Inspiring groups: Velociposse CC
Inspiring groups: Velociposse CC
Velociposse came to me in a very interesting time of my life: over the past year, I have been become an increasingly more serious cyclist and have also been on a huge gender journey. Velociposse has given me the tools to hone my skills as a cyclist, as well as a safe and welcoming space to explore my identity.
Who are we?
We are a London-based cycling club for women, non-binary, and trans people. Our vibe is chill, fun, friendly and supportive. Our members have a wide array of interests, including track, road riding, gravel riding, MTB, and other cycling disciplines. There is no pressure to race, but there is support and encouragement if you want to try it. Our unique club is a welcome change for our members from the traditions and rules of what has been a male-dominated sport. We are entirely volunteer run by a committee of 17 people and our hundredth member joined this month.
Fellow member Aisling Gallagher said: "Being in Velociposse means being in a club where I’m seen and recognised as a non-binary person in a world that often refuses to do that. Like a lot of non-binary people, I have to repeatedly come out and deal with misgendering in every aspect of my life.
"Velociposse's spaces - and the members who make them - are rare when that often isn't the case. Velociposse’s ethos and values are important to me and the members of the club: cycling is political and our safety in spaces as queer cyclists is so important. I’ve never taken part in sport as an adult, and cycling has been much more binary than I expected. Having a team of people behind you when you have to navigate that as a non-binary person makes a big difference.”
Above: Velociposse in action. Photo by Jess Morgan
Our club chair, Biola Babawale said: "I'm so thankful I stumbled upon Velociposse. Within my first year of cycling, there were so many firsts. My first crit, my first hill climb race, the list could go on. A highlight was my first road race and I'm still pinching myself that that was me!"
What role do volunteers play in Velociposse?
At the beginning of the year, we created a diversity and inclusion committee of 13 people to discuss how we could make the club more inclusive. This was originally inspired by British Cycling’s policy regarding gender. We wanted to write a response on behalf of our trans and non-binary members, and it evolved into a committee to tackle gender equality in cycling, as well as other issues of inclusivity.
We met virtually once a week for two months to discuss different issues regarding inclusion in the club. Each week, we covered a different protected characteristic such as: race, gender, economic status, age, disability, size, and religion, how it relates to cycling, and how we can make changes as a club.
What actions on diversity and inclusion have we taken so far?
We wrote an open letter to British Cycling that was signed by over 40 other cycling groups and brands urging it to better support trans and non-binary people. In the letter, we call on BC to:
- Include non-binary as a category for non-racing membership
- Consult with trans and non-binary led organisations to remove barriers to race participation in the next six months
- Ensure that all people are able to race under their self-identified gender within the next year
We have not received any feedback from British Cycling yet, but we were pleased to see that it prompted another racing series, Thundercrit, to make its racing categories more gender inclusive. Many of our members (me included) have begun fixed crit race training in order to participate in the new non-gendered racing categories.
We have organised a trans and non-binary track induction session for Sunday 4 July and plan to make this into a broader series. It can be especially intimidating to turn up to a new space to try something new as a trans person, so we have booked out a couple of hours for all trans and non-binary people to have a taster session of their own at a discounted rate. This will be open to cyclists of all abilities, and bikes are included in the admission fee. We encourage cyclists of all abilities to come along.
Above: Velociposse provides support, friendship and fun. Photo by Vicki Creer
We are continuing our skill sessions for women and non-binary people of colour this summer. Over the next few months, we will be holding seven skills sessions focused on bike handling and confidence, coached by a person of colour. The first session is on Monday 14 June and sessions will be run every other week.
As regards cycling being financially inaccessible to many people, we are also creating a how to buy a used bike guide, having used kit swaps, and starting a solidarity fund to help members in financial need to pay for skills sessions or race entries.
What type of rides and/or events do we offer?
We hold free training sessions weekly in east London (near Lee Valley Velopark) or in south London (at Herne Hill Velodrome). We have road rides that alternate between Essex and Kent and weekly gravel rides in Epping Forrest. We also do relaxed ‘chat-laps’ in Regent's Park.
What do you do to attract new members to the group?
We want to make Velociposse as inclusive as possible. We encourage new members to join a slow skills session to come and meet the group, and also see that we are a very welcoming bunch. We also started running monthly outreach Regent's Park laps last year for potential new members to come meet the club. These were highly popular and have been a great way to attract new members. And finally, we've introduced a new members' buddy programme to help aid retention of new members and keep them cycling and cycling with us.
What are we most proud of?
We are proud of how much our club has grown over the past year, and of the inclusive space that we are creating. We are looking forward to continuing to put in the work. Since things have opened this year, we have had many new members start racing. We are equally proud of our podium finishes and our members trying racing for the first time.
By being chair of Velociposse I wanted to pay it forward and give back to a sport that I love, encouraging more women and non-binary people to cycle and race.
Biola Babawale, chair of Velociposse
Biola, our chair, explained: "Being part of Velociposse has given me great ways to give back to the sport I love. I was so proud to chair our panel encouraging more women to race. And I was so honoured to host an event that gets under the hood of one of the most iconic ultra distance bike races, the Transcontinental (TCR). Like everything I do in cycling, this took me well outside my comfort zone, and I was well-rewarded. From hearing how the control points are chosen to tales of questionable bivvy spots, the stories from the racers, race organisers and photographer were fantastic, funny and truly inspiring.
"To host the panel was also an honour as the TCR actively encourages more women to ride and race. The call of the TCR to ride in the spirit of equal opportunity speaks to the ethos of Velociposse and the efforts we are making to increase female participation in cycling and racing. Listening to Fiona Kolbinger, the winner of the TCR no7, was incredible and inspired me to get a gravel bike and go exploring.
"I've learnt so much and met some truly incredible and inspirational women and non-binary people. But I'm not done yet! By being chair of Velociposse I wanted to pay it forward and give back to a sport that I love, encouraging more women and non-binary people to cycle and race."
How can people make contact with us?
Also, please get in touch to come to our Women of Colour skills sessions or our Trans/non-binary track introduction session.
Has your group thought about how to be more welcoming to people from a wide range of different backgrounds? Cycling UK has created a Diversity and inclusion champion's volunteer role and toolkit to give cycling groups the resources they need to become more inclusive and remove the barriers that prevent some people from taking part in the activity.