Trail organizations across the country have seen a significant increase in the number of trail users in recent years. More people outside is a good thing. Being outdoors has many benefits on an individual level and outdoor spaces have the power to bring people together.
With more people outdoors, how do we pass the etiquette to trail users of all ages? How do you communicate things like respect, inclusivity, safety, and trail etiquette when it all seems like big words? How to turn new mountain bikers into cyclists for life?
IMBA spoke with Lindsey Richter, founder of LadiesAll Ride, about how she imparts etiquette and life skills through her writing and mountain biking coaching, and how she empowers girls and women to be radiant on the trails. Lindsey wrote a book called ATV Adventures with Izzy: Etiquette is a Big Word which she hopes will help kids and adults spread kindness on the trails.
This blog also has quotes from young cyclists talking about what makes them smile on the trails and how they help others have a good time on the trails.
What made you decide to write a children’s book on trail etiquette?
A woman approached me during the pandemic. She had noticed an influx of people on her local trails in Seattle. This woman texted me out of the blue, I hadn’t met her. She had noticed my writing style online and said, “I’m not sure how you relate mountain biking to life and try to reach more mountain bikers. Maybe you would like to help me write a book on etiquette because there are so many new users on the trail a lot of them don’t seem to have good etiquette, littering and going and going off trails and widening trails and riding when it was muddy.
I thought about it. I love to write, but a book on etiquette for children seems really boring. They won’t want to read a book on the label. I kept thinking about it, and something drew me to it. I knew this had to happen. I thought it would be a fun way to talk about etiquette and something a little lighter, like a children’s book.
I was talking to one of my fellow mountain bike coaches who is a school teacher. I said, I just feel like etiquette is such a big word. And she said, here’s your title. And once I had that in mind, I started researching children’s books. I kept coming back to Dr. Seuss’ books because even as an adult they are fun to read. That’s how it should be done, it will have to be in rhyme, so that it is fun and fluid like mountain biking, but also the educational part. So after playing around with the script, she and I came up with a kind of summary of the lessons together that we wanted to spread.
The book is called ATV Adventures with Izzy: Etiquette is a Big Word. It is one of his adventures. There is such symmetry between bikes and life. So I thought, that’s perfect. I’m just going to keep writing books about the adventures she has on her bike and the life lessons she learns.
In addition to being a writer, you are also a mountain bike coach. How do you pass on etiquette and life skills to other riders?
At Our Girls AllRide camps, we use a book called the Trust code for girls. He talks about how to find confidence when you feel down and have no self-confidence. He talks about not looking to others for confidence, but looking within. There are chapters about smart risks versus dumb risks, and it gives little storylines of girls who are in the process of making choices and taking risks and feeling the fear behind what it means to take a risk. It’s about good friends who want to lift you up and see you shine, and friends who destroy other girls who aren’t really friends.
So we incorporate that into the bikes, like looking at how we all work together. If one of you falls, everyone helps you back up, cheers you on, and helps you get away. But there is also an element in which you have to pick yourself up and learn to take care of yourself, while uplifting others as you uplift yourself.
It’s really cool to have this kind of after school program for girls that has nothing to do with competition, because there are already a lot of programs focused on racing and team development. We didn’t have a schedule that was just cycling for fun. So we wanted it to be more than just fun. We wanted to make sure these girls truly understand the life lessons that bikes can teach them from a young age. Part of what we’re trying to do is help them be strong, independent women, but also help them understand what it means to be part of a community and what it means to uplift each other along the way. It’s pretty awesome.
What are some experiences as a coach that have marked you and inspired you to continue doing your job?
I’ve been coaching full time for over a decade. My experience watching women and girls learn things on the bike that are daunting, that they don’t think they can do when they first try. Seeing this process they go through when they actually get it, and the shift and change in their attitude towards themselves.
Personally, mountain biking has changed and saved my life. I’ve been through some interesting things in life where cycling brought me back to myself and showed me what I’m capable of and helped me believe in my ability to be strong. So that’s really something that I’m proud of, to see these people not thinking they can do it, overcome that fear, do it, and then transform the way they believe in themselves. That’s really the end goal of all of this, is to help women and girls realize their abilities and find more strength and confidence in themselves.
With social networks, it is so easy to compare yourself to others. I love Brene Brown’s quote: comparison is the thief of joy. When we start our camps, I give a welcome speech and I’m very clear when I say, Welcome everyone. Who’s nervous to be here? And a lot of people raise their hands and I say, U.S. too. We have to play in front of you, we don’t mean anything bad. We are as nervous as you.
Don’t judge everyone and compare yourself to her new outfit and that nice new bike. None of that matters here. What matters is that we are all present, and that we are all there to collectively celebrate the joys of mountain biking.
The bicycle is our common bond. No matter what background you come from, we celebrate all women, all body types, all shapes, all sizes, all fitness levels, all women of color, all LGBTQ+, you belong here. We make sure people know that we created this community with Ladies AllRide and Girls AllRide to give women a place where they belong, a platform to lean on themselves and find confidence in who they are because of their own abilities and their own ability to persevere and learn new things.
Each year, a portion of the net proceeds from the sale of Etiquette is a Big Word will go to trail-building organizations such as IMBA, Central Oregon Trail Alliance, and Evergreen Trails as well as cycling advocacy organizations.
IMBA driving atmosphere
Trails are common ground