International Women’s Day (IWD) is an opportunity to shine the light on some of the great achievements of women in mountain biking, whether this is as a coach, mechanic, guide, racer or just a regular rider loving life on the trails. Have a listen to Contour Collective’s DeRailed special edition podcast hosted by Morg and Jen Price to hear from some awesome women in Scotland, about the amazing things they are doing for our sport, “trailblazing for the future generation” as Anna Riddell (RideOut) said during this podcast. Have a read of Jen's thoughts and views below and read about how mountain biking helps her, views that will echo across the mountain bike community. Good read and a great watch!
The podcast came about organically from a casual conversation with Chris, who has been so supportive and enthusiastic for this collaboration and I am sure there will be more to come. I have loved doing it. Here, I want to acknowledge the significance of IWD for biking, but also share a little bit about what mountain biking brings to me and how it supports my mental wellbeing.
We all have a responsibility towards gender equality across the mountain biking world and while there is lots of progress to celebrate, a million more females on bikes as of March 2020 according to British Cycling, there is still some way to go before equality truly exists (particularly on a global scale). Many women in Scotland have great experiences of mountain biking in what is largely a male dominated sport with many saying they feel included, supported and welcome but there are many who do not. As Aneela McKenna (GoWhere Scotland) points out, “I never see myself as a female rider, I see myself as a mountain biker. I want to see more people in this space and people like me to be part of that space”.
The rise of women is not about the fall of men, it is simply about a shift in mindset, to ensure that young girls and women have the same opportunities as our male friends, so they feel confident to have a go at a sport that can not only increase access to the outdoors and improve fitness but also positively impact wellbeing too.
Every rider I talk to (male or female) about what mountain biking brings them, says “freedom”, or something along the lines of “switching off”, “connecting with nature”, “space”, “energy” or “adventure”. And for Jules MacLean (World Cup Suspension Technician), “The buzz, getting better, challenging myself”. Who wouldn't want these things? Especially in our current world.
For me, I love being up a hill, in the open space, whether it is with my bike or a snowboard, getting the wind in my hair, to find my flow. Turning pedals often turns ideas into action or simply eases my mind from the challenges life can throw at us. I typically prefer the social aspects of riding, I feel safer and enjoy the time to catch up with friends. But, lockdown and travel restrictions have taught me to find joy in riding solo and appreciating my local environment more. One of my go to solo rides is the coastal route here in Moray but also a route up round a wee loch from my house. If I ever feel in a bit of a funk, just getting my kit on, packing some snacks, a wee flask of tea and sticking some good tunes on and I can go from feeling a bit low to having a party on my bike! Riding bikes is ace!!
Whether it’s a trail day, a pedally cruise in the woods, or a big adventure day on the bike I get excited! Packing up kit the night before, checking the weather, sorting out food for the day or looking at maps, all adds up to the excitement and a nervous anticipation for what’s to come. Then the day itself, moving through nature, the challenging climbs, getting covered in mud, breathing in the fresh air, admiring the beautiful scenes of the hills in the distance or the changing light through the trees, always soothes my soul.
Riding bikes often mimics life itself. Life has its ups and downs, it ebbs and flows and it can sometimes feel like more of an uphill struggle at times, but we are always rewarded with a beautiful view at the top and the battle is always worth it. Our limiting beliefs often hold us back, but as Katy Winton stated, “The only limits are the ones we put on ourselves”. We might think we can’t do something, but sometimes if we just gently roll in, the twists and turns and the lumps and bumps of the journey are never as bad as we first thought. Even if we do take a few tumbles, they all teach us something along the way. And ultimately, as Mikalya Parton pointed out “We never regret a ride”.
Encouraging women (and everyone) into MTB has always been a passion of mine. I have always loved supporting others through clubs, groups and events or races. Personally, I think to get the most out of mountain biking, you should try everything!! Find a coach to empower you with skills, confidence and motivation; try out some guided rides in new areas; try group rides and solo rides; enter a mixture of events/races; “hike a bike” up a Munro or any hill; visit some trail centres; attend mechanic workshops and/or the mountain bike leader award (MBLA) to upskill some basic mechanical and navigational knowledge. It’s all out there in this beautiful country, we just have to open our hearts and minds to all possibilities!!
A huge thanks to all the awesome riders who took part in this special edition podcast. To find out more about each of them and what The Contour Collective is doing to encourage more people into cycling, follow the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how biking helps you personally and how to get more women into cycling. Be safe, challenge yourself, look after our environment and most importantly have fun!!