Behind every great cycling club there is a great woman…or so the saying goes (sort of!). We spoke to Cheryl Reid, the brains and larger-than-life personality behind Oxford's hugely successful Cowley Road Condors Ladies Summer Sessions, a summer-long series of rides designed to introduce novice female riders to the joy of cycle club riding.

The sessions have worked wonders, seeing the club’s female membership more than double to over 50 in a matter of weeks, now accounting for over 1/3 of the total membership. Their inclusion on the Bike5050 Good List demonstrates the club’s ongoing commitment to equality and provision of innovative cycling options for female riders.

Cycling clubs can be daunting places to the uninitiated. Many a novice cyclist has been put off by the thought of marauding groups of lycra-clad racing snakes disappearing into the distance. We’ve all been there, including Cheryl, who has been a member of Cowley Condors for just 12 months. She is an inspirational example of how you can go from complete novice to ride leader, club hill champion and all-round club stalwart in no time at all.

Cheryl’s cycling roots do go back a good few years, albeit in a slightly different guise. A daily commuter for the best part of a decade, Cheryl took part in a couple of sportives but always yearned for a sleek, speed machine, and to join a cycle club.

But as with even the best of us, life just seemed to get in the way.

Finally dipping her toe into the world of group cycling through the ever popular Isis ladies rides, she then scoured the local clubs before settling on the Cowley Road Condors to continue her progression. 

Of her first memories riding out with the Condors, Cheryl recounts ‘I wasn't sure what to expect but was so pleased at how friendly and encouraging everyone was.’

This initial experience led Cheryl to conquer the feared Brill Hill on her second ride, and she has since significantly improved her fitness and made some truly wonderful friends. Now a key member of the club’s women’s committee, her dedication and commitment to ensuring women get the possible experience from the groups is paying off big time.

In addition to the Summer Sessions, Social Development rides are being scoped up as well as a sneak preview of the Bike Oxford 50 mile sportive.  A second iteration of Summer Sessions is also being planned for next year. This, in addition to women’s Workshop Evenings with The Broken Spoke Co-Op opens up club riding to a whole new audience. 

Cheryl’s planning and behind the scenes work comes on top of competing for the first time at the Silverstone TT Event, as well as racing the Dalton Barracks Crit. Having done these, she freely admits to being a novice on the racing scene ‘I got dropped after 1 lap at the Silverstone TT, they were averaging 22mph!’. Not dissuaded in any way she fully plans to compete in the forthcoming season and venture into the world of Time Trialling…..and perhaps another new bike.

The past 12 months have been a whirlwind for Cheryl. Able to shoehorn the extra work required to run the Condors Ladies alongside her job, she feels joining the Cowley Condors is one of the best things she’s ever done. When asked what she would say to anyone wavering about going along to their local club she said:

‘The unwavering support and encouragement you get from club members enables you to do things you never thought possible.  If you're reading this and thinking of joining a club, don’t hesitate. It might just be the best thing you ever do.’

So, if you’re feeling suitably inspired, why not check out the Bike50/50 Good List for clubs near to you, or if you’re lucky enough to live near the famous Condors pop down and say hi at one of their social rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays (meet at Beeline Bikes).

Cheryl’s story should help inspire anyone who is hesitant about taking that next step. Go on, feel the fear and do it anyway!

This girl really can.

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