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  1. #1
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    Does this irritate anybody else?

    WARNING: RANT AHEAD

    Ok, so there's been something that I notice a lot that irritates me, and though maybe I'm just being irrational, I'll do my best to explain why these bother me so much:

    Women's specific bike clinics, especially those pertaining to DH/FR. I know they are a great way to get women (who are the minority in the sport) into MTB, but I can't help but feel like they undermine women's abilities as a whole. The fact that they usually are advertised as a way to "get women to feel confident and get over their fears" just really bothers me. It's like saying that women have some inherent incompetence or fear that they can only overcome in a group setting full of and high-fiving and group-skill building activities.

    Having been to one of these clinics, I felt that there was an excessive amount of time being spent talking and picking apart every aspect of any jump or drop or technical section. It took about 2 hours to get down a run that usually only takes me about 8-10 minutes, because every little section we had to stop at and over analyze. I guess that just bothers me because I always thought the best way to learn something was to just do it. I also know that none of the guys that I ride with (many of which are very skilled riders) got that way by inching down the side of the mountain,talking about every jump and then taking it once.

    Don't get me wrong, I applaud any attempt at getting more females into DH/FR. Maybe my frustration is because I grew up around guys and never tried to achieve a lower standard due to my gender. I recognize there are physiological differences that pose a greater challenge to us females (smaller size, lower muscle mass, less testosterone) so I'm not going to try to be all politically correct and pretend these difference don't exist. I guess I just want to know; are we really so timid as a gender that this is the only way we can entice other females into doing this sport?

    I'm curious as to what others have to say about this..

  2. #2
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    Yes, absolutely. It's not a matter of male vs female learning styles (which is BS, people's learning styles are kinesthetic, auditory and verbal). But, the approaches to female students (like you pointed out), seem to remain the same, which is very irritating.

    Usually people talk down to women, being other women or men... doesn't matter. It's freaking irritating. No reason to analyze something to death--it gives people time to get things too much in their head rather than just ride it. While the right technique is necessary, overanalyzing a section is not.

    I don't think we're that wimpy of a gender--it's more how we're used to being treated and taught separately than the men. Nice to hear your voice about it. Definitely refreshing
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trailrider92 View Post
    WARNING: RANT AHEAD

    Ok, so there's been something that I notice a lot that irritates me, and though maybe I'm just being irrational, I'll do my best to explain why these bother me so much:

    Women's specific bike clinics, especially those pertaining to DH/FR. I know they are a great way to get women (who are the minority in the sport) into MTB, but I can't help but feel like they undermine women's abilities as a whole. The fact that they usually are advertised as a way to "get women to feel confident and get over their fears" just really bothers me. It's like saying that women have some inherent incompetence or fear that they can only overcome in a group setting full of and high-fiving and group-skill building activities.

    Having been to one of these clinics, I felt that there was an excessive amount of time being spent talking and picking apart every aspect of any jump or drop or technical section. It took about 2 hours to get down a run that usually only takes me about 8-10 minutes, because every little section we had to stop at and over analyze. I guess that just bothers me because I always thought the best way to learn something was to just do it. I also know that none of the guys that I ride with (many of which are very skilled riders) got that way by inching down the side of the mountain,talking about every jump and then taking it once.

    Don't get me wrong, I applaud any attempt at getting more females into DH/FR. Maybe my frustration is because I grew up around guys and never tried to achieve a lower standard due to my gender. I recognize there are physiological differences that pose a greater challenge to us females (smaller size, lower muscle mass, less testosterone) so I'm not going to try to be all politically correct and pretend these difference don't exist. I guess I just want to know; are we really so timid as a gender that this is the only way we can entice other females into doing this sport?

    I'm curious as to what others have to say about this..
    Not all women grew up in the environment you did, and a "men's" approach to learning new athletic skills can be foreign.

    Read the XX Factor article in the Sep/Oct '12 issue of Bike mag.

    I would agree with you in regard that the teaching approach discussed in the article works for both genders, and bad clinic agendas/techniques are bad no matter who is being taught.
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  4. #4
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    Well, here's the thing. When I got into racing DH, I did exactly what you describe. I just followed the guys and did it. And I got hurt. A lot. And i just sucked it up and kept trying to mimic what they were doing and take whatever random advice I got and had moderate success and spent a lot of time spent in physical therapy.

    And THEN, I took some clinics. And I started with DH clinics where I was the only woman and everyone else in the clinic tended to be male, but we spent hours going over drills in a parking lot and then breaking down things like single corners over and over again and nit-picking the details. And I realized that on my own, I had learned a lot of things really incorrectly, which isn't surprising since I was learning from people who didn't necessarily know the best way to do things, and couldn't really explain what they were doing correctly anyway, and found that a lot of mountain biking skills aren't necessarily intuitive (at least to me, and apparently to a lot of other people...).

    And I ended up taking some women's specific clinics after that and now I coach at women's specific MTB camps (not DH specific, though we have some groups that are focused on DH). Why? Because it's really rewarding to me to start out with a group of women who will tell you they are afraid of specific things - and work through it and have those same people tell you they just had fun doing what they said they couldn't or were too scared to do. That makes my day. And for a lot of people, learning how to do something, talking through it, understanding how it works is what makes us comfortable enough to try it. I've turned into that type of person over time, after realizing my body wasn't going to tolerate the "just do it" method any more.

    But first - I would tell you that many of the best male riders I know DID get that way by actually stopping and nit picking the details of every obstacle. Serious DH racers walk the course without their bikes to talk about and check out every angle of every line and obstacle on every course they race. And I've taken DH clinics that a lot of pro male DH racers have taken and they break down and discuss obstacles and often spend more time talking about it than riding when they are working on mastering/refining specific skills. That's certainly not to say that they don't spend a lot of time riding too, but IMHO, you don't go to a skills clinic to get a lot of miles in. You go to learn the things you can apply when you're out riding later. So I think the idea that only women's clinics spend a good amount of time breaking things down is a misunderstanding.

    And second - yes, there is probably additional focus on a supportive atmosphere and encouragement, etc. And on conquering your fears. But as far as I'm concerned, that's what any skills clinic is about anyway. How do you conquer your fear? You learn how to do things safely/properly instead of just taking some speed into it and hoping for the best. I know personally, I discovered that there were things I rode successfully but was just as afraid to do over and over again. Why? Because I didn't really know what I did that made is successful, or unsuccessful. To me - the fear goes away with understanding. And it also goes away when I do things like remember to breathe, and look ahead so I know what's coming up next.... Clearly those things apply to everyone. It's just the atmosphere that's a little different - there's more willingness to openly discuss fear, and that can be really beneficial. If it's not something you need - find something more suited to your learning style.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by connie View Post
    Well, here's the thing. When I got into racing DH, I did exactly what you describe. I just followed the guys and did it. And I got hurt. A lot. And i just sucked it up and kept trying to mimic what they were doing and take whatever random advice I got and had moderate success and spent a lot of time spent in physical therapy.

    And THEN, I took some clinics. And I started with DH clinics where I was the only woman and everyone else in the clinic tended to be male, but we spent hours going over drills in a parking lot and then breaking down things like single corners over and over again and nit-picking the details. And I realized that on my own, I had learned a lot of things really incorrectly, which isn't surprising since I was learning from people who didn't necessarily know the best way to do things, and couldn't really explain what they were doing correctly anyway, and found that a lot of mountain biking skills aren't necessarily intuitive (at least to me, and apparently to a lot of other people...).

    And I ended up taking some women's specific clinics after that and now I coach at women's specific MTB camps (not DH specific, though we have some groups that are focused on DH). Why? Because it's really rewarding to me to start out with a group of women who will tell you they are afraid of specific things - and work through it and have those same people tell you they just had fun doing what they said they couldn't or were too scared to do. That makes my day. And for a lot of people, learning how to do something, talking through it, understanding how it works is what makes us comfortable enough to try it. I've turned into that type of person over time, after realizing my body wasn't going to tolerate the "just do it" method any more.

    But first - I would tell you that many of the best male riders I know DID get that way by actually stopping and nit picking the details of every obstacle. Serious DH racers walk the course without their bikes to talk about and check out every angle of every line and obstacle on every course they race. And I've taken DH clinics that a lot of pro male DH racers have taken and they break down and discuss obstacles and often spend more time talking about it than riding when they are working on mastering/refining specific skills. That's certainly not to say that they don't spend a lot of time riding too, but IMHO, you don't go to a skills clinic to get a lot of miles in. You go to learn the things you can apply when you're out riding later. So I think the idea that only women's clinics spend a good amount of time breaking things down is a misunderstanding.

    And second - yes, there is probably additional focus on a supportive atmosphere and encouragement, etc. And on conquering your fears. But as far as I'm concerned, that's what any skills clinic is about anyway. How do you conquer your fear? You learn how to do things safely/properly instead of just taking some speed into it and hoping for the best. I know personally, I discovered that there were things I rode successfully but was just as afraid to do over and over again. Why? Because I didn't really know what I did that made is successful, or unsuccessful. To me - the fear goes away with understanding. And it also goes away when I do things like remember to breathe, and look ahead so I know what's coming up next.... Clearly those things apply to everyone. It's just the atmosphere that's a little different - there's more willingness to openly discuss fear, and that can be really beneficial. If it's not something you need - find something more suited to your learning style.
    Good point, I like what you and the OP both said because both had some very valid points.

    Not all clinics are created equally. Over-analyzing can two one of two things: either get too much in your head and keep the fear embedded or it can work for you if you know the technique. I've had way too much of the former that over-analyzing doesn't work for me. "Oh those leaves on the trail will cause you to wash out" was something I heard a lot from a guy who no longer rides with me because every little object became a reason of concern or even panic.

    Over-analyzing works if you already have the confidence to try it IMO. If you don't, you can make yourself completely nuts.

    There are so many other things that are important to learning to ride something (e.g. downhill runs or freeride-ish style things) than just the features..it's also people's skills, confidence, fitness, etc. So even if you have the confidence, if you don't know the technique of how to ride something, it may be how you get hurt. Or vice versa.

    You're definitely right that the important thing is the supportive environment. I've gotten to the point where I will only go on or lead group rides if I'm comfortable with the trail or completely trust the people I ride with.

    Some fears are weird on what triggers them. Sometimes it's a previous crash, sometimes it's childhood trauma that surfaces in an odd way (happened to me, PM me if you're interested in that).
    MTB4Her.com: mountain bike site for women, by women

  6. #6
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    I don't ride DH, only XC. However, I really like the OP's post. I've never attended an all female clinic, but really have no desire to, either. I like going out with the boys and trying to kick their asses or falling on my face in front of them (LOL). Then again, I also grew up with all my friends being guys, and was huge into car dragging racing so I'm just use to being in a male-dominated sport/activity and don't feel the need to be with a bunch of women to make myself feel confident and comfortable (I actually get really uncomfortable riding with a bunch of women because I don't know how to act, or so I feel).

    I did recently join an all-female cycling team, and I do find some of the mushy feely "oh my gosh, you're doing so good!" stuff to be over the top. No, please, just tell me I suck, haha.

    I definitely think it depends person to person, though. And it really does depend on past experiences, your personality, etc. I can see how all-female clinics and activities can really help out a bunch of us, but it is just not for me personally.

  7. #7
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    Back to the OP post. Maybe she wasn't in the right clinic, or the correct ability group. Clinics vary in their focus, just as skills division does. Another consideration that I've seen as a multi clinic attendee, is that if you go into thinking you know a lot and there's nothing to new learn, that's probably what you'll get out of it. I recall very clearly a gal who was disappointed to the point of not coming back the second day - she wanted to do multiple shuttle runs, and not break down skills.
    Last edited by formica; 12-10-2012 at 01:28 PM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by formica View Post
    Back to the OP post. Maybe she wasn't in the right clinic, or the correct ability group. Clinics vary in their focus, just as skills division does. Another consideration that I've seen as a multi clinic attendee, is that if you go into thinking you know a lot and there's nothing to new learn, that's probably what you'll get out of it. I recall very clearly a gal who was disappointed to the point of not coming back the second day - she wanted to do multiple shuttle runs, and not break down skills.
    Right. Try a co-ed, or more advanced clinic.

    Most women AREN'T confident. Most women DO HAVE FEARS.

    Perhaps start your own clinic. Something like a boot camp teaching women how to learn new skills and sports more confidently, more by feel, more courageously, without letting their brains get in their way. I won't say "LIKE A MAN" but to be honest, and to totally generalize, but my honest generalizations, the men I've seen tend to embrace a new sport like a child embraces learning how to walk. They try it, fail, try again, figure it out, all the while not beating up on themselves. An innate confidence and rationality lends a big hand.

    They don't let their fears/anxieties create even additional challenges. Generalization, but, something I've noticed in extreme hobbies. Exceptions to every generalization, including this one...lol.

  9. #9
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    I understand your irritation, and I think if I were 18 or maybe even 28 again I would probably feel the same way.

    I started as a 47-year-old who hadn't done much physical activity besides walk the dogs for a few decades. I am embarassed that I don't have the strength, the agility, the stamina, or the courage of some of the young studs on the trails. But what I could ride was sooo fun, I wanted more. The most comfortable and least discouraging way to learn to do more has been to do it with other women-several of whom are my age. The cool thing is that most of us are now capable of joining the men's group rides with no problems.

    I'm definitely planning to go to at least one skills clinic next year, and it might well be a women's clinic.

    So don't be irritated, it's all good. I don't think women are inherently inferior in any way, and more power to you if you can join the menz on day one.
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  10. #10
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    Skilled riders can be a challenge to support. In so many ways they already "get down the hill" so they are looking for what they believe they don't know. That said, what they really don't know is something that may not be in their awareness.

    What they don't know may not be what they think it is. Further, what they believe they know may only be defined by the fact that they "got down the hill" and may be replete with guesses and glosses which work fine for them; I mean, they got down the hill didn't they?
    For the self-taught, trial-by-error set, getting down the hill may just mean that you didn't crash.

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  11. #11
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    Clinics are kind of a unique beast. My wife has done a few clinics now with an organization and she's had completely different experiences in them. It really comes down to the instructor of the clinic and their comfort level with teaching. For a lot of riders, they don't know what they don't know. They know how to go down a hill fast, but if you ask them to explain how they did it, they can't verbalize it. Teaching a fast twitch skill like mountain biking is an extremely difficult proposition for the best of instructors.

    I've seen a few clinics get a "pro" and throw them to a group and expect results. That's all great, except that the pro really doesn't have any teaching skills to speak of. Amazing riders, of course, but great teachers? Not so much.

    The best way my wife has learned / overcome her fears is to ride with a similar skilled woman. My wife is a great climber and very balanced rider in techy stuff. Her friend is a speed demon on the downhills and rides all out. It's been amazing to watch them pick up skills each other possess. The funny thing is, if you asked either one, neither taught the other anything hah!

    My wife will still go to clinics, but now she goes for fun and enjoys the experience much more.

    Anyways enough rambling there was my .02

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