Welcome to WE ARE WONDERWOMEN, a series of short stories from inspirational women who swim, run and cycle amongst us. Ahead of International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March 2021, I’ll be celebrating the achievements, talking about the challenges and sharing tips from a variety of women across our sporting community.
If you’re a fan of cycling you may have already come across Rapha Women’s Ambassador Shuhena. She is a wonderwoman spinning many plates as a lawyer, cyclist and advocate for Muslim women and people of colour in cycling.
From learning to cycle as an adult to pedalling around Essex, then venturing further afield- including managing a whopping 170kms to Margate. Shuhena shares what gets her through a tough session, who inspires her and lobbying for hijab in virtual cycling.
She’s even promised me a trip up the infamous Swain’s Lane, which has been on my bucket list for ages! (She’s got all the insider knowledge!)
Here is Shuhena’s story…
Hello Wonderwoman! Tell us a little bit about yourself….
I’m Shuhena , based in London. I’m a lawyer by day, Lycra girl is my alter ego, the costume for saving the world through cycling.
Rapha made me the world’s first cycling hijab, I became the face of Muslim women in the sport globally. I now act as conduit between women and brands, from lobbying for hijab in virtual cycling to conveying cycling bra needs!
How did you get into cycling?
A Muslim women’s group taught me how to ride aged 20. I started on a hybrid and it took me a couple of sessions to ride but lots of time to become confident- cycling in parks and along the canals mainly. Then I got into cycling aged 27 when in Dubai. I didn’t become confident on the road until 2018, and only became confident in road shoes plus speedplay pedals in 2019.
What is your biggest achievement?
In life, probably qualifying as a lawyer and completing my Hajj – one of the five pillars of my faith. I would love to cycle 5000 Kim’s to Makkah! As an endurance rider I love long all day rides, the furthest I’ve been is 170kms to Margate!
I’m also really proud to have gotten back on the bike after three crashes.
What inspires you?
My mum, having lots of children and the stamina for us all. I am inspired by lots of women in my sport, for example- Cannondale athlete Laura King, Elinor Barker, Lizzie Deignan, Hannah Barnes to name a few. My biggest role model is Ibtihaj Muhammad the first Muslim woman in hijab to win medals in the Olympics, which is huge. I would also like to be inspired by future me.
What motivates you to get through a challenging session or tough point in a race?
I look at my stats, be it indoor cycling on Sufferfest or Zwift or staring at my wahoo 😂 Also harnessing the invisible peloton concept by Emily Chapell or thinking of my late father and how I’d like to make him proud.
What do you think the biggest challenges for women getting into cycling are, and what tips or advice might you have to overcome these?
For my demographic of women, clothing is a big deal. I’d like to think brands will diversify to include all women. The lack of media in cycling for women’s races, the cost of Lycra and bikes is not inclusive, leading to a lack of representation.
What are your top three tips for women getting into cycling?
- Learn how to ride a bike
- Switch to cleats as soon as you can- I didn’t get confident in cleats until 2019. SPDs didn’t take me too long, but road shoes and cleats are another story!
- and finally enjoy your ride – it’s pleasure not punishment.
Thank you for sharing your story and tips! You can catch up with Shuhena on her instagram or catch up with her interview with Rapha last year.