Biking in Mammoth Lakes: Why Women are Riding More

For reasons known only to people who like to study bizarre statistics, bicycling has long been a male dominated sport.

From 10 speeds to mountain bikes to 10 year-olds putting baseball cards in their spokes, biking has usually been thought of as a sport “for the boys.” But the times, they are changing, especially when it comes to who’s riding bicycles on (and off) the roads of the Eastern Sierra: women are beginning to take over the industry.

There was once a time (circa the Cabbage Patch kid craze of the mid-1980s) when local bicycling clubs, like Eastside Velo, consisted only of men wearing day-glow spandex. Now, more than 60% of the spandex clad members —or lingerie clad for their annual spring “Pampered Pedal” ride from Mammoth to Bishop—of Eastside Velo (www.eastsidevelo.org) are women.

“The word has gotten out that women are really having fun bicycling together and that you don’t have to be a ‘Hammer head’ to join a group and have a great time,” explained Barbara Phillips, the treasurer for Eastside Velo.

There are three main reasons why bicycling is booming for women on the Eastside. First, it’s a great way to get low-impact, outdoor exercise and the Eastern Sierra offers countless opportunities to ride. Second, the biking industry has finally begun to realize the purchasing power and unique needs of the female frame and women-specific bikes are the hottest things on the market.

“Women are getting more and more confident and they are all over everything outdoor-oriented right now,” said Shirley Sydell, the Manager of Footloose Sports in Mammoth. “The thing about bicycling is that anyone can do it, which is why women’s groups are becoming more and more popular. It’s all about getting out, getting fit and getting a chance to chat and have fun.”

Of course, not all women want to ride so they can chat. Some want to “give blood,” as they say about mountain biking.

Donna Felix is a member of Eastside Velo and a former mountain bike racer. While she likes road biking, her heart lies in tearing down the mountains of the Eastern Sierra on her bike.

“Mountain biking is the closest I can get to feeling like a kid again. It’s thrilling and exhilarating,” Donna said in a rather horse voice, adding, “How can you go bombing down a trail that looks like a roller coaster and not hoot and holler the whole time?”

As for the future of the bicycling scene in the Eastern Sierra, this much is clear: Move over boys, the Eastside biker chicks are passing us by.

 

Mike McKenna

Award-winning author and journalist Mike McKenna is the writer behind the new book Casting Around the Eastern Sierra, which was recently awarded runner-up in the Outdoor Writers Association of California's Best Outdoor Guidebook category. The book focuses on fishing in Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding area, with tips and tricks from local experts.

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