WESTFIELD, NJ — HbW, a group for women cyclists founded by Westfied mom Lisa Braddock in conjunction with Hilltop Bicycles, is quickly gaining popularity, with members coming from all over northern and central New Jersey and even some from New York City.
"Since our inception, Hilltop Bicycles has been committed to sharing the enjoyment of cycling with as many women as possible," said Tom Dunn, co-owner of Hilltop Bicycles. "Under our shared vision and Lisa's organizational and leadership skills, we have witnessed a groundswell of excitement and involvement amongst women across the region. We are so excited to watch more women fall in love with this amazing sport."
Just over six months since the club was founded, “We have over 200 members, nine levels of weekly group rides and several ongoing clinics and social event rides, all for free and open to any woman,” said Braddock. Most rides begin at Hilltop Bicycles' Cranford and Summit shops.
Recently, Hilltop Bicycles and HbW helped plan a Specialized National Women's Day ride.
Braddock said she was inspired to create the club when, as a novice, she tried riding with more experienced riders, only to be met as much with disappointment and low self-esteem as exhilaration and conquest when some of the others were not supportive of new participants and newer cyclists.
“I loved the camaraderie, the focused-in-the-moment feeling while riding and the challenge of climbing up a hill and the exhilaration of speeding down a hill,” said Braddock. “I decided to lead my own weekly group ride with a beginner pace and terrain, to find women to ride with and to be able to offer a supportive and inclusive experience to new cyclists. Leading was fun, confidence-boosting and rewarding. And my ride attendees were appreciative and spread the word about my group ride.”
She said women wanted to find other women to cycle with, and there was a lack of women-only clubs in the area.
“Cycling can be an intimidating sport. It's male-dominated and there is very little information or outlets to get started in cycling, especially for women,” said Braddock.
“HbW provides the cycling mentorship, inclusiveness and camaraderie women desire. HbW also provides an opportunity to learn how to ride safely on open roads, which has in turn attracted many new riders,” she said.
An unanticipated but welcome surprise, she noted, was how many highly trained semi-pro cyclists joined the club to bike with fellow women as well as give back by mentoring more novice riders.
“The club is volunteer-based and we have an amazing network of smart, athletic and supportive women willing to help out and give back,” said Braddock. “It's an unparalleled success and HbW volunteers and members live its mission. I continue to serve as our volunteer club leader. I also continue to lead my weekly group ride, now at an intermediate level, since my cycling ability has improved since last year.”
HbW will participate next in Cycletta Fondo , a women's cycling series with a competitive and recreational aspects. The first event takes place Aug. 17 in Berkeley Heights.
“As this is the first women's-only fondo in New Jersey, HbW looks forward to having a large showing of members,” said Braddock. “For myself and many other women, it is the first time we will enter into an organized cycling event.”