Women in trade: Lucy Elsdon, Bay Cycles

It is no secret that women are underrepresented in the cycling industry. According to Cycling UK, only one million women in the UK cycle regularly – just 3% of the population, with many more bike journeys made by men than women.

Imagine the difference that could be made to the sport and the industry by encouraging more women to cycle – after all, we are potential customers and employees for your business. But how is the industry itself catering to the women who work in it? Is the gap really closing or is there still a long way to go? Rebecca Morley got in touch with five women from different areas of the trade to find out how they got into the industry, what their experiences have been and what more could be done.

Today, we hear from Lucy Elsdon, Cytech master technician, Bay Cycles.

Tell us how you got into the cycle industry.
I got into the cycle industry at the age of 17. I was applying for any hands-on jobs really and Bay Cycles was offering a cycle technician apprenticeship. It wasn’t really something I had ever considered before but the moment I started the job I loved it.

What’s been your proudest moment so far?
Since starting the job my proudest moment has got to be during the time I was still an apprentice. I did a write up about a brake bleed job and the write up got shared with people from Cytech and from the Shimano team. A few years on and I still have people mention that they had seen my write up.

What are your experiences of being a woman in the cycling industry?
Being a woman in the cycle industry is definitely interesting. When going to trade shows I notice that I am one of the very few women. Working in a shop as the mechanic gets mixed views from customers. Most people are very supportive of it and think it’s great seeing a female in the workshop.

We have had women customers say how much they like that our shop is very female-friendly as it makes them feel much more comfortable coming in even if they aren’t sure quite sure what they need.

Sadly, on the other hand, we also get the occasional sexist comment or shock at there being ‘a female with a spanner’. However, most of our customers love that I am where I am and are more than happy to have me working on their bike as they know I am fully qualified and competent.

Do you feel that the gender gap is closing at all?
I do believe the gender gap is closing. It may be slow and there is still a lot that could be done but it is getting better. We are seeing more women enter into sports, more women in science and more in engineering too.

We can help with speeding up that process by encouraging females to pursue their choices even if the industry they want to go in maybe considered ‘a man’s world’. I also think that the more we show that there are women who are doing these things, such as going into sports, mechanics etc, then it will encourage females that they can do that too.

From personal experience, I think the cycle industry may be ahead of the curve from other industries and sport in closing that gender gap. We have had many females becoming customers recently and there are women-focused bikes and products. There are also many women-focused cycle groups and projects within the cycle industry which is brilliant.

If you could give one piece of advice to women entering the industry, what would it be?
To any women entering the industry or considering it, my advice would be to enjoy it and jump in with both feet. It’s a great industry with so many wonderful people within it who will be willing to help you and encourage you in any way needed.

I would also say just ignore those few sexist or doubting comments you may receive. It can be hard to just brush them away sometimes but there are so many other people who will be looking up to you and admiring what you do that will completely outweigh those few comments, they’re just not worth it.

The cycling industry is a fun industry to work in and you can build up a true family of those who are a part of it.

Sasha Castling, Ribble Cycles
Jenni Gwiazdowski, London Bike Kitchen
Pippa Wibberley, Raleigh UK
Robyn Bowie, 2pure

In other news...

Five minutes with: Titanium bike specialist Enigma Bicycle Works

BikeBiz catches up with Jim Walker, managing director of East Sussex-based Enigma Bicycle Works This …