Jenn Avery

I met Jenn last summer (2014) on a women’s shuttle ride.  She was one of those people who seemed to have a perma-smile plastered on her face, someone who is just SO HAPPY to be out.  Little did I know at the time how involved she was in the women’s mountain biking scene in Vancouver.  Imagine my absolute delight when a film called “Muddbunnies:  A Mockumentary” was released, popped up in my Facebook feed…and I recognized that pink-caped rider!  Immediately, I contacted Jenn to set up a Skype date and learn a bit more about what she’s been up to, the film, and Muddbunnies in general.  She was stoked to talk about biking and the Mudbunnies but has deferred me to one of the directors of the film for more information since, as she tells it, she was only involved in the one day of filming and wouldn’t do it justice.

As a ride lead, can you start off with telling us a bit about Mudbunnies?

Mudbunnies is a ladies riding club that started back in 2005 with 4 women from the North Shore {of Vancouver}.  Since it’s inception, it has now grown to over 200 people and has 3 chapters:  Vancouver, Seattle, WA, and Bellingham, WA.  It’s a certified non-profit organization and has grown beyond the original group rides to include sponsoring women for races, volunteering with trail building, and helping out with races; although the group riding is still it’s primary purpose.  Mudbunnies just wants to get more women out and having fun and we find that offering a non-competitive, supportive environment allows women the opportunity to learn mountain biking in a non-threatening manner, with other women who are learning and, likely, just as nervous.  Additionally, there are some incredible riders that are part of the group, and it’s given the advanced riders a chance to ride with other women in that same type of supportive environment.

How is riding with and learning from other women different than being “out with the boys”?

We aren’t actually coaching on the rides.  Although everyone is learning from each other, the group rides provide a safe place where you can ask questions and not feel dumb.  No matter your experience level, everyone is always learning.  We’re able to push each other to try new things and teach each other in a way that allows for an exchange of ideas, including questioning how or why something is done in a particular manner.  When learning to ride with men, especially if that man is your partner, it’s common to hear “Just don’t fall”.  Of course the good intention is there, trying to keep it simple, but it’s not particularly helpful advice.  Whereas when you’re riding with other women, they tend to be more patient and understand the need to session {Author’s note:  “sessioning” refers to trying something multiple times, essentially practicing something specific to learn how it’s done.}.  The women appreciate the opportunity to roll-up to some type of feature they find intimidating, look at it, walk it, roll back up to it…and maybe not try it today but maybe try it next week.

How did you become involved with Muddbunnies?

It was in 2012, my 3rd year biking, and I just wasn’t progressing.  The North Shore is a very technical style of riding, lots of roots.  I was quite frustrated with myself and I nearly quit biking altogether.  It was then a friend referred me to Muddbunnies and I joined a group beginners ride.  I loved the camaraderie immediately.  It was so nice to be with others who understood what I considered to be hard and to be riding with other women who would stop at a feature and help me ride down it, it took the pressure off and made biking fun again.  The group rides allow you to ride to the level you’re feeling that day, without judgement if you choose to walk.

Last summer was my first official summer as an ambassador.  I’m hoping that 2015 will allow me to focus on leading beginner rides.  The beginner rides are my absolute favourite!  I just love watching women progress and seeing when the riding “clicks” and everything goes smoothly for them.  It’s such a great personal accomplishment when your perspective changes from “I can’t do that!” to “OK!  Let’s give it a try!”.

What made you decide to go to a Muddbunnies ride instead of quitting?  What would you tell women who are on the verge of quitting?

Depending who you ask, I’m either stubborn or determined.  I knew that I just needed to move past that point of frustration and focus on learning.  I knew I wanted to learn to ride well and in order to do so, I couldn’t quit.

I also knew that biking should be fun.  In fact, I shouldn’t have to convince you that it’s fun.  As kids, we all knew biking was fun!  So what happens and when does it stop being fun for women?  I think it has to do with our expectations.  It’s amazing how, in a women’s group ride, there are almost competitions on who can be must self-depreciating.  There are regular comments about “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not that strong of a rider”.  We impose these false sets of expectations on ourselves and become quite upset when we don’t meet up to those expectations.  We don’t need to be so hard on ourselves.  We need to recognize that we don’t have to be perfect and that it’s perfectly ok to fail as long as we don’t allow that failure to take over our lives.  Learn from it and session that feature again!

Competition:  Love it or Leave it?

I’m actually not super into competing.  I just want to be outside with friends, preferably in the mountains doing something fun.  I have taken part in a non-competitive scavenger hunt (That’s What She Said) in Mission, BC last summer and will be signing up for Hot On Your Heels enduro race in Squamish, BC, although it does sell out in a day and the camps fill up.  What I do love about these events or races is that you get to be a part of it and you are truly riding with some incredibly talented ladies.  I think these women’s-only events really showcase how women want the social aspect to be embedded into events, not simply a side piece.  We like the camaraderie!

You’re a biker, a hiker, and split-boarder.  What is it about the outdoors that you love?

I love the atmosphere.  There’s no watching and judging, nobody’s telling you that you look weird.  The mountains don’t care what you’re wearing or how much you make or how big your bragging rights may be.

 

 

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