Skip to main content

What's in Your Chamois?

What's in Your Chamois?

By: Dig In - Women MTB
Posted: October 9, 2015

Image: Earlier this year, female leaders in the bike industry got together for discussions and a group ride organized by SRAM. More info here.

 

—by Marty Caivano, IMBA Field Programs Specialist 

When I started mountain biking 15 years ago, I didn’t know very many other women who were into riding. It was understood that if you wanted to find a group of people to ride with, you had to hang out with male friends and learn from them in any way that you could.

There was a lot of listening to them say, “Watch this,” while demonstrating something—even though they couldn’t really explain what they were doing, or how to do it. They were just figuring it out as they went, which is what we all did in those days before skills clinics were common.

I loved mountain biking so much that this situation didn’t deter me, and with my juvenile sense of humor I got along with these men easily. I became so accustomed to their way of riding, their style of throwing themselves at technical sections and smack-talking each other, that it became invisible to me.

Over time, as I proved I wasn’t deterred by their ways or by the trails they dragged me on, I became integrated into their regular rides. I had found my crew, and that group relationship shaped my growth as a mountain biker. Even today I can’t ride a bike without blurting out, “That’s what she said,” or trying to ride something I probably shouldn’t.

Eventually, it dawned on me that this kind of indoctrination was not enjoyable for everyone.

Many women who didn’t want to spend time in that atmosphere didn’t have a lot of options besides ride alone or with their husbands/boyfriends. Some of them got stuck in a sort of purgatory, where they couldn’t take any more “Watch this!” teaching moments from their significant other—but then no one was inspiring them to push their limits. Some of them ended up riding at about the same ability level for years.

For women getting into mountain biking today, it’s no longer mandatory to spend a lot time hanging around (or in my case, off the back of) a group of guys. There are women’s-only clinics and ladies’ rides in almost every community. Women are forming riding groups with their female friends, who invite more friends, and so on. They’ve found their crews, with their own style and approach to the sport.

And they show each other how to excel. There’s a certain magic in watching other ladies shred. When I was a new rider, I assumed that men lived in some magical stew of balls, testosterone and misguided courage that allowed them to do anything they wanted. But as soon as I saw another woman clean a tough technical section, I knew that assumption was wrong—it had nothing to do with what kind of equipment you ran in your chamois.

Today, there are great female riders everywhere, and as they inspire each other, the bar set for ability rises ever higher. Meanwhile, the skills trickle down faster, too.  

Although I’m not any sort of hotshot, I’ve done my best to mentor a couple of female riders this year. It’s awe-inspiring to see how quickly they are mastering skills and moving forward in the sport. While we can attribute this trend to lots of things, like improvements in bike technology, access to clinics and more beginner-friendly trails, I personally like to think that finding your crew is the invisible “X-factor.” We all like to be welcomed into the sport and inspired by those who suit us best.

— by Marty Caivano, IMBA Field Programs Specialist

About the author

Profile Info

Member for

3 years 10 months
Bio

This blog series is introducing all 21 women who work for IMBA in some capacity. 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.

This blog series is introducing all 21 women who work for IMBA in some capacity. 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.

View complete profile

#mountainbiker

Take the pledge in 2018

Responsible riding is our simplest, and a very powerful, advocacy tool. Want more trails? Want to maintain access? Want everyone to like us? Start by being good to your fellow mountain bikers and the other users we share trails with. Know the rules; ride responsibly. 

Pledge now
two riders
Steamboat
stafford-lake-9585
ScottMarekewitz20928_021_0143
LeslieKehmeier_Oregon
KatherineFuller_Sedona70321
IMBA-Hawaii-Hucker
Hansi_Photo_130905
Hansi_Photo_120528
Hansi_Photo_110727
Hansi_Photo_100601
BobAllen30709_Helena
blackcanyon2
20140918-Valmont-BP
5L3A8566
5L3A6300_1
5L3A4456
5L3A3913_1
5L3A1546
5L3A0515

Support Mountain Biking

Our vision is that everyone has a place to ride a mountain bike. You can help make that happen!
Photo courtesy of:
share
Loading...