Post written by Sierra Sullivan
I feel as if I just flipped my riding on its figurative head – in a good way. Not in the “I-just-went-over-my-handlebars-and-landed-on-my-head” sort of way, but in the “I-just-revolutionized-how-I-ride” sort of way. Over the first five weeks of the summer, I took a course with Shred Sisters’ founder and coach, Audrey Duval, and it radically changed the way in which I ride. I gained confidence, control, speed, and technique, and had a great time doing it. In this all-female course, we learned the basics of not just wheelies, but how to improve cornering, ride skinnies, execute a clean roll-down lunge, quarter punch over logs, grind out tough climbs, and crank our way through steep, tight switchbacks. Our group of five rad ladies would hoot, holler, and sweat our way through consolidating the skills Audrey had introduced us to each night. I can honestly say it was one of the best courses I have ever taken, and I’m so thankful I got to share those classes with some wonderfully fantastic women. There is something intangibly special about riding with other women, and in particular, about learning to ride with other women. And so, if a) you’re a woman, and b) you want to learn to mountain bike or to improve your riding, here are five reasons for you to “learn to wheelie” with the ladies:
- HAPPY NOISES
Women are the BEST at vocalizing successes. From the giggles after someone rides a ridiculous skinny, to the squeals when someone keeps their front wheel up for a solid couple pedal strokes, the noises we make when riding are fabulous. Learning becomes a song of laughter, shouts, cheering, squeaks, and giggling. As an added safety benefit, you never have to worry about bears as your cacophony of ladies comes racing down a trail.
- FALLING HURTS LESS
Crashing is never comfortable nor fun, but sometimes it’s your pride
that stings the worst when you’re sitting in the bushes picking gravel out of your elbows. Women seem to have a calming, nurturing effect on each other and falling can become somewhat less painful as a result. I always find it easier to laugh off a fall when other women are around, rather than stewing in my embarrassment over cartwheeling into the rhubarb in front of my guy friends. During the course, our falls became less mortifying, and more a source of laughter and encouragement (once the initial check-ins were complete). Crashing doesn’t make you any less of a rider, and ladies can be so helpful in allowing you to come to terms with this in a positive way.
- BODY DYNAMICS
Sometimes, it’s just easier to learn body mechanics from people with similar body types to you. For women, this can be tough, as mountain biking is seemingly a male-dominated sport. When trying to learn a movement pattern from a man who is tall, broad-chested, and upper-body muscular, it can be next to impossible to translate his movements into the same pattern for someone who is short, petite, and leg-strong. Bikes react differently underneath you, depending on the energy put into them, and learning how other women are able to apply that energy to a bike can make the whole process far less frustrating. Learning from a female instructor, and conversing with other female riders, has clarified so many movements for me, because I can finally see how fine-scale movements apply to my body.
- UNDERSTANDING FEAR
I personally struggle with fear almost every time I ride a trail that is beyond my comfortable cruising speed or technicality. My fear comes in so many flavours: fear of steep trails, fear of my front wheel sliding out, fear of not releasing from clipless pedals, fear of loose cobbles, fear of clipping trees, and fear of being chased by a cougar down a trail with a twenty foot gap over a raging river followed by a sharp right-hander next to an embankment. By learning and riding with other women, I found that I wasn’t the only one to share so many varied and vivid fears (even if somewhat ludicrous). Understanding that others share your fears can be cathartic and act as a starting place when attempting to tackle them. Sometimes, the simple encouragement from a group of positive women cheering, hooting, and clapping as you slay those fears is just what you need as a first step towards mantling mental challenges.
Finally, there is something absolutely magical about watching other women conquer technical skills and trails that makes you itch to accomplish similar goals in your own riding. I often find myself admiring another woman’s riding skill, and it is very motivating to think “I could do that someday!” It’s far easier to envision yourself riding something when you have wonderful female role models. During courses, when your classmates pull off a tricky move, there is little excuse for why you can’t accomplish the same thing. If the ladies can ride it, so can you.
Even if wheelies aren’t in your desired skillset, riding and learning with women is a rewarding, valuable, and motivational activity. I have gained skills, confidence, and wonderful friends through all-female rides and classes, all of which I won’t soon forget. So go find your nearest ladies who ride, and have some fun out on those trails, learning, hooting, and shredding. Go get it, girl.
To learn more about Shred Sisters Program and Summer Schedule follow this link