There are a lot of bicyclists on the roads and paths here during the summer, but not many of them are women. According to the Wisconsin Bike Federation, only 24% of all cycling trips nationwide are made by women. Compare that to the Netherlands, where women make 55% of all cycle trips and Germany with 49%.
Cindy Petted was Wheel and Sprocket’s first female mechanic, and through her experience of working with cyclists – as well as being an avid rider herself – she knew someone needed to make the sport more accessible to women. So, she founded Wisconsin Women’s Cycling.
"What we really want to create is this environment where we can offer casual riders, or beginner riders, a safe environment where they don't feel they're being judged. We want them to feel like their included and being nurtured, or mentored. " explains Petted.
"You can see it in the racing world, you can see it at the bike shops now; there's a lot more women's groups out there,"she continues. "And the reason is is we just ride differently. It's not that we don't want to ride with men, it's just sometimes it's nice for us to ride as a group."
The WI Women Cycling community goes beyond the sport. Petted hopes for a well-rounded environment of support both in exercise and in life's challenges. "We would also like (women) off their bikes to think about financial goals they should be setting for themselves, or what types of relationships," she says.
It is the community fostered both on and off of the bikes that allows women to ask questions ranging from 'How do I tackle this hill?,' to their own health and how to talk to professionals. As a breast cancer survivor, Petted learned that open communication between a woman and her doctors, financial advisors and friends is key to a well balanced life.
In addition to hosting non-competitive group rides, the funds raised by the organization go directly towards the Wisconsin Women's Fund to support the health and well-being of girls and women throughout Wisconsin through grants.
With the organization just over a year old, Petted is very optimistic of the growth they can foster for women throughout the state. Her favorite part is that this all gets accomplished while riding on two wheels among friends.
"I just love cycling. When I get out on the road...you get to this point where your just riding along and your mind just kind of rests," says Petted. "And it's kind of this natural euphoria you can put yourself into...I think with cycling, what's really nice is unlike running, it's easy on your joints, you can go farther and see more...it's just very freeing."
Wisconsin Women Cycling will be hosting a Century Ride and Bike Festival this weekend in Cedarburg. The festival includes various all-women rides on Saturday, and a co-ed ride to Holy Hill on Sunday with all proceeds supporting the Wisconsin Women's Fund, Inc.