Bicycling (South Africa)

Bunny-Hopping The Patriarchy


- By Selene Yeager & Jen See

...and nine more cycling change-makers.


“Never read the comments – that’s where the trolls live.” Well, I always read the comments. When stories come up that highlight the gender inequality in cyclocross, I want to know what people have to say. And I always see, “Well, maybe women would get paid more if they were more fun to watch. Women’s racing is boring.” I try to be a pragmatic person, so if people say women aren’t as much fun to watch, I ask, “Why?” “What are we not doing?” “How can we get better?” Our races are action-packed, with super-close racing. We’re ripping on the course. What are we missing? The most obvious answer was that women weren’t bunny hopping the barriers. So I was like, “Okay! Let’s change that and take away as many excuses as possible for people to say women’s racing isn’t interestin­g.” That was three years ago, well before I started posting #bunnyhopth­epatriarch­y, and it was a long process. I started at cyclocross camp with JAM Fund, my team at the time. My coach brought these little eight-centimetre barriers you could almost roll over. Then we progressed to 30 centimetre­s, a height that if you don’t jump, you’re bashing your chainrings and rims on them – which I was doing pretty much every single time. After doing that for three or four days during camp, I was thoroughly discourage­d and didn’t try to hop barriers for a year. The following year, I was doing a cyclocross photo shoot with Rapha. It was just me and my teammate, Jeremy Powers, and he wanted to ride the barriers. I didn’t want to be the woman in the shoot running, because it would send the message that women don’t hop barriers, only men do. So I hopped them. It was awkward, but at least it was there. There were more huge gaps in my hopping practice. I just didn’t feel confident. I really felt like I just wasn’t going to learn how to hop barriers consistent­ly. Then, a year after that shoot, before the 2017/18 season, I was on the set with Jeremy and another teammate, Spencer Petrov, filming an episode of the video series Behind the Barriers. Jeremy set out a pair of double barriers and they were both bunny hopping them and I was like, Oh my God, I do not want to be the only one not hopping, because that would be so lame. So I took all the pressure that had been building for so long and just went for it. And I did it! And it was surprising­ly graceful. I think, in some ways, the long progressio­n helped me process it. If I had tried to go from zero to hero in barrier-hopping in a week, I would have been crashing all the time. But milking the process over the course of three seasons seemed to work. I’m not saying that I didn’t crash after that. I did, sometimes in races. But by the end of last season, I felt pretty confident overall. Then, much to my dismay, I learned I was hopping wrong. I say that a little jokingly, but it’s true. I didn’t have the textbook technique of someone like Dutch national champion Mathieu van der Poel. If you watch him hop, he goes brap brap in one smooth motion over each barrier. I had been doing it in two distinct motions. I had made it work really well for me at the time, but the problem was that I would never be able to do it faster. So I’ve been in the process of relearning it during this summer’s mountain-bike season, and I’m finally getting to the point where I can bunny hop properly, but it might be a little nerve-wracking in the early cyclocross races this season. But that’s okay, because it’s really not just about me and my races. It’s cool to be one of the first women hopping in races and in a World Cup, but I can’t wait until it’s normalised – that people see that women have awesome technical skills, too. I can’t wait to watch a bunch of girls hopping at Junior Nationals. Watching U23 racer Ashley Zoerner hop at the Pan-Am Championsh­ips was the sickest thing ever. I want to teach girls in my Quest cyclocross training camps how to do it. I want to give these girls the technical attention that I didn’t get when I was their age and that not enough women get, because so few women are encouraged to work on their technical skills. I also want to bring women together and show them that it’s cool to support other women in this way. We’re brought up our whole lives to be proud of saying, “I’m not like other girls” or “I avoid girls because there’s less drama.” The new cool thing is supporting other women wholeheart­edly. I love being able to show these young women at age 15 that other women are so cool! I want to create an even more talented and skillful and badass generation of riders coming up after us.

FOUR-TIME CYCLOCROSS US NATIONAL CHAMPION ELLEN NOBLE, 22, EXPLAINS WHY BUNNYHOPPI­NG CYCLOCROSS BARRIERS IS A FIGHT FOR EQUALITY IN CYCLING I think it’s just the perfect time for this message, when we’re striving for equality; but we’re certainly not there yet.

The hashtag #bunnyhopth­epatriarch­y started as a cheeky riff off the popular #shredthepa­triarchy hashtag, which had been on my mind after an incident in Tennessee where two guys in a car threw a glass bottle at me after I ignored their calls of “Hey girl!” The bottle missed me by millimetre­s and shattered beneath my bike. I posted about it, and was like, “Can I get a ‘hell yeah’ for #shredthepa­triarchy?” and got an amazing response. After that, I started hashtaggin­g #bunnyhopth­epatriarch­y on my posts about my hopping progress. I never expected #bunnyhopth­epatriarch­y to take off like it has – there are hundreds of people talking about it on Instagram and Twitter. I also never thought so many people would end up caring about bunny hopping. But they do. I think it’s just the perfect time for this message, when we’re striving for equality; but we’re certainly not there yet. There are these amazing events like the Waterloo World Cup that have an equal payout for men and women, but then there are other events where they’re still trying to cut the women’s races short. We’re at this heated crossroads, where you have some people yelling “You go, girl!” and others yelling “Women’s racing is boring!” It’s a great time when women can be like, “I can totally do this. I know I can.” People want and need to hear that message. The amount of ground we’ve covered in the past 10 years in this sport has been astronomic­al. Just wait till you see what we do after 10 more.

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