A freelance cycling journalist, presenter and guide based on the edge of Dartmoor, Katherine caught the cycling bug in her early 20’s and hasn’t looked back since. Abandoning a career in agriculture, she sought to combine her new passion into her work, starting out in a bike shop and helping out with cycle tour operator’s logistics and guiding before diving head-first into the digital world of cycling media at Global Cycling Network in Bath. Today, Katherine writes from her cosy kitchen table in Devon, where she juggles writing for various cycling outlets, route editing for komoot and reviewing all manner of cycling-related kit.

Where it all began

Though I was probably the least sporty kid in my year at school, after university I knew that I ought to do some form of exercise to stay healthy, and as I had a trusty hybrid that I’d used to get around and fetch groceries at university I signed up for a charity sportive along Devon’s Jurassic Coast to spur myself on.

A few months later I met someone who let me have a go on their drop-bar road bike, and the sensation of speed was remarkable. Living near Peterborough at the time, I went into my local bike shop, the Gorilla Firm, and purchased a sparkly white Cannondale Synapse and fell head over heels for cycling.

The shop also had a very informal club, which quickly became like a family to me. I was living a four hour drive from home in Devon and knew very few people outside of work. Between our Wednesday night pub ride and the Sunday club ride they taught me all about group riding and helped me get fit as I really fell head over heels for cycling!

Challenging stereotypes

There was a time when typing ‘women’s cycling’ into Google yielded results about Pashley bikes with baskets of flowers and groceries and skirts blowing in the wind or entry-level cycling advice including how to fix punctures.

No shade on that at all, but personally I’m much more excited and encouraged to see today’s results; a range of badass women competing up to WorldTour level, keen riders out enjoying road, gravel and mountain bike rides, world champions and vibrant women’s-specific clothing designs.

Working in the cycling industry for the past eight years I’ve witnessed a remarkable shift both across media, retail and competitive coverage. The age-old phrase ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ rings true and I’m so pleased to see better visibility of women in cycling, no matter the discipline, age, ability, race or sexual orientation.

Favourite cycling memories

While cycling has yielded a vast library of fantastic memories for me over the last decade, making it very difficult to single out just a few favourites, there’s one trip that immediately comes to mind.

I was lucky enough to join the inaugural Komoot Women’s Rally in 2021; an initiative spearheaded by the formidable ultra cyclist Lael Wilcox to encourage more women into tackling challenging bikepacking routes. The 600 kilometre Torino-Nice Rally route was not only set to be the longest multi-day off-road ride I’d attempted, but also the most technical, as the route takes in no less than 10 high Alpine passes along the way.

Beyond the physical challenge, it was the community of women that the event created that really made this trip so memorable. The non-competitive, women-only setting fostered collaboration and a genuine sense of looking out for each other that I’d never sensed among strangers at this rate before, and after just a week I had acquired a whole raft of new friends from across Europe and beyond, including both endurance idols and everyday riders. We’ve all kept in touch since, already witnessing some go on to podium at ultra races and others set up women-led gravel communities and events.

Opening doors

I had a great career as a cattle nutritionist when I first got into cycling. I’d travel the world attending conferences, setting up feeding trials and selling to farmers but when the cycling bug bit, I knew that I needed to switch my career to somehow make this newfound passion my life, work and all.

I was totally in the dark as to how I could make this happen, with little technical knowledge, mechanical ability or other expertise, but I had a fire in my belly and a chance meeting with then Women’s Editor at BikeRadar, Aoife Glass, gave me the impetus I needed to go for it.

Working for a cycling tour operator and local bike shop I got my feet into the bike industry, before spending two years mostly behind the scenes at Global Cycling Network and then becoming a freelance cycling journalist, presenter and guide.

I’d have never thought back then that I’d be able to do what I do now, but thanks to the amazing support network from women in the bike industry, as well as some fantastic male allies, I’ve been able to take up some amazing and varied opportunities. From reporting on gravel riding in Sri Lanka to riding alongside Canyon-SRAM before the Women’s Tour, guiding at the Sisters of Send MTB festival and taking part in the Unbound gravel race in Kansas, I’ve been incredibly lucky to find myself here.

Female inspirations in cycling

Every woman that I meet in the cycling world inspires me, as I know every one of us has had to fight - at some level - to get here. Yet there are some pioneering women that inspire me even more. I was only recently interviewing Georgena Terry, the mechanical engineer turned framebuilder who was credited with inventing women’s-specific frame geometry, but it was her lifelong, unwavering passion for all things cycling that struck me as much as her technical vision.

I have many heroes who continue to show up at the top level of sport, from ultracycling legends including the outright TCR winner Fiona Kolbinger to the relentless Lael Wilcox to fantastic road racing current and former pros like Lizzie Diegnan, Emma Pooley and Iris Slappendel.

I’ve witnessed a real focus shift onto badass mothers in cycling, including my best pal Kelly-Jayne Collinge and fellow journalist Michelle Arthurs-Brennan which I find really inspiring as someone who would love to follow in their footsteps one day.

There’s also been such an upswell of amazing women-led communities across the UK and beyond over the last few years, and I’m in awe of the work these people - many of which I’m lucky enough to call friends - have put into making these welcoming alternative cycling communities.

Hopes for the sport and industry

Though we’ve come a long way recently, there’s still some way left to travel on our journey to gender equity in the cycling world, both in the industry and across professional and amateur sport.

The recent year has been extremely difficult for transgender women in competitive cycling. My hope would be that the governing bodies review their policies to ensure a fairer, more inclusive way forward to allow transgender people to compete.

In terms of the industry, I’d love to see more women in senior leadership roles across media, brands, teams and distributors. There are already quite a few women smashing it at this level; Singletrack’s Editor Hannah Dobson, ENVE CEO Sarah Lehman and Georgia Yexley, Founder of Loud Mobility to name just a couple.

What’s up next?

One of my favourite parts of freelancing is that you never really know what might come up next, though 2024 does look to have at least one exciting new bikepacking route reveal in the French Pyrenees which I’m hoping to be able to go and scout out!

Otherwise you’ll find me at home, testing out new women’s and unisex bikes, clothing and kit on my home roads and trails, travelling to gravel events and hosting route planning workshops for komoot and doing my best to offer the same support for my fellow and budding cycling industry women that helped get me to here in the first place.

Katherine's cycling hot links 🔥

👂Podcast: Dr Fiona Spotswood on inequality in MTB on Spindrift

🛍️Kit: My go-to easy-pee women’s bib shorts

🌱Guide: How to cycle on your period (shameless plug)

📱App: Wanderer Earth with heatmaps, local and global leaderboards

🚲Bike: A lightweight heartthrob that rides like gold

☀️Cycling group: Cinnamon buns at The Woods Cyclery shop ride

📼Video: Kelly - the story of my badass best pal

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