I’ve worked in the bike industry for approximately 12 years. During that time, finding other women to ride with has been difficult. I’m from Kansas City and there were always a few women riding there, but nothing was really organized. All the groups were primarily men. Even finding a woman working in most bike shops – in KC or here in NWA – is a big deal.
We’ve all met that guy who gets us into mountain biking, teaching us how to ride. We hear the same typical statements over and over. “Go faster!” or “Just send it!”, and “Hit it harder!” Let me be clear I’m not grouping all women or all men in these categories. This is my experience and what I’ve heard time and time again at biking skills clinics. But, women want to know how and why. We want clinics to learn the skills needed or at least the basics to be able to safely have fun. We want women to ride with. We want nice bikes and gear.
I moved to Bentonville, AR four years ago when Women Of Oz MTB was just getting started and I knew that I had to somehow be involved. Throughout my entire career, my goal has been to get more women and diversity into bike shops working, shopping, riding bicycles, no matter your background or what you ride. Then comes the Women of Oz Sunset Summit: a weekend of ride clinics, workshops, and panel discussions to build confidence and community. They brought in 32 leading female coaches, Spanish speaking, and ASL interpreters to include anyone who is female or identifies as a female. This event was amazing; there were 200 participants or more. That number is amazing and gives me hope for the future of women's voices being heard in a sport that’s been dominated by men.
Saturday morning started out with Somer. She got all the women excited, pumped up, and ready to rock. Everyone started the day confident, believing in themselves, and ready to make new riding friends. The energy was amazing. The day was hotter than expected, but everyone made the most out of their clinics, building new skills to use on the trails. By the end of Saturday everyone was exhausted. I was thrilled to be there for mechanical support so that everyone could make the most of their day and keep riding.
Women of Oz and the NW Arkansas community did a phenomenal job for the first year of Sunset Summit. Don’t miss it next year. It was a huge success! ~ Shawna