Providing young women access to mountain biking
by Sharon Sullivan
Girls ages 10-18 gather at a school parking lot with their coaches to go over basic mountain biking skills. They attach tires to their bikes, practice shifting gears, check the chain and make sure the brakes are working properly. They also take a few minutes to discuss that week’s mentorship topic — little life lessons the athletes can apply on and off the trail. Then, it’s time to ride.
Brett and Tam Donelson founded The Cycle Effect in Eagle County in 2010 to make riding available to young women who might not otherwise have access to the sport due to cost or a lack of transportation to trails. The program expanded to Summit County in 2014, and to Mesa County in 2020.
“Ninety-five percent of the time is spent out on the dirt, mountain biking in wilderness,” says Brett Donelson, Cycle Effect executive director. His wife Tam is a mountain bike racer and coach.
For many of the young athletes it’s their first time recreating on nearby public lands, says Isabel Rodriguez, who manages the Summit County program. When she asked her team members what they learned mountain biking that they could apply to daily life, one 15-year-old for whom English is her second language, replied, “I would never have imagined myself riding a mountain bike; now that I ride I know I can do anything.” For example, she says she now has the courage to take more advanced classes in high school.
The Cycle Effect runs year-round, with in-person training typically occurring indoors during the winter months. However, this year due to COVID-19, girls followed workout sessions online. Additionally, athletes are encouraged to complete 20 hours of community service throughout the year — work that often involves trail maintenance or helping at a community food bank.
There are 250 girls participating in this year’s program. While the program is geared toward Hispanics, any female can apply to join a team. There’s a rolling enrollment with an occasional waitlist. Cost of the program is $200, which includes use of a bike and helmet, personalized coaching, and race entry fees. Scholarships are available.
For more information, visit thecycleeffect.org.