I fell in love with mountain biking in the late 90’s while attending West Virginia University. The lush forests and challenging terrain called to me. Last June, I had the opportunity to participate in a women’s mountain bike skills clinic taught by the legendary Sue Haywood. I had been mountain biking for over 15 years, but I had never participated in any type of formal skills clinic or even ridden with a group of women – let alone, 37 women that I had never met. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous and afraid! I was afraid that I wouldn’t be good at any of the skills we would work on. I was afraid I would slow the group down. In short, I was afraid that I “shouldn’t” be there. Yet, I was already signed up so I choked down my breakfast and went anyway.
To start the day, Sue gathered us together and told us that we were not to apologize that day. She said, “everyone messes up, everyone crashes, everyone rides at a different speed, please do not apologize”. This was a major moment for me – possibly life changing. I had spent years apologizing on the trail; “sorry I am slow”, “sorry I messed up that rock garden in front of you”, and “sorry I am holding you back”. After quite a bit of reflection, I realized that every time I said “sorry” I was thinking, “I don’t deserve to be here”. But here was professional mountain biker Sue Haywood reiterating that, “everyone deserves to be on the trail, without apology”. I learned so much that day, about mountain biking, about women, and mostly about myself. I also made a bunch of new friends who share my love of riding bikes in the woods.
Because of this experience I have made it my mission to get more ladies on bikes! So I encouraged my husband, the Recreation Land Manager at the Big Bear Lake Trail Center, to think about organizing women’s specific mountain bike skills clinics. We had our first clinic this past May, with certified professional instructors Sue Haywood and Meredith Erlewine, and it was a huge success. The May skills clinic filled up so fast that we decided to add more events over the summer.
You can schedule private lessons with Sue Haywood in Canaan Valley or make special arrangements for a lesson on your local trails. Find out more at https://susanhaywood.com/.