By Robyn Goldsmith
It doesn’t take a marketing professional to see that mountain biking is growing as a sport. Revelstoke alone has three thriving bike shops, an ever-growing network of diverse trails and a dedicated community of passionate riders. Like many adventure sports, it seems mountain biking is largely male-dominated. According to a 2010 report by the International Mountain Bike Association, a Canadian man was twice as likely to own a mountain bike as a Canadian woman. However, the mountain biking community has a growing scene of dedicated female mountain bikers, many of whom are seeking inspiration and support from other women.
I started mountain biking two years ago, and riding with other women is what kept me engaged with the sport. Since my first few tentative forays onto trails, I have found myself welcomed into the diverse and dedicated fold of mountain bikers that regular attend Bikes, Beers, and Babes, Revelstoke’s weekly ladies’ mountain bike ride. On my first ride ladies’ ride, I walked essentially the whole trail. As I pushed my bike over rocks and roots, I wondered how anyone could ever master Revelstoke’s trails. When I’d catch up with the group, I’d apologize for making the other women wait, and every time my apologies would be met with encouragement. “We’ve all been there,” I was told. I was consistently amazed at how welcoming and encouraging my fellow riders were. I’d been out riding with groups before, but the atmosphere of an all-women’s ride was decidedly different. I felt that I could take the time to practice skills, to ask questions, and to grow as a rider. Rather than being competitive, the feeling was one of encouragement, support, and challenge. We’ve begun referring to ourselves as the “After-You Crew”; no one is particularly concerned about out-pacing anyone else.
My experience seems to be shared among my fellow female bikers. That feeling of warmth and encouragement is a large part of why women want to ride with other women. When asked why she likes riding with other women, a regular Bikes, Beers, and Babes attendee, Jenn McLafferty notes that there’s no pressure, it’s inclusive, and there’s no judgment. Mindy Skinner, one of the ladies’ ride leaders says riding with women is just different. “You feel less judgment and more patience. Women are really supportive, and it makes me so happy to see other women learning and encouraging one another.”
Mountain biking in a comfortable and positive setting allows women to break free from their work and home lives to create an intentional community of like-minded individuals. For Jenn Avery, another regular ladies’ ride participant, mountain biking has an impact that goes beyond simply getting out and getting rad. To Jenn, mountain biking means “focusing on the now and learning to live in the moment — clearing my head and pushing my limits, whatever that is for me on that day. It means exploring places by only my own power, and growing stronger with every ride. It’s that perfect balance between control and letting go.”
Sylvie Allen and Emily Slaco of Sweet Skills run women’s bike clinics in Revelstoke in conjunction with Wandering Wheels. Sylvie says that she’s often asked why she runs women-only clinics: “It seems that women love to learn and be inspired by other women … and the guys just aren’t asking as much for these learning opportunities!” Emily’s observation is that women gain confidence from knowledge, and that breaking down skills can help promote confidence on the trails.
Revelstoke’s weekly ladies’ ride began in 2014 under the leadership of Kathryn Whiteside and Jayme Richardson. They started the ride at the suggestion of Skookum Cycle & Ski, and thought it would be a great way to connect women through biking, and to offer a group ride that was less intimidating for the average female rider. The ride is still going strong, consistently seeing groups of over twenty women this year.
In a sport that is often dominated by men, women are finding their own way. Look for the ladies of Bikes, Beers, and Babes every Tuesday at 6 p.m. in front of the community centre!
This article first appeared in the July issue of the print Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.