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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY “TOGETHER WE RIDE” 2020 RANDONNEURS USA 100K POPULAIRE SUMMARY: 3/8/20

“…I am woman hear me roar…” -Helen Reddy, songwriter

Every March 8 is International Women’s Day. The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911, eight years before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in the United States. It began to campaign for women’s rights around the world.  International Women’s Day has evolved into a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.  It is a rally for worldwide gender equality.  The theme this year was “Each for Equal”.   

In the 1890’s, the bike was a catalyst for the early women’s movement. The bicycle offered an inexpensive and easy mode of transportation. For the first time, women had access to transportation which allowed them to become self-reliant and leading to more independence.  As cycling began to evolve from just a mode of transportation to a sport, cycling clubs were born. Women’s-only cycling clubs also began to appear.  As women began to compete in cycling, they found themselves striving to equal the men in the sport. As a result, a new image of an independent and strong woman began to emerge.  Often, this was often depicted in drawings of a woman on a bike.  

I have always celebrated and acknowledged International Women’s Day.  With it falling on a Sunday in 2020, I had a bigger celebration in mind.  I envisioned a virtual bike ride around the world to celebrate the day and to raise awareness for the work being done to create an equal world. A day of celebration and awareness on the bike.  I wanted to make people aware of the fact that in some countries, it is still illegal for women to ride a bicycle.  I wanted to make people aware that the bicycle is a catalyst for women to rise out of poverty.  The bike is a tool to bring freedom to women and girls in developing countries around the world. It is breaking down the transportation and safety barrier that has historically kept girls from accessing education. The bicycle also opens the door for better healthcare and more employment opportunities.  This ride could work to move the needle on gender equality and recognizing work still need to be done.  

In the fall of 2019, I approached Greg Smith, my Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) for the Driftless Randonneurs within Randonneurs USA (RUSA), with my idea to host a virtual bike event to celebrate the rich history of International Women’s Day.  He was very supportive and instantly on board with my idea.  Greg facilitated me getting the word out to all of the RUSA RBA’s as schedules for 2020 were being finalized.  The following 10 regions added calendared 100K populaires or events to their schedule:
CA        San Francisco
CO        Boulder
IN         Indianapolis
MN       Twin Cities/Rochester
NY        Saratoga
OR       Eugene
PA        Eastern
TX        Dallas
WA       Seattle
WI        Western

After the regions were committed, I hired a graphic designer (Umbrella Works) to assist me in developing an official patch for the event.  I also hired Falls Creek Outfitters to work with me on the production of the patch. 

In addition to the 100k populaire, I also added 2 shorter distances (15K and 30K) to be more inclusive to individuals outside of RUSA who wanted to participate.  This would also give people within RUSA who wanted to participate but do a shorter distance, essentially doing their own local ride.  With the weather in early March being so unpredictable, I felt that 3 options seemed logical to give participants options.  For the RUSA populaire, the only option was the 100K.  

The following are the regional reports that were submitted from some of the participating Randonneurs USA regions:  

Driftless Randonneurs, southwestern Wisconsin: Robert Booth

“I had the privilege of riding with national ride organizer Dawn Piech as well as 3 new RUSA members on their first event. I thought why a bicycle event for the 100th anniversary of the 18th amendment? Historically it made sense because in the 1890’s the bicycle changed from the bone shaker to the diamond frame we know today. This coincided with the rise of the women’s suffrage movement. Susan B. Anthony, who was a key player in the suffrage movement in America is quoted as saying:“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”  Our route passed through Lone Rock, Wisconsin and we stopped at an historical marker to Dr. Bertha Reynolds. She overcame significant gender barriers to become one of the first female physicians in Wisconsin some 20 years before women had the right to vote.  She was described as a force fiercely dedicated to her patients.  In 1923 she enlisted the help of a 21year old barnstormer- a then unknown aviator Charles Lindbergh to fly her across the flooded Wisconsin River to her patients.”

Driftless Randonneurs in Richland Center, Wisconsin

Rocky Mountain Cycling Club, Colorado: Michele Granger

“It is a great honor to be a part of an organization, a club, and a community that supports women in cycling. I had a wonderful time riding with women from the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club last weekend, to honor women on the International Women’s Day 100km ride. We talked, we took in the beautiful views, we pushed each other’s physical limits, and had smiles on our faces all day. What a wonderful way to share the experiences of cycling. Not only does this event bring women together doing what they love, it also supports women in sport. I was honored to be a part of this wonderful event.”

Lone Star Randonneurs, Texas: Dan Driscoll

“Lone Star Randonneur (LSR) women have a reputation for being some of the Sweetest, Toughest, most Helpful ladies in the Rando World. Since many LSR rides attract more women than men, Celebrating Women is a Natural… we were all thrilled!!!  We had 23 riders for our LSR Pop, more than half were Women, but many more did their own ride and showed up for the shindig.  We can’t put into words how proud we are of all our LSR Gals that have collectively ridden more than a million kms of Rando, including more than 50 1,200 kms…. These Ladies have earned all our love and respect.” 

Minnesota Randonneurs; Kate Ankofski

“The Minnesota Randonneurs joined forces with The Fix Studio in Minneapolis to celebrate International Women’s Day. Rather than risk typical Minnesota March riding weather, we opted for a presentation on three of the obstacles that often keep women from tackling longer distances: safety concerns, self-doubt, and family obligations. Speaking about their safety advocacy work around the Twin Cities, Risa Hustad covered the evolution of bike laws and recommended tactics we can use to feel safer on our bikes. Luci Russell started their session asking the audience to close their eyes and picture who they most admire — a meditation that concluded with the takeaway that we too are capable of amazing things. Sveta Vold closed the session by detailing her experiences learning to ride first in Belarus, then as a young mother in the United States, where the Minneapolis bike community helped her embrace not only a new town but a new way of life.”

Adirondack Ultra Cycling, New York; John Ceceri

“The route visited two area museums that have strong ties to women. The first was the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs named for alumna Young Tang and featuring many exhibits by women artists. The second museum was the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY, founded by Louis and Charlotte Hyde, with Charlotte curating more than two-thirds of the collection herself. It also features works by women, several with ties to the suffrage movement. The ride was co-hosted by the Bianchi Dama and Heather Mason. Entry fees were waived for all female riders.”

In addition to Randonneurs USA and non Randonneur USA rides in the United States, we also had participants from Australia, France, India, and the United Kingdom.  Harriet Fell, one of the first Americans to finish Paris-Brest-Paris in 1975, also participated in this inaugural event. Based on those who purchased the patch and those who posted on the public Facebook page, it was estimated to have around 140 participants in the first year.

It was a day of unity across the world as we all rode together in support of gender parity and equality.   We were all a collective symbol of hope and solidarity with no boundaries. Our bike was the medium for the connection.  

To see photos and ride reports of the day, you can view the public FB page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/2587066751413662

To see more details about this event:https://inspyrdcyclist.wordpress.com/2020/01/28/international-womens-day-2020-together-we-ride/  

As I look ahead to the event in 2021, I have identified four key areas for growth:  

  • This year, in addition to the two sponsors (Falls Creek Outfitters and J&R Cycle and Ski) and some personal contributions from fellow randonneurs, I would like to find additional sponsors to help with the graphic design fee, production and shipping of the patches.  I covered the majority of the costs associated with this event this year.  In the fall of 2019, I did reach out to some cycling related organizations that I felt were aligned with the mission of International Women’s Day.   Unfortunately, those did not work out for this year’s event.  
  • With the goal to continue to be more inclusive to riders of all ability levels, ages and terrain, I may have anything over 3-5 miles count toward obtaining a finishers patch. This would open up the event to more riders and types of riding (ie, mountain bikers, leisure riders, families).  This would also allow regions to post rides greater than 100K for those who may want to host a longer distance (ie. 200k or 300K) or possibly a weekend of ride options.  With International Women’s Day landing on a Monday in 2021, I was also thinking to include the Saturday and Sunday prior to International Women’s Day (March 6 and 7th, 2021) in the event to give a bit more flexibility in scheduling a ride or celebratory event.  
  • I also hope to build a larger RUSA community of regions to participate.  As RBA’s are thinking of submitting their schedules this fall, I challenge each of you to think about hosting an event in 2021.  It sure would be neat to light up the entire Randonneurs USA March calendar with equality rides in celebration of International Women’s Day.  
  • I would also like to increase the outreach of this event to grassroots levels to include more advocacy groups and clubs within and outside of the US.  I would like to partner with fellow women advocates, locally, in the US and worldwide to achieve this.

Comments, suggestions, feedback on this year’s event or input/sponsorship/partnership ideas for next year, please e-mail: iwdbike@gmail.com

Official 2020 International Women’s Day Together We Ride patch and commemorative cap

In conclusion, I would like to extend my gratitude to the following Regional Brevet Administrators within Randonneurs USA and ride leaders for hosting an event:  Greg Smith and Robert Booth; Rob Hawks and Angela Navarro; John Lee Ellis and Oksana Slobonyuk Kovalenko; William Watts and Lydia Trott; Rob Welsh and Kate Andofsky; John Ceceri Jr; Michal Young; Andrew Mead; Dan Driscoll; Theo Roffe.  

I also want to thank all individuals, within and outside of Randonneurs USA, for participating in the inaugural International Women’s Day “Together We Ride” bike event.  

The following are some of the photos and videos that were shared by participants on the public event Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2587066751413662


Audax India Women
CCC Crew, United Kingdom
Black Girls Do Bike Ride Video courtesy of Sheryl Yvonne
Members of the Elmhurst Bicycle Club, Illinois USA
Trek of Highland Park, Illinois USA
JT Martin and his son in Columbia, South Carolina USA
Kirsten Dennison and Dawn Piech (Driftless Randonneurs)
at the historic stop of Dr. Bertha Reynolds, Lone Rock, Wisconsin USA

“Emotion without action is irrelevant.” –Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laurette

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