The role of women in Downhill cycling in Costa Rica

Downhill riding is a genre of mountain biking considered one of the riskiest sports in the world. It consists of descending as fast as possible on a natural track. Along the way, there are obstacles, both natural and artificial. The winner is the one who makes the shortest time possible in the timed descent.

Its creation dates back to the 1970’s in California, USA. At the beginning, bicycles were not present in the sport. Motorcyclists were the ones who descended at full speed in dangerous terrain. However, this vehicle caused fear and a lot of damage, which is why its practice was banned. However, the search for adrenaline made people seek other options. Thus arose the use of bicycles in this sport. At the beginning, bicycles were not suitable for it. Bicycles with front and rear suspensions with shock absorbers, hydraulic oil, disc brakes, wider tires and plate protectors or chain guides were necessary: a series of elements key to the practice of this speed sport, which pushes athletes to the limit of their capabilities.

These implements are necessary for more speed in the race. The bicycles used have to be much heavier. On the other hand, athletes must wear all the protective tools to avoid injuries after a fall.

In other words, downhill is a demanding sport. A good physical condition, great courage and knowledge of how to manage emotions are needed in the few seconds that the race lasts to be able to practice it.

The role of women in Costa Rica’s Downhill cycling

Women who participate in sports such as enduro and downhill find the necessary support amongst other female competitors. Their strength in the extreme sport is put to the test in the falls. Due to the lack of support, the first Women’s Enduro and DH CR League was created in the country: a group of women who share knowledge, training and initiatives to encourage more women to practice the sport. In the group there are national champions, consolidated cyclists, and rookies passionate about the sport that promote healthy competition, ensuring that women’s BMX, enduro and downhill continue to grow in Costa Rica. At the same time, this group considers itself a family that seeks to guide, teach, and open spaces to practice the sport together in a very friendly environment.

Marcela Canet, the creator and leader of the League, is one of the first Costa Rican women to practice downhill and enduro. In fact, she is one of the first female figures to participate in these extreme sports in the country. However, her participation is not only in competitions. She has managed to gather sixteen downhill and enduro girls who show their great strength. Marcela aims to make a difference in this extreme sport. Her priorities are the female athletes and their needs.

Downhill Cycling

An accessible sport?


Prices for mountain biking equipment can be high. Mountain bikes are required in addition to protective gear. Marcela Canet indicates that it is advisable to carry up to three bicycles for tours and long treks in order to have the necessary spare parts in case of a breakdown. Spare parts for these bicycles can be difficult to obtain in certain areas of the country. Despite this, there are ranges of bicycles available at more affordable costs. For example, some brands launch aluminum frame versions of their best models.

downhill- bike-costa-rica
Downhill Cycling in Costa Rica

National Athlete Support

Marcela Canet, a retired cyclist, recounts the difficulty of obtaining corporate support for competition in the sport. Throughout her career, she has found that it is easier to receive sponsorship for recreational and outreach events than for competitions. In fact, the competitive cycling community has fewer participants than recreational events. The competitive community has about 150 athletes, while recreational events gather up to 8,000 people. Therefore, companies prefer to sponsor events that give them more visibility.

In summary

  1. Downhill is one of the riskiest sports in the world and one of the modalities of mountain biking.
  2. Women who participate in sports such as enduro and downhill find their greatest support in other female competitors.
  3. Downhill and enduro are expensive sports that require investment.



Zelda Walters y Angie Loveday con la colaboración de Marcela Canet.