How well do you understand women mountain bikers?

About a month ago, this article created quite a bit of buzz on a Facebook group page. It focused on a Letter to the Editor of Total Women’s Cycling about the amount of pink bike clothing marketed to women.

In various discussions, we ended up talking about stereotypes and women bikers in general. “Why is everything pink?” “Shrink it and pink it!”

According to my friend Sparky, a lot of male riders put women into two categories: the “shredder” girl who hangs with the dudes, talks like a dude, etc and the “girly girl” who won’t try to ride anything hard, who whines and complains, and who is always scared.  But honestly, most of the women I’ve ridden with fall somewhere in the middle.

We’re not all the same, obviously, and so the ideas below really only speak for me.  I can’t pretend to know what all other women bikers think, but I can at least share some insights from myself and a few of my friends.

1. Most of us aren’t thinking about make-up and hairspray on the trail. 

We’re grunting and wiping our noses with gloves, just like you.  We “farmer blow” when the need arises and will definitely use our shirts to wipe dirt, sweat, and blood off of our faces.

We even post sweaty after-ride photos.  Helmets, helmet-hair… we don’t care!

2. We (usually) just want to do it ourselves.

We’ll get our bikes down off the car, carry them up the Horsethief Bench portage, and put them back on the car at the end of the ride. It’s nice of you to offer, but please don’t be offended when we say through gritted teeth, “I can do it myself.”   (This is all completely negated if the woman in your life is clearly giving you the “if-you-don’t-get-down-here-and-help-me-I-might-die” look.)

3. You don’t need to compliment us when we drop the easiest ledge at Lunch Loop.

Seriously.  If you wouldn’t compliment a guy for doing it, don’t compliment us for doing it.  If you’re a significant other and it’s the first time we’ve ever ridden something, then yeah! That’s cause for celebration! But I’ve had random strangers say, “Nice job!” when I ride up over a rock that didn’t require any sort of skill at all.  Really?

Riding this could be cause for a congratulatory "right on!"

4. Looks can be deceiving.

Just because a woman wears a bike skirt doesn’t mean she’s a sissy or a wimp.  My friend Adelle can out-bike some guys all day long on the trails… in a bike skirt.  With no pads. That being said, yes, we do like to wear colorful gear.  It doesn’t have to be pink, but don’t be surprised if you see socks with flowers, or bright teal jerseys.

Don't let the bike skirt fool you.

5. We know crashing is part of the game. 

And we’re ok with that. We don’t mind trying something new, even if it means we might crash.  Certainly we don’t look forward to crashing, and we really don’t like to crash, but we want to get better and ride more just like you do.  So we’ll do it: we’ll crash and we’ll get back up and try again.  Sometimes we even reenact our crashes:

A word of caution: If you're going to reenact a bike crash, make sure you put the bike in the shot.

6. We love to show off our bike scars and bruises. 

Really.  In the summer, I wear skirts to work more often on the days when I know I’ve got a huge bruise on my leg.  We’re proud of our war wounds! No way am I hiding those babies under make-up or pants. When someone says, “What happened?” I want to be able to say, “I was bombing down Holy Cross, hit a rock and flipped right over the handlebars!” The cringes they give me are always worth it.

We even post pictures on Facebook:

Look look! I had to duct tape my leg!

7. We can be quite competitive with each other.

Riding with Adelle has improved my riding, mostly because I want to ride whatever she rides.  We push each other to ride further, ride harder, and go bigger. It’s sometimes hard to compare myself to my boyfriend on a bike.  He’s been riding for years longer than me, has more upper-body strength, etc.  But I can compare myself to Adelle, and we can push each other to get stronger.

8.  Finally, we want good gear. 

We want a good bike.  We’ll pay what we have to to get it.  Sure, I look for a bargain like everyone else, but some things aren’t worth the cheap version.  We want carbon, we want tubeless, and we want the best forks, brakes, and wheels too!  Just like you.

In the end, what we really want is just to ride.  We want to get out there, have fun, get dirty, and drink a beer. If you’re with us, bike the way you bike. You don’t have to slow down or take the “easy loop” because we’re there.  We’ll keep up.  Heck, before you know it, we might even pass you.

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