WHEN Morgan Pilley offered to lead Clarence Valley riders in a session at Bom Bom State Forest, a large contingent of junior female riders was the last thing he expected.
Pilley is one of Australia's premier mountain bikers, competing in marathon and 24 hour endurance events on the Italian circuit.
He has been back in the country since late last year to enjoy time with family in Yamba, and is planning to head back to Europe soon to prepare for the 2014 season.
But like most elite athletes, he volunteers some of his home time to help further develop the local scene of his chosen sport.
His main aim was to get as many junior riders to the track as possible, but he did not expect the gender imbalance to be as strong as it was.
"I was impressed by the juniors, especially the number of girls we had along for it," Pilley said.
"Mountain biking is more a male dominated sport so I was a bit surprised at the ratio. They were all really great riders too.
"They all got straight back up, brushed themselves off and kept going, and they showed a lot of skill on the tracks."
As well as the number of girls joining in the ride, Pilley was impressed with facilities at Bom Bom State Forest, and appealed to the Clarence Valley to utilise its unique attraction.
"There aren't many places with this kind of setup," Pilley said.
"It's rare to find a park with trails of this quality. Everything is signposted and they've got the big sign at the entrance to the park.
"There isn't that many parks around where you can take the bike in at any skill level.
"Clarence Valley is so lucky to have something this is in its backyard."
Grafton Cycle Club's Michael Powell said he did expect a few more riders than what showed, but was rapt with the number of juniors.
"There were a few more people from the club I expected to see but it's a difficult time of year," Powell said.
"School holidays are always hard and the weather this morning could've done anything so was tough to judge.
"It was great to get them all out there though. There were a few people who aren't in the club who came along which was good as well.
"You watch how they develop towards the end of the ride - some of them didn't want to get off their bikes by the end."
WHAT YOU NEED
- A bike with brakes - they don't have to be high quality, they need to work
- Helmet - basic safety requirement of all cycling
- Gloves - definitely help for the longer, rougher rides
- Loose fitting clothing - you don't need to go out in lycra