Former DH world champ Leigh Donovan launches mountain bike skills clinics for women


Photo by Craig Stikman Glaspell.

Former downhill mountain bike world champ Leigh Donovan has launched a series of free mountain bike skills clinics for women under the moniker The clinics, held in conjunction with cycling races and events, are designed to help women learn mountain bike skills in a comfortable, supportive environment. The ichoosebikes website will serve as a companion to the clinics and eventually host how-to videos and other means of encouragement.

“If women have a good experience mountain biking it can be so empowering,” explained the ever-enthusiastic Donovan. “Once women gain confidence on the bike, the transformation is amazing and they find this place of real joy. I want to help them with that.”

Donovan has been hosting annual women’s clinics at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Parks in Milwaukee and Cleveland for the past five years. Seeing the results from those events is part of what inspired her to start ichoosebikes, but hearing objections from other women was motivating as well.

Photo by Craig Stikman Glaspell.

“I’m tired of hearing women say mountain biking is too scary,” explained Donovan. “I see all these women riding road bikes but so few out on the trails. I want to help change that.”

Donovan was also motivated to start the camps after attending a retreat with ten of the bike industry’s leading women as part of her former job at Interbike, the industry trade show organizer. Among the attendees were Camelbak CEO Sally McCoy and Giant Bicycles General Manager Elysa Walk—whose companies are now sponsors of ichoosebikes.

“I was really in awe to be among these women who’ve worked so hard and achieved so much,” said Donovan. “During our bike ride I gave some of the women riding tips, and they were like, ‘You should do this full-time!’ Eleven months later, I am.”

To fund the free clinics Donovan tapped the aforementioned Giant—under their Liv/giant women’s cycling effort—and Camelbak, as well as SRAM, RockShox, Troy Lee Design and KINDbar. In addition to promoting her sponsors through ichoosebikes, Donovan will also help some of the companies with press launches and other marketing activities.

A partial clinic calendar is listed on the site (and below), but Donovan expects more events to be added soon.

A highlight of the ichoosebikes calendar is the Mammoth Mountain Women’s Weekend July 23-26, an all-inclusive event Donovan is organizing in conjunction with the resort that will feature mountain bike instruction along with yoga, massage and hiking. Unlike the clinics at races, the Mammoth weekend will have a yet-to-be-determined entry fee that Donovan says will “still be a total deal.”

Photo by Craig Stikman Glaspell.

Donovan is the 1995 world downhill champion, a nine-time US national downhill and dual slalom champion, an X Games gold medalist, and member of the BMX Hall of Fame.

For more information visit

2014 Preliminary Clinic Schedule

March 9, 2014 – Ray’s MTB Women’s Weekend
Rush April 2014 – Sea Otter Classic/Gold Rusch Tour
May 20, 2014 – Over the Hump “FREE” ride clinics
June 10, 2014 – Over the Hump “FREE” ride clinics
July 23-26, 2014 – Mammoth Mountain 3-day women’s event
August 8-17,2014 – Crankworx Whistler/ Gold Rusch Tour
August 19, 2014 – Over the hump “FREE” ride clinics
October 2014 (TBA) – Girlz Gone Riding women’s event

About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry that landed him at his current gig with Santa Cruz bicycles. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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