Children tend to delight in dirt - think mud pies, dirty knees from running so hard you fall over. Dirt often becomes more of a chore as an adult but a group of female Manawatū mountain bikers are relishing feeling like a child again - dirt included.
The Manawatū Dirt Divas are organising three free non-competitive rides on Saturday, May 1, International Women's Mountain Biking Day. All ages, sizes and abilities are welcome and each ride will have a leader.
Dirt Diva Sarah Olson says mountain biking offers her a form of escapism and gets her off the road and away from cars.
Olson loves being in nature and the bush and seeing some amazing scenery.
"It's usually a very nice scenic environment. It also can provide you with a challenge, you have to think about what you are doing with your riding."
The journal editor says the challenges can be technical and physical, such as tackling a hill or trying to beat a previous time.
Olson says Arapuke Forest Park on Kahuterawa Rd has incredible trails and is continually being developed.
"It's a pretty exciting place for us local mountain bikers."
Bette Flagler has fond memories of the dirt and mud she encountered in her youth having a blast mountain biking. She's from Marin in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is famous for its mountain bike trails.
Flagler started mountain biking in the 1980s when there were no fancy specialist bikes but normal bikes with fat tyres.
She says you can ride in any weather, which is invigorating, and she enjoys being with friends and having a laugh.
"Mountain biking is the kind of thing that not only makes you feel like a kid again, but that you can do with your kids."
Mountain biking can be challenging physically, technically and emotionally; there are times when you need to overcome your fear of doing something.
Flagler says her fellow Dirt Divas are supportive and helpful. She had a long break from mountain biking but for a significant birthday last year decided to buy a bike. "I thought "if not now, when'."
She finds New Zealand roads narrow and many drivers disrespectful of bikes. While she might fall off and hurt herself mountain biking at least she is not going to be driven over.
"Even if I haven't been on my bike for a year or so I can get on my bike and have a lot of fun. It's not like some other sports like running or playing tennis or something that it takes a while to feel good again."
The retired magazine publisher also enjoys being able to measure her improvement from ride to ride. "You can get better at it each time you ride."
Flagler says you don't need the flashest or most expensive bike to have fun and there are lots of trails and places to ride all over the country.
Anne Ridler has been mountain biking about seven years. The vet likes exercising but she gets bored easily, especially running.
"I love mountain biking because I like keeping fit and I also love getting in to the back country and it's a good way of doing that. I also really like it because it makes me feel like a kid again."
Mountain biking helps keep her brain busy as she has to concentrate rather than think about work, she says.
While biking she constantly needs to make decisions such as which line to take, when to brake and how fast to go.
"Riding puts a smile on my face."
The adrenaline will be pumping but it's not as terrifying as, say, jumping out of a plane, Ridler says.
"You feel like you are awesome even though it's not that dangerous, to be honest."
She says mountain bikers are lucky the city council is so supportive and has put a lot of effort into the trails. The trio agree Arapuke is a great resource with riders coming from as far afield as Napier, Wellington and Rotorua.
Dirt Divas has members aged from 20s to 60s and they are a subgroup of the Manawatū Mountain Bike Club. The Dirt Divas' mission is to get more women and girls riding mountain bikes in the Manawatū.
E-bikes are welcome on May 1 and there will be spot prizes.
• For more information join Manawatū Dirt Divas on Facebook or email ManawatuDirtDivas@gmail.com.
What: International Women's Mountain Biking Day.
When: Saturday, May 1.
Where: Foxton Beach Forest 9am; He Ara Kotahi Bridge, Palmerston North 10am; Arapuke Forest Park, 1pm.