3 women in Mountain Biking that can inspire you to take it up like a lady

…because MTB is not as male-dominated as you think.

Women and Mountain Biking is simply not an obvious association for the mainstream mind. But could this be the time of change? Women’s MTB Clubs are sprouting up at a local level. Female MTB communities gain traction on Facebook – check out Women that Mountain Bike or Chicks who ride bikes, for example. Women’s MTB races are not a rare commodity and companies that start introducing special equipment for women, like Shredly and Liv, are increasing in numbers. Are we, thus, at the point where Women in MTB will soon hit critical mass and go viral, making the sport even more popular among women all over the world?

We reached out to 3 amazing professional women mountain bikers to get some insiders’ opinions on the matter, to discuss about some gender based biases that come with the sport and to offer an original source of inspiration to all women out there that are thinking to take up MTB, but are hesitating to take the leap.

So, sit back and enjoy the ride with these incredible ladies!

  1. KJ Sharp

KJ started racing at Enduro World Series only 2 years after she solely committed to mountain biking. She is currently doing a master’s course in Sport and Exercise Nutrition, spending her time between biking and studying.

Website: https://kjsracingworld.wordpress.com/ Insta: @kj.sharp

Photo courtesy of kjsracingworld.wordpress.com

As an insider to the sport, what, in your opinion, indicates that more women are into MTB? What would you say to encourage or inspire more women to take it up?

2017, my first year of racing represents one word: crashing. My original 10% of optimal race speed progressed to 50% prior to the 2018 season. However, how can it be that I ranked 13th in the Enduro World Series in both 2017 and 2018?

From a racer’s point of view, you can see women’s mountain biking growing in both numbers and talent every year, continuously strengthening the competitive field. It is an exciting time to be involved, with a lot to offer from health, fitness and enjoyment to the excitement of racing down a mountain.

With many companies branching out to produce female specific frames, and organise female specific events, we now have next to no-excuse as to why we can’t do it! With numerous demo-days throughout the year, all over the world, we are spoilt for choice. Giving us the opportunity to ride bikes before completely committing. Stop hesitating and start riding, I promise it will be worth it!

Photo courtesy of kjsracingworld.wordpress.com

Are there any dominant misconceptions about women and MTB that you would like to rectify?

I am sure there are many misconceptions about female mountain bikers, just like in both any other male and female disciplines. It very rarely occurs and is normally in joke form, but when a person (male or female) stereotypically categorises you, it does hurt.

During my first 6-months of riding, I was clueless about bike mechanics; I couldn’t even get a pair of pedals onto my bike. At the time the people that I rode with were very helpful, however, prepped and serviced my bike components without explaining the processes to me. It wasn’t until racing started that I soon realised my lack of knowledge. Embarrassed to talk to other bikers and mechanics, I was soon encouraged to learn the basics. If anyone touched my bike I needed to know what, why and how. It took me a solid two years of listening, reading and practice to get up to speed. However, it is refreshing to know that I can now independently service and look after my own bike, while testing/comparing new and old components based on my own knowledge.

It is a learning process that all bikers experience and I would encourage all to learn the basics. Not just to stop those stereotypical views, but just understanding your bike and its limits can boost your riding skills alone.

  1. Veronique Sandler

Veronique was born and raised in New Zealand, and now lives in Bristol, UK. She is 25 years old and, since she started racing professionally in 2009, she has won several awards and competitions. Being a professional Mountain Biker is her dream job. In 2017 she stopped racing and started freeriding, creating videos and learning tricks with her bike.

Insta: @veroniquesandler

As an insider to the sport, what, in your opinion, indicates that more women are into MTB? What would you say to encourage or inspire more women to take it up?

Having ridden in and around bikeparks for about 10 years now, I’ve noticed massive differences in the last few years by just seeing so many more women/girls out riding! I used to go out riding and never see another girl on the trails, but now every single time I go for a ride I’m guaranteed to bump in to a group of ladies shredding.. it’s awesome!

To encourage women I would say just try not to let shyness and insecurities play a part. Just give it a go and don’t worry about anything! Mtb can be an intimidating sport but everyone out there is so encouraging and will help you if you need, so don’t be afraid to just drop into a trail in front of a group of guys and go for it! I promise you’ll have a blast. 

Are there any dominant misconceptions about women and MTB that you would like to rectify?

To be honest, I’m not a huge feminist but I believe everyone is equal. Being a female in such a male dominated sport, I can honestly say that most guys are so supportive and stoked on seeing girls out riding and are much more likely to help you out if you’re stuck or have a flat tire than they are other guys, haha. From my point of view there’s not as much sexism and inequality as some people make out, but I know some people who are big in the racing scene feel differently. From where I stand there’s mostly been awesome support happening! You’ve just got to get out there and try things without being worried of what others think and I bet you’ll have a great time for sure!

3. Melanie Chappaz

Melanie is 19 years old and comes from France. She has been riding her bike professionally since 2015. She is a rider for Hope Factory team. When she is not riding, she likes to spend time with family and friends.

Insta: @melanie_chappaz

As an insider to the sport, what, in your opinion, indicates that more women are into MTB? What would you say to encourage or inspire more women to take it up?

Downhill is a pretty special sport with special sensations. The way to escape from reality and even the adrenaline that comes with it are just amazing and if someone wants to try this sport one time, it’s not a wrong decision- ahaha! A few people think that downhill is only for men because it’s too dangerous and crazy for us, women! But lots of girls are crazier than many boys and that is soooooo cool!!! Aha. Now, stations, brands, and equipment think about girls and it’s wonderful to see that. Just one thing: this sport is magical for women, too! So, try and you’ll see for yourself!

Are there any dominant misconceptions about women and MTB that you would like to rectify?

A few years go, for lots of people, downhill was associated with men, danger, being crazy, jumps, roots, rocks, and never (or almost never) women!!! Now, this conception starts to fade, because guys love riding with us, thanks to the atmosphere. I’m very happy about it! This sport becomes more and more mixed and it’s super!

When we first started out with this article at Thrillism, we, as most probably you, thought that we would conclude that like in most sectors of society, there would indeed be a huge divide. Having the insiders’ point of view, it seems that MTB is far more inclusive for women than how it is perceived by outsiders. The athletes themselves are supportive to each other no matter what their gender is. It would be great if the industry caught on to that and pushed even more to the direction of inclusiveness and gender equality in the sport. However, we think we can all agree, it would be awesome to see more women in relevant advertisements. All and all, mountain biking seems to have found its way to more women’s hearts and women feel more welcomed to the sport, but there is always room for more inclusiveness. If you are among the women that would like to try but hesitate, take some inspiration from KJ, Veronique and Melanie, shed any shred of fear and just go shred! It is a crazy sport, but who are we to judge?

This article was written by our friends at Thrillism.com. Head to their website for more interesting adventure content

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