Born from a desire to give female track cyclists in Melbourne a unique identity, Melburn Hurt is a growing and thriving part of the local cycling community. Now in its second year, Melburn Hurt has expanded to include the cyclocross collective, Melburn Durt as well as regular yoga sessions, predictably coined: YogHurt.
“At the time there was only a handful of female cyclists turning up to the weekly sessions and you can’t have a community with only a couple of people”, one of the organisers Sarah Knights said in a recent interview with Bicycling Australia, “so we reached out to a small group of passionate riders whom were already riding track at the time, these were to be the ‘face’ of Melburn Hurt”.
“Our aim is to capture the spirit of what being in our little bike world is like and project it via social media, to show just how much fun we do have, and hopefully encourage others to get out and give it a go.”
Now with a loyal following of community members, Melburn Hurt is all about ‘the hurt’, with their name devised to see ‘hurting’ in a positive regard.
“By hurting we are pushing ourselves, finding out what we are actually capable of, and in doing this becoming stronger and ultimately developing the skills and fitness which makes racing exciting to do and watch. Hurting is empowering in our world.”
With the motto of “turn left, hurt right” we are building a community of female track cyclists who want to train together, support each other, race hard and ride in circles whilst having fun” (From the ‘about’ section on their website)
While community groups like Melburn Hurt are doing wonders for encouraging women to become involved in the sport, statistics reveal female participation in cycling is significantly lower in Australia than many other countries—the rate of female commuter cycling is less than one third of the male rate, according to the Australian National Cycling Strategy 2011-2016.
And that’s not all, the Women and Cycling Survey 2013 found that 50% of women who hadn’t ridden a bicycle in the past six months wish they’d ridden more and over 60% of those who didn’t ride at all, were keen to start. However, the survey revealed that it isn’t just concerns about traffic that are keeping female cyclists off the road, but also a lack of confidence and knowledge, lack of infrastructure and aggressive/ abusive behaviour from other road users. Melburn Hurt, along with female-specific cycling groups and collectives are attempting to carve out a safe spaces and remove barriers to cycling so women who want to give the sport a go, can do just that.
“We aim to reduce and ultimately remove some of the barriers women encounter when it comes to getting out there and riding their bikes… Riding the velodrome is such an empowering experience. It is daunting with its steep banks, and then there is the bike with no brakes!” Knights says.
“It is incredibly important to carve out these spaces for women. A space where they feel welcome and comfortable to attempt things that are outside of their comfort zone. And most importantly, empowered to get out there on their bikes. Bikes are empowering, they are freedom machines, literally vehicles of change.”
In 1986, Suffragist Susan B. Anthony, is quoted something similar, saying that bicycling had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world”. While this ‘vehicle of change’ is also linked to historic changes women’s fashion and their ability to travel solo, it further paved the way for the women’s movement and the beginning of equal rights.
Knights believes one of the key elements to Melburn Hurt’s success is the role of promoting a safe, fun and encouraging environment via social media, stating: “Social Media plays a huge role in promoting women’s cycling. We are in an era where there are so many resources at your fingertips, and we definitely live by the mantra of ‘be your own parade’. You don’t need the sponsorship or wins to be a valued person, or to celebrate community.”
Melburn Hurt is a completely open cycling community with the girls willing to give time to any new riders wishing to give track (or Cyclocross) a go. You can find them at Brunswick Cycling Club for YogHurt on Mondays, or at DISC on Tuesdays for track racing and training sessions.
Photography by Rachel Hickey