Sisters in the Wild 2020: A Meetup in the Mountains
The 2020 edition of Sisters in the Wild brought in riders from Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and the UK, with the goal of offering a community building experience for women. Find words from two of the attendees and a beautiful set of photos from organizer, Neža Peterca, here…
Sisters in the Wild was never meant to be much about riding or talking about gear. Rather, it was about an idea of building a women’s cycling community in the small ‘country’ we call Europe. The inaugural event took place in Bled, Slovenia, a small village at the entrance of Triglav National Park. The middle of September made for a great date since temperatures are finally bearable, the lakes are still warm enough to swim in, and the tourists are long gone.
We gathered on a hot Wednesday afternoon, nine women from Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and one from the UK. The main idea was to have a basecamp where we would leave from for day rides and return in the evening for a nice hearty meal prepared by the camp chef. Those who’ve been to Slovenia know riding here isn’t an easy stroll and the downhills have to be earned with lots of positive attitude and strong legs. The trails here either go up or go down. We covered almost 200 kilometres and 3,600 metres of elevation in five days and the entire time I didn’t hear a single person complain. We cheered each other up hills, shared peanut butter sandwiches, swam in cold lakes (and even colder rivers), stole apples off of trees, bushwhacked, and most importantly laughed, tons.
Reflections from Two Participants:
Finding other women to ride gravel with is a tough one. It’s like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. I even joined a mountain bike club just for that. I wanted to go on rides surrounded by people who share my gender. When Corona lockdown eased and I stumbled across “Sisters in the Wild,” the deal was sealed just a few hours later. Emails were exchanged, money was transferred, and I was on my way to Slovenia to ride bikes with riders from my team! I could not wait.
Without a doubt, going for rides with other women feels different. It’s like you’ve known each other for years. Having had my fair share of bike rides with different walks of men, having talked for hours about bike gear and saddle sores–all with male riders–I know that only other women truly understand what it means to be out there as a woman on a bike.
Certainly, riding together up and down the Slovenian mountains, going for a refreshing dip down at the lake, and sharing stories over the relaxing sizzling sound of a campfire while having the most delicious food served to you, felt like being in a dream.
It’s fair to say I loved being part of Sisters in the Wild. It gave me what I was hoping for: the feeling of belonging. Belonging to a community of brave, fit, and like-minded women who share a common love for bike riding, being outdoors, and having that shower maybe tomorrow. I’ll be coming along next year for sure. I know we’ll all be riding bikes together long before that time. I’m looking forward to it, ladies!
Though the opportunity to explore a new country with new people after months of travel restrictions seemed like a dream, for me there was also a much deeper draw to SITW.
I’d done a fair bit of bikepacking in the past, much of it with my partner Tom. Hauling a bike loaded with peanut butter sandwiches and a tent over a dirt road pass has long been my happy place! That changed suddenly earlier this year when we were in a bikerafting accident in Patagonia. Tom tragically didn’t survive. Whilst dealing with the devastation of his death, in the months following I also found I was dealing with a loss of part of my own identity: that part built on bikes, the outdoors, and adventure that was such a foundation of our lives together. I guess I came to SITW to explore whether that part of me still existed.
These five days in the gorgeous Slovenian countryside and the easy companionship of these girls who bike reignited something in me. We cheered each other up sweaty gravel climbs, bushwacked through laughter-filled hike-a-bikes, indulged in geeky gear chat, and exchanged stories and hopes and fears over campfire. We sought tips and advice, and tested skills and ideas without fear of judgment. We plotted ways to grow our new community when we returned to our home countries. In this most supportive of spaces, I felt my confidence creeping back.
For me, SITW was a beautiful reminder of the power of the humble bicycle to create connections between people and places, and of the power of community and female solidarity to create and heal. Saying goodbye felt like the end of a little utopia. I left buzzing with inspiration for future plans and a new community with whom to make them. I rediscovered the simple joy of freewheeling down a big hill in the sunshine with friends.
This event has fired up many ideas of how to develop this project further. Beyond bringing Sisters in the Wild into other countries, we are also working on a website with a platform to get in touch with other women to share rides and trips with. In the meantime, check us out on Instagram @SITWbikepacking. And if you think you can contribute in any kind of way to this project please get in contact with me via email at neza.peterca (at) gmail.com.