So a lot is said about getting more women involved in mountain biking TODAY. There's lots of ideas out there that in my mind range from questionable to very good, and I'll leave that line of thinking to others who are more qualified.
However, I think the real seed of greatness might be thinking about the future. tl;dr version of my thought train on this is that kids in general and girls in particular would do well to be exposed to as much outdoor dirtbaggery as possible at the earliest age they can handle it.
I grew up in the rural NW as did my parents so I spent hours and days playing outside. My parents encouraged this but they weren't hikers, bikers, campers, etc. Somehow in spite of this, over the years by research, trial & error, and hard knocks I've developed an increasing array of outdoor chops (and a giant pile o' gear, lol). In the last couple years this has all come to some kind of horrific pinnacle of evolution/insanity in the form of family bikepacking. This summer we did a trip on a rr grade that covered 105 miles in 3 days, and our daughter did it all on the trail-a-bike.
My daughter has basically always known me as a rider. I have a vivid memory of her pointing to a bike mag cover at a local shop and blurting "MOMMA" around her binky. Since then she's learned to pee in the woods (for those who haven't experienced teaching a girl this yet, TRUST ME it's A Thing), helped hand up water out of a creek for treatment with the steripen, noshed down freeze dried dinners and junk food like it's manna from heaven, slept cozy in a sleeping bag & her own hammock, found dry firewood/kindling/fire starting materials, figured out that we were close to a lake destination once she saw little blue dragonflies on the trail, etc etc etc. These days if the weather is decent and you ask what she wants to do on a Saturday, the answer is not unlikely to be "let's ride to such-and-such pond and eat fried chicken" or "let's go out to camground so-and-so and build a camp fire and have hot dogs" or "let's drive out to the desert to ride bikes and we can get Mexican food on the way back". As my dad said about us when we were kids: "They're like an army, they move on their stomach." Still, it's hard to argue with her logic.
What's so interesting about all this is that she has yet to realize most girls/women don't normally do these things. Husby and I are actually kind of chuckling to ourselves about the moment she wakes up to the fact that everyone else is sitting at home watching TV. In the meantime, today she surprised me once again... daddy was showing her how to saw up branches for a fire and she chirped up that she likes using the mini bone saw he packs for such things, and she'd like one of her own. I mean SERIOUSLY enthusiastic about this handy little tool. Would REALLY like one of her own. "This thing is SO COOL!" as she cut up branch #8, and after throwing it in the fire went looking for more wood to saw.
I can't even tell you how much hope that little moment gives me for her specifically and for the future in general...
Outside is great, and she's not afraid to go there.
Tools are awesome, and she's not afraid to use them.
She's already got more outdoor skills than I probably had in high school (a few weeks ago she even launched into an extended riff about what they really SHOULD have done for survival with the boat on Gilligan's Island).
FWIW you will NOT find her taking sweet jumps with her little bike. She's extremely cautious and, like her mother, refuses to be pushed too far beyond her comfort zone but instead learns things incrementally at her own pace. But also like her mother, she remains enthusiastic about getting out and seeing places on two wheels. Tonight we watched Pedal Driven again, and a few minutes after the show had wrapped up she showed us what she'd been drawing:
So there you have it..... We've completely corrupted another one, and she's only 8.
IF YOU GET A CHANCE, TAKE A KID OUTSIDE. Your kid, a relative's kid, a neighbor's kid- ALL of them belong out there. Who knows what seed you're planting, just know it's all good.
BUT THIS GOES DOUBLE FOR TAKING A GIRL OUT. Thankfully things are changing, but traditionally girls have not been taught even rudimentary 'bushcraft'/outdoor skills and this is flat wrong. Perhaps even more critical than specific skills is simply modelling the attitude that women can be as comfortable and confident and skilled and joyful in the wild as anybody. Not all of those girls who catch our spirit may go on to ride a mountain bike regularly, but they should still feel that they can choose their own path in life without being held back by the nebulous fears that have impeded so many women before them.
Something tells me that if we can just do this, we'll have a whole lot more young ladies calling "trail!" on us when we're old.
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Thread: Women in our sport- The Future
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