Thursday, 9 September 2010

*insert prefered term here* on bikes

women/damsels/divas/lasses/ladies/bitches/chicks/girls on bikes.

You might have seen and responded to Sacred Rides' call for input from female mountain bikers a few weeks back. The report from their survey is now up and it makes for interesting reading.

(If only for IMBA Canada's fantastic 'been there, done that' slot on the back page.)

Thoughts? There's a lot in there that to me is blindingly obvious - the majority of respondents are in the affluent 30-50 age group, are type A characters who are deeply immersed in an active lifestyle and who love the outdoors, who got into mountain biking as a result of an introduction from a friend or partner. And then stayed into it because they like it.

But also plenty that was surprising. Is mountain biking viewed as *that* 'hardcore'? Do we lack female role models? Is finding other women to ride with - or men that you can tolerate/will tolerate you - so difficult that it puts women off riding entirely?


Comments please...



loulouk said...

Firstly, this is just me. I'm 33, girl, started riding last year after being bitten at Center Parcs of all places. Fat, enthusiastic, moderate skills, acres of determination.
Secondly, that survey speaks volumes to me but not in the way you might think. I didn't know other people rode for the serenity/meditation. Nor did I know I wasn't alone in about 16 of the other things which came up. In fact, my brain is currently suffused in 'it;'s not just me!' happiness and relief.
I don't want to be left behind. I don't want to always wear pink. I want to wear something that fits. But most of all, very most of all, I want to be good at this sport so damn bad it hurts. I want a female skills guide. I'll ask questions of a female wrench I'd never dream of asking a male. I'll ask a girl to re-ride a drop off while I sit and watch - wouldn't ask a bloke that. Why? Um...fear of being laughed at, being a pain, being perceived as weak somehow. Of nervousness and unsuredness which is somehow easier to admit to a girl.
I'm embarassed and ashamed of these things sometimes. I should be able to walk up to a bloke and go 'show me how you do that?'. I don't feel comfortable enough to.
Lots of my female cycling friends who will never wander from tarmac think I'm 'brave', 'hardcore', 'got a death wish', 'insane', and confess they just don't understand why I'd want to. I try and explain it's not scary, it's relaxing, that the pain is the nice kind, it's the righteous kind, it makes problems fix themselves while I'm not looking at them head on. In one ear and out the other. They wont come and try. Even when I promise relentlessly and repeatedly that I'll wait, we'll hit a green route, that I wont speed off, that they'll burn so many calories they wont believe it, that it's earning free cake.
I ride with boys. It took some practice. I'd love to ride with more girls. My experience of riding with them has been so much more relaxed and while you're learning, that's what you want. Eventually, I want to throw all the aggression, determination, power, strength and singlemindness this sport has taught me I have at things, but I need the skills first. I'm comfier with girls for learning skills. When I switch up a gear and start riding properly, I'll ride with anyone, any gender, don't mind at all. But right down here at aged 33 and a half and still trying to learn, I either ideally need to be alone, or with a big group of girls having a giggle about it and debating cake.
Sorry for waffling. This has helped me, actually. It's about learning spaces, that's all.

kate said...

my tuppence worth...mountain biking is so diverse now that the term itself is too meaningless to be 'hardcore'. and like most sports/activities men get more magazine/tv etc coverage but that doesn't mean there are great female cyclists out there, you've just got to look a bit harder. but more interestingly, what is a 'female role model'? what characteristics would they have?
...just realised that probably 70% of my riding is on my own. does that mean i'm intolerable!