Downhill mountain biking is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous forms of mountain biking, reaching speeds of up to 100 mph. Long-time adventure sports enthusiast Tiffany Rhodes, assistant professor in the College of Hospitality Management’s Center for International Travel and Tourism Studies, dedicates much of her time outside the classroom to downhill mountain biking and enduro racing.
After having joined a riding club and being the only girl for far too long, she began leading women only rides with the New England Mountain Bike Association. In no time, she became a certified coach. “I decided to make a change and focus getting more girls on bikes,” says Rhodes. “Now we’re seeing more than 15 women at the rides.”
Most recently, Rhodes competed in the Red Bull Fox Hunt (above) competition in Wales, England, the biggest all-female downhill mountain bike competition in the world. “This event brings 200 bikers together, and we race against five-time World Champion, Rachel Atherton,” she says. Atherton, known as “the Fox” is the last to go, giving everyone a few-second head start. In Rhodes’ blog about the competition, she writes, “As the horn blasted, we all took off in what can only be described as complete chaos and total excitement. We weaved in and out of each other gaining speed as we entered into the steep single track and gnarly terrain. The Fox was right on our heels. She passed more than 120 riders, coming in 40th place. I somehow managed to stay ahead of her and came in 29th overall. Racing the Fox is not for the faint of heart.”
When asked why she is so passionate about competing, she answers, “Competing forces you to push your limits more than riding. If you show up to a course and just ride it with your buddies, you’d probably end up walking some of it. At a race, it forces me to ride at my best.”
Rhodes’ passion for downhill mountain biking is similar to the passion she sees in her students for tourism. She says, “Tourism students are so passionate about learning about the world and its different cultures.” She brings her experiences into the classroom every day. “The race in Wales is a perfect model of adventure tourism,” she says. “The race brought 200 women who all stayed in the same region together for this one activity .”
Prior to downhill mountain biking and her full-time faculty position with JWU, Rhodes toured much of the United States and beyond as an adventure tourism guide teaching adventure sports. While pursuing her doctorate degree in cross-cultural studies, she started doing humanitarian aid work; learning about the reconciliation work going on in Bosnia and Croatia. Her passion for travel and adventure began when studying abroad in Kenya as a college student, living in a hut on the Savannah.
While Rhodes might still be in pursuit of the Fox, she looks forward to her next adventure with her tour management operations course as they travel to Morocco in November.