Let’s start by clearing up a basic misconception: Mountain biking well isn’t solely a product of strength. In fact, it mandates at least an equal share of technique and balance. Lindsey Richter makes debunking that myth core to the women’s mountain biking workshops she runs, Ladies AllRide. She’ll bring that attitude to Santa Fe May 19 and 20 as part of this year’s Outside Bike & Brew Festival. Her clinics typically run two days, but she’s compressed the curriculum to two hours dedicated to honing body position and balance.
"That's the fundamental skill—how do I stay balanced on a bike that's changing angles and bouncing around underneath me?" she says. "We're teaching women how to focus on the details and how to understand technique, balance and movement to get your bike to do what you want, versus just muscle through."
That's the main difference she sees between men and women riders.
"Mountain biking in some ways suffers from its own marketing or its own image of being hardcore and difficult," says Tim Fowler, executive director of cycling nonprofit Velo New Mexico and event director for Bike & Brew. "New riders can be intimidated, and I think that's a bit amplified for women. If all the riders you know are 10-, 20-year riders and super-fit, it's tough to feel like you can hang."
Plus, like so many outdoor sports, it can feel like a bit of a boys' club, and getting more people on board means making women feel welcome to give it a shot.
Richter came to riding after a turn on the Survivor: Africa cast in 2001 threw her into the whirlwind of red carpets, parties and Los Angeles life, none of which was very kind to the Oregon native. She started racing just for fun, met a pro mountain biker and dove in with high-level riders and not a lot of advice. She runs Ladies AllRide clinics to spare other women that trial-by-hardest-trails experience. All- female groups can create a supportive community, she contends, as well as inspire a sense of "If she can, why can't I?"
Right now, she sees a real need for women to get better at pushing their own limits and testing their own fortitude.
"The way our politics went this year, it scared a lot of people," Richter says. "We just went back a few steps, and it made us all feel like we weren't as capable and independent as we thought. … These sports are the best way to show women how much strength we actually have."
She's trying to use her voice to show the humorous, and human, sides of hardcore mountain bikers, posting photos popping wheelies and joking about the extra chins that move produces, and talking openly about her own struggles.
"I'm suffering right now, going through a divorce, but I'm going to be OK—I've got my bike," she tells SFR.
Of course, a metaphor builds from there.
"When you're in trouble in life, or a bad place, or sad, sometimes you have to just look ahead and keep moving forward," Richter says. "And that's mountain biking. You get in trouble in a technical rock garden, the goal is not to bail or jump off. The goal is to keep moving."
Visuals that work for better biking—keep turning the wheels, fix your own flat tires, and lead with your heart—translate even when the bike is hung up for the day.
"The number one thing is facing fear," she says. "When you do something that physically scares you, and you figure out how, and then you accomplish it, it gives you the sense of accomplishment that I think makes women ask themselves the question, 'What else do I think I can't do that I actually can do?'"
This fourth iteration of Outside Bike & Brew is under new leadership with Fowler at the helm. It's the main event for Velo New Mexico, which Fowler founded to boost biking events and bike-friendly consciousness around the state.
Activities include bike demos at La Tierra Trail, a 30- or 50-mile Caja del Rio Gravel Grinder, and, for those really craving the burn, a guided ride that climbs 3,000 feet up the Winsor Trail. Recreational rides will tour local breweries and wineries. Bike films, concerts and an expo add to the action, much of it stationed in or near Railyard Park. The weekend's events culminate with the longtime mainstay of the local cycling scene, the Santa Fe Century.
Outside Bike & Brew
Thursday-Sunday, May 18-21.
ee complete schedule at outsidesantafe.com.