Women & Bicycles: Bike Commuting 101 Community Ride

Register Cost Location

Bikes are so versatile! You can use them to cruise around, run errands, commute to work, or haul groceries, kids, pets and cargo across town. We love the flexibility that biking offers. You can take your bike on the Metro or put your bike on a bus. You can lock up a bike, walk away and come back for it later.

Interested in learning more? Join us for a Women & Bicycles Bike Commuting 101 group ride where we will discuss helpful tips and tricks for first-time commuters. We will ride around Alexandria and cover topics such as what to wear to stay cool and comfortable, tips for locking up your bike and how put a bike on the front of a bus.

This ride is in partnership with Women & Bicycles and is reserved for women, trans, femme and non-binary participants! Interested in another ride? Check out our full schedule of events at waba.org/fun.

Click here to view WABA’s Code of Conduct for event participants.

This ride is for you if:

You have recently taken a WABA City Cycle class

You are interested in learning how to ride safely in traffic or would like to gain more experience riding in traffic

You would like to learn to use your bike for more than just recreational rides

You are new to the area or are not experienced riding in Alexandria

If you are a woman, trans, femme or non-binary bicyclist!

Ride Details

Duration: 1.5 hour ride + stops along the way to discuss biking for transportation topics

Approx. 7 miles on flat city streets and the Mount Vernon Trail

Equipment: Participants are required to bring their own bicycle and helmet for this class. We also encourage you to bring your bike lock if you have one.

Cost: $10.00 and FREE for WABA members! Contact education@waba.org for a coupon code!

Registration Policy: Advance registration is required for this event. Be sure to show up for the ride at least 10 minutes before departure.

This class is brought to you thanks to the generous support of the City of Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services.

Health and Safety Protocols

Due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19, all participants are expected to adhere to WABA’s health and safety guidelines for in-person events.

  • Participants should not attend in-person events if they feel sick or show symptoms of illness. WABA will refund registration fees to individuals who cannot attend because they are sick on the day of an event. If you are sick and unable to attend an in-person event, contact WABA for a refund.
  • WABA Adult Education classes are mask optional. WABA does not require participants to be vaccinated in order to attend class although we strongly encourage all participants to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Those who have not been vaccinated are required to wear a CDC approved facemask for the duration of class. Anyone who has received the COVID-19 vaccine may choose to forgo masks and social distancing. WABA respects anyone’s decision to wear a mask and encourages all people to advocate for themselves. If you would like to wear a mask during class and would like to maintain social distancing we highly encourage you to do so! WABA will not tolerate any disrespect towards WABA staff or participants who choose to wear a mask for their own safety and peace of mind.
  • Participants will provide their contact information at event registration. Participants consent to WABA contacting them and/or releasing their contact information to necessary authorities if there is a need for contact tracing following an event to contain an outbreak of COVID-19.

Ride Location

Start and End Point : Dangerfield Island Parking Lot

Alexandria, VA 22314 (near Potomac Yard Marina) 

Turn onto Marina Drive from George Washington Memorial Parkway. Take the first right and then an immediate left into the Dangerfield Island parking lot. 


WTF – Let’s Meet Up!

Are you newer to biking or recently dusted off your old bike? Do you have questions about how to ride safely in traffic or on trails? Want to know more about how to prepare for your ride? Identify as woman/trans/femme BIPOC and want to connect with others? Join us for an in-person meet up where League Cycling Instructors help answer any questions you might have and share bike handling skills. (Sound familiar? We were inspired by Danielle Christina Garibay Worthington’s event).

If this isn’t you, we have other fun events happening over at waba.org/fun that you should definitely check out!

This event will take place on Piscataway land at Virginia Highlands Park (1600 S Hayes St. Arlington, VA, 22202) on November 7th, 2020 from 10:00AM to 12:00PM. We will try to meet on the concrete area behind the fire station. Participants must bring their own bike and helmet, wear a mask that covers both their nose and mouth for the duration of the event, and identify as woman/trans/femme and BIPOC.

Health and Safety Protocols

Due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19, all participants are expected to adhere to WABA’s health and safety guidelines for in-person events. You can review WABA’s full guidelines for classes here.

  • Participants should not attend in-person events if they feel sick or show symptoms of illness. WABA will refund registration fees to individuals who cannot attend because they are sick on the day of an event. If you are sick and unable to attend an in-person event, contact WABA for a refund.
  • Classes will be limited to 10 participants.
  • All instructors and participants are required to wear face masks for the duration of the class.
  • WABA requires participants to wear face masks in accordance with CDC and jurisdictional mask guidelines at all in-person events:
    • Masks must cover both the mouth and nose. 
    • Masks must be secured below the chin. 
    • Participants should sanitize their hands before and after touching their mask or face area. 
    • For more details, read the full CDC mask guidelines. 
  • Participants will provide their contact information at event registration. Participants consent to WABA contacting them and/or releasing their contact information to necessary authorities if there is a need for contact tracing following an event to contain an outbreak of COVID-19.
  • All instructors and participants are required to maintain social distancing (6 ft apart) for the duration of the class
  • In the event of a minor injury (cuts or scrapes) participants will be provided with first aid supplies to treat themselves. If an individual is unable to treat themselves, or if a more serious injury occurs, WABA will call for an ambulance for additional medical care.

Class Details

Class Duration: 2 hours

Cost: This class is FREE to attend

Equipment: Participants must bring their own bicycle and helmet. If you would prefer to use a Capital Bikeshare bike, we will reimburse your usage fee! Email us at education@waba.org for more details.

Registration Policy: Advance registration is required to attend this class


Virginia Highlands Park

1600 S Hayes St, Arlington, VA 22202

Piscataway land

Please meet behind the fire station

Parking: There is on street parking and a parking lot available at this location.

Public Transportation: The Pentagon City metro station is a 5 minute walk away. The 10A bus route drops off at the North-East corner of the park at 15th St and Hayes St. Stop ID: 6000222


Introducing the Women & Bicycles Steering Committee!

When WABA’s then-Outreach Coordinator and all-star Nelle Pierson started the Women & Bicycles program, it was just her and a group of spectacular women ready to change biking in the DC region. As Women & Bicycles grew, it gained its own dedicated staff-person, and several ranks of volunteers. Now, welcoming Facebook Admins keep the online group humming while skilled mentor Roll Models teach new skills to help newer riders gain confidence. Today, Women & Bicycles is pleased to introduce to you the Women & Bicycles Steering Committee: eight women who are determined in leading the charge to make the DC region better for biking. These women represent the entire area served by WABA: a variety of ages, life experiences, backgrounds, household set-ups, and bicycle types. What they have in common is a commitment to Women & Bicycles and a desire to help. We formed the Steering Committee to guide Women & Bicycles into the next phase of its growth, and to some extent, figure out what that phase is. To start, they are working with the Coordinator (that’s me!) to establish consistent, dedicated funding for the program, build reliable and effective communications, and take on some special projects. We couldn’t be happier about the Committee, and we hope you’ll join us in welcoming them!

Robin Butler-LeFrancois. Her bike: Jazz Latitude

I’m Robin, a Washingtonian living in Alexandria. In 2015, I decided spin class was not enough—it was time to go outside and ride, but I was terribly afraid of riding in the street. I took a four-day bike trip in the Finger Lakes in August 2015, riding streets, rolling hills, and steep downhills. The riding lovebug bit me! When I got back to town, I bought my sister’s friend’s vintage Jazz Latitude (at least 20 years old!) and just kept riding. Now (three years later), I just bought my fourth bike. Once I joined WABA, I became educated on bike laws and DC Street. I ride to work about 3x a week from Alexandria and these days, the longer the ride the better. I also ride with Black Women Bike DC. I keep in mind that I’m an ambassador and try to be an example to other cyclists.

Aimee Custis. Her bike: Capital Bikeshare!

I’m Aimee! I’m the Deputy Director (fundraising, advocacy, and strategic communications) at the WABA ally, Coalition for Smarter Growth. (I’m a professional transit advocate.) I don’t own a bike, but I use my CaBi membership weekly and am in love with JUMP. I bike for transportation—I don’t think I’ve ever been on a for-fun bike ride. I’ve been a WABA member for 5 of the 10 years I’ve lived in DC. This is my first time doing more with WABA than just partnering on events through my job, or doing a random advocacy action or petition, or participating in the W&B Facebook page. I’m excited to get more involved!

Sophie Chan-Wood: Her bike: Gary Fisher Hybrid.

I’m Sophie from Rockville. I’ve lived in the Metro area for about 11 years now, and first learned about WABA on a Bike DC ride where the GW Parkway was closed to traffic. On a picnic ride with WABA, I met Nelle and we all talked about starting the Women and Bicycles program. I have a Gary Fisher hybrid that I love riding for transportation and recreation. I’ve even done a half-century on it once or twice! I volunteer on the Rockville BIke Advisory Committee with a goal of getting more butts on bikes and improving biking facilities in our city… and if they were ladies’ butts on bikes, that would even be more awesome! My goal with this steering committee is to build collaboration and support up through Montgomery County, MD.

Katie Giles-Bean. Her bike: CAAD 12.

I am a fitness enthusiast and entered the world of biking through training for my first triathlon in 2016. I had no prior experience riding and quickly found it enjoyable for fitness, transportation, and as a means to travel. I joined a women’s cycling team—Team Sticky Fingers—and have continued riding since then. As a member of the DC deaf community and a Gallaudet alumni, I love the inclusive space that the cycling community has formed. I am also vegan and live with my spouse and two cats, Parrot and Diablo. I look forward to helping WABA continue to work towards greater inclusivity for every person.

Megan Jones. Her favorite bike: an early 1960s Raleigh 3-speed. Has a Brooks saddle, a wooden rack on the back, and a basket for flowers, library books, and groceries.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Kristy.

I am Megan. Yup, Hains Point 100 Megan. I’ve been involved with W&B since before it was even official. I have four bikes plus I use CaBi. I have lived in Arlington for 20+ years. I race for Team Sticky Fingers, am Vice Chair of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, and a newly appointed board member for Phoenix Bikes. I need to find other hobbies beside bicycling, eh? I am Head of Strategic Product and Sales Analytics for a medical malpractice insurance company and have to travel a lot for work. I have no kids but I have a fish who likes having other fish for dinner…but they don’t stay long. I love racing, and getting more women riding comfortably and happily.

Laurie Lemieux. Her bike: Jamis Renegade Elite

I’m Laurie, a no-longer-practicing women’s health Nurse Practitioner, former nursing professor, current majority co-owner of Proteus Bicycles in College Park, MD, and (very proud to say) I was one of the first 10 Roll Models for W&B. I have about five bikes—it’s hard to find time to ride them all! I am an LCI (League Cycling Instructor) and I teach both for WABA and privately. I also do bike fittings which is so important for women. I have a doggy bike trailer for Ezzie the lab who will never graduate from Shop-Dog-In-Training. She has jackknifed me and my husband several times…she is on a trailer hiatus right now while we work on her trailer training! I have two kids, 32 (Paul – who is a mechanic at Proteus), and 27 (Annie, a trumpet player living in NYC). I’m especially passionate about helping women get on the right bike for them and their goals. As a Steering Committee member, I plan to help develop women’s partnerships for workshops in Prince George County.

Becky Puritz. Her favorite bike: Brompton S6L

I am a seven-year bicycle industry insider who lives in Alexandria and loves using my favorite Brompton S6L bike to commute to DC! I’m also a certified fitter, helping people of all shapes and sizes feel more comfortable on bikes. I’m excited to be working with the Steering Committee to find more ways to help more people be more comfortable riding a bike. I’m especially interested in the Women & Bicycles branding and communication strategies to help get a clear, concise message out to the many new riders we have yet to meet.

Elisabeth Sherwood. Her favorite bike: Pashley Princess

I have lived in Washington, DC since 1995, when I began riding my bike for recreation. When I began riding my bike to commute to the World Bank and errands in 2000, I discovered and joined WABA, thrilled to know there was an organization advocating for cyclists and safe cycling. WABA and all its staff appreciate the amazing power of the bicycle—for community, for the environment, for physical and mental health, and for all the other benefits people riding bicycles bring! I was one of the first people to join the Women & Bicycles program, so I’ve been here to watch this tiny program grow from a few dozen women to the thousands that now participate.

What’s a Roll Model?

Women & Bicycles Roll Models are peer-to-peer mentors who know bicycling, and want to share their knowledge and excitement with new and less confident riders. They are experts of their own experience, and want to help other women become comfortable on two wheels. At a Roll Model meet-up, new women riders (called protégés) learn the basics of riding in a fun, welcoming environment. The Roll Model leading the meet-up will review the parts of a bike, different types of bikes, what to wear to stay comfortable, tips for riding in traffic, and selecting the best route. Many protégés and Roll Models have gone on to take City Cycling classes together, along with WABA Signature rides and Women & Bicycles events. Last year, Roll Models helped protégés:
  • Learn the best routes to ride to commute to work in DC;
  • Figure out new bicycles, and how to put them on a car-mounted rack;
  • Decide how to set up their bikes to carry spare clothes;
  • Go on their first big ride! Protégés and their Roll Models attended the Strong Women Ride, the Seagull Century, the 50 States Ride, the Cider ride, several City Cycling classes, the Lighting the Way Community Ride, and more!

How do I sign up?

Ashley Blue, one of W&B’s original Roll Models, on the National Mall with her bike.

Join Ashley Blue, one of our original Roll Models, for the first 2018 Roll Models meet-up on April 7. Ashley’s goal is to help other women feel confident as they achieve their goals and learn new skills on bikes. One of the biggest questions she faces how to use her bike in everyday life for errands, so to help other women find the answer, she’ll show how to set up a bike for getting groceries. We invite women who want to be protégés to sign up here. Do you want to be a Roll Model yourself? The next training will be in April – join the Doodle poll to choose a date.

Women who changed history: a bike tour

“It may surprise you to learn that many people, including women, felt that the bicycle was not appropriate for women, and that there was an inherent danger to their health and morality,” said Megan Metcalf, the Women’s, Gender, and LBTQ+ Studies Specialist and Librarian at the Library of Congress. We had a blast proving those 19th century naysayers wrong.
  Women & Bicycles held our second annual Strong Women Ride in February, braving threatening weather to ride around DC learning about women who changed history. We started at the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, which opened in 1897. At the time, Metcalf explained, Americans were “absolutely obsessed with the bicycle—and for the first time women were able to engage with a new mechanical technology.” No one in our group rode a high-wheeler, but our modern bikes gave us the opportunity engage with the monuments and historical markers as we rode. We stopped at the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, the Jane Delano statue at the Red Cross, and Lady Fortitude at Howard University, and the Mary McLeod Bethune statue at Lincoln Park. We rode to the LeDroit Park home of Anna Cooper, the fourth African-American woman to earn her Ph.D. (at the Sorbonne, in History). Further south in Lincoln Park, the Mary McLeod Bethune statue dominates the plaza. Bethune was a teacher and advisor to several Presidents on issues of race, equality, and culture, most notably serving FDR on his “Black Cabinet.” One of her most compelling written pieces is her Last Will and Testament. Back at the Library, Megan showcased women librarians who have shaped the Library of Congress. Dr. Carla Hayden is the current Librarian of Congress—the first woman, and first African-American, to lead the world’s largest library. Also featured was Andre Alice Norton, a librarian and author who wrote hundreds of novels under a male pen name. Audre Lorde is known to many as a revolutionary feminist and “warrior-poet,” but not many know she was also a librarian! We had a great day braving the weather and feeding our intellects. A huge Women & Bicycles to Megan Metcalf for sharing her knowledge with us!
Megan Metcalf is a librarian who also bikes to work each day. She has firsthand experience of how empowering a bicycle can be. She completed her B.A. and M.A. in Women’s and Gender studies, and her MLSIS all the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the first person to hold this particular speciality at the library. Megan also serves as the Vice-Chair of LC-Globe, and coordinates a Women’s History and Gender Studies Discussion group on the first Thursday of every month. For more information on their monthly presentations, email WomensHIstory@loc.gov. She invites everyone age 16 and up to register and come read and research.

The 2017 Hains Point 100 was a tremendous success

Hains Point 100 riders celebrate before beginning the ride in December of 2017 This past December, we celebrated the 6th annual Hains Point 100. Over 600 riders showed up throughout the day, riding all sorts of bicycles and raising $19,300 to support WABA’s Women & Bicycles program. Donations from the event help fund over half the budget for the Women & Bicycles program, allowing us to provide programming all over the metro areas of DC, Maryland, and Virginia. We really couldn’t do what we do without the support of amazing volunteers–like Megan, Mark, and every rider who shows up to ride circles around Hains Point. The Hains Point 100, now in its 6th year, began as an informal bike party to help fund the then-brand-new Women & Bicycles program. Megan Jones invited her friends to come ride 100 miles around Hains Point, a three-mile flat loop usually popular with triathletes and bike racers doing speed training on racing bikes. Riding a small loop for 100 miles on different types of bikes seemed like a silly and fun reason to ride a bike in December. Riding a three mile loop in December appealed to hundreds of other people. It’s become known as a great way to have fun outside with friends. People began riding different styles of bikes: folding bikes, cargo bikes, tandems, tri bikes, beach cruisers, vintage steel, and even Capital Bikeshare bikes (dutifully docking every lap to avoid fees!), unicycles, and e-assist bikes. The Hains Point 100 now includes support from the amazing Team Sticky Fingers (a women’s cycling team), dozens of businesses, a specialty pie company, bike clubs, and the famous Potluck Table where riders drop off treats to share. WABA’s Women & Bicycles program is supported by donations. Please consider supporting us so we can keep offering new programs. Follow us on Facebook or sign up for our email list here so you don’t miss out on future rides! Yes!

Let’s ride bikes together

A scarf for your face, some gloves for your hands, and a friend who is up for adventures might be just the ticket to get you out on your bike this winter. Or maybe you already ride year-round, but some of your friends don’t, because the air is cold, or the roads are salty, or finding the right gear can be a hassle. We always encourage safety first, but riding year-round doesn’t actually take special gear. You can ride your regular bike or bikeshare and wear your regular clothes. In fact, in the winter, we often wear lighter weight jackets because the riding makes us so warm! Here are some ideas from actual rides ridden by Women & Bicycles members in past winters. Why not invite a friend out to ride with you?

Ride the monuments on the National Mall at night

The National Mall may be the flattest area in DC, and has abundant bikeshare options! All the sidewalks around the Mall are considered bike paths by the National Park Service, making it a great safe place to ride with newer riders or kids. Ride slowly, pass on the left, use your bell to politely let others know you are there, and see the monuments in a whole new way.

Play hooky and go explore a new trail

Last year, I took the morning off with several friends to ride the newest section of the Anacostia River Trail. Why not take a day off to check out the Anacostia River Trail, the Marvin Gaye Trail, the Capital Crescent, the or C&O Canal Towpath? Trails are a great option for both brand-new riders and that friend who’s ready for more mileage. We won’t tell your boss that you rescheduled that meeting so you could ride bikes.

Bike to that event

This one is a favorite on the Women & Bicycles facebook group. Recent friend-bike-dates have included movies and the Murder Is Her Hobby exhibit at the Renwick. Pick a movie, a play, a concert, a museum exhibit, and plan to get there by bike. Meet your friend at their place to lead the way. Show how comfortable it can be to ride in regular clothes. Many museums and theaters have a coat check where you can check your helmets with your coats. Bring locks to lock up, and lights in case your event gets out after dark. You could even bikeshare to the event, and carpool home in a carshare or cab.


This uniquely DC option is a great way to connect with your fellow civic-minded friends. During last year’s Women’s March, W&B members rode their personal bikes or used Capital Bikeshare corrals to get to the march.

Get to work on time

When Metro shut down for a day, Women & Bicycles members created the #wmatabikepool hashtag that quickly went viral. Experienced cyclists led “bike trains” to help first-time commuters get downtown safely, easily, and on time. Show your coworker the best bike lanes, and arrive at work feeling like a boss, even if you’re the intern.

Get out of the city

For a longer adventure, bring your bike on the Metro (but not at rush hour). Meet in Old Town Alexandria and ride the Mount Vernon trail all the way to the Mount Vernon estate, then back to Old Town for some lunch. Hop on the Silver Line to Reston and ride the W&OD Trail to coffee and pastries in Leesburg. Take the Red line to Wheaton and ride the Anacostia Tributary Trails to Navy Yard for happy hour.

Conquer your fears

Biking means learning to think about terrain in a different way. Hills are often intimidating to many new riders. Invite your friend to ride a hill with you. On last year’s Strong Women Ride, both rides ended with a hill climb up the 15th Street Malcolm X Park hill, where Strava tells us the elevation is 8-10%! Every rider conquered the hill, and we celebrated with cupcakes in Columbia Heights! We hope this list inspires you to invite your friends out on a bike adventure! Looking for something to do right away? Join WABA’s Ride to the Rink (link) this weekend.

Knocking down barriers to biking

Women and Bicycles Nationwide, 28% of people who ride bikes identify as women. In DC, 42% of bike commuters identify as women. Awesome. But we didn’t flip those statistics around without your help.


Your support for WABA is building a more inclusive bicycling community, and your financial investment is getting more people on bikes. Thank you! When WABA created the Women & Bicycles program in 2013, we knew that 3:1 gender ratio was a problem. We didn’t know how we’d fund the work, but you stepped up and we made it happen. Today, our Women & Bicycles program is 7,000 strong. We facilitate year-round rides, events, mentorship, and a lively space for online conversation. These physical and digital safe spaces eliminate barriers to entry to bicycling. And we know it works. We hope you feel equally proud when you look around and see who’s sharing your bike lane this evening—your investment in WABA made that possible. at the 2015 Hains Point 100 We know that women aren’t the only underrepresented community in biking. With the right resources, we can break down more barriers to biking, and we need your help. In 2018, WABA is excited to launch three community-based initiatives to garner support for safer streets in DC. Working closely with residents of three specific neighborhoods, we’re going to dig deep on the issues that keep people from feeling safe and excited to get on a bike. Ensuring people have the trails and bike lanes they need to feel comfortable riding is critical, but we know from past experience that an inclusive community is essential, too. You can help us build those safer streets, neighborhood by neighborhood. Please make a donation today to get more people on bikes.

Women & Bicycles and The Season of Trails

Many riders- whether they are new riders, experienced riders, riders with kids, riders trying out a new style of bike, and more- enjoy riding on bike and multi-use trails. A well-designed, well-maintained trail can offer a safe, beautiful ride, with many offering shady tree coverage, a beautiful view, a chance to connect with the community in a way that would be much more difficult from a car, and even bike amenities like little fix-it stations for minor repairs. Women & Bicycles is making this fall the season of trails, partnering with the Capital Trails Coalition, and with WABA’s D.C. Trail Ranger program to offer a series of workshops and trail rides, to showcase great trail design, explore future trail possiblities, and teach women to become advocates in the movement to improve our trails network. Help support the work of Women & Bicycles! While you’re here, don’t forget to join the Women & Bicycles community on Facebook!

What’s going on this fall?

In September

  • Saturday 9/16 Derwood Family Bike Day on the new trail at Lake Needwood (families encouraged!)
  • Sunday 9/17 and Sunday 9/24: two options to polish your skills at one of WABA’s City Cycling classes! Choose the “fundamentals” track for a great trail ride. (open to all)
  • Saturday 9/23 Ride to Clarendon with WABA and PAL on a friendly no-drop community ride!
  • Every Friday, 7:30-8:45 A.M.: Coffee Club at Pleasant Pops in Adams Morgan. All you have to do is show up and hang out.

In October

  • Tuesday 10/3, 6:00-9:00PM: Who, What, Where Workshop (women only)
  • Friday 10/6 through Sunday 10/8: You’re invited to the National Youth Bike Summit! (all ages)
  • Wednesday 10/4, Wednesday 10/25, and Friday 10/27: Don’t miss the annual Community Spooky Rides, including the now-famous Haunted Hill Ride. These no-drop, open-to-all rides introduce you to the city you’ve been too spooked to discover!
  • Saturday 10/28 From the Ugly to the Good Ride (women-only, registration coming soon): this partnership with the Trail Rangers takes us on a tour of the bike trails in Anacostia, from the trails that need help to be great, to the ones that are great right now.
  • And you still have time to join us for class to polish your skills!

In November

  • Registration opens in early October for WABA’s Cider Ride (Saturday 11/4), a signature event! (open to all)
  • Saturday 11/11: Mind the Gap! Ride (women only, registration coming soon) We transport you to a start in Bowie, MD, and ride the WB&A trail. We’ll show you how to navigate a trail gap, and you’ll learn how better infrastructure can connect communities.
  • Thursday 11/16, join Women & Bicycles at the regional Trails Symposium hosted by the Capital Trails Coalition (open to all)
We hope to see you out on the trail this fall!
Want Women & Bicycles updates by email? Yes!

Women & Bicycles is a program of WABA, specifically to encourage more women riding in a safe, confident, joy-filled manner. We strive to create a safe and welcoming space for women to build their skills, so we want to let you know that these particular events are open to women, GNC/Genderfluid and trans-identified folks.

Women & Bicycles Demystifies Cogs, Chains, Cassettes

“So what happens when you hit a hill and you’re still in a high gear?” “You say swear words!” yells one woman. “Yes!  And what else?” Shifting Gears–a Women & Bicycles workshop put on by Proteus Bicycles in College Park–is all about the what else. Led by owner Laurie Lemieux, the workshop put the emphasis on asking questions, finding answers, and helping one another with a part of bicycling that’s as intimidating as it is necessary. Most bicyclists are eventually going to have to change the gears on a bike. Nevertheless, many bicyclists don’t for fear of getting it wrong, messing it up, or breaking something. Shifting gears, to the novice cyclist, looks and feels complicated, comes with lots of odd noises and jarring motions, and as often as not, has opposite results from what they intended. So we set out to tackle the greasy, clanky challenge. At the start of the workshop, we learned that shifting helps us keep better control of our bicycles, which makes us more confident cyclists. Here’s a little of what we learned:

The Basics

  • Pedaling feels easier in a small chainring and harder in a big one (chainrings, by the way, are the toothy gears that are attached to the right crank, aka, the thing your pedal is attached to). The correct chainring for you is the one where you can pedal comfortably on the terrain you face–and that’ll differ depending on your strength, fitness, and preference.
  • Because that’s not complicated enough, in the back of the bike pedaling feels easier in a big cog and harder in a little one (cogs are the toothy gears that are attached to the rear wheel; stacked together they’re called a cassette). Just like on chainrings, the correct cog for you is going to change depending on the terrain and your comfort and fitness levels.

Shifter Smarts

  • When you shift gears on your handlebars, the cables get longer or shorter, and the chain moves to a different cog (or chainring).
  • Your right hand controls the rear of your bike. (For both brakes and gears, Right = Rear.)
  • It’s okay to do most of your shifting in the back (with your right hand), especially if you’re new to this whole shifting thing.

Quick Cheats

  • Uphills and headwinds? Oh, geez. Use: small or middle front chain ring + bigger rear cogs.
  • Downhills? Wheeeeee! Use: Large front chainring + a range of rear cogs, while humming a happy tune.
  • Flat roads? Use: small or middle front ring + smaller rear cogs. Go ahead and use that big chainring if you are comfy!

What the heck is cross chaining?

  • Cross chaining means your chain is at an extreme slant from side to side. It can happen on any chain ring, and it means that you might be on your big ring in front and the biggest cog in the back, or son the smallest cog in front and back.
  • Cross chaining limits your shifting options, and puts a lot of strain on the chain (this is not a great idea).
  • If you notice you are cross-chaining, it’s a good indication that you could shift your front derailleur to give yourself access to more gears.

How and when do I shift?

  • When the terrain changes or a wind kicks up, or when pedaling seems harder. Are you going uphill? Facing a sudden headwind? Feeling tired?  That’s a good time to shift.
  • Try to shift before you get to the hill–shifting under pressure is hard on our bikes, and shifting when you are pushing hard is a leading cause of chains falling off. If you can shift before the hill starts, you win!
  • A great tip- if you are in your front big chain ring and see a big hill coming up, try shifting to your front small chain ring. You may find you have access to more gears on your rear cassette if the hill gets longer or harder than you anticipated!
  • When you shift going towards a hill, ease up on the pedals for a turn or two to lighten the load.
  • On a flat road, if the wind is behind you, or if you are going downhill- shift to harder gears. Downhills + harder gears = free speed!

What’s next?

Did you find this post helpful? Come try out those new gears skills on our next group ride, June 24, when we take on the rolling hills in the Women & Wine ride with Potomac Peddlers Touring Club!