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Our biggest takeaway from Yolanda: You should know you have the right to be here too!
So, how did you get into mountain biking?
I had started running in my 50s and I was training for ultra-marathons. To cross-train, I had to either bike, or swim. The only bike I had ever ridden was way back in 1972 for a brief 6 months, so biking was going to be pretty new to me! I went to a second hand bike shop and asked for the cheapest bike they had. The only bike they could offer me actually happened to be a youth bike, but there was no way I would have spent thousands or even hundreds on a new bike at the time, so here I was, ready to cross-train with a 2nd hand youth bike!
I first started riding on local gravel roads and over time realized I needed a better bike. I ended up getting a $700 bike (and even that felt outrageous at the time 😊!) …I didn’t know much about gears, likely didn’t know the front brake from the rear brake. But one day, I decided to head out with a friend to a mountain biking area. The ride up was hard, but I managed to get myself uphill. When we got all the way to the top, I couldn’t believe my friend thought I would let go of the brake and allow myself to fly all the way downhill! I was too terrified to do that, and ended up walking my bike down most of the way! I had nothing in place for mountain biking – no skills for sure, no protective gear, and not even the right air pressure in my tires! I just realized I was not prepared for MTB.
I then happened to chance upon an all women mountain biking clinic in Bend and decided to go learn some real skills. After that, there has been no looking back and I’ve taken on several more trainings, and now mountain biking has become a way of life for me.
What would your advice to seniors/retirees be so they can start biking now?
Go to a clinic, or a training session at your local bike shop. Doesn’t listen only to your partner, friend, or your kids – they may not know what is right for you and how to get you started 😊 Talk to the professionals, talk to coaches, and they can tell you what you need to know. Picking up the right technical understanding of the sport is the best way for you to build confidence, know you will be safe, and enjoy the sport even if you are new to it.
Why do you think there aren’t more older women in biking?
Biking, especially mountain biking, is still very much a young, male sport. You see the young male testosterone even in the trail parking lot at times and it was intimidating to me. You should know you have the right to be there too. But the culture and general sentiment around mountain biking is still very sexist, and it can be off putting for women wanting to get into the sport. For the sport to be more welcoming to women that needs to change.
How can older women prepare themselves to be more confident biking?
Being good at any sport involves a combination of skill and strength. Same for mountain biking. It is not all brute strength; you can actually become very good at the sport even if that is later in life by learning, and using the right technique. If you are willing to be taught, if you are willing to listen, you can become technically more proficient and that will give you a lot of confidence to go out there and have fun! You can lose your fears and build a new skill if you go about it the right way, if you build the right support system.
This will require you to become more self-sufficient. For example, are you able to fix bike mechanical issues yourself? If not, would you consider picking up that skill? These little things seem intimidating at first but overcoming these fears one step at a time will help you.
What are some of the quirks of being an older woman in biking?
For one, I have several good friends who are younger than me that don’t require the warm up or cool down that I do😊 Also, post ride beers don’t sit very well with me, it could be an age thing so I have learned to make different choices! But other than some minor adjustments, my age hasn’t come in the way of me having a fantastic time on the mountain!
What’s the one thing you would tell seniors looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors?
Open your mind to a new reality for yourself. You may be great at something you know nothing about today!