Are you considering a women’s bike tour?
Attracted by the idea of a supportive and friendly space to enjoy riding under a sunny sky?
In this article we look at what women’s cycling tours are all about. We speak to Emma Dyson, founder of Mellow Jersey; a few years ago they added women only bike tours to the tours they offer and Emma is passionate about helping women who love cycling to challenge themselves on the bike.
In this article, we ask Emma about the motivations for going on a women’s bicycle tour, what to expect and questions to ask before you book your next cycling adventure.
Why did you decide to start offering women’s bike tours
Over the years, we noticed that there was sometimes a sense of nervousness from women joining bike trips with mixed gender riding groups.
We also saw that while women’s cycling is on the rise both in the professional cycling scene and amateur level, many women are still in the minority in their clubs at home or don’t have a women specific club to ride with near them.
As a result, in 2017 we decided to try offering women’s cycling tours. These give women the confidence to join a trip knowing they will be around like-minded individuals in a supportive and collaborative environment, where they can truly learn new skills and not be afraid to ask questions and go at their own pace.
This style of trip proved really popular and each year we’ve offered more women’s bike tours. They provide women with a great opportunity to ride in groups of like-minded people and expand their cycling network.
Why go on a women’s cycling tour?
The main reason to go on a women’s cycling tour is that they are fun! There are always lots of laughs and the chance to take time out of your normal life to indulge in the pleasure of cycling with other women that also love cycling.
Our tours are very friendly and welcoming, and we’re proud that many new friendships are formed whilst on the trips that then extend beyond them, with people meeting up back at home or coordinating on which tours to book onto together next.
We set out to create a space where every single person on our trips is catered for, from the hardened rider with lofty ambitions, to those who want to improve confidence in their abilities. We celebrate each and every personal milestone as people strive to achieve their own version of what extraordinary means!
We find that many women join us because we offer a safe, non-threatening environment where they feel comfortable to air their concerns about things like ability, speed and lack of cycling knowledge on the mechanical side of things.
Women only tours give a unique opportunity to help women feel at ease with small, guided groups (split based on ability level), mechanical support when needed, and seminars on topics like bike maintenance, climbing and descending.
Our goal is for people to leave feeling confident in their ability, empowered with knowledge and with a good fitness boost!
What are the main differences between a cycling tour and a women-only cycling tour?
Lack of ego
The main difference we find between a mixed cycling tour and a women only group is the level of support the women show their fellow riders – there is rarely any ego involved, and the group mentality is strong.
There is always a supportive environment with riders championing each other at all levels and celebrating in each other’s achievements. Our tagline of ‘achieve your extraordinary’ is regularly celebrated in our evening briefings, whether someone has ridden their longest climb, longest ride, most consecutive days on a bike or something else. It’s always fantastic to see people achieving more than they ever thought possible.
The other key differences we’ve noticed are that rides generally go out on time, people listen to instructions and there is much less ‘bike chat’…
From feedback from our guests, we know they love how organised our tours are and the detailed information they receive – this is the case on all our tours, but it always gets commented on by the women.
We provide a full information pack ahead of arrival with details on the ride options, the hotel, the guiding team, airport transfer information and packing list. Whilst on tour you’re kept up to speed via the WhatsApp group and daily route briefings to prepare you for what’s in store. There’s always someone on hand to answer your questions or put your mind at rest with any concerns.
But not less distance!
Finally, we sometimes get asked whether women only tours will do less distance or be slower. This is not the case!
Our itinerary for our women only trips is typically the same as the mixed tours, and there’s a whole load of women out there ready to eat up those bike ride miles and tackle the climbs.
What do the best women’s cycling tours offer?
On top of the normal things you would look for in a quality cycling holiday, here are some women-specific pointers.
Cycling catered to you
The best women’s cycling tours will give you the opportunity to challenge yourself at whatever level that might be. On our tours we manage this by splitting down into smaller ability groups, to enable everyone to find their own level of challenge. There should be a range of rides with a selection of cycling routes on offer with varying distances and climbing levels, to ensure that there’s something for everyone.
The best tours will be well organised with a good level of structure – a well thought out ride itinerary, with a choice of options, excellent communication pre and during the trip and clear instructions about what will happen when.
It’s generally easy to get a steer on this from your conversations with the tour operator before booking by asking some questions about how they manage the group, how the day is structured and so on.
We typically have a back and forth exchange via email with our clients pre- booking, answering any questions they have on the trip and are available throughout the booking process to discuss any concerns. During the tour we have a WhatsApp group which we use to communicate daily plans and information, share photos and for general chat and questions.
Great ride leaders
Finally, and most importantly, the ride leaders make or break any trip. Their experience, personalities and empathy are what sets one tour apart from another – most of our feedback is on how friendly, knowledgeable and helpful our guides are, and we’re fully aware that they are our greatest asset!
What questions should you ask before booking a women’s cycling tour?
Here are some of the questions we regularly get asked. You might want to consider these points before choosing a trip, especially if it’s one that’s focused on cycling for women. (For other questions to consider before booking a tour, read this.)
Is the tour suitable for all fitness levels?
We often get asked about the level of fitness required for the trip (for example, the average speed of groups and the abilities of the riders). This is important in order to ensure that the trip is suitable for you personally and to ensure you’ll get the best out of the week; you don’t want to end up on a tour for avid cyclists if you’re a beginner cyclist.
The key is whether the trip is right for you, not if you are right for the group. Don’t worry about how you compare to anyone else or if you’ll be the slowest (someone has to be!).
What kind of distance will the tour cover each day?
When asking this question, bear in mind that you’ll be riding on consecutive days, which may be something you don’t often do at home. Cumulative fatigue over a week-long training camp can impact you more than you expect!
Group riding gives you the benefit of drafting, but make sure you consider the distances and climbing carefully based on your experience levels. Make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew!
Can I ride at my own pace or do we ride in a group?
On our women’s tours we ride in small groups based on ability levels and any specific cycling requirements in the group.
How we split the groups down is dictated by the range of abilities we have on the trip. All our rides are ‘no drop’ rides, so you would never be left to ride alone, and it’s prudent to ask if this is the case.
It’s important to establish how a tour operator caters for a mixed cycling ability group and to satisfy yourself that you’re comfortable with the approach.
How many in the group? What are the support ratios?
This is important to consider when booking your holiday as ratios can range across tour operators from 1 guide to 5 people up to 1 guide to 15 or 20 people on some tours.
Our women only holidays typically run on a 1 guide to 5-8 people ratio, facilitating a good level of personal attention and support on the rides.
Are the guide and support crew male or female?
Some people do ask us this question, but we generally find this isn’t an important factor amongst our clientele.
We typically have at least one female guide on the women only tours, but also have a great team of male guides who are well loved by our women clients and provide excellent support, both on rides and with mechanical support.
Are solo cyclists welcome on women’s bike tours?
This is important to consider to avoid any unexpected costs.
Many of our clients book either solo or in small groups of friends, so you’re guaranteed to meet people you’ll enjoy spending time with when you arrive. Where possible, we offer to match people with a room share if they would prefer not to pay a single supplement.
What style of hotel or accommodation is provided?
Ancillary to this: What facilities does the accommodation have? Is the bike storage secure?
Some guests also ask if the accommodation is walking distance to local amenities. And what happens in the evenings. You’re looking for your perfect cycling experience after all, and some people like to be able to walk out for a drink or ice cream in a beautiful town during the afternoon so it’s always worth asking about this if it’s important to you.
How does the riding work?
Ancillary to this: Do you offer a ride briefing each evening so I can ask questions? Do guests sign up for ride options each day?
It’s always good to know what the day to day looks like on a tour, and if you’ll be expected to sign up for ride options or if the tour leader just allocates you onto a ride. There’s a surprising amount of variation between operators on this kind of process.
Do you offer any off the bike activities?
It’s nice to know whether there will be things like seminars, yoga sessions and massages available alongside the riding. You might also want to ask what is paid for and what is included in the price.
Do you offer a support vehicle?
For many, the question of whether there is or isn’t a support vehicle isn’t essential, so again, this is just a question to ask if you’re concerned.
We don’t typically offer this on our Mallorca women’s tours as there will always be a guide with the group (whereas we do on our Sardinia women’s tours as it’s a point to point trip with luggage transfer). However, it is best to ask this question to set your expectations ahead of time.
Is it okay if I take a day off or do I need to ride every day?
We recognise that whilst you’re on a cycle tour, it’s also your holiday and it’s not compulsory to ride every day!
Do you offer bike hire?
We often get questions about the kind of bikes available; lots of our guests are looking for quality carbon bikes and many have requirements for things like Shimano Ultegra components, women-specific geometry and specific accessories too. If bike hire is important to you, add it to your list of questions to ask before you book!
What do Mellow Jersey’s women only cycling tours offer?
Our trips are well planned, organised cycling tours where you can meet and ride in an idyllic spot with fun, like-minded people of a similar ability to you. We give you the opportunity to achieve your extraordinary and ride your bike in new and exciting destinations. We’ve researched the routes, planned the rides and all you have to do is turn up and have a great time.
Our guides are experienced in supporting women only tours and will be there every step of the way for navigational support, key pointers and mechanical support. All you have to do is concentrate on riding your bike. We’ll tell you where to be, when to be there and have everything organised for you.
That said, if you want to take a day off, or do something different for the day then that’s fine – you’re on holiday! Nothing is compulsory and you’re welcome to have a day by the pool, go and do something touristy, or have a meal out without the group.
We know there is a lot of choice out there for cycling tours and women only travel, however, we feel that the following are signs we are doing something right:
- high repeat client ratio; over 50% of clients who have joined one of our women only tours have gone on to do further trips with us – one client has done 11 tours with us in 7 years;
- high proportion of clients that come to us following a recommendation from a friend;
- 5-star rating on Google (as at today’s date, we have 92 5 star Google reviews, here).
What women only trips do you offer in 2024?
In 2024 we’re offering a women’s cycling tour program in two perfect cycling destinations: Mallorca and Sardinia.
Our season starts in March with a women only tour in southern Mallorca based in Colonia St Jordi.
Mallorca is which is one of Europe’s most ideal cycling locations and this area of the island is less well known than the renowned resorts of Port Pollenca and Alcudia in the north. In our opinion, it’s the perfect location for top notch riding! We take our guests on wonderful roads with rolling hills, stunning coastal routes, beautiful traditional Mallorcan towns and picturesque hilltop monastery climbs to enjoy. It’s a fixed base tour from a four-star spa hotel in Colonia, offering a great balance of riding and relaxation.
There’s more information here: Mellow Jersey – Mallorca Women’s Camp – The Beautiful South
We also run two women only trips per year (in March and October) in the north of Mallorca, based in Alcudia.
This is the traditional hub of cycling on the island and from here you can tackle the famous Mallorcan cycling roads and routes such as Sa Calobra and Formentor. It’s not all mountains though, there some lovely picturesque inland routes to enjoy, and not to forget some of that famous Mallorcan almond cake!
There’s more information here: Mellow Jersey – Mallorca Women’s Camp – the Iconic North
In May we run a women’s bike tour in Sardinia, which is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places we have ever ridden a bike.
This is a point-to-point tour which travels in a loop around Southern Sardinia, taking in spectacular views along the striking coastlines and rural farmland, enabling you to soak up some of the Sardinian culture. The tour mostly uses independent family-run properties set in stunning locations – and the food is incredible!
There’s more information here: Mellow Jersey – Sardinia
Where can women find out more?
We would be delighted if you would join us on one of our women only cycling tours in 2024. If you would like to discuss any the tours above, or have any questions at all, please get in touch!
We also put together a number of private women’s cycling holidays and custom tours each year for groups of friends and cycling clubs, so if there is something bespoke you’d like to do we’d love to hear from you.
A big thank you to Emma for sharing her expertise on this subject! If you’d like to hear more from Emma, Mellow Jersey’s contact page has all the details.
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Mellow Jersey run bespoke cycling tours across Europe and the UK. They have been running women only cycling tours since 2017. They were one of the first operators to introduce women only tours in Mallorca and have subsequently run women only trips in Sardinia and the UK.