While climbing to the top of the infamous Porcupine Rim, arguably the best downhill trail in Moab, I was struggling. My legs were weak, my cardio non-existent and my attitude sour. This was the spring of 2002 and I hated climbing. As I slogged up the hill, I could hear the steady cadence of a rider coming up behind me. I was surprised to hear the distinctly female voice calmly state “On your right.” Within seconds she was out of sight, nowhere to be seen.
In 2013, I was riding Dirt Merchant, my favorite black diamond run at the Whistler Bike Park in British Columbia. I was barely navigating the massive jumps and drops all the while thinking if I go down, I am going to be one hurt puppy. To make matters worse, someone was on my tail, bearing down on me. I decided to pull over and let him pass. Only problem was, it wasn’t a “he”, it was a “she” and she blew right past me.
I got a chance to ride with the Dirt Dolls, a local all-female mountain bike club in Boise. In recent weeks, the Boise Area Mountain Bike Association (BAMBA) and the Dirt Dolls had formed an alliance of sorts. Having missed the BAMBA board meeting where this partnership was discussed, I was curious to see what the Dirt Dolls were all about. I got myself invited to join their Monday night ride in spite of my status as a male, on the condition that I wore something pink—which I did.
We gathered in the Warm Springs Golf Course parking lot just before 7pm. Typically twenty or so riders join them for these Monday night outings, and having gotten there a bit early, I decided to chat with those just arriving. I was pleasantly surprised to see a healthy amount of flat pedals, freeride shoes and body armor. Clearly these Dolls were not afraid to break a nail or two. I liked them immediately.
We broke up into two groups—an advanced ride team took the more challenging route up to Rock Island and a less experienced pack of us took a slightly easier ascent. Rock Island is probably the most technical trail on the Boise front when it comes to navigating rocky lines and obstacles. I had ridden it many years before and had not fared well. I was curious to see how the Dirt Dolls would do in such unforgiving terrain.
After our little group reached the crest of the hill where Rock Island sprawled before us, we huddled up. I was impressed how Cacia Lewis, our group leader and one of the founders of the Dirt Dolls, carefully explained how to ride each challenging feature successfully. She also shared important safety instructions and offered to spot each rider as they attempted to clear the obstacles. I have ridden many technical trails with my bros, and in general mountain bikers are a supportive lot, but the Dirt Dolls take encouragement to a whole new level.
I found the same level of support in the advanced crew. Tesh Coles, the expert group lead and another founding member, fostered that same level of reinforcement found in the other group. Underpinning all of this support was a healthy layer of kindness that I have not witnessed in all my years of trail riding. The Dirt Dolls pride themselves in being “beginner friendly” and explained to me in detail how welcoming they are to rookies. In my experience, this caring attitude is rarely found in groups of accomplished riders whom would just as soon drop you if you can’t keep up.
Juxtaposed over this layer of kindness was a fierce toughness that took me totally by surprise. Later in the ride, I joined the advanced team to see how they were faring against the treacherous rock. To my amazement, they assaulted the craggy features with a level of fearlessness that I envied. Having attempted to ride those same rocks several years ago, I know how challenging they are and knew firsthand the penalty that accompanied failure. Time and time again, the Dolls attacked the rocky lines with moxie in a gripped battle of wills. Sometimes the rocks won out but more often than not, the Dolls did. A plucky Doll named Hannah Underdahl proudly showed me her battered knee in all its bloody glory. Clearly she relished the souvenir that conquered rock gave her as she subdued it.
As we said our goodbyes, I was struck with the feeling that BAMBA was lucky to be aligned with the Dirt Dolls. If my daughters ever got serious about mountain biking, they would be in good hands riding with this great group of bikers. I am a better rider because of my time with them. Whether riding Moab, Whistler or now Boise, yet again I find myself wishing I could ride like a girl.
To learn more about the Dirt Dolls, go to http://www.dirtdolls.org/.