We’re now well underway with our series featuring inspiring women (and those that inspire women) in MTBing. If you’ve missed the interviews so far, you can read about HopeTech’s Rachael Walker, Campbell Coaching’s Ally Campbell and DH hero Pat Horscroft.
This month we’re featuring Amanda Tanfield, the force behind Ladies Do DH in and around the Forest of Dean, and the inaugural Ladies Do DH Mini race on 15th July. First of all, an introduction from nominator Helen Roddis.
Helen: “[Amanda] set up Ladies do DH back at the end of 2016 with the sole aim of encouraging more ladies into riding and racing. She is one of the most friendly, welcoming and supportive riders out there, and quite frankly, if it wasn’t for her efforts to get more ladies involved in mountain biking, I wouldn’t have the awesome group of riding friends I have now! She runs regular monthly ladies’ rides and has organised some fantastic ladies’ days at FlyUp417 in the past year. Amanda has also just started down the track of getting her formal coaching qualifications so she can continue to offer even more to the ladies of the mountain bike world.”
So now it was over to me to chat to Amanda and find out more. And as I’m a person of little imagination, where else to start but at the beginning?
[RS]: How did Ladies Do DH come about?
(AT]: “I first got into riding through my husband. He does more XC orientated stuff but that was always a bit too fast and I could never keep up with him and his mates. So I went and got some coaching with Katy Curd and that was a bit of a catalyst really. The girls I met on the course were part of a group at the Forest of Dean and I started hanging out with them a bit. But it still wasn’t quite what I was looking for as most of our riding still seemed to be trying to keep up with the lads.
“I talked to some of the girls and they said similar things, so about three years ago I just emailed a load of the girls and suggested that we go to Flyup 417 for a day out together without the lads. A load of us went out and people had a good time and so they asked me to organise another one. So, a month or two later I organised another one and then another one after that. 417 have also helped me out with the group including running coaching days for us.
“Alongside that I met some other riders who were on par with me so we slowly started pushing each other doing more races and technical stuff; jumping and drops. And now we’ve got a nice little group of us that ride regularly.”
So your riding and the group kind of evolved hand in hand?
“Yeah. I think I spent a year or so trying to keep up with the lads before finding a group that I enjoyed riding with more. The group filled a hole for me and spiralled from there.”
How’s does Ladies Do DH operate?
“We meet about once a month, mostly at the Forest of Dean. I tend to choose a trail and spend an hour or two in the morning working down from the top, sessioning it and looking at potential lines, either ones that I know from when I’ve raced them or what others ride. It’s not formal coaching, we don’t work on individual technique, just practise different sections of trail and people join in and ride the different bits depending on how they feel.
“We go to Flyup 417 where we’ll do some proper coaching with the guys there and do other away days too, we’re doing Farmer John’s soon.”
“There’s no official membership, it’s just through Facebook. I just put up a date for each month and people come along if they can.
It sounds quite a lot from your end of things to be organising monthly sessions.
“It’s not bad at all and I enjoy doing it. After every session I go home beaming, seeing how much people get from the sessions, it’s just lush.
“We do get a range of abilities coming along and sometimes that can be difficult but people know what to expect and everyone pitches in to support each other. It can be hard to balance which trails we do to suit everyone though. The more experienced riders are great because they help support some of the others but also get something out the sessions by breaking their riding down and practising some of the things that they might not usually bother with. So, in a weird way, it just works and always comes together.”
You seem to take quite a nurturing approach to your sessions, is that something that you enjoy?
“Yes! It all fits together with what makes me tick, it is that part that I enjoy. But it’s not official coaching though and that makes the difference. I’ve currently got my [British Cycling] level one coaching and I do my level two at the end of June and already pencilled in for the MTB specific level two. I hope eventually to work with PedalABikeAway who do the coaching at the Forest of Dean. They support what I do already and developing the coaching for the women who come to our group.
“There are a lot of women who ask for it [coaching] and I have to be very careful about that at the moment. I’m obviously not there in a coaching role so I do have a little speech that I do at the beginning to remind people of that. It would be nice if we could offer that and do more regular proper coaching sessions and I hope that this will happen at some point.
“At the moment the whole group seems to be naturally going on a course that’s to my liking so we’ll see what happens. It’s exciting and never boring, definitely!”
You’re organising a mini-DH race this year too. It sounds like a natural step for the group but quite a big thing for you to take on.
“We hope that a lot of people will come down over the whole weekend [14th and 15th July, entry details here]. On the Friday night we’ll be doing a BBQ alongside the camping so people can get to know each other. Saturday will be practice and we’ll have groups going out and sessioning bits together if people want to do that.
“Saturday afternoon will be regular practice for everyone with people around for advice, it’ll just be like a normal mini-DH race. Then on the Sunday morning there will be some more practice time for people who couldn’t make it on the Saturday.
“The actual race will be two runs each. We’ll be using the Sheep Skull trail which is a great trail to go on as it can cater for a wide range of abilities. You wouldn’t want to be a real beginner but it would suit someone who has ridden but not done any DH before, everything is rollable and lines around the mega tricky bits. It’s the perfect trail to match to your level. You don’t need a DH bike, an Enduro bike or hardtail will do the job, there’s nothing too crazy.
“We’re not really targeting any type of riders in this, we just want people to come along if they want to give it a go and enjoy a good atmosphere, it’s not about aiming at beginners or any other level of rider.
“We’ve got some great sponsors including Flare, Zania, Flow, Glower, Flyup 417 Bike Park, PedalABikeAway, Muc-Off, Loose Riders England and Torq. Plus I’ve had lots of support from friends and those in the industry, the guys from MIJ and Chris Rogers who both organise loads of races at the Forest of Dean have helped out a lot. They’ve all given me loads of advice and been really helpful.
“We’re doing OK for entries at the moment but we could do with more to make sure we’re able to go ahead.”
We’re chatting as you are inspiring lots of others but who inspires you and why?
“Katy Curd is a huge inspiration to me, most of my riding comes down to her. She’s been through hell and back and just kept going. Watching her not give up and come back into racing, from being at the top so close to the podium, to fighting back to where she is now, it’s so inspiring.
“I’ve done lots of one-to-one sessions with her and because we struggle to find time to fit in sessions she’ll sometimes just contact me and to see if I’m free for a quick coaching session with her. That’s just how lush she is! Unfortunately she can’t come and help out at the race as she’s racing in a World Cup that weekend. She’s been to a couple of our monthly sessions which was great but obviously she’s too busy most the time! I’d kill to have an ounce of her skill.”
And finally, what’s your top tip for riding?
“I suppose my hashtag is “have a go”. If you’re not going to get out there and try it you’ll never know.”
There’s probably no better way to end an interview with someone like Amanda than with words like that. So rather than spoiling things all I’ll say is if you’re female get yourself entered in the Ladies Do DH race at the Forest of Dean in July and have a go.
Thanks to Amanda for chatting to us and to Helen for nominating her. But who should we be featuring next? Which female rider inspires you (whether you’re male or female), or who has done lots to support female riding? They could be a pro, a local coach or someone next door. Let us know in the comments below who inspires you and why – maybe it’ll be your nominee that we choose to include in the next ‘Inspiring Women’ feature.