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Riding with the Goddess

Women are mountain biking’s fastest growing demographic

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Lisa Lefroy rode her bike with the strength of an orange.

Why not a pineapple or maybe a honeydew melon?

Mountain biking wasn't being promoted on Whistler Mountain until the late 1990s, but two wheelers were allowed to take their bikes up the gondola - as long as you could squeeze an orange for a full five minutes. There were no easily-controlled disc brakes back then.

"You had to go to guest services where you had to squeeze an orange before you could buy a lift ticket," Lefroy said. "You would pick up the orange and squeeze it as hard as you could for five minutes and then they would say, 'We think you are okay to go up the mountain.' It was hilarious."

There were very few women to ride with. She kept company mainly with Katrina Strand and a gaggle of guys including Grey Rodieah and Chris Harper, and later Brett Tippie and Richey Schley.

"I might have lost a boyfriend or two," she laughs. "They'd be like, 'Why are you spending seven hours a day in the forest with 14 boys and you?'"

The answer: there were more boys than girls playing on pedals at the time.

Allen and Lefroy now ride in a different era.

Six-inch suspension both in front and in back glide Allen through challenging climbs and speedy descents on her favourite Whistler trails such as Cheap Thrills.

The multi-talented rider, former Canadian Downhill Champion and national series cross-country medalist has now retired from the racing circuit to pass on her passion for the sport to others. She, along with Lefroy, is one of more than a dozen female instructors who lead the Dirt Series by Rocky Mountain Bicycles.

"Everyone is getting it so easy now, taking a mountain biking camp they are learning so much in a day by practicing the tips we give them," she said. "There are a lot less injuries then the trial-and-error technique."

Confidence and skills are what riders navigate during the women-only camps that circumnavigate North America. Ditching the just-do-it advice, the Whistler-based company caters to riders of all motivations and levels. The weekend camps size down an entire season of learning with small group skill sessions where riders can build and perfect mountain bike fundamentals, instructional rides to get these skills onto the trails and then finally social time to share the successes of the day.

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