STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Fostering a welcoming learning environment is important in a sport as technical as mountain biking.
For over 16 years, women have gathered every Tuesday night during the summer outside local bike shops in Steamboat Springs for a weekly lesson and ride. The sport of mountain biking, like many, has a shortage of women. Maybe it’s the intimidation factor of speaking the language in a bike shop, the lack of equipment for women in the past or not having a place to ask questions.
But during the weekly Ski & Bike Kare Free Women’s Mountain Biking Clinic, women of all levels can gather together to learn the basics or go on a ride with other women who love the sport.
Starting at 5:45 p.m., the group splits into never-ever, beginner, intermediate and advanced groups with different coaches. They’ll ride until 7:30 p.m. and meet together afterwards at Mountain Tap.
Every week there’s a certain skill emphasized. This week is an obstacle course where they’ll ride over bridges and ramps outside Olympian Hall. Other weeks, they’ll work on body positioning, trail etiquette, climbing, descending or cornering.
“I think women enjoy learning in a group setting where they are more comfortable to ask questions,” Jody Corey, organizer of the women’s clinic, said. “It is definitely still a male-dominated sport. When I first started, I basically taught myself, but I think the women now with the clinic are progressing much faster.”
Corey adds that formal instruction gives them the opportunity to learn without developing bad habits. As an avid mountain biker since 1993, Corey walked into a coaching role with the free clinic 16 years ago. She’s one of five women who coach the clinic and each of them rotate to different group levels to coach every week, so people get a variety of perspectives and opportunities to form relationships.
The clinic has rotated starting at different bike shops over the years, but Ski and Bike Kare took the reins as a host in 2004.
“Ski and Bike Kare has a lot of women’s-specific gear and they’re embracing us as a group,” Corey said. “When you go in there, the mechanics take the time and give the women the attention they deserve.”
Harry Martin, owner of Ski and Bike Kare, believes Colorado has one of the larger contingents of women in mountain biking.
“I ride road bikes in Italy, and there, it’s a very male-dominated sport still,” Martin said. “And you come here and you see a lot more women riding mountain bikes and road bikes.”
As a store owner, Martin has seen a change in the industry over time and is trying to do his part in growing the sport for women.
“The manufacturers years and years ago realized it was a very male-dominated sport, and they wanted to grow their businesses,” Martin said. “They just brought more choices in really trying to get more women into cycling.”
Weekly clinics started at the end of May and will run through mid-August, culminating with a season-ending party full of prizes and women’s equipment vendors.
When Corey started, she saw on average 12 mountain bikers every week, now, the clinic attracts from 10 to 60 women consistently.
“Women are definitely growing the sport of mountain biking,” Corey said.