Fort Collins’ female riders reflect on equality of the sexes in mountain biking.
TODAY WOMEN ARE STILL fighting for fair and equal treatment in fields from business to politics to sports—and this being summer in Colorado, there’s one sport that’s on many a mind as trails fill with riders. So, we wondered whether mountain biking still feels like a boys’ club around here. A few noteworthy tidbits on the big picture:
Ratio: More men than women ride bikes in the United States. The stats vary—a 2015 study commissioned by People For Bikes says men outnumber women cyclists by about 30 percent—and that includes all types of cycling, but the bottom line is the same: You’re more likely to share the road, path or trail with a guy on two wheels than a woman.
Representation: The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)—the world governing body for the sport of cycling—has a Mountain Bike Commission with six members. Only one is female (who happens to be Fort Collins’ own decorated World Championship rider and Olympic bronze medalist Georgia Gould). On the plus side, a recent overhaul of the UCI Athletes’ Commission includes an equal distribution of men and women.
Pay: Until recently, women cyclists often earned a fraction of the prize money that men did for winning the same race. Same podium, same gold medal, one less zero in the purse. Even though the UCI has committed since 2013 to equal pay across all disciplines at races it fully controls, other events still divvy out award money based on team fees and sponsors—and women’s events still bring in fewer of those.
Media: The bike industry is sometimes guilty (as are many other industries) of sexist marketing gaffes like scantily clad podium girls and women posing provocatively on bikes. Offending entities have recently been shamed by consumers, athletes and fans.
The upshot? It seems there’s plenty to be indignant about if you’re a woman biker. To find out how the local female mountain biking community feels about equality of the sexes on two wheels, we called up a few of the city’s biggest women’s cycling advocates. Ultimately, while no one claims the industry is perfect, the vibe here—at least among these mountain bikers—is forward-looking and focused on progress. Here, a few thoughts from Fort Collins’ most badass ladies on two wheels.
Title: Professional mountain biker
Bikecred: Former Luna Pro Team rider; Team USA rider in seven world championships and two continental championships; two-time Olympian (2008, bronze medalist 2012); multiple national championship titles.
Advocacy: As the only woman on the UCI Mountain Bike Commission, one of the first issues she brought up and fought for was equal prize money for men and women. She’s one of two mountain bike representatives on the UCI Athletes Commission.
Badassery: When she first started racing, it was expensive. Gould and her husband bought a 15-person van, removed the seats, tossed their camping stuff in the back and traveled around to races on the weekends while they were still working.
On mountain versus road: “One of the reasons mountain biking is more equal than road biking is that it’s a younger sport; from the beginning, women were always doing it.”
On her “aha” moment: “In 2007, I won a cyclocross race, and talking to the guy winner at the podium, he told me it was ‘a nice pay day.’ I was like, ‘what? I got $250. He got $2,500. Are you serious?’ I started a petition and sent it to every cycling commission. It didn’t get a response, but it generated increased scrutiny. Today, a lot of U.S. promoters do [equal pay] because it’s right.”
On changing the UCI prize money standard for women:“It’s easy to be like, ‘this is bullshit!’ Then when you start looking at what to do about the bullshit. . . Sometimes, just getting in there, rolling up your sleeves, and getting the ball rolling takes time.”
On sexist cycling advertisements: “The best way to fight it is not to buy that stuff. I don’t have time to worry about how some company is selling their kneepads. I try to just do me and be on the opposite end of that. To go out and kick ass on a bike, I don’t have to be wearing make up, and if somebody’s daughter sees that, it gives them options. Instead of getting mad, get on a board where you’re changing the rules.”
Jamie Gaskill Fox
Title: City of Fort Collins Bike Programs Specialist
Bike cred: 12-year member of local women’s mountain biking club Babes on Bikes (BOB); former member of the CSU mountain biking team; has competed and traveled all over Colorado.
Advocacy: Launched the Bicycle Friendly Driver Program in 2015 (and has since taken it national) and trains 100+ bicycle ambassadors in northern Colorado about cycling and cycling safety to help women overcome one of the biggest barriers they face in riding regularly: feeling confident and safe.
Badassery: Once hiked the Colorado trail from Denver to Durango. Someday, she wants to through-bike it.
On women’s bikes:“Maybe it’s a supply and demand thing. But the product availability isn’t there. Women are riding men’s bikes. And our geometries are different. That’s a frustration for me.”
On racing:“When you look at the race scene, it is sad that women’s divisions aren’t put into the mix by default—at times it is almost as though they’re an afterthought. When women don‘t see other women racing, it perpetuates a system where women are less likely to become competitive cyclists to begin with.”
On hitting the local trails: “I feel like there’s a heck of a lot of respect just because you’re out there. It’s leveled out more and everyone’s cool with the fact that you’re there. Team BOB is a pretty kickass group of women; joining is the most phenomenal thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.”
Title: Inside sales manager, Niner Bikes
Bike cred: Five-year competitive downhill mountain biker; three-time national champion at the expert (just below pro) level; Team BOB member
Advocacy: Teaches mountain bike clinics to continue growing the sport and making it accessible
Badassery: One of Travis’ first rides was with two guys on a climb so steep, “I felt like I was going to throw up at the top. But I thought, if they can do it, I can do it.” She even named her nine-year-old son Rider. Yes, he mountain bikes, too.
On women’s bike apparel: “It used to be rough—we used to call it ‘shrink it and pink it’—but we’ve come a long way. Companies are coming out of the woodwork, like Shredly, which makes amazing shorts for women. We can focus on the negative, but any forward momentum is a win.”
On beating the boys: “Out on the trail, there’s always someone who’s like, ‘I’m just gonna go in front of you because I don’t want to get stuck behind you.’ And then you end up getting on their tail.”
On the local women’s mountain biking community: “The amount of women who ride here is really incredible. The friendships are incredible. It’s another way for women to empower each other. Companies are picking up on that and guys are picking up on that because we’re out there in force now.”