Julia Cooper

Women's Cycling Advocate

Current cycling club?


What is your current age?


What cycling discipline are you involved in?

Track & road. Though racing on a road bike will be new to me this year.

What age did you get involved?


Why did you start cycling?

A good friend gave me the loan of a bike so we could ride together, when I lived in Toronto. We were inseparable, me the bike and my dearest friend. I used it to commute my 20km to and from, eventually commuted up to a 60km round trip. Covid started and with that biking became my only; lift to work, social outlet and physical outlet.

What has been your involvement in cycling, your story?

I started riding the track in Toronto after a while of coffee spins on the road. Track was the best way to ride your bike in the depths of snowy -20C winter in Canada, though indoor track closed for covid and that was that for a while. When I returned to Ireland there was an outdoor track and it did not take me long before I got up on it and joined Arcane. Having a few races under my belt and a few medals on my neck I would say it was a success of an intro to track racing. But onwards and upwards let’s see what 2022 brings!

Do you have a quote that you live by or inspires you?

Not a quote but a motto: Nobody is going to live your life for you.

Another is an irish saying “What’s for you won’t pass you”

What have been your cycling highlights?

Making friends. I have met lots of lovely folks over the last two years through cycling. And also introducing many of my friends to the sport. I’m glad I can share my enthusiasm with others. Discovering new places. I truly discovered the city of Toronto via bike. From lane splitting, night-time illegal crits to chill coffee/ice-cream rides to the park, I filled in my strava heat map like a woman on a mission. It’s a great way to discover a new place - snow or shine. Discovering my homeland. Coming home to Ireland in the last year, two bicycles in tow, has enabled me to re-discover this beautiful place whilst pursuing my passion for cycling. The Irish landscape is gorgeous and was totally underappreciated by me until my return. Every ride is a new adventure seen through fresh eyes.

How do you feel cycling has benefitted you?

I have learned so much from the cycling community, basic mechanical skills were probably my first lesson with dropping my chain on my first ride. That may also have taught me humility. Overall, cycling put the world into perspective. Using cycling as a means of transport changed my world view. What would have been a journey of multiple public transport changes or driving around to find parking was now a simple, fun and often exhilarating experience (in traffic). Knowing the distances between places and having actual km figures to put to every journey makes the world seem more approachable and smaller. More things are noticed along the way. I feel more connected to my surroundings, a more interactive experience. I know most of the roads of Wicklow like the back of my hand and going new places is an adventure with new hills to conquer.

What is your favourite thing about cycling?

My favourite thing about cycling is that I have enjoyed every minute of it. I have never hated being on the bike. Not even for a minute.

5 hour solo spin in the rain, finishing up my kms for Festive 500 - loved every minute of it.

Pushing myself and getting pushed hard by my teammates, training for team pursuit – smiling getting off the bike.

Training solo in the Wicklow mountains, track bike 28x16 up the Sally Gap, legs on FIRE – like therapy to me.

Gravel biking on ice in the Rockies, -20C, full snow gear, water freezes after 20mins – truly feeling like a boss.

Standing on a podium with my team – the best feeling.

There has not been a time where I regretted getting on my bike. I will always say yes at every opportunity to go for a spin.

What would you say to other females women who may be interested in cycling?

If you want to try something, just go for it. Do it for the challenge, for the joy of doing it - for yourself. You may never feel fully ready to do something. That doesn’t mean you can’t start, can’t try. I would like to empower women to be confident to go out and achieve all the things they want on their own. It's only your own time that you waste in waiting for others to do things first or do things with you. Experiencing things alone is not in some way a lesser experience than experiencing with others. Not all joy is for sharing, the private revelling in your own power is encaptivating and whole. But on the same note don’t be afraid of asking for help or reaching out. We all took our first steps (pedal) at some point.

How do you feel about becoming an Advocate?

I feel empowered to be an advocate as I was not part of a large cycling community when I started cycling, predominantly because covid hit so soon after I got on the bike. This is an opportunity to highlight some of the issues I feel are present in cycling as a whole.

Once the pandemic hit it was just me and my bike. There were very few sources of inspiration to be found where women were cycling on their own. Lots of content focuses around joining clubs and racing. I understand the importance of community building but how the circumstances were at the time (covid) these resources were not available. Experiencing this I can understand how rural living people esp. those who do not drive (like me when I was younger) would find it hard to access and enjoy the sport, build their community.

Other impediments see in relation to accessing the sport would be cost. Having my bike donated to me from a very kind friend has changed my life. I have seen classism in cycling circles and it's very discouraging seeing that promoted in the sport, having the latest gear being pushed at us from athletes is not an inclusive behaviour. I would like cycling to be more inclusive in an intersectional capacity (gender, sex, race, class, sexuality, religion, culture, disability, education, language, physical appearance etc.). Get me some content where it’s not just rich while people on their carbon bikes. We have all seen that its nothing new. I want to see the minority, poor, disabled lesbian content plz. Now would that not be a life story to hear about?

As a gaeilgeoir I would also like to tie the idea of people traveling and living on this island with the land, cultural and national identity of our island. Cycling can be seen by some as a sterile sport, focused on technology and self-punishment (pain cave attitudes) I embrace the landscape and absorb the environment around me whilst adventuring on my bike. Learning and embracing where I am is part and parcel of every ride.

I feel like if even someone read this and was encouraged to think more openly about the sport, starting it or changing their current attitude towards it, that would be enough for me as an achievement.

Feel free to reach out with any ideas or inspiration re the above issues.