Women's Wednesday - Why Don’t More Colorado Women Race?

Author: Cheri Felix
(Photo Credit: 303Photo)

Today is going to be one of those days where I posit the question that we may not be able to answer. Why don’t more women race?

I’ve always wondered about this but racing the Big Mountain Enduro really brought it home. Why aren’t there just as many girls racing (period) and why aren’t there just as many girls racing enduro. Why is it that we have women physicists, women senators and women urologists but we can’t match the boys out at short track? Now don’t tell me it’s because girls aren’t as strong or as aggressive. Let’s see…it’s not because we can’t drive ourselves to the venue nor is it because we don’t have a bike. So what is it?

I really don’t know. I mean I can’t figure it out. They gave us the vote (after we demanded it) so we vote. We can drive unlike women in Saudi Arabia. I mean can it be that women just aren’t cut out for it. That we are intimidated? That we aren’t aggressive? That we don’t care about all that silly stuff like winning and losing. That we don’t want to break a sweat. Or is that we don’t do a good enough job bringing women up in racing? Or that what? That we just don’t care?

Now I know some women who don’t want to race. I get it. It’s not for everyone. It’s not for every guy either. I totally get it. I really do. But what if more of us try it. What if a few more of us try a short track race? What if I told you that you won’t die. That it might hurt a bit but that you won’t die. That yes it’s hard but not nearly as hard as burying a parent. Not nearly as hard as having a miscarriage. What if I told you that you’ll probably never win. Never come close to it but that that’s okay. That there can only be one winner.

And what if I told you that Enduro racing is no joke but that some of you should still try it. That even if you can’t ride part of it you can run it. That the whole point is not winning or losing (because there is only one winner) but in the trying. In the risk taking. In the representing all of us women and girls. Especially the girls who are craving good role models. Role models that aren’t judged by what they are wearing or their BMI or how sexy they are.

Racing is a habit. Just like flossing. Just like a training ride. Just like your yearly pap. Try a short track. It’s 20 minutes. Boulder’s is on Wednesday. Fort Collins has one on Tuesdays. I want you to feel what it’s like to do something you never thought you’d do. You never thought you wanted to do. Test your mettle. Show everyone that women deserve to be marketed to. Deserve to be sought after. Race promoters are waiting for you. What are you waiting for?


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LOVE this

I hear you. I have three kids. And you're right about not wanting to get hurt when you have young ones to care for. Ironically the only time I've ever hurt myself (destroyed ACL) I was riding a non technical part of a trail in Fruita. I was tired going into the trip (lesson learned) and made a rookie/novice/silly mistake and had surgery 7 months later (after the season was done). Moral: Many of us get hurt doing the mundane and not the risky.
And yes, I LOVE seeing the young girls out there for sure! Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

Maybe we should look to other

Maybe we should look to other sports and see what encourages women to participate in those? Running and triathlons have HUGE numbers of women that participate in them - why is cycling different? In my experience there is much more of a participatory vibe at the back of the pack of triathlons and running races. Cycling, at least in Colorado, flat out doesn't have that. I know many people who one day just decided to train for a 5k or a sprint tri or whatever, with no background in those sports, and later that year completed their first race and felt great about it. And that kind of participation was encouraged. It is VERY hard to casually race bikes in Colorado where even the back of the pack of the 4s races can be pretty darn fast. I would think this would be similar for men too, but for some reason it seems like the guys are a little more likely to just go out and give it a shot. Cycling has an unfortunate and very very competitive vibe here, even at the back of the pack. I’ve seen videos of the Cross Crusade races up in Portland and I have to wonder if more of that kind of vibe would help get more beginners, both men and women, involved in the sport.

I’m not a big fan of women’s only races that are all about tutus and sparkles but I think great (and not so ultra pink!) events like the Beti Bike Bash are a step in the right direction. There are a very large number of women in that race that are TRUE beginners. Short track can also be a great gateway drug. The truth is that the cycling scene here – with all of it’s big climbs and super fast cat 4 racers - can be really intimidating for a lot of women …

You are heading in the right direction I believe but...

You're right to look to other similar sports to see how they do it and you are VERY right that, as you say "VERY hard to casually race bikes in Colorado where even the back of the pack of the 4s races can be pretty darn fast. " But this is also a problem in men's field as well. Maybe as you say, we are more willing to give it a shot but I also believe this is a big reason for high turnovers in our fields or having more cat 4 or getting out of the sport once you cat up.

One of Colorado's greatest asset in our culture, our seriousness is also a big black eye for us as well. How can we find a balance between competitive and keeping the doors open for casual racing?

We already have HUGE

We already have HUGE participation in casual racing. Lots of folks treat charity rides/gran fondos/etc as "races", riding them hard enough to feel truly challenged without worrying about where they fit within the overall finish order. Same phenomenon applies to running and triathlons. Vast majority of "competitors" are only competing against themselves, and quite happy if they better their previous times. Getting those folks, especially the women, to do sanctioned road races is going to be a tall order. It's not just the vibe (though that's a large part of it), if you're not strong enough to at least finish with the pack or maybe influence the race on behalf of your team, riding a road race OTB isn't much fun.


Women racing has always been around 15% of the total racers. Hasn't changed over the 25 years I've been racing. Same road, mountain, cross. Some years there is a little spike but then it normalizes back to 15%.

I love mountain biking. I

I love mountain biking. I ride 4-5 times a week and even on a bad day still love it. What makes me not race? First it's expensive! I'm not going to go out and win any races, so usually when it comes down to spending $100 for a course I can ride for free or going out to a good dinner after a ride with friends, I choose the later. When I have thought of possibly racing I have decided not to due to the lack of women's racing mentors. I have questions...like what do I do in a race on single track when someone wants to pass me? I have thought of enduro racing, but I can't really grasp the concept of how the races actually work, and can't find the women out there to answer these questions. If I could find a women's clinic that focused on the how to's of mountain bike racing I would be more likely to race. I don't care if I win, however I don't want to feel like a fool!

Why do your questions need to be answered by women?

The singletrack doesn't care whether you're a boy or a girl, do you think mountain bike racing is different whether you're a man or a woman? Why limit your experience of racing because you don't get the answers from women? Would it be less accurate if the answers came from a guy? I don't understand why (some) women need to get their women-only clinics, their women-only events and so on, but then again I'm a guy. There are beginners in the guys' fields too, they get dropped, they make the wrong moves, they make fools of themselves, and they come back and get better, or they realize this is just not their thing and decide to remain recreational, there's nothing wrong with that. Just go out there and race, you'll figure things out on your own through experience. I think many women are risk-averse and imagine that racing is risky (not necessarily physical danger, but "finishing last" (well, someone has to), screwing up in a road event and all the other stuff explained above). You may feel like a fool at the end of your race, but guess what: you'll be the only one who cares. Go for it. Racing is a great component of the cycling experience. No one says you have to do it for 20 years.

+ 1000 to the previous poster

my guess at this question is:

1) risk aversion

2) aggression

women are typically more risk averse and less aggressive. so what's fun for men may not be fun for women.

still, it's odd that you'll go for a mtb ride and see TONS of women, but only 5 or so at the short track races.

I think the whole 'women only' events, clinics, rides etc just serves to isolate women from a male dominated sport.

i've been on road rides with female racers that totally kicked my ass. There are some fast women out there.

I understand the frustration of not wanting slower, beginner women in the men's race, but honestly, I'd say they should just have co-ed races and allow the faster women to have at it. I'm sure they'd have more fun racing with a bigger field.

but yea, to reiterate the previous poster, who cares if you're a noob. get out there and try it. immerse yourself in it. if you dont like it, then now you know.

Tons of women

James, thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree that it is odd to see so many women out on trails and not at ST or enduros (although admittedly those can be intimidating to both men and women), I don't get it. And although I know racing isn't for everyone (for various reasons) for those that are curious, I wish they'd take the risk. I don't agree about the women only events. In my experience (which is totally supported by numbers of women racing), women only clinics get some women in the door that might not have tried it otherwise. And I know for a fact that the Beti AllRide Clinic that occurred in June in WP birthed some women who then did the Enduro in Crested Butte. So I'd say that the women's only concept works. But the next step is of course doing the ST or the CX race or the enduro. One thing I loved about the enduro is that everyone races the same course. Same rocks, same logs, same loose dirt. And it's not genitals that separates the men and the women. It all comes down to time. And we all race against the same clock. Thanks for playing!