My son, age five, just bumped up in bike sizes, going from 16 to 20 inch wheels. The size wasn’t the only change with the addition of gears and lever brakes. Only in the last few days has he pushed through the frustration, and fear, of learning something new, and moved on to riding this new bike with confidence.
My daughter is three years old and currently making the transition from a balance bike to one with pedals. It’s been rough. We have yet to see that move to confident riding like her brother. However, with her tenacity, and the fact that she must do what her brother does, I know she will be cruising soon.
But this isn’t always the case for every kid. Whether it is fear, finances, societal pressures, or just simply never giving it a shot, many kids, especially girls, don’t find themselves on mountain bikes. This is a problem Tina Ooley set out to fix.
Who is Tina Ooley?
Ooley grew up on the East Coast and made her way to Arizona in the late 90s. Ooley didn’t grow up in an “outdoorsy” family of any sort. Her introduction to mountain biking was in Arizona when she met her husband, who was an avid cyclist. Initially, Ooley wasn’t really interested in mountain biking, but a friend’s enthusiasm for riding, and crashing, accompanied by scars and scabs, changed her mind.
Some time trickled by and Ooley continued to find herself on the trails. By this point, she had a couple of kids herself and would get together with some other moms to ride on the weekends.
“We were a bunch of moms who got on their bikes and did stuff that was scary,” she said.” We were horrible at it. But we had so much fun together. The camaraderie and relationships, the ability to be scared around one another and push those boundaries—that was really present.” Ooley had found a community.
Then, in 2010, Ooley’s relationship with bikes changed when she lost her younger brother to cancer. “Watching his grace and acceptance of something he had no choice in made me really realize the ways I never did anything that was uncomfortable to me,” she explained. In honor of her brother, Ooley set out to do something difficult. She bought a singlespeed and registered for the Whisky Off-Road race in Prescott.
“I put my brother’s playlist on, put my head down, and found myself by the seat of a bike. I found that I could do things that I never imagined I was capable of.” Ooley explained that she didn’t race to see how she would measure up but because she was afraid to race. She set out to choose to do difficult things because she just watched her brother not have a choice. So began Ooley’s journey of using mountain biking as a platform to teach life’s lessons.
2012 brought a move from Prescott to Durango, Colorado. Ooley’s newfound passion landed her a position at Durango Devo, a mountain biking non-profit focused on presenting youth with an opportunity to ride. This would serve as Ooley’s introduction to coaching and working with kids. She had found her calling. Ooley would be teaching the very life lessons she learned going through her brother’s death.
During her time with Durango Devo, Ooley noticed a population that didn’t seem to be well served: girls. The programs she was involved with were larger groups that seemed to cater more to the advanced youth riders. Her hope was to create “different avenues for girls to get in where it was more exploratory, work on skills, and share an experience rather than how many miles we’ll get in.” With this vision in mind, Ooley set out to create EveryPedal MTB.
EveryPedal started in the fall of 2016 with two girls’ programs: a 4th and 5th-grade program, and a 6th through 8th-grade program. In only a few years EveryPedal grew from 10 girls to over a hundred, mostly by word-of-mouth.
With EveryPedal rapidly growing, Ooley began to add more programs. It began with expanding girls’ programs to incorporate all grade levels. “We started to get requests from parents who maybe had a 6th grader in our program, asking if we had anything for their third grader,” Ooley explained. Turning parents away who had a girl wanting to mountain bike wasn’t an option, so she created more programs.
Third grade was added on. Then second, first, and, eventually kindergarten. When Ooley started the kindergarten program in 2018, she had 40 girls sign up. “It was clear to me that our style of teaching mountain biking connected with little kids. It was light and fun.” Parents continued to reach out, asking about adding boys into the program. EveryPedal, of course, made room for them as well.
With these kids in Durango falling in love with mountain biking through EveryPedal, moms began to reach out to Ooley, interested in options for them. Thinking back to the community Ooley found in mountain biking, she scrambled to create and offer women’s programs to the ladies in and around Durango. And, when space was created, women came to ride and a community was created. “We mainly approached the women’s clinics the same as the kids’. Obviously, the curriculum was a little different, but the life lessons were the same.”
EveryPedal’s approach to mountain biking is fairly similar with both the women’s and the kids’ programs. “I want to create this bubble of empathy and allow a space for participants to come as they are,” Ooley explained. “I try to be really honest and candid and transparent, and create those connections where people realize they aren’t alone.” Ooley has an expectation for herself and staff that they show up authentically, in hopes to create an environment where others can be their true selves.
EveryPedal hopes participants, women, and kids alike, gain an empowerment piece of themselves that they didn’t know was there. Everyone deserves an opportunity to discover those bits of themselves, despite it being done in a different way or at a different pace. Ooley wants her program to instill patience and “what it means to intentionally choose to show up and share your ride with other people.” Cycling can be individualistic, and EveryPedal wants to build a community that appreciates the differences we all bring to mountain biking.
“The reason I named it ‘EveryPedal’ is because it stems from the idea that every pedal stroke counts. You’ve decided to be courageous, show up and get on your bike. Make it up the hill or not, every time you push those pedals, it counts.”
Ooley now resides in Fruita, Colorado where she is starting more EveryPedal MTB programs. You can get in touch with her through EveryPedal’s website or its Instagram @everypedalmtb. She refuses to turn any kids away, despite finances, offering a scholarship program. If you’d like to help with scholarships, please get in touch.