Mountain bike baby

Shredding for Two: My Pregnant Mountain Bike Journey

One of my first thoughts I had upon finding out I was pregnant was “is my mountain biking life now over?” Welcome to my journey through pregnancy while riding. I hope my pregnancy story will help all you preggo ladies as much as other first-hand accounts helped me.

2014 had been a great summer of riding and I had big plans for the fall including a downhill endurance race and a 100 mile XC race – perhaps not the safest activities for a pregnant woman. Things quickly came into question about where the line needs to be drawn. I knew of women who biked throughout pregnancy, but I hadn’t paid much attention to what their rides were like. Do I need to restrict my riding to pavement?  What about the risk of being hit by a car?  Can a ride be too long or too intense without me realizing it?  It’s a good thing pregnancy takes 40 weeks because you have time to learn to accept the huge lifestyle changes that are too overwhelming in the beginning.

I was surprised to discover I was pregnant a few days before a couple of races for which I had already registered and trained.  This put me in the awkward situation of having to lie to friends and riding buddies about why I was skipping two well-anticipated events.  In the first trimester, the chances of miscarriage are much higher (especially at my age, 37), so discretion is usually advised. The baby is so tiny that riding or crashing wouldn’t hurt it, but I was warned that if I hurt myself that x-rays and surgery would be bad for the baby. I was also warned that I would be exhausted and endurance riding would not be an option. Ha! That wouldn’t happen to me. I was too fit! I was too active!  I was unstoppable! But then reality hit…I was exhausted. For example, in one three-day weekend I rode two short rides followed by volunteering at an aid station at the very same 100-mile race I was supposed to be riding. This exhausted me to the point of being unable to leave the couch for the entire following day.  And to think that just few weeks prior I was downhilling at Whistler and doing 5-7 hour mountain bike rides on a regular basis.  Consider me humbled.

Mountain Bike Pregnancy

Riding pregnant definitely took some adjustments. In the first trimester I quickly had to take it down several notches. If I wanted to do a bigger ride on a Sunday, I dialed back my activities the day before.  At that time, tidying up the house for an hour would knock me out, so I definitely couldn’t ride two days in a row. Apparently, it’s hard work making another person and the accompanying infrastructure.  I had all-day nausea for about a month in the first trimester, but being on the bike made me feel good as long as I ate tons of snacks. I was also drinking more since pregnancy requires more fluids.  Aside from enjoying it, my riding was a reprieve from feeling not so great otherwise and it was keeping me somewhat active.

Learning to check my ego, however, was a process. To protect this tiny human life, I had to be OK with just skipping that drop or feature, and I had to learn to apply the brakes on those downhills even though my skillset still wanted to just let it fly.  I also walked the bike down sections of trail that were slippery or had any crash potential.  It was really tough avoiding features that were everyday hits or at one time were “no big deal” just because of the fear of crashing. I became afraid that I would get so used to going slow and skipping techy features that I would never get my mojo back.  I tried to stay positive and assumed that once the baby is born I would bounce back mentally.

Let’s talk about judgment. Most people who don’t mountain bike (or exercise in general) told me I shouldn’t ride at all.  Some mountain bikers were very supportive, but others told me I shouldn’t ride. I am a good rider and a responsible person. I also had an Obstetrician who was a mountain biker and was aware of what I was doing. She was supportive of my riding since remaining active while pregnant yields many benefits. She cautioned me to go easy and not crash, and since she knew my skill level and had ridden with me her expertise and my own self-awareness trumped all other opinions. If you are considering getting pregnant or already are, you should consider asking your OB his or her opinions about exercise, particularly mountain biking, while pregnant. You should understand their position and whether they will support your decision to ride.

Bike Maternity Bibs

Logistically, I had to adapt to pregnant riding once my belly popped out.  Around week 19 I was miserable bending over on the bike with my shorts cutting into my waist. Bike clothiers don’t make a maternity line but someone gave me the idea to wear a pair of my husband’s bibs. Wow, what a difference!  Around week 30 I had a stem-extender installed on my bike. This put me in more of an upright position, which was much more comfortable.

Moutanin Bike Pregnant

Aside from clothing logistics, I rode with a partner and went much slower. My lungs felt squished, so climbing was harder and I also had to take a lot of bathroom breaks. Around week 30 I quit riding trails and stuck to pavement or gravel. I even rode the day before I went into labor!

Riding while pregnant was an adventure that helped keep me fit and happy. I got back to riding about nine days postpartum and I can’t wait to introduce our baby boy to the joys of riding in the mountains!


This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Scottie

    Great article! I hope there’s a Part 2 which details how you ramped your riding back up after giving birth!

  2. Becca

    Thanks for this! I had just gotten back into mountain biking and fallen in love with it for a little over a month before I found out I was pregnant. I couldn’t get enough single track in my life at that point and one of my first thoughts after the excitement and terror of finding out I’m going to be a mommy is oh man, I’m not gonna be able to ride trails anymore! I had a mountain bike race planned for the summer but I’ll have a 2 month old at that point and probably won’t be in the best shape to ride it haha. Anyways I’m 6.5 weeks pregnant now and have been really bummed about not being able to ride, this article gave me hope and inspiration to keep riding (once I’m over the morning sickness of course) and I can’t wait to get back out on the bike and cautiously hit the trails again!

  3. Chad Davis

    Congratulations Becca! Kelly is an extreme mother for sure. We didn’t imagine her slowing down during and after pregnancy and she has not at all. Hopefully we will have a follow up from her soon! Its been interesting to hear how she’s balanced things out with a baby and still gets her ride time in.

  4. Jess

    Thank you for the info! It’s about time I found some helpful info from somebody in similar shoes instead of listening to those who don’t understand the sport.I’ve just been pavement riding in my first trimester and now I’m 15 weeks and about to go mountain biking that involves some downhill parts and some really bumpy parts. In planning on walking the high fall risk areas but don’t really want to have to walk aaalll the bumpy areas but read the placenta can separate. I also read if you l let your heart rate get too high that can be dangerous too…. But what if you are used to your heart rate getting high and your body use to high intensity, wouldn’t that be ok?? . This is my first pregnancy and I also rock climb, have started prenatal yoga and soon will be doing water sports when I get to heavy ;)

  5. velomom

    Love to see other mamas sharing their stories of biking while pregnant and with kiddos…great article!

  6. Kelly

    Jess you should definitely discuss your heartrate and other questions with your doctor. Mine was supportive and didn’t advise keeping my heartrate down. You may want to find a doctor that is athletic and supportive of fitness during pregnancy. I wish you all the best in your pregnancy!!

  7. Dawn

    Love the article! I had come across this before in pre-pregnancy research and it sparked my memory again now that I’m 15 weeks pregnant. I was definitely skeptical of my ability at the beginning between week 5-9 since I constantly felt nauseous and was very low energy. I felt like I couldn’t do much of anything without being out of breath. At week 13-15 now the energy levels have come back up and I even rode 3 times last week which was a huge success. Agree with calling it on parts of the trail where it’s not an issue of skill, it’s the thought of should I risk it. Also my doctor recommended to not max out my heart rate which was normal for me to do a bunch of times during a typical ride (lots of steep punchy climbs). So now I just watch my heart rate closely and take it back a notch or take a break when I need to. Have to keep myself in check since after all I want to continue to be healthy and keep on riding mountain as long as I can. Then switch to riding road later in the pregnancy if or when need be! The other comments were also great to read, yay ladies!

  8. Erica

    Hey, I know you wrote this a long time ago. But maybe by some chance you’ll see this. I’m about 14 weeks pregnant now, and haven’t stopped riding. It looks like you were riding mostly in cooler weather, but I wanted to ask you if you ever had any concerns about overheating. Obviously, it’s summertime now, and I never feel like I’m too hot in a ride but just wondering what your thoughts were. All the women I know who mountain bike, did not bike while pregnant. Was also wondering about climbing. Were you ever concerned about getting too out of breath? I already seem to get out of breath much easier. Did you take breaks uphill to avoid getting too out of breath? Or were you even worried about that? Would love to hear your thoughts.


    1. Kelly

      Hi Erica,

      Congrats!! I found out I was pregnant in August so there was hot weather at first but then it cooled down and I was mostly bundled up and riding in winter. I was always out of breath! I took lots of breaks and just followed my obstetrician’s advice. She didn’t think that my heart rate going up would be a problem for baby because I would logically chill out when taxed and allow myself to recover before pushing forward (or I was just riding very slow and steady to avoid feeling miserable anyway!). I suggest discussing it with your doctor to be sure. You definitely want to protect yourself and your baby from any accidents. Stay safe and enjoy that growing belly!


  9. Sarah

    Love this!!!!!!! I am 24 weeks pregnant and still riding :) It is so hard to put the ego aside and walk your bike down something you would normally rip down. However I am creating a life and at least I am still out there doing it!!! I am proud to say I rode 70+ miles in New Mexico at 22 weeks. It wasn’t easy since I was used to 800 ft of elevation!!!! My baby boy is healthy and still kicking :p thank you so much for your inspiration!!! Many people think I am crazy for still riding. I say riding keeps me sane and healthy for my baby!!!

  10. Erin

    Thanks for your article. I was wondering if you ended up doing any races while pregnant and just took it easy or whether you stopped racing altogether. I am of the researched opinion that as long as you play it conservative and keep your heart rate mostly in the aerobic zone there should be no risk to the baby (unless you crash really hard I suppose). I am contemplating doing a 100 mile not-so-technical ride at about 16 weeks. It seems that not so many people talk about what they have done during pregnancy because there are so many people who judge you for it. Anyway, I was just curious. I have made it through 1st tri and done many MTB rides, a trail marathon and a trail 50 so am obviously in the “crazy” category :)

  11. Tori

    Thank you so much for writing this! I have read your story a few times through out my pregnancy and I love it every time! Such an awesome reminder to really listen to your body and not to the random person on the trail or the websites that know nothing about mountain biking. I am 31 weeks today and still riding my back yard trail 3 to 4 times a week. I take a lot of breaks on the climb and make sure to get my heartrate down after little punchy sections. On the downhill I ride trails I know super well, take it really easy and stick to the road if the trails are slick (I live in the PNW and those wet roots can add an element of surprise I’m not willing to factor in while prego). Biking still feels absolutely amazing for me, physically and mentally, so I will continue to get my prego shred on til’ my body tells me otherwise!!

  12. Katrina D.

    Thank you for this! Just found out I’m preggo and that was after a race yesterday (14.9 miles).. My heart rate was 195 and it’s never ever been that high lol. After taking the test and realizing I’m pregnant I now understand why! My mtn biking man and I are thrilled, and I am very excited to still be able to ride. Thank you very much for this article! I too will be sad to forgo drops and jumps etc now but I guess that can wait till after all safe :) I’m very active as well and always have been, so that literally isn’t possible to take too much of a back seat. Anyhow lady, I hope your little chap or girl is hitting the trails too now! I’m going to groom mine for jumps and lots of racing hehe. Oh and I won my race yesterday! Wahooo!

  13. Hannah

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have been looking for stories of women continuing an active lifestyle during pregnancy. Your story is very inspiring!


    Thank you for writing this. I was horrible afraid I was going to have to pause what keeps me happy in life for a whole year.

  15. Dalton Bourne

    Thank you so much for writing this! I have read all your story about a few times pregnancy and I love them!

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