Monday, October 24, 2016

Women Involved: Zoae Spackman

Meet Zoae Spackman, a woman involved with helping to build comradery and confidence for women getting into the off-road scene. She's a wife and a mom to 3 boys who all ride and is well known for wearing lots of color and having a positive attitude!

Zoae enjoys coaching Women and Kids for MarchNorthwest and leading Women's rides for WMBC JoyRiders with partner in fun Tanya Storm. The WMBC JoyRiders offers a positive, supportive place for women of ALL levels and disciplines of mountain biking. All rides are no-drop.

They feature rides of the cross-country, all-mountain and downhill variety. 

To learn more about the WMBC JoyRiders, visit their website, Facebook, and Instagram.

What was the moment that had you discover your #bikelife?
I have two biking but both are a different kind of biking.
One- Riding with Tanya after she had her daughter and I had my third son. Being able to talk women things, while riding up the ridge and down SST.

Two- after watching my sons and husband at civic dirtjumps I thought about how boring it was to stand around, I wanted to ride. So my husband bought me a 24inch DJ bike and during the summer we go several times a week and I am always riding too! It has improved my mountain biking so much!

What has been your motivation for riding throughout the years?
It's a way to get outside and be active, and spend time with other women who like to be active. Also it is just to fun to roll over tech features and get better and stronger!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Moscow Mt Idaho, 2003, fully ridged bike, and no clue where I was going. Ended up pedaling back into town and had to get a ride back to the mountain. I was annoyed that I was left and not directly shown where to go. Having a really cheap department store bike was probably the worst feeling.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
After that #1 I wanted a squishy bike, so my BF built one up for me. #2 Never being left alone on the trail again....

Clips or flats? What do you prefer and why?
Flats, oneness with the bike.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
One year I went otb (over the bars) on Bob's trail twice, on two different sections on the same ride. Took me a year to ride those spots and I had to follow someone into it. It was hard, knowing I could do it but I just kept seeing myself falling. It is totally a mental thing to keep trying and pushing ahead.
Photo Credit: Kjell Redal
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 learned to ride on stairs at Washington State University on Pullman. I really struggled with feeling confident with speed and trusting that my bike could roll over things. I would have really benefited from a fundamentals clinic, but there were no such things near at the time.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Tight corners are still a struggle. I have to just focus and remember to stay balanced and look ahead.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Moving, the heart pounding of a good pedal up and feeling when I make the tech root sections going up and down.

You and Tanya created WMBC JoyRiders, tell us about the ride club and why it's so important to you and the area-
We wanted to really share our excitement for women of all levels of riding.

Why has the women's ride club become so successful?
Because we are fun to ride with ;-) there are so many more women finding the sport fun and just having encouragement and a supportive place to go to be shown the trails and how it does not have to be scary, is HUGE. Also being able to talk "bike" and explain terminology really opens the door for women to know and decide what they like about their bikes.

I love that you have JOY in the name- why was it important for there to be a positive emotion associated with the club?
Mountain biking should be fun!

What would you like to have new women riders know about the club?
Come, Ride, have fun and don't be afraid if you're slow. You just might find your new biking buddy on one of our rides!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Transition patrol 2016 carbon, size small, 165mm cranks, Climbs great and descends like a dream. - its blue!

Cannondale trail 4 2015 hardtail, great fun bike, good for tech cross country, or biking with my kids. -bright green

GT bump 24in tires. modified kids mt bike to single speed, rear brake only dirt jumper.

Raleigh cruiser bike- has a basket and skinny tires.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
All the bike choices. There is so much debate on hardtail or full suspension, Price of a fully suspended bike can be a huge draw back. I believe you can have a lot of fun learning and becoming a better rider starting on a hardtail. So don't feel you have to go all out and get the $6000 bike, start within your budget, you can always upgrade parts.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Demo bikes are a good start, also asking questions about what type of riding they see them selves doing, you don't have to start with a full suspension, hardtails have a lot of merit.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Seeing the improvement and joy other women have when I demonstrate a feature, or show how to ride that switchback, just so wonderful.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I like to sew, and modify clothing, lately its been adding pockets to bike shorts and pants.​

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Race Day Adventures: PertNear 20 ('16)

Photo Credit- Lone Wolf Studios
Last year in 2015 I learned about the PertNear 20 race in Viroqua, WI. Viroqua has been a favorite destination town for me to explore due to the plethora of fun downtown shops (like a rock/mineral shop!!!) learning about their off-road trails after I discovered mountain biking sealed the deal. Why not?
My friend Steph and I did the PertNear 20 together; having enjoyed the event and folks so much, I made plans to do it again.

Fast forward to 2016 and a few of us Decorah folks decided that we'd make a trip to the beautiful Wisconsin town. We were absolutely fortunate to have the weather on our side as weather had originally looked to be on the wet/cool side. I was very excited to have a non-rainy/wet/mud-fest race.

Travis and I got up bright and early so I could have a solid breakfast. Last year I had a difficult time eating due to nerves. This year I was much better off, but my stomach started doing the whole 'pre-race jitters' dance. I've gotten to the point where I'm able to keep a cool on my anxiety, but I still get the nervous stomach bug. Hopefully, in time, that will change.
(Always open for tips/suggestions!)

The drive to Viroqua was foggy by the river until you got out of the valley, then it was crips and clear. Registration was quick and getting ready was just as fast; plenty of time for that one last, most important restroom break before lining up!

I felt a little bit like a celebrity when folks came over to say hi- Gary Meador, Chris from Borah Teamwear, and the ever fabulous Pete- owner of Bluedog Cycles. I even got to chat a little with the fastest man at the PertNear, Josh Shively! My nerves grew as I stood and waited for the event to start. Last year Steph and I mainly rode together- this year I was doing my own ride and I had no idea how it would go or how I would measure up. I told myself I didn't care- the main focus points: finish, not bonk, not get lost, and find my way back into the woods near the start line.

Photo by Raina Hatfield
My plan was simple- with the mass start, I wanted to get myself as up front as possible knowing that I would get passed on the road to the trails and then some. This way I would be in my "middle" sooner rather than later with potentially less passing on my end. I will never feel as ballsy as I look with this strategy, however, getting out of my comfort zone seems to work best.

When we got to the trails, there was a pile up right away that I had to steer around to avoid. I was stoked to be in the woods on dirt. At first it seemed trails might be a little greasy, but I was adequately prepared with my air pressure even tho it may be a disadvantage on the road segments.

I said it last year and I'll say it again, the folks who attend this event are fantastic. Everyone is out for a good time and people are so nice! When it came to passing and being passed I had nothing to worry about. Folks were great at announcing which side, people were obliging if you needed to pass, and I was surprised by folks that said they didn't need to pass.
The offer was always there "Just let me know if and when you need to get by."
What I feel make events great- the hosts, the volunteers, and the folks who participate- PertNear 20 ticks all those boxes and more.

The trails were leaf-blown and absolutely a joy to ride and the further in you got the less greasy spots were; Sidie was glorious! I had forgotten how fun the trails could be since it had been over a year that I had ridden them! I feel I enjoyed them more this year than last because I had a sense of familiarity with them. I was happy to make it over more logs this year and make it up thru the rock garden climb that I spun out on last year.

This year I did a better job of keeping myself hydrated and eating snacks; having opened packages of chews were extremely helpful. I had them stowed away in my jersey pocket, which gave me issues once (I stopped for a moment to situate everything.) Next time I'll try the trick of shoving them under my shorts leg.
Photo Credit- Lone Wolf Studios
On the "Double Black Diamond" section (can't remember a trail name), I still have not made it down over the rock outcropping. One of these days I'll make a trip to Viroqua simply so I can try it in a non-race setting. I saw the fellow ahead of me not ride down it and I decided that I should not worry about "proving myself" and do it on a day where it wouldn't matter if I caused myself a ruckus in the woods.

As I came out of Sidie and headed towards the road, Raina and Steph were at the corner taking photos. I heard "You're the first female!" and I'll admit, I was in disbelief! I didn't want to focus on it, so I tucked it away. There was still several more miles to go and anything could happen between them.

I made my way up the paved road, it was a substantial climb back to level, but gloriously smooth due to being repaved. I was behind the fellow I had tailed thru portions of Sidie and another who had passed me earlier when we were heading towards Sidie who was on a Salsa Beargrease (black with pink/purple accent if I remember correctly.)

Eventually my plugging away at the climb had me side-by-side with the first, and then with the fatbike rider. I got a nod of acknowledgement from the fatbiker and gave a smile as I continued up and forward. I was happy to see two riders ahead of me in the distance, that meant I had someone to follow so long as I could see them. My only objective on the road was to keep sipping water, eat some chews, and not run over the fuzzy caterpillars.

Soon it came to hitting trail again- game ON! I had caught up with the two riders and was directly behind one. For awhile the pace was fine, I wanted to make sure I didn't blow myself up for the last bit of climbing that would need to be done. Once we got out to the prairie double-track, I announced my passing and continued on. This time I felt confident I wouldn't get confused at the finish as I had someone ahead of me. Another complement was given to me about my attire as I made my way up the switchbacks- I've never been one for patterns, but this year I thought "why not?" and the shorts/arm sleeves were fun touches for the most awesome jersey I have in my closet. I look at it as it's the one time I can have some fun and be bold when I'm otherwise shy!

Thanks, Lucas!
I heard Lucas whooping encouragement as I came closer to the finish line. I was so incredibly stoked!
I made my goal of not getting lost, not bonking, and not falling over in front of everyone at the finish line (like I did last year.) I was super pleased with my time and average speed as well; all icing on the metaphorical cake. I was still in disbelief that I was first for women!

We waited for Curtis to cross, cheering him on as he entered the woods to do the final stretch. Before we went back to Bluedog Cycles, I chatted a bit with the second place women's finisher, Diane. I learned she almost didn't participate due to having hurt her eye; I was incredibly impressed that she did the race under the circumstance. So awesome! I was inspired and impressed by her determination and gumption!

Back at the bike shop we waited for awards to start, enjoying pizza and beer, sharing photos, and started the recovery process of biking almost 20 miles.
I think I was most excited about supper later, having banked on fried pickles, I had a single beer for my post-race "treat." You know, I'm somewhat good at that whole moderation stuff.

Photo by Raina Hatfield
Eventually awards got underway and I couldn't help but have the goofiest smile on my face as I was called up! Not one for expecting wins, I'm still surprised by what I accomplish. I'm humbled and grateful for discovering mountain biking and how it's done so much to improve my physical and mental health. I'm also stoked for the opportunity to connect with other riders and get on different trails- it's so much fun!

Racing isn't about winning but about the experience as a whole. Meeting folks, riding in different areas, and seeing what one can accomplish under circumstances beyond the norm. I am so appreciative of these experiences, they mean the world to me!

If you don't live too far from Viroqua, I highly encourage you to check out their off-road trails and the town in general- there is something for everyone!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Grace Chua

I have done a lot of different things in my life—skincare promoter, radio dj, event host, film production assistant, shop assistant, copywriter, advertising executive—but I’ve never stuck with one thing for very long.

I get bored and dissatisfied very quickly. Mountain biking is the one exception. I live and breathe it each day, and don’t foresee voluntarily giving it up. Ever.

I don’t have an exciting story for how I got into it. My then-boyfriend, now-husband felt guilty about leaving me on weekends to go ride, so he asked me to give it a shot. Not wanting to be a Debbie downer, I said Sure! and took his size L Trek hardtail to the parking lot for a spin.

That was 9 years ago, but for the first 6 years I probably rode an average of 10 times a year. Or less!

In spite of the Husband buying me nice bikes, I was scared, unfit, intimidated and didn’t want to ride much more than broad fireroads. Being caught up in the relentless world of Advertising also meant that on weekends, I’d much rather sleep than ride.

All that changed in 2012 when we visited Whistler Bike Park in Whistler, British Columbia. We fell in love with the beauty of BC and, for the first time, saw what mountain biking could be in such an incredible place. In 2013, we quit our jobs and moved to BC for a much-needed break.

It’s been 3 years since I was properly born into mountain biking in beautiful British Columbia and because of that, I will always love a good technical trail; the kind that makes you go “Whoa, WTF is this” before dismounting to scope out a line. I love looking back at a descent and thinking to myself, “I can’t believe I made it down that.

I’ve since moved to California where I continue to grow in the sport and, in turn, hope to grow others in it too. I’ve taken to chronicling my mountain bike journey on Instagram (@alittlewhine) and save my lengthier musings for my blog.
Tell us about how discovering your #bikelife changed your life-

It taught me to stop playing the victim. In life, it’s easy to blame circumstances, luck or other people. In mountain biking, it’s hard to blame anyone or anything else but yourself for when things go wrong*. That tree, that rock, those roots; they’ve been there and don’t move. That bike is just an inanimate object. Everything is what you make of it. Take responsibility, own the mistake and work on being better.

Through working on being a better rider, I’ve also become really awed by my own body; by how much it takes for me and how it keeps rewarding me for what I put in. I appreciate it so much now for how strong and resilient it is. I am forever grateful that mountain biking has taught me to appreciate my body for all that it can do, not for how it looks. I explain this journey a little more here.

*Of course there are times when it’s really the fault of the other @sshole barreling through a blind corner, riding beyond his/her ability or overtaking unsafely. But those are so rare; I’ve personally not experienced an accident due to another rider’s fault though I can see how it could happen.

Whistler Bike Park seemed to be the key that opened up your door to the love of mountain biking, what would you say was the turning point for you?
At the time, I was a corporate rat in Advertising, spinning on my wheel for 12-14 hours a day. Deciding to visit WBP was a crazy whim; I knew nothing about Downhill biking and I was hardly riding my bike. I just wanted to get as far away from it all (I lived in Singapore then) as possible.

I remember the first morning we walked to the Fitzsimmons gondola and looked up at all the trees, the mountains, the huge jumps (Crankworx was about to start, so all the structures were set up) and breathed in that alpine air. Invigorating doesn’t begin to describe it.

The natural beauty of the place, coupled with this sense that there’s so much out there that I hadn’t tried or discovered, suddenly gave me this urge to be free and explore it all. And what better way to do that than on a mountain bike?

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?

A little. I remember feeling excited and awkward. I also remember falling and taking a handlebar to the ribs.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?

I think I was just excited. At the time, I had no concept of what kind of brutality mountain biking could exact on my body so I wasn’t afraid.

Tell us about a ride where you had a defining moment with mountain biking- what clicked together to make it a rad experience?
It’s pretty random. I was demo-ing bikes at the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival, and it was my first time riding high-end, carbon bikes with new fangled suspension and all that.

(At the time, I was using an old aluminum hand-me-down that was too big for me.) I was pedaling the same trail up and down because I wanted to give each bike the same standing. On one of those descents, it all suddenly came together for me and I felt totally in the flow, in the moment, one with the trail and bike. I think it was the combination of trail familiarity and amazing bikes that actually fit me.

Looking back, do you have any advice you would give your earlier mountain biking self based off of what you know now?
I used to get insecure and demoralized, comparing my skill and fitness to others. Sometimes, I still do. But now, I tell myself that I am my own best competitor. Nobody else had the same starting block and journey as me, so it wouldn’t be fair to compare myself to them. I can only be better than I was last month, last year.

Clips or Flats? What do you enjoy and why?
Flats, because I’m too chicken to try being clipped in! But also, I like the way flats allow me to feel my pedal and the feedback from the bike/trail, being that the soles are much softer. As well, I like being able to shift my foot position easily and use the inner/outer edge of feet depending on what I’m doing. I don’t think I would have this flexibility with clipless.

I’ve also learned to climb with flats, angling my feet in a way that uses my hamstrings to pull the pedal up. I also don’t suffer from having my feet bounced off the pedals on bumpy descents… As long as I remember to keep my heels lowered.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
So many! There was the one where I hit gravel, endo-ed and scraped off half my face, the switchback one where I tumbled down a steep side and tore my left rotator cuff, then there was the one where I clipped a pedal and rolled down a ravine, injuring my right deltoid. Then there was the one where I misjudged a transition from rock to ladder, and I endo-ed head first into a rock, then there was the drop that I tried and endo-ed—TWICE. Those are the ones I remember.

Based on all those incidences, I’ve come up with a sort of guideline to help myself get back:
1. Resist your brain’s desire to replay the incident. It will try, because it’s trying to teach itself not to do something like that again. But by allowing the replay to happen, you’re actually programming yourself to fear and repeat the same faulty movements. Instead, play back the times you’ve actually executed a similar move successfully. And make sure you’re playing back from the first-person perspective.
2. Try to focus on what you could have done better. If you have videos of the crash, ask a trusted advisor to watch it and tell you what you could have done differently. Try not to watch videos of your own crash!
3. Allow yourself to rest and recover. This includes just riding for fun with no fitness or skill agenda. Just enjoy being on a bike in nature. Nothing more.
4. Restart your progression a few steps back, and dial in your fundamentals again. For example, if you were attempting a 5-foot drop, go back to a 1-2 foot drop and dial in the correct form and technique before progressing forward again.
5. Be patient with yourself, and have your best cheerleader keep you company through this journey back.

I should do a blog post about this!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Ummm, everything? I am not a naturally athletic or coordinated person. The only things I have going for me are balance and flexibility, but everything else was hard-earned. The best thing I did, and that anyone at any level can do, is to take lessons. Everybody can benefit from professional advice, no matter how long you’ve been riding or how accomplished you think you are.
And that friend who’s an awesome rider? Unless s/he has taken an instructor course and possesses the gift of communication, s/he may not know how to accurately break down and convey the steps, and can cause more frustration and confusion.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I don’t think there will ever be a point where I don’t find something tricky. Today I might master riding a steep rock face. Tomorrow, I might encounter a steep rock face with a right-angle, off-camber turn in it. Today I might make it up and over a 9-inch log. Tomorrow, I might encounter a foot-high, square-edged rock ledge on a climb. But I love the idea of always having something else to conquer. I think it helps that I LOVE sessioning and taking the time to figure things out. Right now, I’m trying to get better at wheelie drops and manuals.

What do you enjoy most about having a partner to ride with? Do you have suggestions for those who are hoping to introduce their partner to off-road riding?
Having a riding partner who is perfectly in sync with my riding goals and preferences is like being on a forever-adventure. We both want to see each other succeed and reach new heights so no matter where we are, whether we’re actually on a holiday or not, it feels like we’re always on an amazing journey.
I think that the best way to introduce a partner to it is to first of all make it appeal to him/her. For example, if that person likes relaxing things or is risk-averse, showcase the leisurely, scenic side of off-road biking first. If that person loves eating (me!), make it a ride to a perfect picnic spot. Take lessons together. It might feel redundant for you, but make like you need it, and just want to do something different together. I think the less forceful and deliberate your attempts are, the more likely the newbie partner would be open to giving it a shot.
Finally, be patient. Throw your ego away and don’t try to ‘school’ your partner. There’s nothing more off-putting than being made to feel incompetent (intentionally or not).
Do you have suggestions for women on how they can connect with other women riders? What worked for you?
Honestly, not much has worked for me! I am a shy introvert that doesn’t connect well with others face-to-face. But a lot of other female bikers have found each other through local group rides. Many bike shops also do a ladies’ night now. Joining bike camps like the Trek Dirt Series is also a good way to meet other female riders.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Feeling untethered. Feeling like there are infinite adventures to be had and sights to see. Knowing that there is an endless list of things I can achieve. That sense of power and accomplishment when you achieve a goal is also priceless.

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

I have my trail bike, a black carbon Pivot Mach 6. It’s a very responsive bike that will own you if you don’t tell it exactly what you want it to do. I love that it makes me an involved rider because if you don’t assert your dominance over the bike on the trail, the bike will punish you. But when you give it clear commands, the Pivot Mach 6 delivers above and beyond what you expect.
I have a Specialized P3, which is an aluminum dirt jumper. It’s a fun, poppy bike for pump track and dirt jump days when I just want to have some casual fun. It’s also a great bike to learn bike control at the pump track on because the feedback is so immediate.
I’ve got a matte and gloss black 2013 Specialized Demo 8 which is an aluminum, dual-crown downhill bike. Ever since I moved to California, this bike hasn’t been used. But it’s still such a beauty, and I’m sure one day I’ll do more lift-serviced park riding again.
I still have my very first bike, a red hardtail that now sits in my backyard and is fitted as a commuter bike.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?

I love Ion’s bike clothes. They’re extremely well-thought out and well-made. I also wear Sombrio a lot. Sugoi and Pearl Izumi roadie chamois are great. POC makes really nice gloves. I love EVOC for backpacks and Five Ten Freeriders for shoes. I choose helmets based on how they fit my head shape, and Smith’s Forefront fits perfectly. It also has fantastic venting and the honeycomb-ish lining means that you’ll never get an angry bee or wasp stuck in your helmet!

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

I think that often, they just don’t know where and how to start. Guys will be more likely to have mountain biker friends who would introduce them to it, whereas women often have to look for someone to show them the ropes. Generally speaking, women are also more self-aware and may feel shy asking for help (“Oh I don’t want to bother anyone”) or asking to go on rides (“I’ll be slow and clumsy”).

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

I actually think a lot of it is moving in the right direction. Many brands are working on making biking more accessible to women by moving away from male-centric communication. Lots of bike companies also have made it easier for women to choose their first bike. There are many online communities where women can ask for help or find riding friends. It takes a bit of Googling, but pretty much anybody who is interested enough can do that.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love it when another woman is surprised by what she can do. I consider a ride a success if I can make even one other girl feel proud of herself for a moment.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

When I was a kid, I used to collect soap. My favorite was a large teddy bear-shaped one. I don't collect them anymore, but I still have a penchant for scented things like candles, body lotion, perfumes. I even spritz a bit of perfume on before a ride. I just need to smell nice all the time!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

It's the "Drip, Drip, Drip" of Life

Recently I have become very engrossed in a wonderful show called Elementary, so much so I named my Trek Procaliber 9.8, Watson, in honor of one of the characters. (Bet you can't guess which one...)

We finished season 3, episode 9. In said episode, Holmes talks about how he's feeling down about things. That recovery is essentially a continual effort, but the question is...for what?

That is the reward for your mundane routine and continual work to keep the metaphorical water from dripping out of the faucet. Sometimes it feels like working on recovery is,

There are days where you don't really notice the effort you put in while there are other days that loom over you, possibly taunting you. Mocking you for all of which you have done, but also for what you have yet to do. 

"Why is she writing about recovery? What is she talking about?"

In high school I developed an eating disorder which I felt was the only way I felt like I could engage feelings of control in my life. It was a form of bulimia with trace amounts of anorexic tendencies. Food was the control element that was of easiest access; I could increase it or take it away...or keep intake "normal" but still decide on a whim that I didn't need what I get the idea. The side-effect of weight loss was something that added an additional stress element. I was continually worried about gaining weight with whatever I ate yet I enjoyed seeing numbers that represented what I thought would be "ideal" for me.

I can't describe how much shame I felt for what was going on; I knew what I was doing was "wrong" but I couldn't help myself. It didn't help that I knew that classmates talked behind my back, saying not-so-nice things about me and how "gross" and "disgusting" my issue was. Who could I talk to when all I felt was embarrassment and worry that someone would say what I was doing was "repulsive" when really I needed a friend.

Working my way out of my eating disorder was difficult. I saw food as black or white- I either had to have it or I had to eliminate it. Finding a grey area was a frustration, especially because I had concerns over gaining back all the weight I had lost over the course of several years. I would say more than half of that weight was lost due to legit exercise and farm work, but I couldn't convince myself that somehow my caloric intake wouldn't erase the results I felt I needed to see in the form numbers on the scale. Over time, this became easier to deal with...and I had to understand that muscle weighs more. Plus, the numbers I thought I should represent may not actually be the numbers best for me.

In 2012 I purchased a bicycle, and that bicycle changed my life. It became my vice. My therapy. My emotional crutch and my freedom.
That also became a trigger of thoughts: "You need to ride every day you possibly can." "If you don't ride your bike, you'll gain weight." "If you don't ride your bike, you'll become a bad rider." "If you don't ride your're BAD."

Over the course of 4 years, I have fought with myself over those voices in my head. It seems that once or twice a year, I have an extremely hard time fighting back- and I subsequently feel tired of being "recovered." Spring and fall are the trigger times because of a variety of reasons- burnout, weather, temperature, and trail conditions.

I lose the joy that I have rolling thru the woods because I am focused only on how exhausted I am and how my legs feel like lead weights. I become overly focused on beating myself up in my head over how I took a rest day instead of pushing pedals. I become frustrated over the days off the bike that were not by choice. I am inherently "bad" and doing a disservice to myself if I'm not out there mountain biking. The voices say I will lose control over my eating, my beers will most definitely give me a gut, and I will totally forget how to get up hills.

Eventually the weather becomes more consistent, trail conditions improve, I adapt to the changing temperatures, and I silence the voices. No longer wallowing, but appreciating the beauty of the outside world and enjoying my time weaving thru the trees and bombing down hills.
I reclaim my riding season.

I went for a ride after having a few days off the bike and fell in love with the bike I was riding. I felt strong and I was climbing leafy trails with low tread and higher air pressure. I knocked myself off my bike going over a log. I was humbled. I tried again, this time less haphazardly and more controlled- the way I should have in the first place. Did I fumble because I took time off the bike? No. It's because I rode recklessly.

When I turn bike riding into something that makes me "succeed" or "fail" as a human being, I take away the feel goods which leads to biking revolving around punishment and self-doubt.
That's not what the #bikelife is about. 

I feel I need a bike in my life just as much as I need food, however, I need to continually work with finding a balance biking like I did with my eating disorder. I also need to work on maintaining that balance for the rest of my life.

Recovery is an ongoing and often times, lifelong effort. You will have good days and days where you question if the work you're doing is really benefiting you. The answer is- yes. Yes it is.

I have felt over the course of this year I've been much more forgiving of myself, my body, and the need for me to have breaks between stints of riding. That's not easy for me to do, not one bit. There are days it feels like pulling teeth, but the end result leads to a happier me that appreciates what my body can do on the bike.

Work is continual when recovery is the subject matter- Be the beautiful and strong you that you are and know that all of us who are recovering are here for you.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Tale of Two Rides- Inspiration Found and Gained

It was Sunday, October 2nd and I was lucky to have the company of Katrina along for my FWD ride. Due to circumstance, it was going to be just the two of us for our ride on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Katrina was kind and asked if I was still up for having the ride, even tho we didn't have a larger group.  Of course! Any opportunity I have to take out a new rider is a good one!

Katrina was a blast to ride with and it was truly inspiring to watch this woman tackle her fears. When we reached IPT she asked if she should lead or if I wanted to. I can't tell you how stoked I was to hear the option. I told Katrina it would be fabulous if she led because then I knew without a doubt, I'd be riding at her pace and comfort level.

From first-hand experience, it's nice to have someone ride behind to observe techniques. You can make note if the new rider is getting up off the seat when they need to, when they aren't keeping their feet level on the pedals, etc. When you're in front of them you have no way of knowing what they are or aren't doing. As a new rider, I had found myself messing up more when I followed Travis too closely. I wouldn't see something coming up that I needed to burst over, I couldn't see ahead, I would only be seeing Travis. Having a new rider go first also helps them with learning how to navigate the local trails. You get more familiar with the surroundings and directions and you get to see first-hand what is coming up.

Katrina is such an inspiring woman- she took up riding off road more frequently and even purchased a new mountain bike this year so she could have a better experience riding with her son. 
What a cool mom!
It was wonderful to spend time with Katrina on the trails; it was a great reminder as to why I feel so passionate about helping women get more comfortable with the challenges the trails have to offer. I've been there not too long ago, in fact- I'm STILL THERE. Maybe not on our trails per-say, but on trails I haven't ridden before? Yes. I'm the slow rider who is cautious about every turn and corner. I struggled over rocks and roots and I still find myself walking spots that I'm not comfortable with. It's okay to admit that you aren't ready for something, and I felt grateful that Katrina was so open during our ride.

Monday came around and I had thrown out that I was going to be riding that afternoon for my birthday. Gunnar, a phenomenal rider joined us for the afternoon. He has ridden for years and I view him as a local legend. When you hear that he has paid you a compliment about how well you had done during Time Trials, you darn well better feel flattered!
Gunnar has the capability of riding fast for a consistent period of time. I wish I could be that zippy on the bike for long periods of time. Maybe in another five years?! Travis said that it was my birthday, so I should be the one to lead. Great. The sense of pressure grew as I felt I had to figure out some sort of route that would be entertaining.

I was playing all of the worrisome comments in my head that perhaps people play when they think about riding with me. (Replace "She" with "He") "She's so fast, I won't be able to keep up, I'm not a good rider, What if I mess up? What if I can't make something? Will she think less of me?
I'm not sure if those are thoughts folks have when they think about riding with me- but those were thoughts I wondered when it came to riding with Gunnar and when it comes to riding with anyone whom I deem a higher skill level.

Thoughts that need not be thought. 

The ride was great! Sure, I did almost wipe out a couple times because I took corners too sharp, but that didn't stop me from riding a steady clip. I also went out of my usual route and made up a ride that had only one double back. I made myself string up trails differently, I made climbs I wondered if I would make, and I rode as well as I could- really only having to put a foot down once to save myself from eating dirt.

Guess what? Gunnar had a fun time.
Gunnar rides by himself almost all the time.
I ride by MYSELF almost all the time.
I had a wonderful time!

We both appreciated having company, and he appreciated doing something different than the usual set of trails. I found myself thinking outside my box and whipping up a ride that was different from my usual set of trails, thus giving me ideas for some future group rides!

When it was all said and done, I had the highest average on my Procaliber to date! I was excited about because I've found that Watson, the Procal, is somewhat of a hard bike to ride. By hard I mean- I don't have plus-sized tires nor full's a bike that really tests my technical handling skills- to do what I did for my ride that day...super awesome! It was also a treat to go home and share a birthday beer with Gunnar. It was one of the times where I came away kind of feeling like a rock star.

So what did I learn?
A reminder that we may all, at times, have insecurities with riding with someone who is above our skill level. Riding with Gunnar was such a positive experience- there was no judgement, rather appreciation for company and being able to enjoy mountain biking on a beautiful day.

He (and Travis) are (in my mind) superior riders to me, but that doesn't mean that they enjoy the ride any less because I led it.

This also means when I have the opportunity to ride with new riders or those who are just less experienced- the same thing applies. I'm out there to ride with you, not against you. I spend so many rides alone, it's great to have company! Not only that, one may have a set of trails that they enjoy doing that is different than my usual loop. I enjoy seeing how other folks tie trails together, otherwise I'm almost always stuck in my rut.

It's inspiring to watch people overcome their own worries and insecurities out on the trails. It reminds me that I, too, have goals yet to accomplish- and maybe we can reach them together!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Women Involved Series: Jessica Kuepfer

Hi, I am Jessica from I live for lattes, travel and adventures. I have a hard time choosing which sport is my jam, so I compete regularly in everything from running, ultra marathons, multi day adventure races and most recently, triathlons.

I love the variety and cross training that competing in so many sports provides and it helps me to meet such a wide range of amazing athletes. Next year, I am tackling my first ironman, a 72 hour adventure race and the duathlon world championships.

For me, athletics is so much more than training and winning. It is about self esteem and empowerment for women.

I have watched my youngest sister struggle with an eating disorder for many years so it is important to me to show young women that they are capable, brave and stronger than they think.
I believe that athletics is a perfect avenue to prove this.
So I encourage everyone to get out there - whether it is a hike on a new trail or completing your first marathon - you CAN. :)

You can find me on all social channels and my blog @lacesandlattes

Tell us how you got in touch with your #bikelife, was it primarily for cross-training purposes or more?
My first foray into #bikelife was in university when I lived in England and my boyfriend at the time traveled to visit me and we decided to rent road bikes for the day. We rode 50 KM along the coast and after that I was hooked on the amazing way that you can experience new places on a bike. I came home and immediately bought my first road bike and the rest is history.

Being involved with athletics is hugely important to you- why is biking a great way for those involved with one sport to cross-train?
Biking is perfect cross training because it is such a low impact activity. Right now I am in my off season so running is at an easy pace and all of my intensity is on the bike. It works a different muscle set and gives your body a new challenge.

What inspired you to participate in your first athletic event? Tell us about it and what you learned-
My first athletic event was an ultra-marathon. I had been training for the 5 KM distance and someone said that if I thought I could run 5 KM, I should try 50KM. Not sure if it was the most sound advice but I am competitive to a fault sometimes and took on the challenge.

The ultra was freezing, rainy and it took my 6 hours to run 50 KM because I ended up sitting down to go down the hills at some points because the inclines were so muddy. I finished though and I was filled with such an overwhelming sense of accomplishment that from there on out, I was hooked.

Those new to events may worry about participating because they may not podium. Any suggestions for those curious about participating for the first time?
It was years before I saw a podium. I was so excited about the new world of athletics and the welcoming group of people that I was just soaking up experiences. I did it for the sheer love of the sport, which I encourage everyone to do, no matter what their level of athletic ability. I regularly take on and compete in new sports and I certainly do not podium right away. It is good to stay humble and realize we do this for the joy of it.

You are involved with a few different styles of cycling- tell us about them and why they are fun for you-
I primarily do road cycling and mountain biking at the moment but I have immediate plans to branch into triathlon/TT and cross bikes. Road cycling is amazing for the huge distances you can cover and the mini trips you can do. I love being able to set aside a weekend and bike for hours. Mountain biking is fun in a completely different way – I get such a rush when I tackle a new line or conquer something that was a little scary for me before. I am always learning and it is such a social type of riding for me.

Can you go back to your first mountain bike ride and tell us how that experience was?
I was asked by a sponsor if I would do a race in Michigan. I am a yes person so I was in. It was only when I was picked up that I saw there was a shiny new mountain bike on the back. Turns out it was a mountain bike race I was competing in and I had never ridden in my life. I’m not going to say it was easy, but I put on a brave face and went out there.
If you could change anything about your experience/introduction, would you?
No. Because I don’t think I would have started mountain biking without such an aggressive push into it. I realized that I was able to compete with other riders in the sport and that with a little bit of technical work, I could even be good at it. I don’t think I would have come to that realization on my own because I had the mentality that it was a scary sport.

When you started out riding, what were the handling skills that gave you the most challenge? What has helped you grasp them?
On the road bike, it was just getting confident with going fast and being clipped in. I was certain that I was going to fall and hurt myself. The best way to grasp that was to keep getting out there.

On the mountain bike, it was a bit trickier. I struggled with getting all the way to the top of the climbs with rocks and roots but learning body positioning and proper gearing worked wonders. I think roots were my greatest enemy in general, riding downhill on them was a challenge as well, but learning to allow my bike to take the brunt of it was huge.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Yes absolutely. I was struck and went through a windshield of a car while riding my road bike while I was turning left. I was ok but my bike certainly wasn’t and I still have a moment where I need to check myself when I turn left. I also will repeat “please see me, please see me” when I riding a fast downhill when I know cars are turning. I truthfully don’t know if these quirks will ever go away, but the way I overcome that is to follow the rules of the road and keep riding.

I actually haven’t had any huge tumbles on my mountain bike because I would say that I am still a cautious rider. If I don’t think I can safely do a hard line, especially during a multi-day race, I will not jeopardize my health for it. I certainly have taken my share of tumbles, but nothing serious.

This is a hard one to describe actually because each bike brings me a different type of joy. My road bike is amazing because of the super hard interval workouts I can do on the trainer and the experience of movement outside which can be relaxing. Mountain biking is absolutely the opposite. Far from relaxing, I find it always pushes my limits and helps me build confidence in myself as an athlete. It is absolutely thrilling.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My mountain bike is a Niner. I bought it with studded tires so I can ride all year long, even in the Ontario winters. I chose it because it was the perfect entry level model and is built to climb serious hills which is great for when I adventure race in the mountains. I am actually shopping for my next bike to get a bit of a lighter, more race ready model because I am hoping to try my hand at mountain biking racing specifically, outside of adventure racing to increase my skills.

My road bike is a carbon LOOK and weighs all of 15 pds with ultegra and durace components. It is by far the most responsive ride I have ever found in any of the road bikes I have owned/ridden (I have ridden OPUS/Coppi/Argon).

Some people feel that participating in events is focusing on solely being competitive- why do you feel event participation goes beyond "competing"?
Participating in events is so much more than being competitive. It is about finding your limits and sometimes can just be used as a benchmark to see where your fitness levels land. It is also a community thing. Being able to be a part of an event with so many like-minded people is awesome.

You had a blog post up recently that hit home for many women from all around- Coming to Terms With The Gender Divide, what was it like for you after you were able to put those feelings down to words and share them?
For me, it just had to happen. It is something I have struggled hard with and I became tired of selling my performances short because they didn’t compare to my male team mates. Being a female in sport is amazing and the comparison trap is just so unhealthy. I received an overwhelming response from the athletic community and found so many women who felt the same way and so many gentlemen who echoed the STOP APOLOGIZING line.

When it comes to being involved with a sport that one loves, what would you like to tell women to remember as they pursue their passion?

Never lose sight of why you do the sport. At the end of the day, it needs to bring you joy and it is a part of you, but it is not who you are. So when you are struggling with injury, taking an off season or simply needing to shift focus to something else because of life demands, you cannot lose the sense of who you are as a person, independent from what you do.

What inspires you to take on events/races that take you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to the 'nth' degree?
Because the more I tackle them, the more I believe I can do anything.

Why are you passionate about about helping women find a sport they love and help to encourage healthy views of themselves?

My youngest sister has battled with anorexia for over a decade and I have watched her and too many other of my friends spend mental space on negative and unhealthy views of themselves. I think sport is one of the best arenas to break down that mentality that we are lacking or less than whole somehow. It shows that we are strong and able to do things we never thought were possible and translate that into their lives outside of sport. It empowers women to think they are strong and able and I think that is important.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I know there are so many amazing things on the market that I haven’t tried yet, but for bike accessories, I am using Polar. I train with the Polar V800 and use their speed sensors, Keo Power Pedals, and cadence sensors to get accurate data and to track my progress.

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

Well, let’s face it. Mountain biking is scary to get into. It defies a lot of things that our culture reinforces for women – you get muddy, you scrape up your legs and you are being bold, brave and daring. It is a male dominated sport, although I am excited to see more and more women giving it a try.

I think lack of support – having people teach you the ropes of a new sport is vital and especially other women who are there leading the way.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think the industry is doing everything they can but the rise of influencer marketing is playing an important part in showing that there are tons of ladies out there crushing it. I think that female specific rides/clinics are key, especially where they take you on a route and then practice one specific skill on each area of the trail.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Because it’s awesome, freeing and empowering. I spend at least one evening every night playing with my friends on bikes on the local trails and honestly, it is the best form of stress relief. I think adults need to remember to play and biking gives that sense of fun and accomplishment.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am the female world record holder of the pancake mile. It’s a long story…

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Be An Advocate

Amidst all of the various and super fabulous advocate/ambassador programs out there, I think something to remember is that you do not need to be accepted into a program to be an advocate. Simply BE an ADVOCATE.

This year Trek announced their Trek Women's Advocate program and I was stoked! I had been wishing and hoping for something like this to come along for quite some time.

Of course, with nervous anticipation, I applied. I knew it would be a chance for several reasons-
1. I live in a decidedly small town, tho increasing in popularity, Decorah is still "small."
2. I've only been involved with cycling since 2012 and I have been working at the shop since 2015.
3. I started my women's off-road group FWD in 2015

So looking at it and seeing how "grass roots" everything appears on paper, even tho you can tell I'm extremely passionate about getting more women on bikes- it's still very much in the beginning growth stages.

So it shouldn't have come as a surprise that I was not chosen as a Trek Women's Advocate. I will admit that my pride was sore. I thought all of the things that one who faced disappointment would feel- "Am I not enough of a women's advocate?" "Am I not doing enough?" "Will I ever be enough?"

Thing is- if you never take chances, you'll never know what you're missing. Sometimes those chances elicit a positive response and other times it may not be the outcome you were hoping for, but you got it anyway. You have to be able to take those "missed" opportunities and make them into something positive. I hate to sound like I'm perpetually looking thru rose colored glasses, but not getting in as a Trek Women's Advocate helped me realign myself with my own brand, goals, and mission.

I think it's important for us to step back and look at the bigger picture when it comes to the various programs out there. It's fabulous that they exist, but it's easy to get caught up in the process on an emotional level and feel maybe, just maybe, you aren't "doing enough." Do you love your sport? Are you passionate about riding? Do you enjoy getting more women involved with biking?
Question- do you absolutely without a doubt, need a program to make you an Advocate?


If you love what you do and are passionate about it, then be Your Own Advocate. Sure, you may not have the same backings as you would if you were involved with programs offered by Trek, Bell, Liv, and others. Everyone else who is not an Advocate chosen by a program but loves what they do, who are passionate about getting more people on bikes, are in the same boat.

Remember- there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a self-designated Advocate for a sport you love.

Being an Advocate doesn't mean you have to have a program behind you. I see an Advocate as someone who is passionate, respectful, and kind. A role model. Someone who works hard at achieving their goals, a person who is open and welcoming to all, and who genuinely wants to see others succeed. An Advocate wants to elicit change in a positive and affirming way- they do not need sponsorship to feel that they are "truly" an Advocate.

Don't get me wrong, I have and am an ambassador/sponsored by a couple different companies/brands and I truly value their support and what they are about. It is awesome to have a company or brand feel that you are a fit to represent their product and mission, but it shouldn't make or break you being an Advocate on your own. Branding. It's a powerful thing, especially in this day and age of social media.
Your passion for what you love should not be influenced by a discount or free swag- but it should be influenced by your determination to make a difference in a person's life. You shouldn't feel your self worth is dictated by whether or not you get chosen by a program or brand. There will almost always be a "you can try again next year" or another brand to connect with.

When I read the "I'm sorry" letter, I was bummed- but I looked at it as a chance to further what I thought would be possible solo. Further motivated by ideas when we went to Trek World- the Decorah Bicycles Ride Ambassador program came to fruition. Shortly after, I was told that there was a FWD- Fearless Women of Dirt group that was started in Canada- inspired by my post I wrote for Dig In. So when one door closed, two more apparently opened themselves up wide and were just waiting for me to run thru them.

The new Decorah Bicycles Jersey!
FWD branded water bottles were made (they will be in store, soon!) and the fabulous folks at Borah Teamwear helped me create a Decorah Bicycles jersey that is totally rad and will be ordered for the store early 2017. Price point would be similar to our other custom jerseys ($90) and be the Team fit (Semi-fitted) with Men's and Women's cuts.

Shoot an email if interested if you would like to commit to a pre-order!

Long story short, I was completely shooting my own foot when it came to seeing the potential good that I could do on my own-
I needed a kick in the proverbial ass to remind myself that I am doing positive things, that I am inspiring others...that I am an Advocate for women and biking.

Life is too short to sit and feel sorry that one didn't get this or that sponsorship, you have the capacity to do great things right now! You have to be willing to do it on your own and put in time and effort to make something happen that you want to have happen. The journey isn't always easy, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible. If you can't believe in your mission and goals, why would anyone else? Believe and live them; you are capable and you are valuable to women and cycling!

Be the change and be the best version of yourself; the best Women's Cycling Advocate anyone could ever ask for!
Would you like to start a women's off-road ride group in your area?
I would be happy to help you create a FWD Chapter!

You can connect with me by filling out the Contact Form located at the top of the website.