A female riding group that is fit and friendly

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On a mission to the Namibian border (Photo: Rae Trew-Browne)
On a mission to the Namibian border (Photo: Rae Trew-Browne)
  • Team Barrier Breakers is a cycling team with a difference
  • The team has quickly proven that cycling is not just about racing for podiums
  • These women are challenging cycling norms by letting their legs do the talking

Team Barrier Breakers comprises a group of passionate women with the aim of growing female cycling in South Africa – and not only by racing.

If you want to do endurance touring, which can be deeply rewarding, that can be even more rewarding, than a finisher’s medal.

The Team Barrier Breakers mission statement? Simple, really. They wish to create an environment where women, with a variety of cycling aspirations, are supported in order to reach their goals and try new things.

Started by Elrika Harmzen-Pretorious and Tyla Setzkorn this is not a pro-team. Team Barrier Breakers is for women of all backgrounds, fitness levels and interests.

A gap existed between pro women teams and female fun riders, those who were not necessarily pro but take cycling seriously.

female rider
Riders can find great reward, in conquering a huge multi-day ride, instead of just racing (Photo: Rae Trew-Browne)

Big ambitions - beyond traditional events

Goals and projects include participation in regular cycling events like the Double Century and Sani2C, as well as less conventional projects like Sheveresting or racing to the Namibian Border.

Team member Tegan Phillips is planning a number of crazy adventures. In partnership with Strava, Phillips is planning to ride 500km, around the block of her parent’s house as quickly as possible.

Phillips sees this as a unique yet fun challenge and great preparation for her future plans, which include cycling from Cairo to Cape Town and hopefully being the fastest female to do so.

The Cape to Cairo FKT attempt is planned for early next year and will see Phillips ride her bike around 280km a day, every day, for six weeks.

female cycling
No ego, all team work, during group training rides or races (Photo: Tobias Ginsberg)

Looking beyond conventional cycling interest groups

These extreme adventures are not all about personal fulfilment. During the team’s Sheveresting event, the ladies raised R40 000 which allowed them to donate 12 bicycles to women through the Culture Cycles programme in Khayalitsha.  

In an environment where sponsors are increasingly difficult to source, Team Barrier Breakers has managed to secure an incredible amount of support from the cycling industry. An example is their title sponsor, Winter Green. This success is due to their pure passion as well as being more relatable to a wider cycling audience.

Cycling has more lifestyle focussed and less about racing, influenced in no small part, by the lockdown regulations. People are interested in the stories of real riders, who are often more accessible or relatable, than pro riders.

The power of social media is immense and the team has seen incredible engagement during some of their adventures, as they have chosen to tell a story, rather than race for a podium.

cycle race
Racing is part of the TBB schedule, but does not define it (Photo: Tobias Ginsberg)

Having a healthier relationship with riding

The team is not afraid of disrupting the status quo and challenging traditional cycling norms.

"I believe that there are many male and female cyclists with eating disorders due to the emphasis placed on factors like power to weight. Comments like you don't look like a cyclist or you don't look like a climber are very often assumptions based on looks alone, but these hurtful comments very often lead cyclists to think those statements are true,"  according to Phillips

When Phillips started taking cycling seriously last year she found herself waiting to fit into a mould. "Culture needs to change and as cyclists we create the culture, we are choosing to speak out through our actions and the things we achieve on the bike."

"Joining up with Team Barrier Breakers has given me the opportunity to let my riding do the talking, despite the fact that I don't really fit any traditional cycling moulds," added Phillips.

While the core team consists of a handful of ladies, Team Barrier Breakers aims to create inclusivity and a safe space for woman through group rides, informative evenings and bespoke WhatsApp groups.

mountai bike
What works on tar, is just as good off-road, on the mountain bikes (Photo: TBB)

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