Braver Biking: Women’s Mountain Biking Workshop

By Liz Dunham

I have a mountain bike. It’s a Stump Jumper. It’s old, like me, and doesn’t get out as often as it would like, also like me.

I went to a mountain bike workshop to change that.

The workshop was June 29 through Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. I’m a working mother, so I heard about this workshop three days before it was taking place. I still went, on a Saturday morning, because the group seemed to fit me perfectly: It was for ladies like me who aren’t experts but wanted to improve their basic skills, maybe even to the point where they could go with their growing children without killing themselves.

There were 5 of us ladies lined up at Squilchuck State Park. This was a beginners session, taught by two volunteer, female instructors, Ashley and Kate. I had not been to Squilchuck in a year or more, but I had heard of the amazing trail building that was taking place. Indeed there was a large training ground, with jumps, log bridges, figure 8’s, and all manner of obstacles. Our group was comprised of women with a variety of backgrounds, but they were either beginners or wanted to get out more and ride with skill and confidence.

Sure enough, I had the oldest bike there, but that didn’t stop me from not only participating but learning from and even enjoying the workshop. Here are some of the things we learned:

  • Positions — After a demonstration from our awesome instructors, we all hopped on our bikes. A neutral position is a relaxed standing, knees and elbows bent position, and it transitions nicely to a ready position, which is leaning forward with our elbows at 90 degrees.

Ready can also be called the “attack” position, which we all decided we preferred.  Ready could imply anything – ready to crash?! — while attack position gave us a little more confidence and ready to attack the course.

  • Braking, cornering and downhill riding — OK, now we got to the scary part of mountain biking right away: Going fast and going downhill, which are not exclusive. Kate and Ashlely gave us some good tips. It is important to use both front and back brakes together. You should also turn your torso toward the direction you want to go (just like skiing) and move your core back and “push” your bike back over bumps as you speed downhill.
  • Body control — Speaking of that last skill, we talked a little about body control. You let your bike move over bumps and obstacles while your body stays fairly stable. My most useful mantra from the class was “eyes ahead, not on the tread,” reminding me to look ahead and not get distracted by what is in front of me.

It is important to look ahead at where you want to go, not at where you don’t want to go, as our body tends to follow our eyes. This is also true for running, hockey and other sports.

  • New features on the bike — My bike is old, but I learned about possible upgrades or why new technology is important. New features such as wider tires, a dropper seat and disc brakes can all improve stabiliy.

Ashley and Kate were awesome. They were excellent mountain bikers with extensive experience, and they were upbeat, encouraging, gave great advice and gave us plenty of encouragement. They were a big reason by lunch time I had five new, non-intimidating friends to join me for future rides. I am looking forward to more mountain bike rides and workshops through Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. I had a great morning and can’t wait to get out and practice my skills. I may even pick up a new bike at some point.

For more information about upcoming bike workshops, rides and events you can check out the local evergreen website for central Washington:


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