Friends come together in strange ways sometimes. A group of women, racing enduro and meeting out of the blue, might seem to be one of those strange ways. But if you talk to them, it’s perfectly normal.

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Liz, Elena, Tricia, and Leigh are at the core of a group of women who met in the summer of 2013 competing in the Big Mountain Enduro races. All are amateur racers, and all hold “real” jobs. All of them like to ride bikes as much as any guy out there. In the male-dominated world of mountain biking, a group of women who camp together, ride bikes together, and party together might seem a little unusual. It really shouldn’t be that way though.

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For too long, women just came along with their husbands and boyfriends to races, on camping trips, and not usually on rides. The bike industry certainly didn’t help this trend. Marketed heavily towards young men, the X-Games appeal of mountain biking for too many years was “Go big, or go home!” and all about hucking and crashing huge. This definitely fits with nineteen-year-old dudes, but few other people. However, the bike industry has learned that there are quite a few people who want to enjoy being outside, and will purchase bikes and other equipment.

"Coffee, Bikes, Beer, Repeat!"
“Coffee, Bikes, Beer, Repeat!”

Tricia tells me, “The girls bring inspiration and a lightness to mountain biking. If one of us has a hard time with something, say an obstacle of some sort or a section we have fallen at before and are just a little nervous about, we all stop and help the other gal get through it! We in fact become stronger, better riders because of our girl posse. And who doesn’t love to giggle and listen to music and talk about new fashion and bike geekery?”

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While it has become more common to see women riding, it’s still a bit different to see a large group of women riding, camping, and planning trips together — and doing it on a regular basis! It’s actually quite refreshing. Leigh adds this about the social aspect. “With a group of hard-riding ladies, there is an added dimension to it. Suddenly, rather than just being out for a ride, we’re connecting on a social level, and supporting each other in a way that you just don’t see when you ride with dudes. The ladies that I ride with are much more supportive of each other and advancing our riding and pushing ourselves to the next level.”

"The girls bring inspiration and a lightness to mountain biking"
“The girls bring inspiration and a lightness to mountain biking”

A few of the gals knew each other in their adopted hometown of Breckenridge, CO, and met Tricia at the first race. Being outgoing and friendly, and eager to meet other women who ride (but not knowing many), all three enjoyed becoming friends and having a good time. Each knew someone, who knew someone, and before you knew it, a group had developed. Enduro racing, with its flexible schedule of climbing together, then dropping in on the race run with an undetermined order, promoted easygoing conversation among the gals, and they quickly discovered they enjoyed each other’s company. By the end of the race, they made plans to see each other at the Beti All Ride clinic in Keystone in a few weeks. Tricia says that’s where the camaraderie really began. “We all showed up with something we needed to work on, different fears, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.” Thus, the “Lady Shred” gang was born. They had fun, loved hanging out, and had a blast riding together. And what else is there?

Plans developed for a camping trip to Moab at the end of the summer. Anyone who lives in the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico is well aware of Moab, and has probably been riding and camping there. It’s also quite popular for “end of season” parties to happen in Moab. Everyone knows, or wants to know, Moab.

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And this group knows how to throw a party — the kind of party where stories are told years later! The kind of party where bikes are jumped over bonfires. The kind of party where riding doesn’t happen in the morning, because the party just stopped that morning. The kind of party where friendships are forged and solidified.

I was invited to the spring time social in Durango, Colorado by Tricia. Held around Memorial Day weekend, a national holiday in the USA it was bound to be fun,. Covering the enduro race scene as a freelance photographer last summer, I got to know many of the participants, especially the ones I saw multiple times at different races. But I knew them only in a superficial, “smile for me” sort of way. I was about to be inundated.

Dubbed “Camp Bacon,” the name itself tells me this trip is going to fun. Bacon has sort of taken on a social life of its own in America, with festivals and camping trips dedicated to it. The start of a lot of laughing, partying, and riding mountain bikes, bacon and coffee was where the indoctrination began.

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Handshakes, again and again. Many new faces, with so many new names, at such an early time. Wow! But everyone was so friendly, so open, so genuine. I really thought I was getting pranked. I couldn’t be this much at ease with a group of people I was literally just meeting. But it was true. And that’s how the weekend went, with the easygoing feeling of being with friends I had known for many years.

This group of women is equal opportunity. It’s not a “female-power” thing, it’s just a “we enjoy this kind of person” thing. And that type of person is bike- and outdoor-loving, polite, friendly, and likes to have a good time. Almost all of the women have husbands and boyfriends and bring them along on the camping trips.

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Camping has a way of relieving stress and gives you the time to talk to your new friends, thus creating a space for those new friendships to grow in a short amount of time. Happy hour starts when the ride ends, and time lapses into a dimension that we don’t really care about. Time is all about when you are hungry. “It’s time to eat!” And we know the best friendships are formed in the kitchen. When bacon is frying up in on the grill, and the aroma is blowing around camp, people get out of their tents and start reliving the night before. Coffee is consumed (by the gallon-ful) and bikes are prepped. The day’s riding will begin!

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On peaceful weekend rides and enduro racing, “The weekends are what lend themselves to long epic rides! Racing keeps pushing me to learn more about how to be a better rider; it’s not all about being fast, although that’s nice. I find racing to be more about looking at something I might not normally think I can ride, and finding out I certainly can not only ride it, but race it.”

In the end, people are people, and mountain bikers are just that. Riding your bike in the woods, or on mountain tops, might not change the world, but it will certainly change your life.

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“Biking does not fit into my life, biking is my life. That sounds like an exaggeration, but biking is such a huge part of my life and who I am, that it really is part of my identity at this point.”

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Words & Photos: Daniel Dunn

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