All image credits: Adam Harridence

Despite massive growth in cycling in recent years, female participation is falling short in off-road participation, one of the most exciting, accessible and engaging ways of taking up the sport. 

The Saint Piran Cycling Group is today (International Women’s Day) launching its global Aventur project, to help redress the lack of participation in the heavily male-dominated form of the sport.

Figures produced by the University of Bristol, among other institutions, highlight a 4-to-1 deficit of male to female participation in off-road cycling, despite hours of coverage and marketing spend dedicated to branded video of mountain and BMX riders on platforms like YouTube.

The Cornish Saint Piran Cycling Group has launched Aventur to take advantage of their international race programme, global Cornish diaspora and new ambassador structure. The team’s sole focus is to encourage females to ride a bike, away from the often intimidating environment of the road and onto gravel, bike paths and mud! 

The Aventur Project includes:

  1. To have a series of ambassadors across the world to promote accessibility and access to off-road rides. They will run free sessions for females wherever possible and act as advocates for the sport across the UK and a growing number of diaspora regions - the US, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand.
  2. All riders from the Saint Piran Women’s Elite Mountain Bike Team will volunteer at every regional race they attend with a dedicated session to encourage female riders before every race.
  3. The Saint Piran Cycling Group will continue to run free sessions for women to try off-road riding across the South West of England.
  4. A series of events to bring like minded individuals together to discuss women’s wellbeing, both physical and mental.
  5. In 2025, Saint Piran aims to establish a series of training camps across Europe for all abilities to promote off-road participation.

Each drop-in taster session run by Saint Piran includes skills sessions, bike maintenance, confidence building and team development - bringing together like minded individuals to encourage each other to continue riding. The word Aventur is a Cornish word meaning adventure.

'Know your bike' introduction session

Jenny Bolsom is the founder of the Saint Piran women’s off-road programme and architect of the Aventur project. She said: “It is not good enough that female participation in off-road cycling is lagging so far behind men’s. As an elite racing team, we have a powerful position to inspire others to get on a bike and ride. We have to take that responsibility and use it.

“We are not starting from point zero - we have been delivering a lot of community work over the past 18 months. But we are aware that having real impact takes time. This is a long-term commitment to change, working with British Cycling, the UCI and the industry. We can and will do more. There is no point having national champions in our team if we cannot use them for good.”

Getting ready to ride on a ‘come and ride’ session

New Aventur Ambassador Hannah Collingridge, living in Leeds, said “Inspiration can come from many places and in many different guises. Cycling is an incredible way to manage your fitness and mental wellbeing, so if we can encourage more women on bikes through the Aventur projects, we will have helped change the lives for many across the country.”  

The challenges facing female participation in off-road cycling are significant. Findings published by the University of Bristol in 2023 highlight the size of the issue:

  • Like other outdoor action sports, mountain biking has traditionally been a male-dominated sport. Only 15-25% of participants are women.
  • Women continue to face challenges in feeling part of mountain biking, and in feeling that their participation is equally valued on its own terms.
  • There is a strong role for media and marketing in fostering the sport’s culture and its inclusivity.
  • Women are under-represented in media and marketing imagery. 
  • There is also underrepresentation of women from different ethnic backgrounds and ages. Women feel excluded from the mediated culture of the sport due to this underrepresentation.

Saint Piran Cycling Group is hosting a women’s weekend from 8th-10th March, celebrating the impact women have in the sport. The event, a Festival of Cycling, will be held at Saint Piran Cafe in Bissoe, and features a range of fitness workshops, talks from riders and rider parents, music, food and plenty of riding.

Saint Piran Pro Cycling

Saint Piran Cycling Group is different from other cycling teams. It is the number one team in the UK, runs five teams for men and women, from development to elite mountain bike and road teams. It also has its own community interest company focused on changing lives for the better. Together the Group has a single focus: to have impact in racing, cycling and society.  It passionately believes its staff and riders improve our sport and society. 

Its journey started eight years ago in a Cornish bike shop. Since then, Saint Piran has grown to be the most talked about domestic team in the UK, with coverage across the world for its net zero aspirations, UK’s leading riders, Olympic hopefuls and the way it does things. It achieves that without headline sponsors or a single trade brand underpinning it.

University of Bristol Research

Inequality in action sports: How marketing and media can help foster inclusion

Share this post