Rapha Women’s 100
The Rapha Women’s 100 is back, and bigger than ever. Cyclist Lindsey Walker tells us what life on two wheels means to her and how the W100 is all about celebrating women in cycling and going the distance together
By Alice Barraclough
Photography Supplied by Rapha
When you think of cycling, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? The Tour de France? Supercharged track cyclists speeding around a velodrome? Middle-aged men in lycra? Whatever it is, I bet it’s not women. According to stats from Cycling UK, males cycle more than females, but the gap in England narrowed somewhat in 2020 when the number of cycling trips made by women rose by more than 50% – mainly thanks to the quieter roads of lockdown.
Women often report that they feel “intimidated” on the roads, or that they don’t feel safe – making them hesitant to start, or restart cycling. But the cycling gender gap doesn’t have to exist. For the past 10 years British cycling brand Rapha has championed women’s cycling – challenging thousands of women around the world to ride 100 kilometres in one day. They call it the ‘Women’s 100’. “The Women’s 100 is a chance for female cyclists to meet other women, come together, share the road and ride 100k,” explains cyclist and former Rapha employee Lindsey Walker. “You could be riding in a group or on your own, but you know hundreds of other women are riding together and you’re a part of something special.”
The beauty of the event is that you can start and finish your ride anywhere in the world, and on any bike – whether it’s a beaten up trail bike, a fixie or even a Brompton. “I started cycling when I was quite young,” says Lindsey, now 28. “My dad was really into cycling – he had so many bikes in the house and always watched the Tour de France, so much so I used to dread the theme tune blasting out the TV – so he pushed me to learn without stabilisers at a young age. But almost as soon as it started, it stopped, and I became more interested in basketball and football.” It wasn’t until Lindsey was 20 that she decided to get back on a bike. “I was in between jobs and for some reason, I had a bit of time and fancied going on a bike ride. I rediscovered my old mountain bike at the back of my dad’s shed – I dread to think how small it was and whether it was even safe to ride – but, honestly, it was the best ride ever. I still remember it so well. It was a hot, summer day, so I rode along the canal. Completely carefree. I couldn’t tell you exactly where I went, how far I rode, or the kit I wore, but I distinctly remember this feeling of stress leaving my body.”
From that one ride, Lindsey was hooked. “I remember getting my first Rapha classic jersey – I thought, I’d better get the kit and look the part – and then I started documenting my rides on Instagram and on a blog, explaining how I felt about starting a new sport in my twenties, and questioning where all the people I can ride with were.” Lindsey then ended up getting a retail job, working at Rapha’s store in Soho, London. She says she felt completely out of her depth because she hadn’t been riding that long. “Rapha tries to encourage their employees to go on a weekly ride together, and I just thought, I can’t turn up with my dusty old mountain bike and the one single jersey I own.” Luckily, Lindsey was able to get her hands on a new bike through the company’s cycle to work scheme – “that’s where it all got a bit more serious,” she says. “You see so many bikes when you’re working there. And people are always constantly talking about bikes. So you get to know which brands are cool, and the one’s you might not want to be seen on,” she adds.
Did she ever feel like cycling wasn’t for her? Or feel intimidated in what’s usually quite a male-orientated space? “There were only a few other women working there at the time – and the ones who did had spent years cycling, so they were basically seasoned professionals. I felt so out of my comfort zone. The customers that came into the store on their bikes were always men. Women would never come into the Clubhouse on their bikes. They’d come in wearing their normal clothes, but they never really felt comfortable to come in wearing cycling kits. There was no kind of women’s community at all at the time. I think that’s definitely changing now. But even if I just go for a ride on my own, and stop at a cafe, it’s just men and I can feel so self conscious. It makes me question, am I actually good enough to be riding this bike?”
The Women’s 100, taking place this year on Sunday 18th September, really hopes to tackle these outdated stereotypes. Lindsey, who’s taken part in a few of the events over the past decade and will be saddling up in September, says it’s evolved enormously. “It used to be far more virtual. Now, there’s such a huge sense of community. Even if you’re new to cycling, or you’ve never cycled 100k before.” She adds, “It’s not even necessarily about reaching that 100k mark, it’s really about getting on the bike all together, on the same day, regardless of skill or experience. The stories at the end of the day are so empowering – everyone uploading their route and talking about where they went and who they went with. There’s nothing else like it.”
This year, Lindsey is planning to ride the 100k solo near her home in Bracknell, but has additional challenges as a new mum. “My daughter is only 8 months old, so I’m still breastfeeding which means I need to factor in stop off points to meet my partner, and feed her,” she says. Of course, being a new mum means training now looks a little different too. “I haven’t been training as much as I should at all. But the Women’s 100 is more like a nice day out – you don’t have to do it in a set time, or all in one go. So I can take breaks, it’s just a day for me, really.” Can you get away with no training for a 100k sportive? Probably not zero, she says, “but I also know loads of people that haven’t done the training and just go on a group ride – they feed off the energy from everyone else. And because you can stop for a coffee and refuel and take it easy, they end up doing the distance.”
Lindsey continued to cycle throughout her pregnancy as “a form of meditation” – “I ended up riding right up until a couple of weeks before the birth. I made sure it wasn’t something I abandoned during that time. And after I gave birth, I really focused on recovery and saw a physio at six weeks, to make sure everything was fine. I got the go ahead and I just started riding from there – nothing crazy or really long – mainly just heading out at the weekend.”
So although the amount of time she now has to get on her bike is limited to a breastfeeding schedule, it’s given her a new-found appreciation of cycling and the benefits she gets from it – the fresh air, the sense of freedom, the fitness, the headspace. “On the days where I just don’t feel like going out on my bike, that’s when I really need to,” she adds. Needless to say, having worked for Rapha, Lindsey is not short on kit – or kit recommendations. And this year, to mark a decade of the Rapha Women’s 100, Rapha have created not one, but two, special edition collections, so women can spot other riders out on the roads.
The capsule collection, made in collaboration with artists Zuzanna Rogatty and Studio Nari, features eye-catching prints and limited edition products. “This collection is designed to celebrate a sisterhood that stretches across all national borders and natural boundaries. Though we ride on different roads around the world, W100 brings us closer, determined in our shared aim to go the distance together,” says Zuzanna Rogatty.
“The collection aims to express connectivity between women,” adds Studio Nari. “This was visualised through the interaction, layering, and combination of design elements. The designs became a visual metaphor for the relationships, shared experiences, and community W100 offers.” Featuring short sleeve and long sleeve jerseys in pastel lilac blues and neon greens, there’s also a cropped T-shirt which Lindsey raves about. “I never thought I’d wear a T-shirt on a bike, but the technical top is perfect for off-road riding, and cool enough to wear off the bike too, so it’s really versatile,” she says. “My particular favourite item from the collection is the high-waisted light purple bike shorts – I would never think to wear such a bright colour as I tend to wear black or navy, but they look incredible in person.”
One thing for certain – you won’t be missed on the road wearing this kit. And that’s exactly the point, to stand out, be seen and say, hey, we see you, and we’re out here too. “The classic jerseys come in different standard block colours, but there’s something special about the W100 collab – and on that day, when you see other female riders out there wearing one piece of the kit, you know you’re not alone, we’re all out doing the same thing, showing up for the women,” says Lindsey. “On the back of the T-shirt, it says ‘all my girls ride with me’ – which just summarises the campaign and this feeling of togetherness, to lift each other up and overcome barriers.”
Whether you’re a first-time rider or returning for your tenth year, you can take part in the Women’s 100 on Sunday 18th September 2022. All you need to do is log your ride on Strava. Route recommendations and group ride information is available on Rapha.
Photography Supplied by Rapha, Editorial Design by Root