Sea Otter group sesh: Ride to live, Liv to ride

The current issue of Dirt Rag, #210, contains my review of the Liv Intrigue Advanced 1, a mountain bike I quickly fell in love with for how it seemed to disappear under me. When I saw Liv was hosting a group ride, I was excited to join on: bikes, women and sunshine? Literally sign me up. Plus, doing more group rides is one of my many, many New Year resolutions. I checked out the new Liv Shuttle Flat shoes, available soon at retailers. The shoes were super comfortable, had nice features like ventilation, toe guards over roomy toe boxes, arch support, laces with reflective material woven into them and a little hairnet for the laces so they don’t get caught in your chainring. Additionally, I got a lot of compliments wearing them, particularly for their teal laces and gum soles. They do run small, though, so I had to size up a size and a half.

The ride was a packed field. Tons of ladies showed up, which was really awesome to see. I personally get uncomfortable parading through a crowd as a group of women, or a group of anyone really, but I appreciate the solidarity and camaraderie it brings, and the awkward side comments and stares were nothing compared to the inside remarks on how much my fellow riders loved being around so many other women. To be clear, I will ride with anyone of any gender, and my best riding buddies happen to be guys, but it’s certainly a rare treat for most of us to have such a large group of women with whom to spend an afternoon on the trails.

Guided by Liv Ladies AllRide coaches Meredith and Tina, riders were instructed before changes in trail conditions on how to handle obstacles and terrain, as well as general advice on body positioning, speed and braking. I leapfrogged to take advantage of photo opportunities of riders climbing or descending along switchbacks in a long line like a pilgrimage, enjoy the smiles and looks of excitement (and occasional terror) on riders’ faces as they passed me, and of course the famous Central Coast wildflowers that decorate the Fort Ord National Monument.

The trails were dry and occasionally rutted, that hardpacked dirt covered in kitty litter that is so fast and fun to ride, if a bit slippery at times. There was one mud crossing, one patch of poison oak and at the top of one arduous climb, we were rewarded with a fleet of goats. The best moments of the ride, though, may have been passing the Little Bellas practicing on our way to the trailhead, hearing so many strangers cheering each other on during our ride, and once we popped back out into civilization we passed another group of women climbing up the hill to enter the trail we’d just left. I know, I know — mountain biking doesn’t have anything to do with personal identity or identity politics. But that doesn’t mean it’s not rad that we’re starting to see more folks getting out there, slowly but surely.

What I feel may have left mountain biking for a while, or maybe just left me, is the joy in riding, the friendship bonds, the idea of putting fun before gear (even if I still geek out on rad new components or have gone gaga over a full carbon trail bike with 150 mm travel). And maybe it was the 30 women riding together in a field of lupine and mustards, or just the sunshine on my shoulders telling me spring is finally here, or maybe the panel discussion with the Liv Racing Team whose ages span from 18 to 40 and gave such great insight into their training regimen and racing lives. Whatever it was, I felt like between introducing myself to the all-women mechanic sector of the Liv demo squad and returning my bike, the 2019 riding season officially started.