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WyndyMilla’s Nasima Siddiqui on how diversity makes us stronger

WyndyMilla co-founder Nasima Siddiqui talks cycle clubs, inclusion and shaking up the market

What motivated you to co-found WyndyMilla?
My husband and I were both personal trainers when we met in 2007. He was an elite cyclist and I was riding a road bike recreationally, dabbling in the odd sprint triathlon. Our clients started to get into cycling through us from around 2008, and they wanted advice on where to buy high-end bikes. We referred them to bike fitters offering made-to-measure brands – only US custom carbon bikes were available at the time.

We didn’t know it was the start of a great renaissance in British cycling, but we were referring more and more high-end bikes sales for no financial gain. What we did know was that the credit crunch was biting, and I was eight weeks pregnant with my first daughter. PT is a difficult job if you have kids – early mornings and late evenings. So that was it – we decided to make made-to-measure bikes ourselves, keep them European and shake up this part of the market. We’ve not looked back!

What has your experience been of being a Muslim woman in the cycling industry?
Religion is something I keep very separate from my cycling life. I ride my bike and it’s only when I experience a near-miss with a car, or tackle a treacherous descent, that my mind may wander into the realms of connecting with God. Aside from that, when I’m cycling, I’m a cyclist first and foremost and my religion and gender have no bearing overall. Within the industry, the relationships I form and the connections I make are on a professional level, and religion doesn’t really play a part. From a socialising perspective, people who are heavily into their health and fitness don’t tend to drink alcohol anyway, so the worlds marry up quite well!

Do you have a local retailer that you go to, and if so, what was your experience of visiting the first time?
I always like to visit Sigma Sport in Kingston when buying new bike shoes. I joke that picking the right brand and size of cycle shoe is harder than picking the name of your newborn! They are brilliantly accustomed to OCD folk like myself, who spend many an hour deliberating between half a shoe size! When I first visited, they were in a much smaller location, so it was always rammed and therefore had quite an exciting atmosphere – I couldn’t believe how expensive everything was and I, of course, lusted after everything! I, therefore, tried not to visit too often! I was new to the sport and didn’t understand how expensive cycling could be if you choose to go down that route.

How inclusive do you think the cycling industry is to the Muslim community?
In terms of cycling products, hijabs that you wear under helmets and baggy shorts are an area of difference when compared to non-muslim cyclists. I’m Muslim and I don’t wear either. I dress for functionality and absolutely cover my head when it’s cold or if it’s sunny and reserve baggies for mountain-bike rides only. Does the cycling industry cater for these products? I know Nike and Decathlon have a range of hijabs and of course, baggies can easily be found in most high-street bike shops or online.

Why is it important for cycling brands and shops to promote diversity in the industry?
As we can see in all parts of our lives, diversity is being addressed everywhere – in the workplace, in schools, in the fashion world – walk past a Primark’s shop window and you see images of diversity at every level. The cycle industry has to follow suit, otherwise, we become that old school sport that doesn’t move with the times.

Essentially, diversity makes us stronger. We know from a biological point of view – the bigger the gene pool, the better. The other crucial component is the environment, the more environmental differences, the better – the more diverse the social interaction the better, the bringing together of people from different walks of life, the more interesting and the more inspiring. The more cultural diversity, the better. This is what fuels our community both on and off the bike and brings so much more to the table!

In terms of BAME riders entering the sport for the first time, I hope that when they approach their local club they are welcomed with open arms as every new member should be, regardless of ethnic background or gender. I feel as cycling clubs go, we can do a lot better to compete with other sports like running, for example, we need to make our point of entry into the sport a lot more accessible.

There are so many running apps and training plans such as Couch to 5K, so many fun runs where you can compete, regularly with people from any age, any ability, any background. For cycling to do this, I would love to see more clubs catering for newcomers, doing more beginner rides and teaching adults how to ride bikes again on the roads safely in a group. It would be nice for British Cycling to make this one of their policies in that any club that is BC-affiliated needs to be open to all in terms of gender and ethnicity and needs to provide X number of beginner rides, or rides within the local community.

Essentially, the more people cycling, the more accepting this nation will be of people cycling. The more people cycling, the bigger the base and the greater the opportunity for more women to race or for more BAME riders to compete – it would be a very positive cycle, indeed.

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