Over 30 women came out for May 31 ride at Pineview. SPIN Photo.

Dirt Chix Kamloops building the sport of mountain biking for 12 years

Looking for a group of passionate mountain bikers in her area, Kamloops resident Jen Stewart turned to Dirt Chix Kamloops to support her in her own riding goals.

The now second-year Dirt Chix and trail host still remembers her first ride with the all-women mountain bike group last summer after the trails reopened from the wildfire season.

Jen Stewart (middle) and fellow trail hosts ready to hit the trails. SPIN Photo.

“Everyone was so excited because we were actually riding after the smoke cleared and the trails were open,”she said.  “It was a pretty big group we were riding in Bachelor. We all got out and rode as a big group together. Everyone was laughing, happy and just really excited to be on our bikes on the trail.”

Her passion and fitness goals made becoming a trail host a natural transition and allows her to  support the other women in the group in their own goals by leading them through the weekly ride.

“What I always say about this group is there’s no such thing as ‘I’m sorry.’ You don’t have to say sorry because you can’t ride up a hill; you don’t have to say sorry because you’re nervous about riding something,” said Stewart. “We all just want to come out and have fun and support one and another. If you are at the bottom of the trail and have a smile on your face at the end of the ride that’s the most important thing.”

The community group meets weekly as a way for women interested in mountain biking to get involved in the sport, meet like-minded individuals and hold each other accountable.

Forming 12 years ago after four friends with kids all under the age of 10 years old were struggling to balance family life and getting out on the trails each each week. The foursome committed to holding each other accountable by meeting Thursday nights and called their group the Dirt Chix.

“Just having three other people waiting for you was enough incentive to get yourself out the door. Pretty soon our families all bought in and they scheduled things around our Thursday night rides,” said founding member Dana Heyman.

After getting jerseys made with their group name more and more riders out on the trails stopped and asked them about their group, they soon found themselves adding more and more members.

“We started taking on one, two, three (riders) and today our mailing list is at about 120,” said Heyman. “In the spring when people are really keen we get about up to 60 people but our average is probably 30 on any given Thursday.”

The group charges a $25 registration fee that is donated back to the mountain biking community for trail maintenance.

“For years we didn’t charge anything but then a lot of people would sign up and then the email (list) would grow and roll over every year. We wanted to make sure our members were pretty engaged for that year, so we’re not carrying people who have moved away three years ago,” explained Heyman.  “We thought a small fee would make people a little bit more accountable to the group and to make sure you’re not going to join if you’re never going to ride with us.”

To ensure member commute times are equal the group rotates which biking system throughout Kamloops they’ll ride.

“I think we’re very fortunate in Kamloops we have so many options and with the Dirt Chix we try and go to different areas every week,” said founding member Sheena Motokado. “Often the second time around you see so much improvement especially in the beginner group all the trails I’d have to say are fantastic.”

Depending on the number of riders who come out they often break up the rides into advanced groups, yellow (medium riders) and multiple red (beginner) groups.

Dana Heyman (left ) and Debbie Marasco before hitting the trails May 31. SPIN Photo

“Every night Dana will divide the groups. There’s a leader and a sweep. That’s a person that stays at the back so we don’t lose anybody on the ride ever,” said founding member Debbie Marasco. “When we have this larger group incorporated then there’s smaller groups to accommodate all the different levels of riding.”

Heyman, Marasco and Motokado have been riding together for 12 years and have similar likes in trails but each has different favourites. For Heyman it’s the Pineview trail network, for Marasco it’s the 10 kilometre uphill climb in the Harper trail system and Motokado is currently enjoying the Juniper trails.

“We have so much riding close to our doors we get spoiled down here,” said Heyman.

The trio of founders said they always welcome new members and  they’d love to have more members from Sun Peaks, adding they’d like to swap trail information. To learn more about how you can get involved in  Dirt Chix Kamloops visit https://dirtchix.weebly.com/.