Female riders climb to new heights

When she hits the mountain bike trails, Melissa Johnston loves to reach for the Birthday Cake.

When she hits the mountain bike trails, Melissa Johnston loves to reach for the Birthday Cake.

The 108 Mile mountain bike trail, with its “little princess crown,” has become one of Johnston’s favourites since she began riding the trails in 2010.

“There’s good skill-building on it and some tight switchbacks,” she said before a group ride Monday. “Bat out of hell is best coming out because it’s fast.

“It makes me so happy. I can go out in such a bad mood and after a ride, I’m so happy. Who wouldn’t want to be out here in nature? I want everyone to feel like that all the time.”

READ MORE: Huncity Mountain Bike Club to add trail for children

Johnston, a rehab assistant at 100 Mile District General Hospital, is the de facto leader of the Huncity Mountain Bike Club’s Ladies’ Night group rides and one of a growing number of women who have taken up the sport in the South Cariboo. Almost half the Huncity club’s 103 members are female – and Johnston anticipates more women will continue to join.

She started the Ladies Nights a few months ago to attract more women, who are intimidated by the mixed club rides on Wednesdays. Open to all ages and abilities, the group meets at the 108 Heritage Site parking lot at 6 p.m. Mondays before heading out for a 1.5 to two-hour ride. The chosen routes each week are based on skill level and interest.

“I’m seeing way more women getting involved in the sport; I think they’re just realizing how much fun it is,” said Johnston, 42, who spent years mountain biking in Squamish before moving to the South Cariboo. “I want women to feel comfortable coming out, even if they can’t keep up. We never leave anyone behind. They can take their time and learn. It’s a safe, fun space.”

It only took Lara De Kok, 22, one ride this summer to get over her nervousness. “Going out with the ladies is awesome because they give such great pointers,” she said. “You get into it so quickly on your first ride and you’re hooked. It’s a good workout but a fun experience on the way down. It’s like a reward”

Tish Diamond, who co-runs the Ladies Nights and is training to be a coach, said mountain biking provides an opportunity for women to get outside and still maintain physical distancing. She said she has had more female company in the past few years than when she started 19 years ago.

“This year with COVID, there are so many people buying bikes and getting outside,” she said. “That’s a positive from COVID-19.”

Adele Halper, 21, has been mountain biking with her dad since she was a little girl but said the Ladies Nights offer her an added challenge.

“It’s very freeing. Powerful is a good word,” she said. “You’re going a long distance and just using the strength of your body.”

For more info, call or text 250-395-0901 or check out huncitymtb.club. Funds raised by the Huncity Bike Club registrations help build and maintain trails in the region.


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