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Mountain Biking: Encourages all Female riders

Mountain Biking: Encourages all Female riders
Mountain Biking

The Female Mountain biking rider scene as a leisure sport has seen a steady rise in participation over the last few years. Furthermore, encouraged by lockdown having everyone yearning to be outdoors to get in the fresh air.

Meanwhile, what has always been (and still is) a male-dominated field, we wanted to take a deeper look at the numbers surrounding female riders. In addition, specifically what got them into the sport, what motivates them to continue, & what holds them back.

Why are women so hesitant to start mountain biking?

A survey by Tread Media in 2020, women make up between 20-25% of total riders, with the majority citing the social aspect being a factor in their love of riding. 

Women bring a warm sense of camaraderie, including a strong support network to a sport that can feel lonely at times, especially when you’re in the thick of navigating your way down a tricky single track. The post-ride social interaction is a great way to make like-minded friends and have fun staying fit. 

Variety of reasons for the hesitation:

  • With road cycling-related crime a constant concern, more women choose mountain biking as a safer option. Road cyclists are soft targets for bike theft, having to contend with the lack of space on the roads and the hostile attitudes of drivers. 
  • The trepidation of female riders is that cycling is seen as a niche sport that requires skill and money. The bikes, equipment, and technical skills are intimidating, not to mention the costs involved in kitting yourself out for a sport that is heavy in essential equipment, it can feel overwhelming for someone who doesn’t know a spoke from a sprocket. Having a support team or a mountain biking friend is crucial to overcoming the fear and uncertainty that often keeps us from taking part.
  • When they aren’t 100% invested or sure if its a sport they would enjoy, getting started can be financially daunting for some, especially when they aren’t 100% invested or sure if it’s a sport they would enjoy, which is why affordable races that focus on inclusivity and family-friendly fun are a great way to get your cleats wet, so to speak. 

Woman cited a love for the outdoors, a desire to get fit and wanting to join their spouse/partners in the sport as their reasons for starting when they were questioned in the survey. Races that are enjoyable for the whole family are the perfect place to get wives and girlfriends on the tracks. 

Negative views were mostly related to, the fear of falling, crashing into other riders and getting seriously injured on a ride. Knowing, these are all valid concerns but come with the territory in a sport like this.

“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike…..- J.F Kennedy”

Cycling groups focused on women are important in the effort to recruit more female riders. They provide a safe space to learn, make mistake. Intended to break the illusion that mountain biking is a dangerous sport for fit men with money to burn. 

Female MTB rider
Female MTB rider

How do woman mountain biking riders feel about it?

Two Cape town-based cyclist, Tegan Phillips and Renata Bossi blazing the trail for women riders in the sport. Their cycling team, the Wintergreen Barrier Breakers “…aims to inspire and connect women, empowering them as cyclists at every level.” Phillips’ advice for women starting out, is just “…to enter a race…as a way to force yourself to practice.” 

Shirley Emmerick, local rider from Graskop. Started her mountain biking journey in 2000, entered her first 20km race in 2001 after having cycled on tar roads. Thereafter, she has come a long way since then and would love to see more women on the tracks.

She echoes the sentiments of Phillips, by encouraging women to just start somewhere. “By entering more events, I bettered my skills in every race. In the beginning I didn’t know how to change gears or ride off-road. I just enjoyed the feeling of being on a bicycle.” She suggests your first race be a shorter, less technical route, which most MTB events have for beginner riders.

Emmerick emphasizes that the kind and encouraging atmosphere of races is what pushed her to carry on. Starting girls at a young age will make all the difference in their attitudes toward the sport. “Giving girls at school level the opportunity to become confident on a bicycle, they’ll be more comfortable entering MTB races when they’re older.”

At first, the idea of starting will be scary. You’ll have butterflies at the starting block, and you’ll feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. However, at this point just do it, even if you get off your bike and walk when you need to.

Female mountain biking

Considering getting started?

South Africa boasts some of the best cycle races with diverse landscapes, offering amazing opportunities from fitness to travel enthusiasts. 

Mpumalanga has a few that are worth putting on your calendar:

Sabie Xperience – Held in a gorgeous part of the country with endless tracks through densely forested areas. Most importantly, boasting waterfalls, rivers, and beautiful views from the top of the Drakensberg-mountain range. If you’re after fresh air, then this is the race for you. Offering trails that have the right mix of difficulty, technical single tracks for newbies and pros, then this is the race for you. The event encourages the whole family to join, with affordable entry costs and fun rides for children. 

Sabie Classic – A one-day race through the picturesque forests of Sabie, with four categories ranging from 10km to 65km.

Lake Umuzi Cosmos 3-in-1 MTB Challenge – a one-day event at Lake Umuzi in Secunda. Riders compete in three races in one day; 33km, 70km, and a lap race, surrounded by gorgeous pink and purple cosmos flowers. 

Barberton XMC MTB – a one-day race amongst the with varying tracks starting at 20km up to 110km.

Ladies, the numbers aren’t in our favor, and we need to change that! Make 2022 the year to step out of your comfort zone. Take part in a sport that will have you hooked from the get-go. 

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