It’s 9am at the Rapha Cycle Club and I’m the first rider here. I grab a coffee and a croissant and as soon as I sit down, other riders start rolling in. Women I have never met before, some I have only spoken to through email, and a few who have joined our Women’s 100 Training Rides in the past.
We gather together and introduce ourselves. Coming from all parts of New York City, we represent every type of rider: racers, seasoned riders, newbies, and a girl named Tiffany (who deserves a category of her own for riding any terrain on a track bike.)
The laughter and story telling continue as we hit the cobbled roads of the Meatpacking District and head up the Hudson Greenway. We all marvel at how beautiful the weather is for May, a bright and sunny 77F. From the front of the group I look back at a sea of smiling faces. There are 13 of us – a small but mighty wave of riders.
CycloFemme was started to inspire and empower women cyclists. Regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, or bicycle preference, CycloFemme encourages female cyclists to share their joy of the sport. Spread across more than 30 countries, we ride united by a temporary tattoo and a belief that the phrase “strong woman” is a tautology.
Riding beyond Manhattan, we navigate our way through the Bronx to Van Cortlandt Park where some ladies receive their first taste of riding road bikes on dirt trails. Rain from days before made for mud and puddles, but the lack of cars and pedestrian activity leaves no one wishing for tarmac.
Dirt and mud slowly changes to pavement, continuing on a carless path to Westchester County, NY where the climbing begins. Small climbs through the towns of Briar Cliff Manor and Ossining warms our legs up for the climax of the ride – Quaker Bridge Road. Our group spreads out with some pedalling easily, first to the top. As others continue to push their way forward, cheers and words of encouragement get everyone else to the summit.
Upon reaching the top of the climb, our tense faces become calm smiles. Regaining breath, our mutual struggle only brings us closer together. We drop off the road onto a dirt and gravel trail. Surrounded by a canopy of leaves and apple blossoms, the smells and sounds of spring are everywhere. At the top of a short gravelled hill, the beginnings of a powerful structure become visible. Like discovering an ancient Egyptian temple, we are suddenly atop the Croton Dam, gazing into the vast calm lake that it contains. We head back to the city, buoyant and united.