by Alexandra W. Jones
Competing for higher wages might be the biggest challenge facing female athletes.
“Women in cycling are under-resourced, under-recognized, underpaid and just provided less opportunity compared to men, even with the same skill and ability level,” says Taylor Kuyk-White, who works as a youth program manager for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.
In 2016, she became the first member of the Philly Bike Expo’s elite women’s team when Stephen and Bina Bilenky, the father-daughter founders of the Expo, recruited her.
According to Kuyk-White, Philadelphia has an incredible scene for recreational women’s cycling teams.
“But there’s a void in what riders can aspire to once they reach the elite field,” she explains, noting there are a small number of elite women’s riding teams based in the area.
As the only female owner of a bike expo in the country, creating a women’s team was an intentional move on Bina’s part, Kuyk-White says.
The Expo has made gender equity and inclusion a top priority since its inception, says Bina, who operates as the team’s manager.
“Promoting and increasing women’s participation in cycling and the industry is very important to me,” she explains. “Developing a women’s race team seemed like the right step to show my commitment.”
From 2016 to 2018, Kuyk-White was the team’s only member, pedaling away in road, mountain bike and cycle-cross events. Toward the end of 2018, however, thanks to additional revenue from sponsors, the Expo was able to add Samantha Fox to its repertoire. A biomechanist by day who researches healthy human movement for Thomas Jefferson University, Fox had befriended Kuyk-White at previous races.
“Taylor and I had both showed up with no teammates and ended up working together,” Fox explains.
The duo, complemented by seven guest riders, had a very successful 2019. After competing in 31 races across eight different states and four biking disciplines, the expo’s team members had placed 17 times on the podium, seven of which were race wins.
One of Fox’s favorite moments racing with the team was in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I didn’t get to finish because I got in an accident that broke my bike, but I got to watch Taylor from the sidelines just destroy and exceed her goals,” she says. Kuyk-White adds that as a team, they’ve developed a sense of unity.
Both are also advocating for more equality in the sport.
“It costs women the same amount to get bikes, to get service, to register for races, gas … costs just as much,” Kuyk-White says. “But then when I get to the race and I place, I will get paid less than a male colleague.”
Kuyk-White says the Philly Bike Expo elite team’s goal is to grow to five full-time riders for the 2020 season.