Are there mountains in Chicago?

It seems that within competitive cycling, mountain biking might be the discipline with the least women participating as compared to men. Historically, women have been underrepresented in this category, but this is beginning to change. As more and more women are getting into bike racing, and tasting the dirt by way of cyclocross—a favorite discipline for many—mountain biking has seen a slight growth in the numbers of women participants at the amateur level.  

It’s no secret that there are no mountains around Chicago, but there are great trails! The downside is that we often have to get in a car and travel in order to ride and especially to race mountain bikes. Living in Chicago, we sometimes struggle to get the dirt minded folks among us to travel to mountain bike races consistently. As a woman racing mountain bikes from Chicago, you’d see the usual suspects at races or at the trail heads throughout the summer season—women you might know from a cyclocross or road race, usually there with their husband/boyfriend/guy friend or teammate. We have found friendship and camaraderie through the shared experience being the solo women mountain bikers on our own teams.

It was through these experiences and connections that Skunkworks Racing was developed. As racers, we wanted to come together as a team with the other women dedicated to racing mountain bikes and being competitive—to us, that meant doing more than just one local race. We wanted to plan, train and ride with like-minded women. We wanted to consistently learn from and support each other. However, we also didn’t want to abandon the people and the families that helped us find this wonderful sport. So, we decided to create a team specifically for women’s mountain biking, and retain the alliances and cycling families we have built over many years with our “home teams.”

Racing on a different team for different disciplines can be a prickly subject for many. Teams are built on loyalty and trust, and handing someone over to another team can be hard. However, we worked with our teams to garner their support for this awesome idea. We have created a group of women and local organizations who support the growth of women’s mountain biking in Chicago as a competitive discipline, aiming to compete at the highest levels of amateur mountain bike racing.

Why call it Skunkworks?

Skunkworks is a term that was originated by research and development teams in the aeronautics and tech industries. This project began as a quiet rumbling while we hashed out the details and slowly brought each of our teams on board. As a small team of specially selected riders, we identified with the themes of innovation, development, and stepping out of standard constraints and limits.

skunk·works
/’skəNGkˌwərks/
noun
1. An especially enriched environment that is intended to help a small group of specially selected individuals develop and design a new idea by escaping routine organizational procedures.
2. A competitive team of female mountain bikers based out of Chicago.

As racers, we want to push past what is available to women who love to ride the dirt but reside in a major urban area. We hope to unite our community, breaking down the exclusivity common with cycling teams. We strive to create unity around women’s mountain biking through sportsmanship, community, and peer support. We demonstrate positivity in our actions and words towards each other and other women—always.

So, what can you do to help?

Support us. We are actively looking for sponsors as we get this off the ground, and could use your help. It takes a lot to fuel a team of racers, from nutrition, mechanics, tires, tubes, to travel funding. As a small, grassroots team, we need support from our community to make our goals achievable. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities or interested in learning more, email us at skunkworksmtb@gmail.com

We can’t wait to see you on the trails this summer!