Women’s MTB Camp Shares Tips for Female Riders

Every rider has different needs when learning mountain biking basics. But some approaches just seem to work better for us women.

mountain biking tips for women
Photo by Kelsey Toevs

Trek Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camps is the longest-running program focused on women’s-specific instruction. After 17 years of staging both women’s and co-ed downhill and cross-country camps across the U.S. and western Canada, coaches have found pathways that seem to help female riders learn faster and happier.

“Women tend to like to know how a skill works, what to do, and when to do it,” said Candace Shadley, director of the mountain bike camp series. Her Dirt Series crew breaks down more tendencies like that right here.

Progress Step By Step, Celebrate Small Successes

women mountain biking
Photo by Anne Keller

Women are inclined to break up big tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces, said Shadley. This works well in mountain biking. It can give female riders a mental break and possibly also an uptick in confidence.

Picture a ledge on a rocky technical climb, for example.

“First, you learn how to lift your wheel with a pedal stroke, then add in specific timing, and then incorporate the weight shift needed to apply that skill to a clean ledge feature,” she said.

Many failed attempts are critical, according to Dirt Series coach Lisa Sher, a Level 3 instructor trainer for the Bike Instructor Certification Program.

“You must build new muscle memory. Having a step-by-step progression allows you to progress safely with lower risk,” she said.

You’ll know you’re progressing when you feel better about approaching a ledge in the middle of additional challenges, according to Shadley.

She said, “Small successes add up to big successes, and the more accomplishments you accumulate, the easier it is to envision accumulating even more.”

Work The Analytical Angle in Mountain Biking

mountain biking instruction
Photo by Sean St. Denis

Take rolling a drop. Using a more analytical approach can help women riders learn the technique faster, the camp leaders said.

“A guy might be happy with ‘push your bike forward,’ while a woman wants more details,” Shadley said.

If you’re prone to analysis, go ahead — analyze it. It can only help.

Determine which body position works best. Experiment to find the right speeds before, during, and after the drop. Do you know where you should be looking during all that? Think about how it’s similar to a skill you already have. Discuss it with friends.

Women like explanation both in the moment and after a day at camp — a download of sorts, according to Shadley.

Find Riders You Can Identify With

female mountain bikers
Photo by Anne Keller

Per Shadley, finding a relatable role model is key. She said she likes learning from both sexes, and other women might too. But the benefit of watching someone like yourself perform on a mountain bike is undeniable.

“Seeing another woman get up a technical climb, manage a tight corner, or air off a feature, you can look at her and see part of yourself — a similar physique, mindset, strength-to-weight ratio, etc.,” Shadley said.

She also recommends sticking with mountain bikers who understand your fears but also push you.

“It can be a relief to know that if you don’t ride a feature that day, you’ll be just as valued,” she said. “It’s nice to be understood and pushed just beyond what you’re comfortable with, right into something you can most certainly do.”

Some idols won’t hurt either, according to Sher. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” she said. “When I see a woman like Cecile Ravanel wheelie like a boss, it makes me want to get to that point — and also believe it’s achievable.”

Want to know more? Check out the extensive 2018 Dirt Series camp schedule here.

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