With more riders on the trails than ever before, many of them new to the sport, trail etiquette has become a hot topic of conversation. Heidi Ashwell, a mountain biker and aeronautical engineer living in Seattle, noticed many new riders weren’t familiar with trail etiquette, and thought a kids book on the topic could help. She reached out to Ladies AllRide founder, Lindsey Richter, to see if Richter would be interested in getting involved in the project.
“I’ve always been curious about children’s books, and I love writing,” Richter told me. The two decided to collaborate. Ashwell outlined the story and Richter wrote the words. They looped in mountain biker and illustrator Kristina Wayte to bring the story to life.
“We decided to make the main character this strong, confident, little Black girl who is on a mission to teach the world how mountain biking relates to life and how to be a good steward for the sport and for the land that we play in.”
Connecting the dots between mountain biking and life is a big part of what Richter has been doing through Ladies AllRide for more than a decade. She also leads a program called Girls AllRide that uses “mountain biking as a platform for youth to discover potentials, build community, and strengthen themselves — inside and out,” and a portion of the proceeds from the book sales go toward supporting the program.
Etiquette is a Big Word is written in rhyme, and follows the main character Izzy as she prepares for a mountain bike ride with her friend. It’s big on themes of both personal and community responsibility, and touches on everything from nutrition and gear prep to planning, grit, and determination. Izzy learns lessons about yielding to others and that the trails we enjoy are the result of hard work by others. In short, it’s everything kids AND adults need to know about the basics of mountain biking.
It’s pretty meaty for a children’s book, with 35 full-color pages packed full of important lessons, and at the same time the book is a fun read. Clearly there’s a lot to learn about mountain biking, and we’re all still learning, even after riding for decades.
My nine-year-old son has mostly grown out of having books read to him, but he let me read this one out loud. Before we started, I asked if he knew what the word etiquette means and he said no. By the end, I wanted to know if he’d learned the meaning.
“Etiquette means taking care of the environment,” he told me. That wasn’t the definition I had prepared in my mind, so I was surprised (and also stoked) that he keyed in on that part of Izzy’s story. Maybe we both learned something about etiquette, or at the very least broadened our internal definitions of what it entails. In that way it’s a helpful book for both kids and their parents.
Richter says she hopes to share more of Izzy’s mountain bike adventures with young readers. “I would love to have a series of life lessons Izzy learns from the bike, or how Izzy attracts more people into the sport, or how Izzy does community work or trail building days. Like there’s so much I think I could cover through the eyes of a child getting into mountain biking.”
Etiquette is a Big Word can be purchased at Amazon.com, and 10% of the sales proceeds support various cycling organizations including Girls AllRide, World Bicycle Relief Foundation, Be Good Foundation, and Grow Cycling Foundation.