Are you a mountain bike festival goer? At festivals, riders can usually expect a big party, demo rides on the latest mountain bikes, craft beer, swag galore, and plenty of shenanigans. Couple that with an epic destination like Pisgah and Dupont State Forest and you’ve got one amazing weekend of mountain biking that’s sure to be unforgettable. But one particular festival, complete with an inspiring movie night, 80s themed dance party, and on-site camping is designed for an exclusive group–women only.
I recently attended the sold-out event, Roam Bike Fest East, in Brevard, NC. This was the first Roam Bike Fest event held on the east coast, following the success of the first event held in Sedona, AZ just 7-months prior.
What’s all the fuss about? Ash Bocast, one of the founders of Roam Events, already had experience putting on dozens of women’s mountain bike retreats and events each year, and recognized an opportunity after seeing the success of a women’s climbing festival. SRAM came on board and encouraged the founders to create one of the largest, non-competitive women’s mountain bike festivals in the world. By leaving competitions and skills clinics out of Roam Bike Fest, women can just focus on having fun. Ash says “a lot of the fun just kind of happens when you give women a space and a place and an environment where they can just go have fun, and we’re here to support them […] so that they can really just focus on riding their bikes.”
Weekends in Dupont State Forest are usually pretty crowded, but there’s nothing like the cheers, hoots, and hollers from a train of fellow lady shredders on the trails.
The three-day event held at Reeb Ranch offered the opportunity for multiple group rides throughout each day. Taking advantage of the shuttles and ride leaders takes some of the logistical stress off riders’ minds, especially for those who aren’t familiar with the local trails. Some of the women who attended came from as far away as Ontario, Michigan, and Connecticut to ride Dupont’s finest singletrack.
With frequent shuttles to and from Reeb Ranch, there was ample opportunity to demo new mountain bikes. Unlike many other festivals with limited bikes, I didn’t have to wait 2 hours for a bike and bonus — there were plenty of trail and all-mountain enduro bikes for smaller riders like myself. Six mountain bike brands brought bikes including Liv, Specialized, Pivot Cycles, Ibis Cycles, Rocky Mountain, and Norco.
Other attending vendors included SRAM and Asheville-based Industry Nine, the festival’s title sponsor. A handful of clothing brands, Mulberry Gap, local bike shops, and Sierra Nevada were also in attendance.
On the first night of the festival, vendors prepared speciality cocktails for happy hour and we watched a private screening of films from the No Man’s Land Film Festival, which focuses on females of all ages living bold, adventurous lifestyles. One of the films, Fast Forward, follows Lael Wilcox, who broke the women’s record for the Tour Divide by 2 days.
While riders won’t find skills clinics at Roam Bike Fest, there are still many learning opportunities from SRAM technical clinics to panel discussions about how to land a job in the bike industry and even everything you ever wanted to know about chamois. Bocast says, “we really stand fast in our commitment to put on activations and experiences that are not skills clinics. In part because we don’t want to compete with our friends. We think that there are some amazing, amazing coaches out there and they put on clinics and teach skills way better than we ever could and we want to support that, but we also recognize that having an educational component and a takeaway for ladies to engage with and learn from when they leave is really important.”
Meeting and hearing from women working in the industry was informative and empowering. The Roam version of TED talks, or SHREDtalks, shares stories from seven panelists, which included Sarah Woods of Industry Nine, Kate Gates, Owner of Mulberry Gap, Katie Thompson, Industrial Design Manager for QBP, and Janette Sherman, Marketing Manager for Yeti.
Ash says the panel hosted by Camber Outdoors gives insight to women who “do these incredible things for the bike industry. I don’t think the general, average mountain biker has any idea how hard the people — men and women — work in this industry to build better products and better bikes and cooler things for us to play with. So [we wanted to] give those folks an opportunity to really share that.” Want to get a job in the bike industry? Yes there is a place for women in the industry. I learned that companies like Pivot are ~30% women.
After riding bikes, talking, and learning about bikes all day, it was party time; time to shed sweaty and dirty mountain bike clothes for 80s neon garb and/or an animal costume. DJ Lil’ Meow Meow laid down the best 80s playlist — Eurythmics, Duran Duran, and of course, Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun.
The energy of Roam Bike Fest was non-stop! To top off the night, there was a huge bonfire and sparklers under the starry sky.
From the first minute to the last, Roam Bike Fest is a welcoming place for women who ride mountain bikes, no matter their background or experience. This welcoming and inviting vibe begins with Ash and her staff, and is undeniably contagious. Her goal, after all, is to create “events for ladies that are not pandering, are a ton of fun, and [allow us] to ride lots of bikes.”
The women I spoke with and observed seemed to engage in real conversation with vendors. Katie Hertler of Ibis Bicycles remarked on the festival’s welcoming atmosphere that “we’re promoting a lifestyle here, not just product.” Enough said.