As president of the Juneau Mountain Biking Alliance, Briana Swanson wants to stoke interest in mountain biking. One goal of the group, she said, is to develop new mountain biking trails in Juneau.
Today, though, she’s more than happy to be setting out on a pre-existing path: Dredge Lake Trails. It’s a cool and dry Thursday evening, as good of Juneau biking weather as you’re going to get. It’s also one of the select times she gets to ride with an all-ladies group. For the past few summers, Swanson has organized ladies trail rides a couple times a month to help grow the sport among women.
“I have always ridden mostly with all the men in town,” Swanson said. “You go out and you see ladies and you’re like, ‘Oh, there are ladies riders.’ So this is a good way to bring us together because I feel like we all have our own little groups but we all don’t know each other.”
At first, the physical nature of the sport may seem daunting, Swanson said. That’s why she purposely invites all levels of riders.
“It can be fun, but it can also be a little bit scary and everyone has different levels that they’re willing to push themselves on,” Swanson said. “So I try to use trails that are most accessible and allow everyone to ride on, but can also challenge you if you want to try to ride some of the more technical parts of the trails.”
Sheila Good is a longtime mountain biker in Juneau, and one of the eight that came out for the evening ride. Good said it’s difficult to keep up with some of the men in town, and she’s able develop more skills by riding with other women.
“We handle our bikes different,” Good said. “We don’t necessarily muscle over stuff as much as the guys do.”
Mountain biking has historically been a male-dominated sport, and the mountain biking alliance strives to help break through that barrier, and encourage women to join.
“I think it is so important for us to get together because it’s not as intimidating when you’ve got a group of girls that are encouraging you and helping you through,” Good said. “So if there’s something you don’t know how to do, they’ll stop, they’ll say, ‘Well, try it this way,’ whereas the guys sometimes, they’re just like, ‘Later.’”
The “Ladies Trail Ride” is publicized on Facebook, which is how first-time participants Nicole Dwyer and Michelle Warrenchuk found it. Both riders arrived to the trailhead early, clicking on their helmets before introducing themselves to the other riders.
Warrenchuk said she put her bike down when she started a family. Now that her son is 10 and quickly advancing on his own mountain bike, she said it was time to take up the hobby again.
“I was kind of in retirement as my son was growing up, and now he’s really into it so it’s kind of fun as a family to get back into it,” she said. “I feel like I better get caught up and get back into shape before he gets too much better than I am.”
Dwyer moved to Juneau about year ago and works in the tourism industry. She brought her mountain bike when she moved to Juneau, and is still learning the trails. She sought out the group in an effort to feel more comfortable while trying out new terrain.
“I just like to be outside and go faster than a hike,” Dwyer said.
To learn more about the ladies riding groups, go to juneaucyclingclubs.org or facebook.com/JuneauMTBAlliance.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.