The benefits of a women-only mountain biking experience

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No matter what your gender identity, mountain biking can be life changing. But here’s why an all-female environment can be particularly beneficial for women and the local organizations that offer spaces to do so.

It’s hard to believe that I continued to ride mountain biking after my first experience with the sport. Not only did the ill-fitting and far too heavy bike I borrowed made it difficult for an Illinois flatlander to complete long climbs or enjoy the technical descents at Steamboat Springs. But the fact that the well-meaning men I rode with were experienced riders and lousy teachers didn’t help much either. On these outings, I got a glimpse of what people seemed to love about the activity – the adrenaline rush of a tight turn, the triumph of climbing a steep climb – but more often than not , I was far behind the men I was leading. “with”, regrets that I only had to mount my bike in a technical section.

It turns out that my experience of being “left behind” is incredibly common. Linda Travis, three-time national downhill champion and planning coordinator for the Fort Collins-based cycling brand New, says she was also unhappy on her first single track outing, due to an oversized bike, the padded men’s shorts she wore and her struggle to keep pace with her more experienced male partners. Nancy Kelly, Founder of Denver-based Women’s Mountain Bike Social Club Dirt Divas, shared a similar story.

Since then, the two women have taken steps to prevent other ladies from following in their frustrated footsteps, including training women-only clinics or setting up women-only riding clubs like Dirt Divas. “The popularity of the Dirt Divas was due to the niche they occupied in providing women with a safe, non-judgmental support group and other like-minded people who wanted to have fun on the trails,” says Kelly.

I experienced the same positive environment earlier this summer on a ride with the Mountain biking experience as a girl, a partnership between The Gant Hotel in Aspen and an adventure travel company, Nomad inc. The all-female crew (three of us in total) cycled over 500 vertical feet to panoramic views of Mt Sopris and Capitol Peak. Along the way our guide, Briana Valorosi, checked our level of comfort with the significant drops along the trail (I was nervous so we went slower) and was equally happy to stop for photos of wildflowers than it was for break for quick tutorials. I walked away with some great cornering advice, a new skin care routine, and a significant boost in confidence in my driving abilities. Overall the environment was motivating without feeling intimidating.

And my experience is the rule, not the exception. Here, the local pros come up with four main reasons why, if you’re a woman who rides, you should consider ladies-only riding shops, at least some of the time.

You will learn in an environment focused more on collaboration than competition.

Female-only driving environments tend to be less competitive, according to Travis and other experts. Runners are less likely to focus on being the first, the only, or the best. “It’s just more relaxed when you’re around women who are your peers, instead of feeling like you have to keep up with the beat,” Travis says. Some clubs even offer “dropout rides” where no one is left behind.

Founder of Lee loves bikes and former semi-professional downhiller Lee McCormack was originally hesitant to offer female-only clinics because of his unwavering faith in teaching people, not genders, but now recognizes the value of clinics. “There’s definitely sorority stuff that definitely happens when it comes to women. There is something there, ”says McCormack. “I really fought against it, but I have now taught dozens of these women-only classes. There is definitely something special.

You won’t be expected to “just try it”.

Whether it’s a first time out or later in their cycling career, many women have been pressured to try trails beyond their skill level, and it can be devastating to their confidence on the bike. . “Telling a woman to fight back and overcome her fear of technical terrain is a great way to kill that woman’s desire to learn how to ride the beautiful trails we have here in Colorado,” says Kelly. “This is especially true when an injury has been sustained as a result of the experience. “

Women generally assess risk differently from men. They want to fully understand the process and feel relatively confident in their competence, notes Valerosi, while men tend to be more willing to face the obstacle, the consequences and broken bones be damned. “It’s not about generalizing at all levels,” says Valorosi. “There will definitely be men who will assess the risk differently, and there will be women who will just send it and not watch – it goes both ways – but I think riding with women we are going to address the risk. and navigate from our egos in a very different way.

As a result, female-only learning environments tend to offer more in-depth explanations of each skill and plenty of opportunities for the iterative process known as ‘sessions’, where the individual works on the same type of job. obstacle again and again. the rider goes up and down a path.

You will have the opportunity to roll while building relationships.

Oddly enough, one of the highlights of my ride with the Mountain Bike Like a Girl Experience was discussing new ways to combat hormonal surges. It’s not something that is likely to happen on a mixed ride, Valorosi laughs: “My partner and I never talk about skin care on the ride unless it’s like, ‘Have you sunscreen? “”

But in female-only environments, a wide range of topics are covered, says Lindsey Richter, Founder and Director of Inspiration for AllRide Women’s MTB Skills Camps, which are offered across the United States. While the camps focus on honing skills such as front wheel lift and introductory falls, she also enjoyed the open conversations her participants have about everything from relationship wins and woes to hot flashes and perimenopause. In fact, she invites these non-cycling discussions because it signals to cyclists that they are fully accepted and allowed to bring themselves whole to class, warts and everything.

You will leave feeling empowered.

Regardless of your gender or the group you ride with, mountain biking has the potential to develop a sense of confidence that permeates far beyond the track. For both men and women, “the way we are on the bike is an essential example of our life. If we’re tough on ourselves in life, we’re the same way on the bike, ”says McCormack. “[But] in women, in general, their belief in themselves is largely underestimated. They don’t understand how awesome they are at riding, when men in general tend to think they are way more awesome than they are.

Learning to mountain bike in a safe and supportive environment is one path to that much needed assertiveness. “If we gain even the tiniest sense of self-confidence [on a bike], then we go home to our families with that and we go to our work with that, ”says Valorosi. “If I’m willing to take this risk in one area of ​​my life, then I think I feel empowered to take it in other areas of my life as well.”

Ready to roll? Here are a few women-focused mountain biking groups in Colorado:

Mountain biking experience like a girl in the Glove
Starting at $ 495 per night for an individual lesson, bike rental and accommodation; $ 667 per night for a lesson for two, bike rental and accommodation.

Lee Likes Bikes Clinics and Instructions
Two-hour skills clinics start at $ 75 for level 1 blended and female-only classes.

AllRide camps and retreats for women
Starting at $ 165 for half-day camps, $ 255 for one-day camps and $ 425 for two-day camps.

Vida MTB Series Clinics
Starting at $ 175 for one-day clinics, $ 395 for two-day camps (excluding accommodation).

Little Bellas Camps and Clinics
Most weeklong programs cost between $ 185 and $ 250.

Team BOB Women’s MTB Club
Free for the first rounds; membership is $ 60 for the year.

Dirt Divas clinics and group rides
Free for the first rounds; membership is $ 75 for the year; clinics and rides are currently on hold until next year.

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About Jeffrey Wurtsbach

Jeffrey Wurtsbach

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