Bicycle Newfoundland and Labrador has seen a clear disparity between the numbers of men versus women cycling in the province. New efforts to address the situation are being made by encouraging more women to participate in mountain biking.
Bicycle Newfoundland and Labrador is the provincial body responsible for recreational and competitive cycling.
Christine Elliot, executive member and women’s cycling representative for Bicycle Newfoundland and Labrador explained that in the past, women were often pushed toward road cycling, and many would report back feeling unsafe around the cars or unsure of where to go.
Elliot, along with Kailey Pauls and Juliah Wight began a youth mountain biking group, where they live in Corner Brook, for girls aged five and up to get them engaged with the sport at an early age.
Many of the girls’ mothers expressed an interest in having a chance to hit the trails as well and, recognizing a lack of groups available for older women, the three started an additional group.
“They’re certainly enjoying mountain biking … you can hear them laughing and having a really good time,” says Elliott about the response to the women’s mountain biking group.
Efforts to grow women’s mountain biking across the province have been slow moving, and Bicycle Newfoundland and Labrador has often been faced with a lack of interest in taking on women’s cycling initiatives in different regions.
Despite this, representatives in Grand Falls-Windsor, Gander and St. John’s are working hard to introduce more women to mountain biking as an alternative to road cycling.
“It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with it,” says Caroline Swan of the Central Newfoundland Biking Association who started mountain biking in 2007, shortly after she moved to Newfoundland.
“I really liked mountain biking in Newfoundland because the trails are so rugged,” says Swan who fell in love with visiting different places on her bike.
Swan is an active participant in the effort to grow women’s mountain biking in the province. She recognizes that one of the key elements of growing the sport is helping cyclists to build confidence on different terrain.
Swan will be teaching mountain biking classes in St. John’s on Saturday, July 7 to try and get more women in the city mountain biking. With her classes, she aims to start on wide, open trails before moving the groups to narrower trails with more difficult terrain.
Swan hopes that women who come to the classes, with the help of Bicycle Newfoundland and Labrador will form regular mountain biking groups.
“Newfoundland is the perfect place for mountain biking because our landscape is so wonderful and rugged,” says Swan.
“It’s the best adrenaline rush you’ll ever experience,” says Swan who describes herself as timid but has found freedom through her bicycle.
Swan’s classes will be taking place at Pippy Park for those aged 10 and up at 9 a.m. and those aged 19 and up at 2 p.m. Participants will need their own bicycle and helmet.