Just a few years ago, it was almost unheard of to see a group of women shredding by on their mountain bikes, hitting jumps and railing berms. Maybe you would see a few 'pioneers' pushing the limits and keeping up with the guys, but only a few. Nowadays, it is completely normal for 40+ women to come together for a day of riding with the girls and raising the standards of what is normal and achievable as a female in a male dominant sport.
For the second year in a row, Pemberton, BC played an amazing and scenic host to the Air Maiden Women's Skills Clinic and Ride.
With 30 eager women wanting to learn and progress, 5 highly skilled and accredited coaches from the surrounding area, and a few volunteers to help keep things running smoothly, the day went off without a hitch and the clouds never actually released the torrential downpour that was sure to come.
(L to R: Sylvie Allen, Samantha White, Beth Parsons, Jaclyn Delacroix, Bree Thorlakson)
Having the chance to learn from some of the best riders and coaches in the area, the girls really made the most of the opportunity and were keen for knowledge! This year's Air Maiden event was mostly organized by Bree Thorlakson, amazing mum and wife, who started Bike Club in Pemberton back in 2011 that now has over 250 members and goes for weekly rides in 'Spud Valley.' Sylvie Allen came back for year 2 to assist as well. Sylvie runs Sweet Skills Coaching and Training out of Pemby and is an absolute force on the bike, always a top contender at the Nimby 50 marathon XC race. New this year to coach were Samantha White and Beth Parsons of Whistler and Jaclyn Delacroix of North Vancouver. Sam runs the WORCA kids programs, so you can thank her for keeping the kids safe and entertained all summer long! Beth Parsons is one of those 'pioneers' I referred to earlier. She has been living and riding in the Whistler valley for as long as most can remember, and has raced and been published in many adverts over the years for her sponsors, most currently Race Face and Polygon bikes. Last but most certainly not least, a huge thanks goes out to Jaclyn Delacroix of Ozmosis Training in North Vancouver and Mud Bunnies riding/race group that brought her bike sponsor, LIV Cycling with the help of Amalie Pasternak, to demo bikes for the day's event and also a ton of swag for all participants.
We cannot thank the community of Pemberton enough and especially Bree Thorlakson for putting on the event this summer, with the help of an absent Lynne Armstrong, the original Air Maiden.
Before any serious ground could be covered, we all started the morning/pre-ride meet up with a delicious brew and snacks from Mount Currie Coffee Co.
Amelie of LIV Cycling BC, all smiles all day, helping the ladies get set up on the demo bikes
LIV cycling was on hand with bike demo's as well for interested riders.
After breaking into groups of beginner. intermediate. and advanced riders, the ladies headed out to build the skills required for the techy terrain that British Columbia is known for.
Sylvie Allen demonstrates 'bike body separation' and the benefits of leaning the bike into corners while keeping the upper body strong and looking through the corner.
The ladies were easily able to practice the new moves in the safety of the soft, grassy field...before being released into the rugged terrain of Pemberton. Practice makes perfect!
Simple skills practiced included raising the front wheel to clear obstacles like roots and rocks. Here the rider gets ready, compresses into the bike (front and rear suspension), and explodes over the obstacle.
Thanks to Bree's amazing family support, practice wooden boxes were set up and inspired women to catch some air and practice technique before hitting real rock step down's and trail side jumps later on. Watching 'never left the ground' ladies progress so quickly in a fun environment is truly an awesome and inspiring thing to be a part of!
Practicing using only the front brake, only the back brake, and then both while 'modulating' is a lot less intimidating on a small hill compared to a smooth rock face. This really helped the ladies realize how powerful each are independently, and showed how slow you really can go before the brakes begin to lock up causing skidding tires.
Wouldn't it be awesome if we all had a Beth Parsons, trail side, telling us exactly when to initiate the front wheel lift to get over roots, rocks, and the unknown!
Once we worked up an appetite, a quick lunch break courtesy of Snowline Catering was exactly what we needed to push on for the afternoon trail ride to incorporate the skills and lessons of the morning. Their 'Glory Bowl' vegetarian lunch and snacks were light and hearty for the pedalling to come!
All the ladies were eager to listen to and learn from Bike Club member, and local engineer guru, Ming Sartee who demonstrated a few key pointers for on trail mishaps, including changing a tube, breaking a chain, simple suspension set up and more.
Time to hit the trails!
Gotta get up to get down...they say. With the helpful climbing hints, all the ladies were keen to practice their technical climbing and tight switchback maneuvers that Happy Trail in Pemberton is known for.
Taking the time to master some hard terrain and choose lines is what makes us all better riders. Never underestimate looking at line, finding the best way to get through it, and then conquering it.
Taking the morning's lessons about climbing technical terrain, the groups set out to practice the skills needed to not only get to the top but to push past that critical point and continue the ride.
Jaclyn Delacroix was absolutely amazing at relating the drops in the grassy field to the trail features while out riding with the women. She knows a thing or two about technical terrain being a North Vancouver resident and consistent racer in DH and Enduro.
With demonstrations by the coaches and reiterating the morning's techniques, all participants were able to go out and ride with confidence.
What seemed intimidating in the morning, was no big deal in the afternoon riding rock slabs on Mission Impossible 3.
Correct body position and center of balance go a long way when adjusting to trail conditions and riding features with confidence.
After battling the elements all day and putting the day's knowledge to use on some of BC's best trails, the ladies were rewarded with a taco apres from Snowline Catering and enough donations from the sponsors that everyone left with something special to remember the day by...aside from a few scrapes and bruises along the way.
Sponsors 2016: PORCA (Pemberton Off-Road Cycling Association), Pemberton Valley Trail Association, Evolution Bike Shop, Pemberton Bike Co., LIV Cycling, Snowline Catering, Race Face, Sombrio, Ryders Eyewear