Jessica Lum decided it was time to get on her bike and ride. No more excuses.
Lum, a Powell resident and employee at Heritage Health Center, had occasionally joined a group of area women on their Wednesday night rides after moving to Powell from Arizona.
“I found excuses not to go. But every time I did I felt great,” Lum said.
This year, she pledged to get serious. So when tickets became available to go to a female-only riding camp — the first of its kind in Park County — Lum pulled the trigger quickly. She was one of the lucky riders to score a ticket: The Cody camp sold out in a matter of days.
Female-only riding camps have been trending across the nation as the sport grows in popularity. But while the camp is new, women riders in northwest Wyoming have been meeting for more than two decades for rides sans the testosterone typical of the sport.
For 22 years, the Biker Chix have left their boyfriends and husbands behind, tearing down trails on mountain bikes and testing their mettle in the dirt. The group is growing along with area mountain bike trail systems. Following the popularity camps in Colorado and southern portions of Wyoming, the Biker Chix decided to bring in pros for a three-day riding skills camp.
Along for the ride since day one of the Biker Chix, Rene Huge finds it comforting to learn the sport with her friends.
“Women feel more confident to learn with other women. It’s a safe environment. You don’t feel pressure to keep up with your boyfriend or husband,” Huge said. “The whole idea is to get ladies on bikes, show them around and if they want to learn skills we’ll share.”
All levels of riders are welcome on the Wednesday night rides.
“No rider will be left behind,” Huge said.
Thirty riders took part in the weekend training. Moving between several stages — from cornering and braking seminars to customizing bikes to fit each rider — the camp served up technical confidence on trails between laughter and comaraderie.
“It’s empowering,” said Gretchen Reuning, a professional trainer from Fort Collins. “They crushed it. They’re getting excited about learning.”
All proceeds from the camp go to Park County Pedalers projects and maintenance. The construction of the Beck Lake Bike Park — a project undertaken by the volunteers with the Park County Pedalers — has made a big difference in attracting new riders to the sport, Huge said.
“[The park] makes it much easier to get people out and ride,” she said. “It’s nice for us locals to learn here on our own trails, building our confidence to get after it.”
Built for different levels of difficulty, the park is fun for riders from beginners to hardcore riders. The project took nearly 10 years to finish and was professionally designed. The park has 10 miles of single track, a pump track and three massive jump lines that include ramps and drops as large as 6 feet. It cost about $350,000 to construct — all raised by local pedalers.
“Park County Pedalers have done a fantastic job putting together the bike park. I’ve never ridden anything like it,” said Adriana Arismendi, a Cody rider new to the sport.
The park has also attracted a lot of young riders to the sport, Huge said. And it may come in handy as a training mecca for Park County’s first high school club team. High school mountain bike teams have already been organized in school systems, including Cheyenne, Casper and Laramie. A Park County team, still in the planning stages at Cody High School, according to Jen Hess of Casper, would be the first in northwest Wyoming and would bring racing to area single-track courses.
Teams would be part of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, which has been growing rapidly seeing teams from several surrounding states, including Colorado and Nebraska, begin high school leagues.
There were several obstacles for the campers, including high heat, mechanical breakdowns on the trail and a few accidents. “There were plenty of crashes. It tends to go with the sport,” Huge said. But organizers are already looking forward to next year’s camp. The popularity of the camp may mean the club will think of bringing on a few more coaches to accommodate more participants.
“It’s a fine line. Part of what makes the camp so great is you’re in small group sizes,” Huge said.
The next big race may be to get tickets for next year’s camp.