International Women's Day is upon us and around the world people are celebrating the achievements of women and pushing for gender equality. So it's not surprising to find that many groups are organising bike rides as part of the celebrations. After all, they're not referred to as 'freedom machines' for nothing.
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From their associations with the Suffragette movement to increasing access to education for girls in Africa, and from addressing diversity issues to challenging accepted stereotypes and cultural norms, bicycles are and have been used in many ways by many different people. Cycling can be everything from an essential mode of transport providing better access to resources, to an opportunity to demonstrate the physical capabilities of women.
As Susan B. Anthony, the American civil rights campaigner,stated in 1896; "I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood."
That sentiment bears out in the opinions of the women we spoke to, from Bonnie Tu, the woman behind Liv Cycles, to National Road Champ Hannah Barnes, to the women who ride for the freedom, fresh air and personal challenge cycling can offer.
(And yes, before you ask, there is an International Men's Day. It's the 19th November.)
So if you're looking for a way to get on your bike and get involved in International Women's Day 2017, the theme for which is #BeBoldForChange, then here are a selection of rides, talks and events over the coming week to get you started.
There's so much going on, the celebrations are spreading out into the week after IWD too.
Bike Pittsburgh Spinnsters IWD ride
Get on your bike in Pittsburgh with the wonderfully monikered Spinnsters, for an hour and a half social ride followed by the chance to debrief over refreshments.
"International Women's Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. Women biking is political! There is a gender gap in biking, and together we are addressing it," the event site proclaims, and this ride is part of the activity of Bike Pittsburgh, a group focussed on advocacy, education and community.
There's even the option to borrow a bike and join in if you don't have one yourself or want to bring a friend along that doesn't own a bike... yet!
The Women's Ride — Victoria, Australia
A little later in March is the Festival Of Women's Cycling, taking place over the 25 and 26 March 2017 in Victoria, Australia. Events include Breeze rides, social rides and the chance to give track cycling a go.
Go virtual with Zwift
If you want to go virtual and connect with women and pro-riders around the world then hook yourself up to Zwift. The virtual training platform has a whole week of online events and activities you can get involved in, including seven days of women's rides, workouts and races, including some lead by pro cyclists from the Canyon/SRAM and Colavita/Bianchi team.
Zwift has an in-game chat function, which means you'll be able to talk to other riders as you ride. Get online on Wednesday 8 and you can join the Zwift record attempt to get the most female riders in one day; the current record is 2,934 on 7 February 2017. There's even a special edition in-game kit your avatar can don for the rides this week - perfect for taking on the new 'women's only event' feature that Zwift is launching this week
Honoring women in statue
Ever noticed that the vast majority of tributary statues are of men? That's an imbalance that many women are seeking to address, and up in Leeds in the UK a group of female politicians led by MP Rachel Reeves and Judith Blake are looking for suggestions for a new statue to honour and celebrate a woman who has made a significant contribution to the city... and the legendary cyclist Beryl Burton is one of the names being put forward.
Be bold for change
The theme for International Women's Day 2017 is 'be bold for change', and organisers are calling for women to make pledges around five categories: to challenge bias and inequality, to campaign against violence, to forge women's advancement, to celebrate women's achievement and to champion women's education.
If you're passionate about cycling and equality, there's plenty of scope to make that a focus of your pledge. Whether it's amplifying the voices of female cyclists and the brands that support them on social media, watching and sharing content and coverage of women's cycling, encouraging female friends and relatives into cycling, or challenging inequality in cycling where you see it, every action you take will help make a difference.
And addressing inequality benefits us all, male and female.