Tomorrow is the inaugural International Women’s Mountain Biking Day, a day to dedicated to women enjoying mountain biking with each other and encouraging fellow women to join them. We love seeing women out on the trails and to fuel that momentum and to get more women on mountain bikes, I turned to the skilled and unapologetic females at Singletracks for advice. In response to the question — what is the one thing we (mountain bikers collectively, men and women) can do to encourage more women to mountain bike — here’s how they responded.
I think the most important thing we can do is develop and place women in positions of leadership within the industry. We need more clubs, organizations, races, and rides organized BY women FOR women. In my hometown of Salt Lake City, the population of women mountain bikers has exploded thanks to the leadership of a few key women who have started WomenMTB, a local community and club. And where are all the female bike shop owners? As an experienced and confident mountain biker, I still find it intimidating to walk into most bike shops where the owners and mechanics are men. When I walk into a shop and am greeted by a woman (a badass, knowledgeable woman), my experience is totally different. Seeing women in these positions of power within the mountain biking community can go a long way toward inviting new riders into the sport.
Kristen Bonkoski owns BP Cole, LLC, an online publishing company. She runs several cycling websites including RascalRides.com and FemmeCyclist.com. As a life-long cyclist, her goal is to get more kids and women on bikes.
Mountain Bikers should not judge or underestimate a woman’s abilities based on first impressions. Some men see a woman and want to get in front without taking a minute to actually assess if she’s better/faster than they are. I’ve had a lot of awkward encounters with men passing me and then not being able to actually pull away from me, or not cleaning a tech section and I have to maneuver around them. Mountain bikers should continue to acknowledge and encourage women on the trail. When someone has a few encouraging words as I’m tackling a hard section it feels good and encourages kindness and support.
Jen Charrette travels full-time with her family seeking out the best mountain bike trails while homeschooling and working remotely. She raced Cat 1 back in the days of NORBA and now prefers finding new trails to explore, testing herself, and occasionally lining up to race. She documents her adventures at www.pedaladventures.com
In short, we can encourage women by hosting bike demos with no-drop group rides– including Liv bikes or other women’s-specific mountain bikes. Having demos solves the problem of not having a bike and allows women to try mountain biking before investing in a bike. And guided, no-drop group rides create a friendly, non-competitive environment that gets women biking without worrying about getting lost on an unfamiliar trail, or feeling too intimidated by the other riders. I know when I pulled up at the trailhead before my first ride, I almost kept driving because of the crowd of serious-looking dudes with super aggressive bikes that were milling around!
Kate Dulmes is a recent transplant from upstate New York to West Michigan, and after five years of riding Northeast terrain is living and riding in the Midwest. Kate fondly remembers the good vibes at NEMBAFest in 2016 and is hoping to go back for the excitement and community that comes from a shared passion for mountain biking.
I would love to see more women mountain biking! I have heard from a number of women that they really enjoy the social aspect of mountain biking, in addition to the workout and the personal challenge. I think women’s only mountain biking events would draw more women in. This might look like a day that includes a skills clinic, group rides for different abilities, vendors offering different products, and perhaps food and drinks after. What a fun way to get beginners involved!
Sarah Brown is from Central Maine and has been a mountain biker for 8 years. She races in the National Ultra Endurance marathon series, as well as some 24 hour races.
Forced to pick [just one thing] by my esteemed editors at Singletracks.com, my initial response was something [snarky]. Upon more serious reflection, the advent of women’s riding groups like Liv Chix, Bell Joy Ride and many more — whether brand-affiliated or just homegrown ladies’ rides — are creating a welcoming atmosphere that is helping newcomers who might otherwise be intimidated by bro-culture and three-foot rock drops. High School mountain bike teams with their emphasis on girl recruitment, along with programs like Little Bellas are indoctrinating girls earlier and earlier with the notion that they belong on the dirt. With any luck at all, today’s Little Bella’s will turn into tomorrow’s recreational, competitive or even pro mountain bikers. And let’s hope they look at us like we’ve got six heads when we reference a time when ladies didn’t ride. What’s the “One Thing”? Gather thee together and ride.
Maureen lives in Larkspur, CA and when she’s not riding singletrack or writing for Singletracks, she works for the San Francisco Bay Trail Project whose mission is a 500-mile walking and cycling path around the entire San Francisco Bay.
Women need the same things everybody else does to feel included. For mountain biking she needs a good, well-maintained bike that fits her well and is appropriate for the trails she rides. She needs appropriate gear. She needs education (skills, etiquette, opportunities to ride), and she needs to practice what she’s learned. She needs patience as she’s learning (she needs to have it and receive it). She needs great places to ride that offer skills progression so that she can take on more challenges as she gains skills and confidence. She needs time to ride. She needs support and encouragement. She needs a good mechanic, or the opportunity to learn how to work on her bike. She needs to feel welcome, whether it’s on a group ride, at a club meeting, or in her local bike shop. She doesn’t need Us vs. Them, Men vs. Women (or bikes and accessories offered only in pink). Rather, she needs be a mountain biker riding bikes with other mountain bikers, smiles all around.
Robin Allen has been riding mountain bikes since 1997. She supports trail advocacy and was the first woman elected to lead a (SORBA) mountain biking advocacy chapter, back in 2001.
I think women’s mountain biking is in a good place and I personally have had equal support from men and women and have never thought or felt like being a women has ever been a barrier to my progress or the way I am treated in the sport. I love that we now have such a growing number of supportive women’s specific groups and Facebook pages. [I would encourage all riders] to try every style to find the type of riding they most enjoy and excel at. Just because you are not the super brave rider clearing huge gaps, that does not mean you are not a skilled rider. Just because you are not flying up every climb like a machine, that does not mean you are not a true mountain biker. Do not measure your progress against others but by the amount of fun you are having. We should all focus on […] what we can do, not what we can’t.
Becky Parker is a freelance writer based in South Wales, UK. She enjoys racing enduro, occasionally dabbling in a spot of downhill, and big days out exploring new places. She has claimed several podium places but thinks of her greatest achievement as nailing some truly sketchy natural descents whilst out on holiday in the French Alps with Bike Village. Surviving the several hours of climbing and hike-a-bike to get there was no small win either!
I’ve been riding mountain bikes for close to 20 years and I’m still grateful for the people who invited me, loaned me a bike, waited for me on the trail, warned me of upcoming obstacles, and celebrated with me when I got up from a fall. I’ve talked about one way to get women involved in mountain biking on our podcast; it all starts with an invitation. If you actually took my advice from that podcast (thank you!) and invited someone, and she declined, there’s still hope. She may have very good reasons, after all, we women are constantly juggling many priorities — we have kids to feed, full time jobs plus our side hustle, responsibilities at home, a masters degree to earn, serving our communities and, frankly, not enough time in the day. I get it, we’re busy and mountain biking is time consuming. So, perhaps women could use the reminder that one of the benefits to mountain biking is it is an excellent form of self-care. If you accept that invitation and go play in the woods for a couple hours, mountain biking does wonders for your physical and emotional health. Since mountain biking often requires focus on only what’s immediately in front of you on the trail, your mind has to let go of all those responsibilities – what’s for dinner, how can I pay for my kid’s college, did that client like my presentation, I want to start my own business, did I put the laundry in the dryer? When you can focus on yourself and what you’re capable of on the trail, that carries over into real life. You will be more capable to handle all those responsibilities better when your body and mind are taken care of.
Guess what, those people that invited me to the sport 20 years ago, they were men — my coworkers and my boyfriend (and now husband and business partner!). Getting more women involved in mountain biking isn’t a problem women have to solve for women, we can all take part in growing our sport and making it accessible for everyone.
Leah Barber is creator and co-founder of Singletracks, hand-coding the first HTML version of the website in notepad. She chronicled her mountain bike adventures on Singletracks under the handle “mudhunny” before blogs were even a thing. Now a mother of two little shredders, she juggles her time among family, teaching group fitness classes, and working behind the scenes at Singletracks as the self-styled Bosslady.