When female cyclists have their own space, it can help them build confidence in a mixed-gender group.
The motto of the Zwift club called ZHCC is “We Ride As One,” and their ZHCC Ladies rides have the same spirit.
“The ZHCC mixed rides are incredibly supportive – and indeed I often take the lead of the Saturday night one,” says Lynda Childs, leader of one of the ZHCC Ladies rides. “But understandably, some women do prefer a ladies-only environment to build their confidence.”
Lynda, a self-described “Zwift addict,” got her first road bike less than 10 years ago. She says it wasn’t love at first ride, but she grew to enjoy riding and especially climbing – which is good, considering she lives in the hilly Lake District of England.
Lynda found Zwift and ZHCC after an accident that kept her off the road with a shoulder injury.
“The support I received from the leaders and sweeps was pivotal in my Zwift journey and development,” she says.
We recently asked Lynda about the ZHCC Ladies and the rides they lead, and she told us their story.
(You can find more information at the Zwift – ZHCC Facebook group. Check below for the ride schedule!)
Zwift: When did this group or club form, and who started it?
Lynda Childs: ZHCC was formed back in 2016 by Lee (“the boss”) after a serious cycling accident that saw him hospitalised for a good few weeks. Zwift was part of his recovery and ZHHC has gone from strength to strength since the summer of 2016.
I started riding with ZHCC in 2017. I spent the first 6 months at the back being “swept,” but the support in Discord from the ride leaders was brilliant and kept me going. Roll on a year or so and Lee asked me if I would lead a ladies ride, a new departure for ZHCC. I was incredibly nervous, but I wanted to give something back. So on 28 March, 2019, our first ladies-only ride started! The original team was myself and two ladies from America. We had great fun, and the numbers began to grow on what has become a regular Thursday ride.
Z: What would you say the group’s core purpose and goals are? Why do you believe your group is important to the Zwift community?
L: The ZHCC philosophy of “we ride as one” permeates into the ladies rides as well. We are able to encourage ladies to ride with us and support them to improve - but always ensuring we have a lot of fun too! And that is the way I would describe ZHCC ladies - fun and supportive. Every ride has a yellow ride leader and a red sweep but there are usually other Capo Donnas on the ride too. They drop in to help riders and form groups in-between the beacons or sit off the back and ride with someone who cannot meet the pace on that ride. As leaders we are encouraging first, offer advice if needed, and generally look after anyone who needs it during the rides.
The original Thursday night ride was later joined by a Monday night 1.5 w/kg social ride. As we saw many of our riders becoming stronger, we realised there was a need for a faster-paced ride. And so the Thursday ride has developed from a 1.5 w/kg into the ladies progressive ride. The idea of the Thursday ride is that you can ride with the yellow beacon at 2 w/kg or the red beacon at 1.5 w/kg. We have seen riders progress from the red to the yellow group and celebrated their success with them. They are a brilliant group of women who rise to any challenge… especially the climbs.
We have our own on request-only Discord channel, so we know it is secure to discuss any topic in a safe and private environment. Believe me, we do talk about every topic under the sun!
Z: Who are the group’s leaders? Are there any fun facts Zwifters should know about them?
L: Me, Lynda Childs (I somehow have a reputation of being competitive and burying male riders!)
Julie Baines and Anita Rose (part of a great friendship with lots of online banter between these two)
Mil Dickinson (cats, crochet, and heavy metal)
Roxelle Kimberley (mum to our youngest ZHCC member and supporter)
And more recently Freddie Jones (never race Freddie as she is a machine) and Caryn DeSignor (who can win a sprint using only 1 leg).
Although these women are all strong riders, they are more than happy to ride at 1.5 w/kg to lead or use their power to sweep. All the admin, organising of riders, promotional material, etc. is looked after by ZHCC’s founder Lee. Recently Jason, a long-standing member of ZHHC, started to manage the membership of the club.
Z: Sport can be a powerful platform for equality. How do you think participating in cycling can empower and benefit women and girls? What are the benefits of being involved in a community of women who ride?
L: I think the empowerment Zwift group rides gives to women is that they can join a group of like-minded women who will support and encourage, and celebrate the gains. It is not all about power to weight ratios or PBs (personal bests)! We can support each other in our riding and our lives…. When USA had all the wildfires, we were always checking on our American friends. Because it’s ladies only, we chat about everything from recipes to chamois cream.
Often riders start with the ladies rides but then gain the confidence to join the mixed rides and realise that the boys play nice as well.
After every ride we write a ride report. We include photos from the ride on our Facebook page and always mention new to ZHCC riders who have made themselves known during the ride. This is all part of further developing the sense of community and it gives another forum in which riders can ask for advice, share news, and chat.
Z: Are there any special memories or experiences with this group that you'd like to share?
As a team, the feeling is that of mutual respect and friendship. I have yet to meet any of the female leaders IRL (in real life) but have ridden with Lee and Guy. Had Covid not hit, all the ZHCC leaders were going to meet up and ride the Tour of Cambridgeshire as a team. It was a huge disappointment not to get the opportunity to meet in person a group of people who have become great friends and an important part of my life.
During lockdown, the female leaders have formed great friendships. We met up three times a week on Zoom during my work lunch break for yoga. We truly have supported each other through the ups and downs of COVID-19.
ZHCC Ladies Only 1.5 (women only)
- Schedule: Mondays at 18:30 UK time
- Pace: 1.5 w/kg
ZHCC Ladies Progressive Sub2 (women only)
- Schedule: Thursdays at 18:30 UK time
- Pace: 1.5 or 2 w/kg
The ZHCC women (“Capo Donnas”) also lead and sweep for these mixed-gender ZHCC Rides. All are at 18:30 UK time:
- Tuesday - 1.5 w/kg Beginners/Recovery
- Wednesday - Sub 2.0 w/kg yellow beacon, 1.5 w/kg red beacon
- Friday - 1.5 w/kg Beginners/Recovery Ride
- Saturday - Sub 2.0 w/kg
- Sunday - Sub 2.0 w/kg