A Lesson on Getting More Girls in Mountain Biking with Jaime Hill & Miranda Miller

Nov 4, 2020
by Sarah Moore  
Photos by Gina Hopper

"If you make it up the climb, you get three ice-cream points," says Jaime Hill as we come to the tricky portion of the climb that forms part of a loop that we'll be practicing corners on. The group of 11 to 15-year-old girls pause and let gaps form between one another to improve their chances of making it up the climb before gearing down and focusing in on it. A couple get close to the top, but no one cleans the tight, loose switchbacks this time around. They push their bikes to the top of the climb and pause, awaiting further instruction and more opportunities to earn points towards an ice-cream cone as they catch their breath.

I'm at an Intro to Racing event that Hill, a former competitive gymnast turned competitive mountain biker and coach, has organized in Squamish. Hill had some of the girls she was coaching this spring asking her about how to get into racing and how to improve their race skills. She also realized that many of them did not have a vary large roster of female role models in mountain biking or know who Miranda Miller was despite living in the same small town. Hill decided to connect Miller with the girls she coaches in a fun skills-based mentorship event as her answer to help bolster Miranda’s connection with up and coming female riders in the community and provide these girls with more positive female cycling role models.

What a day for all canadians Miranda Miller becomes the first women to win a world cup or world champs in over 20 years
After what could easily be described as the craziest DH race in recent memory Miranda Miller Myriam Nicole and Tracey Hannah celebrate on the podium.
Miranda Miller winning World Champs in 2017 in Cairns, Australia.

bigquotesWhatever opportunity that child wants to pursue, I want to be able to provide for and open that doorway for them to pursue whatever avenue they wish, in order to stay in the sport. A lot of these girls are getting to a point where they've asked about racing and I felt this event was a really great way to give them a sort of mini window into some of the things that go into racing.Jaime Hill

Top 3 results for Jaime Hill in the Whip Off event at Crankworx in 2018 and 2019. Photos: Matt Staggs Visuals (left) + Boris Beyer (right)

Jaime Hill filming for Juliana's Myth Buster series in Squamish. Photo by Ollie Jones.

While the Intro to Racing Clinic was about introducing Hill's group of girls to a female mountain bike role model, it also provided a sense of purpose for Hill and Miller in a year where many of the events they were focused on were cancelled. Being an elite athlete can feel like a selfish pursuit if you don't look beyond the race tape and see the way your actions there can inspire the next generation of riders.

Looking at the dozen or so 11 to 15 year olds at the event, it's clear to see that it's inspiring for them to meet someone who has been able to make a career out of being a professional mountain biker and that female athletes like Miller can help pave the way for more women to succeed in the mountain bike world.

Miranda Miller

Growing up competing in XC in Quebec, I watched my idols Gunn-Rita Daehle, Marie-Helene Premont, and Catharine Pendrel compete at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup every summer, but I was one of very few girls on my mountain bike team. Pedalling around with Miranda Miller, Jaime Hill, Laura Battista and the dozen attendees of the event, I wished that I was a decade and a half younger and had had this group of girls to mountain bike with at their age.

As you can imagine, the reality was very different for Hill who was competing in gymnastics. "I had so many strong female role models growing up doing gymnastics, whether it was coaches or my teammates, or the older girls and my idols that competed. There was never a lack of strong female mentorship or someone to look up to," said Hill. She says that's something that made her want to start a coaching business with a focus on mentoring young female athletes.

I'm the only girl in this photo of some of my teammates and I. Digital cameras have improved in the past decade and so has the ratio of girls to boys in mountain biking.

Me back when I was about the same age as these girls.
A blurry photo I took of one of my idols, Marie-Helene Premont, competing at Mont-Sainte-Anne.

At the top of the climb, Hill, Miller and Battista have set up the FreeLap timing system and give out watches to each of the girls. They do a track walk and then lap the short course a couple times to get a feel for it before getting up to speed. Coaches stand on the sidelines and offer encouragement and technique cues each time a rider comes down and the feedback, in addition to better knowledge of the corners, has everyone getting faster times as they progress through their laps. With the cornering drill turned into a fun game, it's impressive to see how fast some of the girls can rally the corners.

Miranda demonstrates proper technique.

Track walk.
Putting the coaching advice to practice.

Hill says she never meant to start competing in mountain biking after retiring from gymnastics, but there was something about competition and the life skills it teaches that drew her back in. "Whether it's teaching kids that not everything comes easy, you have to really work for progress, or teaching them about perseverance, dedication and positivity. Those are all things that can apply to life in general," she said.

Throughout the event, the girls peppered Miranda Miller with questions. One question the came up was "How do you get over losing?", a huge thing to understand as a kid. Miller responded that it's about trying to be the best that you can be, continuously improving, and not worrying about the things you can't control like your competitors. Racing helps provide these valuable life lessons. Hill, continued that sentiment with the understanding that it is important to avoid tying your self-worth to your results – failure happens, and you can learn from it but there’s no point beating yourself up.

After the cornering drills, we head to another section of trail, where the FreeLap system is once again incorporated into the day. Miller goes and stands in the woods on a tricky section and gives the girls some of the cues that her coaches have given her over the years, one of those being Miller's first coach Katrina Strand. I was surprised Miller had had a female coach in her career, since it seems like there are so few of them. Even Hill also works as an accountant, not a full-time coach, despite her qualifications and experience.

While she doesn’t know the exact nature of why there are fewer female coaches, Hill explains that studies by the Women’s Sport Foundation indicate that many women don't see coaching as a viable career choice because their earning potential tends to be lower and the opportunities for them to coach higher level sport are not as prevalent. She also believes that some of the reasons are linked to there simply being a smaller pool of female riders to draw on. Even Hill said that she has felt some effects of gender discrimination in coaching and was passed up for a role despite having some of the highest qualifications and experience as a coach. "It definitely made me question myself and the viability of coaching as a full-time profession, but I want to help bring about change to some of our societal norms and so feel a duty to keep moving forward,"

 she said.

Hill is starting to break the mold and her junior coach mentorship program goes one step further into getting more girls in coaching. "I'm really dedicated to getting more female coaches trained and gaining experience from a younger age, funding training to enable girls to obtain their certifications at the youngest age they can. I've seen such a powerful chain reaction of events that have come from that already,” said Hill.

I also asked Hill about why she likes to offer girls-only sessions and she said that the girls-only programming makes it easier for pre-teen and teenage girls to feel comfortable and the atmosphere is generally less intimidating and competitive. There are a lot of things going on with hormones, emotions, and everything under the sun around puberty and Hill said there's just not the same openness when it's a mixed group.

 With girls-only sessions she's able to create a safe space which in turn allows the girls to focus on learning and development.

As a gymnast, Hill said programming goes from co-ed to split classes around five years old. "There is something that happens when you're a girl, especially when you're getting into your teenage years, where there is often this big worry about what the opposite sex thinks. Even as a 'tom boy' myself, I’ve felt it and I’ve seen it through my years of coaching, and I'm pretty sure many girls and women have thought about not wanting to look stupid in front of the boys as some point in life."

Photo by Gina Hopper
Photo by Gina Hopper

With the right mix of tough love, encouragement and enthusiasm, Hill has turned dozens of girls into mountain bikers and is helping pave the way for future generations of female mountain bikers with her skills-based training sessions. If girls can see a future for themselves in the sport, whether it's because they like riding with their friends, they like coaching like Jaime Hill does and want to become a junior coach, or they want to race like Miranda Miller, they're far more likely to stick with mountain biking.

As the event wrapped up with swirled fruit ice-cream donated by Alice & Brohm, one of Jaime’s community partners, there was talk of signing up for the next session of coaching. Most of the girls' first question to Jaime was, "Who is already signed up?" or "Who will be in my group?" Yes, mountain biking is fun, but it's really important that you have peers to ride with and role models to look up to.

If you build it, they will come seems to have been proven with Jaime Hill and her Hilltop MTB coaching business. Hill started her business three years ago and only had two or three groups of six riders. By the second year, that number had doubled. By the third year, it doubled again. This year was her fourth year runnning the business and there have been over 200 registrations for girls programming.


It’s exciting to know there are so many young girls in Squamish that want to get out on their bikes and learn more skills. That to me is proof that if the atmosphere and the environment is there, the girls will show up and the girls will continue to progress and stay in the sport.Jaime Hill


  • 78 1
  • 2 1
 In same boat, move over please, there’s dozens of us.
  • 47 1
 Thank you for the storytelling, @sarahmoore, and for the dedication to our sport, Jaime and Miranda. Big fan of you three!
  • 2 0
 So rad!
  • 22 0
 Go Girls! be confident, kick @$$ and have fun Beer !

P.S. Also, I could use some help convincing my best friend to go riding with me, she doesn't like the sound of zooming down mountains Frown
  • 8 0
 Promise margaritas after the ride! Make it a social thing and keep the pace mellow and fun! My wife has convinced so many of her friends to start mountain biking that they usually outnumber the guys on the trails...
  • 1 0
 @bonkmasterflex: Good idea, except I am 19 and she's 17, so....
  • 4 0
 @rosemarywheel: make it icecream, or cake, or burgers! Invite other folks!
  • 2 0
 @bonkmasterflex: Ooh! good idea. Social outing and yummies. Although I might have to wait until Spring, it's a wee bit cold for those who aren't already hooked. Thanks for the great suggestions! Beer
  • 7 0
 @rosemarywheel: that's the right age for margaritas... in Quebec!
  • 24 1
 My mates: You ride like an 11-year-old girl.

Me: Not even close.

I do drive like a grandma though.
  • 2 0
 My man! Leave the racing on the trail.
  • 5 0
 Username checks out
  • 21 1
 So good to see more women in the sport. It has made the whole atmosphere of the sport better and noticeably less aggressive and more friendly. Men behave better around women and that makes the atmosphere less intimidating for all, especially beginners. Having been in the sport for 26 years its really great to see this progression. Good to see leadership on this topic!
  • 10 0
 Love this! One of the main focuses of our NICA team is getting more girls on bikes, and as this article so nicely points out, it starts with purposefully creating an experience that's focused on the specific needs of girls. Our team is packed with women coaches (we need more!) and we have weekly girls only rides, girls only skills clinics, monthly girls only social events, and we ask our older girls on the team to mentor our younger riders. The great news is that so far it's working, our girls program has grown by leaps and bounds each year. While this is all great for XC riders, I wish I could say the same about Enduro, where locally we currently don't have the same foundation of teams and events to foster the same type of rider development - there's definitely an opportunity locally to learn from what Jamie has done up north and apply it locally.
  • 1 0
 Mega-dittos here! Our NICA team continues to attract more girls......look into the "Girls Riding Together" (GriT) effort from NICA. It's great!!
  • 10 0
 Awesome read and Amazing story! More women in biking can only be better for the sport and the growth of the next generation! So many lessons I've learned in the pain cave and on the saddle, I apply to every day life. Thanks Jaime, Miranda and Sarah for the words of wisdom. Now...can we all go shred some trails?!?!
  • 8 0
 I work on inclusion in the sciences and engineering. You can decide how relevant that experience is to inclusion for girls and women in cycling. I'll just offer that it's not necessarily about some trait the girls and women soon-to-be MTBers have or don't have. Or some trait of riding that is or isn't appealing to them. Sometimes the barrier to access is the people and the culture that are already here, but it's harder to see because it feels like normal, like the default.
  • 7 0
 So this superb....but...

I was at a number of pump tracks in the last weeks around here and was repeatedly baffeled. Of perhaps 50 kids between 4 and 10 years of age on small pedal bikes, kickboards, trikes, running bikes and skateboards, maybe 2 were girls... Same for skateparks.

Why? Do our super stereotypical role and gender expectation already begin this early? Do youlng girls orient themselves along their old peers...who orient themselves along still older peers...who like unicorns and tuttus (go to the lake a tell me this is not true...
Any parents out there seeing the same thing or who have an answer towards how to break this trend?

I ask as a parent of a three year old girl who I'd like to not be bound to gender roles from the middle ages.
  • 7 0
 Yes! Children begin picking up on even the most subtle social cues very early. Our culture and society are filled with incredibly damaging messages for girls especially. Look at the entire cosmetics and fashion industry, it is a pile of BS designed to make women feel inadequate. I love that there are concerned fathers, like you, who want better for their daughters. Being aware means you will be more likely to make intentional, impactful choices to help your daughter break away from narrow, stifling stereotypes.
  • 5 0
 I take my 13 yr old daughter to the bike park and she loves it. We went 4 times this summer. Last time we saw one other female rider and my daughter picked up on it and concluded “well, this isn’t really a girly sport.”

I said of course it is, anyone can do this sport, it’s just that no one is showing girls how much fun it is.
  • 4 0
 @SeanC1: I hope your daughter sticks with it! Maybe she can recruit some friends to try it out, I owe it to my BFF for getting me into mountain biking, not sure I would have tried it otherwise.
  • 1 0
 My 7 year old daughter wasn't interested in the stereotypical girls stuff until she started school. She still enjoys riding her bike, but she's really into horse riding now. I'm happy to encourage anything that gets her outdoors and appreciating nature. My son is very different and before having him I wouldn't of subscribed to the boy girl stereotypes. However without any particular encouragement or direction he's obsessed with bikes, cars and anything mechanical. This started when he could crawl. I don't even ride anymore due to being paralysed so he's not heavily exposed to MTB, I just wonder where he gets it from.
  • 6 0
 When my wife and I had our first child, it was a goal of mine to have that kid one day be my biking and skiing partner. Now, to see her in this article, and to be shredding hard black trails in Squamish with my 13 year old daughter, it is an absolute dream come true. I can't say enough about Jaime Hill's coaching programs. She is an absolute legend.
  • 5 0
 I'm male, have two teenage daughters and run a successful (I think anyway!...) local kids MTB ride/skills development club.

Getting girls in the club has been a challenge - most of our riding groups (about 10 riders/group) end up with a token female or two. I specifically created a stand alone female ride group that seems to have been successful - most of those girls come back each year. Building on that has been difficult but we're also a relatively small club by design.

I think a couple of things are important. First, focus on the riding and a supportive environment and don't worry too much about the racing. Second, the girls need to be exposed to the same jumps, drops, steeps and trails as the boys. I've heard from a few parents that girl focused groups tend to be too beginner oriented. Finally, like this article, it seems that having some female coaches and older riders for the girls to relate to and look up to really helps. Seems like this group has all those things dialed.
  • 1 0
 I’m also involved in a kids MTB club, we run 4 groups levels Green, Blue, Red and Black. We are fortunate to have enough girls to run a girls only group at Red level so they ride some serious tracks. We try to alternate between mixed groups and same sex as I’m not sure segregation is the way to go either, but the girls really like their own group. We are also lucky to have a very skilled female leader to take their group sometimes.
  • 4 0
 I run a School MTB Club (Ditcham Park School - youtu.be/lXJuxXFYytM ) and for the first few years it was all boys with one or two girls joining occasionally. We've been trying to make MTB Club more 'girl friendly' and we now have about a 50-50 split in our Juniors with 17 girls regularly riding... I am not sure exactly how we managed this and our challenge now is to keep it going! The restrictions we have had for COVID this year have made things much harder, unfortunately, as we've had fewer opportunities to ride.

I have found the following helpful:

(1) Keeping girls - as in girls in general - engaged with sport is a big issue, but there is some useful advice out there:

(2) Many girls don't like doing sport with overtly competitive and often critical boys. I am lucky that the Head of Mountain Biking (yes, that's now a real role at the School, currently it's my wife) is really attentive to group dynamics so we not only try to keep the girls together but we actively separate them from the more 'assertive' boys.

(3) The womeninsport documentation highlights the importance of 'moments of pride'... our club is non-competitive so while we do have the odd 'timed lap' our focus is very much on having fun and learning new skills - we started coaching after school so the kids would have more fun on our monthly 'Adventure Rides'.

(4) An all-male environment just isn't that welcoming for girls... you need that 'critical mass'. We are planning to do some girls only 'Adventure Rides' so the girls don't have to feel any pressure to keep up, or hit any technical sections we encounter... we do have some regulars who can definitely hold their own, but what you need is 'critical mass'. The UK Southern Enduro series organised women's enduro training sessions and I think they managed to more than triple the number of women racing.

(5) Role models matter. It's great to see so many top female athletes inspiring young riders and I'm forever sharing videos from Pinkbike. We are lucky that more than half our MTB leaders are women, and we've had a few 'guests' ride with us too - it's much easier to aspire to be what you see!

I better finish reading all the comments on this thread now... my challenge is to get all our girls back riding next year!
  • 2 0

I think the girl at the very end of the video sums it up nicely! I love that Pinkbike is such a strong promoter of women's riding.
  • 7 0
 Such a great article featuring 3 strong women that I look up to. Build it and they will come!
  • 4 0
 I have two daughters so far. I want to bike with them when they grow up. Girls participate in all sports at the same rate as boys in elementary school. By high school, girls discontinue sports at a rate five times as high as men. Normally, I'd say thats just the difference between men and women, but sport participation is highly correlated with exercise, overall health, and well being. I have no idea how to change this.
  • 2 0
 Good luck man. I too have 2 daughters and tried to get them hooked on riding, but it never took for them. I didn't push it just always offered it and had their bikes ready. Tried going with other kids but no interest. Tried other women in their early 20's because my 13 yr old says she doesn't like kids. Had one interested in dirt bikes for a bit but couldn't get her one her size to ride to get her hooked. Still time left before I'm too old though. Its weird bikes used to mean freedom, but kids are fine with staying home. Mine aren't even excited about driving in a few years. The plan is to Uber it.
  • 2 0
 @MattyBoyR6: Not excited about driving even?? Well, I commend you for trying. And it's always possible they'll pick up biking later, maybe when the next pandemic hits. ????
  • 1 0
 @jayh7: yeah man I don't get these kids. My friends say the same that their kids aren't interested in driving. I shared this article with my local group and kids rides as well as early teen / tween rides are being planned. I've got some lady friends that are going to work with me to do a Dude You're Screwed adventure for my daughter and give her a MTB to ride out on, or walk. She'll have fun damn it even if I have to force her to.
*It should be known my kid likes survival shows and Dude You're Screwed.
  • 8 0
 Y'all are making the world a better place for everyone.
  • 4 0
 I think a big key for getting more girls and boys shredding on MTBs at young ages...is to get more kids on little Freestyle BMX/DJ bikes or a BMX program at a young age. If I recall, this is what the French do, and they've had some success for sure. I see a gang of kids on MTB bikes that are too big, with sketchy-near-road-bike geometry, heavy wheels/tires/fake-suspension. They aren't shredding, developing and having a good time like the kids that know how to pilot. They are all passenger. Then we wonder why there are few young freeride ladies. Conversely, I go to the BMX park and I see young ladies SENDING it on tiny BMX bikes with incredible skill. BMX/DJ riding (in addition to MTBs) for young kids...it is the way.
  • 4 0
 We're ridiculously lucky in Alberta, as we have a ton of female coaches here - Shred Sisters, Women on Wheels - Edmonton, SheShreds, Sweet Riders, BikeScape, etc. And loads of lady shredder groups: Dirt Queens, Spin Sisters, Slaydies, etc. Come to the Rockies if you're a female rider! Even Plaid Goat MTB Fest has its "Estro-Fest" program, because there are so many female-centric things to do at the event.
  • 3 0
 That sounds rad! How can I defect?
  • 8 0
 Legends! Thanks Coaches!
  • 3 0
 I dragged both of my kids out on mountain bikes when they were little. They both ended up really liking it and got good at it. My daughter is now a hardcore triathlete and she kills it on the bike. Both still ride MTB and we all ride together. We also all played golf, sorta with the idea that would be the "forever sport". Kids are now 25 and 28, nobody still plays golf, we all still ride together every week. Waaay better than golf, never too early to start, wish I had these sort of clinics available.
  • 3 0
 Great write up - so many awesome girl and women riders out there to profile. Also super seeing PB leading the way more widely - Ben Cathro covering both a male and female privateer - PBA having a 50/50 split - noticed and appreciated by this dad of a 9 year old daughter who loves to ride her bike. Great to see.....
  • 4 0
 These are the stories the world need to hear. I know there are so many more positive things going on that the news pass over, for whatever reason. LOVE IT!
  • 2 0
 A few years ago I took a Trek Dirt Series class in Whistler and Jamie Hill was one of the instructors. She was incredibly helpful and and really good at building both my skills and my confidence. I ended up separating my shoulder on the last day of the class (I hit a pole right in front of GLC) and she made sure I was in good hands with the local medics.

Awesome to see her setup her own coaching business and the growth it's having!
  • 5 0
 How great is this. Huge props to everyone involved Beer Next climb I'm awarding myself ice cream points.
  • 2 0
 Miss 11 took part in the Hilltop Fall coaching sessions. It was such a different experience for her to ride with an all- girls group and be challenged to try new features she previously would have gone around. The group dynamic (and her level of happiness) was quite different to the summer co-Ed camp she’d done. Jaime knows how to motivate the girls to give it their best, and it’s great to see her growing the sport and getting girls riding at the next level.
  • 6 1
 Thanks for the tips. I'll use them with my girls!
  • 4 0
 Anneka: Coast Salish for shredder.

Looks like you could teach yer pa how not to stare at his front wheel all the time...
  • 4 0
 Shout out to Sweetlines and Kat for growing the girls' racing part of the equation!
  • 1 0
 For sure... Kat does amazing work with her crew @sweetlines Salute
  • 3 0
 Over the past four years I have witnessed so many females start riding and many are now racing, doing tricks and just throwing down. The future is bright
  • 5 0
 Yes! Love it! More girls on bikes!
  • 3 0
 This is fantastic. I hope more and more of this starts happening everywhere. More content like this too please!
  • 2 0
 Hey all, just want to say that this is AWESOME and exactly the kind of direction I want to see in mountain biking. Keep up the good work and keep the smiles going!
  • 2 0
 So cool to see stuff like this being done, anything that encourages more girls or women into mountain biking and even racing, has to be a good thing.
  • 2 0
 Great article ????
I was tempted to bring a couple of my daughters across the Rocky's for this clinic. Maybe next year.
  • 5 6
 Men talk about how to go faster and the virtues of particular bike parts. Most do. I ride for the fresh air and the beauty of the outdoors.
Try embracing nature and fun. Try to ignore your Strava times and your new tires. Quite the opposite of what PB and the mountain bike industry promotes.
I'm Gald PB is trying to get more woman/ girls into the sport. Any one watch Van girl Yukka? She is amazing. She is fun .
  • 2 3
 I've been riding since 1988 and have travelled to ride all over the Western US. I saw more female riders, from age 4 to 40, in ONE day at Whistler in 2018 than I saw the previous 30 years COMBINED and no, that's not an exaggeration. Fast forward to 2020 where due to COVID, the rider population has exploded here in SoCal plus I've spent more time at the Snow Summit Bike Park....not only do I see a lot more female riders but at least here in SoCal, the minority rider population probably EXCEEDS the numbers of the standard perceived MTB crowd of white males. That''s why I scoff at articles about minority riders as if it's somebodys "fault". If people want to ride, they'll make it happen. There is nothing preventing them from doing so.
  • 4 0
 Is there anything in this piece assigning blame for the gender disparity in biking? Also, do you really believe that attaining what one wants is only a matter of will? I ask this as someone who was lucky enough to find a way to go snowboarding while making minimum wage. I made it happen; and I was lucky to find people willing to help me along the way.
  • 1 0
 This is amazing! As a father of 2 young girls, I know how important it is to have strong female role models in their life. Keep up the great work!
  • 2 0
 I would love to get my niece into it but it's just a dream that I know will never know
  • 1 2
 ..will never come true
  • 2 0
 She'll like the flowing smooth trails not the steep climbing ones.. i took my sister up in the Santa Cruz mountains she didn't like the steep rocky downhills..
  • 2 0
 @Kenroth33: Might be an acquired taste!
  • 3 0
 Love to hear it!!
  • 2 0
 Awesome work Jamie and Miranda!
  • 2 2
 Just look at that last photo SMH. Isn't it a bit excessive to buy your kid a 5.000+$ bike that he/she will have outgrown in like 2 years?
  • 1 1
 Peeking into other people's wallets is a really nasty habit Smile
  • 2 0
 @bananowy: Not peeking into anything. Merely observing the obvious.
  • 2 0
 So awesome!!
  • 2 0
  • 1 2
 IMO, if we want more females getting into MTBs, then (post Covid) have MTB brands put up their trade show stalls at Equestrian events....
  • 2 0
 Super rad! Way to go!
  • 1 0
 I bought my sister a hardtail some shithead stole it
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