Always In Motion

OC Women’s Month Profile – The MTB Exchange

The FACES of The MTB Exchange

“Oh, the places you’ll go!” Dr. Seuss

By Manda Freyman

People are always asking me, why do you continue to put so much time into something that you get nothing back from. This comment is wrapped around the notion that no one does anything for nothing and doing something should come at a cost.

The MTB Exchange was cultivated organically through the progression of mountain biking. Now more than ever women are flocking to mountain biking for recreation and a lot of these riders are seeking out new adventures.

MTB Exchange group photon in forest in front of branded tent

All photography by Heather Goldsworthy @ IMAGEOBSCURA Photography

Woman standing in mountainbike equipment face 2 riders with their backs to the camera

It didn’t take long for women to start showing interest in biking outside of their home trail networks.

Trail forks can help us find our way, cell phones are great for emergencies and a quick Google search. However, women still hesitate when travelling by bike. It’s a big commitment, many leave big obligations such as kids, households, careers, personal responsibilities and combined with the cost of travel, it creates just enough friction to ask, “Is it worth taking the day off and driving to an unknown destination to bike?”

Then, we start peppering ourselves with negative self-talk – Where do I park, what trail entrance do I use, should I go alone? How do I find all the good stuff, is the trial going to be over my head? What if I get lost?

This is how The MTB Exchange found its legs. Imagine a program that could unite women’s social ride clubs across the province. A not-for-profit ride sharing initiative that’s comprehensive, inclusive to all women and provides no financial barriers. Riders from any skill or fitness level could take the day off, SHOW UP, and just ride. Greeted by the local women who would guide them then stay to socialize after to cultivate friendships and cement future riding.

These ride shares helped alleviate worry and provided a sturdier and encouraging space for women to explore and progress on their mountain bikes.

So, what do I get out of it?

Why do I put so much time and effort into keeping this movement going.

First, I know that giving good things to others freely and abundantly feels good!

woman cresting a hill in the forest on her mountain bike

Giving to others also helps to protect my mental and physical health. It reduces stress, combats depression, keeps me mentally stimulated, and provides a sense of purpose. All while keeping me on my bike.

I genuinely like being around all the girls, catching up and watching them thrive, make friends, grow as riders, and gain strength and confidence. It’s truly an awesome feeling!

This may sound cheesy, but volunteering helps ME make friends, learn new skills, and makes me feel happier and healthier. I am becoming a better cyclist because of these connections. When people look up to you and look to you for leadership it pushes you to be better.

But I couldn’t do this alone. The MTB Exchange only exists because of its members, clubs and sponsors who believe in us and what we are doing.

These are the faces of The MTB Exchange and reason we all shine.

I reached out to ask some of our riders, sponsors, and club leaders what this community means to them.  The support and sharing I received in return, was overwhelming and gratifying


What do your members love about your club?

North Bay NBMBA: 

The pictures on our local social media speak volumes about female representation in our North Bay biking community. Cyclists who identify as male in our community share that they are envious of the amazing experiences “the ladies’ group” create for one another. Tourism promotion has recently included images of women, women sit on the executive of the association board and share in decision making. Women are leading the way to growth of the sport in our community.

2 women smiling arm in arm in their mountain bike jerseys and helmets

WEBC Windsor:

Members of the Dirt Divas love that the rides are social (often including beverages and/or ice cream) and they spend time with like-minded women who love to ride their bikes. As well, they appreciate that No Drop Rides are actually No Drop Rides with helping them feel comfortable on trails and testing their limits with positive encouragement.

Brant Cycling Club:

Our members love that our club is expanding beyond Road Riding, and into more Gravel Riding and Mountain Bike Rides. We are evolving to meet the demands of new and long-time riders! We have a small, but passionate crew here in Brant County and our community really hypes each other up whether it’s signing up for races, doing a group outing to a Cycling Movie Premiere or celebrating a season well done with pizza and craft beer!

HAFTA Wild Bettys

There are very few ladies that love the rocky tech as much as us, but we are trying to change that each season. The MTB Exchange allows us to show others a different kind of riding and skill level needed to be enjoyed while challenging you more than anything you’ve ridden before.

L.O.S.T Turkey Point:

To quote one member; The intention of L.O.S.T. is to encourage women, ladies, girls, and females to ride single track, and create a comfortable environment for them to be introduced to the sport of mountain biking, develop skills, and grow as athletes. We provide an inclusive environment for all riders. I think we do this very well ~ friendships grow, and the company is always good.

Ladies On Single Track is a mountain bike riding group and part of the Turkey Point Mountain Bike Club, in Turkey Point, Ontario.  Sherri Schira, Meg Palermo, and Jennifer Bennett collaborated to create the group L.O.S.T. in 2013/14 in an effort to attract local women to the sport of mountain biking and bring attention to newly formed TPMBC. Since then, Ellen Kempmann and currently, Jillian Backus, have stepped into the leadership role of L.O.S.T. and represent our voice on the TPMBC Executive.

What challenges do you face when trying to grow/sustain your women’s ridership?

North Bay NBMBA:

Time, childcare responsibilities, cost. As I’m an older cyclist I am concerned about hurting myself badly as in breaking something. I’ve had many bumps and bruises along the way but continue to push forward and gain confidence.

4 women in their mountain bike exchange jerseys and helmets smiling and posing with their arms in the air

WEBC Windsor:

A challenge that I face with the Dirt Divas is for the riders to be able to make the rides a priority in their calendars along with all their other obligations.

Brant Cycling Club:

We face a lot of challenges with recruiting female members here in Brant County, largely due to the fact that our club is small and still gaining awareness. Though we have a few core female members, we’ve struggled to help break down the intimidation of getting on a bike and riding with a club that does not offer a lot of beginner programming. Though we offer a learn to ride program, we have struggled to gain enough traction and enroll enough riders each season.

L.O.S.T Turkey Point:

In the beginning, the biggest challenge was convincing our local women to give mountain biking a try. We came up with a fantastic little ice breaker called “Sip n’ Learn” where we hosted a women’s information night at The Burning Kiln Winery. It was a successful meet n’ greet for the gals and brought a relaxing and fun kinship among the attendees. From there we were able to convince girls to “Try a trail in May” and carried out weekly ride nights. The rest is history ~ here we are in our 10th year and the group keeps growing!

HAFTA Wild Bettys:

The unique rocky escarpment geography is not for the faint of heart. There are no beginner trails, so you need to be at an intermediate to advanced level to ride this wilder and more rugged terrain. It’s hard because there is nothing like it around to ‘practice’ on.

WMBC Walden:

Finding enough ride leaders for our growing community is a challenge, especially for our beginner/novice groups. More training to empower and increase confidence is very much needed. Thankfully the WMBC is super supportive and has funded training and skills clinics, but more funding is definitely needed to support our women, so WE can support our women!

Why are women’s specific clubs important?

North Bay NBMBA:

We can address the challenges and barriers mentioned above:

  • Flexible schedules for group rides to meet women’s time constraints.
  • Have a youth program run during a group ride so children can be engaged and mom’s cycle with friends.
  • Provide more cycling education/skill development events to support confidence.
  • Supporting young girls to enter the sport.
Womean in bike helmet and braided hair making a wincing face in the camera, laughing

WEBC Windsor:

Women’s specific clubs are important as it allows women a direct venue to interact with each other, build confidence and be role models to younger women to introduce them to riding and/or encourage them to keep riding to be part of learning what a healthy and fit lifestyle looks like.

HAFTA Wild Bettys:

Learning from another woman, the support and encouragement is just different than coming from your partner or a male. The tone, the attitude, the patience is more supportive it seems and definitely more fun!

WMBC Walden:

The dynamic is 1000% different! We like to stop and session things and cheer each other on. We are just so loud and supportive out on the trails, it’s such a fun vibe. I find women speak a different language, we learn and progress differently than men. Having MTB skills explained and demonstrated by women to women is a powerful thing! Also seeing a 70-year-old lady crush a gnarly feature is sooo motivating!!! MTB is a sport for life age does not matter.

L.O.S.T Turkey Point

They EMPOWER the women. The trails in the forest soothe us and the adventure fuels us.  The challenges that come up during a mountain bike ride build positive experiences with women that shape and enrich our lives. There is no other vibe quite like it.

How does The MTB Exchange rideshare program benefit your club and its members?

North Bay NBMBA:

It is a catalyst to build community and confidence. We now have friends in all parts of the province who are available to just show up and ride with.

WEBC Windsor:

It has opened their eyes to the number of amazing women shredders right in our province who are so willing to share all their awesome trails that exist beyond our area.

Woman cyclist jumping off a rock with the desert in the background

Brant Cycling Club:

The MTB Exchange has been integral in generating buzz and excitement around the beautiful riding that Brant County has to offer. From our mountain biking trails that follow The Grand River, to our adventurous Bike Park where you can do flips and tricks, to our beautiful country Gravel Roads that offer endless views of our beautiful landscapes, we have so many exciting routes and want to show our local community and riders from all over Canada how incredible our cycling in the County is! The MTB Exchange has supported us by hosting an incredible daylong event with over 40 amazing women!

HAFTA Wild Bettys:

The program allows women to experience something completely out of the norm. It pushes comfort levels and hopefully will bring ladies back again and encourage them to become members to support the work that is put into the trail system and features for them to enjoy and take advantage of to work on their skills.

WMBC Walden:

Through the MTB exchange we have made new connections and friendships with kickass ladies from all over. The MTB exchange has inspired our women to venture outside of our home trails. There is often a large group of us that end up traveling together and making a weekend out of the events. This has really helped our very own club members form and strengthen new relationships with each other.

L.O.S.T Turkey Point

Our girls are stepping out of their comfort zones to join other like-minded women for a new experience in another “neck of the woods” in Ontario. It has opened a whole new world of riding opportunities, deep personal connections/friendships, and physical and mental growth.

Could you share a special memory you have had or experienced/witnessed while participating in a MTB Exchange rideshare.

North Bay NBMBA:

Downhill nights have encouraged people to come out of their comfort zones. The community and support were created by several seasons of the MTB exchange, and a natural progression to more technical riding was made easy. I likely never would have entertained the idea of participating in a real MTB race without the supportive community of the MTB exchange!

A group photo of women in the mtb exchange sitting in front of an information board in a forest

WEBC Windsor:

At one of my first rides, I only knew about 3 other riders on site. By the end of the rideshare event I met and had great conversations with MANY riders who genuinely wanted to get to know me and talk bikes and ride bikes together!

Brant Cycling Club:

A special memory that I have is gathering all the amazing women on mountain bikes in Brantford, Ontario in 2022 and showing them how robust our trail system is along The Grand River and The Nith River. Since our trails don’t appear on a lot of digital trail maps, people often assume that there isn’t great mountain biking in Paris and Brantford, so it was really fun to hear all of the women say, “I had noooo idea these trails were here!”  We finished the day by grabbing beers at Mash Paddle Brewery in Brantford and it was wonderful to see the connections between women from all around Ontario deepen.

HAFTA Wild Bettys:

There are so many. Just the amount of high fives and wide smiles each and every time. Friendships flourishing even beyond the ride days.

WEBC Walden:

It was late November 2021, there was a MTB Exchange ride in Turkey Point. Coming from Sudbury where our trails typically close at the end of October, I was stoked that I would get to ride my MTB that late in the season. I was totally sold on the rumored “Hero Dirt”. I made the 6+ hour drive to Turkey Point, only to wake up the next day to snow covered trails. A total fluke or so they keep telling me! Despite the snow, the weekend was epic! I rode my bike on super fun trails, I stayed at the coolest Inn attached to a Mexican restaurant called Taco’s and Tequila and drank way too many Margaritas with my newfound friends.

L.O.S.T Turkey Point

My heart just about bursts whenever we host a MTB Exchange ride in Turkey Point. I am so PROUD of “my” girls who step up to the (intimidating) challenge of leading and sweeping groups and their enthusiasm in welcoming guests from near and far. They don’t realize how important their role is on our ‘host day’ ~ without their leadership the rides would not be possible. I also must mention the most awesome group of men (“my turkeys”) who have stepped up to help in any way they can, so that our ‘host ride’ runs smoothly and safely.


The MTB Exchange has 16 Women Sponsors, who also took the time to share their belief in The MTB Exchange and why they support the fantastic work being done.

Catherine Pearson @ Quayles Brewery

At Quayle’s Brewery, we believe in The MTB Exchange and its’ rideshare initiative because it embodies our values of community, inclusivity, and support. We see mountain biking not just as a sport, but as a platform for empowerment and camaraderie.  The MTB Exchange creates a space where riders can come together, share their journeys, and uplift one another. As a brewery deeply rooted in our community, we proudly support initiatives that foster a sense of belonging and encourage women to push their boundaries, both on and off the trail and then celebrate with a beer!  Cheers to empowering experiences and unforgettable adventures on the trails.”

Woman cyclist on her mountain bike through a forest trail smiling at the camera

Ashley Brown @ The Crank & Sprocket Bicycle Co.

The MTB Exchange is a positive, inclusive, and encouraging space for women to come together and enjoy the sport. When we attend events, we watch in awe how the groups are so excited to see each other and are buzzing with excitement to get on the trails. We’ve also witnessed friendships blossom from this. Women that didn’t know each other at the beginning of the season are now getting together outside of cycling, which is amazing to see and speaks highly of the environment Manda has created.

I can speak firsthand to how intimidated I was after a short stint in the racing community. I was so scared to join a group ride feeling I wasn’t a good enough rider or fast enough. I was ready to throw up as I arrived at my first ride and almost backed out. Luckily for me, I stuck it out because it is the best experience I have had since I started riding. The women were excited to see a new face, and introduced themselves right away or expressed their happiness to see me if they already knew me. It was so welcoming. When we ride, the group is happy to stop and session things you’re struggling with or offer words of encouragement. It is such a safe space. Riding with The MTB Exchange has helped with my confidence so much on and off the bike. It has shown me such a wonderful environment and belief in myself that I even went on my first ever mountain bike trip with them.

What makes The MTB Exchange unique in our opinion is the unity of women’s clubs coming together. There is no competition, there is no greed with making money, there is no jealousy. It is all about coming together, riding new trails, learning new things together, enjoying the trill of riding your bike and just having a great time.

The one thing I do wish, is that I had this type of group when I was younger as it has benefited me on and off the bike and I am so thankful that Manda kept asking me to come out and never gave up on me.”

Vanessa Labrun @ Liv Cycling Canada

“The MTB Exchange supports our goal to put more women on bikes. It’s been so inspiring to witness women from all corners of the province develop a passion for cycling and build confidence on and off their bikes. Liv is extremely proud to be supporting the program as title sponsor for a third year!”

 Karen Glancy @ Right at Home Realty

“I have been engaged as a ride leader for the Wild Bettys for over 10 years, so The MTB Exchange was a must do and a natural choice for me to be involved as a rider and as a Sponsor being a woman sole proprietor Real Estate Agent. There is no better place to learn, support and encourage without your male partner or friend giving you tips and advice. It just feels different coming from a woman.

The MTB Exchange ride share initiatives are like no other. It brings all skill levels of women riders to different areas throughout Ontario and lets them experience new trails and challenging terrain, all while finding new limits for themselves. Mountain Biking has predominantly been a male sport with a few ladies thrown in over the years and very few women specific groups, but Manda and The MTB Exchange have changed that dramatically. Women groups have been popping up all over Ontario.

A Woman cyclist maneuvering her mountain bike through a field

With The MTB Exchange, women who were once afraid to go out on their own, who wanted more than just riding with their partner/husband, has created a safe space to learn, fail, try again, try new things, and just build and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with The MTB Exchange. New friends, new skills and a whole lotta laughs are made every time.  I am honored and so very happy to have a small part. More please!”

Heather Goldsworthy @ IMAGEOBSCURA Photography

“I can’t express enough how incredible and distinctive the MTB Exchange community is for supporting women in cycling. Becoming a member has had a profound impact on me personally. It has provided a fantastic opportunity to explore new trail networks across the province, connect with amazing women, and become a better rider. After my initial season as a member, I knew I wanted to do what I could to support them, so I’ve been a sponsor and official photographer ever since. What Manda has created is truly a special environment for empowering women riders. Each year, it continues to improve and exceed expectations. I’m stoked for another wicked season riding new terrain with incredible folks.”

Yulia Vasilyeva @ INTELOCATE

Mountain biking offers more than just physical challenges; it provides powerful lessons in empowerment and perseverance, as well as a phenomenal community that I have never encountered in any other sport. As a founder and CEO and of Intelocate, I am deeply passionate about supporting The MTB Exchange; our group rides are a healthy alternative to a ‘girls’ night out,’ offering a chance to bond, challenge ourselves, and celebrate our strengths in a supportive environment. By promoting spaces where women can excel, supported by other companies that advocate for their achievements, we contribute to a community that empowers women to thrive in every aspect of their lives. I strongly believe that the MTB Exchange movement will foster more entrepreneurship, camaraderie and well-being.”

Mountain bike exchange crew group photo sitting in front of branded van and tent

Alex d’Anjou @ Peppermint Cycling

“At Peppermint Cycling, we firmly believe in The MTB Exchange group because it fosters a sense of community, empowerment, and inclusivity. As a women-specific cycle wear brand, we are proud to support The MTB Exchange and its commitment to creating a welcoming and supportive environment where women can thrive and shine in the sport of mountain biking.”

Tracy Roth @ Wilstar Management Ltd.

I joined my first ride with the MTB Exchange in early 2022. I did not know one person at the event. After that first ride, I was hooked, and knew it was something I and my company wanted to support. I started my sponsorship partway through that first year and have been a proud sponsor ever since. As a female owned and operated company I strive to sponsor & support women in sport including girls’ Ringette, and the Mountain Bike Exchange. 

Since that first ride, I have attended the majority of the rides, and met dozens of amazing, strong, and likeminded women, who love to ride bikes.  I have made many friends through the MTB Exchange in which I now ride with nearly every week. Finding The MTB Exchange has not only expanded my horizons of the many amazing trail networks across Ontario, but has also created an amazing community of which I am overjoyed to have found myself a part of. 

Never would I have imagined myself travelling to Utah with 30 women who were strangers to me only a year earlier. And in addition to that I found other women who like me, love adventure (and bikes) and agreed to travel to Red Lake to ride our fat bikes from Red Lake to Pikangikum First Nations (128kms, and 10.5hrs) to Fundraise. 

It is through this Mountain Bike Exchange community that I have made more adventure friends, found community, explored new trails, and embarked on adventures.


Lisa Koop

The obvious first response is to mention the opportunity to explore so many of Ontario’s unique trail hubs, the culture of each club and never-ending diversity of terrain. With the guidance from group session-ing, I can say that I have personally gone from tears of frustration, to tears of success as I’ve learned to ride, with confidence, the sometimes intimidating gnarly rock slabs, the spicy uphill climbs and the downhill sections that make me feel the closest to superhuman I’ve ever felt. If the goal of the MTB Exchange is to make women feel empowered and confident not just riding bikes but in life, mission accomplished. I’ve never felt more badass in my life. It has truly been one of the most powerful adult experiences of my life.  For those hours we spend together “rubber side down” and afterward around the après table, nothing else exists. To me, this is the actual heart of this group. Any nagging burdens around finances, relationships or parenting are silenced. In its place I find unwavering support and encouragement, newfound self-confidence, nothing but positivity, a lot of dirt, laughter (oh the laughter!), sweat and the most unbelievable friendships and deeply rooted connections that continue well beyond our regular bike season. It is the greatest honour to have these women moving forward on two wheels beside me.

Michelle Travers

So much!  It means meeting amazing, like-minded women!  It means travelling to ride bikes across the province!  It means having all the fun on bikes, all while encouraging and being encouraged by other women!  It means always feeling like you belong.

woman cyclist wearing her bike helmet laughing

Sarah Bibb

Liv The MTB Exchange means I get to ride with other ladies who love to ride their MTB like I do. It gives me amazing opportunities to ride new trails, travel to places I’ve wanted to go! The best part is I get to learn from other amazing women riders who encourage me to try things I normally wouldn’t! I also have been a ride leader a couple of times for my local trails & I love showing other ladies my awesome local trails. And I then I get to be that woman rider who encourages others to try new things. Liv The MTB Exchange is about community & being around other awesome lady shredders!

Christy King

I became a member of the MTB Exchange last spring and to say my life has changed is an understatement!  I went on my first organized MTB Exchange ride in May 2023 and instantly felt connected to this incredible group of ladies that really knew how to kick some ass on the trails! I was welcomed with open arms by the amazing Manda Freyman, who started the group. Manda continually gives selflessly to this group and to reach AND teach (for FREE) as many women as possible, from beginner to advanced riders. There is a place for everyone in this group!  Joining the MTB Exchange has brought so much joy to my life. We do activities together all year round and always have a blast. There is no competition, just camaraderie. There is no judgement, only love and support.

As women we need connection. We need friends and socialization, and mostly to have FUN. I have found my people and a fav pastime for sure!