Rider2Leader – supporting women to become MTB Leaders

What is Rider2Leader?

Rider2Leader is an initiative that came about shortly after I became a tutor for delivering British Cycling Level 2 Leadership Awards in 2018. Why? Because it was very evident that there was and is an under representation of women in the mountain bike leading and coaching industry throughout the UK, with only a small handful of women working as British Cycling tutors, myself being the only active one in Scotland and now the only female Level Three MTB Tutor in the UK!

Rider2Leader is designed to take women on a whistle stop tour of the British Mountain Bike Leadership Awards, building confidence as they transition from mountain bike rider to mountain bike leader or from Level 2 leader to Level 3!

How did it come about?

Christine Fox, MTB Development Officer at Scottish Cycling/Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS) and I chatted about what we could do to try address the gender imbalance in mountain biking. How could we make a bigger impact other than simply talking about it or being role models ourselves on the industry? What do women need to lure them in? Why have we got low numbers? What comparisons are there across other outdoor sports? It’s a massive topic with many rabbit holes to go down and warrens to get lost in.

Throughout the process of figuring out what we could do about it, we learnt a lot and spoke to many different people. Not long after initial discussions I was appointed as a Senior Instructor at Glenmore Lodge which then gave me the backing and support to move our ideas forward quicker. Rider2Leader was then launched as a joint initiative between DMBinS, Scottish Cycling and Glenmore Lodge in 2019. Christine and I shared our journeys, our enthusiasm, and I delivered a course dipping into different topics of leading MTB groups.

What does it involve?

The course addresses many of the misconceptions around mountain bike leadership. Classic fears we have seen and experienced for ourselves on occasion; we aren’t fast enough, technically skilled enough, nervous about our nav or trailside repairs, yet we can ride red grade trails* (or black graded trails* for the Level 3 Ranks it up a bit course). Our aim is therefore to be here to help manage those areas participants are insecure or anxious about and support them both with developing their skills and building their confidence in their abilities.

We take women through the awards, their content and level, offer some coaching and mentoring opportunities and offer an action plan going forwards (if they need it). All of this in an open, friendly, and most importantly, a fun and supportive environment.

Why was Rider2Leader created?

We had a suspicion that these Awards were being perceived as harder than they actually are, and that this was impacting on the required levels of confidence for women to undertake the leadership pathway. For many of the women there’s a challenge with fear. Fear of not being able to keep up with the group on training, fear that they can’t ride well enough, fix a bike quickly enough and so on.

We all know that MTB is awesome for all over body fitness, awesome for your mental wellbeing and awesome simply for getting you out into the wild and to have adventures…or even the less wild but adventures nonetheless in urban fringes. So we wanted to see more women getting to experience these benefits that mountain biking can bring, rather than being help back by misconceptions and low confidence!

We didn’t do anything amazing, simply explored the award content, worked through loads of practical activities aiming to build confidence, and provided an opportunity to chat in an informal and supportive environment. This was not a replacement for the training course, simply an opportunity for these women to discover just how amazing they really are. We loved it, and they seemed to as well!

What was the goal?

In our minds it’s been all about creating representative role models; the more women we see on the trails leading, the more accessible it can seem to other women and for young girls too.

Of course, role models are not the only answer. Addressing under representation is complicated but it’s a start. Each individual woman out there, being seen riding or delivering led rides, demonstrates to other women and girls that they’re welcome in the mountain biking community and that it exists for them to be part of as well. Each good role model can influence many to get involved, in turn become role models to others.

How has it gone?

Check out the video below to see how our aspiring leaders felt about their experience immediately after the weekend:

Out of all the women we have seen come on these courses over 70% are now on the leadership pathway, with several having now become qualified leaders. These were funded courses with money built up from registration fees for joining leadership courses. This means that the money was being put directly back into building the leader network. The funding is now being reviewed and may be directed to new initiatives, but the ball is well and truly rolling with many more female role models out there working as professional British Cycling Mountain Bike Leaders over the last few years.

Credit ought to go to every single one of them for the effort, determination, and commitment to take on a professional award that stands as a valuable and respectable leadership award in the outdoor industry. I’m always looking forward to the season ahead and seeing more women become mountain biking leaders!

Words Emma Holgate, Senior Instructor at Glenmore Lodge

Photos: Ed Smith_British Cycling, Emma Holgate

About Glenmore Lodge

Glenmore Lodge is sportscotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre. It offers skills training and National Governing body qualifications across a range of outdoor adventure sports, including mountain biking, climbing and mountaineering, paddlesports, and backcountry skiing. Endura provides Glenmore Lodge’s Mountain Biking Instructors with high quality technical clothing and gear that can hold up in the roughest conditions of the Cairngorms. Find out more about Glenmore Lodge and check out their Trail Riding courses HERE.



Writer and expert