The Secrets of Women-only Rides

Why are women mountain bikers gravitating towards womens' rides? Why do a hundred ladies from all over the Bay Area descend upon Santa Cruz to ride with Girls Rock once a month? Betty Gilbert has the answers. 

Photo by  Josh Sawyer  for Bell Joy Ride

Photo by Josh Sawyer for Bell Joy Ride

We’ve found your friends!
Finding other women to ride with can seem next to impossible, but try finding a few women who are around your same level. That used to be like stumbling upon a winning lottery ticket underneath a four-leafed clover, but lucky for us there are women’s riding groups now! Wait, why should women want to join a women-only group? Why does it matter?

Well, someone has yet to perform a scientific study in regards to mountain biking, but other fields like STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) have conducted studies to uncover how women learn best in male-dominated fields. According to this research, women feel “less threatened and more positively challenged in female-majority groups,” and can “focus on learning and mastery without worrying about what others think of them.” Anxiety and worry dissipate, and women emerge more confident and believe in themselves more when surrounded by mostly women.

My advice is this: when you’re out on the trail with your Girls Rock ride level and you find women who ride at your same speed and skill level, whatever you do, do not let those women get away! Treat them like the precious unicorns they are. Do whatever it takes to get their phone numbers (don’t scare them off, of course) and etch ride plans into stone.  

Photo by  Ashley Hansen

Photo by Ashley Hansen

Claim your stomping grounds
It can be trickier than navigating Highway 1 traffic to know where to venture out to when you’re new to the sport or the area. You might have questions like, what can my bike do? or, what am I capable of riding? The last thing you want is to end up over your head and find yourself walking down after you just climbed all the way up. What a waste!

Even with help, getting acquainted with the tangly web of Santa Cruz trails can be menacing. Advanced riders can sometimes forget what it’s like to overcome the obstacles as a newer or less-skilled rider and you can find your confidence even more shaken if you land (literally and figuratively) on the wrong trail. You want to find just the right balance of challenge and finding your flow. Girls Rock ride leaders are practiced in helping you find that balance to keep the learning curve positive.

Behold your trail muse
If you spend time on the trails, you may naturally improve as the months pass. But riding with other women can accelerate your learning in more ways than the STEM study touches on. Make it a habit to watch other women clean sections of trail that are challenging for you. This will teach your body how to move in relation to the bike and trail. Even if you don’t feel the absorption, believe me. One day something in you will click and you’ll shift your hips and shoulders in a familiar way. Then, bingo! You’ve just made it over that log or around that switchback smoother than Mindi Abair on the sax. Don’t underestimate your abilities or the power of observation. Our muses always inspire us to try our best.  

Power in numbers
You’ll likely notice that extra jolt of pedaling motivation while riding uphill with other women. The suffering can become more enjoyable when you’re not in it alone. Pretty soon, you might even find that you love climbing! Crazy, right?

Being dropped all day can be defeating and leave you with a bad, eat-my-dust taste in your mouth. Although it will make you stronger if you can keep your dirt-covered chin up! Similarly, riding with slower riders can keep you from making the most out of your rides. That’s why group rides are so killer, you get to chase (in a fun way!) the rider in front of you by setting a personal challenge to keep her wheel, or you can choose to drop back with the gal behind you if you’re really sweatin’ it. Either way, you get to push as hard as you need or want to that day. Everyone wins!

Photo by  Tina West

Photo by Tina West

Graduation day
So, you’ve made it to every single Girls Rock ride since its inception. You’ve found new friends, filled your phone with photos, and your calendar is brimming with ride dates. It might be time to think about what’s next! Gotta admit, Girls Rock events are more fun than most people’s birthday parties – the presents are in the form of cycling goody giveaways. But they rely entirely on volunteers – guides, doers, and planners (that’s why spaces are limited).

Identify that meaningful gift of service someone has given you and pay it forward. Girls Rock always needs ride leaders and volunteers to help organize events and complete small tasks. You can acquire priceless, even career-advancing, leadership skills by learning to lead a group ride, or working on a committee, or applying for a board position. Plus, you get all the warm-fuzzies of helping newer riders grow just like you did. Awwww…

This is a community organization and the mission is to nurture the women who need Girls Rock to get going. We absolutely want you to keep returning if you’re still getting up to speed as a rider, but keep a lookout for when your fluffy down feathers are looking more like fully matured wings.

Betty Gilbert is a writer and Girls Rock ride leader/volunteer living in the Santa Cruz area. She specializes in marketing and technical writing in the bicycle industry and also loves to explore new types of writing projects and industries. Her dream job (in the works!) is to bring more passion to the page with creative writing and storytelling, and ultimately serve humanity in an even greater capacity.

Have a story to tell? Interested in writing for Girls Rock's blog or website? Contact today!