Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Queens , Sirens and Bullshit

I love mountain biking.  I am always wanting to improve my skills to maximize my fun.  And reduce the crashes.  One of the main reasons that I teach mountain bike skills is to share what I know with other riders, so that they can have more fun and ride with more confidence.

Nothing beats seeing a woman with stoke and confidence

These last couple of weeks, I've had the opportunity to teach lots of ladies new skills and ways to improve upon the skills that they have.
The Pisgah Sirens!  These ladies could climb some mountains!  I think that I helped them conquer bigger logs, drops and they helped me with my left handed switchbacks.

Our traditional group photo taken on the Highland Scenic Highway for the Elk River Touring Center women's single track weekend.  These ladies gained efficiency over the miles of roots and learning to pump through long rock gardens.

These ladies were the winners of the raffle at the Bryce QOM.  They learned to catch air and train their minds to focus on body position instead of catastrophe.
I really would love to see more women in my beloved sport of mountain biking!  I am doing my small part by focusing on teaching women skills in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.   For the Bryce QOM, I contacted some companies to ask for product for the giveaway raffle.  The women would be psyched to get women's products and everyone loves swag and then the companies would get some exposure for their women's lines.  I was really pleased with most of the stuff sent.  Zoic ,  Bontrager, Mountain Khaki and G-Form sent some nice stuff.

 One rep sent  two men's medium t-shirts that were pink and had the name of the Giro d'Italia winner on it. I have no idea why he thought that would be right for a women's mountain bike skills weekend. And it's not that I don't appreciate the free shirts and the cost of shipping, but it reminds me that sometimes the bike industry just doesn't get it.  Just because its pink and free doesn't make it a women's product.

I get to see a lot of different women's bikes.  A couple of things that I continually see are bikes that are too big and often too heavy for the woman riding it.  These are mainly 29ers .  And yes, a small woman can ride a 29er...but not all 29ers are right.  Some of the geometry puts the front end too high and puts the woman too far down in the bike to be able to move the bike around.   The second thing is  brake levers that are not in the right spot and too far away for their hands.    Yes, some of this responsibility falls on the woman to buy the right thing for herself.  But I think it also falls on the bike shops, bike companies and friends that they ride with.

Selene Yeager had this to say on the subject What women want.  And I agree...You ask 5 women what they want and you might get 5 different answers.  But choice is important and just by having the choice of bikes, products, clothes,  clinics, races, events, groups...that shows that women are recognized as participants in mountain biking and cycling.  Sure, probably a million more men cycle than women, but its still millions of women and its growing every year.

I haven't seen "Half the Road" yet, but I am a huge fan of Kathyrn Bertine and her efforts to make more people aware of the inequality in elite racing for women.  It seems like women racers are in a very tough situation.  On one hand, they are the minority and don't pay their fair share of race entry fees.  On the other hand, they spend the same amount of money buying bikes, paying race entry fees and money on a license.  But still at most races, they don't get the same prize money.  And "professional" women racers are often racing for free while the men have a salary minimum.  Catherine Pendrel just won the Mountain Bike World Championships .  Do you think she won the same amount as Julien Absalon?  And do you think that she can afford to boycott races that don't pay equally?

I remember accidentally seeing what a male teammate's salary was, while I was a rider for the Trek/VW team.  It was more than double of what I made.  They didn't make me go to less than half the races, train half as hard, pay half as much health insurance, pay my coach half or ask me to do half the bike shop visits.  Or only deal with half of the bullshit that they dished out.

A friend who recently came into the world of mountain biking racing and sponsorship noted how weird it was that riders on a team were supposed to spend a bunch of time doing marketing for the team and the team's sponsors for free, even though the team and the sponsors all have paid marketing managers.   They were supposed to give over their social media identity to whatever company tossed them a bone.  People ask me to teach for free.  I really wonder if they ask to get their teeth cleaned for free or the oil changed in their car for nothing.

She said that it's so hard because biking has captured all of our hearts and that is why we do it.  But knowing that the bike industry and teams(or lack of)or clubs pull at our heartstrings to make us say yes. How do we get more respect, better pay, equal prize money, cool products and more of the right kind of exposure?

 I always tell the women that I teach(who have paid me for my job) to spread the knowledge.  Take another women out for ride and teach her what you learned.  Spread the joy!  Which reminds me of the "dude" who wouldn't give me a mountain bike lesson because he thought that I was going to tell someone else what I learned.

I guess I better go now and ride my bike!

“It’s only a small thing, compared to the reach the men have, but that is the point of elite sport: for people to see it and be entertained, or inspired, or start cycling, even if it is just riding around the block." -Emma Pooley.

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