Strategies for Growing Your Ridership, Female and Otherwise

Presented by:

Patti Schmidt, National Cycle Director at Life Time Fitness
Katherine Fuller, IMBA Communications Specialist
Anna Laxague, IMBA Pacific Regional Director
Katie Arnold, Freelance Writer

Patti Schmidt’s advice

  • Find women who aren’t riding and draw them in
  • The number one reason women ride is social. Keep that component active
  • We need to be ambassadors: take a friend riding, build beginner trails
  • Loan them a bike and support them.
  • Convert a roadie or triathlete.
  • Hold skills clinics.
  • Use cyclocross as a conduit for those who are scared of full-on mountain biking
  • Engage the retail shops
  • Offer mechanics’ classes
  • Ladies’ adventure camps (add yoga, cooking, wine, etc)
  • Ride with Rebecca Rusch or similarly inspiring athletes
  • Ride for a cause, have a fundraiser

Katie Arnold’s advice

  • Inspire others to ride.
  • Don’t count on the media to show women in the sport. Magazines are a financial business like any other, so they will always reflect their readership. Outside Mag: 68% male. Runner’s World is probably more 50/50. Media is not going to do it for us.
  • Count on the power of your local influence, which is more relevant anyway. Use the immediacy of social media to encourage others to join your rides.

Anna Laxague’s advice

  • My mom said she never saw herself in anything that represented mountain biking, so she never thought she could do it. She looked in magazines and never saw anyone like herself. And she’s not a “joiner,” so I left her a bike and she started riding it.
  • Not all women like “women’s rides.” It’s great to have them for those who do, but a better idea exists for everyone else.
  • Have diverse options for group rides that focus on the experience people want, regardless of gender or ability. Have a “chill ride” that highly skilled riders can join if they want a mellow day, then maybe a “one hammer” ride and then the “everybody gets dropped” ride. This is more inclusive and allows for everyone to participate. They can ride with others who want the same experience, and no one gets stuck between artificially defined skill levels.
  • Don’t get stuck on the stereotypes. A lot of men probably want to come on the women’s ride, just to get away from the hammerheads and have a fun time.
  • Don’t make every ride for the women about beginners and teaching. Some women are great riders and want to hammer.

Katherine Fuller’s advice

  • It’s key to actually have trails friendly to beginners (some of them might be women!)
  • Mountain bikers have an image problem. We need to show more women riding, both in IMBA’s communications and local clubs’.
  • Avoid pandering while forging one-on-one relationships between riders.
  • More attention paid to women’s events.
  • Open up your marketing strategies. For example, a recent Golden, CO trail event was marketed only to mtbers, and only a few showed up – with very few women. Meanwhile, local land managers invited everyone, asking them to be part of something, to give back to the trail system. “We want you there” was their message, and a lot more people/users/genders came out.
  • A simple tweak of marketing brought a lot more people to. The power of reframing things can’t be underestimated.
  • Tell compelling stories of all different kinds of people. Where do you tell your stories? Go way beyond the bike shops, which are very intimidating to a lot of people. Go outside your usual suspects.

Points from the audience

  • “Our club has good luck with advanced, hardcore rides for women. We also have lots of youth rides, with many young girls under 12. Part of it is that the girls see women out there, and it builds up the culture. Maybe we just need a bit of patience with where we’re going.”
  • “We run lots of youth rides, and once the parents have driven away, the gender divide is gone. The parity in young people is already there, they don’t have the gender hangups that adults have.”
  • “If you force divisions into the sport, whether gender or not, is just creating more divisions in people. It’s great to get triathletes into mtbing, etc., but they are already adventurous people. Try to bring in other kinds of people who may not want to race.”

Resource from the IMBA 2012 World Summit.