Lessons In Mountain Biking: Women Building Each Other Up

Last Sunday (6/26/16) was the first inaugural FWD Women’s Ride of the season!

It was a small group, but that was just fine. Kenzie was new to FWD and mountain biking, thus creating the perfect opportunity to bring her out in a welcoming environment.

Travis led the fellows to Dunnings while Kristin, Steph, Kenzie, and I went to hit up some of the easier areas in Van Peenen.

This was an exciting afternoon, more from the standpoint that this would be Kenzie’s first “real” mountain bike ride, and you better believe I wanted it to be a positive experience for her. This is why I’ve gone so far to create FWD and to be so proactive with wanting to do what I can to encourage women to give off-road riding a chance.

The three of us worked together as more experienced riders to keep Kenzie in the middle of it all. I had Kristin and Steph take the lead so Kenzie would be able to see them ride ahead in certain areas while I remained behind. Being behind Kenzie ensured she would be able to better hear me as I gave out tips and suggestions for some of the most basic handling.

“Get your butt back over the seat!” “Keep your pedals level!” “Pedal, pedal, pedal!” – these were common along with “Get your butt up off your seat!”

I made sure that there were plenty positive comments being given- because I remember back to my first few off-road rides. I heard a lot of necessary critiques but I also heard positive feedback. I feel that positive feedback is so helpful when it comes to assisting with that little added push to get over nervous feelings. You could tell those comments worked when Kenzie would acknowledge them and also let out her own whoops of joy!

Being behind Kenzie, I first worried that I would not do a good job of being able to remember what was coming up ahead. My job was to let her know when uphill climbs or downhills would be coming up. Also when on Little Big Horn, when the logs and dips would appear. Pretty much, anything that involved anything other than riding a straight line, so she knew what to expect. A positive thing for Kenzie is that she’s been helping Tyler out on the trails a bit, so she’s gotten familiar with a few and wasn’t going in completely blind. I was also worried that if anything happened- would I be fast enough to help? I know not all falls can be prevented, but gosh darn it, I wanted to try!

We took it easy, making a trip up IPT to the Fire Road, hitting both West and East Pines, and venturing into Little Big Horn via GT Park. Towards the middle of Little Big Horn, Kristin had to duck off to fulfill her volunteer duties at HSNEI. Steph and I continued on with Kenzie in the middle- stopping to give some personal suggestions as to how to deal with some of the more intimidating features coming up- The Dips. These are fun and swoopy down and ups, one is smaller and one is larger- I can remember vividly the fear I had of The Dips before I had done them a few times. Long story short- Kenzie totally rocked it!

During the ride, I was amazed and inspired by Kenzie and her gumption. There were only a few spots that tripped her up, but they have tripped up ALL new riders, including myself! She had such a positive attitude (admitting after the ride that she was nervous as heck) but she kept all of it under tabs and stayed focused. She rode a pace that was comfortable for her and we didn’t push her to “go faster”… as that comes with time. New riders have enough pressure as it is so my objective is- get some of the basics covered, but don't overwhelm.
I had talked to a friend a few days after the ride, and she said that it seems there are times when women ride together- they become braver. I had looked back on my rides with Travis and so many of my early ones were riddled with tears and my being overly anxiety-filled. If it’s because one feels they can be more “open” with their significant other and it’s okay to be completely vulnerable whereas when riding with other women who are doing it in front of you potentially gives you more of the “Stoke”…the inspirational feeling of “Yes! I can try this!

Rocky Road, Luge, and River Trail were last on the ride list before we headed back to the shop to wait for the fellows to come back. Our first women’s ride warranted the lot of us to go out for supper and beverages in celebration! (This is something we try to do with our rides every few months to bring a sense of comradery to the group.)

Kenzie had a most excellent time! There may or may not have been joy-filled comments and conversation days after; you could tell that Tyler was stoked that she had a good time. It was wonderful to see how happy she was after the ride- she had done so well on her first ride and I was so proud! The smile on her face and the talk of how excited and proud she was of what she accomplished. Yes. That is what I love to see! Watching the person who thought “I might not be able to do this” proving to themselves that they certainly can- you can see the confidence grow during the ride. It’s like a bright beam of sunlight on a cloudy day- it’s beautiful and nearly blinds you.

I was thrilled that FWD and I were able to give Kenzie a welcoming and encouraging experience for her first off-road ride. It’s not to say that I didn’t have positive times with Travis on the trail- but I could see firsthand how much better it went for Kenzie than if we had a more Co-Ed experience. There was much less pressure and we were able to understand, communicate, and relate more easily than I was able to when I first rode with Travis.

This is what FWD is about and this is what I live for! If you are curious about riding off-road and you are nervous and afraid that you won’t do well, FWD and I are here to help!

You have to be willing to give it a chance before you completely write off that you "can't" mountain bike.

Kenzie isn’t an avid rider, she didn’t know what she could accomplish or expect- and she blew me away with how wonderful she did! No first ride is going to be “perfect” and there will always be spots to walk. You can’t look at that in a negative light, instead, look at everything you did ride- you will be amazed!

All you need to do is be open and willing to try. #BikeLife

Now, for those who are interested in our rides.