Young girls riding big mountain singletrack with gO girls in Crested Butte, Colorado.
Seven-year-old Gabby Silva pedals her mountain bike as fast as she can on Up, Up and Away, a singletrack trail on the hillside of Mount Crested Butte. Ride organizer Sarah Stubbe is riding right behind her.
“Pedal, pedal, pedal,” Stubbe says to Gabby, prompting her to make it up the climb. Gabby makes it half way before dabbing her foot on the ground.
“That’s pretty hard,” Gabby says.
“Good job,” Stubbe cheers.
On this Wednesday evening, Gabby is one of 18 girls in the gO Girl fun mountain bike ride for girls 7 to 14 years old. It’s a free summer-long mentoring program put on by the local business Griggs Orthopedics. Stubbe, who is office manager at Griggs and races for the company’s cycling team, leads the young girls riding program.
“We want to teach the right skills, we want them to ride well,” Stubbe says. “We can teach these kids, they’re like sponges at this age and they look up to you so much. I didn’t have that growing up.”
This is Gabby’s first summer in gO Girl, and she says she is learning a lot.
“I’m learning chicken wings,” Gabby says. “So you put your hands on the handlebars and then you spread your arms out and stand up, and that helps you control yourself.”
“And you don’t look at the ground, you look up,” said Gabby’s 7-year-old friend Hallie Hicks, who also rode with the girls on Wednesday.
“And you look where you’re going,” Gabby adds. “So whenever there is a steep part where you don’t want to go over, you look right over it and you go right through it.”
Gabby Silva, 7, descends the trail using her chicken wings. Photo by Vicky Sama.
McKayla O’Connell, 11, has been riding the Wednesday sessions since they started in May.
“It’s fun,” McKayla says. “I’ve learned like how to pace yourself on your bike and how to have a good stance.”
Anna Meeuwsen joined her 8-year-old daughter Cameron on the ride.
“It’s Cameron’s first summer with gO Girls,” Meeuwsen says. “She loves it. I think she’s getting more confidence, which is good. She loves Sarah, and Sarah is really sweet to her.”
“Girls riding singletrack at seven is incredible,” Stubbe says. “Biking is one of the goals, but if we can also teach life lessons, that is the best thing.”
Stubbe is not the only guide on the ride. Pro cyclists from the Stan’s No Tubes Elite Mountain Bike Team helped lead the groups. Jennifer Smith and Alexis Skarda rode with small packs of young girls up and down the twisty singletrack. Griggs Orthopedics is one of the Stan’s sponsors, and this is the team’s way of giving back to the community.
“We really enjoy riding with these girls,” Smith says.
Stubbe says the gO Girl program started two years ago with just a handful of girls. Last year the program extended to every Wednesday, and this year the number of participants has more than doubled.
“Since we started the program two years ago, we’ve worked with about 30 to 35 girls,” Stubbe says. “It’s always been a ride, but there is also a learning aspect to it. We teach them how to clean bikes, put air in tires and how a bike should fit. We incorporate strength and conditioning, nutrition and giving back. This is what sets us apart from other biking programs and truly makes it a mentoring program.”
This year, the program also started to hold rides at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, about 30 minutes from Crested Butte. And if the girls don’t have a bike, gO Girl will lend them one for the summer.
“We’ve got four extra bikes that were cycling through,” Stubbe says. “At the end of the season we ask for the borrowed ones back so we can use them for others. And local shops help out by fixing them up for us.”
After some of the girls reach the top of the climb, they took a little rest before the fun descent.
“I’m stoked,” said 8-year-old Finley Downum, who was in the gO Girl program last year.
The group of girls prepares to ride downhill. Among them is 8-year-old Lily O’Connell wearing all pink; 7-year-old Lola Wright who is riding with gO Girls for the first time; 9-year-old Jemma Petrie and 9-year-old Kate Frey, who seriously loves speed.
“Take it easy,” Coach Smith says to Frey as the fearless young rider charges down the berms.
The gO Girl rides run every Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. until the last week in August. To join, just send Sarah Stubbe an email.
“It’s the most favorite part of my work week,” Stubbe says. “These girls are awesome.”
[Story and photos by Vicky Sama]