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Out Velo bringing the LGBTQ+ cycling community together

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To mark Pride month, here’s a look at how the inclusive cycling club ‘Out Velo’ is bringing people together across the UK to enjoy cycling adventures both in person, and online.

While being LGBTQ+ led, Out Velo are also open to those who don’t identify themselves as LGBTQ+ to join them too. 

The organisation run road cycling weekends and day rides across the UK, often in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while they also organise group trips abroad.

Wales’ beautiful landscapes certainly make for a dynamic geographical playground for many cyclists, but attending Out Velo’s in-person events can be a challenge for some due to the limitations of rural transport links. However, Out Velo have found a way of connecting people by co-ordinating group rides on Zwift, the multiplayer online cycling and running physical training programme that enables users to interact, train, and compete in a virtual world. This allows them to offer a truly inclusive cycling experience so that members don’t feel like they’re missing out. 

Why an LGBTQ+ cycling club?

David Sharpe, co-founder of Out Velo said: “LGBTQ+ people still face many challenges. Studies have shown they are less likely to participate in sport and are much more likely to struggle with mental health. The community support that was historically offered on the 'scene' in UK big cities is now mostly found in LGBTQ+ sport and social clubs, and we think there will always be a place for these, creating a space where people can relate to each other in a context beyond the apps and bars.”

He added: “The conversations that take place within our events are noticeably different to those in a traditional cycling club. People talk about their relationships, work and other aspects of life in an open and inclusive environment, sharing what's not often shared. We talk openly about mental health and difficult life decisions. We also talk about cycling of course, and in particular what bucket list adventures we're planning next.”

The challenge of bringing LGBTQ+ people together across Wales

In London especially, LGBTQ+ cycling and sport in general is successful, but this is less so in more remote areas. In rural Wales, Out Velo have found it can be difficult for LGBTQ+ people to participate in sport, especially LGBTQ+ specific sport, and enjoy the benefits due to geographic isolation. 

David said: “This is one of the main challenges that Out Velo are seeking to address. Learning from our friends at Outdoor Lads, who have made Wales a key base for many years, we are running road cycling weekends throughout Wales across the year. We have had people from as far afield as Anglesey, Pembrokeshire and the Marches join us for rides in other parts of Wales, and in some cases, show those from the rest of Wales and the UK around their home area, giving them a chance to meet other LGBTQ+ people from far and wide and enjoy the amazing landscapes Wales has to offer.”

a man cycling in the countryside
LGBTQ+ people still face many challenges. Studies have shown they are less likely to participate in sport and are much more likely to struggle with mental health.
David Sharpe, Co-founder of Out Velo

Digital facilitation

One key tool in Out Velo’s approach in bringing people together online is Zwift. This enables LGBTQ+ cyclists to chat and get to know each other before meeting in person. This has led directly to a number of events this year, including one in Anglesey. Out Velo are also working closely with the leaders of the international LGBTQ+ Zwifters group, based in the rural Scottish borders where there are similar challenges to bring people together. 

David commented: “At the same time as the rise of Zwift and digital changes in organising sport, dedicated events management apps such as Heylo and Spond have made it easier than ever to set up sports clubs, and this is one of the key reasons Out Velo has become as successful as we are now.” 

“It is clear that digital innovation is enabling people to connect more in sport, not less. We are experiencing a time of great change in sport, and LGBTQ+ cycling in particular, and we are excited about the future!”

Welsh Cycling CEO, Caroline Spanton said: “Out Velo offer fantastic opportunities to bring people together in a supportive environment. Moving forward, we at Welsh Cycling want to ensure that cycling is inclusive and there are opportunities for all to participate. By understanding the work of Out Velo and other organisations further we will look to break down barriers and get more people out on their bikes enjoying the amazing Welsh landscapes.”

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