Dirt Girls Mountain Bike Sessions launch at Breck

Women mountain bikers

I took my first big mountain bike ride—a long and steep climb up Cheyenne Canyon in Colorado Springs that topped out near a mountain summit and then plunged straight downhill on loose singletrack—with two dudes. I was 16, a sophomore in high school. To say I was pleased to be chasing the boys is a gross understatement. I was thrilled. Not only did I have a big crush on one of them, I felt like a badass to be riding with the boys.Women mountain biking Breckenridge

On the descent, they raced away, and I hammered to keep up. But on one tight switchback, I squeezed the brakes too hard and went over the handlebars. I crashed at a particularly bad spot. Instead of landing in a bush or even the side of the trail, I tumbled down a short scree field that fell off the trail’s edge. Blood poured from the wounds on my knee and elbow (I’d need stitches in both locations). The boys were both far ahead of me. With no one to help, I picked myself up, hobbled back onto the bike, and eventually caught up. Their first reaction at my bloodied body was, “Dude! Awesome.” Not wanting to be a wimp, I managed a weak smile and stanched my tears. “Yeah,” I whimpered. “Cool.”

Many years have passed since that inaugural ride. I’ve ridden my mountain bike all over North America—more often than not chasing boys and falling when I push my limits. As I’ve developed more skills and confidence, I’ve got a word of advice for all the women out there: Don’t make my mistake and assume only those with XY genes can teach you how to ride.

In other words: take a women’s clinic. Or five. Cultivate a group of women riding friends who are as athletic and ambitious as you. Sure, ride with the guys—I’m not advocating segregation—but the road to learning mountain biking skills does not have to be “paved” (singletracked?) with blood, gravel-encased cuts, and trips to the Emergency Room. It’s still mountain biking if nobody falls and gets hurt.

Women’s clinics do exist and are a fantastic way to push your limits without pushing your sanity. Regardless of your age, there are clinics out there geared entirely toward cultivating a supportive environment so women can push through their comfort zones and reach new levels.

One of the best ones out there is a four-week series at Breckenridge that starts this week. For four consecutive Thursdays, women will split into skill-level-appropriate groups for an hour and a half and get coached.

At $45 each, the Dirt Girls Mountain Bike sessions are a bargain. In the first week’s class, the coaches will teach proper riding position, techniques for mastering obstacles like the rock garden, bridges step ups and downs, switchbacks, and more. On week two, riders will ride the lift up Peak 8 and practice those downhill skills from week one. Week three is all about going fast and taking chances, and riders will train on Swinger, one of Breck’s most well loved trails. Finally, on week four, the group will school on more of the mountain’s challenging terrain.

Rachel Walker mountain biking
The author enjoying a mountain bike ride in Colorado.

I love this format for a few reasons. By spreading the clinic out over four weeks, participants have plenty of time to practice the skills they learn on their own, between classes. It’s a casual format with terrific coaching, and it will probably attract a bunch of cool, eager women. That’s a recipe for success. Finally, there is no better way to learn a mountain (or its trails) than by following a local. The coaches are intimately familiar with the terrain and will maximize participants’ time by taking them to the right spots. That’s awesome.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up, ride hard. Then invite the men in your life to ride with you—they’ll be the ones chasing, and it will feel great.

INFO:

Dates:  Thurs. Aug. 1, Thurs. Aug 8, Thurs. Aug. 15, and Thurs. Aug. 29.

Time: 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm

Register: Call (970) 453-5000

Meeting place: Base of Peak 8 at the Guest Services hut.

– Rachel Walker