I’m not a natural when it comes to biking; I’m less like a fish to water and more like a squirrel. I’m no stranger to extreme sports. I’ve had skis strapped to my feet at the age of 2 and I’ve been white water kayaking for over 10 years now. That being said, biking terrifies me! The concept of my tires leaving the ground still triggers a death grip on my handlebars. I’m not an expert rider in any sense of the term; I only started rider 3 years ago and ‘things still ain’t pretty’. I’m not a tech Geek; It took me a year to sort out the difference between presta and schrader valves.
So why ask me anything? Because I can come to you with the humility of that it’s like to be a woman, with no experience, thrown into the fast and feverous world of mountain biking. I started working in a bike shop with proficiency in every sport but biking. I had to learn fast, but I was fortunate enough that my employer empowered us the freedom to learn in a way that suited us best. I didn’t have to pretend to be an gnarly rider dropping off of cliffs; instead, I could use my experiences of being a newbie to explain my view on the equipment we sold and the bikes we rented. It’s because I’m not a natural that I had to learn to break things down in a different way. I love talking to others about basic bike maintenance. I don’t feel the need to shame you for not knowing the importance of chain lubricant because I too have learned the hard way, and in the end, I wind-up learning something new too. I can break down the complicated and humble the ego that is all too often a part of media and merchandising in mountain biking.
I started a “Ladies Night” riding group, supported by my work place; through this experience I was able to listen and learn to what challenges women faced getting into the sport, maintaining their practice, and advancing theirs skills.
Have you ever hesitated to ask a question about biking because you feel like your going to be treated like “some dumb chick?”. I didn’t really think sexism was a alive and well until I started working at a sports shop. I’ve been talked down to, ignored, and overlooked for even the most simple questions, such as, “where are the bike tubes?”. They see a cute young girl behind the counter and immediately ask “where is the tech?”. Fair enough, I’m not doing the brake bleeds but I know the trails and our store’s products just as well as any staff member. However, it’s far more likely that customers are grateful rather than scornful; I find that customers see me as more approachable than perhaps a bike technician because I remember what it was like to be entering the world of dirt trails and full suspension… because that’s still the present for me.
So go ahead! Ask me! Even if I don’t know the answer I’ll do the research and my best to break it down for you; no high-horses, no geeky tech talk (though you have to love the geeks!), and no question too basic. I’m in this crazy, two-wheeled, learning curve with you!