Everything begins with a bit of inspiration
Female mountain bikers are a small population but definitely on the rise, and my inspiration and desire to be able to get out and shred on a bike came from Rachel Atherton and Tahnee Seagrave almost 3 years ago when I met my other half, Lewis, and he introduced me to his passion for mountain biking. I would sit and watch Red Bull videos of different mountain bikers and suddenly I was hooked.
I do have some background in extreme sports after trying my hand at trials biking when I was younger. My idol was Dougie Lampkin, but after hitting my teenage years and going to college then onto University, I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in ten years and actually wondered whether this was something I could still do.
At first, I had a few rides on Lewis’ old 2006 Kona Scab hard tail which was gathering dust in the shed, and kept to local trails through Ashridge Forest and Wendover woods. But soon, I found myself wanting a lighter and better bike, and all the gear that goes with it. I didn’t want to spend a fortune at first after worrying that, after my inevitable first crash, I may throw a hissy fit and never want to ride a bike again. So to my surprise Lewis found a fantastic deal through a Facebook group to swap the Kona for a 2009 Specialized Safire which was full suspension and perfect for me to learn and progress on.
The first few rides were wobbly and not without tears and tantrums (which do still happen occasionally) when I didn’t feel fit enough for the climbs and technical sections on the trails. But the feeling of freedom coming down the other side and spending time outside in the woods more than makes up for any challenges thrown at me. To me, riding provides a sense of freedom and escape from the stresses that everyday life brings to us all. There’s nothing better than being able to ride with my best friend who inspires me every time we take the bikes out; he pushes me to ride bigger and better things all the time, plus he picks me up off the floor and sees to my cuts and bruises a fair amount as well.
Some of my favourite trails to ride are at Swinley Forest, Bracknell. Always great fun no matter what the weather (although I’m not usually one for going out in the rain – I’d rather be sat in the coffee shop with a giant slab of cake!) But anyone based in the South East who would like to try their hand at mountain biking should definitely check Swinley out, they have trails for all abilities or you can always stick to the fire roads at first and enjoy the scenery. I’ve also been to the last two UCI Mountain Bike world cup rounds at Fort William, Scotland which always has the best atmosphere and draws a great crowd of people who are all there for the same reason: to watch some awesome professional riders from around the world ride hard and fast down the side of a mountain.
Riding is a way to connect with nature, escape a desk job, breathe fresh air, go on an adventure, explore a new place, get your heart rate up, strengthen yourself 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.
At a time when cycling amongst children seems to have dropped at an alarming rate, especially amongst young girls who might not even consider mountain biking as an option, it’s important to remind young people that there is a world of opportunity outside of social media and that being adventurous and getting muddy in the woods is a hundred times more fun than getting likes on a Facebook photo. As a female mountain biker, I can confirm that there’s nothing wrong with being seen as ‘one of the boys’ and the one piece of advice that I could give to anyone is if you just get on your bike and take a ride in the woods you never know where it may take you.