More reasons to be cheerful: how women led a cycling boom in 2020  

The end of the year has always been a time for reviews and analysis, whether it is the sporting year, the political year, film or music – it is always fun to look back and see what was the biggest, the best, the worst – and the most embarrassing.

These days, this analysis can also be deeply personal and bespoke as all the apps we subscribe to bombard us with our year in numbers. Spotify tells me my most played tunes of the year (Post Malone’s Circles coming out on top this year, surprisingly), Twitter and Facebook can show me my post popular posts of the year and who read them while Strava tells me how many kilometres I have run this year and how long it took me (no comment).

Strava also published its annual big data report too last week and, while one would have certainly expected big numbers after the year we have had, there were some interesting stories to come out of their report too.

One of the app’s biggest findings was that women had led the way with huge increases in the numbers of women running, walking – but particularly cycling – during the pandemic.

Strava saw the number of uploaded runs and cycle rides almost doubled year-on-year and the number of recorded walks tripled, and attributed this largely to women being far more active.

Strava’s director of international marketing Simon Klima, told The Guardian:  “We’ve seen a real boost from women in terms of overall activity levels during the pandemic year.

“There could be several reasons for that but in the past our research has found that one of the biggest blocks for women to cycling is a perceived safety risk. But during the pandemic women perhaps felt safer to take to their bicycles, thanks to some temporary infrastructure improvements and quieter roads.”

Strava said it tracked over 1.1bn activities uploaded by 72m users in 2020 and found that the average number of activities uploaded by women was 45% for the 18-29 year group and 25% in other categories. For men the rise was around 10%.

And in Britain, where there are 9 million users of the app, the difference was even more marked. Here, there was a 108% rise in the average number of activities by women in the 18-29 age group, and rises of between 52% and 65% in other age categories.

According to Strava, Britons were also comparatively more active than other nations during lockdown, helped by less strict regulations on exercising outdoors compared with countries such as Italy, Spain and France, where there were huge drops in outdoor exercise levels between March and May. As the government aims to make Britain the most active nation in the world, by 2030, those numbers will make pleasing reading.

It also found that 55% of users recorded Personal Bests for running – whether in 5km, 10km, half or full marathons. I know I smashed my 5km PB back in May and was more than happy to share the news among my friends and neighbours. That sense of competition and achievement has surely benefited Sportsiders during lockdown and that will continue in 2021.

There was further good news for cycling last week when UK Sport revealed its investment in British sports for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The sport, which has earned Team GB 103 medals in the past three Olympic and Paralympic Games, was granted over £27m, a 12% increase.

Overall UK Sport has said it will invest £352m in British sports for the Games in Paris in four years time, dividing that money across 43 sports as outlined below. An additional new fund worth £3m will also be open to applications from other sports such as breaking, which we featured here several months ago.

Sportside was delighted to see new additions like climbing, skateboarding and surfing all included, although sums dedicated for those sports appears to have come at a cost for more traditional sports like athletics, gymnastics, rowing and swimming, who have all had budgets cut by around 10%.

Other cuts have also been seen in sailing, canoeing, equestrian and modern pentathlon as UK Sport has made a conscious effort to support the sports that have often struggled for nationwide recognition.

Badminton, which saw a significant increase, and GB wheelchair rugby, which had its funding restored, were other winners in last week’s announcement.

While British rowing’s chief executive Andy Parkinson said he was not surprised at the cut for his sport, the CEO at Pentathlon GB Sara Heath said she was “perplexed” by the 20% cut her sport received.

Sally Munday, UK Sport chief executive, justified the decision, saying: “We wanted to reach more sports than we’ve ever been able to before and as a result we have had to make some pretty tough decisions.

“I believe that the sports that have been consistently successful will continue to be successful with the funding that they have received.”


Olympic & Paralympic funding
Archery £2,134,257
Athletics £22,175,520
Badminton £3,154,358
Boxing £11,395,507
Canoeing £12,108,836
Cycling £27,601,684
Diving £8,463,542
Equestrian £11,085,964
Gymnastics £12,510,990
Hockey £12,376,622
Judo £5,446,804
Modern Pentathlon £4,391,183
Rowing £22,212,008
Sailing £21,338,088
Shooting £5,802,749
Swimming £16,590,017
Taekwondo £7,776,898
Triathlon £6,806,550
Boccia £3,473,835
Para-Archery £2,633,644
Para-Athletics £9,065,401
Para-Badminton £1,106,833
Para-Canoe £3,032,881
Para-Cycling £7,829,158
Para-Equestrian £3,011,243
Para-Shooting £1,692,915
Para-Rowing £3,139,577
Para-Swimming £7,829,247
Para-Table Tennis £3,717,787
Para-Taekwondo £563,162
Para-Triathlon £3,814,618
Powerlifting £1,612,722
VI Judo £847,617
Wheelchair Basketball (pictured below) £4,197,157
Wheelchair Fencing £1,599,819
Wheelchair Rugby £2,650,289
Basketball £1,350,000
Climbing £1,562,811
Fencing £1,672,485
Skateboarding £1,672,485
Surfing £1,350,000
Table Tennis £1,350,000
Weightlifting £1,350,000

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