Sisterhood of Mountain Biking
It's a hectic world and sometimes it's good to just drop everything, get away, and do something you love. That’s exactly what happened last weekend at the Rooted Mountain Bike Festival in Bemus Point, NY. The festival provides something that is hard to find in the northeastern section of the United States. It’s a place for women to come together for a long weekend and enjoy a sport that has been long dominated by men.
Melissa Baumann traveled to the festival from Colorado. She has been mountain biking for 30 years. Her biking partners were all men during her early days on the trails.
"Mountain biking is still very much kind of geared toward the men. We want a fun place to practice and feel challenged without feeling judged by the guys,” she said.
Heather Kinal began riding the trails behind the Loud Performance Bike Shop in Bemus Point five years ago with the wife of the shop's owner. She started the Rooted Festival in 2020.
"Year 1 was 20 people. It was just my friends and I and two of my guy friends were the clinicians. And so it's just grown and grown. I don't know. It's crazy. I love it,” she said.
125 women registered for this year's festival. It sold out. The participants are grateful that they've found an event where they can get together with other women who are passionate about the sport. They've come from 10 states to ride the trails behind the bike shop and to learn the skills you need to master the rough terrain.
Nicky Bates came to the festival from Detroit.
"Mountain biking is a super male-dominated sport so it's really nice to be here with a bunch of other women. The woman who led my clinic this morning was really knowledgeable and that was super exciting,” she said.
Whitney McCabe is from Toledo. She is glad that she signed-up for the festival.
“I have goosebumps almost the whole time I've been here. Tears of joy of how nice everybody is and what a community it creates. You just look around and everybody is doing what you love,” she said.
The women also have the opportunity to learn how to maintain their bikes by attending a clinic on bike repair.
"My husband just takes care of my bike and I don't want it to be that way. I want to feel empowered to be like, 'This doesn't feel right and I know how to fix it,” says Heather.
It's a nice weekend getaway. Heather is proud to bring this rare opportunity to women in this part of the country.
"I'm just so happy," she said. "It's just so cool to see a dream come true really. The vision is now a reality and it feels good."
The festival is more than just trail rides and clinics. The women also enjoy activities such as yoga and a bubble tea party.