By Molly Hurford
When you show up to a race or a group ride, admittedly, the field is often male-dominated. But there are more and more women and girls getting into cycling every day, in every discipline. From BMX racers to casual touring cyclists, Saskatchewan is home to tons of impressive women cyclists, and during Women’s History Month, we wanted to showcase a few of the women who are currently making cycling more female-friendly in the province.
Often, these lists just focus on racers, but we wanted to include women who are helping build communities, running huge programs, working as bike mechanics, and of course, also racing and riding. There’s a wide range of ages and riding levels in this group, and this is just a fraction of the women in Saskatchewan doing amazing things in cycling. Get inspired, and enjoy the stories from these bike lovers!
Fun fact: right now, the majority of the executive directors in cycling in Canada are women! Sarah Honeysett, the Executive Director at the Saskatchewan Cycling Association (SCA) started out as a triathlete, but fell in love with cycling. At first, the idea of drafting and pack riding was intimidating for her, but thanks to the great clubs and group rides in Saskatchewan, she caught on quickly. Now, when she’s not out riding with the Regina Cycle Club, she’s steering the ship for the SCA. One of her focuses is to bring more women to cycling—whether competitive or club-level—and ensure that cycling is an accessible, fun sport for everyone in the province. “We’ve got more and more clubs that are now starting to offer women’s-only sessions to make it easier for women to try cycling,” she says. “That’s really exciting to see. What we’ve found is that women were kind of scared away from the competitive aspect of cycling—they wanted to come in and try it, but it seemed like racing was the only option. Our goal is to make sure that women at every level are feeling supported.” Honeysett doesn’t race now, but spends most weekends pedaling with the Regina Cycle Club women’s group. “It’s so great to go out there with a group of women, and enjoy the camaraderie. You make friends with everyone in the group, and you’re just excited to see them at the end of the day.”
“I used to be a high performance canoe athlete before I got into cycling,” Zoey Bourgeois laughs. “I’m the queen of obscure sports!” After she “retired” from canoeing at 17 years old, Bourgeois was looking for a way to stay active, and she remembered chatting with a group of cyclists at the Canada Summer Games. “They seemed super nice, and I noticed that there weren’t many women in the group,” she recalls. “I thought to myself, I bet if I started cycling now, I could potentially get good enough to make it to the next Canada Games as a cyclist. So I ended up buying a secondhand used bike, and then it just kind of went from there.” By from there, Bourgeois means that she started riding with the Regina Cycle Club, signed up for a criterium race, got in touch with a coach for Saskatchewan Cycling and convinced him to work with her, and found her way onto the provincial team—all in one summer. She also managed a 250-kilometer ride to raise awareness for a small local paper, and is currently balancing trying to get into medical school with her cycling end goal of getting to the Canada Games for cycling. “Training is still a priority for me right now,” she says. “It’s hard to fit in, but I also know that when training is going well and I’m exercising regularly, my mood is better and I can be more focused at school.”
In Moose Jaw, there are always women to hit the trails with, thanks in large part to Laurie Ewen and a host of women who volunteer their time to help get other women onto mountain bikes. Rides are a mix of serious shredding on singletrack and heartfelt trailside talks, depending on what you need any given day, and that’s Ewen’s whole goal. When her husband started to get more heavily involved with the local cycling scene, Ewen decided that she would also get back into riding, and on top of that, she’d get registered and licensed as a commissaire so she could be more involved with the racing scene. Now, she’s the recreational ride coordinator for the Moose Jaw Pavers and a commissaire for SCA for both road and mountain biking . “I love the community of mountain bikers, races feel like you’re going into a family reunion. Everybody’s cheering each other on,” she says. At the same time, Ewen also joined a Monday night women’s ride, and after a while, asked the woman running it if they could get it sanctioned as an event. That led to the creation of a women’s group—the Prairie Pedals—as part of the Pavers. “It’s so satisfying to bring a new rider in and see them improve,” Ewen says. “And even if you’re a little nervous, if you can find a women’s group, you’ll see that women who ride tend to be some of the least judgmental, most highly supportive people out there.”
Saskatoon-based off-road cyclist Shea Stevenson started in speed skating, but got pulled into cycling in 2015. Since then, the now-23-year-old has spent a few seasons on the road, but found cyclocross and mountain bikes were her preferred style of racing. She also works in a local bike shop! “I think women’s cycling is definitely growing, which is awesome! But there are still way less women racing than men. I think the main issue is that women and girls are still not encouraged to take part in sports like boys and men are,” she says. “Then as women get older, they are scared of competing or of doing this sport they have barely heard of. I think we need to try and get it out there that this sport is for everyone and just because there is a race does not mean everyone is only there to win.” And racing isn’t the only way to stay involved in cycling, Stevenson has realized. In addition to working in the bike shop to pay for university, she also helps with electronic race timing with her dad… and she’s focused on improving her technical mountain biking skills, because even if racing isn’t a primary focus, more skills tends to lead to more fun on the trail.
2019 Saskatchewan Cycling Association Outstanding BMX Rider award winner Maci Rosman simply loves to play on her bike. At 14 years old, she’s also contemplating some big Olympic dreams, eventually. But for now, she’s loving that most local races pit her against some strong local talent, though unfortunately, rarely is she able to race girls her own age—something she’s hoping changes in the future. “My dad was super into cycling and he introduced me to it,” she says. “I practice at the track with him a lot—and then, on race days, I race against other boys and sometimes girls—but they’re like a lot younger than me. I prefer racing with the boys my age because they’re better than me, so it makes me like become better. It’s hard to race just girls who are much younger than me, since I have more experience.” When she’s off the bike, she does some indoor training with Team Sask, but mostly, she’s practicing on her own on the bike, playing ice hockey, or heading to the CrossFit gym with her mom. “It really helps with my cardio because it’s really hard work in a really short amount of time, and it’s making my leg stronger, which will help me pedal faster and get out of the gate faster.” This summer, she’s just hoping to get back to racing soon. And for other girls and women thinking about BMX, she says, “Just go for it. It might be scary in the beginning. But the more girls we have out racing, the easier it is going to be for us girls to race.”
There still aren’t many women who work in bike shops, especially not as mechanics. But that’s something Cathy Hancherow wanted to change when she moved to Saskatchewan and was looking for the next stage in her career. “We moved here five years ago and it was my first time moving anywhere else. I needed to find my find my people,” she says. “So I ended up going to the Barnett Bicycle Institute in Denver to become a bike mechanic. Since then, I’ve been working at Bruce’s Cycle Works. I really like working on a crappy bike that you make a huge difference on once you do tune up. It’s great seeing a simple tune up make a huge difference for someone. ” Hancherow notes that since she started at Bruce’s, it’s been nothing but awesome, and now, the staff is 30 percent women. And of course, in her spare time, Hancherow is out pedaling around town. “I was a smoker before I got into cycling,” she says. “But once I started riding, I really got into it. I love long distance on the road, though I’m enjoying mountain biking now as well.” Psst… Hancherow’s two major bike maintenance tips take seconds: First, regularly wipe down and re-lube your chain. Second, make sure your tires are properly inflated! Even if they don’t look flat, they might be low. And if you’re bringing your bike to the shop, give it a quick clean and wipe down first. “If I don’t have to spend 20 minutes cleaning your bike before I can start working on it, that’s 20 extra minutes I can spend working on it,” she says. It saves you money, too! (If you live near Bruce’s Cycle Works, keep an eye out for their summer offerings, since they’re hoping to bring back some of the DIY bike repair clinics they’ve hosted in the past.)
Para cyclist Keely Shaw rode bikes growing up, like most kids, but it wasn’t until 2017 when she started taking riding more seriously. As a teen, a fall on her horse left her left side partially paralyzed, but she was able to start commuting on a bike in 2013. A couple of years later, she was approached in the gym at University by a fellow student, who told her about para sports. She tried cross-country skiing, but didn’t love it. “Then, I thought, I’ve been commuting, and I like biking, what about that? So, I started training on my tank of a bike, and then in 2016 when I graduated, I bought myself a decent road bike. In the spring of 2017, I decided it was time to try my hand to road racing. So I entered my first race in Moose Jaw, near Regina. And I got second in the time trial, which was my very first race ever. That was pretty cool. I actually kind of started to feel like myself, again: the competitiveness, the brute physicality, the whole cycling atmosphere, it was such a group and such a friendly place to be and I really enjoyed it.” From there, Shaw would become a Team Canada Next Generation Team athlete, would race at World Championships—which was supposed to be a “see how it goes” kind of event but she ended up getting fifth in the individual Pursuit race, just three seconds from a bronze medal—and would begin to shift her focus to the Tokyo Para Olympic Games—all while also working towards her masters and now a PhD in exercise physiology and sport nutrition. It makes sense that she was the Sask Sport female athlete of the year for 2019.
As the coordinator for the women’s ride program through NBR, Dana Amos is passionate about getting new women out on bikes. “I really love bringing new ladies into the sport. This is the program that I first did and it taught me that I could do it, that I didn’t have to be a cheerleader from the side but that I too could participate. Biking is a sport that anyone can do!” she says. “It’s a personal battle with your own brain. If you think you can’t do it, our program helps us prove you wrong. It empowers women, it lets them have a break from their busy lives and gives them permission to find freedom on two wheels.” Amos has three children, and riding isn’t just her me-time, it’s often a family affair. “My daughter was on a balance bike since she could stand,” she says. “To have little kids out riding with elite riders and for them to encourage them and know them by name it has been amazing. My 10-year-old daughter is just getting into more mountain biking on trails and my goal is to foster the love with her and her friends. Many boys remain in sport, be it biking or not, but females tend to drop out. So my goal is to grow the love with their moms so they see a female example and know they too have no limits in biking.”
About the writer:
Molly Hurford is a journalist in love with all things cycling, running, nutrition and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside and healthy habits of athletes and interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete podcast and website, and most recently launched the book ‘Becoming A Consummate Athlete.‘ She’s the author of multiple books including the Shred Girls, a young adult fiction series and online community focused on getting girls excited about bikes. Molly is a little obsessed with getting people psyched on adventure and being outside, and she regularly hosts talks and runs clinics for cyclists and teaches yoga online and IRL… And in her spare time, the former Ironman triathlete now spends time tackling long runs and rides on trails or can be found out hiking with her mini-dachshund DW and husband, cycling coach and kinesiologist Peter Glassford.