The CRW Women’s Program: An Open Letter About Women-Only Rides

By: Robyn Betts and the CRW Women's Program Committee


The CRW Women’s Program: An Open Letter About Women-Only Rides


Since 2021, CRW has sponsored women-only rides, open to women and non-binary riders. This has caused a fair amount of consternation among some members. “Why exclude men?,” they have asked. “Why do women need their own rides? After all, women aren’t formally excluded from any club rides.”




These are fair questions, especially when posed in the abstract. But they miss critical points about how our rides operate in practice, who participates in them, and what the impact is on our membership.


Below we outline how women-only rides better serve an underrepresented segment of our membership, foster deep connections among members, and help to create a more welcoming bike club.


Women are Underrepresented on CRW Club Rides

Analysis of a four-month period (April-July, 2022), encompassing 218 CRW rides, shows the following:

● More than half of all rides were 70% male.
● Over one-third of our total rides - 77 rides in total - were under 20% female.
● Almost 20% of rides - 41 to be exact - had zero female participants. In other words, 41 rides in a short 4 months were male-only.


While we unfortunately do not have access to the gender split data of our entire membership, there is an unmistakable imbalance in male and female ride participation.



The Women's Program Has Tapped Into an Underserved Part of our Membership

Meanwhile, the Women's Program’s monthly weekend rides and weekly recurring rides have been wildly successful in encouraging new and existing female members to get on their bikes and ride in numbers that our typical club rides - at least in this 4-month span - have not achieved. An average of 23 women continue to join each monthly weekend ride. We have a wide variety of riders: fast riders, slow riders, new and existing riders, and even club members who admit they've been CRW members for years, but never joined a single club ride until the Women's Program was formed. This program has tapped into an underserved segment of our membership.


Not only do Women's Program riders show up in large numbers, but they return month after month. They also participate in our Slack group, hang around after rides to socialize - sometimes for hours - and make personal and professional connections outside of rides. The Women's Program is building community while providing increased access to what CRW has to offer.


Why Women-Only Rides?

It is clear that the club’s typical group ride programming is not reaching women as effectively as it is reaching men. This is one good reason to have programming that focuses on engaging our female and non-binary members in a different way, and CRW’s women-only rides are doing that extremely well right now.



There are other reasons to have women-only rides:


Inclusiveness: Women-only rides can be beneficial for women who may feel intimidated or uncomfortable riding in mixed-gender groups. Women who are new to cycling or have experienced harassment while riding tend to find this a more welcoming environment.


Social Connection and Belonging: Some women within CRW have asked for a space where they can come together, have more social opportunities, gain confidence in riding, make new friends, and feel connected to the club. Women-only rides create a supportive community and foster these connections. These rides have undeniably appealed to our members: many are more engaged with the club now than ever, despite having been members for years.


Empowerment: We know that women’s participation in sports was restricted for a long time. Despite the strides made since Title IX, women’s sports still have not gained the same traction as men’s sports. Even our beloved sport of cycling is still male-dominated at all levels, from casual riders to pros. It’s helpful to remember that most organized sports are still separated by gender. Women-only rides celebrate strong women and their athletic abilities, despite long-standing and persistent imbalances in sports.


Growth beyond the Women’s Program: Women’s Program ride leaders are passionate about cycling education and encourage new riders to learn riding and safety skills. The Women’s Program regularly fosters participation in co-ed rides. Many women who initially focused on women-only rides have become confident riders that now join co-ed rides, and have even become ride leaders!



But Aren't We Excluding Men?

Men are already participating in CRW group rides at much higher rates than women. From this fact, one might conclude that men are generally better-served by the club’s offerings than women and non-binary members. At the very least, our typical club rides have been more appealing to men and do not reach women in the same way that they are reaching men.


The Women’s Program Rides Are a Piece of a Larger Effort

CRW does not discriminate against any protected class because club membership is open to all. CRW is striving to maintain a responsible and current Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Program. The Women’s Program is fully supported by the Board of Directors, and is part of this effort. The Women’s Program in particular addresses the Equity concept. Equity is “fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people.” Equity is an action-based practice that requires organizations to identify and eliminate barriers that have historically prevented the full participation of all groups. Equity influences who has access to opportunities and how members feel valued. This concept does not assume all programs or rides will be available to all members, and it allows for special programs to address needs that do not necessarily include the entire membership.



Efforts should be made in all areas of the club to create a welcoming and supportive environment for people of all genders, including across our co-ed spaces. However, providing women-only programming is one crucial way for us to reach an underserved part of our membership that may never join a co-ed ride. And, it is working. This program invites, engages, and retains more women riders and fosters connection in the club. The feedback we’ve received indicates that when we run co-ed rides sponsored by the Women's Program, fewer women attend and their experience is less positive than women’s-only rides.


The Women's Program rides, much like the adventure, gravel or devo rides, provide one way to engage our female and non-binary ridership, which we know is generally participating at lower rates than men. The Women's Program can co-exist with and complement other efforts to ensure that we have a place for women to enjoy cycling and participate in group rides. Women-only rides can encourage women to take up cycling, participate in the sport, and feel a sense of belonging within CRW.


It is important to note that DEI efforts can change over time. It is important to assess the needs of membership and react to those needs as the club grows and changes. We appreciate this chance to reaffirm our commitment to the mission and implementation of the Women’s Program as an important offering for a significant segment of the club’s membership.




The Women’s Program Committee
Robyn Betts, Women’s Program - Program Leader
Lyda Budrys
Kara Cortesi
Amy Juodawlkis
Michelle Luo


Everett Briggs's picture

Ride Women Ride! More power to you, your fun rides, and the connections and friendships your rides foster. May the CRW-sponsored program of rides open to women and non-binary riders continue for as long as those of you who identify in that cohort want it to.

There is a reasonable opposing counter argument. It would serve the Club if the other side was also printed.

Hi Bruce. It was also published in the March issue and is here.
Sarah Scala's picture

This is a wonderful article! I love the women-only rides and regularly participate in them! Thanks CRW for having these options available to support inclusion and belonging. Great leadership of these rides and programs also!