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“The women’s market is picking up momentum quickly,” she says. “Technology has shortened the learning curve from what used to be chundering down the hill on a hard tail with two inches of front suspension. The newest suspension platforms have a cushy five inches. That suspension helps to absorb technical features on the trail, making them less intimidating to try and ride. But even more than technology, I think it is the social part of biking that appeals to women. Women are social beings by nature. If you are living in B.C., specifically in the Sea to Sky Corridor, going for a bike ride is the new going for a coffee.”
The social context is something that the Whistler Mountain Bike Park has clued into with its Womens Night program, an attempt to eliminate the intimidation factor of the Park with competitively-priced packages, guides, après and a no boys allowed mantra.
Says McSkimming, “Kids and women are definitely new paths for us. The park started as pretty male, pretty young, pretty aggressive. And the appeal has really broadened out. It seems that some things like lift accessed mountain biking are just intrinsically attractive to a segment of male participants, like it’s in their DNA. Whereas for women, there does seem to need to be some kind of social context.”
While a post-ride wine and cheese session probably isn’t the selling point for many women joining a girl’s ride, it seems to serve as a type of code, a signal that a genuine effort is being made to cater to the yin, to create the kind of social, supportive environment that a lot of women, particularly at beginner and intermediate levels, appreciate when they’re tackling something new.
Says Kraft, “For women who’ve never ridden the park before, when you say the words ‘bike park’ they are instantly intimidated. I think they wrongly assume that they’ll be forced to ride off big drops and huge jumps.” Something a quick glance up at the Boneyard certainly reinforces. “But the bike park is a great place to build on your skill set. It’s all about progression there. In fact, I think it’s the best place to ride if you want to work on cornering, steeps, jumps and drops.”
The day after I lose my Bike Park virginity, I find myself on a five hour hike-a-bike up the Seton Ridge, figuring this must be karmic retribution for “cheating” all day the previous day, riding lifts instead of pedaling uphill.