Women are amazing when given the opportunity to try something challenging in a setting that makes them feel emotionally and physically safe. Today was Evansville Mountain Bike Associations first women’s skills clinic and the turnout was impressive! Thirty-five ladies and girls as young as 6 came out to learn that mountain biking isn’t just riding in the dirt. Whether fueled by a desire to try a new sport or gain some confident to ride with the men in their life, these women truly impressed me with their willingness to try something that looks a little dangerous. Throughout the day of learning how to corner, position the body to go up or down hill, ride over and between obstacles, and balance on the bike with only one wheel on the ground and no hands on the handlebars (don’t try this at home, we used lots of spotters), never once did I see or hear someone back away from the challenge. These women were remarkably brave and I can just imagine how excited they must be to hit the trail and practice their new skills!
This event came to fruition from our tight- knit group of mountain bike girls who learned by ‘riding with the boys’ and have now become a competitive group of racer chicks! Tight- knit because there’s literally 8 of us out of a million men in the area who ride the trails every week, year round. Myself and the other ladies began looking around at group rides and races, wondering where are the other girls?! It took a little while to realize they’re out there but we would have to find them and support them. Support them way more than we were supported because mountain biking has a steep learning curve. In my first few years of consistent riding I fell every time I rode. Everytime. But soon enough the falls diminished in both severity and frequency. The number of hills I couldn’t ride up at my local trail went from 5 to 2 to none in one summer. Before too long I wanted to race my mountain bike and I learned that even though I feel like I’m riding as fast as humanly possible, there’s always a way to go faster. Going faster comes with efficiency and that’s what learning the basic skills of mountain biking IS about. Yes I can easily do a front wheel lift over a 1 foot obstacle, but if I don’t use the correct mechanics of pre- loading and shifting my weight over my bike then I won’t be able to lift my wheel over a 3 foot obstacle down the line.
I think we believe we should JUST KNOW how to ride a bike. All too often the embarrassment and negative self-talk creeps in when we choose to walk through a technical section of trail because our sense of survival tells us it’s not worth the potential injury. We forget that mountain biking is a sport, and like tennis, hockey, baseball, etc there are techniques that must be mastered to progress in our skills. Practicing can be tough. Often times the techniques that expert riders employ are so subtle and illusive they are unobservable to the naive eye. All you see is that the rider got through the rock garden without falling over. The phrase, “she made it look easy” hardly does justice to the rider’s coordinated adjustments made in a split second and how can you practice something you don’t even realize is happening?
More often than not you just don’t know where to start. Attending clinics is a great place to pick up tips and drills to rehearse in your own back yard. Youtube videos and http://www.bikejames.com are great resources. Finding a patient riding buddy is priceless, and above all else ride, ride, ride!!
I swear one of these days I’ll learn how to write a short blog as the internet intended. But until then, thank you again to everyone that attended and helped with the clinic today. It was amazing and beautiful and awe inspiring in so many ways and I am grateful to have been a part of it. Keep up with more mountain biking events by visiting http://www.emba-mtb.org or joining the facebook page. Even better, follow the link on the webpage to become a paid member and get involved in the sport you love!
9/28 Red Dome MTB race @ Scales Lake Park 9am (highly recommended you pre ride the trails before race day)
10/4 Take a kid mountain biking day! @ Angel Mounds 9-noon
10/5 Women’s mountain bike ride @ Ben Hawes 2pm