What 45 Young Women Taught Me About Bikes, Life and Having GRiT
That feeling when you go to a girl’s MTB camp in order to help out as a coach and end up leaving feeling like you just got schooled… As a very, very shy young woman, I didn’t go to a lot of summer camp-style environments, and when I was forced into a weekend-long Girl Scout camp, I could often be found in a corner with a book I’d smuggled in. As an adult, I am no less shy, but a lot more willing to try to take part in camps like the one that NICA’s PA branch put on for 45 young women from several states as part of the Girls Riding Together (GRiT) initiative. And the camp taught me SO much as I rode with, chatted with, practiced handstands with, taught remounts and dismounts to and laughed with 45 amazing young women.
Want to learn how to ride better? Make it fun. The entire camp was spent on rides that were challenging, but not so challenging that they were demoralizing. When I arrived at 8PM on Friday night, girls were shredding around the big field between the cabins, not doing a ride for a calorie count or mileage, just riding for the fun of riding. They’d stop and practice a trackstand, a wheelie or a skid, or try a trick that ended in a crash followed by ridiculous laughter. It reminded me of one very important thing that I often forget about riding bikes: It’s supposed to be fun. I coach a lot of serious business camps, and that’s important too, but there should always be a thru-line of fun in all of them.
Girls today are redefining femininity and it’s amazing. I talked to a few girls who were proudly rocking armpit hair and elect to not shave their legs. But they’re also super interested in fashion and honestly, super stylish. For someone who grew up at a time where style and fashion for girls meant a push to shave my legs as a nine-year-old, I was blown away. It’s super cool to see these girls redefining what they view as style, and to see everyone else accepting it unconditionally.
Can’t get a dismount? Try again. And that was my major learning moment at camp. As someone who’s gotten a little older—10 years in the cycling scene—I sometimes struggle with mountain biking because I’m not tackling a new skill and instantly successful. After you’ve gotten OK at the basics, it’s really hard to step up to the next level. And that is 100% OK—it’s all part of the process, and that’s something I needed to be reminded of. These girls were so willing to just keep working on stuff that they weren’t getting, with no ego or fear involved, and it was so amazing to see. And it’s something I’m going to take with me as I head out onto the trails in the offseason and get back to playing on more bikes again!