Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Women Involved: Rachel Weaver

Rachel Weaver is the founder of Pin it Girls, an all-women gravity race team. She lives in Santa Fe, NM with her husband. Rachel is passionate about mountain biking, and Angel Fire Bike park is her home mountain. While she rides dirt jumps and trail, downhill is her true love, and her favorite discipline to race.

Rachel is currently racing Cat 1/Expert level Downhill and Dual Slalom. In 2015, her goals are to podium at USA Cycling Gravity Nationals, strive towards upgrading to Pro and race as many races as possible while being an ambassador for the sport.

In 2014, Rachel decided to start her own team because she wanted to inspire and encourage women in downhill racing and gravity sports. 

One of her big disappointments was to show up at races and see only a few girls signed up, while there were hundreds of guys. Rachel has gained so very much life experience and joy from riding mountain bikes, and she wanted to share that with other women while bringing together an amazing group of racers who just happen to be girls.

Now with eight team members, four podiums at Gravity Nationals, wins at Central States Cup races, and a sixth place overall in the Big Mountain Enduro series, the team is building momentum. For 2015, Pin it Girls is proud to be sponsored by Angel Fire Bike Park, Schwalbe, MTB Racing Solutions, Sombrio, and Smith Optics.

Check out our Facebook page and our website!
Pin it Girls on Instagram and Rachel's Instagram!

What inspired you to create your team, Pin It Girls?
A couple years ago, I was one of two women on a DH race team, and although all those guys are great people, I just felt that the team was centered around being a guy and that we weren’t really included. The sponsors were ones the guys liked, we were wearing men’s shorts as part of the team kit, and the team housing turned out to be a big party. It just wasn't what I wanted from being on a team. 

I looked around at races and noticed the disparity between the men’s and women’s fields. There would often be hundreds of guys and then only twenty women competing. But I also had a few super talented friends and acquaintances who were women racers. I thought; why not bring us all together in one team?

What did you envision for your team? What do you hope to accomplish?
Our mission statement is to inspire and encourage women in gravity mountain biking. We have already accomplished a lot in our 2014 season. We held four Women’s Ride Days at Angel Fire Bike Park where we introduce women who may be new to lift access biking to the mountain. Our ride days are a chance for the women who might have only been able to ride with their boyfriends or husbands, or by themselves, to connect with other female gravity riders and get stoked to ride.

We got the word out about our team with Pinkbike articles and tons of Facebook media, so I was able to secure some big name sponsors for 2015.

We have lots of plans for this coming season. We will be hosting group trail rides in Albuquerque, a Women’s Freeride Day in Santa Fe, sponsoring three skills clinics with Pro racer Chris Boice that are open to the public, and sweeping some podiums at enduro and DH races. I would like to see us continue to grow and be well known in the greater bike community so we can influence girls and women coming into mountain biking.      

Over the next 5 years, what would you like to see happen with women and racing?
What I want to see is already happening… I want to see women be able to be feminine and tough, and to show that this dichotomy is how women can be successful in gravity racing. Women are never going to be as fast or as aggressive as the male pro riders. It simply is a matter of physiological limitation. So what women racers need to do is find their strengths and stop trying to ride, train, race and look like the guys.

I feel that some of the young women in the World Cup series are doing this very successfully like Mannon Carpenter and Tawnee Seagrave. They clearly have a unique style of riding, and they get off the bike and get dressed up and do their hair and look like a girl, but they also bring home the medals and garner big sponsorships. Hannah Barnes is doing this in the enduro world as well.

What were the challenges of creating a team, if any?
It was a whole new world to me. Fortunately my husband is talented at creating websites and knew how to get that set up, which was kind of the first step beyond asking if all the girls wanted to be on a team. I just dreamed big, and sent out a bunch of sponsorship letters to companies I wanted to represent. Sometimes I never heard back and sometimes if I really wanted it, I had to be persistent.

Angel Fire Bike Park has been amazing to us. A couple of the girls on the team had connections so we were able to get sponsored by them right away. Angel Fire is most of the racers’ local mountain, so we love being partnered with them. It’s like being home.

I do have to hustle all the time- I’m teased by the team because I’m always taking photos of them or getting on social media, but that’s what sponsors want; exposure. It can be a little challenging managing eight people’s jersey orders or team housing, but it’s all worth it in the long run!      

What do you love about your team? Why are you positive role models for future riders?
I just love every one of the girls on the team, and how very different people we all are, but we’re united by our love for this sport. As I wrote on our website, there is nothing better than women riding together and encouraging our growth as racers and riders. The synergy of pushing each other in competition and gaining confidence is magical.

Each of us is an awesome role model in our own way- Jennifer is a small business owner and is naturally talented on the bike. Jill has a PhD in Engineering and is pretty much fearless. Traci is a mom to a three year old, works full time and is amazingly graceful on the bike. Terah just finished her Masters degree in Accounting and could go Pro this year in DH. Kristen is an Engineer and put more miles in racing and training for Enduro last season than the rest of us combined. Lisa is multi- talented on her DH bike and Moto. Makayla got a cycling scholarship to college, and won her category at Nationals.

What would you like people to know about Pin It Girls and how can they support you?
We aren't just about racing. Our biggest joys as a team come from helping other women get out and ride, sign up for their first race, or try that drop they have never done before. We hope women who don't even live in the Rocky Mountains find us on Instagram and Facebook, and get inspired to have fun on their bikes.
As far as helping us out- follow us on social media!  And we are still looking for sponsors, of course!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think women are either put-off by the “just huck it” mentality of many of the guys in the sport, or they simply have never been given the opportunity to see female mountain bikers who are strong, fast and feminine.

I do know that lift access biking can be intimidating to any first-timer, let alone women.
I wouldn't have ever tried it if it weren't for my husband. I recall the first time I went to a new bike park after only riding Angel Fire, it was Trestle in Winter Park, Colorado, and I was so scared about the whole thing I sat on the curb by our car and cried for five minutes. My poor husband didn't know what to do…turns out I had a great day riding and loved it. I was just afraid of the unknown.

I also think women like to do a sport that comes with fun accessories and clothes. Think about the popularity of yoga, and how so much of it is the cool mat, and the cute yoga pants and outfits. Once bike companies realize there is a market for this, I think we’ll see more women signing up. An example of this is road biking where kits, bikes and shoes are increasingly being marketed and made for women. There are so many more women getting into road cycling than gravity mountain biking.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Once again, it’s a change of culture. I’m not talking about watering it down, or taking the danger out. It’s about being strong and fit while wearing mascara and putting pink grips on your bike. It’s about taking the largest drop while the guy behind you goes around it. It’s about riding the lift with three girlfriends and talking about your favorite tire in the same breath as your favorite perfume. It’s waiting at the start line of a DH race being nervous together and reassuring each other, then knowing at the five, four, three countdown you are the fiercest competitors. It’s having videos of female riders ripping it up on Pinkbike. It’s Five/Ten putting out a women’s Freerider shoe that’s just as good as their men’s. It’s bike companies using women riders in their magazine ads. It’s already happening…      

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I see it most clearly with the eight and nine year olds I coach. I watch them be a little scared and then give it a go and see their confidence build. I know from my own experience that confidence built in that moment goes very far. It flows into their school (work) lives, relationships and choices they make to be true to themselves. Nothing in my life has been more empowering than my journey of being a mountain biker, and I am so grateful to be able to share that.  

No comments:

Post a Comment