By Cat Perry
Women are dominating local and international athletics—from champion trail ultrarunner Rory Bosio to Little League phenom and 2014 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year Mo'ne Davis to record-setting
U.S. Soccer Women's National Team who just won the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. And the
adrenaline-jacked sports like mountain biking are getting more women hooked by the minute. But who is this wild breed of woman trying extreme sports without abandon?!
About 90% of women learn about mountain biking through their partners and friends, according to a Women of Mountain Biking survey report. But ask
most women who have stuck with it and they will tell you that their partners' (sometimes-self-serving) encouragement is NOT why they've continued. That's really no help at all. For women, it's
about time with friends, time in nature, without competition, and getting in a unique form of exercise—rather than being driven by competition or to just keep up.
Women drop out of extreme sports due to intimidation from men and due to the underdeveloped women's-specific product market that is kind of still encroached in
the "shrink it and pink it" tet-a-tet. Women are encouraged to try something "safer." So what gives women the confidence to get dirty on trails and learn new skills to become better badass
mountain bikers? Enter mind-blowingly accessible women's camps like the Trek Dirt Series Women and Co-ed Mountain Bike Camps ($385 for two
Meeting You Where You Are
Based in Whistler, Canada, and hosted in 23 camps throughout western Canada and the United States, the Trek Dirt Series coaches women (and men in the 6 co-ed camps) to learn both technical and
"flow" skills of the sport that will help you out there the most. The unflaggingly enthusiastic and encouraging coaches are female mountain bikers on the both the pro and no-pro-but-serious-enthusiast level.
No more being egged on and getting so f*ing frustrated by your significant other to try things that are over your head!!! The philosophy of pushing someone so they grow
is only effective if you give them the tools to succeed. Trek Dirt Series is staffed by some of the finest female bikers who do just that! And it delivers—starting with a controlled,
careful skills-matching matrix, so each rider gets exactly the right customized toolbox of tasks based on the skills (or lack thereof) that they bring to the table. Dirt Series takes all kinds!
And it's only $385 for a two-day intensive in gorgeous locations!!
Early Bird Learns the Most Skills
Camp days start out at about 8 am. Each morning of the two-day intensive starts out with dynamic stretching and checking in and making sure your bike is perfectly tuned for you—frame, seat, brake position, suspension, pedals. There are female mechanics and pro racers to help with that, who explain the whys and hows of all that too, so you're empowered with that new DIY knowledge. Once at the first practice site (for us it was a high school football field and nearby hill and curb features) with your bike, helmet, and gear all set, the next two hours are dedicated to accumulating technical skills, learned with a setup of park obstacles to continue these concentrated drills uninterrupted. We learned everything from downhill control, drops of various sizes, switchback navigation, pumping on hills, and more.
You're Hell on Wheels!
After lunch is when the real magic happens. You're thrown out into the abyss and left to sink or swim, right? Wrong again! These women have our back all the way. You're taken out to local
trails—in our case Aptos, CA, near Santa Cruz, which is a renowned Holy Grail of
mountain biking regions, and was our welcome starting point. We jammed over to the easiest trail, one that most regular riders use as a route to get to more challenging routes they frequent:
Hello, Emma McCrary. But truly simplistic it was not!
We kicked butt, traversing rocks, roots, and switchbacks both up and downhill, taking in the cool and wooded view while encouraging each other, laughing at our challenges, taking stock when we couldn't complete something, and reveling when we'd nailed it. Hours passed and we didnt even realize that the trail ride was almost over as we pumped and sliced our way back to the entrance. It was just that good.
How many times that day had I said I couldn't do something and then just turned the phrase around—thanks to the encouragement of Dirt Series founder, director, and Positivity Goddess Extraordinaire Candace Shadley—and said this is just the beginning of what I can do? Too many to count!
We were sweaty, hungry, proud, and impressed with ourselves—for good reason. We'd kicked doubt's butt on the mountain bike, rather than the other way around, and we'd made our friendships stronger and our bond to the earth around us greater; we'd seen how positive thought, learning skills from patient and ecstatic female coaches, and taking it all in one pedal at a time could take us so very far. It's a set of skills that pour over into the rest of our lives. And who wouldve thunk we could learn all that behind the bars of a mountain bike? Can you do it? Yes you can!
Trek Dirt Series is not the only women's mountain biking camp by far! There are other well-known series like the Leigh Donovan Mountain Biking Camp in Mammoth Lakes, CA, and many, many others. Meet-up Groups across the world can be found for women who want to learn with other women. We all just want more adventure in their lives!
Can't afford the $3,000-$10,000 bike? Camps like these often allow you to "demo" a bike for free as part of the cost of the workshop. So that means you're on a Ferrari of MTBs for two days straight. Not bad. Another great place to find out about bike rentals is your local bike shop, obviously, but there are a couple other resources like Gear Commons, where you can rent bikes FOR CHEAP from fellow riders, and Pink Bike where you can peruse MTB and road bikes and gear for sale, and maybe find your next splurge. Either way, don't let costs stop you. There is a way for everyone to join in the fun.
It's about learning and living to the fullest. And that 's exactly what these types of series do for women and all extreme sports that they are latching onto. Increased accessibility and participation creates a better sport overall. So why not jump in and try it out? You truly never know until you focus, get positive, and try it out. I'm a believer.
See you on the trails!