Women’s mountain bike events continue to spread to more locations with rapidly growing numbers of stoked shredders, and the Singletracks team is excited to celebrate the women who make our sport great.
We reached out to a cohort of talented ladies to ask them about their dreams for the future of the sport, and what we received was a mountain of stoke for what is currently happening, and some clear ideas for the future. You can read their thoughtful replies below.
“There’s no freedom quite like adventuring alone, outdoors. Too many girls grow up believing they aren’t safe, and have limitations imposed on activities because they’re girls. This needs to change, and mountain biking as an activity teaches so many skills to navigate an unpredictable, sometimes dangerous, and yet beautiful and exciting world. In my experience, women who learn to adventure alone tend to be prepared and well equipped–usually more so than our male counterparts.
“I’m currently in Puerto Rico for a cross-country race, and it’s my first time traveling here. I planned a 45-mile training ride yesterday that had me climbing all over some coastal hills. The ride began as a group with my traveling companions, but I spun off on my own and spent two and a half hours adventuring through a rain storm, spotting iguanas, and sweating like never before in the tropical heat. It was the sort of ride that keeps me motivated, feeling free, and in love with this sport. (I also shared a Wahoo Elemnt live tracking link with my companions, had front and rear daytime lights, a fully-charged phone, a route scouted on Strava and Google Street View, and some local knowledge of the region). Occasionally I’m told to be careful. While the intentions are good, sometimes these remarks [feel] patronizing (take note, boys). My response, ‘I’m careful AF, now you be careful.’
“Of course, the remarkably insightful Susan B. Anthony said it best, ‘Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.’ Amen. Ride on. And be careful.
“I envision more women being inspired by other women to participate in the sport. More women riding hard, pushing limits, and closing the gender gap that exists in mountain biking. I envision more women performing more technical tricks on bikes, styling larger jumps, and cleaning gnarlier lines. I envision more young girls, women of color and from all types of backgrounds, enjoying mountain biking, progressing the sport, and growing the community.
“My dream for the future of women in MTB is that women and girls will finally find their own voices and figure out how to break out of the current mold of ‘otherism’ that’s evolved. We’ve come so far and made so much progress in the last few years, and I truly believe that the final frontier of equality will be women who aren’t afraid to be themselves in all of their complex human glory rather than the saccharine, hyper-positive caricatures that are currently over-saturating bike media.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing women and girls push more boundaries of riding and racing, but also establish their own boundaries — how they will and won’t be treated, what allyship actually looks like, cutting out the bullshit and widening the scope of ‘acceptable’ behavior. I think we’ve already started a really positive, industry-wide migration away from the false inclusion nonsense of women’s-specific bikes, but I’d love to see a complete rejection of it and the overwhelming adoption of REAL inclusion, like equal pay and sponsorship, equal representation in bike media and advertising, equal opportunity in development and race programs, and a continued push for real equality rather than the Sweet n’ Low version we’ve been getting.
“Most importantly, I’m really looking forward to seeing more women demand legitimate efforts in those areas — on social media, in corporate meetings, at events, and across as many channels as they’re able, without exception. Change doesn’t happen without kicking some doors down, and women are actively going to have to push through these boundaries in very insistent ways, and I definitely think we’re up for the challenge.
“I can’t say I know a ton about the history of mountain biking and women’s role in it. It seems to me that we, ladies, are doing a pretty damn good job. I have a lot of girlfriends who crush harder than their boyfriends. That being said, it is still a male-dominated sport and I’d love to see that continue to change, continue to see the playing field level out.
“The hardest part of getting into riding for me was, well, getting into riding. What gear did I need and how do I use it? What’s the difference between the bikes? What helmet and shoes do I buy? And about this saddle — thanks for the recommendation, but can you tell me why my vagina hurts? Walking into an all-dude shop (hanging out with their all-dude shred crew) was intimidating, to say the least.
“Trying to get my bike fixed was a similar experience in the beginning. I didn’t know what was wrong with my bike, what the names of any of the parts were, or how to tell the guys what was going on with it without using the word “thingy” anywhere in my explanation (cringe). I feel like I’m treated a little differently now that I have enough crashes under my belt to be deemed trail-worthy and at least know the name of the parts and how they should work, even if I don’t know how to fix them myself.
“What I would love to see is more women in bike shops. Not just women at the cash register or in the clothing section, but shops owned by women, run by women, with women as knowledgeable salespeople, and women as bonafide badass mechanics. These women and places exist, to be sure, but they are few and far between. Not only do I think this would entice more ladies to get into riding and help de-stigmatize what it means to be a mountain biker and in the mountain bike business, but with a bunch of lady rippers behind the counters, benches, and stands showing people how it’s done… holy hell, would that shop do some business. Yes, please.
“I think the thing I’m seeing the most is that there are girls riding bikes. There are girls at the Lumberyard jumping higher than I ever will and pulling sweet tricks at 10 years old. There are girls shredding their bikes outside at 7 years old down EWS trails. So I think the access is available to girls now which makes the level of speed and skill continue to grow and the gap lighten physically and mentally between boys and girls, [making] the industry recognize just a person on a bike.
“[Mountain biking is] giving girls an outlet that’s paralleling society’s acceptance of women being powerful and strong. And [I am] proud to promote it. I can’t wait to see the next generation of lil’ shredders. They have so much to offer.
“My vision for the future of women in mountain biking is to continue to see more women getting involved with the sport as riders and team members in companies. The sport has been dominated by male participation for years, not to mention most bike companies are predominantly comprised of men. I believe this is largely because mountain biking is an intimidating and challenging sport.
“With the rise of women’s-specific clinics, races, and educational events, I believe women are finding the sport to be more welcoming and attainable these days. The fact that bike companies are now marketing directly to women is also helping more women see the sport as something they are capable of.
“So my dream for women in mountain biking is that more women will feel encouraged to try mountain biking and make it part of their lifestyle. I truly believe a sport like mountain biking can help women see how strong and capable they are, as well as give them a whole community of rad women to befriend. I also hope more women will apply for (and get) jobs in the industry.
“I want to feel a sense of belonging, in sport and in life. For me that means having a group of awesome, strong women I can lean on, count on, race with, laugh with, share a struggle with, and grow with. Cycling is and always has been a dude-dominated sport, and the sub-genre of mountain biking feels even more disproportionate, making finding that group of women I want to ride with rather difficult.
“Numbers beget numbers, and the only way this lady dearth improves is to support, encourage, and enable more women to fall in love with the sport. There are several organizations, race directors, brands, and individuals who are working to grow the number of women in mountain biking and I am hopeful for change.
“My vision of the future of women in mountain biking includes an equal number of women and men toeing the line at races, showing up for group rides, representing brands at industry events, writing articles and sharing skills videos, helping me behind the mechanics’ counter at bike shops, passing me on the local trails. I want to feel that being a woman on a mountain bike is unremarkable, un-notable, commonplace because we are here in such great numbers. I have seen massive improvements in North America since I rolled my first singletrack back in the 90s, and now living in Italy I have observed a similar, albeit slower roll to greater women representation in the dirt.
“At Little Bellas, our vision for the future is a community where young girls are encouraged to challenge themselves and reach their potential through mountain biking, and carry those values with themselves both on and off the bike. We envision a culture in cycling where girls grow up seeing female role models on the international stage, as well as women who inspire them in their everyday life.
“The future of mountain biking is bright, and we hope all girls have the opportunity to realize and grow their confidence and strength through the sport. The values mountain biking has the ability to instill in women and girls are among the most crucial they can carry with them throughout life, and we hope the future of mountain biking is a place where these values are fostered and appreciated.
Leah Barber, Singletracks.com founder
“I am excited about the momentum behind women’s involvement in mountain biking. I like to compare where we are in our sport to how it was 50+ years ago when Katherine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. No one “let her” run, she trained, got herself a number, was manhandled during the race, finished, and then celebrated with a beer! Today, women account for the majority of participants in road running races (according to Running USA national running surveys).
“Running and mountain biking are both challenging yet rewarding sports. Every year, more and more women are getting sponsored, crushing it on the race courses, buying their first mountain bike, and sharing the joy of mountain biking. At this pace, with women mountain bikers undeniably supporting each other (and our young girls!), it certainly won’t take 50 years to close that gender gap. Imagine if women were the majority of mountain bikers! To get there or anywhere close, we all need to work on trail access (especially in urban areas), organize more fun social rides and events, and raise our kids to grow up loving the ride.
“For me, the mountain bike [is] pure joy and abandon, it’s playfulness, it’s an excuse to spend an entire day in the woods with friends, finding our edges and pushing on them. The feeling of riding over something or nailing a somewhat technical section of trail is magical. The feeling of flying down something flowy, never having to scrub speed feels like flying. There’s a great sense of accomplishment, even when the feat is tiny, almost imperceptible. Happiness and confidence fill my body and my mind and I feel limitless.
“Likewise, the mountain bike is humbling. I’ve had days where the time/space continuum is just slightly amiss and I seem to be all thumbs and no grace. I appreciate these days just the same; they remind me of gravity and my humanness and that not all days can be good days, but we can make them meaningful.
“More and more, I encounter pairs or groups of women on the trail or see their dirt-clad images in my social media feeds and this fills me with joy. My dream for women in mountain biking is that we keep growing the sport by being inclusive, by inviting each other and applying a little pressure when needed to get our friends out there. My dream is to share the joy and turmoil that I’ve experienced in the dirt with any person who is curious. We all start at zero and, if we keep supporting each other, we can spread the stoke. So let’s keep doing that.
Roxy Lo, Part-owner at Ibis
“We are connected as women by our love of mountain biking, the joy and purity of using and pushing our bodies to find our internal limits and strengths. To share moments of our lives with friends, family, and others who share our passion for this sport. We enjoy the nature of the world we have chosen, and partake in riding through all types of weather, terrain, and conditions as a way to see how we can survive in each and become better as humans. Cycling isn’t the new golf, it’s the new spa. […]
“Women all have a base connection as we are NOT men. If you meet another woman who loves cycling, that bond grows even tighter. If the future of our sport is going to grow, women need to be more a part of it, at every level, in every nook and cranny. Do what you love and do it well. […]
“If you’re already a woman in a predominantly male bicycle organization, actively make room for recruiting more diversity and foster opportunities that can connect with local clubs or organizations where there is more of an even mix of genders and perspectives. […] Find local trail organizations and build trails for cycling, hiking, equestrian use and meet more people from diverse spaces. Do your part to make the world a better place and a place where you “own it!” regardless of what industry you’re in. […]
“I think that the future of women in mountain biking starts with getting girls into the sport at a young age. My hope is that mountain biking continues to become more mainstream and that girls and young women can choose it as their school sport even in larger urban areas. I believe that getting outside and pedaling on dirt can lead to positive lifelong habits that enhance health, increase confidence, and provide girls and women with a community of like-minded friends.
Serena Bishop Gordon, Liv Racing
“A rising tide lifts all boats. And on the bike, we can feel the tide rising.
“Mountain biking is a great equalizer. You put in the work, you refine your craft, you break down barriers and overcome fears, you do things you once thought impossible. You push pedals and climb mountains and descend into valleys. On the bike, you are strong and brave and bold. You are a woman, but it is not a defining feature. You are bad ass. You find confidence in taking the A-line, or doing your grocery shopping on two wheels. You inspire and are inspired. Men, women, children, adults. We are all human beings. Going through this one life in hopes of making a difference, of leaving a mark, of being a catalyst and following in the footsteps of those we are emboldened by.
“The future of mountain biking is bright and also blind. Blind to gender and race and age. Open to all. A place to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, to push ourselves and others, become the best version of yourself.
We would like to thank all of the women who are working hard to make mountain biking more fun and accessible for everyone. If you know of a women’s mountain bike race or event, please share it on our calendar so everyone can join the party.