On warm summer evenings, it’s difficult to take a drive around Greater Portland without passing a pack or two of cyclists — or having them pass you. But up until a couple years ago it seemed as though all of those groups of riders were made up mostly of men, with the token female bringing up the rear.

But the packs seem to have changed. Now when I’m walking Baxter Boulevard or riding one of my favorite routes through Cumberland and Yarmouth, rare is the time when I don’t see a group of female riders.

“For whatever reason, I’ve found riding in a group of women to be very supportive and very empowering,” said Jennifer Goldman, organizer of the Willard Beach Women Bikers (WBWB), who started riding together this year. The group meets at 9 a.m. Saturday mornings at Drillen Hardware for rides open to all levels. They pedal out to the Black Point Inn or Ferry Beach, then back.

The WBWB helped some of its regulars prepare for the Trek Across Maine and the grueling Boston to Provincetown ride. Others are still training for the Tri for a Cure in August, and Goldman will be taking a 10-day cycling tour through western Ireland in August with Vermont Bicycle Tours.

“Everybody was sort of training individually,” said Goldman, who actually is training for her vacation, “and we thought what fun if we could all share this training together.”

The goal is to make all feel welcome, even those who don’t live in the Willard Beach area.

“There’s absolutely no pressure,” Goldman said. “We stop at major intersections and sometimes we wait 10 or 15 minutes for everybody to catch up and then we start again.”

The WBWB ride is one of many southern Maine women’s weekly rides. There are also four in Portland and one in Brunswick.

The Brunswick ride meets at the gazebo at 6 p.m. Mondays. It’s for all levels. According to ride leader Jenn Berube, the distance varies but progresses as the season goes along.

“I always cater the rides to the most inexperienced,” she said. “If we are doing a longer ride, I will offer a turn-back option for those who either don’t want the distance or aren’t ready for it.”

The Portland rides are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Mondays have morning and evening outings, both at 5:45. The morning ride is out of Freeman’s Bike Service, 200 Anderson St., and the evening ride takes off from Payson Park with Dana McEwan leading the way. Both are moderate rides, but the morning outing regularly goes for 20-plus miles.

The Wednesday ride is out of Back Bay Bicycle on Forest Avenue and is for all levels at 14 to 17 mph with no drops. Meet at 6 p.m.

McEwan is also involved in a Saturday morning ride that has a brisk pace and no wait spots. The ride leaves from Cyclemania on Federal Street.

“Women kind of want that social outlet, but they don’t like to do group rides,” said McEwan, who rides for Portland Velo.

She said riding with men can be intimidating for women, who find they can relax and enjoy themselves much more when they’re riding with a group of peers of similar riding ability.

If you’d like to get involved in any of these rides or find others that include men and women, check out www.bikemaine.org/events/weekly-rides. If you’d like to hook up with the WBWB, show up at Drillen Hardware at 9 a.m. Saturday or find the group’s page on Facebook. For Wednesday and Saturday rides in Portland, contact McEwan at [email protected] To join the Brunswick ride just show up at the gazebo.

Deputy Features Editor Karen Beaudoin can be contacted at 791-6296 or at:

[email protected]