Mountain biking for a woman does present some gender-specific issues. These range from the practical pain-in-the-butt riding, to the broader concerns of women in the sport.
One of the first questions that is asked, is whether a women-specific bike is necessary in mountain biking for a woman.
The answer will depend entirely on your build, your preferences, and your riding style. Finding the right bike for you, involves test-riding as many types as possible. This will give you the best indication of your body's fit on a non-gender specific bike, compared to a women-specific bike.
Looking at mountain biking for a woman, a regular bike is fine, but your hip structure may necessitate choosing a more suitable saddle. If you are narrow-hipped, you probably won't have a problem. If this is not the case, you will be more comfortable on the wider structure of a women-specific saddle.
As for the bike itself, unless you are quite small, with a short upper body and short arms, there is a good chance that you won't need a women-specific bike. In most cases a normal frame type with the straight bar, holds up better for mountain bikes, and is commonly used in mountain biking for a woman.
This type of frame encourages a position where the weight of your body is more evenly distributed between the two wheels. On the typical 'women's' bike with a sloping top tube, the weight is placed back on the saddle. This position is not very effective in mountain biking for a woman.
Also keep in mind that, in mountain biking for a woman, an elastomer fork may be your most comfortable choice. Lighter riders perform better with these.
Find a specialized bike shop with a reputation for good mechanics and service, as well as knowledgeable salespeople. If you are a novice, you will need some guidance at first. It is important to make sure that they have experience in mountain biking for a woman.
Mountain biking for a woman involves more of a distinction when it comes to clothing. The main difference is in the shorts, so to speak!
You will need a good pair of cycling shorts, with a chamois, specifically made for use in mountain biking for a woman. You don't want the chafing center seam present in men's shorts - riding isn't supposed to be torture! The secure-fitting Triple S Short by Shebeest is an example. The aerodynamic cut, with eliminated inseams and flatlock center seam, is a dream to wear. DriStyle fabric ensures superb wicking.
Padded baggie shorts are gaining in popularity. Look for names such as Sugoi and Pearl Izumo.
In warmer weather, your top can be a cap sleeve base in Silkweight Micro Polyester with Spandex, by Shebeest. This offers the lightness you need in mountain biking for a woman. In cold weather, you can add the Full Zip Velocity Jersey in DriStyle. The zippered pockets come in handy, and the full zip front gives a variety of cooling options.
Fox Racing protective gear has a great range aimed at mountain biking for a woman. Their elbow/arm pads and knee/shin guards in size small seem to fit most small women well.
Mountain biking for a woman, is no longer limited to the sidelines. Many strong-voiced advocates are emerging to promote the sport among women. Finding ways of making entry-level racing more open to women, are often on the agenda at conferences.
Bike shops, clinics, and clubs also play an important role in opening up the sport. Bike shops are no longer seen as intimidating and over-technical. They are constantly trying to come up with ways to make the store inviting enough to support mountain biking for woman.
Many articles and books have been written about mountain biking for a woman. These offer how-to advice, bike buying tips, basic riding know-how, and trail advice. One of these is 'Mountain Biking For Women' by Robin Stuart and Cathy Jensen. It is clear from their writing that they are experienced riders.
Watching the 'Wildflower Mountain Biking for Women' video, is a great way to start mountain biking for a woman. It features topics such as bike selection, bike maintenance, finding riding companions, practice drills, and more.
It will be difficult to find a more entertaining, mind-and-body building sport than mountain biking for a woman.