The women’s cycling audience survey – what we did and who responded

In September, Dan and I ran a women’s cycling audience survey.  We did it because, like so many other things we’ve done together, we wanted to see what would happen, and we thought it would be fun.  We had a podcast conversation about the whys and hows, and things that surprised us from the results, but we also wanted to put up a series of posts about what we found.  These will be short posts about different aspects that caught our attention, and at the end I’ll put links into one post, for ease of reference.  But it’s probably a good idea to start with what we did, why, and who responded.

Our methodology

Dan deals in social media marketing as part of his day job, and I’ve worked with stats to a certain extent, but I’m pretty much coming at this as an amateur, so it was interesting working on this together, and challenging each other’s assumptions.

We hosted our survey on SurveyMonkey, and we ran it over the 2014 Road World Championships, because we wanted to catch the wider audience, as our stats naturally have peaks when there are events that are easy to watch (and that’s told us some interesting things, over the period we’ve been ‘casting and blogging).

We wanted to use the survey to get us answers, and also to get an idea of our social media reach – so we posted it here on our website, on my tumblr, and on Podium Café, where I post a lot, but we mainly publicised it on twitter, and asked a couple of our friends to RT it.  We had considered putting out a press release, and posting it on other fora, but we wanted to get an idea of how far we could get with this minimal approach.  We opened it on Tuesday 23rd September 2014, when the women’s ITT was on, and we stopped it on Sunday 29th, after the men’s road race.  To be honest, we stopped because we’d passed the free 1,000 response mark, and it got too expensive to continue, but it also felt like once we’d hit the 1,500 mark, we were in statistically significant territory, and could be confident our results had meaning.

We tried to make it as easy as possible – stressing that people only should answer the questions that they wanted to, and allowing anonymous answers.  Our survey was a mix of tick boxes and open-ended questions, so some things are hard numbers, other things have been analysed by hand.

So who replied?

We had 1,645 answers over all – because people chose which questions to answer, that doesn’t mean everything is a percentage of 1,645 – but there were at least 1,000 replies to each question, so they’re definitely statistically significant results.

Gender of respondents

Women's cycling audience survey - gender of respondents60.58% of respondents were male, 39.42% female.  This changed over the life of the survey, as we started off with more of a 55% male/45% female split until we got somewhere near the 1,000 responses mark, when it had spread beyond our networks.  That was interesting to watch, and it would be fun to look at it over time, if we ever did, say, a month-long survey.  It was also satisfying, as I’ve been told that the cycling/women’s cycling audience is general 80% male, 20% female, so this idea that “women don’t like sport” turned out to be as false as we’d assumed.  Obviously this is something we had guessed from our social media interactions, but it was great to see it confirmed.

women's cycling survey results - age of respondentsI was a little bit surprised that the biggest group of respondents who answered were 40-49, but maybe that’s also about where we drew the age boundaries?

  • 17 or younger: 1.41% (16)
  • 18-20: 2.46% (28
  • 21-29: 18.38% (209)
  • 30-39: 28.06% (319)
  • 40-49: 31.93% (363)
  • 50-59: 15.54% (154)
  • 60 and over: 4.22% (48)

 Where did respondents come from?

Country of respondents1,137 people replied to this one, and it’s not really surprising, the country split – I’m British, Dan’s Australian, I tried to hit major timezones in my tweets, but it was an English-language survey, so if I was going to do this again, one thing I’d look at is going into partnership with women’s cycling sites that are French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and German (as an example), get the questions in different languages, and try to get more of an international flavour.  But we always said this was a starting point survey, not a definitive answer.  But it’s still interesting to see who we reached this way, and we still have some great numbers in there.

The other thing I learned was if I do this again, I’m definitely having a drop-down menu on questions like this, as working out the figures by hand was a long job!

For those who are wondering, the question was “Which country do you currently live in?” (I absolutely love that someone answered Sufferlandria!) and because it was an open answer, as a Brit, I was interested in the break-down of how people replied about the UK.  For the respondent who stressed they are NOT from the UK or Great Britain, they’re in SCOTLAND, I’m including this breakdown of the 456 UK respondents

  • United Kingdom/UK: 67.98%
  • England: 20.61%
  • Scotland: 4.61%
  • Great Britain/GB: 3.29%
  • Wales/Cymru: 3.09%
  • Northern Ireland: 0.22%
  • Isle of Man: 0.22%

What is your interest in women's cycling1,440 people answered this question, but they could tick more than one box, so the figures add up to a larger number than that – the percentages are of overall respondents, not the total answers, for eagle-eyed readers who’ve spotted they add up to more than 100%!

We also included an “other” box, for people who didn’t fit into one of those categories, or wanted to add supplementary information.  109 people used this, and the answers fall into clusters.

Other categories of people included:

  • 11 people (0.76%) just called themselves a cycling fan, and made the point this was regardless of gender.  This had both positive phrasing (“I just love the sport!“) to seeing the idea of diving by gender as negative.
  • 9 people (0.63%) friends/family/fiancé/ex of a pro; 3 former pro riders (0.21%); 5 (0.35%) women who want to start racing, or rather as youths and want to turn pro; 4 (0.28%) were parents of kids who race & want to go pro; 2 (0.14%) specifically watched/wanted to watch women cycling with their kids; and 2 90.14%) women race domestically and both said that if it wasn’t for their age, they’d want to give everything up and go pro.
  • 3 people said they’re women, and relate more to women’s sport than men – and 1 man said he relates far more to men’s cycling because he’s a man.
  • People from other parts of the bike industry included 4 coaches; 3 people who run women’s teams, 3 people who sponsor them; a woman who runs a bike shop with her husband; a woman who’s a bike mechanic; a press officer at a UCI women’s team (“doing it for fun, not getting paid“); and a race organiser.
  • There were also 4 bloggers/forum writers, and 2 of them said they also are paid to write occasionally for cycling publications
  • 3 people said they’d become disenchanted with men’s cycling and had turned to women’s (in 1 case because “women’s cycling is potentially cleaner“)
  • 7 people specifically said that they follow/promote women’s cycling because they’re a feminist, are interested in the sociopolitical issues in sport, or started because they have a commitment to equality/wanted to change things

Additional comments:

21 people (1.46%) included additional commentary about how they’d be more of a fan if they could see more.  Comments included

  • Fan equally of women’s & men’s cycling, but it’s more difficult being the former!  
  • Bit difficult to answer ,when media coverage so bias-generally 90% show men’s racing
  • TV coverage in America is bad enough for the men, it is non-existent for women. I would watch it if it was available.
  • There’s a limit as to how much we can follow due to poor coverage
  • I actually prefer watching women’s racing, but as you know, can’t see enough of it.
  • re: the above answers I gave. I couldn’t care less about the gender and women’s racing tends to be fantastically aggressive but the TV coverage just isn’t there to enable me to follow it as much, plus most of my friends who love cycling don’t follow it so much so it’s harder to discuss it with them
  • I mostly watch men’s cycling, because women’s races are so rare to be seen. (Fortunately UCI Channel provides at least the World Cup races).
  • I’m mostly a fan of men’s cycling, but I follow women’s cycling whenever I can get access. More access = more of my attention.
  • I watch more men’s because women don’t get a chance to do the best things like Tour de France

This was a theme throughout the whole of the survey – the single thing people want more of is the chance to see more, but it’s not just the hard-core fans who want more, it’s pretty much everyone.


In the next post in the series, I’ll focus on why people said they love cycling – and over the next month or so, we’ll work through the survey, talking about things that struck us as well as the stats – and sharing some of our very favourite comments.  If you have any specific questions about any of it, please leave a comment below, or ask me on twitter.

I’ve also been inspired by this to start a new social media-based research project – just one question, “when did you get into women’s cycling and why?”, so I can make a timeline or some over kind of visualisation.  If you could give me a quick reply, eg “Nicole Cooke in the 2008 Olympics”, that would be wonderful – leave it in the comments, or tell me on twitter.  Thank you so much!

I’m able to carve out the time it takes to do all this because of my wonderful Patreon supporters – thank you so much, each and every one of you, I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

Next:  Survey part 2 – what cycling do people follow?


14 thoughts on “The women’s cycling audience survey – what we did and who responded

    • Indeed, one of the reasons I started this was seeing the spikes in the survey of people mentioning it, and I wanted to plot a timeline, and see where the big moments have been – and also to be able to show athletes that they really do count, that even if they’re not racing any more, their legacy lives on.

  1. Great stuff Sarah and Dan.

    Re social media reasearch – Got into womens cycling following Sarah’s section in the eurosport cycling podcast (done by velocast guys) in 2013. Started listening to your podcast at end of 2013 and been addicted ever since!

  2. Like Alan I really got drawn in to Women’s cycling from listening to the eurosport cycling podcast & hearing Sarah’s passionate reporting on women’s cycling which drew me in to seek out more. With limited internet & no satellite/cable TV most of my following is through your podcast & blog.

  3. No Twitter for me, so I’ll spill it here…

    I stumbled into women’s cycling almost by “accident” watching the 2011 Worlds (Copenhagen) on Universal Sports (US television). The commentators talked a lot about the rivalry between the Dutch and Italian teams, then Clara Hughes’ long breakaway into the final lap that *nearly* made it, followed by the final sprint where Giorgia Bronzini pipped Marianne Vos and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg to the line. The post-race emotional reactions, with Gio & the Italians ecstatic while Marianne & the Dutchies crying their eyes from just missing out yet again(!) piqued my interest almost immediately…

    And, just to show, that was my first-ever exposure to a women’s race, that pretty much sums up the lack of any coverage!

    Then, thanks for the most part to you & Podium Cafe, I learned a lot about the riders (esp. Vos and Evie Stevens). Evie out-sprinting Marianne up the Muur at Flèche Wallonne in 2012 was another eye-opener. The Giro Donne was still another. But what really sealed the deal was the London Olympics Women’s Road Race! That was drama.. and leagues above that farce of a Men’s Road Race the day before (yeah, Vino really deserved that gold-medal.. pptt!). After London, I was hooked!

    And, needless to say, I cheered loudly when Marianne carried the Dutch flag across the line in Valkenburg. Sarah, I have you to thank for that… 😀

  4. Maybe you need to do another different survey (if it hasn’t been done recently in a proper manner with a wide sample group) that would reach cyclists like myself who don’t watch /follow women’s cycling at this time but maybe moderately interested.

    • This was deliberately designed as a women’s cycling audience survey. Since my followers all pretty much have some interest in women’s cycling, even if it’s not their primary focus, or it’s just an ephemeral interest, I don’t know how I’d reach people who don’t follow women’s cycling at all. I’d be interested if other twitterers could reach a similar sample size – from my day job, over 1,500 is considered definitely healthy numbers, esp in less than a week. I mean, I would absolutely love to reach more people who aren’t already following the sport, that’s my goal, and from all the feedback, I do ok at reaching outside an echo chamber, but I have no idea how to reach those I’m not reachin – if I did, I’d be doing my damnedest to reach them, if that makes sense 🙂

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