On the overcast, drizzly morning of Saturday 20th February I joined approximately 30 other female mountain bike fanatics for a day on the trails at Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. This excellent opportunity to meet not just other like minded ladies but also the talented 2014 Downhill World champion Manon Carpenter was the brainchild of the team at Strongher.
Strongher is a campaign that aims to get more women involved in cycling. They set out to provide a platform that links all the different cycling initiatives with the common goal of encouraging women to believe they can achieve their dreams. They do this through a group of 300 worldwide ambassadors, most of whom are professional cyclists such as Manon Carpenter, passionate about encouraging grassroots level women to get involved with the sport. Through group rides and helping to organise events Strongher creates a community where you can get support, learn and be inspired. Visit their website for more information.
The day kicked off with a talk from Strongher project organiser Marit Huisman and an amusing short interview with Manon that broke the tension nicely and set the tone for this fun, informal day. The morning was spent having a cruise round the blue Verderers trail. The easy nature of the trail gave plenty of opportunity for chatting to your new found companions and big smiles as you admired the long trail of women swooping down the berms and jumps before and after you when the trail opened up.
With a little time left before lunch we all headed over to the skills area of the red Freeminers trail for a play. A line of small drops and progressively narrower balance beams had us all amused for half an hour. With a few top tips and demonstrations from Manon there were big grins all round by the time we headed back for lunch.
Lunch finished with, after a brief hold up where Manon kindly helped me reconfigure my suspension set up we all gathered at the top of the downhill trails for our afternoon challenge. We had a brief play on the fast and flowy Launch Pad before sessioning Ski Run which we broke down into sections. This informal play around was a great way to watch and learn form looking at the different lines and body positioning of Manon and the other girls. The day ended with a small group us of heading over to tackle Endo and then session the jumps at the bottom. Manon provided great advice throughout the afternoon as well as a top demo on how to jump with style.
Manon showing us all how it’s done
Days like this are such a great way to meet new people, have lots of fun and pick up some golden bits of advice from a pro. Please don’t be put off by going along alone, I did and within seconds of joining the group I had been introduced to several other lone riders and Manon! Other than a slightly starstruck moment it wasn’t an intimidating situation at all. I left the car park at Forest of Dean grinning from ear to ear feeling thoroughly inspired for a summer of super shredding.
Working hard on this jumping malarkey
Massive thanks to the team at Strongher and Manon Carpenter for your time and effort organising the day.Thanks also to Saskia Dugon who provided professional photography with an impressive display of fitness lugging her huge kit bag around the Freeminers trail all morning.