In the land of mud, braking bumps and boys wearing an unfeasible amount of body armour, there is a group of women downhillers changing the face of the trails and having a ball at the same time.
“I’m not telling you! No seriously, I’m not.” And that is that. My chances of getting Amie Marsh, head girl at Dirty Girls Ride to spill the secrets of a deep mid winter downhill track in Switzerland are zero. I optimistically ply her with more coffee just the same.
“Well we’re going to do a road trip there some time soon and you’re welcome to come to that?’ Boom. A mystery downhll tour with some badass chicks from mountain bike mecca Morzine. Now that’s something to look forward to.
Five years ago you could count the number of women riding downhill in Morzine on your fingers. Last summer not only were they all over the place but a lot of the time they were giving the lads more than a run for their money. Often they would have something in common: a Dirty Girls Ride t-shirt.
Set up by Amie in 2011, Dirty Girls Ride is a social group designed to get girls riding together in an environment that makes it as easy as possible to improve, learn and be challenged.
It’s not just for people living in the area: if you’re out on holiday look them up on both Facebook and their website and get involved.
“I started riding back in 2009,” says Amie who first arrived in Morzine to snowboard in the winters. “My husband [Greg Minnaar’s mechanic, Jason Marsh] said I should try downhill as my snowboarding style would suit it, so I got a bike but obviously it was impossible to ride with him and his mates. But that summer really got me hooked.
“There are loads more girls riding now, it’s great.”
Dirty Girls Ride kicked off with a relaxed meet-up which soon grew into an at least once-a-week ride which sometimes sees 30 women turn up to ride together.
“Sometimes we get so many we have to split into two groups. We ride, we give a few pointers. Lots of them turn up and think they’re going to be rubbish but they’re not.”
There were two main reasons for setting up the group says Amie: “Encouragement, because there are so many girls who want to ride but who don’t particularly want to ride with the lads for one reason or another. And then things like Dirty Girls Ride are really good for the sport.
“If more girls ride then more girls will get into the sport and more girls will eventually be able to make a living out of it. It looks a lot more scary than it is which can put people off. We’re here to show that it’s not.”
We’re having this conversation in Dotty’s Coffee House on Rue de Bourg, Morzine’s main drag and very shortly we’re joined by two more of the Dirty Girls Ride crew. Jo is petite, pretty and laughs easily. You wouldn’t immediately see her as a chick who can handle a 40lb bike with ease. Anne-marie is nursing a broken back from snowboarding – ‘downhill is much better!’ she laughs.
“It’s a good way to meet people,” says Jo. “It’s the craic and the support. We’re not an exclusive group, we ride with boys as well but once a week we like to hang out with the girls. Our friend Rose says she loves downhill because it gives her the ‘fuck its!’ That feeling of just going for it. And that’s cool.”
This year sees them planning some races, even more regular meet ups and working closely with Diva Descent on the enduro side of things and for racing in the UK.
“It’s probably worth pointing out that we always go for a beer after as well,” says Amie. As if we needed any more encouragement.