Kat Sweet at the I5 Colonnade mountain bike park in Seattle. Photo by Meg Valliant.
Though mountain biking has been a male-dominated sport from the get go, there have always been a small contingent of women along for the ride. Jacquie Phelan, Juli Furtado, Rebecca Rusch, Marla Streb and many others all played pioneering roles in mountain biking’s development. Like them, Kat Sweet‘s mountain bike career has helped break down barriers for women and clear a path for today’s riders, especially in downhill where she was one of just a handful of women racing in those early days.
Sweet’s bike life has spanned nearly three decades of professional racing, freeride competitions, contest promotion, and coaching. These days her focus is on the latter two with her Sugar Showdown contest series for women freeriders and her Sweetlines Coaching business. Specializing in freeride coaching for women and kids, Sweet is working to foster the next generation of mountain biker rippers and grow the “sisterhood of shred.” I spoke with her about her long history in mountain biking, her unexpected foray into coaching, breaking down barriers to entry as a mentor for women riders, and much more.
Photo by Jean-Pierre Praderes for Jan Heine’s The Competition Bicycle.
As the title plainly states, Jacquie Phelan is the Godmother. Or perhaps the Queen. At the very least, she’s one of mountain biking’s early pioneers and helped carved a path into the sport for women. She helped found the National Off Road Bicycle Association along with other mountain bike luminaries of the day like Jack Ingram and her husband Charlie Cunningham; won NORBA championships and many other mountain bike races throughout the 80s and 90s; founded the first women’s mountain bike club and continues today to promote women’s mountain biking through it. Jacquie and I spoke about her introduction to mountain biking, her early days of racing in a “man’s” sport, the foundation of the WOMBATS and more.
Posted in Advocacy, Bike Industry, History, Interviews, Mountain Biking
Tagged 1980s mountain biking, charlie cunningham, jacquie phelan, mountain bike history, mt. tam, NORBA history, WOMBATS, women and cycling, women mountain biking