On International Women’s day last year we didn’t want to just do a one-day thing to say how awesome women riders are so instead we launched a year’s worth of interviews with inspiring women within mountain biking or people who have done lots to promote women riders and riding.
We asked you to nominate people that we should be speaking to whether they were top pros, industry bods or local heroes.
So what have we learned?
There are loads of women out there doing lots of awesome things. From industry insiders like Rachael Walker at Hope, racers and motivators like the Gowaan Gals and Sally Bigham, local organisers such as Amanda Tanfield. Some are quietly working away in the background making our riding journeys smoother (metaphorically so, not literally, this is mountain biking after all) whilst others are trail blazing in the foreground. Some are young and others less young. Some are mums, some are grandmas whilst others may or may not have kids in the future.
We can celebrate the fact that MTB isn’t tethered down by the weight of old boys’ club like road cycling and other sports are. Whilst we would all like to see more women getting to love what we all do, there are loads who already are and many who helped define what we all have today. Missy Giove, Joey Gough and Tracy Mosley are as important to mountain Biking as Ned Overend, John Tomac and Steve Peat. Rachel Atherton, Tahnee Seagrave, Yolanda Neff, Annika Langvad, Cecile Ravanel and others are all making the DH, XC and Enduro race scenes at least as exciting as their male counterparts are.
And finally confidence and creating a supportive and encouraging environment were themes in every one of our interviews. Of course, this isn’t exclusive to women, some men don’t have tonnes of confidence and feel intimidated by others too. Conversely there are lots of women who don’t feel held back by these things. But be it skills, attitudes, riding mates, there are lots of things we can do to empower and ease more women into riding.
In case you missed any of the interviews here’s a quick rundown of them all.
First up, Rachael Walker Brand Manager at Hope, intrepid adventurer and the woman behind HopeTech Women. The HopeTech Women’s rides and races are continuing to from strength to strength. You only need to go to one to see why after all what more do you want than a supportive environment and the enjoyment of riding bikes?
In April I spoke to the Pat Horscroft, aka Granny McGnarly, who at the tender age of 75 is ripping it up on the downhill trails of her home town Sheffield and beyond. Pat only took up mountain biking at 60 so is clear proof that you’re never too old for this lark.
Next up was Ally Campbell of Campbell Coaching in Afan. Ally’s message was clear, women don’t lack the skills or ability, it’s their confidence that tends to need a boost. She also had lots of tips and advice how to keep riding with a young child in tow (literally and metaphorically) which I’m currently putting to good use.
In June I spoke to Amanda Tanfield, organiser of Women Do DH. To encourage more women into riding Amanda organises group rides, coaching sessions and this year races in her spare time. Our sport is underpinned by people like Amanda working away at a local level.
July’s interviewee was Michelle Haigh one of the women behind the Facebook group MTB Chix and Trails, a huge supportive group of female riders of all ages and abilities. Talking to Michelle was a great reminder that riding your bike isn’t all about being rad and hitting big drops, it’s about getting out there and having a laugh.
Marathon racer Sally Bigham was next up, one of the most successful British racers with a palmares many can only dream of. Recently retired from racing she spent the last couple of years of her professional career pregnant and then with a young baby to look after proving again that motherhood is no barrier.
In September I spoke to commentator Dan Jarvis. The keen eyed amongst you will notice that Dan is not a woman himself but he is a huge advocate of women’s riding and reminded us of all the good stuff to celebrate.
It would be hard to pick the most inspiring thing about October interview Lynne Armstrong. She’s an amazing rider doing things that most of us can only dream of, the woman behind Air Maiden and now a Cranworx judge.
We couldn’t do a feature about inspiring women without speaking to the Adventure Syndicate. Whether it’s their own two-wheeled antics or enabling kids to have their own adventures, Lee, Jenny, Jenny and Rickie are always reminding us that there’s so much more to bikes than the actual riding.
In December we celebrated one of our own Adele Mitchell. As an ex-model and former fashion editor Adele is proof that we can mix getting sweaty and filthy with a feminine side of life too.
Our penultimate interview was with Julie Rand, a woman who has been quietly working away in the background for years and more recently is the force behind UK Cyling’s Women’s Festival of Cycling.
And last, but far from least, it was the turn of the Gowaan Gals – EWS racers Martha Gill and Bex Baraona. Their enthusiasm for having a go and a laugh at the same time is incredibly infectious. Chatting to them has certainly revolutionised my approach to wheelie practise.
So yay to all those women on bikes, and a bigger yay to all those who are yet to discover how ace riding is. And on that note, I’m off to celebrate International Women’s day with a ride.