May 4, 2021
#WomensWednesday stories throughout May
As part of this year’s ‘International Women in Mountain Biking Day’, IMBA Europe decided that one day wasn’t enough to celebrate all the amazing women in mountain biking. So every Wednesday throughout May we will be sharing a #WomensWednesday story from some of the women doing great things in the mountain biking community.
The first story of the month… Eef en Aaf on Wheels
Tell us about the women behind ‘Eef&Aaf’. How did the two of you first start mountain biking?
Eef (Eveline Elsinga) got a Giant mountain bike from her father when she was 11. That was a very big gift and a kind of new phenomenon: the birth of the MTB. Eef: “Passion for everything on wheels was there from an early age and that mountain bike was my daily activity in addition to my skateboard. At Aaf’s (Afra de Boer) home, the racing bike was a kind of holy grail. Until she discovered mountain biking, which was not without merit turned out to be possible. We have both been active in the sports world as athletes and organizationally in addition to cycling. But if you ask what the women are behind Eef&Aaf then we are also mainly working women and mothers, with the virtues and concerns of every day.
Where do you live?
We both live in North Holland, which is a coastal province in the Netherlands and is located on the North Sea. Eef lives in Schoorl close to the dunes and the mountain bike trail of Schoorl. Afra lives in a village nearby. We literally do mountain biking in our front yard.
Did you start together or did you find each other in sports?
We both cycled for quite some time before we met at an MTB lesson group in Schoorl. There we also started giving instructions. There was an enormous click and we cycled a lot together, in many different places. We signed up for the MTB guide training together at the Dutch Institute Mountainbike Guides (NIMG) and continued to develop ourselves there.
What inspired both of you to become an instructor?
In daily life, Eef is a team development trainer and Afra has been cycling with the police for years. Making people enthusiastic and encouraging them to develop themselves is our passion. Getting the most out of ourselves by giving really good instruction and facilitating sustainable sports was also very important to us.
Why this focus on women?
Because of our work and a lot of experience in outdoor sports, we noticed that mountain biking is also mainly focused on the way in which men experience cycling. Performance and going fast are then quickly preferred. Mountain biking is a technical sport in which balance is the key to more skills. Women are often not so much looking for hard and fast, but find that becoming skilled and competent is more important in addition to socializing, relaxation and physical movement. Find small victories in their moments of movement and being together plays an important role in this. We notice that women can often learn a lot from a technical point of view and that they have a lot of fun broadening their horizons.
What do you think are the biggest challenges in getting more women on the bike?
Many women think you need courage and toughness to ride a bike. The opposite is true. You can develop as much or as little as you want at all levels. Simply cycling through nature on unpaved paths is a pleasure for everyone. But ladies also find wheelys, manuals, drop-offs from rocks and obstacles very cool. Especially if it is easy and there is no pressure that it has to be done.
How do you think we can become more inclusive and diverse as a sport?
By facilitating the sport for women much more, from cycling shorts to bicycle frames, to more female guides and instructors. A woman’s body and mind is really very different from a man’s body. The exercise requirement is also fundamentally different due to the hormone cycles that women go through every month, and during their life phases.
More female instructors / guides and cycling programs that meet the needs of women are necessary in this. We experience that when a man cycles along, the dynamics always change a bit. It affects the magic between women.
What kind of courses are offered at ‘Eef en Aaf’?
We offer cycle clinics and have a ladies group two mornings a week. These groups cycle together in a program from September to December and January to May. We learn the basics and develop this, combined with a nice ride on a course where we practice in the segments.
We organize rides in the Netherlands and we are also considering organizing guide rides abroad.
Do you have plans to further expand the business?
We certainly have that ambition to expand. Now the focus is mainly on getting and keeping ladies on the bike and having a lot of fun. We are very careful with “our ladies” and want to introduce more ladies to cycling without losing contact with our lady’s . That is why two incredibly professional ladies are now being trained at the NIMG who will make Eef & Aaf on Wheels even more professional with us. ‘Instructor in training’ Roos has a lot of experience and knowledge of teaching young people and Vreny teaches sports instructors and is an expert in fitness hormone balance and sports after pregnancy. We are also in talks with the Dutch sports academy to have women in training do an internship with us.
Saying to mountain bike tours only for women?
We find it incredibly enjoyable to ride with ladies. It is not the only thing we do, we regularly give great clinics to families and even have the “Take your husband rides” which are hilarious!
If you could ride any bike, which bike would it be, and why?
Haha, we differ enormously in this. Eef has a strong preference for special bicycles from self-builders using beautiful frames. Yeti, the Juliana from Santa Cruz, Whyte and the Nicolai G1 29 inch. Eef: “I sometimes dream of the last one.” Aaf is more about XC bikes and has a great preference for the BMC.
We are mainly concerned with a bicycle that you can take down the mountain like a dancing deer.