By Katherine Fuller, IMBA Communications Manager
For four days in early May, ten of the 12 women who work out of IMBA’s Boulder, CO, headquarters fled the spring rains for a hot, dry camping and mountain biking adventure in Moab, Utah. For people who live in the mountain west, Moab is a trail Mecca—a mountain biker’s paradise. It’s a place where even the most remote, no-amenities campsites fill up on weekdays and more bikes than cars pass through downtown. There are hundreds of miles of trails and you can ride whatever you want, from a DH bike to a cruiser.
Before we left, I was told that this—my first trip to Moab—would change me as a mountain biker. What that was supposed to mean was never fully explained, but I found out immediately.
There’s something special about women riding with women. When I follow my husband down a trail and watch him blaze a technical section or power up and over an obstacle, I don’t automatically think that I can do the same. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true; my mind will translate whatever he did as strictly the result of his strength—something I cannot match. In a strange and backward twist, sometimes following a much stronger man on singletrack gives me the impression that the trail is actually harder than it is.
But when riding with other women, the effect is completely different. While sitting around the campfire each evening weaving stories about the day’s rides, almost everyone recounted experiencing it. Whether on the highly technical Captain Ahab trail or the tamer Bar Loops, watching each other tackle challenging obstacles provided strong inspiration and motivation. Most of us needed a mental push at some point during the weekend, and watching other women ride made the hard stuff appear much more possible.
Tiffanie, an extremely fast cross-country rider, plowed down steep rock obstacles in the fearless wake of Heather, a hard-charging mountain biker with two decades of experience. Heather learned how to pop wheelies on uneven slickrock under the guidance of Tammy (a former pro). Jessica returned to the scene of a mountain biking accident that put her in the hospital six months ago with a badly broken arm and, thanks to being able to follow four other women of similar strength and abilities, conquered fears that had plagued her since the crash.
I felt it, too: the pull of my fellow rider. Chasing Aimee’s textbook riding form and her bright yellow bike down Mag Seven’s “blue-black” Bull Run Trail, I followed her lines and the directions she was calling out. And when she yelled, “It’s rideable!” I trusted her.
I’m usually tepid when it comes to technical features that I’ve never seen, but the slickrock of Bull Run has such great flow that I felt the magnetic pull of the trail; I got into an intoxicating rhythm that’s not terribly familiar to inexperienced riders. I rode technical obstacles and features that I may have—on a normal day—avoided, walked or needed to inspect, first. But stopping would have interrupted the moment, interrupted the flow, and I wasn’t willing to let up, even if it meant pushing myself beyond some long-imagined limits.
Moab and its unique trails were undeniably why we all had an exciting, transformative weekend. For me, it was also a factor of just getting away from my home trails. Familiarity can breed content, including avoiding pushing yourself on technical sections that you have convinced yourself you just can’t ride.
Traveling can also give you a greater sense of appreciation for the dirt underneath your tires. Waking up that first morning in Moab, I decided that I had not just driven seven hours to walk large sections of trails. I was there to RIDE, even if it meant pushing beyond my normal comfort boundaries.
Moab absolutely changed me, just as I was told it would.
It changed me in that I’m finally going to stop calling myself a beginner.