“Yes! That’s it – Oh! You were so close!” I collect my breath after gut-punching myself on my handlebars and nearly toppling into a brambly sage bush at the base of a rock that looks much better suited for riding down, rather than up. “Just get your weight forward a little more and PUSH that front wheel forward. You’ve totally got it.” She gestures animatedly with her arms to demonstrate the push instruction again, and although I nearly rendered myself incapable of having children on the last attempt, I believe her. I spin my bike around as her cues - mental and physical - echo in my head. 'Weight forward. Push. You’ve got this.'
It’s a mid-Spring Tuesday after work and I’m on one of Bend’s many mountain bike trails with a couple friends – a scene more common than not this time of year. The high desert sun is shining, the dirt catching glimmers of reds and golds as it filters through the tall pines, but in the distance, dark clouds loom. There’s a current in the air, a lively mixture of static electricity and nervous excitement for what's ahead.
Today’s ride is different, and not just for the toying thunderstorm asking to race like a souped up Civic at a stop light. Today Lindsey Richter is with us, and we get a few hours of her undivided attention for asking all the whats whys and “seriously how the hell are you supposed to get your round wheels up this square faced rock” that we haven’t been able to successfully Youtube or get our more advanced riding partners to interrupt their Strava segment to stop and explain.
Lindsey demonstrating a bunny hop before our ride in Bend, Oregon
Lindsey is the founder of Ladies AllRide, a series of weekend-long, all-inclusive mountain bike camps for women, and coaches for Grit Clinics, owned by her LAR partner Meredith. They started Grit and Ladies AllRide to make the sport more approachable to women, realizing that the male-dominated bike industry was an intimidating place for female beginners, and lacked the supportive, nurturing element they looked for when advancing through the ranks.
An experienced horseback rider, all-around athlete, and self-proclaimed daredevil, Lindsey picked up mountain biking for its fitness benefits, but before long found herself racing everything from cross-country to downhill at the pro level. Her partner at the time – pro mountain biker Kirt Voreis - was willing to share trail time and miles, but she found riding with the guys left her not only behind in the pack, but missing out on valuable lessons.
“Just go faster,” a common catchall for obstacle beta after the fact. Maybe a “Watch that!” over their shoulder as they smoothly cruise through something hungrily waiting to eat up a less experienced rider... If you were still within earshot to catch it.
With female participation in the sport lagging, Lindsey wondered how much of it had to do with a pure lack of interest, and how much was due to the wall-like barrier of intimidation holding them back. Walking up and knocking on the door would take guts, especially as the already entrenched bunny-hopped over it for entry.
And so, Lindsey built another way in. Ladies AllRide kicked off in 2013, and promised to teach women the transformative power of riding bikes.
“I teach people how to give their bikes life and help them develop a deeper relationship with the mountain bike lifestyle. I know firsthand how mountain biking can enrich women's lives and bring so much joy and happiness into their worlds! I must get more women involved with this community!!”
Two-way coach - Lindsey riding the ride and talking the talk (via @LadiesAllRide)
Open to all ability levels, Lindsey felt the need for a welcoming environment for both beginners to be introduced to the sport, and for advanced riders to push up and over a skill plateau. Just like she was trying to get me through this rock garden.
“Right here,” she hops down from her spotter's perch to draw a line in the dirt, “load right there, then PULL, and PUSH.” She’s so concise, so direct, so confident in either her message or my ability it doesn’t matter, because she makes it seem that easy. Like there isn’t a flat-faced rock nearly a foot high between me and the two round tires I’m perched upon. If I just do what she says, which she believes I can, then I will conquer it.
As the rain clouds finally burst overhead, we pedal back through all the obstacles we’d spent the last hour trying, failing, and high fiving our way through. It was the first time since picking up the sport that I felt like I was actually riding my bike, rather than just praying I’d stay on top of it.
I stick close to Lindsey’s tire back to the parking lot, trying to trace her tracks and even following as she peels to the edge of a trail to bunny hop a small rock. A laugh and Midwest “ope” cough out of me as both my tires solidly hit and roll over it. I vow to look for it and try again next time as I blink rain drops out of my eyes and don’t even try wiping the smile off my face.
Rare is it to have a coach who’s both communicable and knowledgeable, but can also saddle up and show you what you’re trying to achieve. To have the best of both of those teaching styles, along with a likeable personality and patience of someone who remembers being there… that’s a special combination.
The Ladies AllRide camp schedule just released yesterday, and registration opens January 29th. We also have a chance for you to win an entry of your choice, plus a ton of other swag from the Ladies AllRide sponsors through the Ride On, Ladies Giveaway! Contest closes February 3rd.