Sunday, August 19, 2018

Just Riding Along

I heard a sound above and in my peripheral vision above me, saw something moving down fast. "Oh Sh*t" The sound of wood cracking after hitting the trail, literally behind my rear tire, made me scream.

Yes. I screamed in the woods.
I looked down at the offending branch, which had broken in two upon impact. It was obviously, very dead.

It wasn't terribly wide around, but it would've been close to my height before it broke.

The fact that it was right behind my tire. The concept of my just being missed.
I had braced myself for impact, to feel something smack the back of my head.
My body had tensed. My nerves were high. 
I started to cry.
I almost started to panic. 

This "almost" accident shook me to my core. 
I think the largest reason for it was the anticipation of the unknown.
The fear.

The sound of something above me, and my going fast enough to not actually see it, yet not sure if I was fast enough to miss it. Panic brain.
The sound of cracking behind me.
The shock of not being hit.

I was shaking.

All I could think about was my Dad hearing some sort of sound. A warning crack. Something similar to the rustling above me that I heard, indicating something was plummeting down. Except for him, it would've been a literal tree explosion.

All I could do was live in my moment of pure fear.
That feeling washed over me like a wave. I hated it. It made me mad.
I was scared of a STICK. A glorified stick.
I had to convince myself that my dad wasn't trying to send me a message. Why the hell would he send me a message that involves a tree branch almost hitting me or my bike? I mean...that would be really sh*tty.

I moved the branch off the trail. I looked up the trail. The sun was shining. It was a freak (almost) accident. I was okay.
Stop worrying about what you'll never know.
Stop thinking your Dad wants you to live with the thought he was overcome with fear during his final moments of being cognizant. No. He would never want that.
You will believe it happened so fast, he never felt a thing.
No, you were not being punished for going on a bike ride.

"I'm going to blame this on my lack of sleep."

It's so funny. How last year I probably would've felt a rush of relief and laughed off the whole ordeal. "Dude! I almost got hit by a branch!"
It's not funny, how something like this can so quickly and powerfully transform feelings of a calm, leisurely ride into one with tears.

I couldn't help but feel a bit mad at myself for how I reacted.
"I'm supposed to be strong."

I think, one of the things I've learned through this whole experience of losing my dad, is that it's okay to not feel strong.
It's okay to feel vulnerable. You need to.
I've been trying so much over the past few months to really shutter everything up inside when it comes to dealing with everything. My dad, the riding (or lack of), FWD, and my feeling of simply feeling displaced in life.

I've needed time away and couldn't. I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted from having to deal with things remotely. I'm tired of the trips. I'm tired of spending money. I'm tired of the decisions. I'm tired of the waiting. I'm tired of the unknown. I'm tired of the known.

Uncle Bill said my dad did not want me to have to deal with what I'm currently dealing with in terms of his property. He had goals of taking care of everything. He just needed time. He needed to retire. He was afraid to retire. He needed to retire. Time stopped short. Time can be just what you need or fall short of your expectations. Time can give and time can take away.

I also realized that I need to be selfish with my time.
I need to honor myself.
What I want to do.
I can still do something special- but I need to ensure that I don't burn myself out.
If I don't want to. Don't.
If I do...then do it.
I'll never be able to really live life or enjoy it if I'm always worried about not being or doing "enough."
Dad spent time doing what made him happy, but he had a legitimate worry and fear setting him back from doing what he should've done.
I'll always have this nagging feeling of sadness....that my dad had something robbed from him.
I don't want to be robbed.

Hold whatever it is you're questioning to your heart. Does it bring you joy or do you question it? If you don't feel joy- put it back. It's time to reclaim life.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Hannah Levine

After growing up in Michigan, I moved west in pursuit of sunshine and mountains and to attended the University of Colorado.

I stayed in Boulder for 12 years dabbling in triathlons, road riding and trail running and was eventually introduced to mountain biking in 2012.

I always wanted to love mountain biking – I mean, it looked so badass! But, if I’m being honest, I was completely terrified by the sport.

Every time I got on my bike my heart rate spiked, my palms got sweaty and my anxiety kicked in. Despite all that, for some crazy reason, I still pursued riding my bike. I wanted to find my confidence; perhaps a metaphor for a greater personal transformation that needed to happen.

After college, I did what I thought I was “supposed” to do. I got a good job, worked hard, saved up money and bought a house. 10 years after graduating from college I started looking critically at my life trying to figure out how to prioritize my personal wellbeing over the pursuit of material goods. I quickly realized that I was happiest when I was camping in the middle of the woods wearing an old t-shirt and flip-flops. Cubicle life was not the right path for me. I needed to shift gears.

In 2016, I left my corporate job, bought a camper van, sold all my possessions and hit the road with my pup, Bud, in pursuit of the things that made me happiest. It was on this VanLife journey that I made the transition from being a nervous weekend rider to a fully-in-love-can’t-stop-won’t-stop mountain biker.

Over the course of 9 months, Bud and I drove 35,000 miles around North America visiting 33 states and 3 Canadian provinces. I had the opportunity to ride some of the most famous trails in North America along with countless yet-to-be-discovered trails. I saw the country, made riding friends from around the world, was introduced to some of the most inspiring women you’ll ever meet and FINALLY found my “tribe”.

Following life on the road, I spent a year in the outdoor mecca of Chattanooga, TN. In 2017 I received my Level 1 mountain bike coaching certification through PMBI and shortly thereafter, landed my dream job managing mountain bike skills events for Ninja Mountain Bike Performance. This spring, I packed up all my belongings (again) and hit the road (again) with my life and business partner, Richard. We are spending the summer traveling in our 19ft travel trailer and teaching Ninja skills clinics, eventually making our way to build a new home together in Southern Oregon.

These days I get to spend my time traveling, building a small business, introducing more people to the sport and coaching. Looking back, I’d say I made the right move.


Van Tour Video


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Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you from then on-
After riding road bikes for a few years, I started noticing all these cool kids talking about mountain biking. I wanted in on the fun! I didn’t know anything about mountain bikes. I figured I would meet someone who could introduce me to the sport - preferably a charming, handsome mountain biker wearing flannel and driving a pickup truck.

Well, that never happened. So after getting tired of waiting for someone else to tell me what to buy or how to mountain bike, I saved up some money, walked into a bike shop and bought myself a new mountain bike. I took that bike straight to the beginner trails in South Boulder and started pedaling. Haven’t stopped pedaling since.

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!"
I remember walking my bike a lot, breathing REALLY hard and getting pretty frustrated when I first started riding. I was terrified of loose gravel and riding over cattle guards on my home trails. I did my fair share of OTB crashes courtesy of not knowing how to use my front brake. At the beginning, mountain biking was Type 2 Fun. Eventually, with a lot of dedication (stubbornness) and the influence of an older brother who helped to show me the way, I started to figure it out.

I wasn’t until I hit the road in van that I really truly fell in love with the sport. Riding by myself with no pressure and no agenda gave me the space I needed to learn how to really enjoy the sport.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I started clipped-in simply because that’s what I was used to from road biking. I switched over to flats last fall and haven’t looked back.

I transitioned for two main reasons. First, as I started hitting drops and jumps, I wanted to know, with confidence. that I wasn’t relying on my clips to get my bike off the ground. Second, as an instructor, it was really important that I could teach students who were learning on flat pedals and speak from a place of experience. In the end, I’ve found that riding flats has improved my form, given me more confidence to try things (technical climbs) and made me a better instructor.

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 remember my first emotionally traumatic fall. I was riding by myself in a remote part of Colorado. I was on a solo road trip and had taken a last minute unplanned detour to check out a recommended trail. My first mistake - I didn’t tell anyone where I was going and when I arrived at the trailhead, I had no cell signal and no way to notify my family of my whereabouts. While out on my ride, I got nervous on a technical section of trail and attempted to dismount on the downhill side of the trail. I was sent cartwheeling down a hillside towards a small creek. I remember thinking to myself as I was falling “You cannot break anything. You cannot knock yourself out. No one knows you are here.” When I finally stopped rolling I sat there - shocked - and wiggled every finger, toe, elbow, wrist…..I was okay! Bruised and cut, but not broken. I was lucky to be able to ride away from that crash and quickly learned the importance of notifying friends and family when I’m out riding by myself.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Technical descents were a struggle for me when I started riding; probably because no one had ever told me how to ride technical terrain. Attending a skills clinic gave me the tools I needed to tackle the technical stuff with confidence. All of a sudden, I wasn’t guessing. I actually understood what I needed to do. It took time and practice to build up my toolbox but now I feel empowered to tackle the technical!

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I’m still working on all aspects of my ride. I’m especially focused on improving my technical climbing, high-speed cornering and jumping form. I fell in love with mountain biking because it constantly challenges me. These challenges don’t drag me down, they motivate me!

What do you love about riding your bike?
While I’ve had the opportunity to do all sorts of seemingly “cool” things in my life, I always struggled to be truly passionate about something. I’ve done a lot of things in my life because I thought I was supposed to. Mountain biking is the first thing I’ve found that I am 100% passionate about. I love being outside and traveling the country, I love the people I’ve met through the sport, I love knowing that my body is strong and powerful….I could go on and on.

When you set out to pursue Van Life, did you do research ahead of time? What were things you needed to consider?
Absolutely. I researched types of vans, traveling with a pet, costs, budgets, travel routes, camping options. I learned a lot but in the end, the most important thing that I learned is that there is no “perfect”. There is no perfect van build, you can’t predict all of your costs, you can’t plan out your route too far in advance. All you can do is equip yourself with information and get comfortable going with the flow.

For folks interested in living Van Life, what do you feel would be good to know ahead of time?
Here is my secret tip for van lifers - Cracker Barrels are great (better than Walmart or a truck stop). Free overnight parking, clean bathrooms and hot coffee and biscuits in the morning!

Out of the areas you visited, what was your favorite and why?
I have so many favorites and all for different reasons. Here are a few highlights….

Favorite Riding Region // British Columbia
There is more to riding BC than Whistler! A few of my favorite spots: Rossland, Nelson, Fernie, Cranbrook, Golden, Revelstoke, Kelowna, Penticton, Kamloops.

Favorite small town // McCall, ID
I fell in love with the small town of McCall, ID just 2 hours north of Boise. Good food, a beautiful lake, incredibly welcoming people and a growing network of trails gave this place charm and endless potential.

Favorite East Coast Riding // Pisgah National Forest, Brevard, NC
After living in Colorado for so many years, I was completely ignorant of the incredible riding the east coast has to offer. Pisgah offers my favorite type of riding on the planet - big days, long climbs, and gnarly rock-n-root filled descents. All ending with a beer at The Hub.

What was the inspiration to get certified in teaching MTB skills?
I had such a positive experience from attending clinics myself that I wanted to get more involved in the coaching community. To do that, I wanted to make sure I had something useful to offer and I wanted to make sure I was able to give accurate and constructive feedback to riders.

What was one of your favorite experiences with helping someone better their mountain biking skills?
I had a young teenager who attended one of my clinics at the beginning of this year. 2 months later she came to a second clinic and her progress was incredible! She had taken all of my suggested “homework” (sidewalk skills and drills) very seriously and had been practicing with her mom. I was so proud of her!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Living on the road means I have room for one bike right now - a 2018 Kona Process 153. I wanted a bike that could handle the big terrain of a bike park but still efficient enough for me to pedal uphill. This bike is an ANIMAL!

Tell us about Ninja Mountain Bike Performance and your job with them-
I am the Captain of Global Development with Ninja. My partner Richard founded the company 8 years ago and together, we work to expand and improve our clinics all over the country. I focus on organizing skills camps east of the Mississippi while Richard handles everything to the west. Together we both coach, manage sponsor relationships, answer customer service questions, maintain our website, write skills articles and all the other little things that go into running a small business.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Let’s be honest, getting into mountain biking typically comes with a lot of questions. What kind of bike do I get? What should I wear? Do I wear underwear with these padded liners? Do I sit on the saddle or stand up? Which brake do I use and when?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by such a long list of questions. Historically, it’s been hard to find answers to these questions without feeling stupid or completely intimidated. This creates a barrier of entry that deters a lot of women from dipping their toe into the wonderful world of mountain biking.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I’d like to see the industry go back to basics; be welcoming! Remember what it was like to be a total newbie. Make it easy for people to ask questions, get information that is digestible, walk into a bike shop and be spoken to with respect and patience. Make the mountain biking community a safe and welcoming place for all people, regardless of their goals with cycling.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I see myself differently since I found mountain biking; I’ve gained confidence, patience and re-discovered my inner-child. I hope I can help other women do the same!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I eat 6 squares (or two rows) of dark chocolate every day without fail. Doesn’t matter where I am in the world, I bring or find my dark chocolate. Always.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Standing On The Edge Face Up

'Cus You're A Natural.

Ha. Really. That's far from it.

My last bike ride.
I was pissed off.
It seemed no matter how hard I tried, the weather wouldn't cooperate. Life wouldn't cooperate.
I wanted to have a bike ride with Travis.
I didn't want to have to try and beat the upcoming storm.

You know when you go for a mountain bike ride and you're just blindingly emotional? You ride like sh*t. I fu*ked up a few times and I realized that my energy was just all over the damn place.

I took the opportunity (assuming I was legitimately alone in the woods) to have a conversation "at" Dad.

For those who don't follow me on Facebook, I discovered last Tuesday that I needed to get a new septic system for my dad's house. Tree.Roots.
Holy crap. Okay. So great.
Progress with cleaning up his home was being made, only to find out that fu*king tree roots have rendered the system useless.
Pump out the years...literally...years of sh*t.
Only to make removal easier.

I had to cry.
I was beyond frustrated.

This week on Tuesday I discovered that a majority of my dad's electrical setup was not up to code.
The joy of changes.
Also, Dad was smart enough to fix stuff up to be "enough" for him- but that didn't necessarily mean it was "correct."
Like...2 extension cords to plug in the (well) pump to the house?

I spent half of my ride saying "sh*t"...I did not have a lack of frustration.
I'm glad no one was around. I sounded like a very grumpy person.

The storm was coming- clouds darkening and thunder rumbled.
It felt like my heart and soul.
Everything feels "extra."

Stuff will feel extra happy or extra sad.

I'm so tired of having so many questions. Was my dad going to slowly start fixing stuff up? Was he going to let the septic system deteriorate further? Keep his janky electric setup?
I will never know.
You have to accept that there is a lot of sh*t you'll NEVER know.

You have to accept that everything is what it is. There isn't going back. You can't change anything.

All I could come up with was I would leave my dad's property better than it was when I came to it.
It's so funny. Ironic. How it was hidden from me for so long and then I have it shoved down my throat. It hurts. It also makes me feel humbled.
I wish I could ask more questions.
I would have to accept that my dad would likely not tell me the answers.
I get it.

It just sucks, because I think there was more to him in me than I realized. His insight could've helped me understand more.

There may be a lot that stresses me out.
That challenges me.
That makes me cry.
That makes me swear.
I will endure.
I will persevere.
I am a storm.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Women Involved Series: Michelle Dykstra

My background in the cycling industry is one that I fell into. When I was in college, I started working at the local bike shop for the summer. I wasn’t a cyclist at all. I just thought that it would be a fun job. I was the only girl in the store and thought it would be just answering phones and ringing up sales. My co-workers quickly schooled me on all things cycling and that’s when I realized it was so much more involved than the bike riding I did around the neighborhood. It didn’t take long for the guys to convince me I needed to buy a mountain bike. So like almost every other new bike shop employee, I spent my whole summer wages on my first mountain bike and that was the beginning of new passion and career I could have never even dreamed of.

I continued to work at that shop every summer and winter break from school. After I graduated, I was offered a manager position so I stayed there for a couple of years. When an opportunity came up to move to Chicago to be part of the opening of a brand new store, I jumped at it. I grew up vising the city often and had always wanted to live there. After just over a year at that store, I had met people that worked for my current company and I had an opportunity to start in the Dealer Service Department so I made the move from retail over to SRAM. I’ve been here for 9.5 yrs so far and have held jobs in Dealer Service, Aftermarket Sales, and now OEM Sales. I am an OEM Sales Account Manager so I am the main point of contact at SRAM for the bike brands that I work with. In addition to being an account manager, I am also the Chair of our SRAM Women’s Leadership Committee. Our committee is committed to attracting, developing, and retaining women at SRAM. I’m extremely passionate about getting more women into the industry and also helping to grow women’s cycling. I have had the opportunity to help out at various different women’s events that have been happening in the industry over the past 7+ years. It’s so exciting to see how it is really taking off and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.

When I’m not mountain biking, I enjoy traveling, cooking, SUP, hiking, volunteering, and other various hobbies.

My Instagram handle is shellylynn36

Tell us about the introduction to mountain biking and how it influenced you from then on-
My first introduction was when I started working in a shop. I wasn’t a cyclist then but I thought that working in the local bike shop would be way more fun as a summer college job than waiting tables or something else. My co-workers took me under their wing and took me out for my first ride and I was hooked. It’s influenced me greatly since then since it was the very first step of me making a career in the industry which I obviously had no idea of that back then.

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!"
I remember just loving being in the woods and in nature. I grew up doing a lot of hiking and skiing so mountain biking for me was kind of the perfect combination of those two activities. Downhill skiing prepared me for the feeling of being clipped in, choosing lines, being comfortable at higher speeds and arguably most important; crashing. Hiking prepared me for being used to narrow single track and reading the trail ahead. I learned that I had already developed skills through those two activities so I just needed to put them together. I also learned that mountain biking requires a lot more anticipation and reaction since there is a lot going on at once. Being in the right gear and body positioning was the biggest learning curve that first year or so.

From what you knew when you bought your first mountain bike to what you know now, would you make a different purchase or keep it the same/similar?
Well, bikes have come a long way since I bought my first mountain bike 16 years ago! I would keep my purchase the same because I bought one of the best options at the time for what I could afford. I guess my only advice on that front would be to say that components are so important and they have the ability to make or break your experience. If you’ve ridden a few times and really see yourself getting into it, I would say go for the bike of the type of riding you want to do even if you think you aren’t there yet. Better equipment can help you ride better and you will grow into it.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I ride mainly clips. I started with clips and rode on them for so many years that it is what I’m used to. I dedicated a whole season a couple years ago to learning flats and I did get used to it and I think it helped me become a better rider in many senses. You really can’t “cheat” in flats. I ride flats at the bike park now and clips on singletrack.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Knock on wood, all my major accidents have been on skis and not mountain biking. I’ve had some pretty knarly crashes that have really shaken me up and given me some scars but no broken bones. For me, the only way to mentally overcome something I crashed on is to keep riding it until I conquer it. It’s usually a mental thing and once I ride it successfully, then I know I can move on and try something harder and bigger next time.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I started riding, I think the hardest thing for me was shifting and speed. I was never in the right gear to get up that climb and when I came up on obstacles, I slowed down so much I had no momentum to help me get over them. Those were the days before all the women's clinics so I probably didn’t go about the best way of learning. I was mainly by myself or with a few friends that rode about the same level as me so I just kept on trying. Honestly, it was just repetition of not making it over things so I’d try something different next time. I approached it really by the process of elimination. There are so many wonderful skills clinics now that I highly recommend going to.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I struggle with technical climbing when there is a big rock or root you really have to get up and over. Climbing has never been my favorite thing. For me, it just a means to get to the downhill so I don’t worry about it too much. I’m fine with walking over stuff that I can’t ride.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love all of it! Exploring new trails, overcoming a tough obstacle for the first time, riding solo and with friends, staying physically fit, and unplugging from the stresses of life.

What did you love most about working in a bike shop and why is it important for women to be involved with working at bike shops?
I love seeing the excitement that someone has over their new bike and newfound passion. There is nothing better than when a customer comes back and sharing stories of how their life has been changed by the bicycle. It’s so rewarding to see them on their journey of being more healthy, connecting with new people, riding new distances, and overcoming obstacles. It’s important for women to be involved in working in shops because I think as women, we like to be in the community and see that if other women can do it, so can we. There are some questions that some women will only feel comfortable asking another woman about. When a female customer comes into a shop, I think there is a level of comfort that comes with seeing that women work in the shop and are thinking about what women want when they are shopping. When I visit a bike shop in my travels, I can instantly tell by the clothing section alone if they have a female buyer or not.

Where there challenges of being a woman working in a bike shop? How did you work through tough situations?
My challenges working in a shop never had to do with my co-workers, it was always with customers. Many men would assume that I didn’t know what I was talking about and would automatically ask for a man to help them before they even stated what they needed help with. I would respond by asking them if I could hear about what brought them in first in order to find the best person to assist them. I didn’t get defensive because sometimes, I would have to hand them off to an experienced mechanic if they were asking a tech question I couldn’t answer. More often, they had a question I could answer so I could confidently say that I would be happy to help them. After they discover that you know what you are talking about, I rarely received any further resistance. It’s all about being confident and breaking down barriers.

What do you enjoy most about working at SRAM?
There are so many things but the two that always rise to the top for me are the people and our passion. To me, SRAM is a really special place to work filled with amazing people that are passionate about the product that we are making. It is always designed from the heartfelt place of making riding a better experience for everyone. It sounds cheesy but it’s true. I love the people I work with.
Tell us about the SRAM Women's Leadership committee and what it's about- why is it important?
The SRAM Women’s Leadership Committee (SWLC) is dedicated to creating an inclusive community for all SRAM employees and to attract, develop, and retain women at SRAM. We believe that diversity in ideas, experiences, and knowledge will further expand the potential of cycling and inspire cyclists. In order to have the diversity we are seeking we need to have a balance between female and male employees in all departments so we are working on ways to better attract women to SRAM so that we get female applicants for job openings, and we’ve taken several steps internally to develop and retain the women that already work here.

Tell us why you feel women should seek out jobs in the cycling industry-
I think there is a lot of opportunity for women in the cycling industry whether you’re currently into cycling or not. I personally really enjoy the culture that the industry has that provides such a great work/life balance. We all work really hard and are passionate about what we do so we have a good balance of enjoying our hobby all while working to get more people on bikes. The industry could use more women in engineering, sales, operations, etc. There are opportunities to suit all career fields I think.

What do you enjoy most about helping women become more confident with mountain biking?
I personally enjoy all the smiles and sheer joy when you see someone tackle something they’ve never been able to get over before. It has a ripple effect. It’s cool to see people progress.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have 3 main bikes at the moment. My commuter is the one that I ride the most b/c I take it out every day and it’s so fun to ride. It’s a step through frame with fenders, front basket, rear fenders, etc. I love that I can load it up with groceries and other goods and run all over Chicago on it. My mountain bike is a Juliana Rubion. I chose that bike b/c I have always been a fan of Santa Cruz geometry and style and I like what they’ve done with the Juliana brand that it is the same frame as Santa Cruz but a different look for women that want it. Their bikes fit me well so I like they have that option. I chose the Rubion because I travel with my bike a lot so I wanted something that was good for all terrain no matter where I go. I put a Rockshox 160mm Lyrik on it when I travel to places out west and I put a 150mm Pike on it when I’m home. My road bike is a Trek Domane 5 Disc in women specific. I’ve got it set up with 35c tires so it’s my fun road/gravel bike.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think equipment is the biggest barrier to cycling for both men and women. It’s so much easier to get into running or some other sport that doesn’t require a lot of equipment. Biking can be challenging because if you want to try it before you make a purchase, having a bad rental bike or borrowing a bike that doesn’t fit right or work well can make for a really bad experience and make something think the sport isn’t for them. I think mountain biking might have more of a barrier than road because there are so many options like wheel size, travel, and a multitude of brands that it can be very overwhelming.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think we have already made great strides so we need to just keep doing what we’re doing with women’s rides, clinics, getting girls involved at a young age, offering opportunities for women to learn mechanic skills, target female college students for internships, recruiting more women for various positions, etc. It will be wonderful when we have more women in leadership but we will get there. A lot of those efforts feel grassroots at times but if enough companies get on board, the changes can have a huge impact.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I’ve met so many amazing people through riding and this industry that of course, I want to share that with others. Riding can create such a great community amongst people, it’s rewarding to learn new skills, and most of all, it’s fun!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I know how to play the oboe. A lot of people have to look that one up.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Women Involved Series: Chris Schieffer

My name is Chris Schieffer (despite the fact that my facebook says Chris LeSchieffer) and I am a true Colorado Native - born and raised. "Who I am" is such a hard question, because what does that really mean? I am human. I value human interaction, being outdoors with friends and family whenever possible and getting exercised on a regular basis. I live a "normal" existence, in that I have two kids, a husband, a dog, a house, a van…. but the adventures we all take together are what really define me.

At my core, I am a teacher and a motivator. My greatest joy is helping others succeed in their endeavors and making people feel more confident in life. I am Sparkles.

Currently, I work for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) a mountain biking non-profit focused on: creating, enhancing and protecting great places to ride mountain bikes. I started off working with the Instructor Certification Program (ICP) because I received my coaching certification through that program and asked if they needed help with it. At the time, they did not, four years later - I received an email for a part-time job opening and jumped on it. IMBA has subsequently sold that program, so now I am part of the development/fundraising team. Our mission/vision are things I care deeply about (for your reference you can find all our values here:

My bike life consists of simply making time to bike. I enjoy being playful in life and in mountain biking, so for me, every ride is a great ride - because what's better than being outside on a bike? Right now I'm focused on making sure my children have a positive experience riding bikes. I really do believe that mountain biking changes lives and I strive to keep it real in that way.

Instagram: @mtb_ismyspiritanimal

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you from then on-
My introduction to bike life was very natural. I grew up outside a small mountain town in the woods of Colorado and had to bike if I wanted to get anywhere. I received my first mountain bike in 1988, it was a fully rigid Red GT, and was my sole source of independence and freedom. My parents would often send my siblings and I outside for the day and we could only come back for lunch and dinner. Biking made it possible to explore much more terrain and looking back at my summers, I’d say my brothers, sister, and I probably rode around 10-15 miles daily, just exploring and playing in the woods. We didn’t ride for sport, we rode to get around. I never learned any “skills” to speak of, but definitely built some endurance over the years.

I guess you could say that biking was the only source of fun I had at the time, and that has stuck with me through the years. From a young age all the way through college, mountain bikes were actually just my primary form of transportation, even in town. After college, however, I bought my first real mountain bike (because bikes are expensive!) and started participating with friends as a weekend warrior. Slowly but surely my skill set grew and I realized this was a sport I’d be interested in for 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!"
Caveat: When referring to the “first few mountain bike rides” I am going to refer to the first few rides I took once I got my “real bike” after college. To go back to 4 years old and remember my first rides would be a little difficult ;-)

To be honest, I was actually more excited about getting the “biking accouterments” (gear: shorts, shoes, helmets, gloves, etc….) than the actual bike. Which, as a side note, is the way A LOT of women feel when first getting into the sport… you’d think bike clothing manufacturers would capitalize on this a little more, I digress...

I bought the gear and Bike, a Specialized StumpJumper, and decided that my first bike ride/trip was going to be in Moab (because it was and still is the Jam!). So my first REAL bike ride was a camping situation with some friends. We camped “Behind the Rocks” in Moab, south of town on the (old) 24 hours of Moab course. To say I was a beginner at that point would be a misnomer.

I definitely wasn’t mentally prepared to ride a lot of the trails in Moab. I have a natural athletic tendency and love a physical challenge, so it wasn’t the fitness that got me, it was the headspace. It was amazing to me how much mental capacity mountain biking requires; the concentration and extreme focus on the present is absolutely paramount in this sport. The mental relief is what really drew me to the sport. Somehow in the midst of physical exhaustion and pain, I felt mental clarity. In that moment, it almost felt like I was meditating. “Active meditation(what I call it) is really what got me hooked on mountain biking.

On that trip, I got a fast intro to rocks and sand and crashed a fair number of times. I didn’t think to purchase pads, so I still have scars left over from those first few months on a bike. It’s easy to forget how much the sport has evolved even in the last 10 years. I didn’t REALLY know what gear I should have to make my experience better (no one told me). I was first trying to make the experience….
Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I use Clips (or as the original gangsta’s would say: Clipless, Isn’t that the most confusing thing?!?!?) I use them because that’s what I started using when I started biking for a few reasons:

1) People told me that’s what I should ride (and I didn’t know anything about it)

2) At the time, I was riding a lot more XC trails and it’s definitely helpful to have power on the upstroke with clips.

3) Where I live, in Golden CO, we MUST climb a lot in order to descend and it’s very technical, rocky, loose terrain, clips help there as well.

However, since I started coaching 5 years ago, I have RE-learned to ride with flats, and I prefer flats when coaching or riding at bike parks. It is important to remember how vital your feet are to your riding overall and if you have been riding clips for a long time and then switch to flats for a bit – you’ll see what I mean ;-)

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
First of all, I love that you used the term “Biffs” … AH-MAZE-ING. To answer your question, most of my “biffs” have been when I was going slow and uphill… because I couldn’t get out of those pesky clips fast enough.

Notable ones (in order):

1) Endo’ed riding with my then boyfriend and now husband who were in some weird bro competition on the trail and left me behind while I bled from my elbows the entire time.

a. Emotional Takeaway: This was a POSITIVE fall because I learned that I could fall and be bleeding and be totally fine. I also learned that when riding with men, you have to be prepared for no one to care that you are bleeding or in pain.

2) Fell off ledge backwards trying to do a step up in Moab (on that first trip).

a. Physical takeaway: Humans are good at suffering through pain. I had to finish that ride because we were in the middle of nowhere. I did, and it was fine.

3) Fell backwards down part of Slick Rock (on that first trip) and slid down the side of a rock for a while (this makes me chuckle now that I’ve ridden slick rock a handful of times).

a. Mental Takeaway: Must learn more skills, that seemed avoidable.

4) A few years ago in Bentonville, AR I was riding someone else’s bike, which was too big for me) and I fell off a rock ledge in the middle of a switchback into a small creek, where I couldn’t get out of those DAMN CLIP PEDALS! Lol. I sat in the creek until some passersby came and helped me untangle myself. I really scraped up my legs and have a lot of scars from that one, but overall nothing major happened (see the falling off of ledges theme here?)

Of course, I’ve fallen a lot, as everyone has. Typically, in life and biking, I like to take negative situations and turn them into a positive growth opportunity. I try NOT to dwell on the pain or the fear that is associated with those crashes. Rather, I identify the skills, mental or physical, that will help me get better in the future and I focus on what I CAN do, not what I didn’t do.

In general, I try to let go of the past if it doesn’t serve me.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
1) Front wheel lifts (important in Moab)

2) Bike body separation

3) Track Stands

All of these skills can be learned in women’s clinics, which is what I typically recommend to women first starting out. Perhaps I am biased because I only coach women’s clinics, but I do find it extremely important for people to get useful positive feedback and encouragement from someone other than a spouse. Women are amazing encouraging in that setting and it’s incredible how important those basic skills are to the foundation of your riding. I wish I had taken a clinic WAYYYY before I actually found myself in one.

While clinics are a good introduction, the proof is in the pudding – practice, practice, practice! I’m lucky enough to have a few skills parks near me, which are always great places to practice. However, you can practice all three of the skills I listed on the trail and in your driveway. I pick ONE skill to work on every time I ride. Last time, I practiced my track stands because I rode with my kids who make sudden stops without warning. The time before that, I focused on my gaze – looking 15 feet ahead of my tire consistently. Honestly, there’s not a pro in the world who doesn’t continually work on their skills, if you make it a priority every time you ride; you will get better one bite at a time.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I’m not particularly good at cornering and the counter balance associated with that. There aren’t many berms where I ride typically (in the desert). However, that doesn’t get me down. In fact, it motivates me to practice that skill when I do find myself riding somewhere with berms. I know that I won’t be the fastest on those sections, but BOY HOWDY can I ride some chunky rocks. I often tell women in my clinics to appreciate the skills you do have and constantly strive to acquire more. We can all high five ourselves for something, and we really should more often!

P.S. I also suck at manuals and wheelies, but I have no practical use for wheelies and the risk vs. reward on that one isn’t large enough for me to try very hard. However, my husband built a “manual machine” for us to practice in our driveway. Check out my Instagram or Facebook to see that thing – it’s fun.

What inspired you to become certified in mountain bike instructor and how has it been beneficial?
I decided to get certified in mountain bike instruction because at that time I was making a career switch to a personal trainer and nutritionist and it required me to have a certain amount of continuing education credits. Since mountain biking is technically a fitness skill, the course counted for my continuing education AND I thought it would be fun to also coach. It’s amazing how much personal training has helped with mountain bike instruction actually… being able to explain movements and feelings and WHY you should be doing things is one of the most useful skills in my toolbox.

As a side note: I know my purpose in life is to be a teacher a guide and a helper, so this fit the bill by also coinciding with one of my passions.

What do you love about riding your bike?
In the midst of physical chaos, my mind finds peace. Mental, it’s mental relief.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
You assume I have more than one…? *wink wink* Technically I have three bikes, although one of them is on order. I can’t hoard bikes because I have a husband who bikes and two children who bike and our garage only has so much space.

1) Salsa Mariachi (steel hard tail 29er) which I got for my 30th birthday with the sole purpose of toting my kids around town in a bike trailer. My kids are now 7 & 8 and just graduated to 24” tires, so no need to pull that trailer any longer. However, I keep the bike because I love the feel, it’s tough and light at the same time, it’s challenging to move from full suspension to hard tail and it reveals a lot of weakness’ in my riding. So like to ride it every now and again to remind me of things I would like to continue to improve. I also have a dream of bike packing someday…. Which has yet to be realized.

2) Ibis Mojo 3 – My first high, high end bike was an ibis mojo and I just fell in love with the feel of the DW-link suspension and the geometry that ibis has. Ibis bikes in general are fun and playful, yet climb nimbly and descend like beasts. The 27.5+ is also really fun, in my personal opinion.

3) I just purchased an Ibis Ripmo (the long travel 29er) and am SOOOOOO STOKED! I decided to go to 29er because I do race enduros a few times a year and I feel like the 27.5+ tire is too slow. For racing, I like to TRY and win and the 27.5+ isn’t really the bike for that.

You work for IMBA, what inspired you to seek employment with IMBA and what do you love most about your job?
Up until very recently, IMBA owned and operated the Instructor Certification Program – a program in which mountain bikers got certified to guide/lead groups and to also teach skills/clinics. I took this certification in 2013, as a means in which to get continuing education credit for my personal training certification and also because I had intentions of guiding people locally in Colorado.

At that time, IMBA has just started the program and were in the building phases. I loved it so much that I told the manager at the time that if she ever needed help, please call me. Three years later I got an email asking for part-time help and I jumped on it. I’d wanted to work in the bike industry for a long time and this was a door into that world. It doesn’t hurt that I am also EXTREMELY passionate about what IMBA does and had been an IMBA supporter for many years prior to being employed there.

I’ve moved around a lot since working for ICP; currently, I’m working on the Marketing and Communications team, generating content, creating women’s education and dabbling in social media. The thing I’m most STOKED on right now, is the Women’s movement that has been happening with IMBA and the industry in general. IMBA recently created and celebrated the first-ever International Women’s Mountain Biking Day (May 5th this year, the first Saturday of May going forward) and there was a TON of engagement, even though it was only officially announced a week or so prior to the day. The fact that the industry, in general, is seeing an uptake in women’s participation is HUGE! Right now, I’m loving that we get to be a major part in that.

Why do you feel it is important for women to be involved in the cycling industry- working for companies, bike shops, etc.?
Have you ever heard of the term group think? The practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility. That’s what too many men in the kitchen amounts to. The same ole same ole in a new package isn’t going to cut it any longer. Group think is not helping the bike industry thrive. At some point, the men have to realize that women will most certainly help shape the future of Mountain Biking, whether the like it or not.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
The most Common Answers (according to the women’s UPRISING event we just conducted):
Fear/Questioning ability
Time/Scheduling conflicts
Lack of confidence/Insecurities
Staying motivated with new trails & riding partners
Getting to the trails/access
Life priorities (specifically children)
Finding Riding buddies
Fear of holding the group
When open spaces and parks do not connect
Difficult Terrain
City traffic, getting to trail complications
What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Industry: Trust that women know what women want and utilize their expertise to further grow the sport and in turn your business’.

Locally: Having women’s only groups has been a huge success in giving women the confidence to even try mountain biking. Find local groups (even groups within groups) and ask to join. It’s important that existing female leaders help lift newbies up, meet people where they’re at and always send out positive vibes.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Mountain biking provides me with meditation. It allows me to be fully present in the moment and because I am able to focus on just one thing while I’m doing it, it gives me full freedom from life for a short period of time. It has also given me a sense of accomplishment and confidence that is irreplaceable. Not only am I more confident on the bike, I am more confident in life because I’ve done things that I never thought I could.

It’s this sense of freedom and confidence that inspires me to get more women to ride. Most women have a swirling to do list in their heads and it’s often hard to check out of our brains for even an hour. Mountain Biking allows the brain to shift gears and really does provide relaxation in the midst of chaos. I want everyone to experience this, especially women who often take on the mental burdens of life.

What inspires you to encourage your kids to ride?
I have two kids (7&8) and selfishly, I would way rather spend weekends at biking events that at a
baseball tournament! Honestly, bikes have given kids the same sense of freedom and independence. It gives them a physical outlet for their energy and a mental outlet to focus on as well. It’s also important that we teach the youth how to be good stewards of the trail, to respect the trail users and the land itself. If we don’t teach the youth, then who will?

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I worked at Chuck E Cheese during my freshman year in College. I didn’t have a car and it was within walking distance of my dorm. Yes, I was actually the mouse AT LEAST once every shift.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Lisa Land

My name is Lisa Land, I am a nurse practitioner, avid mountain biker, and runner and I love seeing women go out and kick ASS on any spectrum of life!

My main passion was running before I discovered how awesome mountain biking is. I can thank my wonderful husband for that. I was previously a road biker (and this was rare as well) but after riding dirt for a bit it reignited my passion for the bike. Now I can say I prefer mountain biking but have been known to ride the road when necessary. I am married to my best friend and best husband a girl can ask for. We have been happily married for two and a half years but together for 8 years. We have the best dog, her name is Dingo, no kids. I am the oldest of six kids so I think that kind of pushed having kids out the window for me, lol. I love my siblings and make a great AUNT.

I just recently finished the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa. I was chosen to be apart of an all-women XC race team called the Liv Trail Squad.

Liv Cycling started a project to promote more women on bikes and empower them to do something EPIC. A global social media contest was conducted and 6 women were chosen across the globe to represent the Trail Squad. I was the USA rep for the team. The other women chosen; Kate Ross; Australia, Madeleine Gerard; France, Olivia Smedley; UK, Sandy Savagar; Mexico, Anna Barea; Spain. Among being chosen for the team, we found out our EPIC race was going to be the Cape Epic. Talk about EPIC!! This adventure was a once in a lifetime, Liv Cycling provided all the gear, gave each of us a Liv Pique, coaching options and we also had two pro racers Serena Bishop Gordon and Kaysee Armstrong as mentors. My partner Kate and I were successful finishers of the Absa Cape Epic, this did not come without work, tears, blood or pain. The sisterhood that was developed with the Trail Squad and Liv Cyclings project can never be undone and has forever changed me! There is so much to be told of this please ask me more questions if you want specifics because I can write a novel on was an incredibly humbling but empowering experience!

DT Swiss was also one of my additional sponsors for the Cape Epic and provided me with some pretty rad lightweight wheels!!

So back to my I'm not husband and I travel! We often will spend the weekends camping or racing...and usually spend at least one holiday on an extended camp trip. Our camp locations usually are chosen with riding or running in mind. If its a weekend warrior type trip we will go to Big Bear, Sedona, Flagstaff or Phoenix area. Most of our longer travels are spent in Utah and Colorado. We absolutely love these areas for riding and running; Moab and Telluride.

I am on the board for the Colorado River Area Trail Alliance (CRATA) which is our IMBA chapter in this region and on the leadership team for the Girlz Gone Riding Mojave Chapter.

Social Media
Instagram handle: @runningnative
Liv Cycling:
Dt Swiss:
IG handle: @dtswiss

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you from then on-
Well, lets #bikelife started when I was fresh out of college in Tulsa, OK, 2008. I bought my first bike when I decided I was going to do a triathlon. I had learned of triathlon from my fellow runners in Tulsa. I had not ridden a bike since probably middle school. I didn't do any research, to be honest, and went into a bike shop...I asked them about a road bike in my size and at first...they said they didn't have anything available. However, a moment later, the gentleman helping me ran to back and rolled out a beautiful “Made in Italy” Bianchi SHE road bike. The bike shop owner gave a great deal because it was the last years model and a hard size to sell. I bought it right then and there, no researching of specs or weight or blah, blah, blah. It fit and it was far the most important aspects of riding right, lol!

Fast forward 3 years...I live in nursing and not doing much riding. This super cute guy I was dating at the time (who is actually my husband now) introduced me to the world of mountain biking. I loved running and he loved dirt biking, so he thought we should try a hobby together. He chose mountain biking as we had just got back from an adventurous weekend of me trying to learn to ride off the beaten path. Plus, my husband absolutely despises running. He helped me pick out my beginner mountain bike...a Giant Revel...I rode that bike until the wheels almost fell off...probably riding that bike on trails it wasn't equipped to go on. But a few miles in the dirt and I fell in love with the dirt 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!"
First mountain bike ride EVER...wasn’t even on dirt. My husband and I were in San Diego for my birthday one year and we decided to rent bikes to ride along La Jolla for the weekend to the shops and restaurants. I had never been on a mountain bike prior to this so everything was foreign to me. I didn't really know how to shift and riding on anything other than flat road was something unheard of. I literally was afraid to “roll” off a curb on this bike. I remember my husband just jumping off these curbs and I would roll to them and stop immediately, get off the bike and step down. I thought my husband was crazy for riding down that “ginormous” drop!

After this, my husband helped me pick out a beginner mountain bike and took me out on some trails in Lake Havasu City, AZ. One dirt ride and I pretty much became hooked...I loved the challenge...the burn in the legs and the lungs and mostly it was just exciting to learn something new. I met other women riders who took me on a beginner MTB course and somehow I was talked into doing a 12-hour MTB team race...literally 2-3 mos after I started riding. That race in itself just added fuel to the fire. I have a competitive spirit by nature and doing that 12-hour race just made it for me...I fell in love with the sport of mountain biking. I loved the dirt!

Your husband was the one to introduce you to mountain biking. How did he help make the experience a positive one?
For me, my husband always encouraged me on our rides together but he was also VERY patient and kind. He never made me feel “slow” or that I was ruining his ride in any way even though he was significantly more skilled and faster than I was THEN. Personally, I am the hardest on myself and I wanted to be able to ride like he did...climb the obstacles he did and ride as smoothly as he did. I would get frustrated with myself and he would always be the calm for me...telling me things come with time and encouraging me to be patient with myself. Each ride, I became better and faster and he would always be my number one cheerleader on the trail. He is still my number one cheerleader, except now he’s on the sidelines as I have taken to the world of mountain bike racing.

Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to ride with your partner or introduce a partner to mountain biking?
Take the beginning rides slow and easy...understand that this will be the agenda for a while. Don't push your partner to do more technical or difficult terrain if they are not ready. Part of enjoying the sport of mountain biking is to enjoy the fun stuff...but building the technical skills, confidence and endurance takes time and should be established before going out on that black diamond trail. In the beginning, shoot for a timed ride versus a “miles were gonna cover today” ride. This allows both the beginner to not worry about the “mph” goal or how long it is taking to cover a certain mileage.

Communication and understanding is key! My husband and I don't always have amazing rides together, sometimes I feel like he's riding me on technical sections or giving me advice I don't want to hear, lol! We’ve all been's important to know how to communicate respectfully to each other the frustrations that we may be having and what we expect out of that ride...which moves us to the next tip!

Don't make your partner, your ONLY riding buddy. Encourage your partner to ride with other people...I've learned so much from riding with other women riders. The camaraderie and bonding only increased my love and confidence in the sport. Its ok to not ride every ride with your husband/spouse/boyfriend etc. In fact, it's healthy to ride without each other and much can be learned on those separate rides, this only makes riding with your partner later on more fun.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I started with flats when on the mountain bike...mostly because I was used to riding smooth and flat roads. So, the thought of riding over rocks and uneven terrain clipped into my bike was just crazy. Now, I ride with clips...mostly because I love XC style riding and I feel more in control on descents and stronger on climbs when I have the full pull from the pedal. The style of riding you like to do I believe plays a big role in deciding clips vs. flats. There is much to be debated on this topic in the two-wheel world. I believe you just have to ride with what's comfortable for you. Some of the best riders in the world ride with flats and some ride with clips. You have to do you...

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
When I first started riding, I had a decent crash in Sedona on a horseshoe turn and broke my ankle. I didn't realize it was broken until three days later when I finally got an x-ray. I did not have to have surgery but it was a long 8 weeks to not be able to bike or run. I remember feeling very sorry for myself at one point and to be completely honest what got me out of this was the 2013 Boston Marathon. I watched this race on the day of, and as many of you know this was a terrible and unfortunately memorable year for this race. I watched the runners on my laptop and when the bombing occurred and the feed stopped, I followed along as best as I could with the news reports. I read and followed up on the injured runners who had lost a limb or were injured or killed. I immediately stopped my own pity party...I cried for those injured and could not imagine the recovery process both physically and mentally that these athletes would have to endure. So, point in the that each of us are blessed to be out doing what we love...whether that be running, biking, swimming, hiking…(insert your outdoor activity here). The point is to enjoy it because it isn't a right it's a gift.

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 had trouble riding drops and loose technical terrain...for me it took time and practice. I even attended a couple of mountain bike skills camps. Sometimes it's important to see what you are really doing on the bike when you ride. So taking some short video clips of what your bike and body are doing are great ways to analyze your form. I would feel that I have great bike/body separation but when I looked at myself riding I realized I was a very stiff rider and not as loose as I needed to be. Once, you can SEE what you're doing wrong, then you KNOW what needs to be corrected.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding.
Absolutely, I still can't do a manual and when I'm tired I have trouble riding loose, off cambered terrain. I feel that riding is a transient and fluid motion....some days I'm “sending it” and feeling strong and other days I'm getting off my bike and walking those same sections. When I'm having “bad” ride days...I try to focus on what I am enjoying about my ride. I love being outside and having the opportunity to even be able to get to ride my bike. I love the freedom it provides and how strong it makes me feel. Sometimes, this is all I have to give and its ok. I don’t have to be awesome at riding, it's my hobby and I have a day job that pays the bills. So, just ENJOY it!!!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that my bike keeps me healthy and fit and also makes me feel strong and empowered!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Juliana Furtado CC that I purchased for a steal from a friend. I love this bike for places like Moab and Sedona.

My XC MTB is a Liv Pique SX with XM 1501 DT Swiss wheels. This bike is very sentimental to me as is was the bike given to me from Liv Cycling and the bike that I completed the Cape Epic on.

My oldest bike is my Bianchi road very first bike ever! She’s about ten years old now and as heavy as a downhill bike but there is some nostalgia in this bike. I still ride this bike often as it sits on my Wahoo Kickr. One day, I plan to convert this bike into a single speed to give her new life on the road.

You were chosen as part of the Liv Trail Squad to participate at the Cape Epic, tell us why this opportunity was so special to you-
When I applied for the contest, I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be chosen. Things like this just don't happen to me. But I read the information and one of the recommendations was that you had to have a passion to get more women on bikes. I thought...I do this! I love doing this! So I decided to go for it...I worked with a great friend who helped me create my video and found out about two months later I was chosen for the Squad. The opportunity meant so much to me because it pushed me out of my own comfort zones and I met so many AMAZING women on this journey. The best part is hearing women's stories who have bought a bike and are getting out there and enjoying themselves, learning a new sport or fine-tuning an old one. I love to see these women progress and build confidence in themselves... tackle new obstacles on the bike and overcome fears! You can see it in their eyes, how much pride they have and I love seeing that in a woman.

I also learned much about myself on this journey with Liv Cycling. Trust me, completing a race such as the Cape Epic has never been on my bucket list or in my thoughts because I personally believed that I could not do a race like this. But, now I KNOW I am capable of more...this has actually changed my personal bucket list to include things that I know I can do. Like an Ironman!

For those who have no idea what the Cape Epic event is, can you tell us about the race and what it entails?
The Absa Cape Epic is an 8-day annual mountain bike stage race that takes place in the Western Cape. It has been accredited as hors categorie (beyond categorization) by the Union Cycliste International. First staged in 2004, the race typically covers more than 700 kilometres (435 miles) and lasts eight days - a prologue and seven stages. The race is completed in teams of two.

What was the best part of the Cape Epic for you?
There were so many amazing moments to this adventure it's hard to truly just pick one...many would say, the finish was the best part, which it truly was a feeling that is hard to put into words but It as a little anticlimactic and not what I think about when I think of the Cape Epic.

For me, the best moments were made up of the meat of the adventure...Stage 1 I felt so sick and was so sick, but to make it to the start line and pushing and pulling for 6+ hours and Kate and I figuring out how to get to the finish line together...the hardest day such as the Queens Stage and barely making the cutoff (30 min to spare) and just feeling so mentally and physically exhausted but knowing that you made it. Having your team and the other Liv girls there at the finish line to hug and help wipe your tears.

The best parts of the Cape Epic were more moments than anything….that's what I remember.

What was the most challenging part of the Cape Epic for you?
No doubt, the daily grind of the climbing. I thought I was a decent climber...but the Cape Epic does an excellent job of serving up a big ole slice of humble pie. I didn't think there was any terrain too technical at the Cape, even the Land Rover Technical terrain sections. The regions that I had to train for the cape epic (AZ, NV, CO, UT) all have similar terrain to what I experienced in South Africa. The Queens Stage had some pretty technical, loose single track that was super fun at first but after a while, it begins to wear you down. That's what made this stage though, it was 70+ miles of technical terrain with no easy miles...every pedal stroke was earned and worked for.

Are there more plans for the Liv Trail Squad this year?
As of now...we're all doing our own thing, in different countries with the same goal… motivating women to get out of their comfort zones...whether that be to ride a bike, start running or just taking the steps to try something new. Liv will be releasing video footage of our Epic journey at the Cape Epic in June. The Liv Trail Squad website also has more stories of the squad and blogs to motivate you to get out there!!

What do you love most about bike companies working to better support women riders?
Absolutely everything! But to be more specific, I truly appreciate the passion and time that these companies take to commit to research and development to fine-tune and create women-specific products. Women are so different anatomically...I know there are some women who prefer the fit of a mens bike but there are MANY women who can feel the difference when they get on a bike that was created for a woman. I, personally am on the extreme of short and I am thankful to know there are bikes that are made to fit my frame.

You are involved with your local IMBA chapter- why do you feel it is important for women to be part of their local trail organizations?
I believe as users of the trail, it is important for us to know what kind of work goes into the building and maintenance of your local trails. Being apart of your local IMBA chapter gives you a voice and provides a platform for cohesion amongst mountain bikers.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Having a bad First experience.

I feel the most important ride for a beginner is the FIRST RIDE. You can truly make or break an opportunity for someone depending on their perspective of their experience. Was it a good or bad experience? Most beginner women are already nervous to be trying something new, so if they come away from their first ride feeling frustrated and comparing themselves to experienced riders it can be demoralizing. I always tell beginners, “You do you...don't compare yourself to anyone else.

The concern that they slow other more experienced riders down or take away from their ride.

Read Section 3

Being out of mountain bike shape.

Mountain biking, in the beginning, is hard and can be a little painful on the legs and lungs. Let's face it, it is a demanding sport at times and being out of bike shape is tough. But this is where that whole patience and understanding come into play. The more one rides, the better and stronger we will get. Also, to the rider trying to get others out there, it is important to remember that we were all in the same boat at one time or another, so patience is key.

I don’t want to fall and get hurt.

Education and teaching about this sport is essential. Events like Red Bull Rampage have popularized the crazy downhill spectra of mountain biking and many women don't know there are other realms of this sport that don't require you to descend a mountain at warp speed.

Utilize resources to become a better rider to develop those skills and confidence on the bike. There are so many all-women mountain bike clinics and bike chapters that have beginner oriented rides. Take advantage of these!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Currently, there are big changes occurring industry wide on all platforms to get women more involved in this sport. I am a little biased as I have had the opportunity to be involved in Liv Cycling over the years, and this company has been completely dedicated to getting more women into this sport. I have seen pretty decent growth in bike companies and clothing companies that have begun to cater towards women. However, there is still much to be done! Industry-wise it would be great to see more

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
What inspires me is how much joy and growth I have gotten out of riding my bike. I feel that I am a better human because I ride my bike, lol! This may seem pretty cliche, but the years that I have been mountain biking I've met some really amazing people who have taught me patience and what a true love for a sport really is. I've learned to ENJOY what I'm doing and to be thankful for the opportunity. I've gained confidence in myself as an athlete and as a woman. I've been a beginner and went from walking down a street side curb in San Diego to clearing decent drops in Moab with ease. I've felt that pride in myself each time I've accomplished a goal on the bike I didn't think was possible and I love seeing this same excitement and joy on faces of women who are on the same or similar mountain bike journey.

I love seeing other women grow in this sport and watch them come from a ride saying, “I've never done that before...or I never rode that section before!” It truly makes me genuinely excited for them as I can recall those feelings for myself. One of my favorites is when a woman tells me she can't ride or that she's too old to do this sport; if my influencing powers are good enough I am able to get them on a GGR ride and they usually find out they actually CAN ride and thus begins their own journey of #bikelife! It's like reliving my own love and growth from the very beginning of my bike journey over and over again… It's really a gratifying and fulfilling experience to be able to empower women to push themselves out of their comfort zones and see them grow through this.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Hmmm….most random fact ever..when I was 12 years old I was in a Walker Texas Ranger episode. Many may not know this show but it was an epic series back in the day, starring Chuck Norris!!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

You Were the Light For Me to Find My Truth

It's been hard for me to write about life for a while because there has been so much on my mind about grief, processing, and general life stuff. However, I've had several folks tell me they appreciate me sharing my journey through loss and grief. So, here it goes.

Challenges have been:
I continually worry that people will get sick of me talking about how I'm feeling about the loss. The grief I'm really not allowing myself to feel right now. The general goings on of life.

Honestly, I feel incredibly boring right now. I am grateful for the friends who invite me on rides, sometimes I can make it work and sometimes I can't. I can't express in words how those invites make me feel. Thank you.

Another has been not relying on Travis too heavily to be my "rock" during this time because it's the busy season and frankly, there isn't time. Do you know how hard that is?

It's the busy season and business comes first- regardless if you suffered a major loss. It's your livelihood. It pays the bills and keeps a roof over your head. Some would say: "That's not true, family comes first!"

However, customers will not always see it the same way because time away means we're either closed OR it takes longer to get their bike back. Also, your partner hasn't gone through something quite so tragic and your coaster of emotions is something they can't quite understand.

It's frustrating when you feel like you're speaking a foreign language.
It's frustrating when you feel like you're a broken record.

I had to acknowledge my anxiety was getting to the point where it was feeling pretty rough. So, I decided to try an alternative to anti-depressants first. I did some research and am trying some products from CBD for Life. I was popping a lot of ibuprofen for pain/discomfort and got to the point where I decided that it wasn't good for me to keep doing that. Plus, if there was something that could help me ease the feeling of panic I had on a daily basis, that would be awesome.

The products have definitely helped. I've managed to not take ibuprofen for a couple weeks now, and my anxiety feels much more manageable. That alone makes me feel a bit better.

I also bought a blank journal, markers, and watercolor markers at Cardboard Robot to utilize in processing and feeling sharing when I'm not at a point where I'm ready to share it on here.

What else?
Well, I'll say that the reality of loss hits you once the life insurance premium comes.
I cried when I opened the envelope and saw the amount. It was a mixture of many emotions, and really I wanted to rip it up and tell it to f***off. I didn't want this. I want my Dad. Not money. It made me hate money.

My dad had multiple policies for accident insurance. I hope I know the right amount of policies. (I would imagine I'd figure it out eventually.) It's true. I would be taken care of. I just resent how I was financially taken care of when really, all I wanted was a close relationship with him from the start. He did what he did what he could.

The second is when you pay for the funeral home services- and you realize you sent the check a couple days before his birthday. Irony.

The third is when you get another life insurance check on his birthday.

The day before his birthday, I wanted to do what I felt would be a "tribute" ride. My goal was to ride 66 miles in one day. However, with everything I had already pre-scheduled, that would surely prove to be challenging. So a second goal was 52 (the year he was born.)
What came of the day wasn't what I had planned. The sky was beautiful and the temperature pleasant- after I got used to being in the saddle for more than a 6-mile mountain bike ride, it was good. Barrett and I rode together, chatted, and I'd sometimes break away to see how well I could attack a gravel roller. I felt positive for the first time this season pertaining to how I might fare at Chequamegon. Yes, gravel grinds were not happening for me like I thought they would, but I felt stronger than I thought I was.

I realized at the end of our ride, as we stopped by Luther College, my shoulder wasn't hurting in the front like it typically would after a ride. I felt strong. I felt great. I could ride 33 more miles! I'd have to do them solo, tho.

I opted to visit Travis and talk about the feeling of obligation over a "grand gesture" vs. the feeling I had of Dad really wanting me to enjoy the day with riding vs. making it some challenge or goal. I don't know if my dad really loved his birthday or not- I always try to make my birthday more special than an average day.

"Why am I pushing myself to do this long ride, when I had a great time on a long ride and feel good enough to mountain bike? I love mountain biking. Dad knows I love mountain biking. Wouldn't he like that, too?"
So, we decided that a great idea for a little "recovery" would be to visit Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Co. and get my first ice cream of the season. Mint Avalanche. I figured this would be the closest thing I could do to celebrate the life of someone I love, without committing myself to eat a whole pie. Dad loved pie. I think Banana Cream Pie was something he'd have Grandma make for him on his birthday. I love it, too...but not enough to make a whole pie. It was fun to hang out with Travis and not be at home or work...heck, we really weren't on our bikes (tho we did bike there.) A short break in the day for both of us- I enjoyed it immensely.

Then I went home so I could switch helmets and hit the trails.

It was glorious to be out on dirt, no concern over vehicles or dogs wanting to eat your leg for a snack. (Yes, we encountered a dog on River Road we had never seen before, and I found courage out of desperation to save myself from being bitten to yell "NO! GO AWAY!" as loud as I could. Channeling my inner "Dad"...a man who barely raised his voice, but when he did, you knew sh*t was going down. I was reminded as to why I've shied away from solo gravel grinds. I am anxious about dogs and traffic.)
The smells, the trees, the sound of my tire on the sticks and dirt. Climbing up Tombstone after biking 33+ miles already.
Hitting the 43 mile mark.
I felt I had made the right decision for my day- and as I snapped the picture of my bike on the Fred trail, I knew my Dad would be happy. He got quite the adventure. I finally put the keychain on my hip bag that has a tiny bit of his ashes, so he is getting out on rides with me now. Giving me strength, keeping me company, and wondering why I climb so much when it's really not my favorite- I'm just good at it.
On his actual birthday, we had a short ride where I finally rode up the Little Big Horn switchbacks perfectly for the first time this season. There was a tree on Upper Little Big Horn that had low branches, and my goal was to make it passable rather than having folks run into Freddy Kruger-like branches.

It was a lot of effort for someone of 5'2" with a bad shoulder and a small handsaw. The end result was positive, and I felt very accomplished- tho I worried if I would make my arm blow up. I'm a prideful person, and sometimes I can't help myself. I'll do what doesn't work for my body for the sake of proving that I give a damn about our local trails. I feel shame over what I'm unable to do, so sometimes I just "do" and hope for the best.

Thankfully, all I felt that morning was a sense of accomplishment, a job well-done, and physical tiredness that made me feel good. My body proved to be strong, as well as my mind- I was grateful to give Dad a tribute that involved several things he would enjoy, all of which were outdoors, and in those moments I felt close to him.

As I finish writing this, I had a dream last night where he was in it. In the storyline, he hadn't passed away, but I must not have seen him for a long while. I was having dinner at someone's house when he came in thru their back door. We ended up having the greatest, biggest, hug. It felt very real at the time. I think I finally got some sort of sign.