Female cyclist says sexism is part of Toronto's bike scene

After finding herself marginalized as a female cyclist, Claire McFarlane founded Toronto's Bad Girls Bike Club with the hope of boosting the number of women taking up the sport and the pastime.

Toronto’s Bad Girls Bike Club hopes to get more young women onto bicycles

Claire McFarlane and her Bad Girls Bike Club co-founder Lavinia Tanzim (right). (Chris Vasquez)

Claire McFarlane still remembers the first time she encountered sexism in the bicycle world.

A longtime cyclist, she was having a problem with the back wheel of her bike, so she brought it into a shop and described the issue.

"They disregarded my opinion and told me, 'No, there's nothing wrong with this,' and they sent me on my way," she said.  

Instead of listening to her the first time, McFarlane said she had to go to back to the shop to convince them to fix what was a real problem.

McFarlane told Metro Morning that female cyclists can face sexism as they enter the bicycle industry, leading to interactions like the one she had at the shop.

Bad Girls Bike Club

"It's such a traditionally male-dominated industry, and women are just slowly beginning to make their way into it," she said, adding that she hears stories about women feeling disrespected or disregarded in bicycle shops "all the time."

 I'll explain something to them and they won't take my word, and they'll go speak to my male colleagues.- Claire McFarlane

McFarlane now works at a bike shop, and has co-founded a cycling club called the Bad Girls Bike Club, which leads rides and runs workshops for female-identifying youth.

She said that even at her workplace, she still comes up against the same assumptions about female cyclists.

"[Customers] will come in and I'll explain something to them and they won't take my word, they'll go speak to my male colleagues and get the exact same answer," she said.

As for solutions, McFarlane said that she hopes people will pay more attention to what they're saying when they speak to women, and how it can affect others.