One of the greatest appeals of mountain biking is that it is a unisex sport. Mountain biking does not discriminate on the basis of gender. Nor does it eliminate participants due to their ages or ethnicities; in its early years it was largely the domain of men and boys, but now women and girl mountain bikers are joining the fun in record numbers.
Girls mountain biking has begun to achieve prominence in the sport, thanks to the teams of girls mountain bikers fielded by many US high schools. High school mountain biking programs allow female students to master the techniques necessary to succeed in girls mountain biking competitions, and many of them are the equal of the male bikers in their schools.
The NorCal High School Mountain Bike League, founded in 2001, opened up the world of girls mountain biking to Elena Spittler, who was the league’s girls mountain biking champion in 2005. She joined the Berkeley High School Mountain Biking Team as its single female member, simply to prove that girls could succeed in the sport. She struggled to keep up with the boys during her first year on the team, but by the time she was a senior, Elena was trouncing some of her younger male teammates.
Two years after she struck a blow for girls mountain biking at her high school, there are now seven girls on the team, and the total number of participants in girls mountain biking for the entire NorCal High School Mountain Bike League has doubled.
The league now has a summer girls mountain biking camp and intends to host a girls mountain biking mini-camp in the first part of the high school racing season to help the girls competing improver their techniques and build their confidence. The league has made a commitment to these girl-specific activities, and is also training its team coaches in methods of recruiting and working with girls mountain biking candidates.
These girls mountain biking clinics and camps cover a variety of topics. The girls are required to maneuver their bikes over natural obstacles and down steep descents, learning the balance, dexterity, and bike control necessary for competing in cross country, endurance, and short course racing events. They are also schooled in bike maintenance and repair.
Girls Mountain Biking Clinics
The clinics stress the importance of preserving mountain biking trails, finding team sponsorship, educating the public in the positive benefits of girls mountain biking, and improving one’s biking skills. They encourage their students to develop self-reliance and challenge them in the same way that their male counterparts are challenged.
Thanks to the efforts of groups like the NorCal High School Mountain Bike League, both girls and girls mountain biking have “caught up” with the boys!
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