Dirt Sisters of Shred was borne from Ruby’s Big Bike Challenge and continues to bring girls of all ages together to enjoy riding bikes.
We sat down for a chat with Chris Davison to find out more about his daughter, Ruby and her big bike challenge, plus the Dirt Sisters of Shred that it spawned.
Photos by Chris Davison.
How did Ruby’s Big Bike Challenge come about?
Ruby’s Big Bike Challenge came about when Ruby was 8. At the start of one summer holiday Ruby just turned to me after a ride and stated that during the summer holidays she wanted to ride as much as she could with as many people as she could and wanted to raise money for charity as she did it.
That first year she rode 100 miles during the summer and raised about £600 for Help for Heroes and Cancer Research. I thought that would be it but she wanted to carry on, so the following year we opened it up to other children and we had children from Cornwall to Newcastle riding and raising money for various charities.
Was it a logical progression to launch Dirt Sisters of Shred?
Dirt Sisters of Shred came about a year ago after Ruby was the target of some quite nasty bullying at school, she was at a real low point mentally but riding was the one thing that kept her going and especially the friendships she’d made through riding. She decided to message a few female pro’s we know and asked them if they’d had that same and everyone of them said they’d had the same treatment.
Ruby had already been talking to a couple girls on social media around her age that rode so she set about connecting them all and the group chat just grew and grew. All the girls had similar experiences so Dirt Sisters of Shred sort of naturally evolved from there. As the girls talked they also chatted about how they felt slightly invisible in the scene with hardly any support in the mountain bike media for young girls or even support and recognition from British Cycling.
Through the few meet ups we’ve done we have grown rapidly with over 50 girls aged from 3-17 turning up to ride and socialise at our last meet up at the 417 Project. It’s fantastic to see the older girls mentor the younger ones and both groups take so much away from the day.
We also use the days to try and get as much imagery as we can for the girls so that they have professional content to use on their social media accounts, being a photographer myself I know how important properly taken shots for social media can be especially when it comes to getting support.
You need to be able to give something back to companies after all they are sending products out so I always shoot loads for the girls to access after the meet ups to give back to those companies.
How many people make up Dirt Sisters of Shred and what do they do?
Dirt Sisters of Shred is made up of and organised by Ruby and myself plus a small group of parents that have been amazing straight from the start. If myself or Ruby have an idea we will run it by the group to see what they think. We try to do things that will be as inclusive as we can for all the ages and we have parents right across the age groups so we can work out pros and cons of ideas. It just works as everyone has a vested interest and is on the same wavelength.
What are the challenges of trying to bring together younger female riders?
Probably the biggest challenge, especially this year is setting dates where we can get the biggest turn out. The other major problem we have is getting the girls to say goodbye and leave at the end of the day. We try and ride places that are central to most like Forest of Dean or 417 Project as we have people coming from Cornwall to the Midlands.
What did you have planned for 2020 for Dirt Sisters of Shred?
As the group only started at the end of the year last year we didn’t really have many expectations for this year and actually looking at what we have achieved I think we have managed to do way more then we could have expected.
How much of that did you manage to achieve and what will get pushed back to 2021?
The pandemic has obviously hit so many events and race series but in the short time over summer that we could meet up we managed to do 2 group meet ups. We shot loads of photos and video at for promotion. We also managed to get some of the older girls together to shoot a special video for them which was an incredibly hard day shooting on the hottest day of the year but the girls were just buzzing to shred together and get some recognition.
After the last big group meet up we were starting to plan for an even bigger Christmas ride but obviously that idea has been shut down. We were also due to do an advanced skills day for 6 of the older girls but Ruby had a particularly nasty crash a couple weeks before it was due to happen and fractured her pelvis in the accident so was restricted to a wheelchair whilst it healed.
The main thing we had planned was with Ruby’s Big Bike Challenge bike supporter Marin who we were going to do a combined bike demo day and free photography day. Marin along with other companies like SixSixOne have been amazing and share the same ethos of supporting the sport from the grassroots up. They are extremely supportive of what we are trying to do with Ruby’s Big Bike Challenge and Dirt Sisters of Shred.
The group has always aimed to promote all the girls and what they do, there’s no room for egos and girls that do think like that generally don’t come along. The aim of the group is to promote junior girls riding as a whole, girls tag the group and cross promote each other whenever they can. There’s no competition just mutual respect for each other and its amazing to see this out on the trail.
Through supporting each other and cross promoting each other it gives them and the group more momentum, one girl shouting is generally ignored after a while but if a group of girls start to shout people start to listen and better still is more tend to join in.
How do you go about choosing which charities to support?
Initially with Ruby’s Big Bike Challenge charities were chosen by each rider and personal to them. We thought it was important that if they were putting the effort it then their efforts should be for something that meant a lot to them.
In the second year of doing it we had children riding for everything from Dementia UK to the Air Ambulance with over £12,000 going to the various charities. Amazing to see the pride on the kids and parents’ faces.
Where next for Dirt Sisters of Shred?
We are currently raising funds through myself doing art retouches and also designing and selling club hoodies. Any profits we make goes back into growing the group and also printing up things like vinyl sticker sheets to give away as prizes or to hand out at the next group rides. We want the girls to be rewarded and above all feel like part of a family and what says it better then decorating you helmet and bike with some group stickers.
As well as doing some more meet ups as soon as its physically possible, myself and Ruby are currently working out the logistics for a group charity event, the proceeds of which will go to a childrens’ mental health charity. This year has been an all time low and childrens’ mental health has taken a real battering through not being able to meet up with friends. What better way of tackling that then to get a load of girls together for a challenge and have a laugh whilst raising money for others.
We will also be looking to organise our bike demo and photography days with Marin as well and hopefully get the girls starting to do kit reviews and interviews to produce content others can refer back to.
The main thing though is just to connect more girls and get more recognition for the amazing talent that is just being overlooked by companies and cycling bodies, come on how can you have 4 junior boys riding DH for team GB at Worlds but not one girl? Wideopenmag’s Elin Berry should certainly been there.
Our stand out moments from the short window of opportunity we’ve had this year has to be the girl train at the end of the day at the 417 meet up, certainly never seen anything like it in the UK before.
The other thing was has been amazing to see is how the older girls just instantly supported the younger riders, from giving them tips and riding sections with them too pushing their bikes up for them. It’s amazing how many of them have just made instant friends but that’s what riding does.
Covid 19 without a doubt but before that when we were planning to meet we were plagued by storms which made sorting a date a nightmare. Also Ruby being unable to ride with a broken pelvis wasn’t the best of ways to keep things rolling.
People to thank?
There’s so many, apart from all the amazing companies such as Marin and SixSixOne to name a couple that support and back us, we really have to thank all the girls and especially their parents for really backing this and spreading the word. It’s amazing to work on something with so many other like-minded people who just want the best for the things they love the most.
You can check out Ruby’s Big Bike Challenge and Dirt Sisters of Shred on their website here.
Follow Ruby’s Big Bike Challenge and Dirt Sisters of Shred on Instagram here and here.