Women-specific organised rides: a joyful, much needed step-up for women riders, or a ride that\u2019s more intimidating than the first day at High school?\n\nAdele sharpens her pencils and prepares to discuss...\nBy Adele Mitchell\nWhile I truly believe the world would be a better place if more women rode mountain bikes, I tend to avoid organised \u2018women-only\u2019 rides (note - as opposed to riding with mates who are women, which is generally great). While others enthuse about the mutual support, absence of machismo and general kittens-in-a-basket loveliness of a same gender ride, my experience has led me to scuttle off in the opposite direction at the first mention of \u2018post-ride cupcakes\u2019.\n\nJust because we\u2019re all women doesn\u2019t mean we all like doing the same thing, nor have the same level of skill. Imagine if a ride was advertised as a \u2018men-only\u2019 ride \u2013 you\u2019d be scratching your head about what to expect too (a detour to a shed, mid-trail press up competition, pies?).\n\n\n\nMy wariness is rooted in a women\u2019s only ride that I was asked to help lead, several years ago. It was advertised as a cross-country ride with some singletrack. On the day around thirty women turned up, all of different ability and riding everything from a High Street hardtail to a long travel full suspension bike. We also had a man join us, apparently because he didn\u2019t think his girlfriend could ride without him.\n\nPredictably, the High Street hardtail survived for about half a mile before repeated technical issues forced the rider to return to the car park, in tears. The rest of us carried on but it wasn\u2019t long before long-travel lady decided to throw a bit of a strop every time we went up hill (\u2018it\u2019s boring!\u201d). She soon changed her tune when it was time to go downhill of course, and set off at speed - but not before yelling \u201clast one down is a loser!'\u201d at the group of obviously nervous riders behind her. Charming.\n\nWith the ride now split (it only takes one!) and \u2018a bit of an atmosphere\u2019 going on, those same nervous riders decided to bypass the next technical section so I took them round to the end of it to wait for the others. This proved to be quite a long wait as Ms Downhillchampionoftheworld had managed to go OTB mid trail. Anyway, she was a bit quieter after that.\n\n\n\nBut there\u2019s more to my avoidance of women\u2019s rides than the risk of being rubbed up the wrong way by someone who\u2019s a bit rude.\n\nTruth be told I harbour a dread-filled anticipation of joining a group of women whose ability may put my riding skills to shame. Of course I should be more concerned about falling off or carrying a spare inner tube \u2013 instead my biggest fear is where I will fall in the pecking order of mountain biking sisterdom: one of the cool girls at the front (unlikely!), or the gangly one at the back doing the walk of shame down some massively technical trail while everyone else waits at the bottom, swapping high-fives and having great hair.\u00a0It\u2019s like being the new girl at St Enduro\u2019s, with gap jumps in place of hockey.\n\nThis week, however, Hopetechwomen were hosting a ride on my local trails in Peaslake, and I think it\u2019s pretty awesome of them to make the effort on our behalf so I took a very deep breath, grabbed my trusty bike and joined the ride.\n\n\n\nI turned up at the car park with a churning stomach and sweaty palms, not really knowing what level of ability to expect. After all, the days when women mostly had their other half\u2019s old bike and a flowery top are long gone. We choose our own bikes and ride them at every level.\u00a0An impressive turn out of forty riders had turned up and there wasn\u2019t a High Street hardtail or a boyfriend in sight. Instead there was a sea of Commencal, Orange and Juliana bling. These women were mountain bikers from head to 5Ten-wearing feet.\n\nThings got off to a bad start for me. Blame a severe case of \u2018all fingers and thumbs\u2019 but, as I went to put my back wheel on, my chain contorted into a lump of uselessness that I couldn\u2019t untangle. In the end, a nice man (I know, I know) from Hope had to help me sort my chain kerfuffle out. Which was very kind, of course, but did little to soothe my \u2018I\u2019m hopeless\u2019 angst.\n\nThe ride was split into two groups - enduro rider and Hope Tech Brand Manager Rachael Walker led the easier ride group (somewhat over qualified for that role, incidentally), while ultimate mtb cool-girl Anna Glowinski had rocked up (as only cool people can) to lead the more technical ride. I\u2019ve met Anna before and she is lovely \u2013 but I also know she is no stranger to defying gravity at great speed. Would I be okay pedalling along in her dusty wake?\n\n\n\nAfter another deep breath I decided to leave my superego in the car park, chuck my comfort zone into the long grass, and join the vast majority of riders who were now rolling out behind Anna.\n\nPolite conversation in the group focussed on a) do you know these trails and b) how long have you been riding for. Clearly then, I wasn\u2019t the only one who was a bit nervous.\u00a0Having negotiated the first singletrack section it was clear that the average standard of riding was firmly in the \u2018very capable\u2019 (for either gender!) bracket. But you know what? I was doing okay, and I wasn\u2019t at the back \u2013 and not just because Anna took that position to make sure everyone got to the bottom of the trails safely.\n\nSoon we were darting through the woods, dappled by evening sunlight, as a fast flowing train of mtb goddesses. And no one moaned about the hills.\u00a0I even nailed a trail nemesis that had bugged me for months \u2013 it\u2019s amazing what you can do when faced with the potential embarrassment of holding a few strangers up.\n\nI watched up-close as confident, ass-kicking women made scary descents look easy, and realised that my angst is nothing to do with a lack of skills. I\u2019m already dropping my heels, sticking out my elbows and bending my knees on my lovely, capable trail bike: I just need a bit more self belief - and a lot less comfort braking.\n\n\n\nA small group of male riders watched, jaws dropped, as forty divas of dirt and their blingy bikes rolled past them, owning the moment like a band of biking Beyonces. These women were fabulous, and I was proud to ride with them.\n\nAfterwards we swapped tips, contact details and discussed future rides, \u201cSo many women are nervous about their ability when they turn up\u201d, Rachael tells me over a cup of tea. \u201cBut we make sure everyone has a good time\u201d.\n\nSo, what did I bring away? The knowledge that I am a better rider than I think I am, a lot of inspiration, new ride buddies... and a post-ride cupcake, which was very tasty.\n\n\n\nFor more information about Hopetechwomen rides click here.