It Takes All Kinds.

As a woman who is heavily invested in being involved in the women's off-road riding community, let me say- There is a place for you.

I was recently asked if I would re-apply or apply to a women's program like I had done last year. Good question! In 2016 I went in with high hopes and was dealt a dose of reality and humility.

Nothing puts a damper on a fun, women's mtb weekend than seeing the "I'm sorry, but" letter that appeared in my inbox. It made me rue the day I ever decided to get a smartphone.

Had I still owned my adorable flip phone, I would've been saved from the hurt in my heart until I had arrived home.

I have typically avoided exposing myself to opportunities that could result in "rejection." I'm the kind of person who likes a fairly solid guarantee that what I'm applying for is something within my realm of capabilities.

I had ideas as to why I wasn't accepted into the program, and it made me feel (temporarily) that what I'm doing isn't enough as a women's advocate for mountain biking. I also realized that I may never get into a program, regardless of my passion.

So, would I open myself up to the possibility of potential rejection in 2017? 

I think the biggest reason for applying is because I want to support companies that are promoting growth, opportunity, and change in the women's market in cycling. (Yes, women's market is another topic altogether, and I firmly believe there is a place for it.) I want those companies to know that I see their efforts and I think it's amazing. Even if I end up being one of 500, 200, or 1,000 that applied- I was one out of a lot of other women thinking the same thing: "This is a great opportunity!"

Will I ever be what they are looking for?
I'm not sure. All I can do is be me, do what I do, and do what I can to make changes in my community and beyond. I'll keep taking chances because I took a chance on mountain biking, and apparently that was a good thing!

Why is being involved so damn important to me?
Because biking has changed my life- it helped me overcome obstacles, depression, and helped me grow as a person. Gravel riding and Mountain biking helped me discover my capabilities of believing in myself and persevering. There is so much good that can come from a challenging sport- you just have to open yourself up to it. I want to help women by providing support, encouragement, and a place where they can feel like they belong.

If I continue to try and be involved with a program such as the Specialized Women's Ambassador Program or the Trek Women's Advocate Program, why have FWD - Fearless Women of Dirt?

Why not?
Rejection was the push I needed to re-evaluate myself, my passions, and my goals with FWD. I felt more motivated than ever to do my part by creating a meaningful and expansive grassroots group.

Decorah and the surrounding areas NEEDS a women's off-road riding group. An opportunity for folks to get together and ride, make new friends, and support one another- I created the foundation of something that I feel will be great, meaningful, and purposeful. It might be great in 50 years, but that's 50 more years of me busting my ass to create that greatness and purpose. I'll do so with determination in my heart and a smile on my face. I usually always gravitate towards the path less traveled- and my joy comes from growing something I believe in.

I opened FWD - Fearless Women of Dirt up to others after finding out that there was a FWD group in Canada. It's been a pleasure to chat with Lora about her growth with the group and being able to find similarities and share our struggles of both being busy, bike shop women trying to help everyone and appeal to the needs of more advanced riders. 

I crowned FWD Ambassadors, women from all over who are excited to share the joys of off-road riding with their friends and community. I wanted those who didn't have a group to call their own, to have a network and support that they could use as a resource to help them grow the sport in their community and peer group. Those who are already involved with women's ride groups will have further connectivity with other like-minded women.

FWD Ambassadors should be an advocate of the sport and do their part in spreading the word about how awesome riding off-road can be. It is ideal, that women use FWD as a way of starting up group rides in their local area- because FWD is all about moving forward with riding and community!

If you're seeking to dip your foot into creating your own riding group, I encourage you to give it a chance! Yes, it is intimidating and frankly, can be a little scary- because you have no idea if anyone will participate. Honestly? I still struggle with that, along with dealing with the feeling that what you're doing doesn't seem as important as you thought.  
It is.

Consistency, time, and dedication are all part of creating a successful riding group. There might already be one in your area, but don't be afraid to cultivate one of your own! If you're not part of that group, it likely means that you haven't found that group to be a good fit for you, which means other folks may feel the same way. Your personality and experience level may be more relatable to some folks who are too nervous to ride with that other group. Many communities have more than one group, and it makes sense because there are a lot of different personalities and riding styles. You'd be hard pressed to find one group that works for every person perfectly!

Don't let the fear of rejection or initial lack of participation stop you from going after what you're most passionate about. It takes all kinds- and you are truly capable of making a difference, you just have to take the chance and do it!

Keep applying for programs that inspire you, but don't be afraid to start your own group! Let whatever you do be a reflection of yourself and your passion for the sport.

For women involved in the industry, keep applying for women's mechanic scholarships! Even if you were not accepted last year, there is always the possibility of being accepted this year. You never know unless you try. The only way to guarantee you'll never get in is to never apply.

Curious about becoming a FWD Ambassador? You can contact me here

Whatever you choose to do and however you choose to do it- be it promoted by a company or a grassroots effort, there will be women from all over supporting you and your endeavors. 
Share your journey, spread the stoke, and live the #bikelife.