Saturday, May 19, 2018

It's Not Fine.

I say it's fine. It's not. I have to swallow the pain and hurt each day...I want the band-aid effect. Rip that f*cker off. I can't. I don't get to. Life has to keep going, work has to happen, and I have sh*t to do.

This has been a challenging week. Not only with "adulting" stuff, but the fact that our cats are affected by the inconsistent schedule, new smells, and stress. There was literally a fight between Cordie and Phoebe that happened twice within a matter of minutes on Tuesday. All because I stepped on Cordie's paw. Damnit!!!!! (I think Tuesday) and it was straight out of a cartoon-  you have a literal rolling ball of cat. It was awful. I literally laid on the dining room floor, bawling my eyes out for a solid 10 minutes.

Now, Phoebe is having some possible bladder stress. An overnight stay at the vet clinic resulted in nothing. No irritation. No bacteria. But you can tell something is just not right.

Here's hoping that things calm down and she's not going back to the vet on Monday. It tears me up that she's having any discomfort. This is the last thing she needs. This is the last thing I need.

I'm having to live with high anxiety. Let's be honest here. I have f*cking anxiety. In general. I know it, and I've known it for awhile, and I've not been "officially" diagnosed...but cripes. I have days where I can deal with it better, but this is giving me a run for the money. Since the incident, my anxiety has been through the roof due to all of the unknowns. The waiting. The wondering if I'll f*ck something up. Now, there is a logging contract to worry about. Can I sell the property with the contract still in play or do I have to have the estate pay back over $8,000? I feel like I'm swimming in a tidal wave- and the reality is, I'm not a good swimmer.

Can we say a big F this? Can I just make this whole sh*tshow go away?

My dad's memorial service is coming up, and I just finished writing a poem and a reading. I don't think they are good. I'm afraid I will disappoint. Nothing I'm typing out is making me feel like I'm doing my dad justice. It hurts. I have expectations of my own that I do not feel I'm meeting. It makes me wonder why I'm even trying. I'm trying because I'm stubborn and damnit....he is MY DAD and this is the LEAST I can do.

The death of a loved don't know what you're going to get. It's like a white elephant gift- maybe it'll be great or maybe it'll be crap.
I'm not at all saying my dad's life was crap- but I am seeing first hand some of his flaws. Flaws I believe he knew because he sheltered them from me. We are human, and as humans, we have flaws, and some of us hide them for a long time....and some of us choose to put blinders on and hope that maybe- just maybe- it will somehow not be the case.

I've learned so much about my dad in these past few weeks. It hurts that I'm gifted this knowledge of the man who is 1/2 of who I am. I've known that my dad was a good man (I hate saying was. It sucks.)
So many people have said so many nice and wonderful things. He was so well-liked, appreciated, and cared for by family and friends.
I've learned even further how damn talented he was- and I feel like I've always fallen short on the talent train. He and my mom can do SUCH amazing things...I mean, the man forged a f*cking knife!!! I come from talented parents, and when I step back, I feel like I have SO LITTLE to offer.

Then I hear how damn proud my dad was of me. How excited he was when I was getting married. How he talked about me all the time. I just...I can't. I can't even right now. Sometimes I wish I had asked more...asked more so I could know why. Why was he proud of me? Especially when I've felt for so long that I just don't measure up to how wonderful and talented my parents are.

Yes. I am hard on myself. Yes. I'm comparing.

I've had a couple okay days. Riddled with stress, but okay.
I've had some bike rides.
The first ride I saw a pair of geese.
Second ride I saw a female turkey.
Third ride I saw a doe.
Fourth ride I decided- I was ready to go fast. I didn't see an animal, but my heart was warmed to see Sweet William blossoming. My most favorite wildflower- the one I'd pick when dad would take me mushroom hunting.

Today I had two moments which touched my soul. A mountain biking friend who reached out to me, to see how I was, and then came back with a perfect pick me up. It warmed my heart and it's a great reminder.

The second, was my eye doctor's wife. She's going through an incredibly hard time and opened up to me a little on her hopes of being able to bike more. I feel for emotional and mental sanity and health. I totally got it. I'm in that spot. I'm not caring for someone who is ailing health-wise like she is, but the pain, stress, and sorrow are still very real- mine just happened abruptly and before it should've. Her's is long. I could see tears in her eyes. I told her I understood- how cycling can be so good for personal well-being. I'm in that same boat. I mentioned my loss. I hate talking about it. I'm so sorry that she has to deal with what she's dealing with. How bad things happen to good people. Whatever plan our lives sign on for...sometimes those plans suck. That's all I can say.

Besides accepting that my well-thought and super planned year has experienced great upheaval, I know that I will get through all of the crap at some point. I'm grateful for the family and friends I have, who have been amazing- open- welcoming- and helpful.

Until then, I'll get in what rides I can.
I'll try to accept stress with grace.
I know I was loved.
I know I am loved.
At some point, I'll genuinely be able to feel happy again.

I take comfort in the fact I am my father's daughter. Even tho he had his own set of issues, he still did his best to be a good human. He showed up. He lived. He did the best he could each day, regardless of what that "best" was. 

I'm going to give my best, too. Whatever my best ends up being.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The First Ride.

Full disclosure, I'm using more candid words in my writings pertaining to this because it's really the only way I feel I can get out the intensity of my emotions. Unbeknownst to many, I do like to throw out cuss words here and there. Once things feel more...normal...(dare I say normal?) I'll get back to more eloquent ways of speech. Until then. I'm raw. A'thankyou.

Thursday morning came and I was lying in bed, frustrated because I had gone to bed tired but didn't sleep for sh*t. I wanted to roll over, be a human burrito, and stay in bed. Damnit. I couldn't. It seemed pointless.

I've had grief before but I feel not to this degree. My first cat passed away young, and I remember coming home from school with the hope that she made it through the day. To find she hadn't. My heart was broken and felt life wasn't fair because her brother was strong and healthy. 

My grandma Gert's passing left a hole in my heart as it was unexpected- however she was 91 when she passed, so had a good life. She was the grandma I felt closest to- telling me tales of the "old days" while we laid in bed. Our trips to town to get groceries. Sneaking romance books out from under the couch to read before she did (which was a no-no, but I was a rebel.)
My other grandparents who passed and two of my aunts- those were more or less expected. Old age and cancer...they hurt, but they didn't cut into the soul quite like this. 

It feels like a paper cut on my heart each day.
My eyes feel heavy. I feel so...damn...tired.
I was told I'd feel tired, but didn't register that I would literally BE tired.

I am grateful I have family that live close, who I can ask to assist, but I feel guilty as hell for it. 

There is so much waiting. Waiting for papers, waiting for answers- and I want to get things done and I simply can't. Then you have the bitter reality that even if you want to get things done- there are things you can't do until you get an official paper. That awful paper stating you are the estate person. You are it. You are everything. You. You. You. Damnit...I don't want to be "it" and I shouldn't be in this position.

After I got up from bed, I knew I should go for a bike ride. There was rain in the forecast and I'd be losing out on an opportunity to have some peace and quiet. Be away from the computer- be away from the pile of papers- and be away from obligation.

I told myself that Dad would want me to go for a ride. Oh fine. I'll go. Sigh....

I dressed up and rolled out on Stephen McNasty. I need to ride this bike so I don't cry. I rode this bike home the day I got the news. This bike is in honor of my dad and I can't cry every time I ride it.

Before I rolled down onto the IPT trail, I saw two geese on the side of the road. What the heck are you doing? I thought. I figured I'd look up what a goose meant for a totem animal, not that I considered this a totem animal- but it was an odd sighting and I figured I should look.

Riding was good up until I rolled though the top of North 40 and smelled the white flowers of the plum trees. The scent wafted in the air and it made me think of home. The birds were singing, squirrels were daring to beat me down the trail, and I could think of nothing other than "My dad would love this..."

However, riding with tear-filled eyes is a hazard and the last thing anyone needed was me calling up to say "Haaaay, I broke my arm/leg/collar bone because I was mountain biking while crying."
I made it up to the Pines and again, emotions ran high, same with Little Big Horn.
I was frustrated because I wanted some sort of sign. I wanted to feel that my dad was there with me. Instead, I still feel that numb ache and sense of emptiness. Among all of the beautiful things I was immersed in- the flowers, trees, and critters...I felt resentment that I would never get to tell my dad about my next race. He wouldn't get to see his namesake bike in full glory. So many other moments yet to come, that will never be shared with him in human form. I have to accept everything as "spiritual." I will, eventually, harbor no resentment towards that idea.

"Well, Dad. I guess it's good that you were fine with a spiritual mindset, because I'm going to be talking to you a hell of a lot."

The trails were a little greasy that morning, but I was climbing up everything, and I figured that considering- maybe something was happening. You know, like someone looking out for me...or I just wasn't riding with emotion, which eliminates crashing. I'll pretend it was the first.

I was glad I went out, but at the same time it was painful. Something that I enjoy so much, that can bring me so close to my dad in spirit, hurts right now. More I think it's just the concept that I lost him in a shocking way.

When I was home I looked back through some stuff that we had collected and found a wedding band. I asked my mom via messenger, if it was the band he wore when he was married to her. She said it was. Thank goodness. My dad was married once before, and I didn't want to keep something that was from that time period. I hoped that the band was from my dad's marriage to my mom, because that's how I'm here today (sparklesparkle) and it could be a source of comfort for the time being. For being 5'5" and not large-boned, his hands were so strong. I can fit almost my ring and pinkie finger in the ring- ha! 

With processing through the grief, I've been going back and forth on feeling whether or not my feelings are justified. How justified is the pain? How can I feel so sad when I know other folks lose people they love? Someone out there has it worse than I can I grieve when I know that?

I conversed with Travis about it. I conversed with my aunt about it. I think it ultimately came out to "Yes, of course you are allowed to feel this way." and the fact that this was unexpected vs. expected. That I'm being too hard on myself. Also, the unrelenting feeling of how unfair this whole situation is because my dad fought so hard to lead an active life. He spent years recovering from his motorcycle accident- from hip replacements to healing broken bones, to then dealing with arthritis. (In general and some from the broken bones, etc.)

In my opinion, he lead life by example- how to be a decent human being. Respectful, kind, and fair. He had his days of complaining about how things hurt, how things sucked during the healing process, but he NEVER gave up. He still went to WORK when he could've gone on disability. He found ways to be active, he found ways to be more comfortable (like getting a Kubota tractor instead of riding the 4-wheeler.

For as simple of a man he was, for how humbly he dad did some amazing sh*t and lived through some really hard sh*t. He had perseverance and determination.

SO....this brings me to a finale of this emotional pour of feels for the day.

I hate how the event was made so damn public. I guess it had to be...but I hate it. I hate that I am the daughter of a man who was killed by a f*cking tree. I guess all I can do is think that it could be worse.

Here it goes. It's going to be a bit rough, and I apologize for those of you who have not seen this side of my personality.

The Allamakee Sheriff's Dept. had posted the event on Facebook. One person made a comment about how someone should refrain from doing "dangerous things."

Okay, sir. My dad has cut trees down for f'ing years. Screw you. I'm typically a nice person, but you can take your public opinion and shove it where the sun doesn't shine.

My dad knew how to cut a damn tree down, and this time, for whatever reason, something decided that it should go this way instead of that. Thank you for your stunning conclusion that cutting trees can be considered "dangerous." You should get a medal for being an inconsiderate ass. 

Sorry for the language, Dad. 

Now, onto something more positive.

Summary of Symbolic Meaning of the Goose

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Whatever It Takes

Mountain biking and writing. These are the two things are my therapy when things get tough- and things got tough real fast. Josie's Bike Life will be my place for sharing more on how I'm going to use mountain biking or biking in general, to get me through this difficult time.

Sunday, May 6th life changed.

I'm talking about having your world turned upside down in a span of few seconds. Family members walk into your workplace and you instantly know that something is up. 

It's how the barriers break down in .01 seconds because they can't hold it in.

It's listening to yourself from outside your body, letting out a cry from the depths that indicates a broken heart...a shattered soul. You just lost part of yourself. 1/2 of you. Everything rushes in like a tidal wave and you can't. You just CAN'T. You can't stop crying, you can't stop wailing, and you can't stop clinging to your family. You are downing emotionally and mentally, with nothing else to hold on to. You feel like you're going to slip.

What. Why. How. 


Because it's been on the news, anyone can find out. My dad had a tree cutting accident. He was on the low side and could've been on any other side and likely not have had an issue. For whatever reason, he chose the low side, made two cuts, and with the second cut- the f*cking tree basically blew up. My dad likely was knocked out by something, and part of the tree landed on his chest, crushing him.

I have never been so mad at a tree in my life.

Sunday I went back and forth trying to figure out my emotions over if I was mad at my dad or not. He was an outdoorsman. This wasn't his first rodeo cutting trees. He knew sh*t. He was resourceful. Strong. Smart. The situation could have gone completely differently if he had been on a high side and had not been so damn concerned over the crappy shed he didn't want the tree to fall onto.

It's not his fault.
I've heard it several times. "When it's time, it's time."
Maybe this was the way to go. Maybe this was the least painful way possible.
My dad had Type 1 Diabetes. He had at least 3 bouts of pneumonia this past winter. This winter was hard on him....I know it. I didn't really "know" tho. I didn't understand as to how hard it was on him. I was in denial. It's my dad. He has a mission in life. He's going to live forever. I knew he wouldn't, but I certainly wasn't expecting to lose him before his 66th birthday. Hell, I almost lost him in 2005 due to a motorcycle accident. He survived and gave me a false sense of "nothing can take this man down."

What I miss right now:
How his strong hands could rub my back so gently. Especially during hugs. He had a way of making something so simple feel so soothing.
How he rubbed my feet when I was a kid. Every Wednesday and Friday I'd pop my feet up on his lap and ask for my foot rubs. They grounded me.
How he pronounced my name with a hard "C" instead of a "Z".
His "Weelllll, I suppose...." even tho it meant the start of "goodbye."
How I got him to say "I love you" to me after phone calls and visits.

I know there is more, but those are the things right now.

Everything else:
I don't know if I can handle the thought of the holidays....and the fact I won't be baking DAD his diabetic-friendly apple pie.
I know he was proud of my new race bike being named after him. I'm changing the whole "Stefan" concept and simply going with Stephen...folks his name isn't's StEphen. So StEphen McNasty.....will be ridden in my dad's honor at Chequamegon. An event which I now have no expectation of how I'll do- because shit got real.
I've gone from hyper-emotional to numb in a matter of days.
I know he'll be with me, but I can't "feel" it yet.
I miss him so much.
I'll miss how excited he'd get when he talked about his projects.
I'll miss how happy he was to share with me how he told "so-and-so at work how proud he was of me or what I had done recently, or the article in Inspire(d) magazine that I was in, or the IPT segment. Hearing him PROUD of me when for so many years I thought I fell short. 

A respected, soft-spoken, kind, and talented man....who had a gift for rambling and story-telling. I felt I didn't get much from him in terms of traits, but I think I got more than what I realized. He would get an idea in his head and apparently if something bugged him he had to follow through to get that monkey off his back. I see the tree as a monkey. He probably had it nagging in the back of his head. I get that....I totally do.

I was fully prepared for my scheduled life....and for someone with a type-A personality who loves having things scheduled out and on whole world was given a giant dump. Emotional and mental dump. I'm exhausted. I know my family is also exhausted. A father was lost, but so was a brother...a brother in a close-knit family. 

Life is on standby right now in terms of leading rides for Fearless Women of Dirt. I've done one of the hardest things I've ever done- and that is take away my pre-set schedule and open the doors wide open for space and processing.

My world is rocked. I'm a very emotionally driven person- and this is going to take awhile. I have finally had one day where I haven't cried. (Compared to crying so much of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.) I feel vulnerable at work. I really want to hide sometimes- but I also appreciate not being at home and wallowing. I know it's not over yet. Bits and pieces are falling into place.

Currently, this is my mantra:
Imagine Dragons

Falling too fast to prepare for this
Tripping in the world could be dangerous
Everybody circling, it's vulturous
Negative, nepotist
Everybody waiting for the fall of man
Everybody praying for the end of times
Everybody hoping they could be the one
I was born to run, I was born for this
Whip, whip
Run me like a racehorse
Pull me like a ripcord
Break me down and build me up
I wanna be the slip, slip
Word upon your lip, lip
Letter that you rip, rip
Break me down and build me up
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do whatever it takes
'Cause I love how it feels when I break the chains
Whatever it takes
You take me to the top I'm ready for
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do what it takes
Always had a fear of being typical
Looking at my body feeling miserable
Always hanging on to the visual
I wanna be invisible
Looking at my years like a martyrdom
Everybody needs to be a part of 'em
Never be enough, I'm the prodigal son
I was born to run, I was born for this
Whip, whip
Run me like a racehorse
Pull me like a ripcord
Break me down and build me up
I wanna be the slip, slip
Word upon your lip, lip
Letter that you rip, rip
Break me down and build me up
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do whatever it takes
'Cause I love how it feels when I break the chains
Whatever it takes
You take me to the top, I'm ready for
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do what it takes
Hypocritical, egotistical
Don't wanna be the parenthetical, hypothetical
Working onto something that I'm proud of, out of the box
An epoxy to the world and the vision we've lost
I'm an apostrophe
I'm just a symbol to remind you that there's more to see
I'm just a product of the system, a catastrophe
And yet a masterpiece, and yet I'm half-diseased
And when I am deceased
At least I go down to the grave and die happily
Leave the body and my soul to be a part of thee
I do what it takes
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do whatever it takes
'Cause I love how it feels when I break the chains
Whatever it takes
You take me to the top, I'm ready for
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do what it takes

Monday, April 30, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Alison Good

I am a bicycle fiend who works as a nurse practitioner. In biking years, I am only about 3 1/2. I am divorced, remarried, and went through breast cancer at the age of 32. I was very overweight, unhealthy, and not very active. At the age of 34, I decided enough was enough, and that there must be a better way to live.

I a test-road a nice road bike, and 6 miles later, decided I was in love. That was the start of my journey back to health. Biking was something I could do that didn't put extra stress on my joints. I then began to learn how to eat healthier, and gradually became more and more active. I joined a morning workout class; I found a few people to bike with and did a lot of solo biking.

Biking began to become a way of life for me. I lost 100 pounds in 3 years, through movement (primarily biking), eating real whole foods and consuming a mostly plant-based diet, and making healthier choices. I have completed RAGBRAI twice, and have even joined a kickboxing class! I was introduced to dirt biking in September of this year, and borrowed a friend's fat tire bike...what a game changer!!!! It was like finding a whole new sport!!! It has also allowed me to continue riding through the winter, which has done a wonders for my mental health. Soft trail riding is fun, challenging, and more empowering than I could have ever imagined. I have met some really great people through this sport and found a way to connect with nature and with my soul in an incredible way. My body continues to get stronger, and my network of strong, empowered women is the best it has ever been in my life. I have found the most inspiring role models! I am continually thankful for this blessing of a sport that I have found.

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you from then on-
I had not biked in years until fall of 2015. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life, at a size 24. I had been through breast cancer a few years prior, at the age of 32, and was just ready to try to get my life back on track. I went to Bike World in Ames to test ride a bike and try to get a feel for something that might be the right size/fit. I ended up walking out with a road bike that changed my life. I started riding every day, by myself, on the Trestle Trail out of Madrid. I did RAGBRAI the following summer, met some really great people, and started eating and living healthier--it was life-changing, starting a chain of events I never could have predicted. 2.5 years later, I have lost 100 lbs, and live a completely different, more active life.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Absolutely! I went on my first single track ride this past fall, at the end of September, with an OLD mountain bike. I was absolutely IN LOVE! It was like learning a whole new sport. Shortly after that, I borrowed a friend's fat tire bike, and that was all it took to become hooked. I purchased a Fat Boy Specialized the next month, and now my love for single track/soft trails has rivaled my love for road biking. It's just SO MUCH FUN!!!!! The challenges, the ever-changing terrain, the learning curve with each new trail...I crave it like nothing else!!! And the people, especially the women, that I have met along the way, have been something to aspire to. It is a very empowering sport!

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
For now, I will leave the clips to the road bike, and keep flats for mountain biking. For me, it's a comfort level issue. I have taken and witnessed a few falls (mine were my own stupidity), and currently feel more comfortable not being clipped in as there are many a time when one needs to put a foot down quickly. Someday maybe I will do clips? For now, I am quite happy with flats.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I have. My first time out on my fatbike, I felt invincible (doh!) and tried to jump too big of a log. Went over the handlebars, landed on a big log, and was extremely sore. I also did this in front of a large group of guys that I was riding with for the first time. Double oops. Damaged the pride and the body a bit, the bike was fine :) I gained a healthy respect for the bike and learning your limits that day. I kept moving, got back on the bike immediately after it happened, and kept riding the next few days, even it was short increments. I also realized that I had made an error, and could learn from it for the future.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
At first, it was a little tough for me to gauge what gear I should be in and when. It was SO DIFFERENT from road biking!!! That improved with time, and just getting out there. I would just play around with the gears and learned what worked for me. The other big one for me was tire pressure preferences, depending on the conditions...I am still working on that one! Again though, you just have to play with it, and try out different things. The more time you spend on the trail, the more you understand how those changes affect your ride.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Of course! I think I learn something new every time I go out. It's all part of the glorious challenge of it to me. One day, I won't make it up a tough incline; the next day, I will tweak my gears/timing/mindset, and make it up. I have my frustrations, but I try to apply those feelings to come up with a solution on how to improve the next time.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I have this exuberant, freeing, ageless feeling when I ride. It makes me feel like a kid, with no responsibilities or cares in the world. It resets my soul in a way that nothing else does. It is a form of meditation, really. With mountain biking, you have to be constantly paying attention to your surroundings, as there might be a new obstacle just around the bend. Therefore, it keeps me focused, grounded, and centered on the here and now. Worries melt away, and there is only determination and pure joy. It has also helped my endurance and cardio ability--bonus!

Tell us your experience with winter biking- why should folks consider giving it a go?
I was a total newbie to winter biking this year--and fell in love with winter for the first time in my life. I am no longer stuck indoors! I can bike year-round! It took some trial and error to figure out how to dress appropriately, but I am getting the hang of it! And the can see so many different sights when the leaves are gone from the trees. And there are new challenges to be had as you ride the trails in different states....wet, snow, frozen, etc.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Women's Trek Silque road bike, and a Fat Boy Specialized fatbike. I also have an OLD Trek mountain bike that needs some repair. I love how fast I can go on the road bike, and how light it is. When I was much heavier, it gave me a step up to get me closer to being able to keep up with others while biking. I love my fat tire because it gave me a whole new confidence level for being able to try new things/obstacles while mountain biking. And, I must admit, I have an affinity for the way those big tires sound on concrete. And it looks MEAN!

What are your plans for the 2018 riding season?
I am signed up to ride my 3rd RAGBRAI, so gearing up to do a lot of road biking, but also plan to get several miles in on single track trails, too. I would also like to explore the single track trails in other areas--they make for great new adventures!!!

Where are your favorite places to ride?
I really like Camp Ingawanis in Janesville, IA, and riding the trails around George Wyth Park in Waterloo. Both areas present different challenges and keep things interesting.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think it can be intimidating, and it is a sport dominated by men, traditionally. It also puts you out in nature in a way that some may not be used to. It requires being a bit self-sufficient. It can also be daunting when you don't know the trails and are directionally-challenged. I am hoping to get a Garmin this year to help combat that, but I am improving!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved? 
I think primarily having more of a presence locally, doing more public events that encourage women to come check it out. Bike shops could host rent-a-mountain bike day for women, with a group ride. More meet-and-greet events for women to generate more interest. I feel like I literally had no idea that this was something I could access and get into. It had just never crossed my mind. Your organization is doing some amazing things for the sport--bringing such a positive spotlight on women who bike trails, and really getting the word out. I ride with Cedar Valley Cyclists, which is mostly road bike. I have done one ride with CVAST, Cedar Valley Association of Soft Trails, and plan to get more involved with them, for soft trails/single track/mountain biking. I ride with a women's group called Spokes Women, which is mostly road bike. I ride with The Girlfriends' Club, a women's group who does both road riding, with a few of us who do soft trails.
(Check out Fearless Women of Dirt Cedar Valley!)

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love seeing strong, healthy, independent women, and I know how much biking has done for me. It gave me a passion again and made me want to keep getting stronger. It got me on a path to good health, both physically and mentally. It has introduced me to some really amazing people. It has become a continual source of inspiration for doing better in other areas of my life.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I lived in Saudi Arabia when I was 3 (my dad used to be in construction overseas).

Monday, April 23, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Kristin Cleveland

My name is Kristin Cleveland and I live near Holland, Iowa. I am 46 years old and own a freelance graphic design business. The major portion of my graphic design work is art directing and designing magazines for the home and garden publishing industry.

I am also a semi-professional photographer (mainly shooting portraits) and my dream would be to work full time as a travel/landscape photographer.

I am a mom to 3 amazing sons and am married to my hubby of 25 years, Ole. I LOVE to spend time outdoors with my family. We are all avid runners, love mountain biking and skiing (downhill and XC), backpacking and camping.

You can find me on Facebook (Kristin Cleveland and Cleveland Design Co)
Instagram (@clevelanddesignco
Twitter (@weavingkris)

Tell us about the introduction to mountain biking and how it influenced you from then on-
I purchased my first mountain bike (Giant Rincon) as a college graduation gift to myself with money I earned from an art show award. My husband and I would always ride dirt bike trails, gravel roads and old logging paths before we really knew anything about singletracks. I have 3 sons and when they were little we would spend weekends riding bikes (towing them in a Burley) on the Raccoon River bike trail near our home. In 2008, when my youngest was 5, my husband and I decided they were finally old enough (riding 2 wheels!) to give mountain biking on single tracks at try. I think deep down, I knew my boys would love it and it was something our family was building up for. We took them to North Carolina to ride at Tsali. In hindsight, we probably should have started on easier trails in Iowa first, but I think riding in the actual mountains gave us the adventure we were really looking for. We were all instantly hooked. We traded our bikes in for disk breaks with better front forks and haven’t stopped since! Our family vacations are centered around riding mountain bikes and we head to the Mountains and trails in the midwest every chance we get. My family thrives on time spent in the outdoors and mountain biking is the perfect way we share time together.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
My very first single track ride was in Tsali, which is literally mountain biking heaven. It was hard, I was biking with a 5-year-old (my husband and the older two were way ahead!) and I realized at that moment that having disc brakes would have been better as anyone and everyone riding the trails could hear my braking. After my son and I made it to the top, the view was out of this world. After several hours, we all made it back down without any broken bones, only a few scratches, a bit of mud caked on our legs and smiles on our faces. My boys begged to go back the next day and I knew mountain biking was for me, for my family. I loved the feeling of conquering my fears, enjoying nature, the view from the top, and feeling how strong my body was. It peddled a bike up and back down a winding, rocky trail and ended with a smile and sense of a HUGE accomplishment. My first few rides after that were definitely a struggle. Learning how to position yourself on the bike, falling, falling some more, facing your fears and finding your inner strength all while maintaining confidence is a real struggle every time I ride. But, I keep coming back to the joy that builds up inside as I ride. I love being on my bike. I love the sounds of nature urging me on. I love the peace and tranquility, my tires crunching in the leaves. I may not be the fastest and I know there is a lot of things I have yet to learn and conquer, but the sense of strength you find on a trail is unbeatable.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I have always ridden with clips, but have just made the switch to flats. For me, it is a comfort level thing. I would always clip out in sections where I felt really unsure of myself and I think it was causing me to second guess my ability and ride with too much caution. I had a couple of bad falls where I was clipped in and never felt confident after that. I like not having to think about the “what if…” and flats are helping me gain confidence in the really technical sections again.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Oh, dear lord, YES I have biffed it quite a few times! One time in Crested Butte, my family was just finishing a trail with a really flowy and fast section from a long mountain climb ride. I could see them all waiting at the end of the trail (I’m always last in my family) and as I approached my peeps, I came to a stop and fell to my side. I forgot I was clipped in. I never crashed the entire ride, except for the stop at the very end. I have learned you can’t dwell on the crashes and I have learned to laugh at myself. Mountain biking is FUN and it comes with some risks. If I don’t feel comfortable riding a section, I get off and walk my bike. It's okay to walk and play it safe. In the end, I just want it to be fun. I don’t take my self too seriously and I know that each time I ride, I gain new skills and continue to challenge my ability.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Turning tight corners on a 29” wheel can be a challenge and it's something I still continue to work at. I need to learn more about body positioning and my sons are great at teaching me things that help my riding. Also, for me, steep technical downhills are my nemesis. I’m still working at a lot of things and would really like to attend some clinics. I also have not attempted any jumps…my boys love them, I am scared stiff to try.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I have a TON yet to learn. I still find steep technical hairpin turns really hard and I hate the thought of doing a jump. If I can’t ride a section, I push myself to my limit and then walk my bike. Its okay to walk if you don’t feel confident. Mountain biking is supposed to be fun, don’t beat yourself up! I think what is most important is striving to develop your skills so that each time you can conquer something new or push your limit a bit further. Like anything else, you strive to get better. My sons study a lot of videos and read about mountain biking constantly. They are much better riders than I am and but riding with others helps you learn.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that I am powering my own transportation. Truthfully, I have large thighs (I like to think they are all muscle!) and biking has helped strengthen my body, legs, and core. I have always loved riding a bike. As a kid growing up on a farm 8 miles from town, my brother and I would ride our bikes around to visit neighbors or ride to town out of boredom. It has always meant freedom to me.
You were chosen as a Fearless Women of Dirt Ambassador for 2018, tell us how you learned about FWD and why you wanted to be part of the community-
I learned about FWD through Facebook (I follow Decorah Bicycles) and I was really looking for a group of women I could ride with. At the same time, I discovered FWD, I also found out about another group in the Cedar Valley area (Nature Force) and was thrilled to learn of more women who mountain bike. I have always ridden with my sons and husband and have NEVER ridden with any other women. I want to connect with other women who love mountain biking and if I can help get others involved, it means a larger base of support for us all.

What are your plans for the 2018 riding season?
To ride as much as I can around the midwest and to help grow the movement of women in mountain biking. I have always ridden with boys (I rarely see women on the trails wherever my family rides) and I am really looking forward to connecting and making friends with other women who are passionate about mountain biking. I also would like to enter a competition, but not sure when and where just yet.

What do you enjoy most about helping women become more confident with mountain biking?
I am looking forward to seeing their faces as they conquer a trail and find their inner strength.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Trek Cali WSD, 29er bike. It's a women’s specific bike. My bike is a gift from my husband and although I love him very much, I wouldn’t recommend this route for getting a bike. I am saving up to get a different bike as I don’t think it is the best fit for me. I am 5’9” and I feel at times that I sit upright too much on my bike as it has a shorter wheelbase. I know this affects cornering and my ability to get down lower on the bike in steeper descents so...I am considering a bike change in the near future. I will hang on to this bike as I do enjoy riding it on flat and flowy trails. I think it is really important to test different bikes to find the right fit so that you are comfortable and confident.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
The cost of purchasing the right bike, knowledge, and network of friends who also mountain bike.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Always more marketing and promotion of women-only events. Demo days for women to try a bike on a trail. A larger support network so its easier to connect with a group that is local. And more options for women’s specific designed bikes. A lot of your confidence comes from a bike that you feel at one with and friends that make you smile.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The chance to build friendships and to see others find the same joy that keeps me riding.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I used to speak Norwegian quite well and was an exchange student in Stjørdal, Norway. (I’m not so good at it anymore…out of practice.)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Susie Douglas

My name is Susie Douglas and I am a lover of all things bike related, including motorcycles and Unicycles. 2013 was when I made the switch from a hardtail to a full suspension bicycle and that’s when my passion for the sport became all-encompassing.

I liked mountain biking so much that I made the decision to resign from my career as a wildland firefighter with the US Forest Service. Why? Firefighting left no room for riding bikes in the summertime. And after doing it for 9 years, it was time to move on to something else.

So I switched my season of work, from summers to winters. I chose to ride bikes and work at bike shops in the summer and then would pick up work in Antarctica for the winter. Lol..yes, Antarctica. Starting winter 2013, I worked in Antarctica as a Fuels Operator and Helicopter Crewmember for 6 months per year, leaving the summer months open to explore the world by bicycle and continue feeding a passion for a sport that continues to change my life. And if you’re curious, I did ride in Antarctica!

In 2017 I was fortunate to become part of the Bell Joy Ride program as one of 12 ambassadors between Canada and the USA. This incredible opportunity to lead and teach women how mountain biking can be a super fun sport was a niche that I couldn’t help but feel natural in doing. This opportunity led to many other amazing ventures, including a sponsorship from Hometown Sports in McCall, Idaho and being supported by Juliana Bicycles and Club Ride Apparel. Starting spring 2017, I had a dream and vision to start a Mountain Bike Coaching and Guiding Business, in order to share my passion for the sport with others, and as of October 2017, it has come to fruition.

The name of my company is Down 2 Bike Project (D2B project for short) and it is an ‘on the road’ coaching business, traveling to events and locations around the country, instructing clients along the way. The website will notify folks of the current location and future locations of Down 2 Bike Project and if they see that D2B is going to be near their location, they can schedule a lesson (group or private) and D2B will drive to them.

There is apparel available on the website and original one-of-a-kind hats for sale in person. I have a 4x6 enclosed trailer that I tow with my Subaru and that is what I live in. I call it my Wee Bitty and it has its own fun story.

Tell us about your mountain biking introduction- what did you learn and what about it made you say "This is for me!"
I had won a hardtail Huffy at a local grocery store raffle drawing. Funny right? My boyfriend at the time had a Trek hardtail of much better quality so he thought it’d be a good idea to go for a pedal. I was immediately winded and couldn’t believe that people rode bikes in the woods like this. He let me ride his Trek and then I realized how much easier it was to ride and how fun it could be.

You started off on a hardtail and eventually went full suspension. Can you tell us what helped you with your decision and why it was the best decision for you?
Oh my gosh, I will never forget that day. My friend had a Cannondale Jekyll he was selling and told me that I could take it for a spin. I’d been riding a Gary Fisher hardtail with old-school pad brakes for years. So decided heck, why not? I had NEVER ridden that fast nor had as much fun on a bike as that day. It’s as if the skies opened up and I saw heaven. I bought the bike the same day.

We have to ask, what was it like riding in Antarctica?!
Absolutely thrilling and freezing, all at the same time. There’s nothing like riding down a volcanic rock ridgeline with 30 mph winds and seeing the sheer drop off of the side down into the frozen sea ice. The ice will some years break up and you can see icebergs floating around, penguins swimming and orca whales spy hopping. Absolutely stunning.
Clips or flats? What do you enjoy best and why?
I am back to riding flats after years of clips. I find this to be helpful in really emphasizing the importance of foot positioning and movement during technical moves. Plus it’s how teachers are supposed to instruct beginners in learning fundamental mountain bike technique.

Have you had any biffs (crashes) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I dislocated my elbow during a pump track/wall ride session that required months of Physical Therapy and later that summer I launched off my bike down a steep rock embankment that resulted in a massive evulsion on my right forearm needing 14 stitches. It got so infected that I had pitting edema in my entire right arm. Super disgusting and painful.

Overcoming the fear of riding aggressively again was and is still challenging. The next 2 summers I focused on the idea that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Surprisingly my speed and riding ability increased, all the while I thought that I was going slower. I go by this every time I ride now. If I find myself saying “whoa..that was a close one” or “yikes, I should’ve just biffed it”, I am riding outside of my limits and need to take it back a notch on the braap scale. No need to injure yourself.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I think cornering is always something people struggle with. I can haul on the straights during races, but my cornering always slows me down. It wasn’t until I took some clinics that my cornering technique started getting better.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky?
I’d say that overcoming gaps/doubles and big drops are mentally tricky for me. I believe that I have the technical ability to do it, but my past experiences of being injured mess with my mind. Every day seems to be a new challenge of pushing through that fear and believing in my ability to accomplish the feature.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything! The smell of the outdoors, the ability to travel far distances in little time, the speed, the playfulness of what your bike can do. I smile the whole time I ride a bike, especially at a DH park.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
*Juliana Roubion - with all the bells and whistles, including a carbon wheelset. I didn’t understand the hype on why carbon wheels were so amazing until I got this bike. Wow, a game changer for sure. I feel confident riding this thing down any DH Park or for just an Enduro stroll around the mountain.

*Surly Crosscheck – for the gravel grinding, town riding and ability to cycle tour.

*19” Unicycle – Because it’s fun

*Specialized 29er hardtail (don’t know the kind/year) – bought this a few years ago in New Zealand for a 5-week cycle tour of the South Island. I have found a place to store it there and use this as my cycle tour machine and way to get around town when passing through every year for the Antarctic Program.

You have your own business called Down 2 Bike Project- what was the inspiration behind D2B?
Witnessing the pure enjoyment of seeing people try out mountain biking and get ‘hooked.’ There’s nothing better than being there during the moment they realize how much fun riding bikes can be. Why not start a business that is focused on healthy living while having an adrenaline rush at the same time?

What are your goals for D2B for the next year?
D2B will be teaming up with Payette Powder Guides in McCall, ID during August/September 2018 for backcountry yurt mountain biking trips. Stunning backcountry singletrack, Hot Springs, catered meals and a Sauna, all with an unforgettable view over the Payette National Forest. D2B is also planning to partner up with a few coaching clinics throughout the country, with the goal to be utilized as a helper or private instructor for the many coaching clinics that are starting to pop up. D2B is a mobile coaching/guiding service and can travel to your neck of the woods. More info on

What inspired you to become a coach and share the passion of mountain biking with others?
Seeing a persons smile at the end of a group ride.

What has been your most rewarding moment since you have started coaching riders?
Seeing people go from “Nope, can’t spend that much money on a mountain bike” to “Check out the new whip I just bought”. Going from “I’m scared to ride off-road” to “Which trail have I not ridden yet?

You have some awesome sponsors, tell us more about them and why you are stoked for their support-
**Club Ride Apparel – I’m super pumped to be supported by Club Ride because their tech wear is super durable, comfy and made of really high-quality materials. They are also based out of Sun Valley, ID and there’s nothing better than supporting local if possible. The riding in that area is also out of this world and the folks that work there are super down to earth and sleep, eat and breathe mountain biking.

**Bell Helmets – I can’t rave enough about this company. They have been a catalyst in starting up the womens group ride movement through their Bell Joy Ride program. They give away thousands of dollars in helmets and swag throughout the country and at several Enduro events throughout the year.

**Juliana Bicycles – Straight up, this bike can take what you give it. And they have been really great in their Juliana Ride Out program, a full day of breakfast, yoga, bike ride, post ride beers and food. All for FREE! Why wouldn’t I be stoked to rep a bike from this company? Made for an Enduro Race or for a stroll around the mountain, I love my Juliana Roubion.

**Hometown Sports, McCall – Without the sponsorship of this local bike shop, I would not be riding a Juliana nor would have been able to make the Bell Joy Rides such a success in the McCall Area. Hometown Sports has been there every month, throwing in cash for burgers, having on-trail mechanics during group rides, offering our leads/sweeps free bike rentals. They are 100% in support of supporting the growth of MTB in our area and have gone leaps and bounds out of their way in an effort to get more women on bikes.

**North Fork Coffee Roasters – I love coffee and my friend Corinne started her dream in owning and creating this absolutely beautiful coffee roastery in McCall, ID. We have a lot of our group rides start or end at her shop. There’s a bike tuning stand, bike artwork and she has supported a lot of the Bell Joy Rides in providing Coffee pre-ride/AM. Support your local businesses!

You are one of the Bell Joy Ride Ambassadors, what did it mean for you to be chosen as an ambassador for this program?
It meant the world to me. I have been applying for programs like this for a few years and needed to pinch myself when I found out.

Why should folks apply for programs like the Bell Joy Ride program?
Because it’s better to live with I tried than a What if. The people you meet through these programs are freaking awesome. You will see lives changed and smiles bigger than you ever have before. And these folks are integral to getting to know how the mountain biking industry works, helping you move forward with the idea of working in the industry and giving you the contacts needed to find out more.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
A couple things. Cost is a big one. The cost of bikes are freaking expensive. Yes, they’re getting less expensive, but it’s still a lot to afford for a single mom who likes to go out and ride every once in a while. Another deterrent is the idea that it’s only for the hardcore athletes or crazy adrenaline junkies. Not true!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I would love to see a way to have communal mountain bikes with a very low cost for using them. I’ve seen too many women not start mountain biking or ditch on a ride because the cost is too high for a rental or the price of buying a bike is too high. It’s also great to have a lot of free rides or biking events in a location, in order to get the women's interest piqued and give them a reason to perhaps second guess their frugality towards purchasing one.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The women I teach inspire me. I can’t get over how brave some of these ladies are. It sometimes terrifies me seeing them push their mental psyche and try a new obstacle. I’m stoked that they are pushing through the fear, but of course, scared that they may crash. They inspire me every ride, every time I go on a pedal with them.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I was used to DJ on turntables back in the early 2000’s and was also a Ballroom Dance Instructor

Monday, April 9, 2018

Women Involved Series: Olivia Round

Olivia Round is on a daily mission to make friends with fear. She uses her talents as a writer and artist to cultivate empowerment and compassion, and one of her greatest joys is exploring this world by bicycle.

In 2011, at the age of 21, she rode her bike alone across the United States. She’s currently writing a memoir about that epic, transformative trip.

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and why it was a monumental decision for you-
My first hero on two wheels was my mama. She was one of the very few people in my hometown of Ketchikan, Alaska who cycled on the soggy, narrow roads while I was growing up.

There was no bike shop, and no “bike scene” to speak of, so my mama was regarded as a very brave eccentric. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up: I wanted people to think I was a brave eccentric, too.

What inspired you to take to riding across the United States as a way of healing?
For reasons that remain unclear, I developed a fear of sexual violence at a very early age. I was never physically harmed or molested in any way, but somehow I learned that rape existed and that the perpetrators were usually male, and that lead to me developing a phobia of men. I was constantly worried about rape, and because I was obsessed with it I started to see it everywhere: on the news, in people’s stories, in books, movies, etc. Sadly, that fear of being sexually assaulted as a young girl was totally legitimate. I remember learning in high school health class that one in four young women are assaulted before the age of 18. That’s 25% of all females in America!

So, my fears kept being corroborated. They got worse and worse. By the time I left home and attended college, my phobia of men was debilitating: it’s hard to function when you’re terrified of half the human race. I knew I had to do something drastic, something to shake myself out of this scary mental rut and prove to myself that the world wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.

I decided that riding my bicycle alone across the United States would be the perfect medicine. And boy, it was! I don’t think I realized it at the time, but looking back I see that I needed to reprogram my brain. I needed to spend time on my own, away from my friends and family, to sort myself out mentally. And, to be at the mercy of the world. I’m so glad I did it. That trip wasn’t easy, but it was essential.

Preparing for a bicycle tour can be challenging, especially for those new to the concept. How did you prepare?
I didn’t do much physical training, that’s for sure! I had a full-time job and didn’t have much time to ride, so I didn’t worry about it. I just focused on route research and getting the right gear. Rather than training beforehand, I allowed myself to train on the road: for the first week, I didn’t ride more than 30 miles per day. By the second week, I would ride up to 50 miles per day. I had the whole semester off from school to do the trip, so I wasn’t in a hurry once I got started.

What would you say were the most challenging aspects of your trip?
Dealing with my fear was definitely the hardest part. I’d get triggered by stupid little things: someone yelling at me out of a car window, or getting cat-called while passing a construction site, etc. Once the situation was over, my fear would stay with me, hovering behind me like a ghost. I was always looking over my shoulder and trying to get myself to calm down.

Sleeping alone in a tent was the hardest. Don’t get me wrong, I love camping. Anytime I was in a designated campsite I was okay, but if I tried to stealth camp (just pitch a tent in a secret place at the side of the road) I was up all night in a nervous frenzy. Which didn't make for a good ride the next day. You need sleep in order to cycle!

Did you have any unexpected surprises that resulted in positive outcomes during your tour?
Hell yeah! Every damn day. I learned this country is populated by 99% kind, generous, good people. There were so many times that I needed rescuing, in some way or another, whether I’d lost the route or lacked a place to stay or needed to hitch a ride due to dangerous road conditions. It was mesmerizing how often someone would turn up at just the right moment and offer just the right assistance. I called them “angels,” and I refer to that experience as “road magic.”
What was the best part of your solo bike ride? A town you visited, a life lesson learned, people you met?
I loved having a clear mission in life. Every day I woke up and knew what I had to do. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to throw all your energy into something and see yourself making progress. It’s addicting. When the trip ended, after 5 months of travel, I felt lost. After riding my bike all day every day, I didn’t know what to do with all my free time.

I learned how important it is for me to have a clear goal, and to always have a big, exciting project to work on. I was born with a lot of focus and energy, and if I don’t channel them properly then these gifts can work against me. I start doubting myself, worrying, letting anxieties get the best of me, and spiraling downwards into depression. With a purpose in life, I wake up every day so thrilled to be alive!

Also, I learned the importance of meditation. When I felt scared on the road, I had to clear my mind and focus on the present moment, rather than “what could happen next.” Daydreaming about worst-case-scenarios is unhelpful. You’ll find yourself panicking about hypothetical things, instead of enjoying what’s really happening.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Oh my goodness, YES! For the life of me, I could not figure out how to stand up in the pedals in order climb steep hills. I remember cranking my way up my first mountain pass in Oregon, panting and straining but keeping my butt firmly in the saddle. Another touring cyclist, an older man, zoomed downhill past me, fully loaded, and shouted, “Stand up! Rock it out!” He was gone in a flash but I knew what he meant. I felt so disheartened that I didn’t know how to stand up in the pedals, and that maybe it meant I wasn’t a real cyclist. It took me over two months and a dozen more mountain passes to get the hang of it: only in Missouri’s Ozarks did I finally succeed. And thank heavens, because those Ozarks are wicked steep!

The trick was revealed in what that fellow tourer had shouted at me: Rock it out. You have to stand up, lean forward, and allow your bike to rock side to side as your upper body sways in the opposite direction. It’s terrifying, but you soon realize that gravity is on your side and you’re not going to fall over.

What advice or suggestions do you have for someone looking to complete a long-distance tour on their own?
Get out a sheet of paper, and make two lists. First off, list all the reasons why you want to go. Secondly, list what will happen, and how you’ll feel in 10 years if you don’t go. This will either make you realize you don’t really care that much, or it will be the tough-love moment you need to make it happen.

Adventure Cycling Association, with their routes, maps, gear recommendations, and even guided bike tours, is a great place to start.

What do you love about riding your bike?

My bike is my medicine. “It’s cheaper than therapy,” my boss used to say at a bike shop where I worked last year. Within two minutes of getting on my bicycle, I’m overwhelmed by joy. This little-kid sparkly feeling comes over me, and I start making dumb noises: whooping, cheering, singing. I can’t help it. My bike makes me so happy. It feels like flying, like freedom.

What inspired you to write about your journey? Particularly what motivated you to write a book?
While I hope this book helps others, I’m actually writing this story for myself. It's like a love letter to the little girl I once was. My childhood might've been different if I'd found a book like this when I was in middle school. (That’s not to say this book is appropriate for kids, because it’s not, but at a young age I was already reading books above my reading level, with content that really scared me.)

And, I confess, a huge part of my motivation to write this book is to be understood. I spent most of my life feeling misunderstood and different, even wrong, because of how unusual my behavior was (refusing to date, turning down every slow dance, declining to hug men, etc). When I told people I was afraid of men, they’d say, “Why? What happened to you?” and I felt like I had to have a definitive answer, because otherwise I wasn’t allowed to be afraid. I want to write this book because it gives the little girl inside of me permission to be afraid. I want to tell her, “Hey, I heard you’re scared. That’s totally legitimate because this world can be a scary place. But you know what? Fear only rules our lives if we let it. So… let’s go play.

Why is it important to you to be candid, honest, and open when talking about your experience and fears?
I’m pretty open. I’ve been known to happily divulge my hang-ups, bowel movements, dietary restrictions, sexuality, and deepest fears to complete strangers. Not everyone is comfortable being that uncensored, and I respect that. But the fact that I can do it, that I want to share, means I should. Because if enough people share their stories and are honest about their experiences, it helps others heal. Honesty is inclusive, comforting, and helps other people feel like they can be their authentic selves, too. And, you know, the truth is often hilarious. I love making people laugh.

How do you feel that we, as women, can create a change in how we converse about our fears, worries, and the concept of self-sabotage either in conversation or writing?
The #MeToo Movement is revealing how much we aren’t telling each other. I’ve heard multiple stories of women being assaulted or harassed and keeping it to themselves for years while their perpetrator went on to hurt other people. A lot of other people, in some sad cases. If those early victims had come forward and said something, they could have spared others the same fate.

We need to remember that we’re all in this together. We need to be gentle with the accusers, as well as the accused. The more we can respond with compassion to both sides, the more comfortable people will feel coming forward with their stories. This isn’t “Men vs. Women,” as I thought it was when I was a kid. And harassment is not a “women’s issue.” Men get hurt, too. And no man wants his mother, sister, daughter, friend, or lover to be hurt. So, what happens to one of us affects all of us.

As far as self-sabotage goes, that’s a tricky one. People are complicated. I’m being challenged during this memoir-writing process to dig deep and write the whole truth, and it’s bringing up all these surprising revelations. For example, I spent years telling my friends that I wanted to heal from my phobia, but looking back I realize that I wasn’t ready. I’d identified with my fear for so long, I couldn’t let it go. I was afraid of who I’d be without it. It takes courage to kill your former self and let the new one have a chance. I wasn’t ready to take that step, and invite that kind of dramatic transformation into my life, until recently.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?

I’m a one-bike-girl, as I like to say. In 2011 I bought a gorgeous, well-maintained Miyata from a guy on Craigslist in Portland. I’d test-ridden other bikes, but when I hopped on her I knew she was the one. She felt like part of my body. I named her Miya, rode her across the country, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?

Studies have shown that women are biologically more risk-averse than men, and cycling is currently a risky activity in the US. Providing bike lanes and bike paths greatly increases female ridership, because having a designated place to ride makes cycling safer.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?

Bike shops are the gate-keepers. For an aspiring cyclist, a bike shop can be the most intimidating place. It holds all the answers, but they’re worried about being judged. If a shop employee is kind, supportive, and enthusiastic about new riders, they can win customers for life. Especially female customers. There’s no need to intimidate or overwhelm newbies with industry jargon and athletic pressure: just help ‘em find a bike that feels comfortable and allows them to do what they want to do, and then cheer them on. Hiring more women to work in the cycling industry is a good thing, too.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

I fell in love with cycling, so that’s the platform I use when I reach out to women. But, really, I don’t care if anyone else rides a bike, ever. I just want to live in a world where more people overcome their fears, have epic adventures, and surprise themselves. In case anyone is looking for permission to be a badass, I want to offer it to them.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

I have some secret rituals to ward off bad luck (and bike thieves). One of them is to whisper “don’t go home with strangers” to my bicycle whenever I leave her unattended. Another is to kiss her handlebars after a ride.