Gleefully I shared my second place trophy with Danny. Threatened perhaps by my success, he reminded me that only three women competed in the off road adventure triathlon. A fair point, but nothing was going to take down my spirit that afternoon.
Winning trophies is great, but it still feels like a lonely world for women in off road sports. I’m surprised at how few women participate in sports like mountain biking or off road triathlons. I’m insulted when I see women’s gear descriptions from manufacturers that focus on how stylish a pair of bike shorts is, not mentioning anything about their construction or material. It’s been decades since our emancipation from the kitchen, so where are the ladies?
To be fair, there are usually more than just a handful of women at these events, especially if it’s a team event, where the rules often require a female team member, but I’m not exaggerating when I say the ratio is easily ten to one male to female at an off-road bike race or off-road triathlon. I regularly get asked by the other racers if I’m married, seeing anyone or have a girlfriend who also mountain bikes/whitewater kayaks that is single. I kid you not, I was hit on during a race once while fixing my tire. The man was so persistent to know if I had a friend who also rode, he came up to me again after the race to ask a second time.
So, why aren’t more women willing to dirt the skirt? Is it a fear of being stereotyped? Why do we still feel that the woods and these off road sports are a man’s place? I’ve had friends say things to me like “I would NEVER do that” but, why? What is it about off-road sports that makes us think it’s ‘unlady’ like?
Based on my experience, women looking for a challenge and perhaps some attention, would do well to participate in these sports. I see more and more women participating in trail runs, maybe it’s just a matter of time before it’s trickles down.
Last weekend we rode some new sections of trail near our house. Riding the intermediate/expert track, we came upon a middle aged woman and her daughter. About to go down a steep ramp on her bike, the girl shouted with glee at her mom waiting at the bottom. “They’re not coming up here!” she said as we took a cut through. I yelled out a word of encouragement, smiled at her mom and tore down the trail.
Maybe we just have to teach ourselves to dirt the skirt. So, how about it? If you’re interested there are women’s only riding clubs and training groups all over the country. Give one a try and be an example!