Why the girls love the MTB life

With the launch of the Dirty Daisies ladies MTB series Full Sus decided to give a few ladies a call and find out why and what they love about mountain biking. Oh, and give a few of you on the fence a bit of a prod to get you into the sport.

Mariske Strauss – SA’s top MTB talent and UCI XCO campaigner.

Mariske Strauss
Mariske Strauss

Mariske Strauss is South Africa’s top performer on the UCI XCO World Cup series, racing for the UK based Orange Monkey Team. While she’s not training, you’ll find her studying towards a BSc in Sport Science at StellenboschUniversity. Follow her World Cup (and major undisclosed local stage race) progress in 2014 on twitter @StraussMariske.

FS: How did you start mountain biking?

Well funny story actually, I couldn’t really ride a bike when I was little (ssshhhhttt don’t tell anyone). Ha-ha no, but really didn’t have that bike under the Christmas tree or for a prezi welcoming into this amazing sport. Truth be told, my dad started riding after he stopped running, after which my older brother followed suite and I just figured seeing that I was always at the races I might as well join in the fun. I fell in love and well, I’ve never looked back.

FS: What are the challenges you face that the elite guys don’t have to deal with?

Mmmm, I think the worst would probably be that ladies always seem to be nagged about how our racing isn’t as hard or challenging as the guys. I honestly couldn’t care less their opinions as we all have our own set of demands. I really don’t mind challenges; I rather embrace them and don’t let the detractors bug me.

FS: If you could give one bit of advice to a promising young female rider what would it be?

Go for it! Don’t back down and challenge your male training partners. It’ll only make you stronger and cultivate that aggressiveness that’s so crucial in XCO racing – or any type of racing for that matter.

Kate Slegrova – Top amateur rider and coach to the stars.

Kate Slegorva
Kate Slegorva

Kate Slegrova has quickly become a Full Sus regular. She’s incredibly active on the local racing scene and when she’s not racing herself she’s coaching others to achieve their racing goals through her business: Cycle Training. Look her up at www.cycletraining.co.za or follow her on twitter @KateSlegrova, in the next few months she’ll be riding the Tankwa Trek, Garden Route 300 and the CapeEpic.

FS: As a lady what do you look for in a MTB stage race?

I usually look at the route first and then the overall package, like accommodation and food. Dryland usually does great overall races. For the route I like to ride somewhere new or somewhere that’s not usually possible to ride. Also I like to avoid rides with too much sand or rocks.


FS: Any advice for race organisers looking to attract more ladies to their rides?

MTB seems to be becoming very popular and I see more and more ladies riding and racing. Lots of the ladies are really strong too, so I think the organizers are doing the right thing.

Last year Wines2Whales had hair dryers and big mirrors in the ladies dressing rooms…

FS: How can I climb as well as you?

Ladies are often good at climbing as they are lighter. It’s all about their power to weight ratio. If you’re light and can generate good power too you’ll fly up the hills. But if hills are your weakness that’s what you need to train.

If you’re looking to enter races make sure you include hill intervals, at least once a week, in your training programme. Find a nice hill and do five to ten minutes of climbing with your heart rate in Zone Four, and repeat. Start with two repetitions and build up to three or four reps as you get stronger. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down. And do your climbing training on fresh legs. Gym work, like core exercises, jumping squats, lunges and burpees in winter will help your climbing too.

Joanna Dobinson – Ladies skills coach and Jonkershoek local

Joanna Dobinson
Joanna Dobinson

Joanna Dobinson runs Biking in the Bosch a MTB skills coaching business that specialises in ladies coaching. She does help the guys out too though. She’s a great source of MTB information and she’s penned a special piece to help ladies get into riding for Full Sus. Follow her on twitter @joannadobinson1.

FS: What is the biggest fear most of your first-time ladies riders have and how do you get them over it?

Falling! But this is what I say to the ladies who fear falling:

‘When you start mountain biking, falling means you are learning! Instead of thinking back on what went wrong in that last fall, rather visualise yourself riding that section that got you last time, and stop thinking and talking about it. Apply the skill you have learnt at a clinic and practice makes perfect!

We all know the feeling of panic when you can’t uncleat. I highly recommend you stick to flat pedals and tekkies until you are flowing down single track confidently ladies. Shops want the sale but you take the bail! If you insist on having cleats from early on, make sure they are set properly so you can unclip easily. I also place elbow and knee pads on those who are super fearful to bolster their confidence!


FS: Why do ladies make better students than guys in your skills clinics?

It all comes down to teach-ability, to be honest males and females at my clinics have proven to be equally teachable! When men fall, their ego tends to play a bigger role than it does with women, but at the end of the day I would say riding single track is a good leveller when it comes to the battle of the sexes. The rider who listens well and executes best technique lands up tops, whether they be male or female!

FS: What should a lady look for when buying her first MTB?

Just like we buy ladies specific jeans, we should also buy ladies specific bikes.

Women generally have shorter upper bodies than men, with a shorter torso and shorter arms. Conversely, women have longer femurs (thigh bones) and longer legs than a man of the same height as well as wider hips. Women’s hands and feet are also generally smaller than men’s, while their shoulders are narrower. So ask for a ladies specific bike for the best fit!

Then decide on your budget and do your homework and shop around online before heading to numerous competitor shops, they might be willing to beat the price of the previous shop’s offer. To avoid being ripped off, go informed ladies, or take an informed biking friend along.

Then once you have your steed, go for a bike fitment which will get your bike fitting you perfectly for better control and a more comfortable ride out on the trail!

Mia Mocke – Personal trainer and lady who’ll beat you up every climb

Mia Moke
Mia Moke

If you’re looking to stay or get in shape for riding then Mia Mocke is the lady to speak to. With Mia’s Training you get the opportunity to live her motto of “Me in Action”. She does individual and group training sessions and as a committed multi-sport athlete she knows personally what it takes to complete everything from an Iron Man 70.3, to Wines2Whales and a Comrades Ultra-Marathon. Follow her @MiasTraining

FS: Hoe vergelyk bergfietsry met al die ander sporte waar in jy deelneem?

Ek fokus baie op driekampe so ek swem en hardloop baie. Bergfietsry is egter heeltemal anders as enige van die sporte.  Dit toets jou liggaam op verskillende maniere en ook jou brein. Jy kan nie slap lê nie en as jy net vir ‘n oomblik “slaap” sal jy hard kennismaak met grond! Daar is nie ‘n enkele sekonde van verveeldheid nie. Toe ek begin het met bergfiets ry was ek baie bang vir die tegniese dele (ek is nogsteeds) maar geniet die tegniese dele baie meer en het al baie verbeter. Bergfiets ry toets nie net jou fiksheid nie, maar ook jou tegniese vaardighede.

FS: Wat maak bergfietsry so spesiaal?

Bergfietsry is vir my baie spesiaal, want dit is buite in die natuur en dit vat jou na plekke wat jy nie gewoonlik sal gaan nie. Dit is baie pret en mens kan dit sosiaal geniet. Daar is min dinge so ongelooflik soos die uitdaging van ‘n tegniese stuk singletrack! Dit is ook baie bevredigend as jy jou verbetering kan sien as dit kom by klimme, afdraande en singletrack.

FS: As jy saam met jou man ry, wie wag vir wie naa ‘n lang heuwel?

Ongelukkig wag my man vir my. Toe hy begin fiets ry het het ek vir hom gewag, maar nou is hy baie sterk. (die voordeel van n man wees) Ons ry egter baie lekker saam. en ry altyd naweke saam. Hy’s my favorite training partner.

Mathilda Viljoen – Wine maker and avid mountain biker

Tillie Viljoen
Tillie Viljoen

Mathilda, or Tillie as she’s better known, Viljoen has worked at Jordan and Sinonsvlei Wine Estates so it was inevitable that she’d start mountain biking with the great trails on her doorstep. She’s currently the Assistant Wine maker at Mooiplaas Estate where there are some fantastic trails on offer, check them out at www.mooiplaas.co.za.

FS: Hoe het jy begin bergfietsry?

Ek is n wynmaker en  elke wynplaas het omtrent ‘n bergfiets roete. Ek het op n dag uit die kelder geloop en gesien hoe die fietsryers by die proekamer n glasie wyn geniet. Nie lank daarna nie het ek my fiets gekoop, en na my eerste roete het die gogga my behoorlik gebyt!

FS: Wat is die lekkerste deel van bergfietsry?

Definitief die single tracks en die mooi natuurskoon waar die bergfiets roetes gelee is.

FS: Waar is jou gunsteling plek om te gaan ry?

Daar is so baie! Deesdae is dit definitief OakValley!


Sharlene Vallance – Dreams in single track, there’s no need to say more.

Sharlene Vallance
Sharlene Vallance

Sharlene Vallance has been riding, racing, winning and not winning since 1997. She’s been fit, unfit, injured and sponsored. She’s bailed more times than she cares to mention and is the guru on the trails around Van Gaalen’s. Follow her on twitter @SharleneV

FS: How accessible is MTB now for ladies now compared to back when you started in 1997 and what’s changed?

It’s a LOT more accessible now. In 1997 it was labelled an ‘extreme sport’ and not many women wanted to mountain bike never-mind if it was accessible or not. Companies like Discovery Health in promoting a healthy life style have opened many doors in the mountain biking arena. It is no longer looked upon as extreme, but rather something to keep you healthy and fit. Mountain biking has also received a lot more publicity, with big sponsors on board the interest in the sport has grown and any woman from anywhere can participate in the sport.

FS: What makes an event fun?

Without a doubt – a great track. All the rest is nothing, but a side show.

FS: Any final words to convince ladies out there to pick up a bike and ride?

What you put in now – you get out at 50 or 60. The human body is machine, uniquely designed. Any bit of effort and good living (food and life-style) will be seen in measurable results when you are older. For a woman, aging and looking good as you grow older is very important.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.