Samways championing an 'exhilarating' experience for women

Kate Samways (second from right), is part of the team to set up the This Girl Can women-only track cycling sessions at the Derby Arena, along with (from left) Christine Kelly, Diane Higman and Julie Scales.

When the This Girl Can campaign was launched in early 2015, Kate Samways was one of thousands of women across Derbyshire to be inspired.

She has since used her involvement with family business Samways Cycles – an independent bike shop in Derby that has now been established for 83 years – in a bid to get more and more girls and women into the saddle.

'This Girl Can put a smile on my face'

"As soon as I saw the first This Girl Can video, it immediately put a smile on my face and I, like many others, could really identify with it.

"I had always felt that I was not a sportswoman, ever since my days ay school days, when it seemed like I was always the last person to be picked for the netball team, but recently, through my involvement with This Girl Can, I've come to realise that it doesn't matter event if I am the slowest – it's the taking part that counts.

"It has been great to see the campaign take off in the way that it has because getting more women involved in activity, in my case cycling, is something I am passionate about.

Samways Cycles now features a women's department.

Making cycle shops less intimidating

"I had always found in cycling stores that they were not really catering for women and I felt that though Samways had a decent enough reputation in that area, we could still do a lot better with our offering.

"I think a lot of women have always found it quite intimidating going into a bike shop, and it can all be very technical. Equipment and clothing for women can be lost amid the men's stuff. Yet you wouldn't go into any clothing store on the high street and see that, so it got me thinking…

"Last year we started to develop a women's department, so they have got their own space, with women-specific clothing, gear and bikes. We've also since had our staff trained so that they make sure women feel comfortable and part of the conversation when in the shop.

"As well as myself, we also employ a lady called Diane Higman, who is a World Transplant Games gold medallist after taking up cycling following a liver transplant. Together we offer a strong female presence to our customers.

A number of women-only ride-outs have been organised.

Regular women's 'ride outs'

"We also hold regular women-only 'ride outs' from our store because we have found that when men are involved it can get very competitive, which can put some off. We wanted something that was social and healthy, and to make it feel like cycling was the right environment for them.

"Our aim is to get as many women on bikes as possible – which is the same aim as British Cycling – and to that end we have regular blogs on our website discussing topics such as what women should wear when out on their bikes.

"The latest thing we are involved with is working with the Derby Mercury Club, where I have got to know member Christine Kelly, who is also a Breeze ride out leader, and we run several of those from our store. We have had great fun involving coffee and cake that has helped to build up a community.

Coach Nick Chiltern leads the women-only track sessions.

Empowering women on the track

"Alongside that, we came up with the idea of a women-only session at the velodrome of the new Derby Arena, which is non-competitive and designed to empower women.

"We have got a coach, Nick Chiltern, who comes along, and he is assisted by Christine and Julie Scales. We have run several events over the summer and another one is planned for this month and two more in December.

"I'm pleased to say it has been phenomenally successful, with women who have never ridden 'fixie' bikes before riding them up the banking at the Arena. They come away with the feeling that This Girl Can!

A cycling session in full flow.

'A moving experience'

"It's a really moving experience to see those who were terrified beforehand, because they don't know what to expect, go out and enjoy themselves. I know how it feels because I was one of those nervous people when I first started, but now I am addicted and love it.

"For me, it's not about being first and getting around the track as quick as possible, but about learning the skills so that you're safe to enjoy riding on the track. It's about learning how to work together as a group.

"It helps improve communication and confidence and it's also great socially too. I've seen women who have ridden together swapping numbers and agreeing to add each other on Facebook at the end of sessions.

Some of those who have taken part in the women-only track session.

Changing attitudes

"This Girl Can is changing attitudes and I'm delighted that we have been, and will continue to play, a part of that.

"The key point is that it doesn't matter how old you are, what size you are or how good you are, it's all about doing something for yourself. A lot of women can spend most of their lives doing things for other people, and this is a way of them getting a bit of time to themselves.

"An hour on the track is exhausting, but it really is exhilarating."

Find out more

You can find out more about Samways Cycles on their website, on their Facebook Page, where details of all This Girl Can events are posted, and on their Twitter feed.

To discover more about how you can get involved in all disciplines of cycling, go to the Active Derbyshire Cycling pages.