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Dig In: The Women's Mountain Bike Blog

Welcome to Dig In, the IMBA Women's Blog!

What are we up to and why take the time to do this? There are 21 women on IMBA's staff, making up about one-third of the organization. We realized—after noticing a lack of resources and discussions geared toward women mountain bikers—that those of us who have dedicated our play and work lives to the experience of mountain biking just might have something to offer.

Mountain biking as a woman is not a singular experience, and with Dig In we seek to be a resource, a community, and a springboard. We want to figure out how to get more women interested in mountain biking. Riding is a way to connect with nature, escape a desk job, breathe fresh air, go on an adventure, explore a new place, get the heart rate up, strengthen one’s self mentally and physically, be challenged, get rad, have fun, express individualism, feel a sense of freedom and hang out with friends or enjoy a peaceful moment alone.

So why are only 12% of IMBA's members female? Why do we feel like we never see other ladies on the trail? Why can't we entice our girlfriends to go ride with us? The answer is complicated, but the process of naming this blog gave me a glimpse into the varied, complex and broad world of the mountain biking tribe.

There are 13 women based out of IMBA HQ in Boulder, CO. We all have the shared experience of absolutely loving to ride mountain bikes, but it took weeks of arguing, joking and mulling over what the name of this blog should be to arrive at an idea. Our struggle to find common ground highlighted the variety of perspectives women have about their cycling experiences and the ways they approach the adventure.

We liked "Dig In" for its multiple connotations. It implies grit, determination and gumption. It can be taken literally when thinking of volunteer trail work or a post-ride double-cheeseburger with bacon. You can think of digging in as what you do when you’re about to roar through a technical section on a trail, or what your kids are doing when they’re first learning to ride and have to constantly get up from falls.

"Dig In" was originally inspired by Lean In, a book (and now a website) by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, both "focused on encouraging women to pursue their ambitions, and changing the conversation from what we can’t do to what we can do."(Click here to watch Sheryl’s 2010 Ted Talk that inspired the book.) That's not a bad tagline for this blog, either.

IMBA's female staffers and the hundreds of mountain biking women, industry women and IMBA chapter leaders in our personal and professional circles will have a hand in shaping this blog by telling their stories, offering their perspectives and responding to your thoughts. We hope you’ll participate, as well. "Stories are the proof of life," I was once told, and through the stories of women who ride, perhaps we can break down the oft-perceived barriers to attempting and enjoying the trail experience. We hope that women who say they "don't see themselves as a mountain biker" based on current media or personal abilities can brush that off and feel confident in joining us in the simple, universal love of the ride.

However you ride, wherever you ride and whenever you ride, we hope you’ll ride with us. Frequency, skill, speed or equipment aren't the things that make you a mountain biker. Passion—love for the knobby-tire ride—makes you a mountain biker. Whether you’re a professional racer on a $10,000 carbon wunder-bike or a once-a-month rider on a $200 Target Huffy, it makes no difference; you’re one of us.

In upcoming posts, you’ll be introduced to all 21 women who work for IMBA in some capacity, from our beloved customer service representatives who answer the phones and mail membership shirts, to IMBA’s Advocacy Manager, Mapping Specialist, and Pacific Northwest Region Director. We are just regular people who happen to have cool jobs. Interspersed will be our stories, from personal experiences to what female participation looks like from inside the mountain bike industry. And soon, hopefully, we’ll be reading some of your stories!

We hope you’ll "dig in" to this blog, and we hope it will make you laugh, think and—above all—want to go ride.

katherine [dot] fuller [at] imba [dot] com (Katherine Fuller) | IMBA Communications Specialist

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Releasing women's adventure spirit

Rutland Recreation in Vermont (www.rutlandrec.com) holds a women's mountain bike clinic every May one night/week in Pine Hill Park(www.pinehillpark.org). We start off with some basic skills in the parking lot the first session then move into woods riding primarily single track. This month long clinic has been going on for 4 years and every year we have about 15 women who sign up to learn how to ride in woods. Many of the women are there to learn how to ride in the woods but so they can ride with their children on single track and not be intimidated. One of the coolest things to see is when the women come back from a ride their excitement from having completed a ride. My favorite terminology for teaching the women and the youth mountain bike group: 'keep your wheels turning', 'pedal, pedal, pedal', 'both brakes', and 'look where you want to go'. Am looking forward to taking the Level 1 instructors course.

Excited to read more

I'm glad I found this and I'm excited to read more. Earlier this week one of my best girlfriends flew in to my neck of the woods from Seattle. We met up in Bayfield WI, near where we grew up,  to catch up while riding some new trails that were never there when we were kids. On my drive back home to Duluth MN I popped in an audiobook, Lean In bySherylSandberg. The next day I partook in a "For Women By Women"  mountain bike class at Spirit Mountain. After thinking how great, yet rare, it was for me to spend back to back days ringing with a great group of ladies I came across this new blog. Great riding pals, bikes, enlightening books, imba trails, what a wonderful web interconnectedness!

women's blog

Here in LA, we have 2 huge women's mountain bike groups, always tons of women to ride with both XC and Gravity! Lots of great things happening in our women's cycling community here!

women's blog

Here in LA, we have 2 huge women's mountain bike groups, always tons of women to ride with both XC and Gravity! Lots of great things happening in our women's cycling community here!

Dig In

So cool to have a MTB blog for women! It's nice to know that I'm not the only female rider lacking in female companionship on rides. Of course, being 63 kinda excludes me from finding a lot of the riders out there but still! I've been riding for almost 20 years now and I do so love the sport. I mostly ride with men and I certainly enjoy a solo ride but it really would be nice to have a woman to ride with occasionally. I look forward to hearing from others about their love of mountain biking. Who knows..maybe I'll even find a buddy my age to ride with here in Durango! And, for the record, I plan on still being out on the trails when I'm 70 and beyond...

Our experience

We all know women are under represented in mountain biking, and I think part of the issue is that many decide to give it a try long after their husbands or boyfriends have already been doing it. They have a lot of catching up to do, but this applies to everybody, of both genders. It's hard to join in with any sport if the people you know who are already doing it are also pretty proficient at it. This especially applies to a linear trails-based activity like mountain biking where your position in the "pack" is often determined by your fitness and abilities, whether we're conscious of that or not. It's inherent in trail etiquette. My wife, who has been riding as long as I have, insists in starting off behind me after we regroup, because I will invariably catch up with her anyway. But we have male friends who do the same thing for the same reason. (With her new lightweight 27.5" wunderbike, my wife's literally at the point of passing me on climbs. Marital bliss is predicated on equality in equipment.) Novice women and men often join our rides, but don't always come back. For some guys, it must be hard to watch women, including some decades older than them, get up steep climbs they had to walk. They don't realize we all started out like them and that even if we were pretty fit as beginners, it took "time in the saddle" to develop skills like technical climbing. For the novice women, seeing women "clean it" generally stokes them to try again. Like this blog post says, passion makes you a mountain biker, because that's what gets you on the bike as often as possible, male or female. So just ride.

Glad to see I'm not alone

Looking forward to checking this blog. I'm glad I'm not alone with that feeling that I could be the only female on the trail. I've felt conflicted about feeling that way, should I be proud of myself, or worried there's something "wrong"? I've even asked my husband recently that when we run into a group of seemingly manly, macho riders if he was embarassed that I'm the one tagging along or if he felt any kind of pride that he doesn't have to go out on the trail without me. I'm sure the answer to that question could vary on my riding ability at the time. I'm sure he's happy I'm way past the "crying stage" that I went through when I was pretty much doing nothing but falling or hiking my bike over things that scared me. I have never been naturally athletic, so now whenever I clean a section that includes anything technical or a challenging climb, I beam with pride. It doesn't matter who is on the trail with me (or if no one is) when it feels that good to have achieved something that seemed like only a dream several years ago. Of course I'd also love to hear from the occasional women I have seen on the trail that some how manage to look extremely well groomed even after miles of pedalling...HOW do you do that? Is "helmet head" just MY problem? Thanks for starting this and know you have some grateful readers ready to read your posts!

I can't wait to Dig In

I was surprised while reading my MTB News for July to see that IMBA launched a women's mountain biking blog. I am intrigued and look forward to future posts! I am a Colorado native and have been mountain biking for many years, and I am proud to call myself a Mountain Biker. I live for it! Yet I have no women mtn biking companions. And I seldom see women on the trail. Needless to say I often ride alone (which I love, don't get me wrong) or I ride with my wonderful boyfriend whose skills are phenomenal; he leaves me in the dust every now and then even when I feel like I'm kicking butt. So I often dream of having "girl time" on the trails of Colorado. That being said, I can't wait to hear more from the women of IMBA as well as from other women just like me.

I hear you!

Hi Violet, Thanks for the comment. I could have written it myself ... I hear you about riding alone and being left in the dust by my sweet husband. Those things taught me to hate group rides, and I'm only sort-of coming out of that. Will certainly be a post topic in the near future. Thanks for reading, and don't hesitate to comment, send story ideas or join the debates! - Katherine

Feel like a fake

Glad to see this! My husband forwarded this to me. I also just joined. I live in Mountain Biking paradise -- Bend, Oregon. I work a million hours and don't get a chance to bike very often and am in my first season of owning a bicycle, in my entire life -- a hardtail, Trek 29'er (sadly, not a Lush ;) ) There's a women's biking club that appears to be No Drop but it's motivation to get women to ride is, "Tired of holding your man back on your rides?" Seriously?! This isn't motivating. This is defeating. This is promoting the idea that I am not entitled to my own ride at my own pace... and invalidating the badass women who out-ride plenty of men. I just took my first bike maintenance intro course last night and am taking some private mountain biking lessons over the next month to help me with choosing lines. This will drastically increase my confidence. I'm also going to attempt to get to the Dirt Series classes in Santa Cruz and Whistler over the next year. There's no reason to struggle if I can just go to camp. :) I continuously feel like a fake because I am not able to participate in group rides yet. I just don't have the time on the seat, or the time to devote to being on a trail, to progress at the pace of those around me who don't have to work as much or who've been biking for a few decades. I've purchased a road bike that's easier to squeeze in a ride on, to give me more basic familiarity on a bike and increased strength/endurance. My first experience on my mountain bike was to attempt to ride a few segments of the North Umpqua. One rotator cuff repair later, I've decided maybe I was a little aggressive in my start. Maybe it's the first crash like this that should make me feel like less of a fake. Maybe I just need to buy some sort of highly technical costume jersey that has some famous sprocket manufacturer on it and I'll feel more legit. I love all things with wheels (former roller derby player) and am excited to become more integrated into the community and feel less like a the girl hiking the bike more than riding. Cheers!

Great Idea

My husband just sent me this blog and once I read it I decided to join IMBA to make sure that I will be following this blog. I have been mountain biking for the last 2.5-3 years and absolutely loving it. It did take me a while to call myself a mountain biker just because it was a new sport for me (I am a competitive level windsurfer for the last 25 years). The one thing that I always repeat in my head as I ride through rock gardens or downhills is "turning wheels are happy wheels" - I say that with a smile so that I don't let the fear take control of my fun. I will "dig-in" to this blog! Happy Rides! Nes

I like your mantra

"Turning wheels are happy wheels," I like it! Yesterday, I kept chanting "too legit to quit." Mostly because I had the song stuck in my head, but still. MC Hammer kept me rollin.'

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