Endless Biking is celebrating 10 years of building riders. As part of their celebration they are sponsoring ten articles that revolve around the fundamentals of their business; bikes, community and learning.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE LADIES GONE?
|I created the EB Chickas Race Team in order to share the experience and knowledge that I had gained through racing with other women. I also thought that by creating a team environment it would make the races feel less intimidating for girls who were new to it. - Kelli Sherbinin, Endless Biking|
In 2007, Kelli Sherbinin created the EB Chickas Downhill Race Team and spent a season travelling to local races around BC with eight other women. This is twice the amount of ladies who raced in the BC Provincials Race in Golden this year. With a continual decline in attendance on the local downhill front for the ‘fairer sex’, it has left us all wondering, where have all the ladies gone?
|I learned that putting yourself out of your comfort zone and coming out in one piece felt really fantastic. I always fought (and won) the urge to barf before a race and questioned why the hell I was even doing it, but once I finished I couldn't wait to try another one! It just felt awesome! - Colleen Keyland, EB Chicka|
|The mountain biking community is a very fun group of people, and seeing the same faces at each of the races makes it feel even more like family. Racing has definitely helped me reach goals and pushed me to overcome limits I didn't think I could.|
A quick look at overall attendance in BC Cups between 2010 and 2013 shows a slow and steady 20% decline in downhill racing; however, the 2014 registrations reported a small but promising 4% resurgence of participation in the sport. Looking at women’s attendance, specifically at the Dunbar Summer Series - some of the few DH races offering equal cash prizing for pro men and women - the participation in women’s categories has decreased 40% since 2011 without any sign of making a comeback.
|There is no way I would be where I am, doing what I am doing, without DH racing. Racing gave me my skills, my friends, and perspective. It helped me to understand how the industry works. - Katie Holden, Athlete Ambassador for Liv|
We have the vote and can legally ride bikes in Canada, so is it more important that women race downhill or that they have the choice not to? The answers below are from a downhill race focused survey of women who mountain bike:‘Yes, because downhill biking is a blast!’
‘Yes! I am 13 and have no competition! I am alone on the podium! It is the same with the other age categories for women, there are just very few female riders. Gotta get some girls out.’
‘Women need to be part of the race scene because if more women are competing they will bring more young riders out in the form of their children and their children's friends as well as their husbands or boyfriends. Whether they are aware of it or not, women play a crucial role as both racers and support staff.’
'Yes. Right now the ladies who are competing are labelled as 'hardcore' or 'crazy'. I think that if more women from all walks of life start competing then it would hopefully be more inviting to others to at least give it a try.'
‘Of course! Women racers need to be visible in every aspect of riding!’
|As a parent, I can tell you that for the first couple of years it was really nerve-racking knowing that she was training on her own most of the time and was waiting at the top by herself for her race run. As she got to know some of the senior women, I felt better since I knew she had someone to chill with at the top. Ky is lucky in the sense that she has a great team to support her now, but she would still rather have some girls to ride with, and they are hard to come by. - Megan Stewart, Race Mom|
We are not solving global warming or preventing teen pregnancy; we are just riding bikes. However, it would still seem that the lack of women competing in this style of mountain biking is something we feel passionately about. The next big question is, why aren’t women racing downhill? Travel costs (59%) followed by concerns that a serious injury would impact work related responsibilities (39%) and lack of time for vacation or work schedule conflicts (33%) topped the list of reasons why the women who completed the survey are not participating in our local races. Perhaps more at the heart of the issue however was this comment, ‘the lack of women racing is a perpetuating feedback loop.’ Less women racing means less support and competition for the women who are showing up, which eventually leads to even less women in attendance.
Unfortunately though, it would seem that none of us know what will stop this loop. When asked for suggestions on improving attendance, the answers were overwhelmingly: ‘not sure’, ‘no idea’, ‘that’s a hard one’, and ‘unsure.’ There were, however, no requests to ‘dumb down’ courses or for preferential treatment. There is a strong push for more division in age groups but this puts us back in the feedback loop; we need more women competing to justify more categories. The suggestion of “more swag and lower entry fees” is an oxymoron as races cost money to run and organizing them is much more of a passion than a way to make money. “Include enduro” was an interesting comment because we all know that enduro is the answer to everything! When in doubt, wear a fanny pack! A few strong suggestions addressed a want for clinics on the specific racecourses and marketing for the events that uses images of women.
|Downhill racing has changed my life in so many ways. I have always loved riding bikes but I had never pushed myself to really progress until I started racing. Of course as exhilarating as riding can be it can also make you completely and utterly frustrated and disappointed if things do not go to plan. But such is life, and experiencing those emotions and learning how to deal with them is similar to conquering fears and celebrating triumphs in all aspects of life. - Danice Uyesugi, Professional Racer|
“There are women in this sport doing fabulous things, and they are capable of inspiring girls and women to participate and excel in sports. They need increased exposure in order to reach people, have their voices heard, and spread their athletic passion.”
This is exactly what Kelli’s original goal was with the EB Chickas five years ago; to use her experience to have a direct impact on women’s racing, to be a role model and to incorporate other phenomenal mountain bikers, who happen to be women, into the experience. Being on a team allows for coaching (which minimizes the risk of injury), a sense of belonging in unfamiliar circumstances, guidance through the process of finding and registering for races and an opportunity to share travel costs. The strength in numbers breaks the low numbers feedback loop by creating an accessible and attainable downhill race experience and, also, funds coaching jobs for female (and male) athletes, creating a more sustainable race circuit and creating a visible female presence in downhill racing that supports a more balanced industry and community.
| When it was all said and done I felt a huge sense of accomplishment having done a BC Cup race, loved the road trips and especially participating with a group of girls I know and respect |
|In recruiting racers for this year, it was clear that none of the first-time racers would have volunteered to race on their own, and that having a support network to train with and also race with was important in encouraging the girls to race. As well, many first time racers do not have any guidance for how to begin to race, things like where to find information, how to register, and all those details. - Darlene Paranaque, Prairie Girls Racing|
Racing downhill is not for everyone, and by no means should it be. The aggressive nature of downhill riding (not of the community or race environment – to be clear) is not appealing to all. But when it is, it can strengthen who you are in a way that you might not expect.
If you would like to be a part of a women’s race movement for the 2015 race season please contact Kelli ‘if you build it they will come’ Sherbinin.
|For me personally, racing had a positive impact on all aspects of my life; mental, emotional, and physical. And having a team to support you also helps you with the crazy roller coaster we each go through when we push our limits. - Kelli Sherbinin, Endless Biking|