This past weekend, we headed to Joyride150 near Toronto, Ontario, for their seventh annual Women’s Weekend. For two days, women rule the park, and while it’s not an official “clinic” per se, there are coaches at different stations on Saturday morning for women of all ability levels to get tips on how to tackle the park’s different obstacles. It’s one of my favorite events, and I was lucky enough to be there with Ellen Noble and we gave a talk about all things nutrition, training and awkward cycling-questions related. It was a total blast! Hanging out with some of the girls we’ve posted about on Real Life Shred Girls as part of the Shred Girls Series was super fun, and I left feeling ridiculously inspired.
I also got to ride a fair bit over the weekend and holy moly, I learned a ton… About BMX but also about the radness that is the women’s cycling scene. So, a few of my key takeaways, some BMX-y, some more skills/life-in-general.
Showing Up is 99% of the Battle
150 women come every single year for this event, and that alone is staggering. But more important is that these women don’t just come to the bike park, they freaking SHOW UP. Even the most timid rider was trying out the pump track by the end, and I couldn’t believe how many absolute beginner women were doing crazy stuff like jumping into the foam pit on their first day in a bike park. The willingness to show up and really be a part of things totally blew me away. Also: There was no hierarchy, no cool kid clique or anything like that. It was so heartening to see how many super pro ‘let’s hit the vert park’ teens were chatting with the moms who hadn’t been on bikes in years and had never been in Joyride150 before.
Women Want to Support Women
The coolest connection I got to see over the weekend was introducing two of the Real Life Shred Girls: Desi Smith and Ellen Noble. Desi is a rad BMX riding, jumping badass, and Ellen Noble is a pro cyclocrosser with a silver medal at Worlds to her name. They’re close in age and both cyclists, so you might think the two would feel competitive with each other. Nope. They met and within minutes were bonding on the half-pipe, taking videos of each other and cheering each other on. Desi gave Ellen a ton of advice, and by the end, I think they already had plans to hang out and ride sometime soon. It confirmed what I’ve always known but don’t get to see often: Women want to support each other and cheer each other on. (Not saying guys don’t too, of course!) But next time you’re feeling nervous about approaching another woman for help, advice, or just to make friends, go in with the idea that she’ll be just as happy to talk to you and wants you to succeed, not fall on your face (literally or figuratively).
BMX Bikes Are RAD, But Different
Me: “I can totally hit the intermediate jump line as my first piece of riding today.”
Jump line: “GOTCHA!”
I made it through the jump line, but barely. It was not my smoothest moment.
OK, the less life-skills and more BMX-related content: I just got the SE Everyday BMX Bike from Performance Bike and I love it a ridiculous amount and feel crazy cool on it. However… It should not have come as a surprise to me that it doesn’t ride like a road or mountain bike, or even the jump bikes that I’ve used as rentals at the park before. This has no suspension, and the front is very, very twitchy—on purpose. As Ellen pointed out, that’s great for correcting yourself, but it does take some serious getting-used-to. I spent most of the day Saturday following that embarrassing moment on the pump track and beginner jump line, figuring out how the bike rode. Sometimes, you need to start from Square 1—something I should have done regardless, since it had been a while since I’d been there and I really needed the refresher course either way.
Progress, Not Perfection
I owe Ellen for bringing this hashtag to my attention. BMX biking is a totally different style of riding than either of us is used to, and while she obviously progressed a WHOLE LOT more than I did over the weekend, this held true for both of us. It wasn’t about nailing a jump or trick perfectly, it was about having fun and making some progress, and accepting and appreciating that journey. At no point is perfection ever really going to be attainable, it’s always going to be about making progress on certain goals—and in some cases, making sure that progress is prioritized as the goal itself, i.e practicing regularly on the BMX bike rather than ‘hit the expert jump line and nail a 360 by May 1.’ (That is NOT happening, for obvious reasons.)
Understand Your Own Limits
You can and should bust out of your comfort zone, but you should also have a good sense of where your limits are. That was something I remembered this weekend: By Sunday, I was emotionally/mentally/physically exhausted from a combination of travel, the talk, riding a new bike and new style, and some other more general life stresses. As I was riding through the beginner and intermediate jump lines, I was able to go pretty well for a short block of time, but then was getting super shaky and having a hard time controlling my front wheel. That was a sign I needed to chill out and step back, not double-down on what I was doing, which I admit would have been something a younger me would have done, especially since Ellen was playing bikes ALL day. Instead, I stepped back, went and sat and worked for a while, then got back on the bike. Ride, rest, repeat. I was getting out of my comfort zone on the slightly bigger jump line, but I was staying within my limits and only working on it until I could feel my body starting to lag and beg me to back off.
Stay tuned here and on Shred-Girls.com for more from the weekend, including a bunch of video tutorials from crazy talented Shred Girls!