For the second year running, BikePark Wales organised a whole weekend dedicated to women’s mountain biking with a range of rides, workshops and guest appearances to keep the 600 plus of us inspired while we enjoyed the world class trails on offer. We sent Jennifer Purcell, Flare Clothing team rider and keen advocate for women’s cycling, to BikePark Wales to experience the ladies only weekend and here’s how she got on…
I wanted to to make full use of the extra uplift buses kindly put on for the event and to do run after run after run after run until the afternoon group ride with Manon Carpenter and Veronique Sandler. Alas, that was not to be.
After the first run down I ended up with a double flat – and I hadn’t even hit Rim Dinger yet! After walking down from the pick-up area I headed to the BPW workshop with my tail between my legs. I’m usually self-sufficient and ride with way more than I need to in my backpack, but given that this was an uplift day, I’d decided to leave all of my spares and tubes in the car… that my chauffeur friend had the key for!
Running tubeless, I knew I needed more oompf than my mini-pump would provide and Owen at the bike shop was more than happy to oblige. There was no sarcasm and no assumption that I didn’t know what I was doing. Unfortunately, the front tyre wouldn’t reseal. Not sure what was going on, but with plenty of relatively fresh sealant and a hole too small to plug, I popped in an inner tube and resigned to leave Rim Dinger for a future visit.
On the way back to the uplift I decided to take advantage of an available Mojo mechanic and get my suspension checked over. This was all done on a one-to-one basis and Alex was great. After announcing that my forks needed a service (not a surprise – it’s the end of a busy season which took in British Colombia Bike Race in Canada and loads of downhill and enduro races) he showed me how to check and adjust both front and rear before resetting the rebound to something that wouldn’t make me feel like I was on a bucking bronco.
This was a revelation! Having got in to mountain biking through cross-country race friends, I’ve spent most of my biking life ‘soaking up the jumps’. A couple of small adjustments and suddenly I felt totally different on the bike. My second run down Willy Waver felt more natural, smoother, higher and faster… but turns out a little too fast.
Ah, that’ll be a rear brake failure then. Luckily I ride Shimano, who were also supporting the event, so I headed over to see Nick who was running ‘trail side mechanics’ workshops throughout the weekend. As I listened to Nick, I noticed again that there was no hint of sarcasm or condescension and the unspoken understanding that not all mountain bikers know how to change a flat, regardless of their sex. It was great to see some riders coming back to show off their trailside ‘first aid’ that they’d already had a chance to put in to practice! Nick was a legend, and as soon as he was free he not only bled my rear brake, but ended up giving me a whole new one to get me back out riding for the afternoon.
The call then came out for the group ride led by Manon Carpenter, Veronique Sandler and Emily Horridge. There must have been over 30 women of all ages and abilities gathered to ride with the pros and it was such a good atmosphere. As we waited for all the uplift vans to drop everyone off, conversation ranged from coverage of women’s cycling in the media, best places to ride, great races to enter and who was going to win the 2018 World Cup.
Now, although I could wax lyrical on those topics all day, there was riding to be done! Anyone who has ridden in a big group will know that it can be very stop start, but we still managed to enjoy some flow on the trails and banter in between and, unsurprisingly, the odd Strava PR.
As the riding came to a close, we headed in to the yurt with a cuppa for the Q&A session. Our three guides were joined by Katy Curd (who had been running coaching sessions all weekend and who I heartily recommend you book a session with) and Monet-Rose Adams, a Scott MTB Ambassador and all-round digital production extraordinaire.
Lots of topics were covered including best place to ride, training tips, what to do to improve your skills, what they all like most about racing and how to get more girls in to mountain biking. I don’t think we could have fit more in if we’d tried! With sighs of satisfaction, riders took advantage of their last opportunity for a selfie before heading home, legs weary and hearts happy.
I know that a highlight for a lot of the women this weekend would have been the coaching with Katy, riding with the their heroes Manon or Veronique or simply meeting and riding with other like minded women. These are all definitely some of the best things about a weekend dedicated to women’s cycling at one of the top places to ride in the UK.
Although there are some women’s only events (not this one, I hasten to add) who think this is all we care about, I’m not going to tell you that the cake was delicious, the toilets clean and ‘women’s only’ uplift decidedly fresh smelling. I’m a mountain biker. I’m used to changing in forest carparks, peeing in the bushes, eating out-of-date, squished, Clif bars and driving home with not so fresh buddies.
What I do care about is riding excellent trails, with friends that encourage and push me. And I really care about more women and girls getting in to mountain biking. Events such as this can only help this. Keep up the good work, BPW!
Check out the video from the weekend here:
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