Let’s face it, there’s nothing better than riding with a rad group of female mountain bikers. Whether you are looking to share the experience of mountain biking with others, explore a new trail, or push your fitness and skills in the company of others, a group ride with other females is your hot ticket to mountain biking enjoyment. However, while the numbers of women mountain biking continues to grow steadily, there still remains a lack of group rides for everyone to enjoy. Different work schedules, fitness levels, skill levels, locality, and perceived definitions of fun and enjoyment are different from women to women. This is what makes us all cool and unique. This is why we hands down need MORE WOMENS MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDES. This is why I am going to tell you how to get started!
Featured Image: The Mountain Miss Fits know how to have fun, be inclusive, AND push the ladies to ride harder and better! Based in Sacramento, California, this group is currently leading rides every other weekend around Northern California. This photo was from our weekend we spent together in Downieville this past summer. read more about it here.
STEP 1: ARE THERE EXISTING RIDES? The whole point behind having group rides is to get more women riding together. If there are already group rides in your area, your new ride may conflict, and thereby keep the ladies separated, not really bringing together the community. If you are uncertain if a womens specific group ride that fits with you exists in your area, check our Group Rides page, with your local bike shop(s), and search online to see if you can find any groups our clubs that are already leading rides locally. Go on a couple existing rides (even if they seem a little too hard or easy) and see if you enjoy riding with the group. Do you like the group’s energy and how they conduct their ride? If you are stoked on the group, perhaps your could help them expand the rides they offer (more dates, locations, and/or ability levels) with your help (aka volunteering). If you have never led a mountain bike ride before, going on a variety of group rides will help inspire you with creating one of your own, and hopefully give you some solid pointers on how to be smart and safe out there. If you encounter groups that you feel are great, be sure to let them know they can add them to the Group Rides page, and will share it with thousands of riders.
STEP 2: STARTING YOUR OWN RIDE: If you need to start your own ride because nothing truly exists, take a deep breath and remember YOU CAN DO IT! Before I get into the boring, harder, red-tapey like stuff, I want to stress the need to create an infrastructure and a plan. Try to visualize about your dream group ride. Be sure to hit all of the Who, What, Where, and Why stuff. Please be sure to read the red-tape stuff too, because you definitely want to be SAFE and SMART out there.
STEP 3: KNOW WHO & WHAT YOUR RIDE ABOUT? Who are you hoping to have come on your ride? What kind of ride are you able to offer based on your own fitness and ability level? Do you like stopping to smell the roses or charging on? The need for No-Drop, All Abilities Rides is great, but there is also a need for training rides that help push limits, in a fun and safe way. Remember, we are all on the same Trail (life) but we all ride at our own unique pace, which will increase and decrease (change), over time (the inevitable). There is a great demand for more variety in Womens Mountain Bike group rides, how can you supply it by being your unique self?
STEP 4: BE(COME) A TRAIL EXPERT: What trails will your group ride? If you are leading your own rides, you should be an expert of the trails you are leading rides on. You should not need a map, know your local hazards well, be aware of other trail traffic, have a good idea of distances and elevation gain or drop between sections, a good sense of the soil, terrain, and how the trail is affected by weather. You should certainly know how communications will work on the trail (cell service?) and how to call for and/or go for help, should someone get hurt.
STEP 5: INVITE THE LADIES! This is the fun part. Once you feel confident about your trail expertise and have a good understanding of the type of ride you are hoping to offer, its time to take your visualization, your dream, and manifest it into reality. This might sound magical, but it could be as simple as letting your local shop know of your plan and asking them to share with their customers. If you’ve met other ladies over the miles, be sure to let them know to. I find the best way to keep in touch with the ladies and let them know what’s coming up is with an email newsletter. I really enjoy using MailChimp myself. I have a sign-up form on our website, and can also manually add subscribers (riders) with an app on my phone. Other groups love utilizing Facebook, Meet-Up, Voo.st, Evite, or other social media, event type websites to list their rides, field questions, accept rsvps, and more. Either way, be sure to submit your ride on the Group Rides page so we can add it to our calendar and share with the masses.
STEP 6: HAVE A GREAT RIDE! Pack all of your “things” the night before. Check over your bike thoroughly, pack extra tubes, snacks, and tools (its great being a trail hero), and don’t forget your smile. Get to the meeting site early, so you are totally relaxed and ready when your guests arrive. Before you take off to shred, be sure to introduce yourself, allow the others to do introductions, describe the route and plan, and discuss trail rules and safety. I can’t possibly explain everything I do on a group ride here to make it fun and amazing… But I always wait at intersections, check in with my riders about hydration and comfort, and do my best to keep the smiles going for miles. At the end of the ride, be sure to have closure and get feedback. Did the ladies like the route and riding style? Would they come back for more? What would they change (a better day or time?) Would they like to go have a coffee, beer, burrito, just bacon? How can they all stay in touch? ESP, Phone, Email, Strava, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, good old fashioned note-cards? Have a plan to keep your group together and moving forward. And remember, not everyone will love you or your ride (shame on them!). We are all unique, let others find what works for them and do not be disheartened if they don’t fit into your group ride. Its just part of life.
THE DREADED RED TAPE Of course its all fun and games until… you get cited for hosting an un-permitted group activity in a public place, or worse, someone gets hurt. Here’s that red tape stuff I didn’t want you to get hung up about. Don’t let these scare you or hold you back, you can create your own Womens Mountain Bike Ride, and there are loads of groups and companies to support you (more on getting support for your group ride soon!) I just want you to know whats down the trail, should you choose to… progress your fantastic new group ride!
- PERMISSION Some areas will require a permit for any group activity, even if it is free and open to the public. If you plan on having an on-going ride that is more than a casual group of friends that happens to meet at the same place each week (read: if you are inviting people via the internet or flyers) you should check with the land manager about needing permission. It may just be a verbal, it might be free. At worse it will require paperwork and a fee. You will cross that bridge when you get to it, I promise, you will find a way.
- LIABILITY At a minimum, protect your personal or club’s liability with a simple waiver. This could double as a sign-in sheet and a good place to gather information to keep in touch with riders in the future. The Shine Waiver and Ride Waiver sheets are available for download. You may use the format and wording to help you get started. Keep in mind we are not lawyers and will accept no liability for your use of our waiver sheets.
- SAFETY This should be #1, and so I’ve put it here at the bottom so it the lasting thing in your brain… Always know your trail hazards (cougars, bears, tweakers, theives, wolves, dwarfs?) and have an Emergency Plan of Action (wtf are you going to do if someone gets hurt?). If you have access to experienced volunteers, always ride with a sweep (the person that brings up the rear), someone with Basic First Aid at least and knowledge about trailside repairs. If you cannot find a sweep, you must sweep your own ride, or do a headcount every mile or so to be sure you have not lost anyone. Not being safe means bringing unnecessary danger and drama into your life. Save that stuff for the movies, keep it safe on the trail!
This post will be updated as more information and time becomes available. We would love your feedback and input for starting a Womens Mountain Bike Group Ride. Feel free to contact us, and remember to add your ride to our Group Rides page!