Mountain Biking is the best sport in the world; everyone can find their own way to enjoy it. From the adrenaline of competition to the tranquility of the great outdoors our sport benefits anyone who wishes to see the world and be active. Still, it takes a concentrated effort to turn a day of mountain biking into a lifetime spent in the dirt with your favorite set of wheels. Today, many women and men alike begin this journey with a skills clinic.
A skills clinic can improve your ability on a bike. This sounds obvious but constant improvement is what it takes to spend years revisiting your local trails and dreaming up holidays that include your bike. Candace Shadley of the Trek Dirt Series knows the importance of pressing women to improve their riding.
“My favorite part of my job is seeing how happy people get when they accomplish something they didn’t previously think they could do, and knowing that those feelings of success and possibility will translate from the trail into their everyday lives.”
Any coach or teacher will confirm the challenge guiding others. Tina Bek and Tina Lang have teamed up to run the Tinas’ Backyard Trail Jam to tackle this challenge. Tina Lang has summed this up into the classic ‘aha-effect.’
“Many participants already got some tips before the course, be it from their men, or other courses. Then you tell them that there is another ‘easier/right’ technique, for example ‘your bike can’t move when you pinch the saddle between your legs.’ Then they try it – AHA – and are so happy with this information…”
Women who have ridden bikes for years can feel as if they are at a stalemate; their passion for the sport isn’t growing and their bike community remains the same size as when they first started riding. This is the situation Lindsey Richter of Ladies Allride found herself in when she tried a skills clinic for the first time. She started following the professional race scene in 2002, but felt it wasn’t speaking to her.
“The female racers were nice, but I was super intimidated by them and there were WAY more men than women at all the events. I raced for fun but didn’t like riding around all the big pros because I was scared… One day in 2010 a friend suggested I take a mountain bike instruction course to learn better riding techniques and to learn about how to teach the sport… I had no idea there was a method and terminology to teaching such a complex sport. I decided then and there that more women needed to hear this stuff and I wanted to coach as many women as possible immediately.”
When women have a place to build their skills and a community to support them, our numbers grow. Camp directors have seen the power of this support system firsthand, and dedicated themselves to the hard work it takes to pay it forward.
“We have had a few women who weighed over 200lbs come to our camps. It’s very important to us that larger women know they too can mountain bike! One woman in particular felt self-conscious and insecure at first until she was welcomed with open arms and no judgement from the other participants. It was the second day of camp and we had to climb a fairly steep hill to get to the top of an epic downhill. The group made it to the top and patiently waited for our last participant whose weight held her back a little, but she didn’t give up. When she crested the top, still on her bike, fighting hard to keep the wheels rolling forward, everyone cheered for her success in getting up the climb.”
These women have worked hard, through highs and lows, good times and awful climbs to make a positive difference to our sport and to the lives of women. This passion helps everyone, and Tina Bek is proud of the work she is doing.
“I am most happy when long-term friendships develop at the camps and thus more and more women are mountain biking.”
This International Women’s Day there is much to celebrate and many people to thank. As an employee of Five Ten I could reach out to Lindsey, Candace and the Tinas because we provide their clinics with demo shoes. But I want to thank everyone who works hard to move this sport forward.
I am in awe of the professional athletes who not only inspire the next generation of women but also find ways of giving these girls a helping hand.
I am grateful for the women and men who have dedicated their time to designing, engineering and producing an impressive range of bicycles and bike products meant exclusively for the female market.
Finally, I am inspired by the tireless women who have taken the time to organize! Today junior development teams, group rides, festivals, retreats and skills clinics all thrive and spread the enthusiasm and love of getting outside and riding.
International Women’s Day exists to bring attention to the women who work daily to improve parity and to celebrate the accomplishments of women and men dedicated to this goal. There’s always room for improvement (I would love to see more women at downhill races), but today we celebrate!
Written by CJ Selig: a Five Ten office grunt who lives to race downhill and is forever wishing there were more women to race against.