When my boyfriend told me about his traditional Christmas ride my first thought was, “well, we live in Vancouver which doesn’t get a ton of snow. I guess that’s not SO crazy.” After this year’s massive snowfall dump and my silly realization that there is more snow on mountains (I’m from Ontario, I never gave much thought to what happens up there!) it suddenly did seem crazy. But I wanted to try it out!
So on Boxing Day, we packed up our extra warm stuff, a change of clothing (a lesson I learned from another incident which I will write about), and our soon to be snow-covered bikes. That day we went with familiar and decided to head to Fromme to ride Bobsled. Considering the weather, that trail name seemed appropriate.
Because of the time of year, the parking lot was closed so we had to park down on a street and hike it up in the slippery slush and snow. I will take this moment to sing the praises of my shoes, Five Ten Women’s Freeriders. Even though they’re fabric, it took a shockingly long time for my feet to actually get wet.
After the grumpiness kicked in and we finally made it up, it was all downhill from there. Slip sliding, falling over, lots of squeaky noises I didn’t realize I made, tonnes of laughs, and an overall good time. But why take my word for it? This one has a video!
Overall, I was scared to go out, worried that I would lose traction and fall on my face or get seriously hurt. I am so happy that I decided to put the fears aside and try something new. That seems to be a main theme for me in learning this sport: yes it’s scary, do it anyway (within reason). I highly suggest if you get the chance to get out there and poke around in the snow, just don’t take yourself too seriously. Hope to see you all next Christmas ride falling down with me!
Finding a bike was a challenge. After a couple of rides on rentals and deciding that I did actually want to pursue this sport, it was time to find a bike of my own. Naturally, I had a brief flirtation with brand new, shiny bikes. I would look at them online and in stores in all their $5000 glory. Then when I would take them for a short test ride around the block I realized I had absolutely no idea what to look for. The advice I was given was that when you got on the right bike it’ll just “feel right.” Considering I basically hadn’t ridden anything since I was in elementary school, I could barely remember what a bike is supposed to feel like at all, let alone the specifics of geometry.
Then came more questions: hard tail or full suspension? Downhill? Enduro? XC? What are you planning on doing on it? Apparently “ummmm….. ride on trails and stuff?” wasn’t specific enough. Once realizing just how much of an amateur I was and that I really didn’t know what I liked and didn’t like in a bike it was clearly unwise to sink months of salary into it.
I won’t get into the details of my lovely and helpful boyfriend (at the time, just a friend) scouring the PinkBike listings for ages and sending me anything remotely good. I will note that at a towering 5’1″ it was difficult to find something in my size and that felt okay. But then one day, the perfect listing came along.
Enter: the 2010(?) Transition Bottlerocket. Sure it was just a frame with no wheels or grips or a chain. She was a little beaten and bruised around the edges but she was beautiful and the price was definitely right. After borrowing some wheels from a friend and a test ride, I was in love. Pictures were taken and shared on Facebook like I had just given birth or adopted a puppy. Even though I didn’t have the money for parts yet and couldn’t ride it, I still had her sitting there in the living room making me smile.
Slowly, the pieces fell into place. I got used wheels, a cassette, some grips as a souvenir from a shop in Melbourne, Australia. I learned as I went, asking a million questions, taking everything apart to clean and put back together. I would point at random parts and ask “what’s this called?”, “what’s this?”, “how would I take that off?” Even when no one was physically around to help I took pictures.
I got to know my bike inside and out and, because I am a massive dork, I named her too.
The inspiration for starting this blog came to me on the side of a mountain, as most good things do. This time I was not on my bike or even out for a hike but was watching a very entertaining compression jump of the enduro bike race that my boyfriend was taking part in. My friend Laura and I sat with the crowd, a small picnic, and enjoyed cheering and heckling the riders as they hit the jump… or didn’t. What stood out about this experience is that there was a woman sitting behind us who every time a female rider came through would excitedly exclaim, “ohhh! It was a girl!!!” Granted, there was a U21 group, but many of these riders were, in fact, full-fledged women. What compounded it was the fact that if one of these “girls” hit the jump really well, she would further yell, “even THAT one was a girl! Wow!”
I try not to be oversensitive, but this was like nails on a blackboard to me and Laura. Why was it so astounding that women can jump too?
I promise this blog will not be preachy about gender rights and equality, this was just the jumping off point that got me thinking about my experiences as a woman who loves to mountain bike. Then, after comparing notes with some male and female bikers I know, I realized that patterns started to come out as far as our experiences go. It seems that there are some fundamental differences between men and women in this sport. I’m not saying that that is good or bad, but I feel like it’s something worth talking about. These are what I’d like to explore a bit more in this blog; my experiences as well as those of other people.
I am also a novice. I rode my first mountain bike about three years ago but really have been only been riding regularly for about the past two. I, in no way, am capable of jumps or drops or completing an enduro race. But I want to get there. In fact, I want to ride the very race that I was watching so many talented men and women complete. So this blog is a few things. It’s some talking points on shared experiences or maybe just some weird experiences I’ve had, it’s some accountability for me to get out and ride because even if no one’s reading this I can say that I’ve ridden and here’s the proof, and it’s also a chance for anyone out there who decides to read see a rank amateur develop. I will post embarrassing videos and pictures showing the ups and downs. I want to see your proud and scary and embarrassing moments as they come. Let’s learn from each other and most important of all: let’s ride bikes!