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Cycling For All Ages: Inclusion For Women, Seniors and Plus Size individuals in MTB

19 Dec 2020
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by Preeti Viswanathan

Today we spoke to Monica Solorio-Snow. To those who love quilting, or work in the sewing industry, you’ve probably heard of her as the Happy Zombie (@happy_zombie). But when she is not sewing, Monica is mountain biking….in her 59-year-old plus size body, having a fantastic time shredding the trails! She hopes to be an inspiration to the women who might be holding themselves back either because of age, body image, or because they face the unknown fears that come with learning any new skill later in life. She talks about her frustration with the biking industry, the lack of representation of all ages, genders, and body types. 

See out chat with her below...drop us a note and tell us what you think! 

So, how did you get into mountain biking?

 I’m a 59-year-old woman on the outside, and 12-year-old girl on the inside.  I was an avid road cyclist and getting a little bored with it (and getting more and more worried about cars and getting struck).  And then I discovered the joy of dirt and my life INSTANTLY changed!  The dirt, no cars, the adrenaline, being in nature, and the rough and rowdiness of the MTB life sang to me!  Both my sons were really into gravel bikes, so I gave that a whirl first.  I really liked gravel riding and then wanted more than what a gravel bike could offer.  My youngest son, in addition to a road and gravel cyclist - is also an MTB rider so he helped me get in to it.  And a plus, my youngest son works in the bike industry!   Two years later I’m now an MTB’r and no longer a road cyclist.  Unless my road friends want to ride, then I’m all in!  At this point though, we ride 20-30 feet apart, wear masks, and “Apres ride” beer/wine/grub are all on pause due to COVID19.

How has mountain biking helped you – physically, emotionally?

MTB’ing has helped me get fitter, healthier, and happier.  Just being outside in nature, meeting kind people on the trails, climbing & exercise for my body, downhill thrills for my soul and spirt, partaking in post group rides for beer/coffee/grub at places that cater to MTB’ers (like the Trail House in Santa Rosa, CA) all make me so much happier!   

Will you share with us either a highly embarrassing or potentially scary incident through MTB?

Monica Solorio MTB

This last spring, I had a serous MTB crash at Annadel State Park (in Santa Rosa, CA).  I hit a boulder that I couldn’t traverse over (I strongly suspect it was a new heart medication I was on that was depleting me of my normal strength) and then jack-knifed and crashed hard.  Long story short, I got go “meet” all the park’s rangers, the Santa Rosa Fire Department, and the trauma and surgical staff at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.  I spent 4 days in the hospital recovering from emergency surgery and then months of PT and recovery.  ALL WHILE also recovering from three heart procedures this year, too.  It’s been a year or ER visits and hospital stays.  One nurse asked me the mandatory hospital discharge question: “What are your recovery goals?” -  Oh, that was just too easy… “To get back on my MTB and fly down the hills!”  <— Which is still a work in progress and the hardest part has not be so much physical as it has been mental.  I would say my crash PTSD is my biggest hurdle.  Riding the Peterson Ridge Trial in Sisters, Oregon has been my therapy.  I can easily choose from easy to intermediate to difficult trails for how I’m mentally feeling in the moment.  OH MY GOSH the PRT is my happy place!  People ask me how I can tolerate all the back and forth driving between Sisters (were my youngest son lives) and Sonoma, CA (where we live) all the time - I say it’s easy and that it’s for my mental and physical health and wellbeing!

Why do you think there aren’t more older women in biking?

Many women hold themselves back from trying MTB because they think there is so much to learn with MTB (unlike road cycling).  Thank goodness there are women empowering groups like the Ladies All Ride, the Sonoma County Biker Chicks, and the (national) Bell Joy Ride to get women on MTB’s/road bikes!  Education and fellowship.  Bam!!  The Ladies All Ride (and Lindsey Richter) was crucial in my healing and empowering after my crash/recovery.  SOOOO MUCH PRAISE for Lindsey and her crew!   AND I got to meet a lot of new friends not just from Central Oregon but from the Bay Area! 

I actually DO think there are a lot of seniors in MTB.  And by seniors, I mean people 55+.  I really don’t like the label seniors (OMG it sounds so old and inactive), but I know of no other term for people who are over 55 and are SMASHING it on the trails!  I think I encounter more people over 60 on the trials then I see under 40.

Do you own an e-bike? If so, what has your experience been with it?

I do not own an e-bike and I have a love-hate relationship with them.  I love that an e-bike can get someone on the trail who might otherwise not be able to because of a physical impairment.  I love that an e-bike can make cargo biking easier for people to ditch their cars.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE seeing women on cargo bikes with their kids really smashing not only a healthy lifestyle but living an active solution to global climate change.  The hate I have for e-bikes is because of people who abuse the power/assist to speed and to ride recklessly.   And of course, when I’m struggling on a climb (my heart condition makes it harder) and some obnoxious e-hole flies past me I get a little disgruntled (even though I’m proud that I’m soldiering through my extra obstacles). 

Besides MTB, what else do you enjoy doing Outdoors?

 When I’m not cycling, I am hiking.  While I’d rather fly on two wheels, it is nice to hike and see and experience all the things I might miss if I were on my bike.

What are things the biking industry can do to make this activity more inclusive?

I do think there is a huge inequity in cycling - and it boils down to costs and advertising.  Cycling is not cheap, and while the big bike brands (Specialized, Trek, Giant/Liv, etc.) have an assortment of bike pricing… it seems the “value” bikes are never, ever promoted or readily available.   I’m EXTREMELY disappointed that the top bike brands showcase very little diversity in their advertising.   I’m fluffy and in my 50’s - I NEVER see anyone like me in some of the top bike brand advertising.   I love brands like Shredly (women’s MTB clothing) and businesses like Ladies All Ride who showcase all women!  A few years ago, I saw a Liv Cycling women’s team from Iran - smashing all patriarchal barriers and racing their hearts out.  Seeing these women riding in hijabs under their helmets made me cry.  A good cry.  These women could still follow their religious and cultural principles and race… and also riding in brutal heat and unforgiving desert conditions.  These women became my role models, my motivation to reach higher, and to not let anything stop me.  GIRL POWER to the max!    In an age of sport brands super marketing, it is my dream the people like the Iranian women’s racing team, people of color, people of all ages, people of all sizes, people who identify however they identify, and 50 & fluffy people like me are graced in advertising.   Weirdly, sometimes I’m proud to be riding the roads and trails in my XXL body - my hope is that at least ONE woman will see me and think that if I can MTB or Gravel or Road ride, she can too….and that will make me so happy!

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Tags:

  • bike
  • biking for plus sized women
  • cycling for plus sized women
  • plus sized cycling
  • plus-size cycling
1 comment
by Bo on February 13, 2021

What a great story about you! Thanks for putting it out there. I started mountain biking when I was gifted a Specialized Rockhopper 35 years ago. Prior to my current & beloved “Petunia” the Pivot Mach 429, I was riding a Specialized Stumpjumper. It too was a sweet ride.

I’m 72 and until recently have not experienced the downside of aging. Living at 7000k feet in Taos, NM I now see where the boost of an E-Mtn bike would make a difference in my climbs and range. Even though I have tons of energy and am physically strong the climbs I used to manage are kicking my ass, especially the ones at higher elevations.

After I had both knees replaced, 12 years ago, I had to give up trail running. Mtn biking comes close in regard to laser focusing on what’s ahead and navigating it. Your comments about the cost of bikes are spot on.

I’d like to know who out there has been riding Emtn bikes and your thoughts on what you purchased. I’m not anxious to lay out $8000 or more dollars quite yet. I hope we can share info.

In the meantime ride safe, ride on!

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