We're proud to announce Georgia Astle as the newest member of the Outdoor Research athlete team. Hailing from Whistler, B.C., Georgia is a Canadian freeride mountain biker who's been on the sharp end of the sport's progression for the past few seasons. Highlighted by appearances at Red Bull Formation and with a resume full of podiums in the downhill and enduro categories, Georgia's passion for pushing the boundaries of women's freeride mountain biking is contagious. We recently sat down with her to discuss sport's progression over the last decade, brands working with influencers versus athletes, inclusivity and glass ceilings, and classic American sitcom preferences.

OR: Welcome to the fold, Georgia! You've been a staple on the competition circuit for the last decade or so, but your name is new to many in the Outdoor Research community. Give our audience a quick rundown on how you got into mountain biking.

Georgia: I grew up in Whistler and although I have a mountain background, my family wasn't in Whistler for the mountain biking. We would go kite surfing in Mexico for the winter season and then summers were all about kite surfing as well. So, I found biking on my own in high school. My high school mountain bike team and all my friends were skipping school to go to the after-school races, and obviously you're keen to jump out of school early for anything you can. So, I started racing XC on my bike team and it ended up being a really easy way for me to explore my backyard, and I love being outside. So, I'd finish school, stay out all evening discovering the trails in my backyard, and then I started racing and that was pretty much the end of story. I went through the different disciplines of bike racing and now I'm finally at the free ride stage of my career.

OR: When you started mountain biking, were you completely new to the bike?

Georgia: I wasn't a complete novice. We always had mountain bikes as kids, but I think the riding that I was introduced to, or that my parents recreationally did was more XC-based. And when I joined the high school team, the rides that we would do were gravity-based. So, a new doorway of mountain biking opened up. Learning that downhill existed, and I had never been in the bike park, which feels crazy because, yeah, I live in Whistler.

OR: It's a game changer, right? Riding the chairlift?

Georgia: Oh yeah. It felt how snowboarding at the resort feels to me in the winter, but it's a whole new experience. You're in t-shirts. You're with your friends on the chair lift and the days are so long in the summer. It just opened up a whole new world. But as much as I love the chairlift, I do love pedaling as well. It's like a way tamer version of going snowboard touring.

OR: Absolutely. You mention you’re a snowboarder. Does anything in mountain biking feel as good as a proper backside turn on a 50-centimeter powder day?

Georgia: I mean, there's some steep tracks on my bike that I can safely say I still dream about, and it could be comparable to hitting fresh snow. But when everything comes together on a powder day–the weather, the lineup–I think 50 centimeters of powder on a snowboard is probably the best feeling in the world. Maybe it's because in biking we get so much of it. You can have a really good day. The dirt is amazing, but you can always go back up for more. You know where in snowboarding it's not as easy to hike back up, or it's a little bit more effort, so I feel like it's a magical experience. And with biking, I don’t have to wake up at 5:00 AM and only have two or three runs before it's tracked.



OR: High fives, fist bumps or hugs?

Georgia: High fives at the bottom of the trail, fist bumps before you drop in, and hugs when you see your friends before the ride. So, I'm all three.

OR: Seinfeld, The Office or Schitt’s Creek.

Georgia: Seinfeld, all the way.

OR: Yo.

Georgia: Yeah, like heavy. It was always on after school, and my brother and I would session Seinfeld. I've probably gone through the whole series, so, so, so many times. I was gonna add a quote, but there are just too many good ones!

OR: I was in the pool!

Georgia: Haha.

OR: International Women's Day is March 8th. Can you tell us about some of the challenges you may have faced as a woman in mountain biking, and how you navigated those challenges?

Georgia: Downhill mountain biking specifically is a relatively new sport. When I was first coming up into racing as an 18 or 19-year-old, it was crazy how much of a divide there was between the rules and regulations of women versus men. Kind of like surfing, the managing federation is relatively new. So, it was crazy. I felt like I went through the shift of guys being like “girls can't do this,” and then a whole perspective change. For example, my first World Cup downhill race, the guys commentating literally called the women's final an “egg and spoon race” on live broadcast. And this is like seven years ago. And now there is a huge shift. Now women's times in downhill racing are so much tighter to the men’s times. And a lot of that revolves around opportunity—just welcoming women in the space. I'm fortunate that I grew up completely being immersed in activities, and my dad and older brother never said I couldn't do anything because I was a girl. I did everything my older brother did, and my dad treated me like, whatever I wanted to do, I could do. I was such a sporty kid. I was the only girl on my hockey team.

OR: I think I've seen a hockey team photo.

Georgia: Yeah, so I never have been necessarily offended or hurt by things that guys in action sports say because I just think it's crazy. I'm like how? How can that be your take? It almost adds fuel to the fire.

OR: Yeah.

Georgia: I feel like for young girls growing up, people don't say “you're pretty good for a girl” anymore. We're all humans. An 8-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy are essentially at the same physiological level, and obviously things shift as we go through the changes of puberty and whatever, but that's the human experience. I'm just really happy that the attitudes are shifting, and people are understanding that it's like, we're all different. but we're all in it for the same reason.

OR: It seems all it takes is getting on the bike and showing people that you know how to ride. And as soon as you do that, people say “Oh okay, I get it.”

Georgia: Yeah, 10 or 15 years ago it was “oh, like the token girl.” You got singled out. And now there’s less bias. Dads are stoked to have their daughters riding bikes. It's so normal.

OR: Shifting to mental and physical demands of mountain biking. It's a super physical sport. The mental challenges to dropping a line that's right up against the edge of your skill level has got be tough. Could talk about prioritizing self-care and mental wellbeing to balance being on sharp end of the progression of women's mountain biking?

Georgia: I really like knowing that all of the steps have been taken for me to ride at my highest level. If I wanna do something that is at the peak of my ability, or if it's just a massive feature, I like to know that in the weeks beforehand that I have done my training. I'm eating well. I'm getting my sleep. I'm not really one to just send because the send is there. I really like having all the steps. I like to have a good schedule and have a routine. And ultimately, it's just surrounding yourself with the right people. I don't like getting peer pressured. I like doing it when I want to do it. Sometimes I do get lost in my head when it comes to new features, but being with the right crew and trusting my own abilities is the best way for me to send what I wanna send.

OR: Building more on that mental battle. So, you're sitting at the top of something say, Red Bull Formation. You know you've put the work in, you feel confident in your abilities. Are there any rituals that you go through right there before you drop in?

Georgia: At Formation specifically, I went through my race run ritual. A little bit of physical warmup to make sure my body's awake. And then I sit at the top and visualize my whole run. With downhill and enduro racing, it’s really important [to visualize] because you have one chance. You're against the clock and trying to remember what order the features are in is super important. I take all of that into freeriding too, because you have to be very, very precise with certain drops—you have to maybe pop one a little more and scrub the other. Being at the top, closing my eyes, pretending I'm holding on to the bars—that's usually how I like to get into the zone. And physically, I always do weird things with my brakes, or do the goggle strap thing you always see in the videos. I like to have my goggles on just long enough that they're not gonna fog up. And I always line my brakes out, like out one, in one. Just little fiddles. But the visualization is key to get into the zone for me.



OR: Looking back at the last couple years and women's free ride mountain biking. In terms of progression, is there a moment that changed the game, where yesterday it was this, but this just happened, and now it's a whole different landscape?

Georgia: Yeah [Red Bull] Formation 2021. The pandemic restrictions were easing up, and Formation was this huge meet up of girls from all over the world. That's where a lot of us met each other, and it opened up the door to all these other opportunities, like girls making jump gyms for example. But specifically at that event, I remember just being so excited. I was digging. I wasn't even riding, but everyone was cheering each other on, and it was this huge, supportive place, and the vibes were so high. I feel like after that is when everyone was like, OK, we can make this into a career, and this is a viable path for us now. It's no longer like, if you want to be a mountain biker, you're either a racer or an influencer. There's a whole new doorway opened up that year, and that for me was pretty big, even for my sponsors. It changed. They're like, OK, Formation is on the map. We want you at these freeride events. This is an option. And that was rad to go and be there with the other girls to dig. It's a very different experience to be all together making the lines, building for each other, with each other. I feel like that whole experience really elevated it for all of us. It helps so much with descending, because when you spend nearly a week digging the feature, you know it well. You don't have to just rock up to the biggest feature ever and hit it. When you spend hours on a landing and the takeoff, you know exactly where to hit it. It's not just coming at you blind.

OR: Let's talk about the mountain bike community. What is your take on what the mountain bike community is doing to support women in the sport?

Georgia: Yeah, I would say if we're looking at UCI and regulations for racing, the industry is not doing enough. But many individuals and supportive brands are stepping up with lots of inclusive events and projects, and there's a lot of involvement with getting new faces on bikes. Hosting development style events or girls only jump jams for example, Casey Brown’s Dark Horse, Hanna Bergman’s Hang Time, TJ did Thunderstruck; these inclusive events really got the ball rolling development-wise. And now, girls are getting category for gold round at Freeride Mountain Bike (FMB) World Tour Slopestyle, which is the pinnacle of the sport. There are a lot more events popping up, and with Formation, the skill level is higher than it’s ever been. On the flip side, the UCI's getting stricter with its regulations which kind of pushes girls out of racing. So, then it's like doors are kind of closing, but new ones are opening. So, I wouldn't say the whole industry is getting more inclusive, but there are so more opportunities in general for women.

OR: Does it seem like it's going in the right direction, or is it stalling?

Georgia: I don't think it's stalling. After COVID we saw a huge boom, and tons of people were getting on bikes. And now companies are sitting on a lot of unsold bikes, so the whole industry not able to sponsor as many events. But that’s just the industry in general. I think we’re headed in the right direction, we're just in a weird patch where brands are finding their footing and figuring out what is the best thing to invest in.

OR: Do you have ideas on how the industry and the mountain bike community can increase participation and how can brands play a role in sustaining that momentum? Basically, how can we get more women on bikes?

Georgia: The normalization of girls in action sports and being able to have action sports as a career is huge. With added broadcast time and sponsorship support for girls, it's now possible for little girls to grow up seeing more women on posters. The ability to make it a job–that's the shift that we needed to see and it's definitely happening.

OR: OK, time to put your CEO hat on. What can brands do to amplify women's voices and experiences in marketing and product development?

Georgia: I'm a big fan of grassroots community events to get the right people involved in the sport. Some people are really good at social media, and you can use an influencer with 100K thousand followers to gain traction. But the grassroots riders in the mountain bike community that are pushing so hard for the sport with other people—those are the ones that I love seeing getting picked up and sponsored. So, if I was the CEO, I would lean into the grassroots series, sponsor local events, and elevate those people versus just the Instagrammers. There are benefits to both, but I really like that all of the teammates that I've met at Outdoor Research are rad humans, and everyone is stoked on what they do. And I love that's what the brand aligns with.

OR: You have to get the core community onboard, right? If they’re not onboard, I’m not sure what you have.

Georgia: Exactly. The best parts about the sports that we do is that connection we have with the community and trails. It's a whole circle. And I think that's pretty unique with biking. It's more than just bike and the rider, you know? The trails don't build themselves. It takes the people in the communities. It takes shops supporting those local series. It's a whole organism that you gotta keep alive. There are so many moving parts, and I love it when brands support those that are really active in the sport, regardless of gender.


Outdoor Research ambassador Georgia Astle looks over her shoulder as she walks her mountain bike on a trail.


OR: I can imagine it might be weird as a young person to picture yourself as a role model, but your riding speaks for itself, and people are definitely noticing. And so, as a young role model, what message would you like to convey about pursuing your passions and breaking gender stereotypes?

Georgia: It’s really cool because lots of people have recently started reaching out. And that’s the blessing of social media. If you're doing cool stuff, you can reach a wide audience and people can hit you up on socials. A young girl or a woman who's just got into riding can message me for tips, like “how do I get sponsored,” or “how do I hit this jump?” I’m starting to feel the love a little bit more. My tip is, if you love it, go for it. If you're dedicated, something good will happen. If you love what you do and you push for it, you're never going to regret it. With parents, I think it’s important to let their kids do lots of sports or have lots of hobbies. Don't get burnt out on just one. Even if your kid is on track to getting sponsored, it's like, let them have their passion and they’ll find their way.

In terms of inclusivity. People will either accept having more faces and more women in the sport—ideally, they'll love that it's growing in that direction—or they'll just be left in the dust. You can only have so much energy for people like that. There's only so much you say to them. The best way for me is to stay dedicated and stay well rounded. Good things will come.

OR: What do you think is next in terms of evolution in the freeride women's mountain biking category, and in mountain biking in general?

Georgia: I don't know what the deal is gonna be with racing, but in terms of freeride we're going to see girls in the gold round—Crankworx and FMB Slopestyle events—this year. That’s so exciting and I'm pumped for that because that means a wide audience, and so many young girls watching. To be a slopestyle athlete you really need to be dedicated from a pretty young age—it's easier to learn tricks when you're not already scared of crashing. So, I'm really excited to see the slopestyle evolution in the next 10 years. And then also I really want to see girls at [Red Bull] Rampage. We're not sure when that's gonna happen, but there's definitely a push and a new wave for that as well.

OR: It's a big push. You don't have to look too hard, especially in the lead up to Rampage, to see and hear people campaigning to let women ride at the event. There's momentum. And the level of riding at Formation speaks for itself. It's only a matter of time, right?

Georgia: Yeah, exactly. Everyone knows that the girls are ready and it's more of just creating the space that allows everyone to do that without taking away from what Rampage already is. It's already such a hard event to have. It's completely weather based, there's advertising breaks, and like all of a sudden, the site will be full of wind. So, putting 10 more girls on the spotlight is a tough one logistically, but I think we can do it.

OR: Is there anything else that you wanna say to the OR audience? Do you have something on your mind that you wanna get out there?

Georgia: Every International Women's Day feels a little different. There's an evolution to it. The first one was like back when it was the whole shrink-it-and-pink-it thing. Your options were pink or teal, maybe purple in there, and now we've come so far into the other direction—there's so many women in the industry, and we're celebrating on so many different levels. It's really rad to have the opportunity to be heard. And I'm just stoked to have everyone on bikes.


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