Emma Woodcock is the founder of a 300 member ladies-only cycling group in Dubai called Velo Vixens. We chatted with Emma about women’s cycling here in the UAE.
What made you start cycling?
I started cycling around four years ago. Shortly after moving to Dubai my husband and I put on a lot of weight. Him because he was working too hard and not making the right food choices. Me because I wasn’t working yet back then and was just enjoying life in a new city and country with no thought to the impact it was causing on my body. It came to a point when my husband and I couldn’t recognize ourselves in pictures anymore that we knew it had gone too far. I have to admit that it was my husband who inspired me to start with cycling as he, on his weight loss mission, would jump on his bike and take off every morning or evening. That got me to buy my own bike and give it a go. I was a complete beginner and had never cycled before but once I got started the results were so visible so quickly that I was completely hooked. Since then I have lost a total of 26 kilos.
So what’s the story behind Velo Vixens?
There weren’t many women cyclists to begin with and when I started to ask non cycling friends to join, they expressed concerns like “I’ve never ridden in a group before and they all ride so close” and “I’m worried about safety and being left behind in the middle of the desert when you’re out cycling with more experienced and faster cyclists.” The massive growth in popularity of the sport meant that the groups had got very large and being predominantly male, which can be very intimidating for those just starting out. So it was back then around two years ago that I decided that I was going to start a group for women only, where all levels of cyclists would feel comfortable and confident and where we could all be supportive of each other’s goals in cycling and life in general. Now the group has grown to three hundred members in only two years and we are having fun!
What would you advise wannabe cyclists out there who want to try the sport out?
Cycling is an amazing sport and a full body workout that complements so many different kinds of fitness goals. The best part is that it is a low impact workout that burns calories and improves your cardiovascular strength while having little to no impact on your joints. For newbies to the sport I would say go rent a bike first before deciding to invest into the sport. Bikes can be rented very easily from cycle shops around the city. If you aren’t ready to decide what kind of bike is right for you- road bike, hybrid or mtb, then take a rented bike for a spin before you invest. I guarantee it wont take long before you are hooked!
We hear so much about cycle safety on the roads these days. What’s your take on that? Unfortunately cycling on the roads in Dubai can be very dangerous. People are not used to seeing (sports) cyclists too frequently on the roads so they either don’t keep an eye out for them or completely misjudge the speeds at which they travel. We hear of so many accidents and it’s so unfortunate that these occur to people who are just pursuing a sport. My advice would be to stay off the roads if you are inexperienced and stick to the dedicated cycling tracks. There are so many of them and new ones are coming up. It’s a little more of an effort to get you and your bike out there but when you know you can cycle without having to worry about cars and traffic, the experience can actually be almost meditative and tranquil, not to mention completely safe.