Submitted by Val Hyrman (DKR Elite Team Rider)
In the male-dominated sport of cycling, it's refreshing when an event takes an entirely new direction. Skirts in the Dirt in Grand Rapids, Michigan is a one-of-a-kind Mountain Bike Race that is solely for women; tutus are highly encouraged!
Like a pre-patriarchy Barbieland, the men at Skirts in the Dirt are there simply to support the women as by volunteering, supporting racers, providing neutral bike support, grilling hot dogs, and cheering from the sidelines. Some men even wear tutus in solidarity.
Race Director, Maria Carrillo-Diekema, is incredibly intentional about making it a fun and safe space for women and girls of all ages to race, encourage each other, and just have fun on and off the bike. Every racer is cheered on equally, whether they are first or last or just having fun. It feels good to be there sharing space with so much positivity.
One of the goals of this event, according to course director Jill Martindale, is "to make beginners fall in love with mountain biking." This year's 10th annual race had almost 40 people registered in the "Never Ever"category, described on the reg page as being "for those who are new riders, have little experience, have never raced before or who said they'd never race. Never say never!!!"
Over 160 women and girls signed up to race this year's event.
In addition to completing 6 mile laps of technical trail, racers are challenged to 3 additional "feats of strength" to spice things up. Challenges like tossing a frisbee into a trash can, waddling with a beach ball between your knees around markers, tossing a bike rim over a cone, spinning on a baseball bat, and drawing a picture of a bike.
In a world where race directors are docking women's payouts and race slots because of perceived low numbers, even begging men to "bring their wives" to race, it's hopeful for the future of women's cycling to see efforts like Skirts in the Dirt have such success.
Well done Maria, Jill, and crew!
"Our event is more than just another mountain bike race -- it is a celebration of all women who ride; no matter the color of their skin, body shape or size, skill level, where they ride, how often or the bike they ride. We are inclusive the LGBTQ, Femme and NB community!
Skirts in the Dirt is free for those 12 and under in the Squirts in the Dirt Category!
We take pride in cultivating a safe place for all non-traditional mountain bike riders to comfortably experience a beginner-friendly racing atmosphere. It is our hope that it leads to more races down the trail."
- Skirts in the Dirt