The Gender Gap in Biking

In the Northern New England High School Mountain Bike Race Series‎ there were only 31 total girls who raced for Girls As, Bs, and Cs. This is important because for boys the total amount of racers was 231 people; 200 more boys than girls. The case in road cycling is similar. At the NEPSAC championships, 63 boys raced and were broken up into three divisions, only 24 girls raced in two divisions. This is a common occurrence in sports involving biking. Over the summer I participated in the Concord Criterium a road cycling race in Concord, NH. 159 men raced across 7 divisions, and a total of 31 women raced in the 7 divisions. Biking sports like mountain biking and cycling tend to be extremely male-dominated sports.

 

There was an article written by Outside Magazine about the pay gap in women’s cycling and how the pay in the sport is often insufficient to make a living. In the article, it describes the fact that as a result of the lack of publicity, the pay is often lower. The top men in cycling take home millions per year, whereas some of the top women barely take home more than $100,000. The pay gap is also created by the fact that UCI, the governing body of cycling, says that men on the pro tour have to be paid at the minimum $39,000 per year; however, there is no such rule in the women’s pro tour. According to the magazine, it speculates that because women’s cycling is not televised, people are less likely to know or care about it. The wage gap creates the gender gap that we see in pro cycling. With the lack of wages, women must work a second job in order to have the money to ride. This means that many women who have the potential to be good cannot focus on training because they have to work a second job. This gender gap exists at Holderness, too.

 

Last spring I was the only girl on the cycling team after both of the other girls on the team got injured. This forced me to be competitive with the boys on the team, which was harder because I had not spent nearly as much time on a bike as them. I never had a hard time with the fact that I was the only girl because I was already friends with the people on this team due to the fact that most of us had had Nordic together that winter. This fall there are four girls who can currently ride out of the about 35 people on the, once again, very male-dominated team. As said before I don’t really notice because I am more concentrated on my getting better than the people who I have to race against and practice with. Since thinking about the gender gap, I’ve reached out to my peers and coaches to see what they think of my findings.

 

First, I talked to my friend at Kimball Union Academy, Josh Rizika. The mountain biking team there is co-ed, but no girls are on the team. He said that he thinks it is this way because there is a subtle discrimination against girls racing. What he means by this is that in mountain bike racing Girls C do less than any group; Boys C, and Girls B race the same course; and Boys B and Girls A race the same course, which gives girls the idea that they are weaker than the boys.

 

Next, I talked to Amanda Vansant, who also races on the mountain bike team. She thinks that girls don’t join the team because it is so intimidating. Another mountain biker, Sam Walzak, shared a similar opinion with her, saying that the sport caters to boys and that it is a hard thing for girls to join a sport so geared to boys. An example of this is just in what the bikes look like when you buy them, particularly in color. I agree with this because the new mountain bike I got this year is bright pink with black accents, and the bikes the new boys on the team got were generally black with some sort of colored accents. This gives the idea that girls bikes are more about style and color rather than function.

 

The last person I talked to is one of the coaches on the Holderness Mountain Biking Team, Mr. Durnan. He said that there were a couple of things that he felt factored into the fact that there are not many girls in biking-related sports. The first thing that he thought factored into it is in the admissions process. He said that because of the current gender gap at Holderness that means that fewer girls were able to do mountain biking. The other admissions piece is that when females come to Holderness and don’t know what fall sport to do they are often encouraged to do soccer or field hockey, and instead of being encouraged to try mountain bike. The second thing he thought factored into the lack of girls is similar to what many other people have said: the fact that the sport is catered towards guys. For girls, it can often be hard to compromise their physical, and sometimes mental, safety in order to do things in our current society, whereas many boys are encouraged to do that.

 

Biking-related sports have a huge gender gap, and there is something that needs to be done about it.