From solo rider to cycling sisterhood: WOW programme breaks down barriers

Programme empowers women cyclists, builds confidence

16 Mar 2024 06:01pm
Cognisant of these challenges, a programme known as Women on Wheels (WOW) - a leisure cycling programme for women - was held here on March 2 in conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8 with the objective of creating a social network for cycling enthusiasts. - Photo by Bernama
Cognisant of these challenges, a programme known as Women on Wheels (WOW) - a leisure cycling programme for women - was held here on March 2 in conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8 with the objective of creating a social network for cycling enthusiasts. - Photo by Bernama
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PUTRAJAYA - Participation in sports has shown to positively impact the physical and mental wellbeing, but major challenges remain, especially among women.

Common barriers cited include lack of time, availability, awareness of sport, low confidence as well as safety and security factors. There are those who are less motivated to sports due to their lack of friends with shared interest.

Cognisant of these challenges, a programme known as Women on Wheels (WOW) - a leisure cycling programme for women - was held here on March 2 in conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8 with the objective of creating a social network for cycling enthusiasts.

Held for the first time to mark the annual International Women’s Day on March 8 in 2021, the WOW programme was jointly organised between two cycling clubs, South Puchong Cycling Club (SPCC) and AFG as well as a bicycle shop QB Cycle Service Bay, to attract more women to cycling, which is regarded as a safe and disciplined activity.

OVERCOMING INHIBITIONS

WOW founder Dilla Ramli said participation to the programme has now reached 150 over the last two years compared to 30 at the onset.

"We’re indeed encouraged by the overwhelming response to our programme, with more women joining WOW cycling activities to improve their health and boost their self-confidence,” she told Bernama.

Elaborating, she said that this year’s programme is focused on helping women overcome their inhibitions when cycling in groups, particularly with men cyclists.

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"WOW’s objective is to bring together all women bicycle enthusiasts to cycle in groups, socialise and support each other.

"WOW also wants to create awareness among the public to respect cyclists, especially women,” she said, adding that the programme is aimed at wiping out discrimination especially in terms of treatment towards women who are active in sports.

Dilla said through the programme, it is hoped that the sponsors could unite women from various backgrounds to share their experience and foster positive relationship as well as to strengthen the social network for mutual benefit.

"This year’s programme which was held in conjunction with International Women’s Day is to recognise women’s role and contributions to the society,” she added.

MEN’S PARTICIPATION

At the same time, Dilla said WOW has also invited men cyclists to provide technical, safety and security assistance for women cyclists.

"The men are our support team, playing their role as bicycle and motorcycle marshals. In other words, they are behind-the-scene as we want women cyclists to be at the forefront,” she added.

However, she noted that the majority of women participants in WOW are experienced cyclists.

Sharing similar sentiments, WOW Project Manager Dr Syazana Alia Sabrudin said WOW 2024 saw the participation of several cyclists who shared their experience and expertise with newcomers.

"Cycling is generally perceived as a male-dominated activity, but in actual fact, we have women cyclists who are very experienced and highly skilled and they have been sharing safe cycling tips on the road for other participants,” she added.

Meanwhile, she said for the first time, WOW’s initiative this year received the support from the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

"As such, we will ensure that in future, WOW will enrich its programme with various activities including health screening for women,” she shared.

HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

Wendy Chew, 69, said she had no reason for not being actively engaged in cycling.

"This is my first time with WOW and I knew about this programme through the social media,” said Chew.

According to her, she signed up for the cycling activity alone as she had no friends who shared her interest.

"Despite being alone, I was eager to participate as WOW was set up to promote a healthy lifestyle in addition to empowering women through sports, enabling them to face and overcome life’s challenges with confidence.

"I consider WOW as a good platform in encouraging more women to participate in sports, unlike in the past, women’s place was only in the home,” she said, adding that the role of women today is a far cry from what it was decades ago, with more women at the forefront of national development.

QB Cycle Service Bay shop owner Nur Hazwany Halim said as a cyclist with 10 years of experience in the sport, she understood the problems faced by women who cycled in groups.

"I noticed that some cycling enthusiasts were left behind (in terms of stamina) and some were rather reluctant to cycle in big groups. This programme can help build confidence among women as they only cycle among themselves,” she said adding that the number of women involved in the cycling activity is also on the rise. - BERNAMA