- A new, three-day, women-only mountain bike festival called will be held in Fayetteville, Arkansas, from November 15-17.
- Organizers of the festival are encouraging beginners to attend as a way to help them ease into the sport.
Anna Claire Beasley, of Lubbock, Texas, always swore she’d never become a mountain biker. It was too scary, she thought, and there were too many other outdoor sports she wanted to tackle first. But when her coworkers at Texas Tech’s Outdoor Pursuits Center took her to the trails for a training trip in the fall of 2016, Beasley’s opinion changed—and fast.
“That day, I fell in love,” she said. “I also fell into a cactus.”
While working there, Beasley, 22, also met Beckie Irvin, a 25-year-old outdoor educator and advocate for women in mountain biking. The two became fast friends and riding buddies. About a year ago, they noticed there was a lack of women-specific outdoor programming—so they started to brainstorm together to see what they could do about it.
“Anna Claire and I joked that it would be cool to open up a bike shop attached to a brewery attached to a yoga studio,” Irvin says. They realized they could do all that as a festival.
Enter the inaugural , a three-day, women-only mountain bike festival taking place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, November 15-17.
Grit Fest is joining a small pool of women-only, multi-day bike festivals in the U.S. In fact, the only other event that really aligns is Roam Bike Fest, a three-day women’s riding event that’s taking place this year in Sedona, Arizona. is a third women-only mountain bike festival popular in the community, but they’re primarily focused on bikepacking, which is a different kind of beast, Irvin says.
Fans of Roam will find familiar programming at Grit Fest: clinics, yoga, group rides, camping, and a film screening. But Grit Fest hopes to differentiate itself by appealing specifically to beginners.
“With Roam, the level of ridership you have to have going into it is a little bit higher than ours,” Beasley says. “For the most part, they’re catering more to intermediate-level riders. It’s for people who speak the language of bikes and are interested in the more technical aspects of the bike itself. Ours is more about just showing up and making it work.”
That open-arms approach seems to be resonating with new riders. A large percentage of the 100 attendees confirmed so far are beginners. Beasley and Irvin also say that for a number of those women, this weekend will be their first time ever mountain biking.
“We are trying to encourage women to connect to each other, connect to nature, and connect to the bike—in that order,” Irvin says.
The festival’s affordable price point is also likely helping to draw a younger, greener crowd. Tickets to the three-day event retail for $125 ($91 cheaper than ) with optional clinics going for an additional $25 each. In another budget-friendly move, Grit Fest is also allowing attendees to camp on the festival grounds for free.
When deciding where to host the event, both agree that Fayetteville seemed to have everything they were looking for.
“Northwest Arkansas is becoming continuously more well-known for their trail systems,” Irvin says. And with the University of Arkansas just three miles from Kessler Mountain Regional Park—where the festival will be held—they also hope to garner some interest from students.
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“Mountain biking did so much for both Anna Claire and I during our college experiences,” she says. “We want more women in college to realize that they can have that experience as well.”
With the festival now just a few weeks away, Irvin and Beasley say they still have room for about 50 more festival attendees. If riding alongside a crew of women through the autumnal Ozark Mountains sounds like an ideal way to spend a weekend, you know where to find them.
“Show up in tennis shoes and basketball shorts,” Beasley says. “No matter what gear you have, or what you wear, you’re a cyclist.”