Even the strongest tree needs a supportive environment to flourish at the start and burgeoning women mountain bikers are no different. Creating this type of environment was the incentive behind Revolve, a “down to earth” women’s cycling club that caters to women of all skills levels who want to ride a bike!

Founded in 2009, Revolve was the brainchild of two local bike enthusiasts – Ash Burgess and Marjolein (MJ) Cook – who found there was a severe lack of women riding the trails and racing in local events. So, they decided to do something about it.

“What started as casual weekly ride quickly grew and, as more and more ladies started to turn up, we thought… maybe we’re onto something…,” says Ash.
With the simple mission to get more women on bikes – be it mountain or road – Revolve’s popularity grew quickly and captured the hearts of many – both guys and girls. By 2012, over 1000 people had signed up the the ‘Weekly Revolver’ e-newsletters to stay in the loop with the weekly rides, events and skills and maintenance clinics.

“Given the response and commitment we’ve received over the years, it’s hard to believe there wasn’t a club before,” says Ash. “They say ‘build it and they shall come’ and, since Revolve’s inception, I’ve had countless women reiterate this saying – whether they were too nervous, unacquainted with the trails or not keen to ride with their partners, these women were looking for an outlet and are now stoked to have a club to call their own.”

The club also organizes trips away, movie nights, a yearly ‘bike bits’ sale, social events and much more. However, it’s two most popular annual events are the Women of Dirt – a six-hour relay – and the Super V (you decide what it stands for!) a pedally downhill race,

Mission complete… and continuing

Women of Dirt was the club’s first event, and has arguable become its most notorious. Similar in incentive to the club itself, Ash and MJ came up with the idea for the inclusive six-hour relay to encourage women to try their hand at racing.

“After attending several six-hour events around the country, we noticed a similar pattern – great race course, heaps of competition and amazing prizes. But one thing was missing….women,” says Ash.

“We asked around and the responses from women were always the same: ‘I don’t know if I could do that’. After many cups of tea we decided that this needed to change, and so a women’s only six-hour mountain bike event was born.”

She says it’s fitting as it reiterates Revolve’s mission.

“Revolve is a fun cycling club for women of all abilities and skills levels. From first time riders to women racing every weekend, we are all stoked to ride our bikes,” says Ash.

“Women of Dirt is the event that encompasses that awesome blend of fun and competition. With girls aged 9 through to women who are 50-plus – some that have ridden a handful of times and others that ride a handful of times per week – it’s a chance to get together, ride our bikes and meet like-minded ladies.”

She says it’s been incredible to see the event grow over the past four years.

“In 2010, a women’s relay race was an entirely new concept that we had to explain in detail to anyone and everyone – now it’s rare to find a Wellington mountain biker who hasn’t heard of it!”

Women of Dirt 2014

Racing means different things to different people, and Women of Dirt is no exception. Whether you’re out to win top prize for your speed, your costume or your baking, everyone brings something to the table on the day. More than ever, this year’s event proved that relay racers won’t let much stop them from having fun – even below average weather!

Looking out the window on the morning of Women of Dirt 2014, it looked like it might be Women of Dirt, Rain and Wind – but the forecast wasn’t about to deter the 92 women who turned up ready for a day of racing, baking and enjoying the hub of women’s mountain biking in Wellington.

Run by Revolve, the six-hour relay continues to be an un-missable staple in the capital city’s local racing scene. Held at Makara Peak mountain bike park, the event has a unique atmosphere that combines the fun and intensity of racing with costumes, goodies and plenty of socializing.

“It’s a truly unique event to be part of,” says this year’s event organizer and Revolve committee member Shailie Pidcock. “Women of Dirt seems to bring out the best in everyone – there’s a great sense of camaraderie, impressive and ingenious costumes, hilarious team names, delicious baking and great prizes to be won!”

The Women of Dirt scene

By the time the race briefing was held early on Saturday, 22 November, 23 teams of Dirty Girls and seven solo Dirt Divas had turned the Makara Peak carpark into a festive biking village, complete with team signs, tents, bags of goodies and plenty of high spirits.

With six hours ahead of them, solo riders and teams worked out different strategies, with some vying for a podium finish while others were more focussed on trying the 18 different baking competition entries!

“I love this event because everything about it is a bit different,” says Foreign Foxes team member and avid mountain biker Faith Dennis. “We ride up one-way tracks we normally ride down, we wear ridiculous costumes that often aren’t the most practical for riding and it’s just as fun in the village as it is on the trails.”

Worth the effort

The event, which was held for the first time in 2010, wouldn’t be possible without the support of sponsors and volunteers, and Shailie says it’s amazing how businesses and individuals are willing to support an event they believe in.

“It’s truly heart-warming to see businesses come forward and offer bits and pieces, or their time, because they believe that Revolve is important to the biking community in Wellington,” says Shailie. “Almost everyone has a story about a partner, relative or friend who’s come along for at least a ride or two.”

One of these committed supporters is Wellington bike shop Dirt Merchants (named for the owner’s favourite Whistler trail!), which has had two mechanics on site at Women of Dirt for the past three years.

“We’ve been a stanch supporter of Revolve and its events since we opened three years ago,” says Dirt Merchants owner James Duncan, who also offers Revolve members a discount on products and services. “Revolve races have such a great atmosphere that it’s fun to be part of the day, and, most importantly, we want to support a club whose purpose we believe in.

“Run solely by volunteers, Revolve is committed to encouraging women to become involved in mountain biking at all levels – that takes more work than most people realize and is good for the mountain biking community as a whole.”

These sentiments are echoed by event organizers Mike Thomason and Evelyn Williamson, who generously donate their time and their timing machine, to keep track of the Dirty Girls and Dirt Divas’ lap times.

“Coming from an event management background, and having only joined Revolve last year, I was bowled over by how keen everyone is to support Revolve,” says Shailie.
“Aside from timing and mechanics, we approached sponsors to provide spot prizes and Revolve supporters to marshall throughout the day. Especially given the weather, marshalling wasn’t the most appealing way to spend eight hours on a Saturday, but we had a great group of guys and girls show up ready to help.”

Armed with words of encouragement, cameras and even music, the marshalls were pillars of support for the participants as they panted past.
“I’m not a mountain biker, but Revolve means a lot to people that I care about, so it’s a cause I believe is worth supporting,” said Ben Campbell, who manned the carpark for the morning.

A resounding success

Despite the foreboding forecast, the weather steered clear and Women of Dirt 2014 was a great success, with 23 teams and seven solos completing an impressive total of 383 laps!

Come join us!

Planning a trip to New Zealand? Make sure you swing by Wellington and post on our Facebook page so you can join us for a ride. Wellington’s hilly landscape, extensive greenbelt and hundreds of committed trail builders make New Zealand’s capital city a mecca for mountain bikers!

Visit www.revolvecycling.co.nz for more information!

Author Bio

Meagan Robertson grew up skiing and hiking in BC, but only discovered mountain biking when she moved to Squamish. Her passion was quickly ignited and grew rapidly when she moved to Wellington, NZ, where transitioning from journalism to content marketing gave her more time to devote to riding, racing and encouraging others to do the same. She joined Revolve and quickly became a ride leader and part of the committee. Meagan also manages PR and communications for Trail Fund NZ and coaches the MTB champions of tomorrow through WORD, a local not-for-profit that teaches kids from 7 to 17 how to ride.