To say women are having a moment in freeride mountain biking would be a drastic understatement. These days when you hear mountain bike news, more often than not, it’s word of a new all-women’s event popping up or the latest from a bike apparel brand pioneered by women in the industry. These all-women freeride events, in particular, have made a splash on the scene in the last year or so.
Now, two-time Formation rider Hannah Bergemann brings us HangTime: a jump jam on Bellingham’s Blue Steel jumpline. HangTime was named as a play on words to describe the riders time in the air and the event’s format, which aims to create a space for experienced and younger riders to spend time riding together in order to progress freeride. It’s this collaboration and sense of community that Bergemann was looking for in pioneering the event, and a staple of the grassroots freeride movement. Bergemann initially drew inspiration for the event from Red Bull Formation. Formation takes place in the very same desert as Red Bull Rampage, bringing riders from all over the world. With its non-competitive progression format, participants are able to step out of their comfort zones and help each other to build and ride features that pushed the sport to the next level.
“Being one of the first participants of the event, Formation really changed the progression of my biking career,” said Bergemann of Formation.“Honestly, it was the main thing that really provided me the opportunity to have a freeride biking career.” In creating HangTime, it seemed only natural that Bergemann would draw inspiration from Formation. While building and riding together at Formation, Bergemann and fellow rider Casey Brown voiced similar ideas of hosting a jump jam to one another. “We were stoked that we were on the same thought process as far as what we felt was important for progressing women’s freeride,” said Bergemann. Brown ran with the idea and created her Dark Horse event in Revelstoke, BC, in mid-August. Now, Hannah’s HangTime gives Bergemann a chance to continue the progression Formation had started.
In hosting the event, one of the key elements for Bergemann was access. “Formation being such a high intensity resource event means you can only have six to eight riders max,” said Bergeman. But with my event, the jumpline is already there and I was able to pick the same format, but accommodate more people.” Bergemann was adamant that having a community of riders with a range of experience and skill at events was a key element of fostering progression. At HangTime, the youngest of these riders is none other than 13-year-old Matilda Melton, whom Bergemann coached in Bellingham’s Radical Rippers program. A year or two ago, Melton and Bergemann started riding together outside Radical Rippers. Now, Melton is riding in her first pro event alongside many of her heroes.
For Hangime riders Harriet Burbidge-Smith and Blake Hansen, having a community of riders at these non-competitive events allows the participants to step out of their comfort zones. “There’s something so different about having a women-only event,” said Burbidge-Smith. “It’s just a group of people you relate to so much and have a good time with.” When talking about Formation, Hansen said had she been looking at some of the features and lines by herself–she never would have ridden them. But with a gaggle of top-notch bikers there, she was able to get the confidence and encouragement to ride them. This was only one of the benefits she noted of having a group of women to ride with, something she hadn’t found before.
Having these events provides gals who are wanting to push their riding something to look to or as a goal to keep in mind with their progression and their riding.
These grassroots freeride events offer the women riding in them a unique experience. For riders like Matilda Melton, it’s the chance to ride with her heroes. For others, like Hansen, it offers a chance to build a new skill and a new way to approach biking through trail building. Hansen recalls building little, janky bike features as a kid and not progressing on them as much. But Formation gave her the chance to build in a more formal setting and learn from other riders and builders. These events build a baseline for other similar ones to happen and for the freeride community as a whole.
“Having these events provides gals who are wanting to push their riding something to look to or as a goal to keep in mind with their progression and their riding,” said Bergemann of HangTime, Dark Horse, and Formation. Both she and Hansen hope to see more resources in the freeride bike world devoted to helping women grow in the sport.
Bergemann herself has been a staple of this movement in women’s freeride. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by other riders either. Her influence as a peer to other riders as well as in the industry and progressing the sport as a whole sets her aside from others. “With trying to help build other women up in the sport, she’s really looking at how to make the biggest impact for the most people,” said Hansen of Bergemann’s efforts.“She’s looking at diversity, she’s looking at inclusion, and those are only things that will impact the sport in a positive way.”