In this latest SheCycles post, we hear from Nadine Ansorg – she’s Nadine_Ansorg on Twitter, and you should definitely follow her. Nadine offers insight of being a woman who cycles, both in the UK and in Europe, especially Germany, where she’s originally from.
SheCycles is a growing series of posts in which a wide array of woman who cycle tell us about their experiences and their views, in their own words. If you haven’t done so yet, you should most certainly read them all. The woman are completely different, and are all completely awesome. Especially if you’re a man, you can learn much from them – I know I have!
What does it mean to you, as a woman, to also be a cyclist, and how (if at all) do you feel it’s different from what men experience?
I feel first and foremost as a human being. In the past, I never identified as ‘cyclist’ since cycling was for me just a way of commuting, of getting from A to B, or enjoying the freedom to be on a bike. Here in the UK, being a ‘cyclist’ is much more part of your identity, mainly because it is so hard to maintain yourself on the road, and because there is so much hatred against cyclists as a group. That is simply not the case in my home country.
Because cycling in the UK can be so tough, there used to be not many women cycling. Gladly that is changing now, with more and more safe cycle lanes popping up. But this does not change the fact that cycling as a woman is somewhat different. Even though we all get lots of abuse, the abuse towards women is even more gendered, more sexualised. You have to grow a very thick skin to get through this.
Despite these difficulties, I think cycling is such an important and beautiful way to become empowered. You just hop on your bike, and you can cycle wherever you want. Especially for women this can be a way to gain confidence in your own skills, and to believe in yourself. I very much believe that this also has a powerful impact on everything else in your life.
Do you feel women are treated as equals in the world of cycling, and if not, what can be done about it?
No, women are not treated as equals in the world of cycling. In professional cycling, they are almost always underestimated and disregarded. There is still no female Tour de France, and it was only this year that there was the first female edition of Paris-Roubaix took place – 125 years after the male version started! The prizes for female races are usually much lower than for men, even though women have to work as hard as men to get to their aim. Much is happening recently, with lots of professional brands supporting female athletes, which is great. But there need to be more campaigns and greater awareness towards these issues. Online there is still a lot of resentment against female riders, esp. if this means that men will get fewer places in a race, for example.
In everyday cycling, women are also not treated as equals. As a woman, I often find that men try to mansplain cycling things to me, or that they look down on me – even though I clearly cycle more than them. I think more women should be encouraged to cycle, for example with local cycling trainings that is done by the councils. But real difference can only happen with the alliance of men – male riders need to be more welcoming, but without trying to hit on us, or sexualise us. As you say in your question – all we want is to be treated as equals.
What got you into cycling?
I learned cycling at a very early age, with 4 or 5, I think. In Germany, where I am from, this is just very normal. Everyone who is able to cycles to places, to commute, for leisure, but also for sportive purposes. So it was never really a question to cycle. Everyone just does it, and it would be seen as odd if you cannot cycle (as long as you are able to of course).
To you, what’s the best thing about cycling?
The best thing is the freedom that comes with cycling. You can just get on your bike, and start cycling wherever you want. And while you pedal, you set your mind free off any worries, any concerns that you have. I love this saying – ‘when in doubt, pedal it out’. This could not be any truer. I think cycling is a form of active meditation.
And the worst?
In the UK definitely and by far the worst is the motorists. The sense of entitlement and aggressiveness that a big majority of motorists evidences is just really scary and upsetting. There is no day that I do not experience any bad behaviour by motorists.
Tell us some of your cycling dreams and aspirations?
I would love to do a very long-distance tour, across a whole continent, or several if I get a chance. Just pack up my stuff and leave. I have done a couple of multiple day tours, which was always great, but at the end work was waiting for me. I would like to be free off this pressure.
As a woman, what can you do to make cycling more normal, and more inclusive?
I think it helps to be a positive role model for other women. To show them it is possible to cycle pretty much everywhere you have to go, and that you do not have to own a very expensive bike and gear for it.
I also feel that a lot of families and kids in the UK tend to be scared of cyclists since there is the narrative that we are all reckless (which is just not true). I try to be as friendly as possible around children, to really show that there is nothing to be scared of.
And what are the biggest obstacles in your way?
If I had more time, I could run more group rides that would help women get into cycling. I think lots of women get more confidence when they ride in groups first.
What was the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve had to face?
I think the biggest challenge was the road incidence I experienced in 2017, when a car driver turned left to get off the main road, and just drove into me. The impact of this crash was quite hard, and it took me a long time to feel confident on the bike again. Sadly the police did not consider this case important enough to prosecute the driver. He was let off the hook very quickly. The injustice in the UK in relation to road crashes is what gets me most.
Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?
I really really enjoyed cycling the North Coast 500, and in Scotland in general. I am also proud of cycling from London to Germany and back, twice: once to Nuremberg (where my parents live), and once to Berlin. It was actually really nice and enjoyable and felt like a great achievement.
How did cycling change you?
Cycling has always been part of my DNA, I can cycle almost as long as my memory lasts. However, cycling in the UK has changed me quite a bit – you start to become more confident, believe in yourself, and just try it out. Even if you fail, you stand up again, and try again. And as I said above, you have to grow a very thick skin in British traffic as there is so much hatred out there.
Where would you most like to go cycling? Why there?
I think I would like to go cycling in Iran. It is such an interesting place, and I heard people are incredibly friendly and welcoming, despite the political situation there. I would also love to cycle the US, as the nature is just so breath taking and beautiful and versatile. I would also love to cycle in different Latin American countries. Ok, this is just the start of a world tour I think!
If you could change ONE thing about cycling, what would that be?
Abolish cars. Of course, I know this is not possible, but I think car drivers are the biggest menace on the road, not only for cyclists, but for pedestrians, car users, animals living near roads. The amount of road deaths we are accepting as normal is just mental. The big majority of car journeys is completely unnecessary, they could be done with other means. People are just too lazy and comfortable for it.
What bike do you ride? What made you choose that one? If you have multiple bikes, which is your favourite, and why?
At the moment I have two bikes: one fixed gear for the city, which I can lock anywhere, and it is not too dramatic if it is stolen, and a bike for long rides and tours. I bought my Enigma Etape in 2019, as I wanted to have a road bike that I can enjoy on very long rides and that gives me the comfort even if I am in the saddle for a whole day or several days in a row. It was built up according to my measurements, and it is the most comfortable bike I have ever ridden (and probably ever will ride). The day after I bought it, I went to Inverness and did the North Coast 500. After I had finished that, I was not exhausted at all, so I decided to ride further down South, down to Fort William, over the Glen Coe mountain range, to Glasgow, and eventually to Edinburgh. I think this first trip shortly after I bought her gives you quite a good indication of how much I actually enjoyed being on this beautiful machine.
What advice would you offer to women who are thinking of starting to cycle, or are new cyclists?
Try to stick to separated cycle lanes, or quiet country lanes. Ride in groups, as this gives you more confidence, and you can learn from others as well. Enjoy the nature and your surroundings. Breath in, open your eyes, listen to the sounds – take it in with all your senses. Believe in yourself. Cycling is something so simple, so beautiful.