Scott Mercier: Roaring Fork Cycling’s SHEredders unites girls on the trail
Special to The Aspen Times
SHEredders. You can’t help but smile when you hear the name. And you’ll even smile more when you encounter them on the trails.
The SHEredders are exactly what you think they are: girls on mountain bikes shredding the trails. It’s the brainchild of Roaring Fork Cycling and is a free mountain bike skills clinic and camp for teenaged girls. This summer, 53 girls signed up to ride the trails in and around Snowmass.
I first heard of the SHEredders from RFC co-founder Jon Delk. RFC was trying to figure out a way to get more girls on bikes. When they first started the program two years ago, they were hoping to get six to eight girls coming out; 30 showed up on Day 1! It’s a grant-funded program, meaning the cost to the kiddos is nothing; it’s literally free.
I had the pleasure of riding with them this week on one of their morning rides. They meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and ride from 8 a.m. to noon. The girls get a ton of individual attention as well, with three coaches for nine girls. Megan Hartman is the head coach for the SHEredders. She teaches math at Glenwood Springs High School during the school year and coaches the SHEredders and gives downhill mountain biking lessons in the summer. She’s a badass with a brain! When I asked her what she hopes the bike means to the SHEredders, she didn’t hesitate and said, “freedom to explore, support and enthusiasm, and positive attitude.”
The other coaches were Eric D. and Kasinee Gehring. Kasinee is a volunteer; she just loves to bomb down trails and to get young girls on the trails. Eric spends his winters coaching a professional skier and his summers teaching kids how to rip on a bike. I was impressed with the enthusiasm and skill set of the coaches.
The girls spend the first part of every morning working on skills. The drills of the day were ratcheting and trail obstacles. I had no idea what ratcheting was, and I was too embarrassed to ask, but eventually I figured it out. To get over many of the larger obstacles on a trail like Government, a rider can’t pedal, or the pedals will hit the obstacle and potentially cause a crash. So, to get over these larger obstacles, but still get power to the drive train for momentum, a rider ratchets the pedals back and forth. They were also working on loading the shocks to help lift the front of the bike over the obstacle. The obstacles were rocks and trees.
After the skills training, we split into two groups, with the younger girls heading to Tom Blake. I joined Coach Eric, Jacey, and Chloe on Skyline Park. Jacey is a soon-to-be eighth grader at Carbondale Community School, and Chloe will be a freshman at Aspen High. Chloe is planning to race for the Aspen High mountain bike team this fall.
I asked Jacey and Chloe how each of them got into riding and what it means to them. Jacey’s family doesn’t ride, but she had some friends who did, and they wanted her to join them. She worked and saved up her own money to buy her first bike. She’s now on her second bike, one with full suspension. She said the bike gives her an “escape from not being able to ride,” and that she likes to “bomb” down the hills.
Chloe has been riding with her family since she was 5, and her favorite place to ride is Moab. She likes climbing as much as she likes descending. I had to agree.
When we got to Deadline, I told Eric that I’d take the caboose and that he should follow Jacey. He said that’d be great since he hasn’t followed her on a descent yet. Jacey scowled and said, “You’re not going to see me anyway,” and took off like a rocket. We finally caught up with her toward the bottom of the trail. She was off the trail picking her bike up. She’d hit a jump and nailed the take off. However, that’s the easy part. We could see her skid marks about 15 feet later where she landed. She didn’t quite stick the landing and shot off the trail into a tree. She was unhurt and unfazed. Awesome — that pretty much sums of the SHEredders.
My guess is that it won’t be long before we see one of these girls representing the Roaring Fork Valley and the country at an Olympic Games.
Scott Mercier represented Team USA at the 1992 Olympic Games and had a five-year professional career with Saturn Cycling and The U.S. Postal Services teams. He currently works as a financial adviser in Aspen and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This past season brought with it Hailey Swirbul’s greatest individual result as a professional cross-country ski racer. But any real satisfaction she received always came when racing alongside her teammates, notably during world champs.