Dude Girl

Mark Hallinger

Wednesday 02 May 2018

Sea Otter Expo: Dude Girl Apparel

Enjoy their trips or just love the clothing: Dude Girl is born from the spirit of adventure, inspired by America's early cowgirls.

Sea Otter Expo: Dude Girl Apparel
What's in a name? Kim McElihinney of Dude Girl. All photos: Mark Hallinger

Lineage can count for a lot, and Kim McElhinney has her grandmother to thank for being one of those enterprising souls who is able to make her passion her job. Back in 2004 Kim McElhinney took her love for the outdoor life and travel and started an adventure travel company for avid cyclists, running road cycling trips to the Tour de France’s famous climbs, as well as mountain bike excursions to Bulgaria. Within a few years the company added a trail running trip, and launched its own apparel brand.

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Serape, one of the Dude Girl collections. Photo:

The foray into clothing flowed naturally from acquiring jerseys for trip customers, says McElhinney. Style is key: Multiple themes are available in jerseys and bibs, from the Bike Like a Girl collection to the California collection, featuring the iconic California bear image, French Stripes, Dots, and others. The recent Serape collection is inspired by patterns seen in the Mexican shawl/blanket, and includes matching water bottles. The Dude Girl brand has become largely identified with women’s apparel, and some for the men too.

Curated adventure cycling trips remain very much on the roster too, and arguably with more post-ride comforts than the company's namesake experienced. This year trips to Tuscanny are scheduled for June and September.

Tuscany, anyone? Photo:

And that name? That’s quite a story, and it’s how Kim got inspired.

Kim’s grandmother, Dorothy Dodge McElhinney, lived quite a life in the 1920s, which flowed from her love of horses, and "her raw talent for taming and riding them," as the Dude Girl website says. Her life was wrangling and breaking saddle horses, participating in rodeos where she beat the men, and all sorts of things you might see in a movie about an independent, athletic woman in an era when such endeavours were seen as newsworthy.

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Dorothy Dodge McElhinney and her dude girl friends. Photos:

There’s not been a movie yet, but there was a book, and Kim had a copy on stand at Sea Otter. The book was written about the real life adventure her grandmother (the original dude girl) and a few of her college girlfriends had on a pack trip across the Continental Divide from Wyoming to Menifee Valley in California. Dorothy had married Kim’s grandfather, who was setting up his medical practice in Long Beach, California. When there wasn’t enough cash to ship her beloved horses to California, an epic two-month journey ensued, as later documented by one of the four cowgirls on the trip in a book called Dude Girl.