This post is about female mountain bikers. And I don’t mean pro racers. I mean everyday Average Josephine mountain bikers. If you’re one, I want to hear from you. Tell me why you ride, and what you think it will take to get more women riding mountain bikes. And maybe throw in one thing the bike industry could do for you!
I’d like to see a lot more women riding mountain bikes. And I mean really riding them – hitting the singletrack and having a good time. It’s good for the sport financially and politically.
A tour company called Sacred Rides agrees. It surveyed 710 female riders to figure out what’s going on – why more women don’t ride, and how to get them more involved (props to Sacred Rides for they survey).
Here are some key findings:
· The vast majority of mountain biking women participate in numerous other outdoor pursuits
· 90% of respondents got into the sport through an invitation by a friend or partner/spouse
· Enjoying nature and building friendships wins over competition as a motivation to ride
· Mountain biking needs to soften its image to connect with more women
· Intimidation and fear of injury are keeping many women off the trails
· One of the best ways to grow the sport would be through women inviting other women to give it a try
None of these surprise me. But one intrigues me, and that’s “Mountain biking needs to soften its image to connect with more women.”
Hell, yes. It certainly does.
The sport runneth over with macho posturing. The sport has become a giant ad for energy drinks, downhill armor, high-tech gear and the “second place is first loser” mentality.
There is so much more to mountain biking than going fast and looking cool. Over the past few months, I’ve gotten a lot of pleasure from the other aspects of mountain biking. I’ve seen incredible desert wildlife – kangaroo rats, snakes, scorpions, jackrabbits, tarantulas, just to name-drop a bit. I’ve run into old friends and made a few new ones. I’ve enjoyed seeing the desert with a full moon, with lightning flashing in the distance.
How does the sport communicate that to women so we can get them to try this great sport?
Don’t rely on the bike industry, that’s for sure.
The mountain bike media isn’t shy about promoting female racers as role models. But I don’t see enough about your average, everyday non-pro racer babe du jour – Willow Koerber will sell calenders, but I don’t think she can sell the sport to new female riders.
I know the survey says women are most likely to respond to other women. But riders of every gender need to do their part. If you know a woman who might be open to mountain biking, don’t talk about gear. Don’t talk about fitness. Do tell her about the coolest things you’ve seen riding. Tell her about awesome places you’ve been, and all the good times you’ve had hanging out with buddies after the ride. I’ll bet that will bring more women into the fold.
Before I sign off, let me leave you with a few thoughts on How to Not Be a Tubesteak to Female Riders:
1. Don’t offer unsolicited riding advice. Let new riders figure things out at their own pace. If they want help, they will ask.
2. If you see a female rider on the trail, don’t expend all your energy to get in front of her. That’s just lame.
3. Quit talking about gear so much. Seriously. It’s boring to 99 percent of the world. Even the guy typing this -an ex shop mechanic- can only handle so much techno-babble.
4. If you’re getting your girlfriend or wife out for her first ride, take her to a trail where she can learn without getting hurt. Devote the day to helping her have fun. Don’t ride off and leave her.
These are just the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure female riders can think of plenty of others. Pitch in if ya got ‘em!