Velomuse Board meetings will now meet on the 3rd Monday of each month at Big Idea Bookstore from 6-8pm. The meetings are open to the public for discussion and information, while only Board members will vote on action items. General members from the public are encouraged to attend and participate. We will share agenda and minutes on the Velomuse website: http://www.velomuse.org/
December 07, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PITTSBURGH, PA - Velomuse welcomes new Board members for the Pittsburgh chapter!
As we’ve grown over the years, our purpose has remained unchanged while the regional participation has shifted. One commonality is that while mountain biking issues are shared, new strategies for pulling volunteers and land managers together are frequently required. Further, since the most important thing is riding – we’ve been researching what folks are doing elsewhere, while keeping tabs on what other folks (mtb and non-mtb alike) are doing right here in Pittsburgh.
In leading by example, we have been able to initiate programs and create relationships that didn’t previously exist: getting permits for bike events in City parks, coordinating film premiers for local and international producers, leading a women’s mountain bike skills series and hosting kids mountain bike rodeos with our own fleet of kids’ bikes and features.
Last year, we had so much variety that it was difficult to keep up with the needs in the community, finding new volunteers for every event – it was a full-time and fulfilling job, despite being unpaid. This year, we’ve narrowed the focus to reconnecting with newer still, cross-sections of the community and using the research to understand where we can best put our focus for 2012, and avoid burnout. We’ve decided it is time to make the Pittsburgh (PGH) chapter of Velomuse an official mountain bike development organization, focusing on women’s leadership. As continuing founder and Executive Director, I would like to introduce you to the all-female Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh Chapter of Velomuse:
BOARD OF DIRECTORS - PITTSBURGH CHAPTER
Last winter was my first exposure to indoor mountain biking. As the cold, wet weather creeps in, I will be the first to admit that I can’t wait to go back and continue skills practice on some new features! The website might need to be updated to reflect the new dates for the women’s weekend in 2012, but it should be noted that it is their busiest weekend!
After lunch, I grew quite nervous since the nature of the session had changed several times over and hadn’t really settled into a solid focus nor had time to prepare a power point presentation – and I had doubts that I was the right person to be leading the charge. Leading the “Diversity Builds Strength: Women and Mountain Biking” session on behalf of Velomuse, I was thankfully joined by such strong, experienced panelists as Morgan Lommele from the IMBA Trail Care Crew and professional mountain biker Sue Haywood.
Morgan put me at ease, by suggesting that we pose some workshop questions and share everyone’s experiences in break out groups, after priming the audience with examples and success stories. The primary questions were “What is diversity?”, “How can your club benefit from it?” and “What are your success stories, ideas or plans to support diversity and inclusion of women in your club?”.
Diversity was defined as inclusion of extremes; different levels of skill, non-cyclists, age, ethnicity, and different types of riding/mountain bikers.
Clubs benefit from diversity because it makes the club more politically powerful, represents the mountain bike community better, defies stereotypes, increases club membership, builds trust in the club, allows it to reach wider audiences, and ultimately builds capacity to change the community for the better.
Success Stories, Ideas and Plans for increasing women in mountain biking clubs:
- More women on Board of Directors (and not just administrative roles) – trickle down effect.
- MTB gear/repair clinic for women
- Women-only events (ex: Sue’s Wine and Cheese ride)
- Take a Woman Mountain Biking Day
- Bring a woman/girl-friend to a non-riding social event
- Reach women in non-cycling, familiar settings (e.g. church)
- Reach out to women who don’t consider themselves athletes
- Meetup.com (type) groups
- Join races together, emphasizing social aspect
- Trips to bike parks (ex: Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park)
- What you don’t want your husband/boyfriend/dudefriend to tell you/duo women’s instructional video
- Women “ride free” days at mountains or resort parks
- Women teachers for skills clinic, repair and gear clinics
- Bob trailer demo days
- Baby-sitting co-ops, switch off/group parenting at rides
- Fun for the whole family trails and events
- Emphasizing gender-specific technique (“Chick-technique”)
- Weekly women’s rides
- “Log-therapy” session/make obstacles entertaining not intimidating.
- Chicks-only race (ex: Little Red Riding Hood)
- Advertise in Women’s publications
- Better signage on trails, for solo exploration and independence
- Foster future women ride leaders
- Promote group ride guidelines (Morgan also provided a take home handout: Organizing Women’s Riding Groups)
- Inclusive marketing language (don’t assume women=beginner)
- Partnering with recreation centers
- More women at public meetings
The second timeslot afforded me to attend the Youth Mountain Biking Opportunities, which I have vested interest in – as I have been trying to fulfill the past experience I had coaching with the NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing League, and have been trying to foster momentum in Pittsburgh for a similar program. One of our obstacles has been outreach paired with infrastructure support – namely, finding a way to get young riders that are interested, physically on bikes, and then trails, while navigating “the complicated minefield that is public academia.” as one friend put it. If there was one consistent theme amongst the speakers, it was that all the youth cycling organizations have some kind of parent organization which provides structure, insurance or other resources to accommodate necessary logistics. I’ll add that liability insurance is almost as volatile, and the speakers offered a temporary solution of using local advocacy club insurance’s umbrella to get things under way while a local bike shop organizes and supports the logistics (bikes, helmets, leadership).
Ann Meder spoke to her experience as a bike shop owner and group ride leader that providing a pro rider as an additional mentor brought further expertise and legitimacy for the expanding group, while another facilitator added that older youth who leveraged their experience got the most respect from the youngest riders. Julie Childers and her partner Patrick Childers, started a Trips for Kids chapter in DC which branched out into Trails for Youth. Julie’s take on youth mountain biking, was to make rides to the trails happen regularly, taking the trails to the kids whenever possible. The local Parks and Rec in Harrisonburg also had a program for youth mountain biking, which includes a growing fleet of bikes and older helmets, with professional staff. Certifications ranged from Physical Education degrees to CPR/First Aid and IMBA Bike Patrol and background checks; however, none mentioned coach licensing, which is promoted by NICA, which is the new NorCal for the rest of the country. I have often (and especially recently) pondered whether my coach education was being put to good use, or even necessary – and I considered a primary difference between these programs and NICA/NorCal was the race series. Is NICA a race organization, in its ultimate definition? As a former coach for the League, I think it is a valid question (rhetorical, unless you’re NICA staff and want to comment). It remains clear that NorCal/NICA offers the most extensive training and education for leadership in the youth mountain biking community. An additional community-oriented aspect of NorCal I appreciated and brought up as an example that I felt was relevant to IMBA, was having required trail maintenance (“Environmental Stewardship”) hours of the young riders. After all, wasn’t this summit about bringing more volunteers into the fold?
Saturday July 23, 2011 IMBA Trail Care Crew: Club Care
After the Pedal Driven film showing at the local theatre on Friday night, the first IMBA Mid Atlantic Regional Summit kicked into full swing Saturday morning with the IMBA Trail Care Crew’s Presentation on “Club Care”. I had gone to this with another TCC in California a few years ago as well as the World Summit in 2008, and took away the concept that other regions shared similar problems – but could also share solutions. This time, I was in a new geographical riding community (Pittsburgh, PA), and faced with a question of volunteer identity as we don’t really have a Mountain Bike Advocacy Organization. Instead, Pgh has the Pittsburgh Trails Advocacy Group which leverages “shared use” strategy and includes various trail user types, and then a slew of mtb clubs, like PORC which promote rides and races. This provides unique opportunities and challenges which I hadn’t experienced in California. Some of these include the ability to develop more neutral relationships with land managers and achieve buy-in for new trail projects. However, the cohesion of the local mountain bike community seems to be fragile, at best, which is troubling to me as a lifelong cyclist.
The Club Care presentation revealed a statement that I think helps me get some sort of direction on where we need to go as a community, “One unified voice is louder than a crowd.” I think we need a mountain bike advocacy club to voice MTB concerns. Or at least a MTB committee based from the other orgs, akin to benefiting from having interns in the City offices helping to establish relationships, or on land managers’ Boards of Directors. MTBers need to be on the radar, explicitly, if we are going to retain access to the trails – and ultimately, our sport.
I don’t know if we have enough cohesion to get the ball rolling for this concept, but humor me. If this were to happen, IMBA recommends 501c3 incorporation status to allow for fund-raising, getting 8-12 Directors for a Board, each with a 2 year commitment, and marketing with friend-raisers, a club map, outreach to ALL local bike shops (not just some), Press, and regular communication through forums (fb, g+, meetup, BBpress, etc.) and email lists. I was glad to hear that they encouraged clubs to publish their agenda and minutes, which I think lends itself to legitimacy and good record-keeping of club successes – that makes everyone more interested in contributing. Another useful rubric was the Community Outreach triangle, asking clubs to balance: Political, Physical and Social Events for volunteers. Examples: council meetings, demonstration of successful trails, and regular rides and other social events.
Recruitment efforts don’t have to come just from your email contact list; a poster or hydration handout at the trailhead goes a long way, as well as giving the race community series points for volunteer hours, and getting non-cycling friends and family to provide food and entertainment. I snapped up one of the free Bring the Riding to the People DVDs, which we can hopefully share with the mountain bike community in a screening opportunity in the coming days. Lastly, any IMBA club can make a Club Care presentation or TrailCare Crew workshop request. Grant applications being accepted now.
Ever since the birth of mountain biking, we’ve been at odds with land managers, local businesses, manufacturers, and even – ourselves, regarding what is “proper” with trail access.
I’m hoping to stir the pot a bit, in search of factual statements and a vision for the future of riding. Perhaps, with a few people chiming in, we can share a collective understanding about the direction that we’d all like to go in, and those who have the courage to speak up will also have the courage to contribute time working on trails and in meetings with land managers and advocacy organizations like PTAG who work hard to listen and document the voice of each trail user group, going so far as to assign a dedicated steward for each park. After all, each person mountain biking on trails represents something to the public, whether we want it or not. We represent them, and they represent us.
I like this new trail a lot. I want to learn how to ride it well, and improve my arsenal of skills. We’ve all seen trails in different places with different features, and have our idea of what works and what doesn’t so its hard to claim who is right, but I think there are certain low hanging fruit that can be achieved without too much bureacracy: Water crossings (rivers, lakes, etc.) and fall-lines can offer some challenge but only seem to be sustainable when they are not adjoining a major trail network. In another post recapping my attendance at the IMBA World Summit, I heard Glen Jacob’s suggestion to be strategic about the placement of advanced features in increasing distance from the trailhead and it made sense to me. Extended trails require more fitness and skill, doubling the challenge and commitment to the trail, itself.
Not being much of a forum lurker, somehow the rumors about a new trail in my local park found their way into my life anyhow. And they’ve multiplied. Seemingly, everyone has a connection to this new trail and has heard something different about its history and its designers. There’s even old rumors resurfacing implying that none of the trails were vetted by the City – and this quite angered me, because I went to great lengths to clear this up and even applied for and received permits for mountain biking in the park. I was hoping that might set a trend to increase communication and legitimate park usage, but now its come to rumors.
Can we squash that, once and for all – and move forward? I had the unique opportunity of interning with the City and learned a lot about infrastructure and policy, and while I’m a mountain biker at heart, I wanted to use this information in a pro-active way, establishing relationships and clearing the air if possible. It turns out the confusion about limited access on singletrack was a misunderstanding, and when prompted, the City acknowledged that it needed to be cleared up and stressed the importance of keeping mountain bikers in the parks. After all, we contribute a lot of labor and aid in positive press within the community. Bike Pittsburgh remains an ally in bike advocacy, even for mountain bike issues such as this, and both the City and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy updated the language on their websites to acknowledge that each park has some power to “designate” which trails permit bicycles on them. I REALLY appreciate the transparency of these official authorities and only wish we could organize the same way amongst ourselves. This “us” identification is vague, especially for me, because I wear lots of hats and am spread pretty thin, as mountain biker, urban cyclist, coach, sometimes racer, sometimes advocate/lobbyist, sometimes leader. I plan on riding bikes the rest of my life, and I want to let the other advocates out there know that there are people out there like me, that take access very seriously and am willing to share the trails, the effort to retain access, offering a variety of types of trails to accommodate different levels of skill, and learn how make trails sustainable without sanitizing them.
I don’t want any more single track to turn into fire roads, which seems to happen when a trail becomes sanitized. Eventually, parks seem to close down as the cheapest solution. If the parks aren’t there anymore, is this the battle we want to fight?
After mountain biking for about a year and a half I was ready for my very first mountain bike race. I started training in the winter by taking a spin class, going to Ray’s Indoor Mtn bike Park, and I got out on my bike a few times including pre-riding the race course a couple weeks before. I was so psyched, the first race of the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association (WVMBA) series was going to be in my home town where I ride quite a bit. Drew, my coach and significant-other went on the pre-ride with me and gave tips and tricks etc to increase my speed and to help me be a little more competitive in my women’s beginner category. My goal from the beginning was always to finish the race and not to be last, but come on – that competitive edge inside me said it wouldn’t be so bad if I pushed myself and finished in the top of my class – right?
We watched the weather like hawks in the weeks leading up to the Simonton Challenge at Mountwood on April 11, 2011. The forecasted temperatures were in the 80’s. Yay! That’s my kind of weather, no snow! The day before the race I pre-rode the first major two-mile hill in the rain, I did good and felt good; I was soooo going to do good. The trails were holding up great, the River Valley Mountain Bike Association (RVMBA) takes great care of the trails, adding new bridges and log-overs.
The day of the race I arrived at Mountwood park with a record capacity of 229 other riders, which was quite overwhelming and increased the nervous jitters. Riding around warming up with the other riders helped ease the nerves until the rider meeting and the following line-up. The first wave of riders took off at noon and then every 2-3 minutes till my group at 12:11, that was a crazy long 11 minutes. I was so focused and ready to go, then they counted down “5-4-3-2-1 and we’re off!” I took off trying to keep up with the rest of the beginner pack, still nervous but such an amazing wave of relief to be moving, though I did feel eerily alone riding with so many people I didn’t know.
After about a quarter of a mile of paved road we arrived at the bottom of the gravel two-mile climb. I was coached not to worry about staying with the pack heading up that climb so I wouldn’t blow-up. But, being competitive, it was so hard not to try and keep up with the pack – so by the time I got to the top, I was completely crushed and overheated. My body just started shutting down, which completely freaked me out and lead to an outright panic attack. I got off my bike and started walking (I had to keep moving right?). My legs didn’t want to work nor did my upper body; I wanted to lie down and go to sleep on the trail. I had no idea how the heck I was going to get off the mountain, let alone finish the race. I couldn’t even walk, and I thought I was going to die or pass out in the very least. Everyone that I was ahead of started passing me at this point and the sweeps came up to check on me. While the sweep was getting salt pills for me I started gagging and heaving and came close to throwing-up. I rested for a few minutes, regained my composure, and started walking. Yay, I could walk! Then I climbed back on my bike and started riding, walking, and resting in intervals. The sweeps kept encouraging me and Drew, God bless him, was around every corner taking pictures, cheering me on, giving me water, taking my Camelbak, and everything else I could possibly take off, including my jersey (did I mention it was hot?!).
I finally got my legs back under me and was excited to be able to clear all the log-overs and bridges and I actually passed two other riders. The trail conditions were great. The final couple miles were a fun descent so I was able to fly down the hill, past my cheering parents and down the last stretch to the finish line. Hell yeah I made it. I didn’t even have to crawl across the finish line, I was able to ride my bike! My time was 1:32 and I placed 5 of 6 in the women’s beginner class. Ok, so it wasn’t at the top of my class but at this point I was so happy to have finished the race and yes I’m off to the races next weekend, this is fun…right?
Free Webinar: Women Can Change the World through Cycling
Wednesday, March 30, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. EDT
Register here: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/852395306
Attend this free webinar if you want to learn how to increase the number of women cycling for transportation in your community.
This webinar builds on last year’s session, “Writing Women Back into Bicycling.”* Five speakers offer compelling insights about cycling projects run by inspiring women, illuminate what women told APBP they want in a cycling environment, and suggest best practices to help you make a difference in your community. Don’t miss the stories of some of the wonderful women leading the cycling movement, and results of APBP’s 2010 survey on Women Cycling.
APBP encourages individuals to gather colleagues and friends together to watch the webinar and discuss and plan afterwards. Build your team. Check out the Women Cycling Project here:https://apbp.site-ym.com/members/group.asp?id=63197
Andrea Garland, Alta Planning + Design, presents women’s viewpoints on three of the open-ended questions from the 2010 Women Cycling survey: “What would cause you to start or increase your cycling?”, “What reaction do you get when cycling for transportation?” and “Why do you use your bicycle for trips?”
Kristin Gavin founded the Gearing Up program in Philadelphia, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide women in transition from drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and/or homelessness with the skills, equipment and guidance to safely ride a bicycle for exercise, transportation and personal growth.
Fionnuala Quinn, PE, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, offers up a brief history of APBP’s Women Cycling Project which she helped to inspire, points to resources we can use, and suggests next steps for the project.
Anna Sibley, Masters in Public Health candidate at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, summaries the results of the 2010 APBP Women Cycling Project and survey.
Carolyn Szczepanski, Communications Coordinator, Alliance for Biking & Walking, and columnist for Bicycling Times magazine, profiles some of the women leading the bicycling movement. Her talk is inspired by http://blog.publicbikes.com/2011/03/fifteen-women-who-rule-the-biking-world/
*View the recording of “Writing Women Back into Bicycling” here: