May 15, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

Riding with the Goddess 

Women are mountain biking’s fastest growing demographic


There has never been a better time to be a woman on two wheels.

And if you haven't made the transition from the homosapien way of putting one foot in front of the other, haven't evolved into that never-ending chain with no end and no beginning, then roll with the gods, or in this case goddesses.

There are plenty to worship in Whistler's Garden of Eden of mountain biking. The dual nature of Adam and Eve balances delicately between the forces. Cross-country panters weigh down one side of the scale while the dark force of downhill bruisers balance the delicate equilibrium.

Good and evil do not exist. The only snakes weaving in and out of this world are the snakes and ladders of single track, planks, bridges and jumps.

Luck be your lady for this roll at the dice.

Goddesses smile favourably on Whistler's hundreds of kilometres of single track and a mountain bike park that attracts hundreds of thousands of gravity worshippers over a summer season.

There are no stats on the number of women infiltrating Whistler's mountain bike world, but just look at the male-female ratio at any après session on a Toonie Ride with the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association or count the number of ponytails lined up for the first ride of the season at the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, and the population of helmet-clad girls becomes clearer.

Whistler's mountain biking Mecca blooms with opportunity for women. Amongst this garden, this tree of life branches out with female-only mountain bike camps, professional female athletes who inspire, and careers that forgo stereotypes.

Meet a few of Whistler's two-wheeling goddesses.

The Goddesses of Inspiration

Sylvie Allen duct tapes cardboard to her scab-crusted shins before mounting her mighty steed, which wields a cushy two-inch suspension up front on her hardtail bike - advanced technology for downhill riding in 1992.

There is no Whistler Mountain Bike Park at this point. A little wheeling and dealing with a liftee brought her and the boys up Blackcomb Mountain to clatter their way down Seventh Heaven ski runs now free of snow.

"We rode cross-country bikes and rattled our way down," Allen said. "This is where I got addicted to speed and downhilling. We thought it was the best thing ever because it was the only thing we had to ride."

Learning how to ride was as ghetto as her spandex-clad body and her handlebars that were as straight and flat as a Prairie horizon.

"I learned by trial and error and hustling to keep up with the guys that were faster than me," she said. "You'd learn by getting tips from your guy friends: just do this, go faster, ride over there, just do it. I was stubborn and I'd try things over and over again. There were no camps or lessons. I only met other girls when I started to race. I had no idea how other women rode their bikes."

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