Girls – Seven Reasons You Should Start Mountain Biking
Ladies. Recently I’ve been writing about how men can get their women into mountain biking, but ultimately the decision on whether or not to ride is up to you. Thirteen years ago I had a disastrous start into the sport of mountain biking, but I kept at it because I knew it was fun and would keep me in shape. Below are the top seven reasons you should at least consider getting into the saddle. Trust me, the benefits extend beyond mountain biking.
Reason 1 You’ll get fit.
Mountain biking is sustained aerobic exercise, akin to cross-country skiing. You’ll slim down, harden up, and glow. I never look better than in summer, when I tend to ride a few times a week. Friends usually remark, “You look great.” Wouldn’t it be nice to hear that? A lot?
Reason 2 You’ll build confidence.
The learning curve can be steep, but once you start clearing obstacles that used to scare you, you’ll have a renewed sense of accomplishment. These obstacles can include clearing a section of trail, conquering a long climb, or mastering a series of switchbacks. The first time you conquer a climb that used to take two or three rest stops, you’ll start to see tangible results of your hard work. This sense of accomplishment will easily translate into other areas of your life. Obstacles become something to overcome, not shy away from.
Reason 3 It’s a social thing.
After years of riding with males and a short stint as a racer, I have come to love and appreciate my female riding partners. Book groups, happy hours, and girls’ nights out fulfill our need to interact with our own kind, but there’s no reason you can’t catch up on the gossip or share feelings on a ride. Girl rides are social outings—lots of picture-taking, chatting, and munching on goodies, and recovering. There’s no pressure. Having fun takes precedence over performing.
Reason 4 Mountain biking vacations are awesome.
Mountain biking naturally lends itself to beautiful scenery. Mountain panoramas, ancient trees, and striking rock formations are the daily norm. You’ll see more animals in a day than Disney can cram into its summer blockbuster. Work in a hot tub or soak in a hot spring for post-ride recovery and you’ll feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready for the next day’s ride. Upon your return to life, others will remark, “You must have had a great vacation. You look great. And relaxed.” (See Reason 1.)
Reason 5 Bragging rights.
Maybe you roll your eyes or tune out when others start going on about their epic rides, amazing times, gnarly falls, yadayadayada. Well, maybe you’re just jealous. Maybe you want to do something amazing and epic. Maybe you want to start showing off the (inevitable) bruises that come along with mountain biking. Over time your bragging will go from, “We went riding last night,” to “We rode six miles up the canyon, then rode through four miles of sweet singletrack.” See, it doesn’t even look like bragging. But it is.
Reason 6 You’ll learn mechanical stuff.
In the mountain biking world, it is an unwritten rule that you have to be able to do the basics: fix a flat, tighten and loosen cables, and pump your tires to the right pressure so you don’t get pinch flats. When I started riding, the most mechanical thing I ever did was build a crooked, pathetic shelf in eighth-grade woodshop that earned me my first C grade. Only when I started working on my own bike did I learn the physics of moving parts. My coup de grace came when I fixed a broken chain on a ride. Now I delight in tinkering with my bike, knowing that I am responsible for its upkeep. You’ll learn what washers are and why they’re important. Most women I know wish they were better mechanics. Here’s your chance.
Reason 7 Mental toughness.
Falling off your bike is part of mountain biking. You fall off, you get back on. Unless the pain is unbearable or you’ve broken something, you ride down. You don’t complain about how tough or how long the trail is because complaining doesn’t help the matter, focus does. Crying is ok, even necessary sometimes, but know that sooner or later you’re going to have to get down that trail. You finish even when you don’t want to.
Years ago I got into high-altitude rides, ones that topped out at over 10,000 feet. One particular ride included a brutal 4,200 feet of climbing. After that we rode on flat terrain for a while but then the uphill started again, and my spirit broke. All I could do was walk my bike up the mountain and pray the downhill was coming. Eventually I put my hands and head on my handlebars and sobbed for about twenty minutes. One of my riding partners (who would later become my boyfriend), waited for me while I cried out tears of exhaustion, frustration, and anger. But I got back on and killed it on the downhill. I even had to fix a flat tire in the midst of that crisis, but I finished.
Ladies, you have to start to finish. Now go out and ride.