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FNY Reaches New Borders


How do you encourage more women to get outdoors & enjoy all the benefits it has to offer, all whilst highlighting the under-representation of women in mountain biking?


“You can’t be what you can’t see” so how about a series of events encouraging women to get out there, represent women in the sport, and promote the benefits of being on two wheels, learning something new and making some pals along the way? Oh, and there may or may not have been cake involved…



The FNY Women’s Winter MTB Events programme kicked off in Innerleithen in January, with a free-of-charge Introduction to Mountain Biking day. Locals, not-so-locals, and an array of ages and abilities arrived at the Innerleithen Pipe Band Hall on a pretty windy, soggy morning - all kitted out and ready to get rolling. The day included some skills sessions for a really enthusiastic group of beginners along with the offer of a group ride up to Minch Moor for an intermediate-level riding group. Finishing up with some lunch, delicious cake, tea and coffee, we had the opportunity to sit with some new found friends, chat about some newly-honed skills & we all got the chance to discuss just how awesome mountain biking really is.  



Next up on the agenda was the BIGGEST FNY Collective sign up of 2024, with a route taking in the Three Brethren for our intermediate group and a trip around the Bowhill Estate in Selkirk with another fab bunch of beginners. Finishing up for - yep, you guessed it - more cake & more chatting at Selkirk Rugby Club; the weather for this ride was a little better than the last to say the least, and the smiles were just as wide! 


Cut to another immensely popular introductory session, which took in the new trails built over at Glentress, where our volunteers led another group of fantastic beginners and  helped them get to grips with the newly-built green and blue descents, whilst another group of volunteers took an intermediate bunch around the classic network of red-graded trails at the centre. 


Alongside our planned routes and beginners sessions as part of this programme, we headed over to Hawick to host our first “Come and Try’ drop in session for women curious about getting stuck in to mountain biking. Taking place near the popular Hawick Pump Track, it was fab to see so many women come along to see what the FNY Collective is all about.



Really tapping in to the wider trail network here in the Scottish Borders led us to host our eagerly awaited “Weekender” in Newcastleton; taking in two days of riding, including a  loop around Kielder, and a superb evening hosted by Endura. We chatted about the importance of inclusive sizing for women in cycling and were able to give feedback on some prototype products - what a fantastic opportunity for us to make an impact in the wider industry!



Building up publicity for the events was incredibly important to us. We wanted to make sure as many women as possible knew what was going on, where it was happening and when, and encourage participation across all our events. 


Facebook and social media posts were shared widely; including reposts from Endura & the Scottish Women’s Cycling forum, along with local community Facebook groups - our posts were shared 254 times, reaching 4025 people!


So - how did we do? 




We asked some of the women who attended to tell us a few things about mountain biking, and how they felt the programme went. 


According to our feedback, the top four barriers to cycling for women were:

  • Affordability

  • Attitudes and behaviours on the trails

  • Transport

  • Clothing


...and the top three things that would motivate these women to get out and ride their bikes?

  • Fitness

  • Challenge

  • Mental Health


Those who joined us said they enjoyed the ride, skills and social connection the events brought to them; one attendee fed back to us that "the encouragement from the organisers was so helpful for me personally, and meeting other people was lovely - hearing their stories, realising I wasn't the only one feeling anxious”


The events have encouraged more women to see a bike as a mode of transport which served to highlight the environmental benefits of cycling; we encouraged those attending locally to use their bike to travel to and from the venue and car share where possible when travelling from further afield. It’s also raised awareness of government incentives, such as the Cycle to Work schemes, to make cycling that bit more accessible.

 

But, what happens next? What more can we do to encourage women to participate in mountain biking?


  • Raise awareness and challenge the behaviours of other trail users

  • Explore further opportunities for women to have access to free bikes

  • Participate in BSL (British Sign Language) training to improve communication with women from the deaf community and enable them to attend future events

  • Continue to put on beginners rides and events

  • Encourage women to further challenge themselves to do better and set personal goals; something we have seen first hand within our growing team of MTB leaders



The opportunity to welcome more women to our “FNY Family” has been amazing; introducing the enjoyment that mountain biking can bring to the wider community has  reminded us just what incredible things being out and about on bikes can do - not just for our health, fitness and general wellbeing but by giving us the chance to learn new skills and build relationships with likeminded, supportive people. 




We also can’t go far without thanking our funders, Scottish Borders Council and some fantastic local businesses who have supported us throughout our Winter MTB program; Caberston Cafe in Walkerburn, Innerleithen Pipe Band Hall, Selkirk Rugby Club and Peony Rose, Selkirk, Pavilion Cafe in Hawick, The Grapes Hotel in Newcastleton, Rock UK Adventures and Riders Retreat at Glentress. To all of our volunteers; thank you -for fixing, leading, laughing, coaching and everything in between. 



And finally, to everyone who attended and took part - welcome to the FNY Collective, it’s great to have you here.


This programme was funded by the Community Cycling Fund, Scottish Borders Council.


Blog written by Ally Routley, Trustee, long term supporter and friend of the FNY Collective













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