Why have women-only mountain bike rides and weekends?
Isn't it a bit sexist to have women only rides I hear you ask. Surely we're all equal now and we don't need any of that nonsense? Well I disagree.
As someone who's been mountain biking for over 20 years I've spent plenty of time in the minority. Last year my husband and I went on a mountain biking holiday in Spain. There were 24 riders there during the week we stayed - and I was the only woman. I used to do Polaris Challenge endurance events. It's the only place I've ever been where the queue for the men's toilets was huge and women could just waltz in to theirs without a wait. I can hold my own and am very happy riding in mixed and mainly male groups.
However, I also love riding with a group of women. The vibe is different. Less sizing up of everyone's bikes and kit. More fun, more chatter and laughter. Less competitive. More supportive. And also, on a less positive note, so much better at underestimating our abilities, and sharing our lack of confidence. These last points are why I think that we can benefit from women-only rides to learn skills and techniques in a less competitive and help each other build our confidence.
What I've noticed over the years, first as a ski guide, and now as a mountain bike leader, is that (in general, not always) men are more confident and have more belief in their ability. As a ski guide I often skied with couples who both thought that the man was the better skier. Yes he was stronger and braver - but often less technically able. The woman was more anxious and unaware that she had a better mastery of the skills needed, and listened harder to that voice in her head that said: "that looks a bit tricky, I wouldn't do that, you might hurt yourself" (or some other equally unhelpful message).
Dealing with that inner voice is vital if you really want to have fun on your bike (or skis). However, having your nearest and dearest yelling at you and telling you it's easy is not generally the best way to build your confidence. Whereas a supportive group of other women can be just the ticket as I found a couple of weeks ago on an all woman coaching session at Haldon Forest Park. Everyone really wanted everyone else to succeed.
That's why I'm offering women-only weekends and rides. I aim to create a supportive environment for everyone to become more confident on their bike - both improving technical skills and (often forgotten, but just as important) learning to deal with the voice or pictures in your head that prevent you from riding as well as you want to. We also aim to have a lot of fun, eat cake and ride lots of great Devon trails in the process.
To find out more about our women-only confidence boost weekends click here.
To find out about local group rides click here.