Get stoked for the second Shredhers Enduro June 26
The summer of 2020 could have been a bleak one for the women’s mountain biking community if not for Michelle Friesen. The Contagious Mountain Bike Club (CMBC) had to cancel Dirt Girls, its rides for women, due to COVID-19. The program is very popular, and riders were missing their weekly outings. Luckily, Friesen stepped up to the plate and created an informal community called Shredhers as a temporary alternative to Dirt Girls.
“I saw a lot of new women in the sport and I saw posts on Facebook, like, ‘Where are the new trails? What does a ‘blue trail’ mean? What can I ride?’” Friesen says.
“I saw that gap, because Dirt Girls couldn’t run last year. And so, when I started Shredhers it was really just to fill that gap for a year.”
Friesen hosted a Facebook page where she invited women out for rides and posted skills videos aimed at women. She also applied for funding under TakingITGlobal’s Rising Youth program funded by the Government of Canada and was awarded $1,500. With that money she offered the first Yukon enduro mountain bike race for women.
“I thought the enduro would be a good way to get women out,” Friesen explained. “I felt like we already deal with isolation a lot here in the winter, and then COVID hit, and then we all stayed home through the whole spring, and I felt like that was taking a big toll on people’s mental health. I just really wanted people to get out of the house, and connect with other supports and talk to people, and do it in a safe and healthy way. I thought the enduro would be a good way to do that.”
The Shredhers Enduro was a huge success even with the measures Friesen implemented due to the pandemic. She limited the race to 30 riders, because she also had 15-20 volunteers and her cap for total participants was 50. There was no registration fee, although people were invited to make contributions for the Whitehorse Food Bank; 10 to 12 bags of groceries were collected.
The youngest rider was 12, the oldest was 65, “so we had five generations. I don’t know, it was really cool,” Friesen says. The range in rider age and skill level reflected Friesen’s goal to have an inclusive event where everyone felt welcome and supported.
“It was also about empowering women too, because races can be really scary and can feel really intimidating and I wanted to create an environment where they could feel confident even if it was their first race or even if they were only on their third bike ride,” Friesen says. “You don’t have to have the best bike, you don’t have to be the best biker – anybody can do this, it’s just for fun. And I think it was really cool to see the confidence people had when they completed their first race.”
Friesen is now preparing for the second Shredhers Enduro, which takes place June 26. This year, CMBC will be sponsoring the enduro as an annual club event. Friesen is once again at the helm and is scouting Grey Mountain trails for a suitable course.
“The intent of the enduro is to be really inclusive and really accessible, so I’m trying to stay true to that,” she says in regards to finding a course for all levels of riders. “I don’t want to make it too difficult; I don’t want people to leave feeling discouraged.”
In addition to organizing the enduro as a CMBC event, Friesen is also organizing an event under the Shredhers banner. Thanks to her work on the enduro last year, as an “outstanding alumni” she is being awarded another $1,500 from the Rising Youth fund.
For 2021, she’s holding a Shredhers mountain bike retreat for an entire weekend in July. Friday night, retreat participants will get social with glass-blowing at Lumel Studios and drinks and appies at Gather. On Saturday, the group will head out to Boréale Explorers, their base camp for riding in Carcross. Folks will spend the night at Boréale Ranch, where they’ll have a Zoom chat with Canadian pro mountain biker Micayla Gatto. Sunday will feature a bike mechanics clinic. The retreat will be free, thanks to the funding Friesen has received.
As well, Dirt Girls is back on track for 2021, and Friesen is organizing the weekly rides as a CMBC board member. About 40 women showed up for the first night in early June, with volunteer leaders hitting the trails with beginner, intermediate and advanced groups of riders. The season will include a few shuttle rides, including a finale on the Blown Away trail on Mount McIntyre.
Michelle Friesen is part of the next wave of amazing Yukon women aiming to make mountain biking accessible and inclusive. And she’s clearly happy to be leading the way.
“I had probably my favourite summer riding last year with all the women, to see how excited they got, to see how much confidence they got,” Friesen says. “And I can’t wait, I can’t wait to ride with all the girls again this year.”