Interview: Inspirations from our Female Guides

women mountain biking, women mountain bike trips, women mountain bike, women mountain bike tours, mtb women, women mountain bike guides
October 25th, 2018

The Sacred Rides team is comprised of some of the best mountain bike guides in the world. Full of energy, contagious enthusiasm, a strong generosity of spirit and a deep passion to share their love of mountain biking with riders from around the globe - not to mention, they can also shred!

 

We are also fortunate to have some of the best female guides in the industry and we connected with them to hear about their experiences starting out in the sport, guiding, and showing up the dudes ;)  

 

Enjoy these wise words from some of our female guides...

 

meet: aubrey demchuk

women mountain biking, women mountain bike guide, women mountain bike trips

Photo Credit:  Magne Kvam, Fatbiking in Iceland

HOW DID YOU START MOUNTAIN BIKING AND HOW DID YOU START WORKING IN THE MTB INDUSTRY? 

I grew up playing hockey and, when I was 16, started working at a hockey store that also happened to be a bike shop during the summer. I started learning about bikes, making friends that were mountain bikers, watching mountain bike movies, wearing a lot of plaid, and eventually even started dating a mountain biker. Things spiraled out of control from there. Since then, I’ve been a downhill and enduro MTB racer, started a women’s-only weekly mountain bike ride, became the Vice President of my local cycling association, got my professional coaching certification, and started guiding part-time for Sacred Rides (while working or studying full-time as a neuroscientist).

 SINCE YOU STARTED RIDING, HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED FOR WOMEN IN MOUNTAIN BIKING? 

When I started riding, I did not have the benefit of female coaches or role models (or even other women to ride with, for that matter). I’m so excited to see the strong female community that has emerged in what used to be such a male-dominated sport! However, we still have a long way to go to correct the disparities in the representation of men and women in racing (though I admit that the World Cup circuits demonstrate far more equality in prizing and coverage than many sports), the price and specifications of “male” versus “female” bikes, and the gross design flaws in women’s-specific gear.

women mountain biking, women mountain bike trips, women mountain bike tours, women mountain bike guide

Photo:  Brayden Baines - Moab, Utah 

 HOW CAN WE ENCOURAGE MORE WOMEN TO RIDE AND WORK IN THE INDUSTRY?

I think we’re already heading in the right direction! Women tend to be more comfortable learning in a structured, no-pressure environment, so the recent surge in female-only ride groups, skills clinics, and weekend camps are undoubtedly encouraging progression. And the more women that are out on the trails, the more women will be inspired to follow their path!

 WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A WOMAN STARTING TO RIDE? 

Ask your local bike shop about weekly rides that are beginner-friendly! And if there isn’t one, start one! When I started the weekly women’s-specific ride in my hometown, it grew exponentially in only a few weeks into an amazingly supportive riding group of all ages and abilities. I received SO MANY phone calls from the local bike shops because they had so many women asking about it in the early days. If you build it, they will come.

rides that i guide: 

Rocky Mountain Singletrack

The Rocky Mountain Rambler

 Rocky Mountain  Bring-Your-Partner

destination:

British Columbia, Canada

 

meet: cristina simpkins 

women mountain biking, women mountain bike trips, women mountain bike tours, women mountain bike guides

HOW DID YOU START MOUNTAIN BIKING AND HOW DID YOU START WORKING IN THE MTB INDUSTRY?

I started mountain biking a bit later on in life about 26 yrs old, and it wasn't a graceful beginning! I was encouraged by my boyfriend as he was a rider, but before riding I was mainly into backpacking and hiking. It wasn't long before the constant "Let's go riding!" from my partner and his patience with teaching me that I  eventually  got into the feeling of it. I was convinced that tall people couldn't t ride - mainly because I had such a hard time in the beginning. I started guiding and working in the mountain bike industry when we saw the opportunity to partner with Sacred Rides and start running the NZ franchise of Sacred Rides. At the time we were the first proper mountain bike company executing multi-day mountain bike trips on the South Island in New Zealand.

SINCE YOU STARTED RIDING, HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED FOR WOMEN IN MOUNTAIN BIKING?

I see a lot more women riders now, and many starting out which I think is just awesome. Through running mountain bike trips in New Zealand, I have met a lot of amazing female riders, and that encourages me to help other woman get inspired and get out on the trails! We put together an amazing women-only mountain bike trip called Ramble On and it has been my   favourite trip to run, mainly because of the incredible women  I get to meet and ride with. They are a hoot! ) It's funny we always get guys calling us to see if we need extra guides for that trip. 

HOW CAN WE ENCOURAGE MORE WOMEN TO RIDE AND WORK IN THE INDUSTRY?

  I think by offering more women-only group rides, where women feel more secure with trying out the sport. It can be pretty intimidating to ride with the guys when you're first starting out- I just went out and followed them and got off the bike when I thought I was going to crash, and then got back on when I felt ready. Eventually, I started to hang on more and trust my bike and my skills. 

What advice would you give a woman starting to ride? 

Let go of your head, and just keep riding.  Don't think too much about how hard it is, just spend more time in the saddle. Eventually you will get the feeling of it, and eventually, things come to you- and voila! You're riding :) I think riding with people who are better than you helps to overcome your fears and you'll ride things you wouldn't normally if you were in your safe zone. Just get on the bike as much as you can.;

women mountain bike trips, women mountain biking tours, women mountain bike guides

What advice would you give a woman starting their MTB guiding career?

I'd accept that there is more to being an incredible guide than just being good at riding. I  wasn't a good rider at the beginning, and I still have many goals to reach, but having a career in mountain biking also entails having good energy, making people feel good about themselves, and sharing a good laugh. I've met some super serious riders while in the industry and to me I think your personality will always bring you success vs being stuck on how good you can ride. Guiding entails far more than the technical skill of the activity. Oh ya and be ready to work your ass off, and make sure you get out to ride for fun on your own time.

What do you think the future to holds for women and mountain biking?  Anything else to add? 

I reckon woman are and will continue to kick ass in mountain biking. More women-only riding groups, skills and trips will come on board, as the industry keeps growing. Everyone seems to be looking for the extra high in the outdoors, and once more women catch onto how much fun and addicting mountain biking is - we may just take over :) 

women mountain bike trips, women mountain bike tours, women mountain biking

anything else to add? 

I'm totally hooked. Mountain biking has challenged me physically and mentally and I love that about the sport  You can explore some incredible places by mountain bike, and you'll also realize how much you can sweat and eat! I've never felt so fit in my life as when I'm in the middle of Guiding Season- balanced by how much I value a good sleep :)  Remember to take care of yourself when guiding because the engine needs some refueling once in a while. Have fun and go kick ass ladies!  

rides that i guide: 

Misty Mountain Hop

 Over The Hills & Far Away

Ramble On

destination:

 South Island, New Zealand 

 

meet: JUlie hanen

  

HOW DID YOU START MOUNTAIN BIKING AND HOW DID YOU START WORKING IN THE MTB INDUSTRY?

I first discovered mountain biking just after high school. I had a friend who gave me an old Specialized Rock Hopper with the front shock blown out. I rode the bike everywhere. I rode town trails on it and went on a few adventures in the mountains (that were pretty bumpy with a blown fork). Soon after I decided it was time to save my pennies and buy a brand new bike. After a year of saving, I brought home a Specialized Stumpjumper (hardtail) and I couldn’t wait to ride it on trails. I was working at a pizza joint at the time and a cute guy in the kitchen saw my bike and offered to take me riding. I was hooked after my first ride, regardless of the number of falls! It was then that I finally experienced true singletrack and discovered that I love the climb just as much as the downhill.

 

Being from Montana, the majority of our rides are very long and technical climbs followed by a ripping fun downhill. My motto was always “mud, blood and sweat or you can’t go home!” I usually accomplished all of those. Over the years I decided to really test my skills and started participating in races. I was nervous for my first race and unsure of my capabilities and, despite my friends telling me to race in the expert category, I signed up for the entry level class. As it turned out I was disqualified because I took a wrong turn and accidentally rode the expert course. Turns out I would have done pretty well had I listened to my friends! Ha ha!

 

After that, I found myself joining an adventure race team in Costa Rica and did some multi-day, multi-sport rides. I was hooked! They were like a treasure hunt for adults. This led me to become more and more interested in further developing my mountain bike skills training. Little by little, I found myself making more contacts and following my passion for biking in other ways. I was already working as a professional adventure guide in multiple countries around the world and so I decided to focus my time on guiding mountain bike trips. It started with a few here and there and now that is the bulk of what I do. I love it every day and wouldn’t change it for the world.

 HOW DID YOU START MOUNTAIN BIKING AND HOW DID YOU START WORKING IN THE MTB INDUSTRY? since you started riding, how have things changed for women in mountain biking? 

When I started riding there weren’t many women who rode bikes. All my biking partners were guys. Every year there are more people and more women falling in love with mountain biking. As the population of women on bikes grows the more input they have in their participation at all levels; from competitions to technology. We’re also seeing a new age of bike design where a women’s bike is finally being created as a performance vehicle specifically designed to ride the trail with skill. Women’s bikes used to be known for having less aggressive geometry and always accented with pink or flowers or (the worst) both pink AND  covered in flowers. Now a women’s-specific bike more clearly represents what it should be which is built for our size and true ability level. This is really exciting and will contribute to women continuing to reach their highest potential in the sport.

HOW DID YOU START MOUNTAIN BIKING AND HOW DID YOU START WORKING IN THE MTB INDUSTRY? how can we encourage more women to ride and work in the industry? 

Get women to join more group rides and skills camps. I see a lot of women who don’t feel empowered to go biking without their boyfriends or husbands but when they join a skills camp or women’s ride they find they have more skills than they otherwise have given themselves credit for. This inspires them to not only ride more but to ride with anyone.

what advice would you give a woman starting to ride? 

 Don’t be discouraged when you fall and try not to let it go to your head. Learn to fall and find ways to laugh about it. I think of my scrapes and bruises as a badge of honor. Also don’t just ride with your partner. Find other like-minded individuals to ride with, join a group ride and (most of all) don’t be afraid to ride with people that are better than you. That will push you to test your limits and it will make you a better rider. Also, go to a skills camp at least once. You’ll be amazed at how it will change your riding! 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A WOMAN Starting their mountain bike career? 

 Don’t hold yourself back and don’t worry about how you’ll stack up against other riders (male or female). If you believe in yourself, your confidence and strength on the bike will always shine through. Stand tall and be proud that you’re a woman in this industry and go rock it! 

what do you think the future holds for women and mountain biking? 

Women are showing more and more the level of skill and competence we hold on the bike. I truly believe the sky is the limit. Fifty years ago women weren’t allowed to run the Boston Marathon because men believed they weren't capable. They said our uterus would fall out! Women used to believe this false commentary but that has changed drastically. Women are showing more and more that we are not only  capable   of showing up and stacking up to the competition but we’re doing it!  

anything else to add? 

 I’ve spent my whole life adventuring in the mountains with groups and women definitely bring a different voice to the table. The more we bring that voice into the conversation on any stage will continually set us up to live up to and shine at our highest potential, both on and off the bike!

Rides that I guide:

Magnificent Mesas

Desert Rose Skills and Thrills

Ultimate Moab 

Pura Vida Yoga and Mountain Bike Retreat

 

 
.