Green Trails, Greenways, and an Ecosystem of Trails
Trail organizations across the country have seen a significant increase in the number of trail users over the last few years. More people outside is a good thing. Being outside has so many benefits on an individual level and outdoor spaces have the power to bring people together.
With more people outdoors, how do we impart etiquette to trail users of all ages? How do we communicate things like respect, inclusiveness, safety, and etiquette on trails when these all seem to be big words? How do we turn new mountain bikers into lifelong riders?
IMBA chatted with Lindsey Richter, founder of Ladies AllRide, about how she imparts etiquette and life skills through her writing and mountain bike coaching, and how she empowers girls and women to be rad on the trails. Lindsey wrote a book titled Mountain Biking Adventures with Izzy: Etiquette is a Big Word which she hopes will help kids and adults spread kindness on trails.
Also in this blog are quotes from young riders who talk about what makes them smile on trails and how they help other people have a good time on the trail.
What made you decide to write a children's book on trail etiquette?
A woman approached me during the pandemic. She had noticed an influx of people at her local trails in Seattle. This woman messaged me out of the blue, I hadn’t met her. She had noticed my writing style online and said, ‘I don't know just the way you relate mountain biking to life and try to reach more mountain bikers. Maybe you would want to help me write a book about etiquette because there's so many new users on the trail. A lot of them don’t seem to have good etiquette, were littering and passing and going off trail and widening the trails and riding when it's muddy.’
I thought about it. I love writing but a book about etiquette for kids, that seems really dull. They’re not going to want to read a book about etiquette. I just kept thinking about it, and something was pulling me towards it. I knew it needed to happen. I thought that it would be a fun way to talk about etiquette and something a little more lighthearted, like a kid's book.
I was talking to one of my fellow mountain bike coaches who is a school teacher. I said, I just feel like etiquette is just such a big word. And she said, there's your title. And once I had that in my head, I started researching children's books. I kept coming back to Dr. Seuss books, because even as an adult, they're fun to read. That's the way to do it, it's going to have to be in rhyme, so that it's fun and has a flow to it just like mountain biking, but also the educational piece. So after just kind of playing around with the storyline, she and I together came up with just kind of an outline of the lessons we wanted to put out there.
The book is called Mountain Biking Adventures with Izzy: Etiquette is a Big Word. That’s one of her adventures. There’s such symmetry between bikes and life. So I thought, this is perfect. I’ll just keep writing books about the adventures she has on her bike and the life lessons she learns.
Aside from being a writer, you are also a mountain bike coach. How do you impart etiquette and life skills to other riders?
In Our Girls AllRide camps, we use a book called the Confidence Code for Girls. It talks about how to find confidence when you feel down on yourself and don’t have faith in yourself. It talks about not looking to others to find confidence but to look within. There are chapters on smart risks versus dumb risks, and it gives little scenarios of girls who are in the midst of making choices and taking risks and feeling the fear behind what it means to take a risk. It talks about good friends who want to lift you up and see you shine, and friends who tear other girls down who aren't actually friends.
So we integrate that in with bikes, like look at how we're all working together. If one of you falls down, everyone helps you back up and cheers you on and helps brush you off. But there's also an element of you needing to pick yourself up and learn how to take care of yourself, while at the same time lifting others while you rise.
It's just been really cool to have this kind of after school program for girls that has zero to do with competition, because there's already lots of programs that are focused on racing and team development. We didn't have a program that was just riding bikes for fun. So we wanted it to be more than just fun. We wanted to make sure that these girls are really understanding the life lessons that bikes can bring into their lives at an early age. There’s an element of us trying to help them to be strong, independent women, but also help them understand what it means to be part of a community and what it means to lift each other up along the way. It’s pretty rad.
What are some experiences as a coach that have stuck with you and inspired you to keep doing your work?
I've been coaching full time now for over a decade. My experience watching women and girls learn things on the bike that are intimidating, that they don't think they can do when they first try. Seeing that process they go through when they actually get it, and the change and the shift in their attitude towards themselves.
Personally, mountain biking has changed and saved my life. I've been through some interesting things in life where the bike has brought me back to myself and showed me what I'm capable of and helped me believe in my ability to be strong. So that's really something that I feel proud of, witnessing these people not think they can do it, overcome that fear, do it, and then transform the way they believe in themselves. That’s really the ultimate goal for all of this is to help women and girls realize their capabilities and find more strength and confidence in believing in themselves.
With social media, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. I love the quote, by Brene Brown: comparison is the thief of joy. When we start our camps off, I make a welcome speech and I'm very clear when I say, Welcome everyone. Who's nervous to be here? And a lot of people raise their hands and I say, so are we. We have to perform in front of you, we don't want to say something wrong. We're just as nervous as you.
Don't be sizing everybody up and comparing yourself to her new outfit and that sweet new bike. None of that matters here. What matters is that we all showed up, and that we're all here to celebrate the joys of mountain biking as a collective.
The bike is our common bond. It doesn't matter what walk of life you come from, we celebrate all women, all body types, all shapes, all sizes, all fitness levels, all women of color, all LGBTQ+, you belong here. We make sure that people know we've created this community with Ladies AllRide and Girls AllRide to give women a place where they feel like they belong, a platform to build upon themselves and find confidence in who they are because of their own abilities and their own ability to persevere and learn new things.
Each year, a portion of the net profits from the sale of Etiquette is a Big Word will go to trail building organizations like IMBA, Central Oregon Trail Alliance, and Evergreen Trails as well as cycling advocacy organizations.