Every new Mountain Biker finds themselves drawn to the sport for a different reason. For officer Dani Shamburger it was a way to connect to the community she serves. Dani’s friend and fellow officer, Travis, invited her to check out the Bentonville Police Task Force Mountain Bike Team. She was instantly enamored by both the physical challenge of the sport as well as the positive interactions it fostered within the community.
Dani knew she wanted to qualify for this team someday but she didn’t really know where to start. She mentioned her new desire to her girlfriend, MK. That was all it took for Dani to find herself standing in Phat Tire, the local bike shop, getting fitted for her very first Mountain Bike. After making a sizeable investment in a beautiful hardtail Trek, they headed out to a trail called Tatamagouche and Dani “got her butt kicked”.
That first ride made her question her ability to break into the sport, admitting too that she had an irrational fear of breaking her knee caps while trail riding. Rather than let her give up, MK marched her right back into the bike shop and purchased a set of knee and elbow pads. The pads gave Dani the confidence that she wouldn’t “bust a cap” while she and MK hit the trails daily to build both her strength and skill. She was making good progress but there is only so much you can learn on your own. Dani and MK needed to find a larger community to ride with.
They were turned on to some group rides through the bike shop and decided to join in on a few even though the participants were almost entirely male. Dani said “riding with men really forced me to push myself harder and some days I couldn’t even catch up.” It was good training but she was still looking for more. She finally found her community when she started volunteering with the Little Bellas. Little Bellas is a group of women Mountain Bikers who mentor and guide girls who are interested in biking. This organization gave her purpose and a growing circle of skilled female riding companions.
Over three years Dani trained. She got stronger and faster and she never gave up on her dream to join the Bentonville Police Mountain Bike Team. She had to complete a three mile ride in 14 minutes, combined with a running sprint to the bike and a footrace after the ride. MK and their new riding friends continued to push her, helped her train and gave her tips to improve her time. Dani finally tried out for the team, she smoked it, finishing in 13 minutes and 45 seconds.
When asked what making the team means to her, Dani says, “It has been so important for me to be a strong female role model. I’ve gained the respect of the community I serve, as well as boosted my confidence in talking to and meeting new people. I grew up as an introvert and this has given me the ability to talk with people I probably would never have had the courage to talk to.” Dani prides herself in the work and service she provides to the city of Bentonville, “We don’t just serve locals, we see people from all over the world. We want them to know we are out here to serve them, even on the trails.”
Dani never imagined that riding a bike could be so much more than exercise. It has changed her life in so many important ways. She has found a way to be a leader in her community, a role model for young girls and has made some of the best friends of her life, all because she wanted to ride a bike. Dani says, “Of all the friends I have in my adult life, the women I bike with have been here the most for me.” Getting out of your norm is hard for anyone but some of the most precious people you meet are in the most surprising places. Dani will tell you that she could not have gotten this far and achieved so much if it were not for the support of her wife, MK, and their friends. This reminds us, the trails are for more than just biking, they are building a community.
We all ride for different reasons. For Dani Shamburger riding is a way to be a strong female role model in the community she adores. It also helped her build some amazing friendships and became an intrical part of her marriage.