follow. Make them easy to find.”
This line from the Specialized Women’s Worth It Manifesto is rally cry for us to lead the way in what we do on two wheels. The #200women200miles women’s panel at this year's Dirty Kanza featured a handful of women who, through their roles in the cycling industry, are striving to do just that. I was invited to add my voice and perspective as a storyteller, and this piece aims to expand on an idea I touched on during the panel—that we're all able to play a part in getting more women on bikes by telling our own stories.
We can all be Leading Ladies. We can all inspire to ride.
As women who work in the industry, our focus is obvious: We aim to carve a path that enables and inspires other women to get out there. Your motivation is clear— it’s why you got into it in the first place — you love bikes and you want to make people fall in love with them much as you do. In getting ready for the panel, the moderators had asked each of us for one thing we wanted to stress. Mine came down to this:
“Tell your stories.”
Share them. Don’t think about how good or bad you perceive yourself to be at this lark called cycling, because it doesn’t matter if you ride at the front of the group or the back. It doesn’t matter if you prefer the solo ride, or mountain, or road, or the commute—we need your voice. Because the more women see or read about other women’s experiences, good and bad, the more likely they are to think: “I could do that, too.” Visibility matters. All ages, all sizes, all colors, all walks of life, shapes, styles of human being rolling around on this magical planet—if you see it, you can be it.
All it takes is one spark, and what you share can be the catalyst for one woman getting out there and riding for the first time. Starting a regular ride that gets people out. Signing up for their first race—maybe even a race like the Dirty Kanza? After the women’s panel, we went out to the Gravel Expo and captured the thoughts of women to see why they signed up for the race, and how it feels to see women out there challenging themselves in a race as brutal as the Dirty Kanza?
To read how some of the women in this video did at the Dirty Kanza 200, writer and rider Allie Mariano, shared their story in the Times-Picayune. Read story
How you share your story is up to you. The suggestions below are by no means the only strategies you can use—they’re just a few ideas to get you started on the road of being a bike life advocate. Of course, you can also use video platforms, but the options listed here are some of the less labor-intensive avenues you can take.
Take a photo or video, share it—boom! Instagram is a simple way to share your experience. You can add multiple photos to a post, or take it one step further and use the Stories feature to document your ride in real-time with fun GIFs that we made for you (just search "Worth It" or "Specialized" from the GIF interface in Stories). Your post is only live for 24 hours, and then it disappears forever (unless you Highlight them). Use hashtags, tag your friends on the ride—it's the most accessible platform around, so download the app, follow @IAMSPECIALIZED_WMN and get cracking.
How you share your story is up to you. Local Specialized Ambassadors, like Bettina Sahm in Switzerland (above) and Susan Barraza in Chile, use Instagram to share the stoke. Susan also uses her blog (Spanish) to share adventures and show women in Chile what’s out there.
One surefire way to induce extreme FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is to post amazing photos on your Instagram or Facebook. Here are a few hashtags taken from "Leading Ladies: Bike Like a Boss, Issue #2" to help others find your posts and get inspired. Time to make that stoke meter read “Stoke-e-Maniac!”
Facebook also has the Stories function, but its albums and galleries are also great ways to share. Create a specific album for an epic ride or trip, and remember: If you’re not a hardcore roadie or mountain biker, your experience is still inspirational. For example, people who commute are capable of showing us cities through their eyes, and how getting about on a bike is liberating. Why not build a gallery called #commutelove and add to it from time to time? It could be the timeline spark that gets a cousin or old school friend thinking, “Maybe I could ride to work?” You don’t have to make your account public to inspire people, either—inspiring your friends and family will be a job well done.
A favorite of Specialized’s #adventuremore doyenne, Rita Jett, this mobile app allows you to create small and simple mini-mags — using words and pictures — of your rides. People can follow you on Steller, and you can share your stories to Twitter and Facebook for more eyeballs. People planning an epic ride, multi-day bike packing trip, or their “seen on my commute” lifestyle, should take a look at this one.
Steller also has a web interface for viewing stories. To see an example, check out Rita’s story Backyard Bikepacking for a California adventure she took right near Specialized Headquarters.
A blogging platform like WordPress is a great way to share your story—just pick an angle for your blog and get going. What sort of cyclist are you? A weekend warrior, a chef who cycles, a woman who’s just starting out in mountain biking? Your perspective can never be duplicated, so get your voice out there. You could even contribute to a pre-established blog on a topic that means something to you. For example, Specialized Ambassador Carolina Rodriguez wrote about starting her cycling life at 40. Where Instagram and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are more for quick hits, blogs expand on themes and create something others can deeply respond to.
Perfect for more long-form, article-type pieces, Medium is steadily building a network that allows people to follow topics they like and then comment on them. It keeps the templates incredibly simple, so there’s always a consistency. And since Medium was created by Twitter, your Twitter handle acts as a dual login, so it's super easy to get started. Medium is also social—think of it like Twitter for blogs—and when you tag, your article can be served up to people interested in that tag, so you can reach even more people.
Not all storytelling has to occur online. There’s this old thing called conversation, and the story you can share is your stoke. If you’re an organizer, organize rides and get everyone revved up. Teach your daughter or niece how to ride—let them see how fearless you are. If you have a curious friend, lead her gently to the path of eternal bike love. Tell her about how you overcame a fear, or that time you fell over at a Stop sign when you first tried clipless pedals. Share your story one-on-one—it’s personal and real.
Keep riding and be seen. Spread the word to neighbors, friends, and family, and make their first ride be with you. You are a Leading Lady— show it.
The sisterhood is powerful, but not when it's attacking itself. Nothing is more of a bummer than sharing a story just to have some random person attack it. The best people to motivate women to ride farther, do more, get involved, or just take it up in the first place, are other women. Motivate, don’t hate. Let’s make comment sections a place where civility and humanity are commonplace—not outliers.
Stories are personal, so when someone shares something about their ride, recognize their risk by giving them some encouragement. A simple “like” is all it takes. Step back and think, “What can I add to this conversation that’s meaningful? Do I have anything to add at all? Perhaps I can help or encourage by sharing my experience?” We need to focus on raising each other up through our stories, not tearing each other down. We are stronger when we’re united, after all.
Let’s think of getting more women on bikes like building a strong and mighty wall. And how do you build a wall? Brick by brick and row by row. As someone who works in the industry, we focus on what can we do with our resources and expertise to get more women involved. Our marching orders are simple: engage with passionate cyclists, new riders, relapsed cyclists, athletes, moms, girls, and people who know nothing about the joy of riding. As brands, we are working on the rows.
But if you love bikes as much as we do, there’s so much you can do to get involved. This isn’t about brand affinity or what bike you ride —that’s our challenge—this is about everyone pitching in to get more women riding. Not because of business reasons, but because of the human reasons. Bikes change lives. None of the women on that Dirty Kanza panel would have taken the positions they’re in without believing that. So, while you might think that one person getting one other person interested in riding seems small and insignificant, I'll ask you the same question I proposed on the panel—small to whom? Not that one "small, insignificant" woman. You might have changed her life, and isn’t that the whole point?
If you get one girl riding, that’s a victory for all of us. If for no other reason than it’s nice to see other women out riding.
“One more row. Just one more row.” As brands, we have the resources to scale the dream of getting more women on bikes, but the power really resides with you. By getting out there, sharing stories, and showing other women what it’s like to challenge ourselves on two wheels, you'll be the inspiration we all need right now.
And every now and then, who knows—maybe you’ll hand up a brick?
Let’s get building!
#whatsworthit Download the Worth It Manifesto wallpapers here