Clare Dewey, founder of Epic Road Rides, talks passion for travel and cycling and winning BikeBiz Woman of the Year 2020
Tell us how you founded Epic Road Rides.
I have always had a passion for travel and cycling. Together with my cycling-mad husband, our holidays have always involved discovering the best places to ride.
After over a decade of working as a lawyer in London I finally plucked up the courage to take the plunge into Epic Road Rides full time. I don’t work any less, but there is much better job satisfaction!
Getting going was daunting. I started from a blank page in 2018 to create a travel website for road cyclists, sharing my in-depth experience with inspiring routes, photos, videos and social media. I love to share my passion for cycling and the best places to ride.
Over time, I have expanded with contributors in great cycling locations around the world, built out social media and worked with some wonderful partners. Now that Epic Road Rides has been established a few years, I get a lot of positive feedback and partnership opportunities, which is very rewarding.
What is your proudest moment to date?
Winning the BikeBiz Woman of the Year, of course! It was genuinely lovely to be recognised by my partners and the industry, as well as getting to know some other inspiring women in cycling.
On a day-to-day basis, I absolutely love getting enthusiastic messages from passionate cyclists around the world who have been inspired to travel by Epic Road Rides. It’s brilliant to open my inbox and find emails from cyclists thanking me for the website and sharing stories of having visited a destination (or stayed at a hotel or used a tour provider) because of an article they read on the website. It’s wonderful to know we’re helping people have a great time on their bikes.
What are your experiences of being a woman in cycling?
The cycling industry is very multi-faceted, from health and wellbeing, adventure, travel to professional cycling. I admit that I’m less excited by tyre compounds and the latest electronic groupset release than discovering those perfect but little-known cycling destinations!
It is true that certain parts of the cycling industry are quite male-dominated. For example, when I first started going to conferences and bike shows, I was surprised at how few women I would come across at the industry-only days.
However, I’ve very rarely felt excluded or out-of-place. I’ve found the industry to be open, enthusiastic and inclusive. In the Road Cycling Travel Network, a virtual forum that I set up, we have a really diverse set of members and speakers.
Do you feel that the gender gap is closing at all, and if not, what more could be done?
Professional cycling has always had many exceptional and strong women, such as Emma Pooley, Annemiek van Vleuten and Dame Sarah Storey. I would love to see even greater exposure, recognition and opportunities for women athletes from grassroots to the WorldTour.
Over recent years I’ve seen a real growth in women’s cycling participation. Whether it’s women’s cycling groups, initiatives like the UK Breeze rides or female-specific bikes and equipment, women are much better served than in the past. “Shrink it and pink it” is no longer acceptable! Though there’s still more to be done, I think women are becoming more discerning and confident to get cycling.
To what extent do you think this differs from other industries and sports?
Cycling is benefitting from very broad growth, not just as a sport and a leisure activity, but as a healthy and environmentally friendly form of transport.
This breadth means that there are many interesting and exciting opportunities. Whether you want to ride across the USA, work in cycling journalism, travel, retail or lobby for better cycling infrastructure, there are opportunities opening up.
If you could give one piece of advice to women entering the industry, what would it be?
Go for it! I’ve always found cyclists and those in the cycling industry to be friendly and genuine. As I found with Epic Road Rides, sometimes you have to take a big leap, work hard and have faith!