Mountain bike workshop at an Indian girls school

I have been living in India for seven years and have been doing mountain biking as a regular hobby, challenging sport and out of deep passion. While a lot has developed in the Indian cycling Industry in the past and there is now a growing mountain bike community, it is unfortunately still the case that Indian girls hardly get to this sport. Although separate women’s categories have now been established in some races, the participants have hardly any national competition. What is the reason for this and how can the situation be changed? Indian women and (adventure) sports – in between there are some obstacles to overcome:

  1. India is an emerging country that is evolving from year to year. Industry and trade are booming in India’s big cities, and India’s large middle class is adapting more and more to a Western way of life: driving big cars, vacationing and having hobbies. But hardly any other country is likely to have such a big gap between rich and poor as in India. And while there is a growing middle class who goes to the mountains for a trekking holiday or for a beach holiday in Goa, there are still millions of Indians who may not be among the poorest of the poor, but where daily life serves to survive: while men go to work and earn their rupees, the women and girls take care of the house, the animals and the children, sew and wash clothes, cook and and and… there is little time to worry about a leisure activity, let alone one that requires additional physical exertion and thus burns additional calories. Moreover MOuntain Biking is an expensive sport
  2. Then there are the girls of the upper class, who would have permission and support to do the sport. In these cases, fathers buy the most expensive bikes, spend a lot of money on clothes and materials. But here there is a lack of willingness to train and to suffer for it. These girls have never had to make an effort in their entire lives. Born into a rich family, one learns to avoid effort, as there are others who take on tasks. To ride more than a few kilometers by bike or even in the terrain seems hopeless.
  3. But what about all the middle-class girls? Here, too, social backgrounds play a major role. The family still doesn’t like it, when their daughters are involved in a sport where they wear short clothes, go to remote areas, get dirty and even  injured. Shouldn’t the girls learn much better for school, pursue a more moral hobby, or help with housework?
  1. Some fears are well-founded: to ride alone or even as a gtoup of girls in India along lonely forest and dirt roads – this can unfortunately be a sensitive topic. What happens if there is a mechanical problem, an accident or even something much worse?

But establishing a sport like mountain biking among Indian girls and women makes sense. Not only because girls also have a right to exercise their passions and this should be recognised by society, but above all because it is good for people and nature, increases self-confidence and India simply needs more equality and balance between the two sexes. Girls grab the bikes!

Even then, when I first came to India as a volunteer in a slum in Delhi, it was necessary to support the Indian girls on their educational path. At that time we gave tutoring lessons, workshops and organized excursions. I am all the more pleased that I can now work in this field again and even include my hobby.

Last Saturday, the first mountain bike school program took place in a girls’ school in Shimla. Even before that, this program was organized by my sponsor Hero Cycles, but it was more about a general announcement of the sport in youth and talent-finding. Now the attention should be devoted entirely to the girls.

As the only female team member of the Hero Action Mountain Bike Team, I naturally played a central role. I served as a role model, could motivate and create trust. Yes, girls are also allowed to do adventure sports.

What happened at the school with over 500 participating students was overwhelming! The girls were not only interested and listened attentively. No, they showed real enthusiasm. They cheered and clapped when the boys showed a few tricks, took a bike quiz to win one of the most coveted T-shirts and actively took part in the final bike competition.

Some girls drove around the cylinders faster than I could have done and we found real talent.

But the majority of the schoolgirls had probably never sat on a bicycle.

Next we will probably have to organize a bike training. But we have already seen the first small and bigger successes: With the help of the headmaster, the first girls’ bike club is launched and together with the winner of the tournament, I will organize regular bike rides within the framework of the club. That’s something! The girls are of course watched by us and who knows, maybe we will soon find a second female Hero Action team member who participates in Indian mountain bike races.

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