A chat during a What Mountain Bike pasta outing turned to the issue of why so many women seem afraid of physical challenges – whether that be taking on a technical piece of singletrack, climbing up a rock face or white-water rafting – even when they are perfectly capable of tackling them.
We all had stories of wives, sisters and girlfriends who shied away from the ‘difficult’ stuff, but when eventually persuaded to give it a go, found they loved the challenge and were proud of their achievements. I count myself among such women; I think, in the past, I was so worried about being a failure that it was simply easier never to venture out of my comfort zone.
That’s a shame, because discovering what you’re truly capable of is incredibly satisfying. For me, taking up running eight years ago after 10 years of being a couch potato made me realise that testing and extending my own physical limits was a liberating experience.
Now, I have a daughter of my own, and I hope that she grows up to be the type of woman who’s not afraid to ‘give it a go’. Obviously, I’ll try to set a good example – but girls don’t always want to follow in mum’s footsteps.
Luckily, though, there are plenty of role models I can point to who should inspire her – particularly in the mountain biking world. Today, people like the downhillers Rachel Atherton and Tracy Moseley, XC superstar Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesja and 4X champ Jill Kintner are encouraging the next generation to get out on their bikes, have fun and aim high. The profile of female mountain bikers is becoming greater than ever – here’s hoping it gets even bigger. Who knows, one day there may be a Miss Spedding among their ranks…