Gravity Girls & Biking Babes: Whistler Women Rip It Up
From keen first-timers to seasoned pros the number of women enjoying mountain biking is on the rise and nowhere is it more apparent than the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Recent studies quote that 1 in 4 bike park riders are female and that percentage is keeping pace as overall park numbers grow. Compared to a decade ago, those numbers are incredible.
“The Monday and Wednesday night Women’s rides at the park really made a huge difference,” says pro-rider and coach Bethany Parsons. “Back when I started in 2006 I was one of the only women I knew who rode and now there were over 100 of us at the last Women’s night. The park is such a great place to learn– there is a difference between scary and sketchy and they do such a good job on the trails here that you feel like you can trust the terrain.”
And it’s not just the park, Whistler women are thriving on the cross-country trails and racing scene as well. “The awesome thing about biking,” Bethany says, “is how your riding evolves and changes as you age. We’ll see younger girls ripping in the park and then women in their 40s pinning it on XC trails, going so fast and passing younger dudes. There will always be a style of mountain biking that works for you.”
Whistler women are working it on a professional level as well. Taylor Loughran, who shot and created the “Ladies Only Edit” above for DirtyJane.com, says filming and shooting photos with women is very different than a day out with the dudes. “It’s a lot lighter,” he says. “Not the riding, but the vibe and feel of the day. It’s more fun and relaxed. Even when they are riding something super gnarly the girls seem to smile more.”
“Girls have a different approach,” says Bethany. As head coach for the Camp of Champions bike program she has plenty of hands-on experience with riders of both sexes. “Women are more able to deal with emotions without anger, we connect to each other a bit more easily. It seems like guys get a rush from flying out on the edge and women enjoy being in control and dominating a ride. With coaching, I’m often encouraging the ladies and telling them ‘you got this’ but with the dudes, younger men especially, you have to hold them back– ‘no dude, you don’t got this.’”
As more and more ladies discover mountain biking in Whistler, whether for thrills, fitness or fun, they’re entering a culture of acceptance and encouragement that doesn’t exist in a lot of places. “I love the way Whistler men have stepped up,” Bethany says. “They let you unload your own bike off the car. They invite you out riding because they actually want to ride with you because everyone here values each other as athletes and buddies. Plus, there is a whole generation of young boys growing up here knowing that their mom can beat them on any downhill or uphill ride. That’s pretty rad.”
Indeed it is. Ride on ladies, ride on.
The Whistler Off Road Cycling Association’s annual Women’s Enduro Race is happening this Saturday August 24, 2012 (with a James Bond Theme!) To learn more about mountain biking in Whistler, including bike park tickets and accommodation deals hit up Whistler.com.