The Birth of the Wild Betty's
In 2009, an unfortunate event unfolded when the racing team that Melinda Davie was a part of folded. Simultaneously, the women who collectively led the weekly rides in Toronto also experienced a sense of disappointment. However, rather than dwelling on their sorrow, they resolved to establish their own club and team. During a series of meetings held at a local pub, they brainstormed ideas for a name, and inspiration struck when Pat Fife discovered a mountain biking slang dictionary through a Google search. The term “Betty,” which referred to a female rider, resonated with them, and thus the Bettys were born. Incorporating in January 2010, they designed a logo and embarked on a mission to find sponsors near the Thomas Hauser trailhead in the Don. Their affiliation with OC (Ontario Cycling) marked a significant milestone, and today, after 14 seasons, the Wild Betty’s have expanded to three chapters with hundreds of members.
A Supportive Network
Throughout their journey, the Wild Betty’s have been fortunate to receive support from various quarters. Local bike shops, fitness groups, nutrition suppliers, clothing suppliers, and event organizers have played a crucial role in their success. Achieving financial self-sufficiency over the past six years, they remain grateful for the ongoing support fostered through these relationships. While some members of the original core leadership team have moved on, a strong sense of camaraderie has persisted, and the Wild Betty’s have welcomed outstanding leaders, sweeps, and fine riders into their fold.
Skills, Training, and Community Building
After several years of leading rides, participating in races, and helping beginners, the Wild Betty’s recognized the importance of formal instructor training for their leaders. They partnered with the Instructor Certification Program, initially through IMBA and now with its original founder, Shaums March from Bellingham, Washington. The Wild Betty’s now boast level 1 and level 2 instructors within their ranks, along with an instructor trainer to certify level 1 leaders. Additionally, the club has been offering free day-long clinics for members since 2015. The Wild Bettys’ dream has always been to help more women discover the sport of mountain biking, particularly cross country riding, fostering skills, confidence, and nurturing support. They actively encourage members to explore other disciplines, participate in events, race, and further their teaching qualifications.
The Power of a Female-Only Club
One might wonder why the Wild Betty’s chose to create a female-only club. The answer lies in the understanding that women often have different learning experiences compared to men. While co-ed group outings are enjoyable, they can be intimidating for weaker or smaller riders. The fear of holding up faster and stronger riders can lead to negative thinking and poorer performance, ultimately deterring riders from trying again. Riding with women who “have all been there” creates a more calming and supportive environment. Additionally, women often approach skills acquisition differently due to differences in physical confidence levels, requiring more steps to achieve certain skills. In an all-female group ride, the focus often shifts to the journey rather than the destination. As women gain strength and skill through these rides, they frequently transition to co-ed rides, displaying superb balance and finesse on technical trails.
The Unique Legacy of the Wild Betty's
The Bettys stand out as the first and only urban women’s mountain bike club and team in Ontario. While other clubs have incorporated women-specific rides and events, the Bettys’ dedication to their niche sets them apart. Over the years, they have taken pride in the number of women who have