In March 2016, Sarah Prince was approached with the idea of leading a fortnightly women’s ride out of Rapha Manchester. Encouraged by her guidance and enthusiasm, word quickly spread with growing numbers of both experienced and individuals new to cycling meeting at the clubhouse for a pre-ride coffee. A little over a year later, city centre shoppers are now regularly treated to the sight of a neat peloton disappearing down Deansgate en-route to Cheshire lanes or Peak District climbs.
Part of the Rapha Ambassador team, it’s fair to say that Sarah has played a key role in encouraging more women to ride their bikes in and around the city with over 60 registrations for the Manchester rides of the Rapha Women’s 100 a clear indication that female participation has never been stronger.
Returning to the clubhouse after leading the ‘hilly’ route out from the city centre towards Ramsbottom and the iconic 25% ramp of the Rake – a prize on offer for the day’s fastest Strava time – Sarah took a moment to explain what it means to encourage other women to get out on their bikes.
Why, on a personal level, do you ride?
It’s the sense of freedom; you, the bike and the road. The exhilaration of being outside in all weathers and knowing that you have the abilities and confidence to deal with whatever is thrown at you. And then you combine all that with the camaraderie and spirit of riding with other people. The smiles as we arrive back at the clubhouse; the feeling of, ‘We’re all in this together, let’s crack on.’
What’s it like cycling in and around Manchester?
Within the city centre it can be challenging but we address these issues and explain about positioning yourself properly when riding and that confidence is the key. Not letting the cars squeeze you into the curb. And once we’re out into the lanes, which doesn’t take long, then it’s just brilliant.
A favourite route?
I do like my hills so the Hayfield loop is a good example. There’s a few short, sharp climbs and a delightful little tearoom where we sit down after 25 or 30 miles and talk about what we’ve just achieved.
What do you find are the most common concerns for riders new to cycling?
I’d say coping with the traffic. But I find that once they understand how riding in a group gives them a presence on the road – a feeling of protection – then their confidence soon begins to build. And I always do a pre-ride briefing so everyone knows where we’re going, what to expect and to look out for each other. Riders that joined us in the New Year – some of them initially very nervous and apprehensive – are now passing on advice and encouragement.
What are your goals or ambitions for women’s cycling out of Manchester?
When I first took up this role it was simply to help more girls enjoy the sense of freedom that riding your bike can provide. It’s now grown to a point where they’re organising themselves through our group chat and planning their own rides. Our women’s Rapha Cycling Club (RCC) membership is also growing so we have more mixed rides on a Sunday which I personally feel is a healthy sign of the way we’re moving forward in encouraging female participation.
An important role that Rapha plays?
Events like Braver Than The Elements and the Women’s 100 really help in celebrating women’s cycling on a global scale. And the female specific kit that Rapha is designing in response to our feedback is so encouraging. For me, though, what really stands out is Rapha’s sponsorship of the Canyon-SRAM professional women’s cycling team. Days leading up to this year’s Tour de Yorkshire we had team members Hannah Barnes and Mieke Kröger visit the clubhouse before we took them out on a ride. So inspiring to share the road with such strong female cyclists.
It’s clear you feel very passionate about your role?
Sometimes, it can be the little things you notice. Someone turning up at the clubhouse on a Saturday morning wearing trainers – very apprehensive and nervous about that first ride – and then they show up two weeks later in a pair of cycling shoes with cleats. We’re all on a journey and to play some small part in helping to encourage another female rider; well, that’s a privilege that I value enormously.
To view the Rapha Manchester Women’s 100 ‘hilly’ route.
For more information on the Rapha Manchester Women’s Clubhouse Rides.