International Women's Day
International Women's Day
Meet Janine Begley (janine_ngaio) passionate biker re-entering the world of cycling in a world largely made up of male rides and white riders. We caught up with Janine to listen to her story and understand some of the challenges society and sport still face today.
Tell us a about your journey to where you are now
I grew up in Oman, where my main mode of transport and fun with friends and kids was riding our bikes, which I absolutely loved. It was a real kind of feeling of freedom - just being able to get out and about on my BMX.
We moved back to England, and I still loved my bike and really wanted a mountain bike. But my dad bought me a racer, you know, those funny handlebars, thin wheeled things, for one of my birthdays. I remember being really gutted because it was a bike, but it wasn't what I wanted. However, I just used to ride around on that with my friends.
We used to go down to the BMX track in Bournemouth, but obviously I couldn't do it on my racer. So, I used to borrow bikes and have a go.
In my secondary years, I became friends with loads of BMXers who used to hang out at this skate park in Bournemouth called Slade’s Farm. Although I was crippled with anxiety at the time because I was the only girl. I remember I jumped the bowl once, and was so hyped after, but too nervous to do it again.
Also, back then there was never any protection – no one ever wore helmets, maybe an old pair of shin pads but that was about it. It just felt really risky, so I just didn't do it.
Then the typical things happened - I slipped into life and its social constructs, and then along came motherhood. As you well know, you kind of lose yourself a little and one of my coping mechansms was alcohol - it became very easy to have playdates with wine involved.
Before I knew I was putting away far too much alcohol on a regular basis, far too much for me anyway. Then four years ago, I decided to knock it on the head. As it turns out, there was loads of other stuff underneath why I was drinking to those levels. I guess off the back of discovering the source of my issues, came the need to find myself again and find out what thing made me tick, that made things fun.
So I picked up a hula hoop, picked up some roller skates and ended up going to Cornwall on holiday. We all took our bikes down there and went to Old Hill. I'd had a Trek Marlin and I just felt totally like I was that kid again, at the BMX track in Bournemouth, or you know, at Slades. I was like, this is amazing, I just had no fear.
So that's how I got into mountain biking. I just remember going home after that day and thinking we need to go back tomorrow. I want to go back to that that park tomorrow, which we did. I carried on riding, jumping and just absolutely loving it.
If I'm really honest, it felt like it came naturally. I've never been taught how to jump or ride a trail, I just love the feeling of flying. Some people love just downhill and going really fast, race style. I like a bit of that, but I really love air time.
How's the bike community taken to women?
I would say the mountain bike community is very inclusive of women now it's gotten so much more normalised.
I can see women’s cycle days popping up all over the place. At different parks; and there's loads more in the way of women's clothing. Yeah, I just feel like the women's scene is gaining a lot of traction. But I don't see many black or mixed-race riders at all.
I've had to really search for them. And that comes back around to the point about seeing myself in something I love which I didn’t see playing with Barbies when I was younger and in didn't see it in the baby dolls we had. I didn't see it in ornaments and things that that my grandma had that I loved, I never saw anything black; anyone black or any black skin.
And here we are in 2023, and I still don't see myself in a sport that I love.
What is the mountain bike community doing to engage mixed race and black riders?
I do wonder if there is something stopping others? I don't know. That's my question, I suppose. There's a group in the UK on Instagram called @mtb_colour_collective (mountain bike colour collective)
but they're more northern based. There's a few more Asian riders, and it certainly feels like more get togethers and gatherings are more up north.
However, they're doing a lot to raise the profile. Other than that, I haven't really seen anything that's obvious or widespread to engage riders of colour to get on their bikes.
How are bike parks helping women?
I don't know many other bike parks that have a female at the helm. I'm sure there are, but I would just love to do more about to do it. That would be amazing.
There are some complications as well about things bipod wise that that haven't been thought when it comes to women in mountain biking. For example, take the biggest mountain bike park, Bike Park Wales, they have a visitor centre you have to ride from to get to the uplift, which then takes you up the mountain, but the only toilets for women are at the Visitor Centre. So, if you're on your period, you have to go all the way back to the visitor centre
How does the community embrace equity in my area ?
I can't see that it does in Devon at all as I haven't seen any examples of people of colour being drawn into cycling. And if I'm honest, in a small town in rural Devon, I wonder how they would anyway, because there's so few of us, let alone finding a group of us who want to go riding.
My hopes for the cycling community is that I'd like to see more representation in advertising in race entries and in adverts.
If I think about Christmas adverts from major food supermarkets, they're much more equal. I see my family now where I never used to. But I don't see myself in the mountain bike world at all. I'd like to see some movement on that far away from white males to see more women and to see more people of colour
What advice can I give to girls and of colour to take up cycling?
It truly comes down to being as basic as being a face in it; getting them to see themselves, and that they're not the only one - they don't stick out and that they do fit in.