Words: Kristin Butcher
Photos: Greg Maino
Being a female in the sausage party that is mountain biking comes with some benefits: If we get a mechanical, good Samaritans instantly appear offering help (note to single guys: the time to ask a girl out is not while you're demonstrating your mini-pump skills.) And we never experience the physics-defying act of sitting on one's own balls. Seriously, how the hell does that happen?
But there are drawbacks, too. De-spandexing for a mid-ride leak is like removing bologna casing with stumps for hands. And when trying something new, eyes are always on you. Will the chick nail that logover? Will she clear the jump? Will there be some freak boob-revealing accident?
But for a weekend in Milwaukee, the downsides were all replaced by one serious upside: Ray's Indoor Bike Park closed the doors to anyone with a Y chromosome and handed women the reigns during the annual Ray's Women's Weekend. Hosted by Leigh Donovan and featuring pro coaches from all disciplines, the Milwaukee event began with 130 women huddled in the center of the 110,000 ft. building, eagerly waiting for 9AM so they could take to the stunts.
In the matter of minutes, excited anticipation turned into controlled chaos. Beginners wobbled their way across small bridges, BMX bikes mingled with dualies on the pump track, and every few minutes was the unabashed howl of getting airborne for the first time.
We were no longer the sole woman on the weekly ride or the chick practicing the jumps. We were just riders having a good time.
With the invisibility afforded by our own numbers, we tackled our fears, sometimes to applause and sometimes to the welcomed sound of silence. For some, that meant learning to get over that damned three-inch log of death. For others, it was clearing a tabletop for the first time. For me, it meant letting everything go, and flying into that damned foam pit.
It might've been the super-steep roll in, or the fact that I've always sucked at jumping, or maybe I just took too many Nerf balls to the face as a kid, but the foam pit scared the crap out of me. But there I was. Staring down. Peeking over the edge. Letting go of the brakes. And finally just…letting go.
Truth be told, I barely made it over the lip. I didn't fly into the foam pit at all, but instead flopped into it like a drunken bird with a broken wing. But it didn't matter — after all, no one was watching. Not really, anyway.
Because this weekend, we were all just one of the guys.