While I don’t work in the bike industry, I have spent a lot of time on both sides of a booth at expos and demos. I keep myself informed of new developments in the industry both in terms of products and the progress of gender equality in the sport. I read blogs and articles written by men and women describing their experiences both on trails and in shops. So with that beaming list of credentials, here is a humble observation from the perspective of a female behind a vendor’s tent at Outerbike.
Outerbike takes place annually during early autumn in Moab, UT. Several hundred mountain bike enthusiasts of all ages, from all over the continent, congregate in the beautiful desert of south eastern Utah to ride as many bikes as possible, as hard as possible, for three hot, dusty days. Along with the participants, several dozen vendors pitch their easy ups and pull product from Sprinter vans for eager consumers to put to the test. Hydration packs, protective pads, helmets, and of course, bikes! Clothing, nutrition, drink mixes, sunglasses, vibrating foam rollers, and the people pedaling them. So much to see and try out, and so many faces explaining the benefits of each item. As is the case in the world of bikes, most of the vendors are represented by males, well, dudes, to be more specific. I’m not writing about them. I’m writing about the women of Outerbike, of which I am one.
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I heard women speak with extensive knowledge about the construction of trails and partnerships with IMBA. They had clearly spent time with tools in hand, dripping sweat on the trails we ride. Stylish ladies explained the benefits of the technical fabrics that their clothing was made of. They knew their product well and clearly had fun representing it. And while enthusiastically helping fit riders on a fleet of Ibis demo bikes, I was able to share my pure love of the sport and the magical Ibis machine. It wasn’t until Sunday that I became aware of our female-ness in the vast sea of testosterone. I looked around and saw that the women at Outerbike are passionate about their trade and their sport. They are skilled experts, not token females.
There are plenty of examples of men immediately writing off a female mechanic or representative of a company. There are websites that seem dedicated to the portrayal of women’s role in the bike industry as little more than eye candy for male riders. There is still a lot out there that perpetuates this view of women, and there is a lot being done to change it. This change is coming from the women of Outerbike and others who are earning respect by merit and skill.
This weekend, thoughts one way or the other truly didn’t cross my mind. I showed up, did my job with skill and a joy that is hard not to share when uniting people with bikes. I witnessed hundreds of people having fun and enjoying what I know to be an awesome product. My X-chromosome didn’t seem to have anything to do with it. I have been called an optimist and an idealist, and these traits of mine are known to express themselves to a fault. But I hope that when an open mind meets a fun-loving smile any prejudices that we may have can dissolve and we can all just go ride bikes. Into the sunset. With rainbows and unicorns. And rocks made of marshmallows and creeks of whisky. Go Ride!
Rachel loves her life in Gunnison, CO! On the constant pursuit of balance between work and play, she fills her days with bikes, dogs, pastries, yoga, and pushing paper from one side of a desk to the other. On her computer screen at work, a sticky note reads, “what you get by achieving your goals is not as important as who you become in the process.” -Thoreau [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]