There’s a special kind of freedom that comes with being on two wheels in a wide open expanse of green. A special type of joy that comes with throwing your bike down a fast, flowy piece of singletrack. A lovely dose of adrenalin when you conquer that scary drop or rooty section that’s been terrorising you for months. And a lung-busting sense of pride when you reach the top of that bloody great big hill you’ve been dreading on your ride.
It’s no secret that I absolutely LOVE mountain biking, and cycling in general. It’s a love that’s burned inside of me since I first got on one as a kid (thanks Dad), razzing my BMX around the pump track and in the woods, being late home for dinner for just one more ride.
Even when I broke my leg showing off to my mates at seven years old, I got back on the bike. When I broke my collarbone and wrist in 2016 pumping too hard and getting air before remembering I can’t jump, I got back on the bike. (Scared AF but back on it nonetheless).
This is my calling, and I want you to join me.
International Women’s Mountain Biking Day!
Today is the inaugural International Women’s Mountain Biking Day! (Thanks Mara for the tag on Insta!) Created by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), IWMBD is to be held on the first Saturday of May each year starting this year, and is a celebration of all things mountain biking for women.
It’s a PERFECT day to celebrate for a number of reasons: 1) it’s the start of a Bank Holiday weekend, 2) it’s BLOODY SUNNY GUYS, GET ON YOUR BIKES, and 3) IT’S BLOODY SUNNY GUYS, GET ON YOUR BIKES!!!
If you’re looking for inspiration to get into mountain biking, I’ve shared some resources and a few of my posts below, and you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook over the weekend where I’ll be sharing my mountain bike adventures with you. Also don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel as I share more of my bike-shaped shenanegins over there too!
If you do get out on your bike today, share your stories using #womensmtbday and don’t forget to tag me so I can join the conversation!
How to get into mountain biking
1. Join a Breeze ride
For those not in the know, Breeze is a fantastic initiative from British Cycling and Sport England to encourage more women on wheels. There are hundreds of rides across the country led by qualified leaders (Breeze Champions), aimed at all levels from beginner to experienced. These women-only groups offer an inclusive, welcoming and fun group to ride with, where you’ll learn new skills, meet new friends and eat a lot of cake whilst building your confidence on the bike.
**Watch a video of my first Breeze ride here – it’s a road ride, but the group ethos is the same**
2. Find a mountain bike guide
The best way to discover new routes and places to ride is by getting someone to show you. That’s what we did for our first taste of the glorious Surrey Hills singletrack mecca last year. We’d heard there were trails nearby to us in Brighton but we didn’t know where to start to find them, so we found Sean from Marmalade MTB and got him to show us.
Throughout year he does weekly guided rides to the Surrey Hills, South Downs and beyond to Wales, Isle of Wight and even Scotland, taking groups of upto eight of all abilities. If you’re riding the Surrey Hills and don’t have a bike, you can hire one from Pedal and Spoke at Peaslake, and he can also arrange hire for other locations too.
3. Visit a trail centre
Ooooooooh yesssss I LOVE a good mountain bike trail centre!! These are the playgrounds of my adulthood. The places I get my kicks, where I whooop, woooooo and weeeeeeeeee! my way down the lovely purpose-built, fast and flowy trails before collapsing in a pile of happy at the trail centre cafe.
This is how I got into trail riding and riding singletrack, and this is where I’m at my happiest on a bike. There are trail centres all over the UK with trails graded from green (easy, family friendly) to black (gnarly, not-Tess-friendly at present!). I ride blues (fast flowy, fun) and reds (fast, flowy, more technical with rocky sections and roots).
I wrote a whole blog about the AWESOME trail centres in Wales that you can read here.
4. Join a women’s weekend!
There’s no getting away from the fact that mountain biking is still very much a sport dominated by men, BUT times are changing girls! More and more women are riding off road and a great way to find other badass women to ride with is by going on a women’s mountain biking weekend!
I did this last September at Coed Y Brenin (an awesome trail centre in North Wales) and had the BEST weekend. It rained the whole bloody time but it was such a laugh and filled my heart with happy to see so many women on the trails. We outnumbered the blokes that weekend and gave them a run for their money on the trails too!
Read what we got up to here and don’t forget to sign up to this year’s event on 8/9 September!
5. Follow a National Cycling Route
Thanks to Sustrans, the National Cycle Network is a huge network of cycle-friendly routes on traffic-free paths and quiet roads connecting to every major town and city. They’re signposted by blue and white signs along the way and are sure to lead you to cycling joy 🙂
There are some cracking off road routes like The Downs Link, connecting Surrey and Shoreham along a disused railway line. (Note, railway line means flat, which is lovely).
Enter your postcode or town on the Sustrans map to find your nearest route.
6. Get up on the Downs
I realise this only works if you’re down this way but the South Downs is right on my doorstep here in Brighton and the South Downs Way stretches 100 miles from Winchester to Eastbourne with some proper good climbs and gorgeous mountain bike heaven to ride.
Just follow the public bridleway signs with the acorns (not the footpaths or other bridleways) and enjoy the ride!
I’ve ridden sections of it numerous times, you can catch up with my posts below:
7. Join an event
Another great way to get into mountain biking is to join an event. I rode the BHF London to Brighton a couple of years ago and LOVED it (as the shaky video above proves – this was my first time using a GoPro, I’ve got a lot better since then! Subscribe to my YouTube channel to see more vids)
This event was fully supported with amazing fuel and water stations along the way, as well as first aid tents and break areas etc. so it was great to know we were really being looked after (and raising money for charity too!)
This July me and Chris are taking on the new BHF South East Coast ride, attempting the 55 mile route across the South Downs which will be a right good challenge with those insane climbs!
So there you have it. Plenty of ways to get into mountain biking! I know I keep banging on about the joys of cycling but there really is no other way to feel that magic you did as a kid again, that freedom, that JOY. Get on your bike!
Share your mtb stories on social media using #womensmtbday (and don’t forget to tag me at @FitBits_ on Twitter and Insta, and @fitbitsblog on Facebook!)