SINGAPORE - When business development manager Jane Baldovino received a Facebook message inviting her to join all-female cycling group Pedal Bellas from its founder Annabel Buidon, the 28-year-old was hesitant.
"I was not really keen on joining any cycling groups as I was afraid to do so," said Baldovino, a Filipina who has been working in Singapore for six years. The cycling enthusiast said she was not as fit or athletic as the other members.
After some convincing from Buidon, a 35-year-old Filipina who has worked in Singapore for 12 years, Baldovino agreed to join the group on its weekly Sunday rides from Mandai to the city.
"At first, I felt intimidated because I didn't know anyone and when I arrived, everyone looked professional and athletic. I was the only one with a heavy gravel bike while the rest used expensive road bikes," Baldovino recalled.
"But the moment they started talking to me, all those feelings of hesitation and insecurities went out the window."
She has now been a part of Pedal Bellas for close to 18 months and said that joining the group gave her a sense of belonging.
"They are approachable and made me feel like it is okay to start from zero since they did the same too. It's not a requirement to know how to cycle, you just need to want to be able to know."
For Buidon, starting the group in October 2020 was a casual venture with the friends she had made in other cycling groups and triathlons.
Competing in triathlons since 2014, the facilities manager wanted to form an all-female group to cycle casually on weekends after seeing that most cycling groups were predominantly male.
Now, the 30-odd strong group of female cyclists ride in groups of five every Sunday at 5am and end their 40km journey with breakfast in town.
"We want the ladies who join us to be confident on the road," Buidon said.
A few months after the group was formed, the members took to social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to document their weekly rides. The accounts now double up as a recruitment page for other female cyclists who are in search of a cycling group.
Baldovino recalled one of the key motivating factors for joining the group was that they were all females.
"It makes me feel safer to cycle within a group and they know what your needs are. They know what your strength and capacity is like. They control the pace and look out for each other."
When she first joined, she was one of the slowest and the other members had to slow down for her when they were riding on the highway.
"Before joining, I had many reservations and concerns but it didn't matter that they were all seasoned cyclists because regardless of my level, they made me feel like it was not too late for me to start."
Buidon added that it is important that "we all ride together".
"I want to show ladies out there that there is a group of female cyclists and we are willing to help and guide those who are not confident yet.
"Women from different walks of life may want to go out of their comfort zone and try cycling and I think Pedal Bellas can provide an environment and a community where they can feel they belong."
Baldovino will be participating in the women's category of the OCBC Cycle 2022 Speedway Championships with four other riders from the group on May 7 at the Singapore Sports Hub. The women's category, which will be making its debut this year, will also be Baldovino's first cycling competition.
Several members of the group including Buidon will be participating in the 200km virtual ride from May 7 to June 6 as well.
Registration ends on April 25 or when all slots are taken up. For more information, visit this website.