For Ina de Visser, riding a bike came shortly after learning to walk. “Being a Dutch national, we get our first bicycle at the age of two or three. Cycling is the easiest way to get around,” she tells me.
The expat, who moved to Luxembourg two years ago, has not lost the habit. She rides to her job at the European Investment Bank daily and stands out among the growing tide of cyclists because of her attire. De Visser rides in skirts, heels, suits, you name it. “I do also wear lycra”, she points out, but that is her other sports cycling hat.
De Visser began cycling as a sport aged 21 after a friend introduced her. “It started with events, Grand Fondos, unlicensed race events in the Netherlands and Germany,” she said. It soon evolved into endurance races. “I did a 12,000 kilometre race across Africa by mountain bike. 10 years earlier I would never have thought I would do that!” she laughs.
De Visser may be a competitive cyclist, but she is also a natural coach. I met her for the first time when I participated in a Latte Macchiato ride, a monthly ride she organises for women through the Velolatte Facebook group, starting at Andy Schleck cycles in Itzig. “I love riding with men, it’s not a problem, but sometimes you hope to ride with other women, not to compete against them,” she said.
She started the rides in September 2018 for the social aspect of meeting other women cyclists. At the time of writing, she had around 150 members on Facebook. She says her goal is to “lower the threshold” so that more women can get started in sports cycling. I rode in a friendly group of six on a Saturday morning in November, that was so cold the men’s ride was cancelled.
During the 50-kilometre route, de Visser was there with words of support when I lagged behind on the climbs. A few months later, I began using automatic pedals on my own rides. “You’re already the second person telling me that this month, which is great,” she beams when I tell her.
De Visser believes that to get more women cycling, they need this extra confidence boost, which translates into a safer sports cyclist and bike commuter in general as people feel more at ease and assertive on the road.
“You have to claim your space on the road, otherwise it gets dangerous. But, if a car passes in my space, it doesn’t mean I have to behave like an arsehole,” she adds.
De Visser stresses she does not support doing away with cars altogether. “I have a car too, a nice car I like. But, I would never use it in the city because Luxembourg City is too small.” At the wheel of the car, she says she remains a cyclist in her head. “That’s a big difference because you do drive differently if you know what cycling is like.”