People often ask me “Courtney, how did you get into mountain bike riding? How did you start?” My response is always “My parents introduced me – I was forced to love it!”
But for people who don’t have bike loving parents that can be slightly tricky.
The best thing about bike riding is that it can be for anyone – styles vary and can be ﬁtted to anyone’s needs. This can range from smashing out a PB on a road bike up the ‘1 in 20’ Mt Dandenong climb to riding along a rail trail for a coffee to tearing up the dirt on a mountain bike or getting muddy on a cyclocross. There is something for everyone.
My 10 hot tips can encourage anyone to get out and give it a go!
1: Get some gear
- Shoes (sneakers are a good start)
- Leggings (or bike knicks if you are more comfortable)
- Sports bra (because support is important!)
- A bike (any sort, so long as it pedals, has brakes and changes gears, particularly if you plan on going up hills)
- A decent bike pump
- Take bike to trail (e.g. Lilydale to Warburton rail trail or Lysterﬁeld tracks)
- Ride bike
- Have fun
Simple as that! You don’t need to look the part or be the next Bec Henderson (Australian Olympic Mountain Biker) – you just need to have fun.
2: Take a friend
Find people who are willing to be adventurous and unafraid of mud and dirt! (This is a requirement, as half the fun is getting dirty and comparing the amount of mud covering your bike at the end of a great ride.)
3: Ask around
Do some research on women’s riding social groups (Tribal Cycling or She Rides Australia are really good ones to check out, as are your local cycling club or bike shop) for recommendations of trails/rides to check out. Ask if anyone would like to join you. It never hurts to ask and you’d be surprised how many other females are interested in cycling.
4: Try it all
Hire, beg, borrow or steal (not recommended) all different types of bikes for the different styles of riding – road riding, MTBing (cross country), downhill (if you’re game), cyclocross, enduro etc. You’ll never know your forte till you’ve tried them all!
5: Get out for a skills session
From my experience I cannot recommend enough trying out skills sessions. They are so useful and instructors can help you feel more conﬁdent on the bike and workshop new techniques to incorporate into your riding. Skills sessions can be run through clubs like Warrandyte Mountain Bike Club (See hot tip no. 6) or businesses such as She Rides (a program run by Cycling Australia – it is speciﬁcally for women alike who want to ride and feel conﬁdent riding. To ﬁnd out more —> check out the link http://www.cycling.org.au/Participation/She-Rides). One of my ﬁrst ever skills sessions was with elite mountain biker Jenni King and my now coach Adam Kelsall.
6: Join a club
This is such a helpful way to meet new riding buddies with common interests or just feel part of the greater community within cycling. There are plenty of clubs around Victoria who encourage all types of riders to join – Warrandyte, Lysterﬁeld, Geelong, Alpine, Bendigo etc. all have friendly successful MTB clubs with a strong network. St Kilda, Hawthorn and Blackburn road riding clubs are also well known amongst the cycling community.
7: Try out a race or a target event
Yes, I know it sounds intimidating but, hey, you’ll never know unless you try, right? Longer races such as three or six hour endurance races (which is more fun than it sounds – I promise!) are great events to bring a group of friends to and enter as a team. It is a day of good chatter, laughs and awesome riding! It’s also another way to get out and socialise with the forever-expanding bike community.
If road riding is your thing, maybe have a go at a criterium in the Summer. Any of the road clubs mentioned above will be able to provide you with details to get you started. There are also lots of mass participation social rides organised which you could enter with a friend or a group. Set you and your friends a goal to be part of the Around the Bay in a Day in October. There are many different rides lengths to choose from: from the ultra-challenging 250km all the way down to a beginners 25km.
8: Make it a regular activity
Don’t just ride once in a blue moon! If you truly enjoy it make riding something you do daily, weekly or fortnightly with family and friends or by yourself. You could even try commuting to work or school to keep it interesting and part of a routine.
Riding takes you places – I would know! My family and I have been to so many different destinations that we would have never discovered or enjoyed nearly as much if we weren’t riding bikes. Go look at new places. Get out on the dirt at Lysterﬁeld, go up to Bright and ride the single tracks before breakfast or the rail trail out to the berry farm for a late afternoon treat. Spice it up and you’ll be surprised at what you discover.
10: Don’t be afraid
My lucky last tip: don’t ever be intimidated or afraid!
Most cyclists are friendly people, and will gladly help when asked. When you’re riding in a group, don’t apologise if you think you’re not going fast enough or you can’t quite make it up the hill. It doesn’t matter. If you’re having fun and enjoying yourself you will have a good time and so will your peers.
So, there you have it. Riding is for everyone. If you’re tall, short, eight years old or 80, all you have to do is pedal, sweat (optional), get a bit dirty and most importantly HAVE FUN!
By Courtney Snowball
Courtney is a She Science Ambassador and avid Mountain Biker. At just 16 she is competing in the national mountain biking circuit, placing 4th overall in 2016 and 3rd overall in 2017. This year she has qualified for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in September. Follow her on Instagram @courtney_snowball.
(Pictures: Ross Snowball)