Mountain biking can be a tough sport for female riders to break into. We talk about progression, riding, coaching, and how things are changing for female riders.
Nicky is like many female riders - she got into mountain biking through her husband. However, in three seasons, she's gone from a timid noob who hadn't ridden a bike for twenty years to a confident intermediate rider. She knows what terrain she likes to ride, and now has that passion for mountain biking we can all relate to. Weekends are planned well in advance - who to ride with, and where. There's no time for long lazy days at the spa, a makeover, or shopping. It's all about riding the dirt, rock and gnar.The crux came this season, her third year of riding. After a year of riding her husband's inherited 8" travel bike, something had to give. The core problem was riding a heavy 44lb bike. Although the squishy long travel gave Nicky lots of confidence on the rough stuff, and she was carving sweet confident lines through rock gardens and rock steeps, it was tiring. Her energy was sapped after a couple of runs. Plus, everyone knows you just have to love your bike, and an inherited bike is just not going to do that for a girl!
So in early 2008, the "shopping" began. The internet was scoured for detailed information, bike reviews were read, notes were made, friends were quizzed, and lots of thinking was done. But nothing was really clicking, and it wasn't until Nicky walked into Cyclepath, Kelowna, that the love affair began. It was lust at first sight.
Cyclepath had a sweetly built small framed Transition Syren sitting in the shop. Nicky looked, gazed, and stared, and some primevil feminine thing was occurring deep inside. Transition designed the Syren
especially for the female market. It has a centre of gravity and ergonomics to suit the female body. As a result, both bike fit, comfort and performance should improve. Transition took the advice and input of 30 female riders, and stepped forward to design one of very few female-orientated freeride frames. This is a brave move, and Transition should be applauded in this difficult, catch-22 situation. With fewer female riders but not much in the market for them, makes for a tough challenge. Let's hope that word spreads and more female riders check out the Syren.
Nicky says "the guys at Cyclepath are very approachable. I feel confident asking them any questions and because of the relationship we've built up I totally trust their advice. It's not a hardcore bro situation, the guys make people feel comfortable regardless of their gender, age, skill or experience level. Because they understand my level of knowledge, they're not at all patronizing". They'd built the Syren into a beautiful product - pearlescent satin white frame with Juicy 7's, and hints of red in the Transition Revolution hubs, pink Transition decals and a few other touches". But hey, guys do have their limitations and so Nicky had to apply a bit of additional feminine charm on the Syren to add a few details the guys missed. She chose a beautiful Marzocchi Bomber 66ATA
fork, Marzocchi seat, red Atomblab pedals, and a few other detailed touches. But this wasn't a mountain biking version of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" - she had practicality and performance very much in mind. The 66's look perfect with the white frame, girly 66 decals, and the red touches, but doing her research, Nicky knew it had the right adjustability for her to dial down (7" adjustable down to 5.5") and haul ass uphill ready for a quick descent, or to adjust the fork for different trails. "I ride Silver Star quite often and the simple adjustability means I can quickly tune up for a fast wide open trail like Rock Star, or a gnarly slower trail such as Dags or Double Dog". This girl sure knows her stuff. And that knowledge comes from help and advice from the Cyclepath crew (Springfield Road, Kelowna) combined with personal experience of riding, riding, and more riding. Thanks to Rich and Matt for weeks of advice, discussion, and direction and putting together a fantastically spec'ed Syren. You guys totally rock!
The beauty...the Satin White frame actually does glitter in the sunshine:
Now we get on to the Queer Eye for the Straight Mountain Biking Guy
section. Guys, if you're looking to sweeten up your lady riding partner, check out Sombrio clothing
. Sombrio sponsors both Claire Buchar and Kathy Pruitt so let's just say they know a bit about female riders. The new 2008 Sombrio Girl's range is rocking out, and designed by girls, it means lady riders no longer have to look like guy-wannabees out on the trail. They can have character of their own and be assured that the fit will be right and the style will be bang-on. Sombrio adds another dimension to the fact that things are progressing for female riders.
So after all the talking, what's the ride like? We hooked up with Chuck Brennan at Kamloops Bike Camp
. Chuck's been running his operation at Little Shushwap Lake for six years now, and knows about coaching riders to the next level. He also knows a bit about mountain biking - he hosted Darcy and the crew from The Collective during the making of "ROAM
". His passion for everything mountain bike related shines through. Driving up to his parked truck, we were welcomed by his huge smile and bouncing-up-and-down, contagious, enthusiasm for mountain biking. How can you fail to have a good day with that early-morning greeting! Chuck has access to varied types of trails. We chose his 26 km local singletrack network for a full day of ripping. Chuck was gentle with us at first - a quick razz down "Elementary School" warmed the riders up and gave him a feel of our skill level. The terrain was very different from our usual hard packed dry rocky Okanagan trails. Loose, loamy, damp, and often sketch, it meant working on a whole new set of skills. Where we'd usually let loose with plenty of grip, we had to hold back, use more balance and control, and generally work the bike more. Sketch-outs happened on every run. We progressed to Bull Moose, Old School, and Bambi. Nicky says "with a new bike, and on unfamiliar terrain and trails, it was hard to get a comparison on the pro's and con's. I can say that the fit and comfort is just superb, the feel and handling seems intuitive for my build and riding style. I know that the lighter bike (with a 35lb build, she trimmed down 9lbs of bike) saved a lot of energy for me, and I felt much sharper during the day. Five runs on challenging singletrack is a lot for me, and I felt I handled it far better. Going from a twin crown to single crown fork takes some getting used to, I have to work the front end stability a bit more. It was far more maneuverable and lighter to move around on the trail. Moving from SRAM X-7 to X-9 has also been a big step forward, changing is smoother and quicker, and the two-gear incremental change is really sweet". Chuck helped her fine tune the suspension based on her riding style. Then it was on to riding skills. Chuck advised on stance, braking skills, and ways of handling the loose, loamy conditions. "His advice on handling cornering, and general bike handling skills, were simply explained and really easily understood. He showed patience and put the trails into perspective, as we were riding some very technically challenging terrain. Even if I did something wrong, he explained the things I had also done right. He also followed me down the trail to shout instructions and ensure I was applying the advice at the right time".
Chuck explains how to get the best out of riding a steep section:
Kamloops Bike Camp has progressive singletrack trails from introductory up to the most technically challenging level. We chose the local singletrack because we wanted to get back to the heart and soul of mountain biking, and work on the core riding skills. Chuck can tailor a session for any skill level, group size, or trails to suit any trail type or riding preference. He's totally patient, understanding and non-judgemental. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at 1-877-377-8665 to discuss your requirements. We hooked up at the very impressive Quaaout Lodge
but you can tailor any accommodation needs to suit your budget. Just ask Chuck!
Catching up on a summary of bike skills: