MUDDBUNNIES IN THE NORTHSHORE OUTLOOK

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SOURCE: NORTHSHORE OUTLOOK: By DANIEL PI Staff Reporter
PHOTOS: DANIEL PI

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The Cover

Aug 02 2007

Sharon Bader’s gung-ho attitude probably helped her integrate into the male-dominated sport of mountain biking when she began riding in the early 1990s.

Bader recalls one time her reckless enthusiasm took her down a trail even the guys wouldn’t ride.

Asked which trail, she’s quick to reply, with a big grin:

“Severed Dick… We also call it the Good Samaritan Trail.”

Bader says riders nearby who saw the feat had only one thing to say: “I wish I could ride like a girl.”

“I think the guys got a kick out of it actually,” she smiles.

Today, the mountain bike enthusiast is wondering why, of all the days to choose from, the weather forecasters are correct in their predictions.

She wants to go for a bike ride she says, seated at a Lynn Valley coffee shop patio.

She’s already dripping wet from the 15-minute ride in the rain from her home in the Inter River area and the weather doesn’t look like it’ll get better anytime soon.

Clouds have lowered to shroud the North Shore mountains and a light drizzle continues to soak the Lower Mainland.

“I was hoping the forecast would be wrong,” Bader remarks.

Bader was originally planning to go mountain biking on some Fromme Mountain trails before leaving later in the evening for a long weekend at Whistler’s famed bike park. But now she’s reconsidering her immediate plans.

On an average week, she will be out biking four to five times. It’s not just physical exercise for her, but a mental test each time she’s out, and it’s clearly a passion.

Introduced to the sport in 1991 by “a bunch of guys,” Bader has helped blaze a trail for female bike riders on the North Shore.

She’s proven women deserve as much respect in the saddle as the guys and also have a role behind the scenes.

Besides riding with the guys and showing women it’s possible to keep up, Bader has also helped make the North Shore Mountain Bike Association an influential advocacy group for biking and trail use interests, serving as president from 2003 until 2006.

“Mountain biking can be a sport girls can be as good as the guys in,” Bader says. “It’s mental, as long as you get over those mental breaks you can ride any trail.”

Once a competitive soccer player, Bader explained mountain biking with her friends on the popular trails offered her the camaraderie a team does but also allowed her to tackle her own challenges.

For athletes, it’s a way to feed off each other’s enthusiasm and encourage each other, while measuring success based on one’s individual accomplishments.

As for sometimes falling behind or being the odd woman out of the group made up mostly of men, Bader wasn’t worried.

“I’m not put back by being slow, because it just pushes you to go harder,” she says, adding as a university student she studied in the sciences – a field that’s typically male dominated.

“I’m used to being in that environment.”

More recently, Bader says there are more women on the trails riding bikes, encouraged by their sisters who toughed it out with the guys.

“Like most anything, you need a critical mass,” she says. “We’re getting there now.”

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One of those women who recently took up mountain biking is North Vancouver’s Aimee Dunn.

A longtime adventure racer, Dunn took up cross-country bike riding for competitions in 2000. It wasn’t until last year she made the jump over into downhill riding.

“With downhill you really have to be in the moment,” Dunn says. “I think it’s the mental challenge.”

After completing an 800-km expedition race last year, Dunn felt she’d proven herself in endurance events so it was time for other challenges.

“Now this is a totally different goal,” she says of downhill riding.

Helping her find new riding partners has been the Muddbunnies, an online community of mountain biking women who’ve banded together to promote the sport among their gender and ride together.

“Women are a little different in their approach to mountain biking,” Dunn says. “We want to learn the technical, (and not) just bomb down the hill (like men).”

Club co-founder Ryan Peteren said the idea for Muddbunnies was hatched when she and Michelle Santos started looking for riding partners.

“We knew there were other women out there (mountain biking), there just wasn’t much of a network out there.” Petersen said.

Since starting in October 2005, the club now has 50 local riders and an online community numbering more than 150 from Seattle to the U.K. visiting the site at http://www.muddbunnies.com.

The club consists of a web-based community with a calendar of events, store selling T-shirts stamped with the pink, bunny-eared skull and crossbones club logo, message forum, and regular group trail rides.

For Dunn, joining the Muddbunnies has meant more opportunities for her to ride, and give back to the sport too.

She volunteers as a ride leader with the club, taking out groups every Wednesday on the North Shore.

She’s not an instructor, but she explains, “I know the trails on the North Shore and I can ride them pretty decently, so I take (riders) and talk them down the trails.”

She also plays a role in promoting the club’s interest, working closely with organizers with the NSMBA and recently posing in a club calendar.

The statement she wanted to make by baring a little skin with her riding body armour was to show that “real women do ride and they do have a feminine side.”

She believes by creating more interest in the sport among women, there’ll be more riders.

***

Back at the Lynn Valley coffee shop, Bader is considering just what it’ll take to make the critical mass she spoke of earlier.

As she thinks she glances up at the mountains. It’s still raining and the low clouds are still covering the peaks.

“So long as the opportunities are there (to be involved) and it’s a positive experience there’s no reason why the sport won’t grow (with women),” Bader says.

For Bader, serving as the association’s president was one of those positive opportunities.

More recently, she says the association is also trying to find more ways to get women involved, either through the board of directors or at association events like the NS Ripper series or trail maintenance days.

Clubs like the Muddbunnies, Bader says, allows women to organize and join with the larger, more established groups.

Although she’s stepped down as president of the NSMBA, with women like Dunn rising up through the ranks, the number of women on the trails can’t help but grow.

“Personally I think most things that stop any movement is an individual’s lack of interest,” she says as she clips her helmet around her chin.

Despite the wet weather, Bader has decided she’s still going mountain biking today up Fromme.

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Aimee Dunn rides down Old Mushroom trail. Top: Pre-launch girl talk in the Old Mushroom parking lot. Bottom left: Nina Parr jokes with her “bunnies” as they suit up to ride. Bottom right: Bunnies wait as Aimee Dunn and Sarah Fenton check out a drop on the trail.
By DANIEL PI Staff Reporter

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BIG, FAT MUDDBUNNIES THANKS TO: ROBIN HARVEY from the NSMBA, Daniel Pi from the Northshore Outlook, AIMEE DUNN from Team Muddbunnies and Muddbunnies Riding Club, Lucy Reiss, Nina Parr, Veronica Kacinik, Sarah Fenton and all the other bunnies from the club for making this article our best so far! ~Ryan

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