Girls Rock: Santa Cruz Group Inspires Women Mountain Bikers

On its monthly group rides, Girls Rock defies mountain biking’s male-dominated culture, providing mentorship & opportunities to a community of women riders.

By Naomi Friedland 
Once a month, a group of 80 to 100 female-identifying mountain bikers from Santa Cruz and beyond gather at a host site—typically a bike shop, restaurant, or brewery—to begin group rides on local trails. As women trickle in and mingle, the crowd splits into smaller groups, loosely organized by skill level from new riders to advanced. 
Each group has two volunteer guides: one to lead the group in the front and the other to set up in the back of the pack to keep everyone together. Then the separate groups make their way to different nearby trailheads for a few hours of biking, learning, and socializing. Afterward, everyone reconvenes at the host site to network and chat over food and drink. 
The casual mountain biking group started in 2014 as a way for women riders to meet and ride with each other. “Mountain biking is a fairly male-dominated sport,” says board president Alexis Morgan. “Even though that is gradually changing, it is still the case that when women go to get their bike maintained at a shop, buy a bike, or are out on the trails, they are oftentimes in a male space that is not always comfortable. In addition, the most likely person to teach them how to mountain bike is a guy.” 
It’s a fact that many participants were taught how to mountain bike by men, typically their partners, yet report not receiving helpful instruction. “They go for a ride with us and it feels successful for the first time,” Morgan says. Girls Rock emphasizes learning and growth by providing tips for safer riding, and by stopping during trips to practice new skills. 
Morgan explains that typically men and advanced riders rush to get to their destination, deprioritizing the learning that is crucial for newer riders. Most Girls Rock participants are advanced beginners who have some experience but still have fears and trepidations that pull them back from trying new skills or features. Girls Rock provides an encouraging environment, giving new riders opportunities to break out of their comfort zones. 
Girls Rock recently helped get six of their volunteer guides credentialed as instructors for beginning mountain biking fundamentals through the Bike Instructor Certification Program. “Having six guides is huge,” Morgan says. “It more than doubles the number of coaches in this area that are women that I know of.” 
Some of Morgan’s future goals with Girls Rock include increasing the group’s diversity. “Mountain biking tends to be a very white sport, and mountain biking in Santa Cruz is not an exception,” she says. She is excited to work with other organizations that share similar values to bring in new faces. 
Girls Rock has a ride scheduled on Oct. 15, 2023, in collaboration with Gardenia Amor y Bienestar Para La Mujer, a women's empowerment and wellness group. The Community Bike Collective will also be at the event to provide bikes. 
“The first barrier to entry is having a bike,” Morgan says. “Then it is getting to the trailhead. By collaborating with Community Bike Collective that has new bikes from Specialized Bicycle Components, that can help reduce those barriers.” 
Before the October meet-up, Girls Rock is hosting a group ride on Sept. 9, 2023, at Epicenter Cycling in Santa Cruz. 
“I’ve lost track of how many times they’ve hosted us,” Morgan says. “They are a fantastic host.” There will be a food truck for the post-ride social and possibly some demo bikes from Trek. 
Follow this link to read a cool old Hilltromper article about Epicenter Cycling and its founders.
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