In this episode we’re talking with two guests, Ash Murray and Steph Aich, who are the founders of Midwest Dirt Legion – a riding club for cisgender women, gender non-conforming, and transgender mountain bikers. Ash also works with Girl Scouts River Valleys’ Girls in Gear mountain bike program, teaching Girl Scouts technical skills and taking them out to tear up the trails on our new mountain bike course at Camp Elk River in Zimmerman, Minnesota.
Ash and Steph started Midwest Dirt Legion with a goal to build more gender equity in the mountain biking community in the Twin Cities. They saw what a big difference it made to have spaces for a diverse set of genders (not just male or female, but non-binary and trans folks as well) when they were doing track bike racing, and they wanted to create that same space for mountain bikers. They started with pretty much nothing but an idea, and found that there were a ton of other people interested in what they were doing.
Part of the work they do with their organized rides and events is providing skills clinics and an introduction to mountain biking to new riders. They start where people are at, and help them get comfortable. We talked about how they have both had experiences in the broader mountain biking community with other riders’ elitism and a masculine culture getting in the way of riding certain trails, taking certain skills clinics, or even just feeling like they’re seen as “real” mountain bikers. They try to eliminate those barriers for their own participants, creating experiences that encourage a lifelong love of the sport.
Another goal of Midwest Dirt Legion is to make mountain biking more accessible. It can be an expensive hobby, requiring lots of gear and ability to travel. Ash and Steph focus on making their events as local as possible and helping people get there, and work to break through the common belief that you need a lot of expensive top-line gear to be legit (not true!). They also do broader advocacy work through social media to expand their reach.
We talked about what it takes to start a club or organization like this to address a need in a community, and how hard work and gaining support are more important than money. One of our big takeaways was that you can solve a problem without having a lot of money or experience – you can get started, run with an idea, and learn along the way! Especially if you put together the right team.
You can learn more about Ash and Steph and Midwest Dirt Legion on their website midwestdirtlegion.com, or in this great article on The Radivist. You can follow them on Instagram @midwestdirtlegion and join their social group on Facebook called Friends of Midwest Dirt Legion.
Girl Scouts River Valleys would like to say thank you to our funders and partners that have helped make the Girls in Gear mountain bike program possible: Hugh J. Andersen Family Foundation, the Hardenbergh Foundation, Quality Bike Products, Tonka Cycle and Ski, and Salsa Cycles. Girl Scouts River Valleys, with support from these companies, has made this one-of-a-kind outdoor adventure possible for girls. Together, we can ensure that every girl pushes past their limits and builds the confidence they need to take on any challenge.