My lady mountain-biking friends are some of the most intrepid women I know, but not all of us came by it naturally. Perhaps they were natural risk-takers as kids — but then again, I think most kids are open to taking risks (or none of us would have tried walking, right?). Too bad that the growing-up process often involves dimming or even snuffing out that bright, bold spark that moved us to try new, often risky things.
Mountain biking women have managed to keep that spark going into a fire, but along the way we’ve picked up some stereotypes and preconceptions that those who don’t mountain bike tend to assume about us. Here are eight misconceptions people have about adventurous women:
1. “You must like being dirty.”
Bugs in my teeth and sand in my bra are not my favorite. I can only do sweaty for about half an hour before I start wanting to crawl away from myself. Sure, a layer of dust at on my glasses and a little mud on my tires at the end of the day is a mark of a good ride, but it also likely means I pushed my bike, body and mind to learn something (even if it was just how to fall off my bike in a new way). For the record, hot showers are in my top 5 favorite things to do — ever.
2. “You probably don't care much about how you look.”
This is only true when I’m on the trail or having my morning coffee — and then it’s only mostly true (I love a cute mountain biking outfit). When I’m on the trail I really don't care if my hair is messy or you can see my wrinkles. Neither does my dog Howie, who runs along behind my back wheel, or the women I ride with. But you can be sure that when I'm meeting with clients or even just running errands around town that I don't want to come across as unkept or frazzled. I actually like putting on a little makeup and nice clothes.
3. “You must be very athletic.”
I mountain bike not because I want to look good in a bikini (ha!), but because I love the woods, the camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it. Moving my body feels good so I want to do it more. I also want to be good at it, so I have to practice and keep in shape so that mountain biking is more enjoyable. But you won’t catch me running any marathons or entering any bodybuilding contests.
4. “You’re tougher than I am.”
There are women I know who are single moms, women who teach Sunday School every week. That, my friend, is a level of toughness that I could never aspire to. Willpower and tenacity are a state of mind. I’m woman enough to admit I’ve cried on the trail, and I have chickened out plenty of times when it comes to riding the harder trails (though I always resolve to come back to them after I’ve improved my skills on the easier routes). And for the record, “no apologizing” is one of my first rules of mountain biking. Men don’t apologize for not being tough enough, and neither should we.
5. “I feel bad for your spouse.”
Some people seem to think my husband is lonely or somehow resents my mountain biking. If anything, he thinks it's awesome that I’m out on the trail, tearing it up and doing something that is all my own (he’s a road biker, which mostly I find tedious). And we occasionally find time to bike together, which is also in my top 5 favorite things to do.
6. “You must be crazy.”
Mountain biking has a reputation for being a sport for wild, risk-taking young men. But just because I spend my free time mountain biking — basically outside participating in activities that the majority of women don't — doesn't mean I'm insane or have a death wish. It means I'm passionate. There's a (slight) difference. I might be crazy, but it’s for lots of reasons other than the fact that I’m a mountain biker.
7. “How many broken bones do you have?”
I’ve never broken a bone, mountain biking or otherwise. I don’t like getting hurt; it’s not fun. Though it may be true that I have more scrapes, bumps and bruises than most other women I know, I earned every one of them — and that part actually feels pretty amazing. One of the greatest lessons mountain biking has taught me is that although you can be prepared and safe and follow all the rules, getting hurt is life, and the more you understand that the risk is part of the fun and the process, the happier you'll be.
8. “You must not be very feminine.”
Let me be clear: being a mountain biker and a woman are not mutually exclusive. I look killer in a pair of heels (all that pedaling up hills) and I’ve got long, dark hair that sees its share of the inside of a salon. Although admittedly I hate pink (especially when it comes to biking accessories), giggling and wine are in my top ten things I love to do just about anytime it’s appropriate.
About the Author: Jill Hinton (above right) is a mountain biker and Chief Heroine of the Outdoor Book Club, an online community of outdoors women who love books. You can follow her on Twitter @outdoorbookclub