NICA: Emily Batty and the new normal

High school league's impact extends far beyond the top of the podium

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Emily Batty

The bond formed between all mountain bikers can last a lifetime.

She rounds the corner with her eyes focused on the line ahead, smiling as she winds deftly between rocks and roots. She is one with the trail, her two wheels like a set of wings—that is, until she sees the hill. Hesitation slows her tempo as the inevitability of a dismount enters her mind. But before she has the chance to unclip her pedals, she looks over her shoulder and gazes back at all she has conquered. Her tempo quickens. She lifts off the saddle and leans over her handlebars, putting everything she has into moving forward and up. And just when her legs have all but given in, she laughs and begins her descent from the top of the world.

This is your daughter. Your sister. Your best friend. At least it could be. And she might not tell you outright, but there are times when she’s been ignored, times she’s struggled, countless encounters when she’s been made to feel she isn’t good enough. But here, at the top of this climb, she knows her truth. And when her bike is back in the garage, helmet off, and cleats unclipped, that feeling is still there. She can do anything. Mountain biking taught her so.

But for many girls, self-confidence is either foreign or fleeting, and this can lead to missed opportunities for growth and adventure. NICA is out to change that.

Emily Batty

The triumphs extend far beyond the podium since there many wins along the way and many personal firsts and bests achieved.

NICA: The New Normal Trek Bicycle Trek Bicycle

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association is a non-profit that promotes mountain biking as a high school sport in communities that wouldn’t otherwise have the resources or know-how to start or maintain a mountain bike program. But NICA’s impact extends far beyond the top of the podium or the end of a technical trail.

Mountain biking builds confidence in young women in a way that other sports simply can’t. It prioritizes confidence and camaraderie over competition and success, and it builds character and relationships along the way. Anyone who has ever ridden a trail knows mountain biking is more than competition. You don’t need to win every race or PR in a ride to feel the empowering effects of mountain biking. If you show up, hop on the saddle, and give it your all, you’re sure to surprise yourself with the things you can accomplish.

This power is real. Mountain biking changes lives. And thanks to organizations like NICA, huge strides have been made toward increasing awareness and participation in the sport. But it hasn’t been an easy road, and there’s still more we can do for our sisters, daughters, friends, and all young women who want to try mountain biking.

When professional mountain bike rider Emily Batty first began racing, she faced numerous obstacles entering the male-dominated sport. Due to a lack of female participation, she was forced to petition Canadian Cycling for permission to compete against boys and older racers in order to gain the competitive experience she needed to overcome another complication—her own self-doubt.

Now, Emily Batty is one of the fastest women in the world. She has represented Canada at the Olympics twice, and made a career out of travelling the world and competing against the world’s fastest riders. But like many young women, she faced a lack of confidence when she was new to the sport. She felt frustration and fear atop big hills and technical terrain, and an overwhelming sense that many aspects of the sport were out of her ability. But she persisted and, well…look at her now.

Emily Batty

Families come together to support their athletes and are all introduced to mountain biking.

On a recent visit to the NorCal league championships, Batty witnessed what she wished she’d had access to when she was in school. A team. Volunteers. Encouragement. That’s not to say women no longer face obstacles in mountain biking. They do. But NICA is playing a big part in changing that.

Batty is hopeful that, with NICA’s help, mountain biking will reach a new normal—a standard with a better foundation for girls to get involved in the life-changing sport. A standard where mountain biking is embraced and accepted by riders of all kinds, and equal participation across genders is absolute.

Here’s the reality: when it comes to gender equality in high school sports, young women are playing a losing game. For a lot of girls, opportunities to develop confidence on a level playing field to their male counterparts are simply not available. Mountain biking can change that—it allows women the possibility to grow not only as an athlete, but as a person. It offers the chance to build a lifetime of confidence with an activity that extends well past a graduation date. But in order to participate, the opportunity must first exist.

Emily Batty

Riding with Norcal NICA athletes.

Trek is donating $1 million to NICA to grow the sport of middle and high school mountain biking.

But NICA’s efforts are an uphill battle, and sometimes even the strongest riders need a little push. That’s where you come in. Here’s how you can get involved in Trek and NICA’s mission to empower youth through bicycles:

Visit to donate, volunteer, and start racing. If your state doesn’t have a league, reach out and see how you can get started. You can make a difference.

About the author: Mtbr is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.

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