Feel the fear and do it any­way.

Mountain Bike for Her - - Content - By Karen Ke­fau­ver

I was scared to try the pump track. Mostly, it was van­ity. I wor­ried that I would look like a fool try­ing to pedal around the dirt cir­cuit. What busi­ness does a 44-year-old woman have get­ting in the way of all the guys ex­pertly us­ing the pump tracks in Santa Cruz, Cal­i­for­nia?


There was also the pos­si­bil­ity of crash­ing. But I’ve hit the ground on my moun­tain bike plenty of times dur­ing the past 15 years of rid­ing sin­gle­track trails from Canada to Mex­ico to Peru. Yet, I was so con­cerned about my pump track de­but that I put it off for years. Fi­nally last week, it was time to take the plunge.


Cy­cling coach and ac­tion sports writer Joh Rath­bun, a for­mer down­hill pro, was of­fer­ing a two-hour, women-only clinic de­signed to get women on the pump track — per­fect! Plus, she’s a friend with a great sense of hu­mor. That would make me re­lax. Five of us gals gath­ered on a hot Satur­day af­ter­noon at the Chan­ti­cleer Pump Track in Santa Cruz for the event or­ga­nized by Shine Rid­ers and Girls Gone Wilder. Three of us were brand new to the pump track and the oth­ers had vis­ited pump tracks just a few times. Here’s what went down.


“The big­gest ob­sta­cle for women is in­tim­i­da­tion… Don’t com­pare your­selves to oth­ers. If you are slow, so be it. We are here to have fun,” Coach Joh ral­lied us. We prepped: Hel­mets, knee and el­bow pads on, ba­sic bike safety check com­pleted and tire air pres­sure low­ered. We brought only hard tail moun­tain

bikes, not full sus­pen­sion. So far, so good. Then, things went down­hill for me. Prob­lem #1: My ped­als were rusted on and re­fused to budge for the pedal wrench. So I would have to spend the clinic with lit­tle clip-in ped­als dig­ging into the balls of my feet of my run­ning shoes. Ouch! Prob­lem #2: My seat tube was too long to be low­ered. Joh took my bike seat off. I was stunned. Where would my tired tush rest?

Need­less to say, I was wor­ried.


Be­fore pro­ceed­ing to the pump track, I prac­ticed my front wheel lifts, while the more ad­vanced girls prac­ticed bunny hops, all un­der the watch­ful eye of Coach Joh who had plenty of tips.


All warmed up and stoked we went over the pump track. “Own it, own it, own it!” Joh cheered. Af­ter Joh demon­strated where to ride an easy “line” on the dirt track, I fol­lowed her path, rolling gen­tly onto the track I had feared for years. Im­me­di­ately, I loved it! It was flow­ing, fun and the whoops and hollers of my gal pals pushed me to go around and around (rest­ing in be­tween laps!) I prac­ticed the push-up like pump­ing mo­tion to keep my body go­ing with mo­men­tum around the track. Ide­ally you are not sup­posed to pedal but I couldn’t com­plete a full lap with­out some ped­al­ing!

“This is WAY more fun than I thought,” said my friend, Traci, a be­gin­ner rider and also new to the pump track. I had to agree with her. I couldn’t wait to re­turn for an­other ses­sion to prac­tice my pump skills and build my con­fi­dence.


The pump track is a blast – even with­out a bike seat and lit­tle pedal nubs dig­ging into my sneak­ers. Adrenalin took over on the turns and berms of the track and it didn’t mat­ter. It’s al­ways fun to learn new tech­ni­cal skills in a women-bond­ing set­ting. I feel lucky that I had the chance. Most im­por­tantly for me, I won’t let the fear of look­ing fool­ish hold me back from try­ing some­thing new that looks so fun. I hope you’ll go for it, too. Bring it on!

Photo: Clay­ton Ryon

Five women showed up to learn bike skills and then test out the Chan­ti­cleer Pump Track at a clinic hosted by Jo­hauna Rath­bun, pic­tured far right. Stu­dents in­clude (l-r) Melissa Gon­za­lez, Melissa Cline, Karen Ke­fau­ver, Traci Hukill and Sarah Mont­plaisir.

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