The Chainlink

Connecting the Dots: Local Organizations Work to Empower Female Riders in Chicagoland

By Cathy Frampton

 

I knew I was at BFF Bikes when I saw the stream of women lining up on the sidewalk. It was January 14 and we fortunately were having one of those unseasonably warm evenings so everyone was pleasant and chatty rather than bundled and shivering.

 

Women Bike Chicago (WBC) was hosting their Launch Party. I knew little about this organization that was created in 2012 and hoped to learn about them, their mission, activities, and membership. I went with the optimistic vision of identifying an opportunity to connect WBC with Chicago Women’s Elite Cycling (CWEC) for the betterment of women riders in Chicago. Just starting it’s 2nd year, CWEC is designed to elevate women’s competitive cycling in the Chicago region via educating the general public about racing, inspiring potential racers via clinics and development programs, and championing a composite team of elite women to compete nationally among professional ranks.

 

WBC’s event was well-organized, starting with the registration table at the front capturing contact information of all that entered, providing name tags, and a few take-aways such as a list of the events planned for the season and WBC stickers. The evening hosts, Annie and Vanessa’s of BFF Bikes did a great job converting their bike shop to a de facto social hall. The energy was positive and elevated.

 

Stepping toward the middle of the very filled room, WBC had placed two idea boards; one for attendees to identify their interest of each of the planned events, and another to capture on post-it notes what the attendees would like to see WBC do in 2016. One of the post-it notes caught my attention: “I would like to learn more advanced skills… (I want to get clipless pedals.)” Voila! There! A possible connection opportunity… maybe CWEC could partner with WBC to host a clinic to improve their riders abilities and confidence so they can advance to clipless pedals.

 

Throughout the evening I met women riders of all types. I met younger, new-to-the-bike riders. I met some that name their bikes. I met some that came from the suburbs where they currently ride alone. I met racers - and not to lump them all into one category - there was a track racer (or two or three), cyclocross racer, road racers, and a randonneur (super long distance!). I met some older, new-to-the-bike riders that are now daily commuters - regardless of the weather. I met leaders of other bike organizations, such as South Chicago Velodrome Association (SCVA) and Slow Roll Chicago.

 

And we made connections. From our discussions, we acknowledged that:

  • We all love to ride our bike(s)

  • The when, how, and what we ride varies - not just by person, but within each person - no rider is “just” a commuter or “just” a racer - we mix it up!

  • We are forever beginners on the bike, always having more to learn, regardless of where we are in our life cycle of riding

  • The bike is a means to providing connections, community, and opportunity

 

WBC’s Chairperson, Elizabeth Adamczyk, took a few minutes to explain the mission of WBC as a women-run organization that educates, encourages and empowers every woman in the Chicago region to enjoy biking for transportation and recreation, introduce her leadership team, and made a few announcements about WBC’s upcoming events such as the February 20, Chicago Winter Bike Swap. Dan Black of SCVA spoke about Slow Roll Chicago’s mission as well as the “Divvy for Everyone” program which provides reduced-rate annual Divvy passes to qualified individuals and families.

 

And then there was the raffle… I was fortunate to win the “grand prize” - this fantastic Women Bike Chicago Glass Plate by Justin Haugens!

 

The author showing off her cool raffle prize (photo by Amy Dykema)

 

As the evening wound down, I did connect with Elizabeth. It is exciting to consider the possibilities of weaving together the many resources available to riders of all types in Chicago, so that we all build our community and confidence on the bike. Let’s all work on connecting the dots!

 

Frampton with WBC founder Elizabeth Adamczyk

 

About the Author

Cathy Frampton (cathy@chicagowomenselite.com) began racing her bike in 2009 at racing age of 44. Recognizing a need to support women racers in Chicagoland that advance to the elite level of the sport, in 2015, she co-founded Chicago Women's Elite Cycling (CWEC), a not-for-profit rider development organization. CWEC offers seminars, on-the-bike clinics, and training rides for ALL riders interested in learning and improving. For the elite racers, CWEC provides the organizational structure and support to promote effective team-based racing in the nationally recognized races against the professional racers and teams.

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Comment by Lisa Curcio on January 21, 2016 at 3:11pm

Thanks for the article, Cathy! And a clinic on riding with clipless pedals is a great idea!  We are all looking forward to a great year for women in cycling.

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