Shirla Poole: Black Women To The Front

I bought my first road bike in 2015 and started riding with my gym instructor and a couple of gym members, all black guys. The guys were too fast for me, so I looked for a local club, only to find pictures of white, middle-aged guys with no other person of colour and no other ladies. I persevered until I discovered Islington CC. They had a large ladies’ group, one out of two wasn’t bad (black and/ or ladies!), so I decided to join.

After I had joined ICC, I also joined LIV Camden, a ladies’ cycling club, on an overseas trip to Amsterdam. I felt immediately comfortable and was pleased to see a diverse mix within the club, not just women of colour but also different nationalities.

My cycling progressed, I would ride most days, but I needed to train. Coach Watto’s weekly training sessions for women in Regent’s Park helped me progress. Watto invited me to take part in CC London’s training camp in Calpe, Spain. It was my very first training camp. We rode on many of the same roads used by pro riders, and the climbs, especially, really tested me. The whole experience was awesome, and I made some great friends. On my return, I joined CC London.

Alongside being a member of Islington CC, LIV Camden, and CC London, I am also a member of RideFest, a group of likeminded black riders.

I first met RideFest on a trip to the Isle of Wight, taking part in a Randonee. RideFest openly welcomed me into the fold. This group was started in 2016 by a collective of black skiers and friends, who had a ski group called SkiFest. They came together to form a positive black cycling community. The group is quite chilled – easy on the testosterone, so we have a mix of 50/50 men and women, which is unusual in cycling. I have been a member since 2017. Cycling YouTuber Francis Cade featured us in one of his videos which you can watch here.

Someone told me it is unusual in cycling for one person to be in so many clubs at the same time, but I would say I take what I need from the different groups to progress. My journey has involved a range of activities and experiences, and I have made many new friends along the way. It is important to be open. 

Picture: Shirla Poole, courtesy of Shirla Poole