It’s a perfect day for a ride on your favorite trail. You and your mountain bike are primed and ready. You’ve got plenty of water, a Powerbar or two, your helmet and gloves. Just one element is missing: your special gal.
Usually I am the official female mascot on weekly after-work rides at nearby canyons, and on day-long weekend wilderness excursions, and frankly I LOVE IT. Why wouldn’t more women want to join their men on a mountain-bike adventure to a place far from the maddening crowds, the dangers of traffic and the stench of industry?
On rides where I am the only woman, the guys lament, “I wish my woman would join us,” and glare at my husband, the lucky devil. This sentiment is even echoed on the World Wide Web, where I ran across an ongoing “Whine Chat” about women in mountain biking. An avid rider named Hammer says, “I love Women! They can add a great deal to most anything. I would guess that most Women would like to ride but the men are so rude….Ahhh, what I wouldn’t give for a Woman who could stay up or even close to me on a ride.” And Mudman adds, “Why can’t there be more women who enjoy getting dirty the right way? Is this the last frontier to get a message to the real dirty women in the world!”
Perhaps the woman you love does not realize just what she is missing. Maybe she associates mountain biking with Rambo doing wheelies, ripping, shredding, gnashing and crashing — just like in the “crash ‘n burn” videos you may have inadvertently played in her presence. She thinks you expect her to perform Observed Trials. She would never be able to keep up with you, and her bike is too big anyway, so why try? More reasons exist for her NOT to ride than to face her fears, climb aboard and take a spin. It’s up to you to help dispell these fears. Tackle them one by one.
First, make sure her bike fits. Is it the one you handed down when you invested in your fully-suspended “unobtainium” model? Hmm. If she is a different size than you, then your old bike probably does not fit her. Buy, borrow or rent her a bike she can comfortably ride on her maiden voyage. A few minor adjustments to the stem, handlebars and seat post may set her up perfectly. Her bike doesn’t have to be top’o the line, but it should arouse her desire to explore nature with her best pal, you.
Equip her with a pair of padded bicycle shorts, a pair of padded gloves and by all means, a helmet. If she says she doesn’t like what it does to her hair, tactfully let her know prevention is smart practice. A woman’s saddle will inevitably make a difference on longer rides, if she becomes an enthusiastic rider. Toe clips and rear shocks are recommended, and preferably front shocks. Be sure to simply explain the functions of the bike. Does she realize that bikes can have up to twenty-seven speeds and hair-trigger brakes these days? Give her the option to wear knee and elbow pads, if she wants. She will need a good pair of eye shields. Present these on a special occasion, maybe even gift-wrapped, emphasizing their importance to her well being on the bike.
Inform her of other members of her gender who have made the world proud. Did she have a chance to watch the flamboyant Italian, Paola Pezzo, snatch the gold at the Olympics’ first-ever mountain-biking event? The mild-mannered Susan DeMattei brought home the bronze. And what about Juli Furtado, who despite numerous knee operations, held the number-one spot as leading American female mountain-bike rider for five years.
Now it’s very important to get this next part right, because your first ride together will be the deciding factor on whether she continues her proverbial climb.
Under no circumstances should you bring her along on a gonzo ride with the regulars. Big mistake. They will not be patient, and you will have to wait as she dismounts to walk over a rock stream that you would long since have flown over. Avoid sabotaging her future mountain-bike career. Take her gently by the hand and make a date with Nature.
What woman does not love a romantic picnic in an idyllic setting, with flitting butterflies and untainted air, where your eyes can meet hers and your spirits carress? With perhaps a skinny-dip opportunity? Well, what about combining a bicycle ride with a picnic destination complete with a lightweight blanket for lounging on, and a picnic lunch. Pack your food and drink carefully.
It’s like Pavlov’s theory. If you can find a way to connect her impressions of mountain biking to a romantic interlude, you can get her to mount that ne’r-been-used bike which came without instructions on how to get her on it.
Let her know the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits derived from riding. Mountain biking builds endurance, feeds the internal organs, dismantles fatty deposits and builds some fine legs and butt. She can get a good upper body workout by rhythmically pulling back on her handlebars while climbing hills. A mountain-bike workout relieves stress and provides the opportunity to “commune” with nature — strong medicine. These life-enhancing benefits will add longevity to your relationship.
You will know your initial journey has been successful if she proposes the next ride. If she still needs more convincing, and is willing, set weekly or monthly dates to get away on destination bike rides. Ride together as often as you can in your neighborhood. As long as she derives pleasure and rewards from riding, she will be more likely to continue. Before you both know it, she will be riding greater distances and noticing some handsome cuts in her thigh muscles. She will be hooked.
The following caveats apply to the afore-mentioned instructions:
* You must crave to enjoy the mountain-bike experience with your woman.
* You must be patient and gentle as you guide her through a potentially fearsome experience.
* You must patiently give simple non-judgmental instructions to improve her riding.
* You must be ready to accept changes in your lives together.
Let’s say you both ride happily ever after. Now you must feed two voracious appetites. Consider a romantic off-road adventure in some real mountain-bike country, Southwestern U.S. style:
* Moab, Utah, where Slickrock is the hub from which dozens of rides emanate. Best time late Fall. World renowned as “Mountain-Bike Mecca”.
* Marin, California, birthplace of Mountain Biking. Best time Spring through Autumn. Right across the Golden Gate Bridge from cosmopolitan San Francisco.
* Big Bear, California, host to numerous NORBA-endorsed races for good reason. Best time Spring through Fall.
Are you feeling frisky enough for the great unknown? Here are a few tried and trues:
* Whistler Mountain, British Columbia, Canada. Summer’s longer days will provide time for biking and summer skiing. Alison Sydor’s stomping ground.
* Costa Rica, Central American jewel featuring expansive national park refuges for exotic animals and habitats, volcanoes, rain forests, and beautiful beaches. Most enjoyable in December and January.
* Zermatt, Switzerland, abode of the notorious Matterhorn, alpine wildflowers and gushing waterfalls. Awesome in the summertime.
* Litochoro, Greece, at the base of Mt. Olympus, playground of Xena and Hercules. The window of adventure is open from Spring through Fall.
* South Australia, home to the world’s oldest mountains, the Flinders Ranges, and a wide variety of native animals including kangaroos and koalas. The kind of place to fall in love. Spring through Fall are October through May.
Don’t forget, some Rules of the Trail:
Take plenty of water and some form of edible energy.
Always wear a helmet.
Ride only on areas designated for mountain bikes.
Revere Mother Nature.