Dames In The Dirt
Women's mountain biking expands in Arkansas
By Addie Teo
Throughout the years, I have led many casual women’s mountain bike and road bike rides. Three years ago, I decided to organize my first women’s mountain bike weekend retreat. It started out as a personal goal to complete all of the Arkansas International Mountain Bicycling Association Epic trails. In 2013, four of my riding buddies joined me on my mission to complete all 37 miles of the Womble Trail in two days. This was an ambitious goal and we experienced fatigue from pedaling many miles that was lightened by much laughter and the sharing of personal stories. Since then, I have continued to have one or two women’s mountain bike weekend retreats each year. Each time, more and more women have joined me. To date, we have done the entire Womble Trail twice, the entire Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT) once, a combination of Womble and LOViT last year, and this year we added Iron Mountain and Cedar Glades trails to our accomplishments.
Fast forward to Feb. 27-28. Feb. 27 marked the 11th anniversary of Vanderkitten, a women’s apparel company that specializes in clothing for action sports like cycling, running and triathlons. I have been a Vanderkitten Ambassador for three years, and it was only fitting to have a women’s mountain bike weekend retreat on this date. My goal for this retreat was to invite all skill levels of riders to the trails at Iron Mountain in Arkadelphia and Cedar Glades in Hot Springs. This was the largest group I have ever organized. Twenty-one women participated and four states were represented. We had only two rules: Everyone must have fun and no one was allowed to apologize for being slow on her bike!
This wonderful weekend concluded with lots of hugs and goodbyes. It was a beautiful, empowering weekend with lots of fabulous women on bikes. The next women’s mountain bike weekend retreat will be scheduled for October, in conjunction with Women’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Please feel free to join us for our future women’s rides. They will be posted on the chainwheel.com Facebook page. Until next time, ride on ladies!
The Iron Mountain/Cedar Glades Mountain Biking Women’s retreat will always hold special memories for me because on the first day of the retreat, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, I became a United States citizen. There’s no better way to celebrate my naturalization than to ride some of the best trails Arkansas has to offer, surrounded by women who share the same love and passion for the sport as I do. Riding in the morning, sharing food recipes, going out for dinner, watching the sunset on a boat, relaxing at the hot tub and chilling out at the end of day with a bottle of wine courtesy of fellow rider Dena Woerner to celebrate my new citizenship was priceless. I get excited when Addie invites me to this type of event; the comradery and atmosphere of riding with girls only is empowering.
– Adriana Perez Chavarria
I started mountain biking in 2011 after my second knee surgery. My first mountain biking race was in 2012. I love this sport, both racing and leisurely riding. I feel strong and embrace the sport with great pride. The retreat, for me, was an opportunity to meet many women that share my interest, at all different skill levels. It reminds me of how I felt when I first started riding. And watching the sun set over the trails we rode on the boat ride across DeGray Lake was simply amazing. I shared this experience with two women that I ride almost weekly with, Jess Soroka and Aerah Hardin — it was an amazing retreat.
– Cindy Pumphrey Brown(pictured on right)
This was my first time attending the Women’s Mountain Bike Retreat in March at Iron Mountain, and what a fantastic experience. There were some really amazing women riders, and it was wonderful to spend the day with them. The sunset boat ride around DeGray Lake and group dinner was a perfect opportunity to get to know everyone and catch up with friends from the racing series. For me, the best part was spending the day with some really incredible women who ride.
– Jess Soroka
My life goal is to ride in all 50 states. So when I was invited to an all-women’s weekend of mountain biking in Arkansas, I jumped at the chance to go. I’ve driven over seven hours now (one way) to attend two of these women’s weekends. Arkansas has some really fun trails, with Cedar Glades being my favorite so far. Mountain Harbor and its sister resort, Iron Mountain, are beautiful, relaxingplaces to stay. I especially liked the hot tub after a long day of riding. Staying and riding with all women is much less stressful because I don’t feel pressured to be faster or better than anyone else. I can’t wait to go back and ride more Arkansas trails.
– Katie Parker
It’s no secret that mountain biking is a male-dominated sport. I was too intimidated to even try it for a long time. But once I did, I fell in love. Women’s group rides are becoming more popular as a way to introduce women to the sport, and they couldn’t be more important. So a weekend spent among women of all abilities is one of the most empowering and positive experiences I’ve had in my short time as a mountain biker. Being able to ride with stronger women helps make me a stronger rider, not only because they can teach me so much about skills, handling the bike, and picking lines, but also because these women are so positive and encouraging. And that’s what gives me the confidence to keep hitting the trails.
– Lindsey Clark
Events such as this make me feel pampered since all the details are taken care of. Addie Teo knows how to organize and for that reason, it was worth the 6-hour drive. I love riding new trails and bonding with strong, positive women who share my passion. Attending women’s mountain bike events like this inspires me to work with women from my hometown and introduce them to cycling. Patience, encouragement and a few basic instructions each build confidence to overcome fears. It is very satisfying for me to see the empowerment these women feel when they can ride a section of trail that previously intimidated them.
– Lynn Lewis
Tricia and I met at a Dallas Off Road Biking (DORBA) beginner’s clinic about a year ago. At the time, we were both looking for a riding buddy so we could enjoy mountain biking safely and more often. After the clinic we exchanged phone numbers and began biking different trails around DFW. In Dallas, we ride with a women’s group called Dirt Side Sisters, but we are now in our off-season. That’s when we came across The Women’s Biking Retreat Facebook page that Addie created. We both enjoy a good adventure and needed a change in scenery. The event was well organized and included an agenda, so we knew what to expect and could prepare accordingly. Tricia and I enjoyed the group ride! The pine trees were the best part, as well as the friendly atmosphere and new friends we made along the way. We plan to attend next year and maybe even spend a little more time there when we go back.
– Micah Henderson & Tricial Elliot
We had a fun-filled weekend of activities: eating, bike games, hot-tubbing, sunset boat cruise and, of course, riding many miles of sweet single track. It’s always great to gather with like-minded women. We encourage each other, share stories, and don’t mind the sweat and dirt. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer setting — beautiful three-bedroom cabins with a lovely lake view. Many thanks to our organizer, our host, and all the sweet sponsors for the extra goodies.
– Michele Jackson
This was my third Ladies Weekend Mountain Bike Retreat, and an experience that I cherish and look forward to each time. It has grown from five to 10 participants to 21 friendly and passionate ladies that enjoy riding as much as I do. Among these women were riders of different skill levels, all with a desire to ride a beautiful trail to the best of their abilities. I thought it was really cool that Addie gave us a choice to ride in a “fast pace” group or a “comfortable pace” group. Both had a leader and a sweep so no one fell too far behind in each group. Each person could take this opportunity to ride to their fullest potential and have fun, too! Both groups stopped and caught up at certain points to eat lunch, take pictures and socialize — it turned out to be a perfect weekend.
– Nancy Pollan
My riding skills never really improved until I started riding with the girls. We learn and practice skills in clinics and during rides. Strategically we attack difficult sections of trail, repeating them for mastery. We work at stamina on weekend rides. Three years ago, five of us tackled the whole Womble Trail, approximately 37 miles. Cooperatively we planned and cooked all our meals at High Shoals and Fishing Village. The following year, about 10 of us rode from Crystal Springs to Denby on the Vista Trail. We luxuriated at Mountain Harbor. And this year the momentum increased at Lake DeGray. What will we do next?
– Sue Hawkins