Scottish rider Jen George says she’s been left “not wanting to ride [her] bike” after being followed on the roads on two separate occasions, both involving men on motorbikes.
The 39-year-old, who went on to win the Cycling Time Trials (CTT) National Circuit Championships on Sunday, told Cycling Weekly that she was “keen to not let this beat me”, but that she “wouldn’t be riding at the moment” were it not for scheduled racing events.
George, who has ridden for Torelli–Brother and Drops cycling team over the course of her career, told Cycling Weekly that she suffered two attacks – one in April this year, and another the following month.
The incidents, she said, left her feeling unsafe whilst riding outside; she’s since spoken to other female riders who she says have experienced similar incidents, including “sexual harassment.”
The first incident took place in April, when George was out on a solo training ride near London. She says that two men on a motorbike began to follow her before they then started “playing chicken” with her.
“[The bike passed me] then sped away, ahead, and did a ‘U-ey’ and turned around, on my side of the road – so the wrong side of the road – and came straight at me almost like they were playing chicken,” she describes.
“At the last second they swerved road side and I swerved curb side. I don’t know how they missed hitting me with their back wheel.”
“Instinct kicked in, I went into fight or flight mode straightaway,” George says.
George turned into a pub car park, where she lost sight of the men.
The second incident took place a few weeks later.
“The second time it was two motorcycles, or scooters rather, one in front of the other. They came towards me and my stomach just started churning again. As I rode past they leered at me and I instantly thought not again, what do I do, what do I do,” George explained.
“The second time, especially after the first, just made things so much worse. They came back round again and leered at me to the point that both riders weren’t even looking where they were going,” she added.
George initially believed that the motorbike-mounted riders were trying to steal her bike. However, she’s now less certain.
“My bike is so unknown, so if you see it, you wouldn’t recognize it. I nicknamed my bike ‘Frank’, it’s literally made from spare parts. I wasn’t riding my racer, I wasn’t on my Cervélo. This bike isn’t a Trek, Specialized, Bianchi or whatever which makes me think they changed their mind the second time.
“However, their intention wasn’t to steal my bike” George added.
The incidents have left George feeling nervous whilst riding outside, and taking to alternative training routes in order to avoid a repeat.
“I’ve based all of my rides since that experience elsewhere. Even with other riders, I’ve struggled to go back,” she tearfully told Cycling Weekly.
George only got back on the road to ride the CTT National Circuit Championships, a race she won, on Sunday – fueled by “anger, frustration and raw emotion.”
“I had a look at the route for the race last Sunday as I knew there would be other cyclists on it. Other than that and then the race itself, I haven’t ridden my bike outside since,” she told Cycling Weekly. “If it wasn’t for the fact I’ve got events… I wouldn’t be riding at the moment. I’m left just not wanting to ride my bike. [But] I’m keen to not let this beat me.”
George has reported both incidents to the police.
“They spoke to me but have now closed this off as there was no CCTV footage of what happened,” she said.
“At the time, I didn’t think to ask if anyone had any dashcam footage or anything. I wasn’t functioning at all.”
George has since connected with other female cyclists, who she says have had similar experiences – spurring her on to speak out about her own trauma.
“[I’ve joined a WhatsApp group that is] full of other horror stories of incidents that have happened just while they’ve been out riding their bikes. Anything from sexual harassment, close passes whatever! All affecting women.” she said.
“My intention is not to try and get sympathy out of this. I just don’t want it to happen to anybody else. It really pains me that somebody else could have the joy of cycling taken away from them, particularly someone who is new to it. I just want to make people aware that this is happening and encourage people to try and ride with others,” George concluded.
Cycling Weekly contacted Surrey Police force for comment, they declined to comment as the first incident did not have a crime reference number.