Bikes | Woman on a Journey

Mountain Biking with the Ladies

I don’t have many of my own photos to accompany this post as I forgot my good camera and my hand-held camera’s batteries died after only a couple photos. So I stole a few photos from fellow mountain bike riders.

Beyond that you’ll have to use your imagination and picture a group of about 30 women of all ages, many who had never mountain biked in their life, riding on a narrow trail that wound through dense trees and passed over roots, rocks, logs, and sand. You will have to imagine the “whoops” of excitement and encouragement filling the air as woman after woman made it over an obstacle they weren’t quite sure they could handle.

Because that’s what happened Tuesday evening at Hillside park in Elk River Minnesota. 

Before I was in the know, a mountain bike was a popular bike that many people own and ride. For the most part, I see them ridden all over the city streets. I knew that fat tires allowed you to ride on dirt and gravel, but I was still picturing wide, nicely groomed trails. I had no idea that there was such a thing as mountain biking done on a single track with hills and obstacles. I kind of knew about such a thing, but thought of it as some sort of dare devily extreme sport that only a select few participated in.

I started to garner a bit more knowledge when I started reading Romping and Rolling in the Rockies, but since KB is riding her bike and taking photos of what’s around her, I still had no real concept of what this kind of riding was like. My friend Sue took up the sport, and all I knew is that it sounded dangerous and difficult — something that I wouldn’t be able to do.

(That’s me at the back of the pack)

I found out differently on Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s easy or that I’m good at this sport. There are levels of trails. I was on the easier ones. The surprise was that mountain biking was something I could do at all.

If I got in trouble, like got too close to a tree or lost my balance on a pile of rocks, I could put my feet down. I had brakes. I could take it slow, although, in many areas it would have been easier if I’d been going faster.

The point is, I could ride the trail in my own clumsy way and have a blast doing it. Could I get hurt? Certainly. But you can get hurt crossing the street. My theory is to learn as much as I can and practice to be as safe as possible. After that, you just enjoy.

(Me in the center left of the pack)

Right now I have a hybrid bike – part street bike and part mountain bike. I bought it when my skinny-tire, lean-over, curled-handle-bars bike started hurting my back, shoulders, and wrists.

 I brought my own bike to the event but did not end up riding it, which is a good thing because if I had, I don’t think I would have liked mountain biking very much. Ramsey Bike had several styles and sizes of mountain bikes at the event for women to try. They also offered a 10% discount if a woman from the event buys a bike from their store. Very cool!

I rode a Trek series 4 — I think it was the 4300 with disc brakes. I couldn’t believe how much of a difference it made riding on this bike! I felt so centered, balanced, and secure on it. Of course the bike doesn’t do everything for you and I had my share of bobbles but it rode so nice. I mean, I cannot stand up on my hybrid bike and pedal. I thought this was because I’m uncoordinated. On the Trek bike — no problem standing and pedaling. Can you tell that I want one?

I was in a group following Sue. Her tips made a big difference. Hopefully I have this right: I learned about keeping my elbows out for balance, keeping my pedals positioned horizontally aligned to the ground so one pedal wasn’t down where it could get hooked on a root or rock, to put my weight back and out of the seat when going over an obstacle, and to go to the outside of a curve and then cut across. Not that I was able to always practice what I was told but the tips literally saved my butt.

(Our three fearless leaders)

Another plus of the event was that Ramsey Bike was there and they worked on my hybrid bike to stop the brakes from rubbing and get the gears shifting better. Yeh!

In summary, I am still on an excitement rush. It was so great meeting other women who were willing to try something new, to face their fears, to risk looking foolish, and to whoop for joy at the realization that, “Oh my gosh! I can do this!”

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10 Comments

  1. So glad you had fun Maery. With your adventurous spirit, I knew you’d be hooked. You’re right about our speed fr that ride. It’s actually pretty hard riding in a big group like that and going that slow and stopping all the time, and not really representative of a *real* mountain bike ride. Now that everyone has had a chance to get their feet wet, next time we’ll shoot for a flowier ride. 🙂

  2. Your post made me smile. Your words speak to the heart of many women, I believe. Women like me, who for whatever reason, think that they’re somehow less-abled than the average woman to do physical events…I think we’d all be pleasantly surprised if we realized just what we can do when we set our minds to it. You go girl!!

  3. I love this post (as you might guess)!!!! I still find that when I visit mountain biking meccas (e.g., Moab), I am among only a few women on the trails. It’s awesome that a group is helping empower women to get out there and try it!

    You’re right. Although it’s scary, it’s often better to go faster over tough stuff because your momentum carries you through it. But, even very experienced riders (e.g., me) still forget this sometimes and slam on those brakes when something scary appears in front of them!

    The trails looked perfect for your group. Narrow but smooth with gorgeous green all around them. Woo hoo!

  4. Just love this post. I’m writing a magazine story right now with tips for learning new sports and not being intimidated. One of my tips is to do a group class or event. Would you mind if I mention you and list your blog? It would be great publicity! Great to hear this group ride worked for you!

  5. Finally getting out here to respond to some comment!

    Sue – Once again, I have to thank you for pulling together an event to give all of us a chance to try mountain biking. I think quite a few women got hooked on it.

    Roxanne and KB – Yes, I bet the trails in Colorado are pretty wild. I’d been thinking if I got a bike and I make it to Colorado this summer, maybe… but maybe not, but maybe if there are baby trails somewhere.

    C-ingspots – It was such a wonderful surprise! But there have been a number of times lately where I have found that I can do more than I thought I could and it makes me braver to keep trying even more things and has made me more outgoing with people too.

    Melanie – I sent you an email that I hope you received. Thanks for stopping by and I would be thrilled to have you mention the event I attended. Sue at http://welcometosuelandia.blogspot.com/ could provide even more info about how the event was pulled together.

  6. LOVE THIS!

    Maery, you are truly an inspiration for all women everywhere.
    Thanks for sharing this today. I kinda needed it to remind me to LIVE my life again. I’ve been stuck deep for a long time, not sure how to climb out.

    ~Lisa

  7. Lisa – I am such a scaredy cat but the more things I try, the easier it gets to put myself out there. It helps to have people around who inspire me and who are great encouragers.

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