What’s that? You want to take your mountain bike on a vacation to one of the best trail centers in the US, ride challenging tracks every day with supportive friends, and sharpen your skills at the same time? Ladies AllRide (LAR) is one of the US-based skills camps making all of that possible, and more.
Lindsey Richter and Meredith Brandt, the talented duo behind Ladies AllRide, have been running various mountain bike tours and skills clinics since 2003 and 2011 respectively. In 2013, after ten years conducting tours and managing her former partner’s professional gravity racing career, Lindsey created Ladies AllRide to fill the void she saw in women’s mountain bike skills clinics. Her aim was to design a new kind of skills camp that acknowledges the fears and difficulties associated with mountain biking, where riders could celebrate their love for working through those elements of the sport. That same ethos is a driving principle for the company today.
In 2015 Ladies AllRide began an important sponsor relationship with Liv Cycling, and Lindsey was keen to expand the clinics to reach more women across the US. She knew that she would need to find a passionate business partner before branching out, and contacted Meredith who for the past five years had been leading her own successful skills clinic, aptly titled Grit Clinics, in their hometown of Bend, Oregon. Together, the pair began sowing the seeds of mountain bike stoke across the nation.
Today these two inspirational people have settled into roles that are well-suited to their strengths. As Lindsey put it, “Meredith is the CEO and ‘Director of Everything’ because she handles logistics and manages just about everything and everyone.” Lindsey manages “public relations, social media, written content, public speaking, and general inspiration. We are quite the team and I couldn’t be prouder to have such an amazing business partner”.
When they’re not busy managing the business, Lindsey and Meredith can be found leading private lessons and destination-camps with their staff of 40+ professionally-trained coaches.
I recently had the chance to ask the Ladies AllRide team some questions about their camps and their experience as skills coaches, and they were happy to share the story with Singletracks readers.
Singletracks For readers who may not know, what exactly happens at Liv Ladies AllRide camps?
Lindsey We run 12 instructional mountain bike skills camps across the country annually where we coach up to 70 participants at each camp. These are fun-filled weekend events that are meant to bring women together to share the joys of mountain biking and learn in a safe, encouraging, and welcoming environment.
We are passionate mountain bikers and professionally trained skills instructors who teach all levels of riders from beginner to advanced. We strive to build community and grow the population of female mountain bikers across the globe.
Combined with skills on the bike, we also inspire women to face fears, believe in themselves and change negative thoughts to positive. We relate mountain biking to life by helping women see how fear can debilitate us on bikes and in life. We have a unique formula where we throw in life skills along with bike skills.
For instance, we don’t stare at that rock and imagine crashing into it; we choose a line, look ahead, and think only thoughts that serve us, thoughts about what we need to do to get through, thoughts that keep us moving forward. A Ladies AllRide weekend is not only full of awesome instruction on the bike, we also provide a Friday and Saturday afternoon happy hour, goody bags full of awesome sponsor product and coupons, raffle prizes, discounts to our partner bike shops, a nutritious lunch, snacks like Picky Bars and free demo products like G-Form pads, Five Ten shoes, Smith helmets, and Liv demo bikes. We also offer an hour of “education stations” with topics like bike maintenance, suspension set-up, nutrition on and off the bike, managing fear, and a body positioning slideshow with commentary.
Singletracks What are some favorite elements of your work with Ladies AllRide?
Lindsey I love that I get to inspire women through mountain bikes and teach them how to ride better. It’s an intimidating, dangerous sport and I found a platform where I can help women learn to believe in themselves and trust in their abilities by understanding the sport on a deeper level.
I love analyzing moves on the bike and finding creative ways to articulate what needs to happen to get over obstacles and through sections of trail. I love using funny sayings like: “Wipe your butt on the berm” to help ladies visualize what they’re actually doing on the bike so it makes sense in a fun and relatable way. We teach newbie beginners to seasoned riders so it’s really exciting to be able to articulate skills in many ways for different levels of riders, and different styles of learners and personalities.
Meredith I love it all. Truly! This is my dream job.
The lines are definitely blurred between work and play which means I’m kind of always working, but also kind of always playing. I’ll take it. I love going through the entire process of creating a new event, from dreaming up the new location (or being contacted by someone who is passionate about their local trails and asking us to host a camp there) to connecting with all the local contacts who help us with the event logistics; the trails, the permitting, the food, the bike shop, the lodging. The best part is getting to go to the new location and see it all in real life, meet the people I’ve been working with over email and phone and finally ride the trails.
By the end of the event, we have an entirely new perspective on a location, with tons of new mountain bike friends and we feel like a part of the family. I’ve made close friends all over the country and love that I get to see them each year during the event (since we usually go back to the same venues.) I have intimate knowledge of some of the coolest mountain bike destinations in the country and I can imagine what it would be like to live there and be a part of these tight-knit communities. It’s awesome!
Singletracks What are some of the most effective ways you have found to build or instill confidence for women in your camps?
Lindsey I start our camps off with a speech where I get pretty personal. I acknowledge that we are all vulnerable, we all fall, we all make mistakes, none of us are perfect and we have no egos at Ladies AllRide. That sets the stage for a relaxed, non-competitive vibe so ladies are okay not perfecting everything. We emphasize it’s about progression, NOT perfection. Then we practice skills on the grass in a safe and non-intimidating environment before we hit the trails. This allows them to learn how to move their bikes beneath them and their bodies over the bikes. We help them see they can get their bikes to do things they may never have thought they could do, which in turn builds confidence.
“It’s about progression, NOT perfection“. -Lindsey Richter
Meredith When I’m coaching I like to meet my students at their level, wherever that is. I try to help them put aside their fear by really focusing on the fun aspect. I acknowledge that mountain biking can be scary, but that I’m here to give them tools to stay safe on their bikes while also encouraging them to be playful, have fun, and challenge themselves a little by believing that if they follow the steps, they can achieve the skills that they want to on the bike.
I find that just by coming to our camp and being surrounded by other women within their group that are willing to learn and be open-minded, that my students are often willing to try something that they normally wouldn’t feel comfortable trying. The combo of learning the technique from a coach plus having a bunch of excited women cheering them on is a recipe for more confidence all around.
Singletracks What are some drills and skills you work with, on and off of the bike, at LAR camps?
Lindsey We do all kinds of drills in the morning each day before we hit the trails. Depending on their experience, we do drills that teach them how to effectively use their controls like shifting, seat droppers, and brakes and how to move their bikes around in different scenarios using cones. We teach them how to lift both wheels and the different ways to get their wheels up using features like logs and PVC pipes in the grass. We do cornering drills through cones and ropes. We teach switchbacks down a steep grassy hill. We have wood boxes where they learn to push their bikes off and get up onto.
Again, all on grass. Too many drills to name! 🙂
Each instructor caters to the level of riders in their group based on the survey they fill out before the camp. It is very important to us that women are placed in an appropriate group for the weekend that fits their skill level and goals.
When women can’t get past their fears it can be hard on their confidence. We try and make sure they walk away feeling good no matter what they accomplished or didn’t accomplish during the camp. We remind them we are giving them tools to take home and practice in their own time.
The combo of learning the technique from a coach plus having a bunch of excited women cheering them on is a recipe for more confidence all around. -Meredith Brandt
Singletracks What are some challenges you personally experience while managing the series of camps?
Meridith Logistics! On the bike and off.
I guess planning and running an event is actually a lot like riding a tricky section of trail that you’ve never seen. There are always obstacles that come up and you’ve got to figure out a way through. Weather is the big one as far as event challenges go, you never know what you’re going to get; rain, snow, sleet, sun, mud, the show must go on. We can almost always keep the clinic going but sometimes we have to get creative by getting out of the elements for a little bit, teaching educational stations inside a covered area, showing videos, and just generally goofing off and keeping people entertained until we can get back on bikes.
Singletracks Have challenges for women in mountain biking (social or otherwise) changed since you started the company?
Lindsey I’ve been working in the industry for almost 20 years and I’ve seen incredible changes in the ways companies now market directly to women. It’s an intimidating sport and it’s not easy to get over the fear that may have held women back from getting into mountain biking. I think more companies are speaking directly to women by creating female-specific products so women feel welcomed into the sport and less-intimidated to give it a try.
There are also so many opportunities for learning how to mountain bike out there beyond our camps, and that is making it a lot more accessible for women so they feel they CAN do it.
Singletracks How do you go about selecting qualified coaches? Do they need a certification?
Lindsey We do want our coaches to be certified by one of the two amazing courses out there, PMBIA or BICP. This lets us know they understand how to structure a lesson and how to teach skills. Then anyone who wants to coach for us also must go through a process to become a head coach. They need to volunteer for us and shadow a seasoned coach first. Then they can move into an assistant coach role, a co-coach role, then a head-coaching role when we think they are ready. We also have a coach development program run by one of our main coaches, Angi Weston, where we basically give on-the-job training to help further their own skills, their understanding of coaching mountain bike skills, as well as dealing with the psychology of coaching women.
LAR Head Coach, Tina Brubaker There are aspects of coaching that go beyond certification, that are more about being able to read people. Keeping the stoke high might look different to a 45-year-old mom vs. a 22-year-old college student, so knowing what to bring to a group of participants is something that has to be done in a thoughtful way.
Additionally, as a coach, keeping riders safe, while pushing through previous or old limits is difficult. Ladies come to these clinics in a place of vulnerability, so having a gentle hand is important. It’s also important to know how far to push them out of their comfort zones because as adults we usually try hard to manage our fear. We get to the ledge and we say “nope, that looks dangerous” and we stop. Helping them build their skills and then knowing when they’re ready to be pushed is a really important part of the job.
Also keeping in mind that for the participant, it’s really hard to walk (or in this case ride) through that place of fear. But getting through that fear, to success, is what coaching is all about. It’s why we do it. And when you’re practicing a drill, or explaining a movement, and you see something click for a participant — when they have an “ah ha” moment — that’s where the magic is. That’s when both coach and student feel the success, and it is powerful.
Every coach that works for LAR has a unique and diverse background. We all bring different strengths to the weekends and defer to each as needed, to ensure the success of every participant. –Tina Brubaker
Singletracks How do you select the riding areas for skills camps?
Lindsey We have found a formula that works well. First, we want to go to rad riding destinations! We look for a Liv/Giant dealer nearby to host us for our meet-and-greet happy hour the evening before our camps start. We need a large grassy area for morning skills and drills. We need trails with good technical/teachable features on them, but we don’t want trails with long, steep climbs to get to the technical parts because we don’t want to wear women out before they perform new skills over obstacles.
We prefer the main teaching area to be within riding distance to a trailhead with good trails where we can spread out so we don’t run into each other. If we do have to shuttle to trails we need a good shuttle company that has several shuttle vehicles and can handle the number of bikes and riders we have at a camp. We also don’t want to shuttle too far to the trails because that’s more time that we aren’t riding. We try and choose our dates based on when the weather is most pleasant for mountain biking in each destination.
Singletracks You had a camp in Northern Italy this year, correct? Are you looking to add more international camps?
Lindsey Yes, we did a camp in the Dolomites, but it wasn’t a signature Ladies AllRide camp, it was a collaboration with a travel company called True Nature Travels. Italy was amazing!
We are still working on our schedule for next year and although we don’t have a European camp planned at this point, we are still considering it. Our demand for camps in the U.S. is high, so despite our desire to travel all over the world, it probably makes more sense from a business perspective for us to stay stateside.
Singletracks Can you share some of the challenging moments you have experienced while running this business?
Meredith Not to talk about the weather again, but that’s what comes to mind! Our very first LAR camp in Austin, TX and also the first time Lindsey and I had ever worked together, we had the WORST forecast you could ever imagine for the weekend. I was already a ball of nerves, running my first out-of-town camp, and then the weather forecast called for copious amounts of rain, lightning, and thunder the entire weekend.
Add that to the fact that two of our brand new demo bikes had mysteriously disappeared (that’s a whole other story that we can laugh about now) and we had to get our coach jerseys overnighted because we were down to the wire. My parents live in Austin and I was sending them all over town to run errands for us. My dad met the DHL driver who had our jerseys on the corner of some highway so that we could get them in time. Ha!
Believe it or not, the weekend ended up almost rain free and the event was a total success. I have never been so exhausted in my life, but it was an awesome lesson to me to take it as it comes and chill the f@#k out because you can’t control the weather.
Singletracks What are the goals of each individual camp?
Lindsey The goals of each individual camp are for the women to walk away with a whole bunch of new skills, newfound confidence in themselves, new friendships, and a deeper understanding of mountain biking and how the lifestyle can enhance their lives. We hope women will be inspired to pay it forward and help get more women into the sport. We also hope they have more confidence to take care of their own equipment and that they understand how to set their bikes up for themselves, like suspension, brake lever reach, etc. It is also a goal to encourage them to make purchases based on our recommendations because our sponsors mean the world to us.
We hope women will be inspired to pay it forward and help get more women into the sport. -Lindsey Richter
Singletracks Do you feel that the bike industry, in general, is changing in terms of promoting and supporting women and girls?
Lindsey Yes, the bike industry is most definitely changing and improving its support of women and girls. We are so proud to be associated with sponsors like Liv and the SRAM Women’s Program because they are doing amazing work at speaking directly to women and giving them a place to feel safe to buy products made for them, and a place to ask questions where they know a woman is on the other end to answer them. There are also so many great programs around the country dedicated to women and young girls now!
Singletracks What is the most fun trail you have ridden to date?
Meredith Umpqua River Trail. It’s epic and beautiful and challenging and quiet and has some seriously freaky exposure that I try not to let scare the hell out of me!
Lindsey That’s a tough question. I love a lot of trails. Some of my favorites are, like Meredith, the North Umpqua River Trail close to home. I love a lot of trails in Sedona, Arizona. Captain Ahab in Moab is super fun. The High Alpine trails in Colorado are sweet! Vermont and North Carolina have epic trails that make me smile. I mean, we are really lucky that we get to ride rad trails everywhere we go, so it’s hard to keep this list short!