Jaime Rees handles her mountain bike like a professional downhill mountain bike racer. Because she is one. Penny Schwyn is a certified mountain bike coach who loves to ride in remote backcountry. When you meet them, you won’t see any swagger or braggadocio. But when they ride, their skills speak volumes.
More importantly, these founders of the Biking Betties of the Inland Northwest are passionate about cycling and trail riding. And if you’re a woman who wonders, even just a little bit, if riding on trails is right for you, then the Biking Betties group is the perfect place to start.
How did the Biking Betties get started? Rees and Schwyn formed the group in 2014. Rees had become a Liv Ambassador through The Bike Hub bike shop, and the group rides were a way for her to organize events for ladies and biking. Schwyn is a board member and coach with Evergreen East, the eastern chapter of the nonprofit Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, whose mission is to cultivate mountain biking opportunities in our area. Two years later, the Biking Betties membership on Facebook is over 400.
At this year’s kickoff meeting in February, Rees addressed the new members in attendance. “Don’t think of us as a downhill group. Don’t think of us as a racing group. We’re here to ride and have fun. It’s not like when you ride with the guys and you’re the last one and they’re waiting for you and then as soon as you catch up they say, ‘Okay, let’s go.’”
That spirit was appreciated by newcomers I spoke with at the kickoff meeting. Melissa Verwest has been riding mountain bikes for quite some time and took up downhill racing last year. She’s looking for other women to ride with and she wants to improve her skills. Kelly Kohlman’s cycling experience includes road and mountain biking with the majority of it on the road. She wants to improve her mountain biking skills, increase her confidence and ride with other women. Rachel Todd has been riding trails on her own for a couple of years. This group was a great find for her because she, too, has been looking for other women to ride with.
What kind of rides do they do? Rees described the rides at Camp Sekani off Upriver Drive: “At the beginning of our Biking Betties time, going to Beacon was a little dangerous because a lot of the Betties were scared of it, that we were going to go down something big or scary or have to go off big jumps. But the Evergreen East trail crew has done an absolutely fantastic job with the hill, and it has turned into one of our favorite spots. The Betties have become much more confident, and they want to learn how to go over some of the gnarly stuff: the rock rolls, jumps, wedges, wood. An outing at Sekani can entail a lot of things, but we really spend a good portion of our time socializing and enjoying the trail system that has been created for us. Ladies of all levels of riding can now join us, and they have a blast progressing in their riding abilities.”
Schwyn describes a typical Mount Spokane ride. “We meet at the bottom and sort out our shuttle [ride to the top]. We’ll then find out everyone’s comfort level as we have a few different routes we can ride depending on the group. We always have a leader and sweeper and wait at all the junctions. Sometimes we do on-the-fly plan revisions to accommodate the group, and it is common for us to split the group for easier or harder trails. We try to make it really fun for gals who have never been up there before,” Schwyn says.
Rides are held at many locations in Washington and Idaho, so the ladies can learn the trails and return to ride with friends on their own. If the rides aren’t enough, there’s more. The Biking Betties host basic maintenance classes and bike-fitting workshops, which are supported by Chris Andreasen at The Bike Hub. The group promotes classes held by Evergreen East and encourages the ladies to help Evergreen East maintain the trails they ride on.
You can figuratively catch up with the Biking Betties by pointing your browser to www.bikingbetties.com. You can literally catch up just by showing up with your bike. Bring a helmet, water bottle and a healthy dose of enthusiasm. //