Mountain biking, like many adventure sports, has a rather 'male' image. The numbers don't lie - the stats show that most participants, at both a professional, amateur and recreational level, are blokes.
However the stats also show that increasing numbers of women are getting out there and experiencing the fun, challenge and thrill of MTB. The 2016 Dirt Art Survey showed a solid increase in female participation in mountain biking in Australia - from just 10% in 2014 to over 15.5% two years later. MTBA reported it's 2017 membership base was 17% female, versus 15% in 2014.
There's still a big gap. But despite being disproportionately male, for the most part MTB doesn't have the massive image problem some action sports do when it comes to female participation (I know, I know - it's not perfect. Just in the last few weeks I've seen examples of people and companies that still see women in MTB as just an adornment or a sexualised sale-generating object - sigh).
But for every derogatory marketing message, there's someone taking a stand, calling out that rubbish and making sure everyone feels welcome in MTB. Like the EWS banning podium girls, and in doing so making it clear that all women - professional or otherwise - are valued for their participation in the sport, not just being a token part of the spectacle.
In honour of International Women's Day, I recently asked our team to nominate their favourite female rider or MTB community member:
"Lauren Gregg is cool, loved following her journey in the van traveling and racing bikes"
"Tracey Hannah, because she's tough as nails and super driven"
"Tahnee Seagrave is the boss!"
"Micayla Gatto, for her awesome video she did"
"Rachel Atherton for that perfect season!"
"Caroline Buchanan - not only an exceptional athlete (of course) but she just seems like such an epic human who loves her sport(s)!"
"Tracey Moseley, because she's dominated both DH and Enduro over the years and is very approachable and such a great ambassador for the sport."
"Casey Brown because she loves riding, is living the dream and hits big jumps with great style!"
"Anne-Caroline Chausson - 100% dominated a field like no other."
Not only could none of them stop at just one - but I loved the reasons they nominated each person. They respect their athleticism, their stories of challenge and success, their courage and drive to succeed, the way they act as positive ambassadors for the sport - basically, all the ways in which they are epic members of the MTB community, with no reference necessary to their gender.
There still exists a massive opportunity to welcome more women into the sport at all levels. I'm especially passionate about seeing more women just getting out and giving it a go. Maybe that's my own bias - I'm no pro rider! I'm more the get out for a spin on the weekend type, who's in it for the fun, the challenge, the fitness, and a little bit of the thrill .! I also have two young daughters, and I want them to feel welcomed at all times in this awesome sport.
One team member also observed - I respect every woman who gets out and rides, be it professionally, or just out for a cruise. The unsung heroes who are proving it's not just a boys club.
This International Women's Day, we're celebrating the fact that MTB is NOT a boys club. It's a club that's open to anyone who wants to take a bike out for a spin on the dirt. We're stoked to see the growth of groups like Dirty Divas in WA who exist to motivate and encourage women to mountain bike, the Dirt Angels in Toowoomba QLD who are a group of female mountain bike enthusiasts . growing our membership all the time as we find more women take on the mountain bike challenge, and the countless other clubs who are focused on getting whole families and communities involved in MTB.
I'm always so amazed at the great work being done - usually by volunteers - around the country each and every week, to keep countless clubs, groups and events running. It's at this grassroots level that we can make sure everyone feels able to participate in this great sport!
Happy International Women's Day to all my riding ladies!