In Praise of Riding with Ladies

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By Lukas Brinkerhoff — The rock juts up at about a 45-degree angle for just shy of 4 feet. At the bottom, there’s a six-inch curb size lip one must negotiate to even begin to attempt to climb this obstacle. It’s not the hardest one you’ve seen, but most riders will dab once, twice or not even try. It’s a strength move that requires multiple different body angle adjustments with the bike to navigate the entire thing without putting a foot down.

Heather Gilbert cleaning an up move. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff

There’s some grunting. There may have been an expletive or two or three. The bike’s front wheel is expertly lifted over the lip followed by a surge of speed so the rear one follows as hoped. Once that rear wheel is on the slab, the pedals are mashed, once, twice, three times lifting the front wheel just slightly off the ground as the pressure is maintained. The front tire makes it over the upper lip, one more pedal stroke and the rear one follows. The grunting subsides, there’s some adrenaline induces screaming, some high fives and other words and expressions of the success.

I walked over threw up my hand for a high five and then gave my wife a hug.

Kathleen Berglund cleaning a rarely ridden section of Little Creek Mesa. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff

Over the course of the past three or four years, I have slowly begun riding with ladies more and more and with the dudes less and less. This happened partially due to the riding partners that my wife, Kathleen and I have, and partly because it’s more fun to ride with girls.

The reasons why became apparent to me about three years ago. Heather Gilbert, Lynda Wallenfels, Kathleen and I all went for a girl’s trip to Moab. Yes, that might sound a bit strange, but I grew up with four sisters, no brothers, and not only was it not strange, it was one of the most fun trips to Moab I have ever had.

And before all the dudebros start being all, like, no way man, the chicks can’t ride, they can’t shred the gnar. Let me say yes they can, and give me a chance to break down why I would rather shred with the ladies than all you dudes.

Heather Gilbert cleaning a 4 foot up move on Gooseberry Mesa for the first time. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff

First and foremost, the level of collaboration between the riders is far greater. During our trip to Moab, we rode some hard trails, not all the hard trails, we were only there three days, but the ones that I feel give you the most bang for your buck. As we encountered obstacles on the trails that caused either a dab or a second look to figure out, there was tons of mutually given and accepted advice. Once one rider figured it out, they would help and encourage the other one to get the same move. Everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses, but when you can draw on the strengths of your co-riders, it seems easier to clean the trail.

Second, the level of “we’re just here to ride, nobody needs to get upset or go crazy” is far beyond anything I have experienced when riding with a bunch of guys. While I have seen ladies be extremely competitive, I have not personally seen anyone get up in someone else’s grill over being bested. Rather, a sense of comradery and encouragement replaces the high-strung insecurity. It’s just chill.

I have also found there seems to be a higher expectation of certain trail etiquette when the ladies are in the group. Instead of the almost race-like jockeying for place that can occur, there is an easy- going, whoever happens to want to go, can go. In fact, most of the time the only arguing that happens is to determine who gets to follow whose line. It’s nice to have a polite line of riders heading down a trail instead of being pushed out of the way by someone trying to prove they are faster.

And of course, as I already mentioned, they can shred.

Heather riding right up a wall on Guacamole Mesa. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff

During our Moab Girls + Moose Trip, it was not uncommon for us to be sessioning a section and have a group of dudebros come through bobbling the move and take off. We would finish our session with everyone cleaning the obstacle and catch up to the group down the trail and blow past them while they walked a section.

Lynda Wallenfels drops into the Portal in Moab during the Moab Girls + Moose Trip. Photo by Lukas Brinkerhoff

One instance happened on Captain Ahab. There is a left turn that is somewhat challenging. To get through it you have to lift the front wheel and almost immediately lift it again while maintaining power and momentum to negotiate the turn. We were in the process of figuring it out when a group of about 6 guys came raging through. Every single one dabbed, but instead of taking the time to figure it out, they jumped off and ran to keep their momentum going to continue. We graciously let them ride through without saying anything. Once we had all figured out the regular route, I noticed a rock that could allow us to go straight up instead of having to struggle up the gut of the turn. It’s skinny with a good drop if you overshoot it. We all got that one and headed down the trail.

We caught back up to the dudes after a mile or so as the sat at the top of a drop eyeballing the best way down. We looked to see what it was all about and then all four of us dropped down never seeing the guys again.

Yes, I get that not everyone is the same and I’m sure there are some ladies out there that don’t fit into the experiences that I have had. There are also a lot of dudes that I still really enjoy riding with and there are often a few on my rides. But given the opportunity, I have found it’s always more fun to ride with the ladies.

Lukas Brinkerhoff blogs about mountain biking and life at mooseknuckleralliance.org.

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