North Shore Betty is all about fast and fearless MTB at 73

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Betty flying down a technical trail, with speed and style. (Photo: Travis Rummel)
Betty flying down a technical trail, with speed and style. (Photo: Travis Rummel)

Mountain biking might have started in California, but the Canadians made it an extreme sport, as it evolved throughout the 1990s.

And for Canadian mountain biking, there is no place more hallowed than Vancouver’s North Shore.

In the steep forests of Mount Fromme, Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain, some of the most advanced mountain bikers have shaped their skills.

Steep trails with wet roots and rocks make Vancouver’s North Shore an expert riding venue. Not the kind of place you’d expect to find a 73-year old woman, riding the most dangerous trails.

But Betty Birrell is not your average 73-year old. Betty, a former international windsurfing superstar, happened upon mountain biking 30 years ago, and has never stopped riding.

female mountain bike
Betty Birrell rides trails that most mountain bikers, would avoid. (Photo: Jordan Manley)

She rides better - than you

While septuagenarians aren’t an oddity in cycling, very few are willing to roll down treacherously technical singletrack.

For North Shore Betty, as Birrell is affectionately known, all trails are fair game. She rides with skill and flow, which would envy mountain bikers half her age. A testament to her natural balance, courage and skill.

No fear. And no need for an e-bike, either

Despite taking early retirement from her career as an international flight attendant at 58, Birrell continues to work as a landscaper. And she still rides technical downhill trails on her enduro mountain bike, each week, when there isn’t snow.

Beyond her ageless bike skills, Betty’s fitness is possibly even more impressive. Although e-bikes are a given for most mountain bikers her age, Betty rides a standard 'analogue' mountain bike, without a battery pack or pedal-assistance.

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