It’s not unusual for Northern Hornets BMX Club’s Gail Dack to see young girls tearing up a race track one minute, and sitting on the sidelines playing with Barbies the next.
Despite its reputation as a male-dominated sport, BMX is family-friendly – not to mention exhilarating, addictive and perfect for women and girls, Gail says.
And the Sycamore Recreation Reserve-based club has done extensive work to attract more females, including hosting two free come-and-try sessions on March 27 for This Girl Can Week.
“I’ve been to BMX events around Victoria and I’ve seen girls sitting down between races to play Barbies. One minute these little girls are tearing it up around a race track, and the next they’re sitting there combing Barbie’s hair,” Gail laughs.
Gail – the club’s grants officer – says BMX is one of the few sports where an entire family can compete or ride at the same event, on the same day.
She says parents usually get into the sport for their kids – who can start from as young as two – only to be lured to the track themselves.
But women are often intimidated and shy away from having a go.
“We’ve done extensive work trying to recruit or bring in some more females,” Gail says.
“We developed an alternative kit colour – our kit is predominantly black and yellow, and our president developed a black and pink kit thinking that’s something our girls might like to choose – of course, they’re not required to.
“They can wear black and yellow if they want and boys can wear black and pink if they choose.”
Gail says women are never forced to race against men, and encouraged those considering BMX to “back yourself in”.
“I think women might find riding in front of men a barrier, but when they come out and try and they realise how friendly it is and how encouraging everybody is of each other, that melts away,” she says.
“I think it looks intimidating because it is a male-dominated sport. But even when there’s not enough women in a race, they will either run the race with three or four women, or they will join women’s classes, but they will never make women race against men unless they want to.”
The club is enjoying recently-revamped facilities, with the track and ramp upgraded and resurfaced and a new start gate, lights and pavilion installed under a $1.4 million Council-funded project.
Gail says bikes and safety equipment will be provided at the weekend sessions – which have no age limit - and she is excited to see the new riders give BMX a go.
“(Experienced riders) make it look so easy and you think oh, I want a go at that, and then you have a go and it’s cool when you finish a whole lap, you get this sense of achievement and you think, I didn’t know I could do that,” she says.
"I can’t wait to see the new riders on the weekend – they're going to have this look of nervousness and worry and a pensive look on their face when they start, and I guarantee you when they ride over the finish line that face will have changed to a smile.”