Roam Events Womens Mountain Bike Day

Photo: Roam Events, thisisroam.com

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.

kristen bonkoski international womens mountain bike day

Kristen Bonkoski

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.  

Jen Charette International Womens Mountain Bike Day

Jen Charette

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

Kate Dulmes International Womens Mountain Bike Day

Kate Dulmes

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.

Sarah Brown International Womens Mountain Bike Day

Sarah Brown

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.

Maureen Gaffney International Womens Mountain Bike Day

Maureen Gaffney

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.


Robin Allen

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.

Becky Parker International Womens Mountain Bike Day

Becky Parker

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!

Leah Barber Singletracks International Womens Mountain Bike Day

Leah Barber

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.

# Comments

  • mtnryder

    I was just having this conversation with some women riders at one of our local riding areas, an area where there is absolutely ZERO beginner terrain so for sure these ladies know how to ride. Two of them were in their 30’s and the other was in her 40’s. In reality, the fact is that men & women are wired differently. *Most* women prefer not to get dirty on a routine basis and definitely don’t like the potential prospect of getting hurt. My adult daughter rides but my wife has had zero interest in riding for the reasons I mentioned above. We vacation with several families on a regular basis and the women in the group are very outgoing for the most part. We houseboat at Lake Powell where they rock jump, wakeboard, single water ski, etc and we all just rafted the Grand Canyon last summer on a trip where we paddled 100% of the time and slept on the dirt for over a week straight. NONE of these women have any desire to join us on our mountain bike trips, at least not to ride. They do join us but usually hike…or hit the spa for a day of pampering.

    None of that means women can’t ride or that we shouldn’t be promoting women riding. In my experience riding out in the Western US, I’ve seen more women riding in Colorado than all other states combined. My guess it’s the easier access to the outdoors and they want to experience it any way they can. We just happened to be in Sedona last October when they had the ROAM Bike Fest and I was amazed at all the women riders out there. I’m trying to convince my daughter to go in 2018.

    • Leah Barber

      Yup, we’re all wired differently. I’m glad you brought up some real issues like trail access. that is one that we didnt mention is a huuuuge barrier for anyone entering the sport – men and women alike. I wish pump tracks were as readily accessible as tennis courts or swimming pools in cities and towns across the country. that way we could learn skills in a more controlled environment. and while mountain biking is inherently dangerous, a lot of that fear you speak of starts in our heads – in part from being fed videos of red bull rampage and focus on extreme athletes in the media. to some that imagery builds fear, to some… inspiration but we never know our own limits until we try. i hope the women you know can find some (relatively) safer trails to try out.

      Roam Fest is coming up here on the east coast next week! I’m super excited to meet up with some new lady shredders!

  • Kari Wiederkehr

    The big thing in ALL the stuff I see about getting more women involved in MTB & the bike industry in general ignores one huge issue for a lot of women : KIDS! Jave allnthe women focused events you want, if Mom doesn’t have support for the kids she’s not going to be able to participate. Have a “kids corral” to watch kids so mom can demo a bike. Want women in shops? Figure out how to help moms pay for childcare. It’s not ALL women but it’s a lot and it’s an issue I don’t see brought up much.

  • roadandmud

    People ride mountain bikes. Please no more of this gender stuff. I have heard enough.

  • wilsow

    If you need constant encouragement to do something you’re probably not that into it. Men and women are different and are attracted to different activities. Statistical disparity does not equal discrimination. Why is it always considered “problematic” when an activity is male dominated.

    • Jeff Barber

      I think you’re reading a lot into this. Pretty sure no one mentioned discrimination or even that it’s a “problem” that there aren’t more women riding bikes.

      You do raise an interesting question though: How do most people get started with mountain biking? My guess is many men and women (perhaps the majority?) were encouraged to do so by a friend. Seems to me mountain biking is a referral-based business. 🙂

  • singletraxx

    I know this is an old article, but for the sake of creating a dialog, here’s another response.

    Jeff Barber — if the need for more women in mountain biking is not being stated as a “problem”, what would you say it is being framed as? The title of the article is literally “How to encourage more women to mountain bike”. If there were already sufficient numbers of women mountain biking, why would there be a need to encourage more? In other words, if it is not a problem, then why are we being presented with solutions?

    Frankly, I don’t need or want more people on the trails–male or female. This idea that there needs to be more people out on the trails seems most supported by those trying to make money. Most of us go to the trails to escape, not for squeezing past trains of people and buzzing tires for a couple hours on blown out trails. Being open and friendly to those who express interest? Absolutely. Proselytizing for the sake of more, more, more? Nah, leave that to crossfitters.

    You believed commenter wilsow to be reading a lot into this–and to that I can only ask if you’ve been living in a bubble perhaps? Zooming out a bit, a person can instantly recognize that similar conversations of “there needs to be more (group A) in (activity B)” are happening across many facets of society. My first response to such assertions is typically, “Says who?”. “There needs to be more women in tech” is a common one. Why? Just for the fact that women have traditionally made up less of that sector? ‘Hey, yeah, we need more X chromosomes in the field…because reasons’. I think the the opportunity is there, then “the door is open” is a great attitude to have toward these things…but why must we reduce people to their gender? To their sexuality? How do you think it undermines a persons worth when they feel they were only invited along because of needing ‘more women’ for an activity?

    One more example, and then I’ll button it up. Let’s say there’s a handmade frame builder show. The call goes out–“We need more LGBT frame builders being represented at the show”. Again, why? Why does THIS need to be made about THAT? Be gay, straight, woman, transgender, black, white, what have you… we are looking at your skills as a frame builder, not checking boxes on a diversity sheet, yeah? Same holds true for mountain biking–it’s about riding trails. Period. Riding with friends, making new friends. Done. There’s no need to make sure that 2 out of those 10 friends are an ethnicity other than yourself, or that 60% are a specific gender.. I don’t care. No one cares. Mountain biking isn’t, nor should it be, about quotas. “The door is open, everyone is welcome” there’s IMBA’s new slogan. Print it, and let’s move on to actual issues facing the mountain bike community.

    • Jeff Barber

      I see what you’re saying, but I stand by my assertion that this discussion doesn’t have to be framed as a “problem.”

      One of the common questions we see on the forums year after year (from men) is: How do I get my spouse/GF into mountain biking so she will ride with me? This isn’t a “problem” per se; it’s just a hope, a desire to find ways to make MTB more appealing and/or welcoming to women.

      This article specifically attempts to explain why women want to see other women on the trail. Again, it’s not a problem — these women already ride and enjoy it. But if there were more women, these ladies believe MTB would be even more fun to ride with others like them, there would be more bikes and gear designed with them in mind to choose from, etc.

    • Leah Barber

      Congratulations for being a man and having a complete lack of empathy for the female community. We don’t live in a bubble, quite the opposite, Atlanta is diverse on its own but the women I’m surrounded by own their own businesses, hustle at low-paying jobs, hold government positions, serve the refugee community and are (gasp!) mothers. The “problem” is not that there aren’t enough women in the sport. the problem is fragmentation. Yes, women mountain bikers are already out there and we may be few in number, but when we encourage each other to start, or progress, or just have fun then our women’s community is stronger and capable of all the hard things. It’s called empowerment and women are freaking great at it.

      More women and more people in the sport has it’s obvious benefits and personally, I want to see other women get the same joy and satisfaction that the physical and mental challenge of mountain biking brings. Don’t be selfish and want the trails for yourself. We are all entitled to them. It’s a good day when I get to ride a new trail, it’s a f-ing great day when I do it with a bunch of women.

  • raggedyedge

    I have suggested to women joggers that they try mountain biking. I usually note that it is easier on the joints than jogging. I usually offer to let them try my bike if the trail is suitable. There have been more than a few times where they became curious about bike features.

    • Leah Barber

      Awesome! I used to run a lot and it has certainly taken it’s toll, definitely prefer mountain biking. thankful for suspension 🙂

  • RetiredVTUPSer

    Rutland Recreation(Vermont) has been running a beginner, advanced beginner mountain bike clinic for women the last 10 years. Every year we have 20+ women who want to learn how to ride. We go over the basics the first night-braking, shifting, weight shift, checking tire pressure which always is too high, etc. All basic skills that folks who have been riding do automatically but newer riders do not have that skill set. We then progress into riding single track trails in Pine Hill Park. This program has brought more and more women to the sport in the Rutland, VT region that has translated to more kids on bikes. Which the Rutland Rec youth mtn bike group last year had almost 60 kids in it. Giving new riders the knowledge and support is key-not how fast or how slow or if they have to get off and walk it’s OK!

    • Leah Barber

      Amazing! I was too stubborn to do clinics when I started and learned most this the hard way. Love hearing how mountain bike is growing in your community! It’s no surprise VT is becoming a top mountain bike destination like Moab, Park City, Bentonville, etc.

  • notsure

    Leah congratulations on blaming men. How about parents guide their kids to activities they want them to do . Force your girls to be tomboys and play contact sports. Make them like risky and dirty sports like mountain biking. Then we’ll all be equal. Not many female trad rock climbers either . Work on fixing that.

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