Wanna go for a blistering race with friends, party in the forest, and become part of a super supportive community, all at once? Ladies, Sturdy Dirty Enduro (SDE) is your chance! The women of Sturdy Bitch Racing (SBR) have worked hard and played harder over the past five years to make the first women’s enduro series in the U.S. a must-shred collection of events.
When Sturdy Dirty kicked off 2014, there was a collective sense of inequality among female athletes. Racers were fed up with small women’s fields at races, a complete lack of opportunities or programs for women to enter the sport, and uneven payouts compared to male riders.
Team SBR came together to open enduro racing up to more women, and they have succeeded in a number of meaningful ways. One vivid representation of that change is the nearly 200 women who showed up to some of the Sturdy Dirty events in 2018, and the ever-growing number of women competing in other races in the region. I recently had the good fortune of chatting with SBR veteran and professional writer Angela Sucich who was happy to share the Sturdy Dirty narrative.
For readers who don’t yet know, how and when did Sturdy Bitch Racing/Sturdy Dirty Enduro first come to life?
Sturdy Bitch Racing formed in 2010, four years before we started putting on our own races. Our team’s founding purpose was twofold: race the BC Bike Race, and raise money for the Breast Cancer Fund. Giving back has always been part of our team’s DNA, but how we chose to give back shifted dramatically in 2014.
After being inspired by the women’s only Hot on Your Heels Enduro in Squamish B.C, we put on the first women’s enduro mountain bike race in the U.S., the Sturdy Dirty Enduro. Our goals were to encourage women to get more comfortable with enduro racing and to raise money for local trails. In 2017, we expanded from a single race in Washington State to a 3-race series with the help of Roam Events. The Sturdy Dirty Enduro Series is the first (and still the only) women’s enduro race series in the world.
We are a small but capable team. Our current team members are Katie Jackson, Ady Bee Lane, Julie Crittenden, Jessica Hatch, and myself.
What are some of the ways the SBR team reaches out to get more women involved in the sport, and in racing specifically?
The Sturdy Dirty Experience has really resonated with women racers, and we think it’s because it strikes the perfect balance between competitive racing and fun camaraderie. We’ve seen a growing demand for this kind of racing over the years, and that’s good for the community and for the sport.
In addition to our races, we also organize pre-race events and activities designed to get more women involved in the community and excited about racing. We host local trail building days where we encourage women volunteers to participate. These “dig days” help us build trails we use in our races, as well as create an opportunity for women to get to know our team, our local trail builders, and each other.
Since we also want our racers to build confidence leading up the race, we release our courses at least a month in advance to give racers the ability to ride the trails as much as they can. We also organize course pre-rides so racers can ride the trails together, learn tips from ride leaders, and make new friends along the way.
Making our race into a series in 2017 and 2018 also expanded the reach of the Sturdy Dirty Experience. From our base in the Seattle area, we’ve hosted races in Oakridge, Oregon; Big Bear Lake, California; and Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho.
You all are rumored to have quite a party at your events. How many women attended each event this season? Has that number changed over the past few years? How about numbers for junior racers?
As my teammate Ady Bee Lane says, it’s true, we like to party… Our registration numbers vary across venues: Tiger Mountain has been our most popular race, with approximately 200 women racing each year. Our smaller, more remote events have drawn around 100 racers, and have a more intimate feel. Our racer demographics reflect the wide range of women mountain bikers; we’ve had racers as young as 9, and as veteran as 63. We’ve averaged around 10 junior racers each year over the past 3 years at Tiger Mountain. The distance, elevation, and technical terrain at our events have been a bit of a barrier for some junior racers; however, we’ve also seen some breakout performances, specifically juniors Lauren Bingham and Autumn Parham, who have raced pro and absolutely crushed it.
In addition to being a women’s specific event, are there other ways the Sturdy Dirty stands out from other enduro races?
It’s really the community that’s grown up around the Sturdy Dirty that makes these races so special. We have supportive volunteers that have embraced the Sturdy Dirty Enduro and made it their own. We have aid station sponsors that go all out—with costumes, themes, amazing food, and fun experiences.
At our Tiger Mountain race this year, for example, volunteers outdid themselves with street tacos, dance parties, ice cream, and appearances by Baywatch lifeguards and superheroes. In the past, we’ve had cowboys, prom queens, lumberjacks and lots of other characters surprising and supporting racers along the course.
What are some of the festivities included in each event, in addition to the races?
There’s a generally festive feeling throughout race day, and at any Sturdy Dirty race you’ll encounter enthusiastic volunteers (course timers, course marshals, aid station volunteers) that do a top-notch job of supporting our racers while also encouraging a fun party vibe and general silliness. (Through wearing crazy costumes, for example, passing out bacon snow cones, etc.) After the race, everyone joins up for the main party back at the staging area, where we provide food and beverages for our racers and volunteers and hold the awards ceremony and the Sturdy Dirty Raffle. We’ve also started having a kids’ race, which is adorable.
Aside from those Sturdy Dirty staples, each race venue has its own spin on festivities around the race. For example, in Oakridge, we held a weekend-long camping experience at the staging area, complete with a bonfire marshmallow roast. At Silver Mountain, many racers and their families celebrated Saturday night together in the lodge’s common area. Having that time to hang out before and after the race really lets you appreciate the sense of community we’re building together.
You all have stacked up four awesome races throughout the Pacific Coast. Do you plan to continue adding events to the calendar?
We don’t plan to add extra races to the calendar. There’s been an explosion in the number of mountain bike races in the last two years, and we’ve seen the number of women entering races grow, which shows we’ve done what we set out to do. We plan to continue with our race and continue to deliver the awesome racing experience that is the Sturdy Dirty.
How has the sponsorship and support end of the business been for Sturdy Dirty thus far? Do you feel the events are supported fully by the local communities and the overall bike industry?
We have incredible sponsors. Liv Cycling has been our title sponsor from the very beginning, and they’ve also supported the Study Dirty in other ways, like raffling off a Liv bike to a racer in previous years, and putting on the “Liv for a Day Contest” that gave a lucky racer everything she needed to have an amazing race day. Our other presenting sponsors, including SRAM, Shimano, EVO, Industry Nine, PNW Components, and Dumonde Tech also show up big time, with sponsorship that has allowed us to offer a pro purse and amazing product giveaways at every race. And we have lots of supporting sponsors—often ones local to the area—that contribute something special to the event.
We have amazing community partners as well. We work closely with Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance for our Tiger race and trail building projects. In Oregon, the City of Westfir has been extremely supportive—their mayor even came to see the race! At our Silver Mountain race, the local bike patrol team was crucial and helped us deal with not one, but three, moose on course!
Do you feel that the bike industry, in general, is changing/improving in terms of promoting and supporting women and girls?
Yes, certainly. We know that women and girls make up a huge potential market for the bike industry. But we’d also like to believe that the changes we’re seeing in terms of more on-key marketing to women and greater coverage of women’s events are connected to a larger societal shift, one that we hope is working toward fully recognizing [women’s] abilities and voices.
Are there any particularly awesome teams of ladies racing your events that you would like to give a shoutout to?
- Roam Events (Ash Bocast & Andi Zolton)
- Evergreen Crank Sisters (Part of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance)
- Ms.Fits, Queens of Dirt, Kona Supremes, Epic Racing (and lots of other local race
teams, both women-focused and co-ed)
- Sweetlines (Kat Sweet) camp; Sweetlines Junior Racing
- Girls Gone Riding (Supporting sponsor since our first Sturdy Dirty. Huge partner for
our Big Bear race.)
- Washington Student Cycling League
What is your personal favorite SDES event to race or ride, and why?
Tiger Mountain is a local favorite—the trails are incredible, and the venue is very accessible, so lots of volunteers and cheerleaders can come out for the race. Most racers find at least one feature at Tiger that challenges them, and it’s always thrilling to hear about it when they successfully make it past that feature. That sense of accomplishment and increased confidence is what the Sturdy Dirty Enduro Series is all about, and we see it play out spectacularly at Tiger. We also help build trails there several times a year. In fact, we’ve helped open a new trail at Tiger every year in time for the Sturdy Dirty race since we’ve been racing there.
What are your thoughts on women’s specific bikes?
Lots of us ride Liv bikes but also have other, non-women-specific bikes. We do believe in bikes that are women-tested and women-designed—and are designed around a wide range of different body types and riding styles. There is no single “women’s bike.”
Can you share some advice for folks who are interested in creating races or events?
My teammate and project manager extraordinaire, Julie Crittenden, narrowed it down to
a few pearls of wisdom—this is how we got started:
- Plan for a reasonable number of women (start small and build up)
- Find good partners—venue contacts, local groups, and race promoters
- Bite off what you can chew the first year, establish a good foundation, and then add more on once you’ve made it through a successful first event.
Quotes from Sturdy Dirty Racers
Racer, Julie Baird, of Portland, Oregon, who has competed in several Sturdy Dirty events gave a glowing review of the series. “It’s super inclusive and the race is executed with great communication from the time you sign up, throughout the race. They pick trails that are suitable for the class you sign up for, which is also specific to abilities described in registration. There’s something for everybody, from beginner to elite. I love that race, and will always support them. They kick ass for getting women into racing and making it fun!”.
Another Sturdy Dirty lover, Megan Chinburg, who has raced everywhere from velodromes to the EWS in La Thuile, Italy, shared a fond memory of the event. “The Sturdy Dirty was my first Enduro experience and after four years of racing, still ranks at the top of my favorites. The all-women format creates an environment that feels equal parts fun, supportive, and competitive”.
If you know a woman or young lady who is interested in having truckloads of fun in the dirt, please share the Sturdy Dirty message!
Have you raced a Sturdy Dirty Enduro? Do you want to? Please tell us about it.