So you want to get into mountain biking, huh? Or maybe you're looking to take your riding to the next level? You've likely noticed that the sport is growing all over the country, and the world for that matter, and by now some of your friends (if not all) have taken to the trails and started shredding singletrack any chance they get. You want to join in, but where do you even start?
The world of mountain biking, or MTB for short, has long been seen as intimidating for those looking to try it out - the equipment is expensive, there's a ton of moving parts, it's more than a little dangerous, learning the lingo and local trails takes time, and finding patient people to take you out and show you the ropes isn't always easy. No matter your gender, the sport presents a large learning curve and an even larger commitment to those looking to dive in; there's no denying that ladies typically have an even harder time making the plunge into MTB, similar to most action sports. That is until recently....
Over the past few years, not only has the sport of mountain biking seemingly exploded nationwide, but more and more women are getting outside and adventuring on two wheels! With this increased female participation has come some incredible efforts and innovations for female-specific MTB resources (think Liv), further encouraging more ladies to follow suit while supporting and progressing those women who have been paving the way for years. This is an incredible time where the women's side of the sport is gaining momentum and receiving it's due attention, and there really is no better time than now to try it out!
To help you out with navigating this new and complex world, we have broken it all down to highlight all of the women-specific mountain biking groups, gear, brands, and efforts that we could think of. Keep in mind that while these resources are incredibly helpful to many women, a lot of the information in this post applies to all genders and just because you are a female does not mean you can't rely on unisex and men's resources, as well.
Our main recommendation is to go out there and try before you buy! Ask around and see if any of your friends have a bike you can borrow or possibly buy off them. There are also tons of demo days run by retailers and brands throughout the country where you can show up at the trails with a helmet and pedals, leave your license at the table, and take a bike out for few hours for free. Your local bike shop may also rent/demo bikes out of their store, though this will incur a daily fee and it will soon add up if you want to try various models. Whatever you do, try not to buy until you have a better idea of what kind of riding you want to do and how much you'd like to invest in the sport, both in money and time.
The bike world is booming, and female-specific bikes have grabbed a large portion of the spotlight. As you start your bike hunt, know that the rise of "women's bikes" doesn't mean you shouldn't ride or purchase a standard, unisex mountain bike. The bike you buy depends on a myriad of variables - riding style, type of terrain, size and weight, geometry, suspension, costs, ascending and descending ability, to name a few - and ultimately it comes down to personal preference and what you can (or want to) afford.
Bikes built specifically for women are gaining popularity, and it's a good idea to keep them on your radar as you enter into and progress through the sport. Check out these brands for some of the best women-specific bikes on the market, and see if they're running any bike demos near you:
Being a woman in an action sport can be a pretty frustrating thing when it comes to gear: little to no female-specific choices, the "shrink it and pink it" mentality, boxy and unflattering fits, or just poor designs with little thought to the diversity in shape and size that women's bodies present. But as the sport continues to progress, mountain biking brands have proven that they care about the badass ladies on bikes out there by offering incredible variety in well-designed apparel and gear, sometimes even designed by women for women. Again, there's no reason ladies can't or shouldn't wear men's (or even kid's) apparel, but with so many great options out there today we thought you should know where to look for some of the best female-specific MTB apparel brands:
A great place to start your gear research and shopping is at Dirty Jane, the women's online bike boutique "carrying a wide range of brands specifically for women who want to look & feel bad-ass while riding their bike." These ladies know their stuff and have created an awesome resource for and community surrounding women on bikes, whether it be mountain biking, urban commuting, or cycling.
Your best bet on learning about the local trails, group rides, women's initiatives, and all things mountain biking in your area is to visit your local bike shop (also known as your LBS). Women's group rides can be found in most cities and mountain towns, and they allow for ladies of all abilities, ages, and experience levels to come together and share the trails in a low-pressure and encouraging atmosphere - often with a cold beer waiting for you at the end, which never hurts! You can always check out some of the nationwide groups working to get more ladies outside, as some offer mountain biking classes, rides, and clinics throughout the country; some examples of these are SheJumps, And She's Dope Too, and Outdoor Women's Alliance.
A great way to get into the mountain biking or take your riding to the next level is by attending a skills clinic, class, or camp. Not only do you get to spend quality time working on your riding skills with professional female instructors, but you also enter the world of women's mountain biking at it's purest and leave with whole new community of ladies to ride with! There are so many different options out there today, both for co-ed groups or women only, but a few specific companies stand out to us; whether you're brand new to MTB, a veteran rider with some racing under her belt, a converted cyclist looking to shred, or just hoping to work on your technique on two wheels, these nationwide programs should be on your radar:
While you're at it, check out these professional female bikers who have started their own coaching and clinics around the country: Alison Dunlap's Adventure Camps, Lorraine Blancher's Coaching & Guiding, Leigh Donovan's I Choose Bikes, and Rebecca Rusch's #JointheRusch.
Another awesome way to get going on your bike is to attend and participate in one or more of the female-specific outdoor events held by some of our favorite big-name brands. These range from MTB-specific outings, races, and festivals to larger outdoor events calling for outdoor women of all kinds, including mountain biking! More and more of these events continue to pop up across the states, but here are some of our favorites for you to check out:
There are some incredible resources out there for mountain bikers to connect, communicate, share and shred. Many riders frequent these sites on a daily basis to get the current news, stories, gear reviews, trail conditions, and everything else MTB. Regardless of gender, you too should check these sites out:
So if you're ready to take on the trails this summer, rediscover your love for two wheels, or are looking to take your riding up a notch, there's no better time! After all, 2017 is the year of the outdoor woman. While this may not be a complete list of resources, brands, and events for the female mountain bikers out there, we think it's a pretty great place to start...happy trails!