I have been riding a mountain bike for over four years now, but it is only fairly recently that I've been riding with women. I'd previously been to an all girl event and the difference between that and mixed events really struck me. Women are way more supportive! We care who is at the front, at the back and about everyone in between. We care how everyone feels about riding over features, rather than boasting about how far we can "gap" them. I'm not doing the boys down, I love riding with the boys, but somehow the experience of riding mountain bikes with other women, is something quite inspiring.
This is why in 2016 I've been organising some all girl rides though the MTBChix&Trails group, the most recent of which took us up Helvellyn in the Lakes. It is a big day out, even if it is only 13 miles. It is almost 3500 feet of elevation and involves carrying your bike for at least an hour to the summit of Dollywagon, but it's absolutely worth it! As it was such a huge day out this particular ride was best suited for experienced riders, but not all of the rides we do are this tough. Some are less technical and suited to beginners as well as everyone in between. The aim of these rides is not only to have fun but to give opportunities to us women, whatever our abilities to go on rides we might not otherwise ride. Meeting other women along the way and hopefully boosting our confidence to do all of the above again and again!
Despite my foreboding comments about the difficulty of the ride, we were 11 women strong on the day. Some came from Scotland, the rest from all over the north of England. A few ladies camped at Glenridding for the weekend and left the kids with their dads at base camp while we tackled the ride. Some ladies came on their own, some with friends, but we were all one happy group within a short space of time. Most of us had met via social media and it was great to finally put real life faces to names! Most of the group had never done the ride before, but it had always been on their wish list.
Starting out from Glenridding we took the road south for a mile before turning up the bridleway to Grisedale tarn. About 3/4 of the way up it was time to start carrying the bikes, some of us had taped some insulation tubing to our down tubes and I have to say it actually helped a lot! It made the hike a bike a lot comfier! (yes that is actually possible-ish!)
As soon as you lift your bike onto your back, your mind and body start to wonder what on earth you are doing but fairly soon, once you are the rhythm it becomes second nature. We stopped at the climbers hut just below Grisedale Tarn to re fuel and chat before the non-stop ascent to the summit of Dollywagon. The views rewarded our efforts with the great weather giving us a stunning vista down past Coniston to the sea and up past Keswick, Ullswater and beyond.
We admired the view while we caught our breath but before long we were riding along the ridge to Nethermost Pike and on up to Helvellyn. After peering over the edge with the wind threatening to blow our gloves back down to Glenridding, we headed for our first great descent down from Lower Man. It is quite steep, loose, rocky and technical....but everyone reached the bottom with huge smiles. We stopped shortly afterwards to re-fuel again and to discuss motherhood before embarking on the the long technical descent down Sticks Pass. This makes the effort of the hike a bike totally worth it being over 2300ft of descent on rocky technical single track with some welcome surprises, as it winds back down to Glenridding. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that every one was tired, happy and buzzing from a fabulous day.
But for me it wasn't just the great ride, it was the experience. It was to ride with 10 other strong and inspirational women from all walks of life and ages who came together through a shared love of riding and the mountains, with not a moments silence since we'd set off 5 hours earlier, with laughter prevalent all the while. I loved making new friends and chatting as if we had known each other for years. I think it's safe to say that no one felt anxious about their riding skills in the group and hopefully everyone grew in confidence about their abilities and took home more than aching bodies and big smiles. I feel like we achieved something special that day.
Whatever your level of riding or experience, I would say go ride with other women! For me it has improved my confidence, my skills and I have met the most amazing ladies through the sport. Hopetech women are holding women only rides across the country which are awesome and I've met some brilliant women at these events! I've got another ride organised on 25th September. No hike a bike this time I promise! Check out the events page for more details. Ride like a girl. Hope to see you out on the trails soon!