One of the joys that every rider can relate to is the exhilaration that we experience when our bikes take us to some of the most breath-taking places on this planet, writes Joanna Dobinson and Kathy Crabbe. Mountain biking in South Africa is soaring and more and more women are getting their friends into our beautiful sport!
Women, being deeply relational beings, have found that their bikes not only provide a platform to get fit and have a ball whilst doing it, but that their bikes also provide a place to form new friendships and deepen existing ones. Life is relational! What would life be, without being surrounded by like-minded people in our lives? Biking, like any other hobby, provides common ground for women to bond! What better way to spend your precious few hours of free time than on a bike with your friends, surrounded by some of the most awe-inspiring vistas! Adrenaline soars, fears are faced and victories, no matter how small are celebrated!
As a skills coach, I have the privilege of coaching hundreds of women every year. The amount of women coming through Biking In The Bosch clinics not only blows me away, but also inspires me. Most ladies come to our clinics with a friend or four! There is not one day I leave the mountain untouched by the bravery that I have seen the ladies exhibit. Most ladies come to the clinics because their husband’s ride and they want to be able to enjoy time with them on their bikes. Others want to get over the fear of a past fall. Whilst others just see that mountain biking is the new golf and want to join in the fun.
With mountain biking being an extreme sport it’s crucial to learn how to ride properly and safely, which is why I always encourage riders to sign up for skills coaching sessions. If you’re thinking of taking up mountain biking spare yourself the unnecessary bumps and bruises ladies, call your girlfriends and make an appointment with a reputable skills coach in your area. And if you’re not that new to the sport anymore remember you can always learn more on your bike, no matter how long you have been riding!
Development has become a sort of catch-phrase in South African sports. It’s not just about developing future stars, it’s about producing stars from previously disadvantaged areas and mountain biking is no different. Songo.info has had great success thus far in producing and nurturing male riding talent in Kayamandi, with Sipho Madolo representing South Africa at the XCM World Championships in June.
But Songo’s aim isn’t just to produce star mountain bikers, we want to improve the lives of all the kids who come through the programme, irrespective of whether they go on to become professional mountain bikers or not. But while the Songo programme has always been popular with the boys we’ve recently been focusing on getting more girls involved too.
The first step was to make cycling less intimidating and to address the specific needs of the girls, so we introduced a girls’ specific group. We focus on empowering the girls involved in the programme through cycling, promoting a healthy lifestyle and reinforcing the positive effects of strong female bonds and role models in a fun environment.
We have introduced weekly girls’ only rides which are taken by Sipho Madolo who has risen up through the program with great success. The focus of this session is for the girls to gain confidence and basic skills on a bike in a fun environment.
In addition to this we have allocated girls only time on the BMX track, so the girls are able to ride without the fear of being jostled and bumped by the boys. Whether there is one girl or five on the track, this time is strictly for the girls with coach Darryn Stow being available to give dedicated coaching.
We will be introducing monthly skills training with Specialized Women’s ambassador Joanna Dobinson as well as quarterly girls social rides led by professional MTB athlete and Songo.info trustee, Cherise Stander. These rides will be open to all girls and lady riders with the aim of providing the opportunity for Songo girls to socialise with other female riders, and provide encouragement, a support network and mentorship for the girls, while they get out and enjoy the outdoors and local trails.
Convincing girls to take up MTB
Girls and ladies are slowly starting to eat into the male dominance in mountain biking. The Spur School Series, One Movement’s School XCE series and charities like Songo and the Diepsloot Mountain Bike Academy are encouraging girls to take up mountain biking, while the exploits of riders like Mariske Strauss and Ariane Kleinhans prove that ladies make great role models too.
Starting young might be the key to sporting success, but you’re also never too old to start mountain biking either. You don’t have to be competitive; you can just ride for the pure joy of it. Go on give it a try.
Joanna Dobinson is a Specialized Women brand ambassador and the owner of skills coaching company Biking In The Bosch. Follow her on Twitter at @BikingInTheBosh. Kathy Crabbe is the General Manager of Songo.info. To find out more about the great work they do, follow @songoinfo on Twitter.