There is no question: Minnesota is a great place to be a cyclist. Whether you prefer leisurely rides on scenic pathways or the challenge of a highly technical black diamond singletrack, there are plenty of options.
But if you've taken your mountain bike to Lebanon Hills or Theodore Wirth, chances are the majority of fellow cyclists out there were fellows. Female interest in mountain biking lacks that of the boys. The Crank Sisters program is working to change that by introducing the sport to girls and young women.
Crank Sisters, a program of the Minnesota High School Cycling League, seeks to introduce girls to off-road cycling, while inspiring, "young women to build confidence and empowerment."
Martha Flynn, the very passionate director of Crank Sisters (and an accomplished mountain biker in her own right), says one of her main focuses is on equality and inclusivity. As such, Crank Sisters welcomes girls of any skill level. All you need is a desire to learn about the sport.
New riders are introduced to basic skills of mountain biking on dirt trails that match their skill levels. The goal is to introduce girls to a fun and challenging sport. Therefore, there is no intimidating stump jumping or three foot drops.
Since its inception in 2013, Crank Sisters has seen a significant increase in interest, both from participants and among women who want to help with the program. One of the greatest increases is among younger girls.
Flynn explained, "Younger girls just need to be introduced to the option of mountain biking. We've found if the sport is presented to girls in a safe, fun and social fashion -- it sells itself and you've got a new female mountain biker."
There are a series of mini-camps scheduled for June, specifically for 4th through 6th grade girls. They are free (although donations are encouraged), and registration information can be found here. Spots are filling up fast.
Besides the upcoming camps there are a series of Try-It-Out Sessions scheduled throughout the summer. The sessions are a great opportunity for new riders interested in mountain biking, as well as seasoned riders who may want to introduce friends to the sport in an inclusive environment. These are also free and do not require pre-registration.
Bikes (donated by Penn Cycle & Erik's Bike Shop) and helmets are available for those who don't have their own. Boys are welcome too, although some sessions will have girl-only portions led by experienced female instructors.
Girls who end up loving mountain biking, once they get a taste of riding the trails, often go on to join High School teams. The number of teams is growing steadily and information about which schools have them can be found here. If your school isn't listed there is also information on how to get a team started.
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