Soul Trails

December 12 — 2016

Anka Martin shares her vision of epic mountain bike trips for women who rip.

Soul Trails: The Origin

Recently I had the idea to put together trips for women who were experienced riders; groups of women who were ready to explore further afield and who wanted to travel and ride in new places and tackle new terrain. These trips would be combined with an introduction to yoga and the benefits that yoga can bring to your riding. This was how Soul Trails was created and how its name came about.

There are many skills camps and clinics available to women. While these events are valuable and can be amazing platforms for riders just entering the sport, during my travels and trips abroad, I saw that there weren’t many opportunities for experienced women to get together to go somewhere “exotic” and just ride with their mates on tough and challenging trails. You always see heaps of guys on “guys” riding trips with the token female tagging along (I’m usually one of these), but its rare to see the opposite.

This is my absolute favourite thing in the world to do (exploring new cool places with my bike), so I thought that starting an adventure trip just for women and teaming up with some of the best guiding outfitters around the globe could bring about a change. These trips could act as a platform for adventurous women to take the plunge and to go on a riding trip of their own—and then someday we’ll see groups of women out shredding with the token male tagging along. :-)

These trips are about riding a variety of sick trails and about pushing your limits, trying new and possibly scary things, meeting new people, and visiting new countries to learn about their cultures and, of course, sample the local food. During these rides we session obstacles on the trail to work on riding techniques in real world situations in the moment—no parking lot lessons. Along with new ways to ride, we balance the masculine side of riding with an introduction to the softer side of yoga. Don’t be fooled though, we work up a sweat before breakfast; this yoga is aimed at making you stronger for riding your bike so you can absorb all those hits even better.

The trips are focused on women, but we don’t exclude the guys completely; they can be an important part of the group and I feel that we can learn from them. Ultimately, my goal is to create an environment that encourages more women to travel with their bikes and to ride new and exciting trails—sometimes with guys, guys who are supportive and encouraging.

Soul Trails: Scotland

This year’s inaugural trip was with Go-Where Scotland in Bonney Scotland and alongside the infectious duo of Aneela and Andy McKenna. Our group was based at The Bunkhouse in the Cairngorm Mountains amid the beautiful Scottish Highlands—which was just magical.

We had our own private yoga studio and hairy Highland cows to greet us every morning and healthy meals with fresh ingredients were prepared for us daily by the lovely ladies Shirley and Elisa. Every day these two would join in on our rides and then cut out early to prepare our meals and welcome us back with delightful G&T’s. Janey, our lead guide made sure we didn’t get lost in the heather-clad hills, while Aneela and Andy took care of the laughs and banter along the way. Never a dull moment with those two!

We even had a guest appearance from Andrea—the tech and suspension guru from Juliana Bicycles—who popped in for a few days of riding, hanging out, talking tech, and who helped all the ladies with the proper bike setup for their steeds.

We rode too many trails to name (or remember their Gaelic names), but some of the highlights were Laggan Wolftrax, Devil’s Staircase in Glencoe down into Kinlochleven, lunch in the Culra Bothy, Dalwhinnie, the Grey Mares, the Chalamain Gap Trail (with water bars to conquer), Burnside, Dunkeld, Ben Alder and plenty of others.

After many days we barely scratched the surface of what Scotland has to offer, but that’s the beauty of these trips; they leave you with a thirst to go out and do your own exploring.

A huge shout-out goes to Lululemon who supported us with a yoga mat for each girl, and thank you to this first group of women who had the guts to book a trip with Soul Trails and to all the other people who were involved with this rad week of riding—you guys ROCK!

Sandra Williams, Agnes Arnold, Emily Trill, Sarah Bedford, Sue Walker, Shirley Clark, Elisa Smith, Janey Kennedy, Andrea Turner, and the owners of the Go-Where Scotland MTB guiding company: “Handy” Andy and Aneela.

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