Know a girl interested in getting into mountain biking? Encourage them to check out Little Bellas – an organization geared (pun intended) to get young girls into mountain biking and so much more. We caught up with Martha Flynn, the lead mentor for Little Bellas Minnesota chapter to tell us more about the program and why it is so awesome.
ERIK’S: What is Little Bellas?
Martha Flynn: Little Bellas is a mentoring-on-mountain-bikes program. Little Bellas brings together girls age 7 to 14 with female mentors who use mountain biking to teach the importance of teamwork, goal-setting and fostering a healthy lifestyle.
In our Minnesota weekly summer sessions, mentors and girls ride together at Carver Lake Park in Woodbury, focusing on improving skills as well as participating in team-building activities. The program is organized around a curriculum that builds upon previous skills, and girls are broken up into groups based on age and ability. After the group ride, the groups participate in games that incorporate that day’s skill focus. Each session or camp includes the ever important snack.
E: How and why did Little Bellas get started?
MF: The spark for Little Bellas started with two sisters in Vermont. Lea and Sabra Davison fell in love with cycling while riding their bikes around their small hometown in Jericho, Vermont. The girls competed in the NORBA national mountain bike series across the United States. While racing in NORBA, they noticed a large gender disparity on the start line and wanted to find a way to grow women’s mountain bike racing in America.
They attended Middlebury College where they teamed up with Angela Irvine to start the Little Bellas program. Angela, a prominent member of the local cycling community and advocate of women’s cycling, shared a similar interest in expanding the sport to the younger generation.
As co-founders, they developed a program structure and recruited mentors to run twelve Sunday sessions in Vermont throughout the summer of 2007. During its first season, the program had more mentors than girls, but more than doubled by 2008 when over 40 girls ages 7-12 enrolled in the program.
Today Little Bellas has chapters in 12 states across the country. Angela and the Davison sisters have worked to build a program that encourages young girls to embrace cycling and fosters empowerment through sport. At camps and during weekly sessions, girls can expect to participate in a wide variety of games aimed at encouraging skill development, both on and off the bike.
Little Bellas provides a supportive environment where young girls can be comfortable with themselves and overcome challenges both individually and as a group. Additionally, the program emphasizes food as a source of fuel and connects nutrition with being able to participate in fun and meaningful activities.
E: Why is it such a cool organization?
MF: So, so many reasons! Little Bellas is cool because our focus is on the girls first and foremost, and fostering a positive experience for them with the sport, with nature, with each other, with themselves, with positive role models. We do this without judging and without forcing competition. We set them up to be their best self every day.
E: What is the partnership that Little Bellas has with Specialized (and ERIK’S)?
MF: Each Little Bellas chapter partners with a local bike shop that sell Specialized products – a main sponsor of the Little Bellas. The Little Bellas participants come from all over the Twin Cities metro area, so partnering with ERIK’S makes so much sense as parents have multiple retail locations to visit for their daughter’s biking needs.
Specialized offers discounts on bike purchases at ERIK’S for Little Bellas during a special ordering window, and ERIK’S offers other discounts to the Little Bellas participants all season long to help them get outfitted for their riding. It is so important for families to connect with a local bike shop to help ensure their daughter’s equipment is in good working order.
E: How can people get involved?
MF: We are alway looking for enthusiastic female mentors to help with the program. If you ride a mountain bike and want to be a positive role model for girls 7-13, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also are looking to expand our scholarship opportunities for next year. Donations will assist greatly.
Finally, spread the word to girls you know. Registration for 2018 Minnesota Summer programs will open February 1st, 2018. Help get more girls on bikes! Be supportive whenever you see a little shredder out on the trail.
Thank you ERIK’S for partnering with the Little Bellas in Minnesota to help support getting more girls on bikes!
A special thanks to our guest blogger Martha Flynn, the director of the Minnesota chapter of Little Bellas.