It’s sweaty, tough and requires a lot of lycra – so no wonder cycling has traditionally been seen as a man’s sport.
However, in Sheffield the wheels of change are turning as more and more women start to saddle up – and even rock stars are getting in on the act.
Charlotte Cooper, singer and bass player with popular band The Subways, combines her love of music with a passion for triathlon.
The 28-year-old, of Walkley, said: “I think I always thought cycling was cool, but it wasn’t something I considered until I decided to do a triathlon. When I got the bike and did my first event I loved it and never looked back. Now every year I want to do more and cycle forever.
“I cycled to a festival once, the Y Not Festival in Matlock where we were playing. When I turned up to get my stage pass they thought I had been joking about riding there.
“It is going to be a busy summer, but I am lucky I can take my bike on tour.
“I’ve ridden in some amazing places – I think my favourite was Cape Town in South Africa. It was one of the best things I have ever done.”
Charlotte has just been unveiled as an ambassador for the Giant and Liv cycling brands, blogging for the website of Giant’s Sheffield store.
And as the trend for women cyclists soars nationally, she urged others to give it a go.
Charlotte said: “Cycling on your own can be quite daunting, but I think you just need to jump on and try. We are lucky in this area that there is lots going on and groups you can be part of.”
One ladies’ mountain biking group in Sheffield has recruited 85 members of all ages, backgrounds and skills in just one year.
Fitness benefits, the social scene and the sheer fun of it are the main reasons members are flocking to the Over-Ride Ladies group.
Member Maxine Gregory, who helped organise a coaching session with Sheffield biking star Steve Peat in Grenoside woods this week, said: “Cycling was seen as traditionally a men’s sport, particularly with mountain biking, but it is definitely changing.
“A lot of women are joining our group and saying they have wanted to do it for a long time, but haven’t known how.
“There’s quite a good social scene connected with the group too.
“The only difference is the men might have a beer afterwards, whereas with the women it’s coffee and cake.
“Fitness is definitely a factor. There’s a strong cycling community in Sheffield and I think women are thinking now ‘why are we letting the men have all the fun’.”
The group organises regular events – from night rides to weekends away – through its Facebook group.
Beginners can have an introduction to the sport and build up their confidence, and the main aim is to have fun.
Professional downhill mountain biker Steve, of Chapeltown, gave members training as some are preparing for his Steel City DH race in May. Maxine, of Grenoside, said: “I got into it because my husband is a mountain biker and my son has been riding without stabilisers since he was two and I’ve got to keep up.’’
British Cycling says about 27 per cent of people who cycle once a week are women and the number of commuters among them has risen.
This year, for the first time, the Tour de France will have a women’s event – La Course by Le Tour de France, staged in Paris.
It is a boost for women cyclists everywhere, as well as one riding group already seeing the benefits of Tour fever before stage two of the event arrives in South Yorkshire in July.
Breeze Network for Sheffield and South Yorkshire offers free cycle rides for women, led by women.
Instructor Janine Morrall, of Hillsborough, said: “Some women want to use a bike to commute to work, some of them go out with their husbands, but get a little frustrated at him saying ‘look at me, I’m Bradley Wiggins’ and going off.
“We are probably going to get a rise in membership with the Tour.
“I just hope we don’t get loads of people who go out and buy the most expensive bikes on the market.”
Follow the two groups on Twitter @overrideladies and @BreezeSheffield or search for Over-Ride Ladies on Facebook.
Boom time in female-friendly biking gear with helmets, clothing and gloves on sale
Looking chic while cycling used to be a bit of a conundrum.
One strong indicator that more women are taking up the sport is the boom in female-friendly biking gear.
Giant’s Sheffield store on Queens Road, Lowfield, has an entire section dedicated to helmets, clothing and gloves for girls, as well as a range of specialist bikes.
And they have an expert on hand to offer advice.
Shop assistant Zoe Forbes, who has been working in cycle shops since the age of 14, said: “It’s the first one that I’ve come across.
“In the past it used to be that women’s stuff got shoved in the back corner, but now it is becoming more popular people are thinking we need to get this stuff out there.”
Zoe has been a two-wheeled convert since she went to a cycling club with her dad as a child.
She said: “I’ve never really stopped. It’s such fun to do and the countryside is brilliant once you get out there.
“The market is definitely changing. A lot more women are coming in to do triathlons, or to take up cycling for the first time.”