Hayley Bates on Shredding it as a Female Cyclist

Our Colorado Springs chapter is thrilled to have assistant coach Hayley Bates helping us out this year!

Along with Daniel Matheny and Russell Finsterwald, Hayley works with the local U19 program, coaching the kids at practices at least once a week.  A 21 year-old Colorado College student, she originally hails from Long Beach, CA, where she likes to return to visit her family and ride her bike.  She is planning on graduating this spring with a degree in International Politics and Economics, with minors in French and Spanish.  Cycling is just one of Hayley’s passions–she also loves tinkering around in the kitchen, anything related to the beach, and learning languages–she has studied six!  With her busy schedule, however, Hayley still finds time to manage Colorado College’s cycling team,  as well as further her own cycling career.  “I’m a mountain biker,” She says, “But also road racing is my strength, so that’s what I’m hoping to pursue this summer.”

Her story is also a very unique one in the Competitive Cycling world.  She didn’t grow up riding or racing bikes from a young age.  “My parents always rode bikes, but I grew up playing soccer,” Hayley explains, “It was always kind of their sport, and I didn’t really want to do it.”

It wasn’t until college that she got serious about getting on the bike.  “I did a couple of races my Freshman year, and then in Sophomore year, decided to go all out”.

Coming from the perspective of being female in the cycling world, as well as entering the competitive scene so late has given her some valuable wisdom to share.

“Sometimes it’s really hard . . . to not compare myself to others . . . racing against other people my age and knowing they’ve been doing it their entire lives.  The ones you want to compare yourself to are the ones that everyone looks up to.  Like, in the mountain biking world, there’s Kate Courtney, and everyone knows who she is.  Sometimes I have to take a step back, and when I’m comparing myself, realize that I’ve got a few years, while they’ve had most of their lives.”

In an inherently competitive racing environment, however, this isn’t an easy mindset to attain.  Hayley explains that motivation and drive to do better should come from a different place.

“Do it because it’s what you love.  You have to love it more than just the fact that you might get on the podium once in a while.  The people are awesome and the places are incredible.  You get to travel all over the country and if you’re good enough, all over the world.  Remember why you do it in the first place.”

Hayley shares her own personal why. “First is the people . . . the cycling community throughout the state who have all become my friends. Plus, it’s also really empowering.”

When it comes to being a girl in a massively male-dominated sport, this empowerment is key.

“I think it’s really important,” Bates says, “especially for girls, to be able to feel strong. It’s not an ego thing, but confidence can get you a lot further. When you’re able to tackle an obstacle that was once terrifying, it’s so empowering. And you can take that confidence, and go into school and deal with a hard class, or deal with a hard relationship in your life, and say ‘I can do this. I’ve done much harder things.’ Just getting girls on bikes is huge.”

For many, breaking into the MTB world can be intimidating. Bates, along with the rest of us here at Summit, hope to make that transition welcoming and easy for young athletes. Her own personal experience has made her especially sensitive to the needs of female athletes who are just starting out.

“The biggest issue is that cycling is so male dominated. Even sometimes at races they won’t have women’s categories. Or you show up to a group ride and there’s 40 men and three women. I’m riding with guys all the time because there’s not as many women around. And they’re guys that are so much better than me. It can be super embarrassing to admit that I don’t know how to do something . . . . but they’re out there, and they want me out there too. So I just have to get over myself sometimes.”

The future is bright for females in the mountain biking world, however. Hayley has seen rapid and encouraging change happening throughout the sport.

“[We have to work at] creating female-only spaces . . . where girls teach girls to ride bikes. The more women there are, the more women will join. As more people come in and feel welcomed, people are realizing ‘oh, other ladies are doing this! I can do it too!’ I love all the projects that are going on to get little girls on bikes, like Little Bellas, or the VIDA MTB series, which is women’s clinics only.

“If girls have friends that are interested in MTB riding, get them out there! The future of professional cycling and especially women’s mountain biking is going to change a lot. You see women out there, and there are some significant women’s teams joining in, but they’ve really been coming and going. But things are changing . . . in the women’s MTB world. I hope that, in the future, the girls who really want to, and are talented, have the opportunity to pursue that. There’s a lot to overcome, but that’s why programs like Summit are huge, because these kids have people helping them make the right choices, but at the same time they’re learning to ride their bikes and making friends through it too.”

We asked Hayley what her advice was for any girl who is looking to get into MTB, but…. ________.

“There’s no good reason to say but.” She replied immediately. “The hardest thing is being willing to learn. And be patient with yourself. I mean, no matter how good you are, you’re going to fall down at some point. There’s no buts. Just get on your bike. Ride it. And don’t let anyone make you feel inferior for asking questions.”

And Hayley’s own life is proof. She practices what she preaches, and the results are astounding.

“I first started riding bikes at age 16 for a bike tour of Italy . . . and then the summer after my freshman year [in college], I qualified for Leadville. And, you know, who needs to train for Leadville? It was my first real race; kind of nuts, actually. But my parents had always done it, so I did it! And it was…. it was a ride!” She laughs. “It was quite the experience. I had flats, I crashed, um… and I didn’t pee once the entire time which still blows my mind.”

That was in August. The next few months saw her racing career go from 0 to 60 as she returned to school, coincidentally met her new coach, and raced her way up to Collegiate Nationals in both road and mountain biking. “Next thing you know, I’ve got my pro license and I realized, ‘oh, this is serious!'”

In addition to launching her own cycling career, Bates also took charge of the Colorado College cycling team beginning in Sophomore year, and growing it in only two years from essentially nothing, to averaging 25 MTB riders per race.

Her passion and drive for cycling and life has led her to become not only a successful athlete, but an inspiring coach and mentor for the next generation of female mountain bikers. From running the collegiate team to coaching young Summit athletes, Hayley Bates is giving back to the cycling community in Colorado Springs.

“I really think this community is growing. All over the world. High School leagues are growing. Junior leagues are growing. Things are already changing. The future is bright … or something super cheesy like that.”

Check out more of Hayley’s awesome stories on her blog.

Keep up with her training on her Strava page, and look at more of her gorgeous photos on Instagram!