Removing barriers for mountain bike riders

Founded in 2019 Trailhead Coaching, provides mountain bike skills coaching in either one-on-one or group sessions.
Owner and founder, Jo Wall is passionate about working with women and girls, hoping to eliminate some of the barriers to participation in the sport.
“The sport has always been male-dominated,” said Jo.
“One of the barriers is that at the top end, there is a lack of recognition and sponsorship and it’s so important to have role models for the younger generation.
“There are also very few sanctioned trails in the area. We really need more infrastructure,” Jo told the Mail.
Jo grew up loving the independence and freedom that riding provides. She spent six years racing at the highest level which provided her with the opportunity to travel and race overseas and compete in multiple world championships. She rides with a strength that comes from experience and discipline and her technical ability allows her to ride challenging terrains with efficiency and speed.
As a former school teacher, Jo loves sharing her knowledge and skills with children and adults of all skill levels using tailored instructions to unlock people’s riding potential which enables them to enjoy the sport with confidence.
“Riding is ageless,” said Jo.
“We have kids on balance bikes at the races in Bendigo and we cater to three years old and beyond at the trailhead.”
In 2022 Jo became Australia’s first female course conductor with the Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association,enabling her to contribute to the growth and the development of mountain bike skills coach industry.
Since its conception, Trailhead has expanded to include Castlemaine-based skill coaching with dedicated mountain bike rider Natalya Garden.
President of the Castlemaine Rocky Riders and organiser of local women’s social rides, Natalya believes that riders can benefit from coaching at any stage of their journey.
“We run individual, group, and paired skill sessions, host birthday parties, and run school holiday programs, plus we run girl-specific classes weekly in Castlemaine.
“It’s a trust relationship, where people can be vulnerable. The confidence gained from riding can be empowering in other parts of your life,” said Natalya.
Natalya trained to be a coach last year and is committed to her own continued development as a rider, coach, and guide. She has a special interest in supporting girls and women to utilise their strength and confidence through mountain biking and loves working with people of all ages, genders, and abilities.
“There are a lot of barriers for women and girls riding- skills and the confidence to gain skills are two of the biggest,” said Natalya.
“The women’s social rides are key. We usually have between 10 and 20 participants and have a social catch-up afterward.”
Natalya’s four-and-a-half-year-old daughter Minka and her eight-year-old daughter Azia both attend the weekly skills session, racing weekly and the family recently returned from a two-and-a-half week riding holiday in Tasmania. Minka began riding from the age of three, riding laps of the White Hills circuit in Campbells Creek.
“When she started, the circuit took her ten minutes and now she can ride it in five,” said Natalya.
“There’s a preconceived idea that it’s dangerous, which it can be, but learning how to ride safely is the key. It’s a sport for everyone, with all ability types and ages, it’s not just an extreme sport for 18-30-year-old men, but can be fun for the whole family.”

Jade Jungwirth
Jade is the former Editor of the Tarrangower Times and has lived in the region for over 16 years.