Female mountain biker shredding dirt


Road and cyclo-cross racer turned intrepid mountain biker Shell Powell tells us what she's learned from swapping tarmac for dirt.

Having been a road and then cyclo-cross racer for eight years, it wasn’t a total surprise when last year my best friend, an avid downhill mountain biker, finally convinced me to join him on the trails. So one clear Saturday in May I jumped onto his spare bike and into my baptism of fire. Here are five things I learned…

Woman mountain biker carrying bike

1. A good sports bra is essential

This may sound trivial, but by the end of a day of throwing yourself down trails, those girls are going to thank you; you know what – cycling off-road is bumpy! Add a few jumps, some super powerful suspension and going at what feels like a million miles an hour and you’ll be praying for that shock absorber.

2. Use female spcific gloves

Us ladies tend to have more petite hands with longer, slimmer fingers. We can’t help it; it’s just in the genes. Using men’s gloves can be more of a hindrance than a help as the excess material can rub as the hands are shaken up on their journey. In addition, where we might have slightly softer hands, gripping the bars tightly over the tough terrain can cause blisters. I waved goodbye to blistered and swollen hands when I swapped my “unisex” gloves for a women’s specific pair (my favourite are the Fox Women's Rley Golve as they go small enough for my child-size fingers and provide extra padding).

3. Granny pants

I am very definitely speaking from experience when I say you need to invest in a pair of these. Although you may be used to the thin, lacy thongs and they may be your go-to pair of pants, pull out the couple of sets of briefs which you have been hiding in the back of your underwear drawer. With all the manoeuvring and pedalling and general clenching of butt-muscles, that lace is going to work its way up from its normal, comfortable position and end up where you do not want it.

Woman mountain biker walking her bike

4. Sudocreme is your friend

Any places where you have slight rubbing or, God forbid, chafing, then smother on the Sudocreme and it will ease the pain considerably. This is great for preventing saddle sores from riding up one too many hills or if the Velcro of your knee pads is trying to attach itself to your thighs. It’s not called nappy-rash cream for nothing! 

5. Go at your own pace

Don’t try and keep up with your faster friend. This doesn’t just apply to ladies – if you are as competitive as I am, the instinct is to try and beat them to the bottom. In most circumstances this is a recipe for disaster and you will regularly find yourself being fished out from the undergrowth… Spend some time getting used to the bike, how it handles, the suspension, etc.… and once you are confident you know the limits of both your bike and your body, then you’re ready to go hard.

Female mountain biker planning where to ride next

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