A Dusty Dame obsessed by riding

27 Feb 23 | By pp-admin

This week Pedal Power caught up with Jen Shaw, long term Pedal Power member and keen mountain bike rider who has surprised herself by finding a new role hosting rides for like-minded women.

Jen got into mountain biking a decade ago when encouraged to ride with her then partner. She ‘caught the bug’ – even though she confesses “I nearly died on one of my early rides!”

That ride was up Mt Stromlo, but luckily she lived and her passion developed from there.

Over the next few years, she was in and out of mountain biking as her main issue was finding someone to ride with, of a similar level and with similar interests. “I’m not the most confident person in the world and at times, ” Jen says, “going out on my own, was daunting and that limited my motivation”.

At the time, she was also doing road riding and started doing Pedal Power social rides, but all the while, Jen was keen to do some more mountain biking with other like-minded women. From simple beginnings of just messaging a few friends and acquaintances, Jen developed a closed Facebook group, Dusty Dames, that now has more than 500 members.

Through Dusty Dames she has expanded ride options from local, social mountain bike rides on fire trails and single track, to weekends away. The group has also created the opportunity for like-minded Canberra women who want to try longer trips to travel together, such as the Escape to the Cape coming up in July 2024.

“Anyone can ride a mountain bike.” Says Jen “It caters for all levels of bike riding: you can ride slowly, you can walk it, you can go around things. At Dusty Dames, we just wait for you. You don’t have to be fast; you don’t have to be technical; you don’t have to be competitive. I also love that mountain biking is such an inclusive and welcoming community”.

Jen realised that some people want regular rides at a regular time, while others are after ad hoc rides on different days and different times. Dusty Dames caters for them all. It operates on the simple concept of riders posting a ride with details of level and distance and inviting others to join for good riding, great company, fun and laughter. And usually a coffee too!

Jen laughs and says, “I’ve never done anything like this in my life before; I’ve never led a group of any sort; and I just never have seen myself as a leader”. She originally started the group as an over-fifties women’s group but it’s now open to any age. Jen loves that it has connected her to other women riding at a similar level as her, and the social aspect of it.

“Socially, I don’t have strong connections in Canberra” Jen points out. “Dusty Dames has created great friends and the opportunity to do serious rides like the Escape to the Cape which I never would have done by myself.

“This has been a real change in my life. I’m someone who didn’t ride a bike as a kid, and I’ve never been a sports person. I just like being in the outdoors and riding a bike. Now, putting myself out there to host rides has given me a role and that gives me the confidence to engage socially”.

Jen’s got three bikes – an eBike mountain bike with dual suspension, which doesn’t get used as much as she thought it would, as mostly she is riding with others who aren’t on eBikes; a mountain bike she’s had for about five years which has faithfully covered some 10,000kms; and an early hybrid (gravel) bike which she loves that is her commuter bike.

When asked to name her favourite mountain bike ride in Canberra, Jen offers two:

“For single track, my favourite is Bruce Ridge – it’s easy to get to, easy to park. Pity it has not facilities! But it’s not too hard and I can take my Dusty Dames riders, including those who aren’t high-level riders. It’s been worked on by the trail builders and they’ve fixed up some of the tricky bits so you can have a really nice ride without having to be a really technical rider. And it’s not as steep as, say, Stromlo, which can put some people off. And even though I love Stromlo, it’s harder for me to get to in the mornings.”

“My second choice is the Northern Centenary Trail – I really like it as it’s not overly technical but it gives you a bit of distance and gets you away from roads.

Pedal Power hosts a wide range of social rides catering for different abilities, most days of the week, with distances from around 20 to 100 kilometres – you can find descriptions here – so check them out and enjoy great rides, great company and no doubt a cuppa along the way.