Monday, December 5, 2016

Women Involved: Lindsey Voreis

Earlier this year, Josie was able to meet Lindsey Voreis in person at a mini grit clinic held in the CAMBA area.

Josie left feeling more inspired and motivated than ever to continue her mission to encourage more women to ride off-road, thus, she wanted to reconnect with Lindsey to catch up with what all had changed since the first interview in 2014.

Lindsey, the Director of Inspiration, travels the world with Liv Ladies AllRide to inspire and help other women to find their #bikelife. Riding for Lindsey isn't just a fun way to pass the time, but it helped her get thru some tough patches in life. A true testament yet again to the power of two wheels and how they can be healing.

"The best part about mountain biking is what it does for your mind, body and spirit. It is not just a sport, it is a passion that enhances your whole world." - Lindsey Voreis
We interviewed you about two years ago, since then you have had many women's ride clinics- has everything stayed the same or have you found ways to improve the clinic environment?
We are constantly finding ways to improve the clinic environment. We want to make sure we're throwing events that invite women into the sport and help them fall deeper in love with mountain biking and the lifestyle that comes with it. We have adjusted our teaching techniques to include examples that relate to other sports to help ladies understand the sport better.

We were fortunate enough to attend one of your smaller grit clinics (it was awesome!) One thing we thought was neat was how you had everyone introduce themselves and share a bit about their #bikelife. Why do you feel it's important for folks to open up, even yourself? 
I think it's important to have ladies open up about why they mountain bike and what it's done for their lives because it loosens up the vibe. This gives women insight into other women's heads right away. Mountain biking has done something to enhance people's lives or they wouldn't be doing it or interested in it, so by putting that out on the table right from the get-go, it puts us all on the same page and helps everyone drop their egos and be equals. It also helps ladies see how mountain biking can be so much more than just riding a bike if they haven't thought of it that way yet.

How do you help take care of yourself and prevent burnout or exhaustion when you're living the life of a traveler and mountain bike coach? 
I am a healthy, clean eater for the most part. I try and have green drinks and lots of veggies all the time to fight viruses. I stay hydrated and get my 8-9 hours of sleep each night. I was born with boundless energy, so I'm pretty good at constantly moving.

What has been one of the biggest changes in your life since we talked with you in 2014 and how has that influenced you and your #bikelife?
One of the biggest changes has been starting my own brand of clinics with a new business partner from Bend. Ladies AllRide MTB clinics were born in Jan 2015 and my partner, Meredith is a dream come true. I have learned so much about working with the right people and how amazing women can be to work with when you have the right chemistry, passion and open communication. She's a dream come true for me and Ladies AllRide.

When it came to creating your own brand of clinics, what would you say was the biggest challenge?
There are so many details that go into running an event. When I first started branding clinics with the AllRide name, I co-branded with a woman in Colorado and she did the coordinating and ran the clinics. When we parted ways due to a sponsor conflict I didn't know who was going to run the events for me. Details and organization are not my strong suit. Finding the right partner who understood my mission, was easy to work with and allowed me to take on my strengths seemed like it would be a challenge. But luckily I found my partner Meredith right away and she was the perfect fit from the get-go! However, it took a year and a half, and another partner, Summer, to work out kinks and get the program up and running smoothly. It's not an easy feat to run so many events in different parts of the country. I'm so lucky I found my soul-partners!
What do you love most about having your own brand of clinics? Was there an element missing from the original clinics you held that you are now able to incorporate? 
It's actually easier to just show up and coach for someone else's event!! ha! What I love about having our own brand is we get to choose who we work with and the team we've put together makes me smile every single day. When I taught for other clinics in the past I felt like there was an emotional component missing. I didn't feel like I was connecting with anyone beyond doing drills on my bike with them. It's hard to put a finger on why exactly, but I believe the vibe at our clinics is unbeatable AND our instructors are some of the best and most experienced in the business.

What do you hope to accomplish with your clinics during the next few years? 
I hope to attract more women into this sport with our clinics. I hope people taking the clinics are telling their friends who don't know about mountain biking that there is a way in and we're it! I hope to gain recognition globally as THE place to come if you want to connect deeper with the sport of mountain biking, meet women to ride with and have your minds blown at what you can do on a bike!

What would you say is your greatest achievement with your brand/clinics? 
I could say the greatest achievement is selling out every clinic last year before June without much marketing. That is a HUGE accomplishment and I'm very proud of that. But I'm mostly proud of the team I get to work with, what they've taught me, what I've taught them and the reach we collectively have to get more women stoked on bikes! I'm also really proud to be supported by such amazing companies like Liv, SRAM and so many more. It's unreal.

Truth time! When you first started out mountain biking, what were some of the technical skills that challenged you? What helped? 
When I first started mountain biking going fast scared me. Any steep downhills with ruts in them scared me and I would get off and carry my bike down them. This usually resulted in falling and getting tangled up in my bike. What helped was learning how to ride from my feet and maneuver my front end with my hands instead of just braking and holding on for dear life.

Is there any technical mountain bike skill that still challenges you today?
I would love to hold a wheelie and manual longer than I can. I would love to bunny hop higher and have more confidence and style jumping tables.

When it comes to folks new to mountain biking, what would you say are the top 5 essentials that one should look into for products/tools/etc.
Hmmm, I think good clothing for comfort, a good helmet and shoes. A bike that is comfortable and well-built that is set up properly for the rider. The things to think about these days are wider bars are more stable than narrower bars. A shorter stem is more stable than a long stem and a seat dropper will help you stay balanced and centered over the bike on downhills and in technical terrain at speed.

Where has your favorite place to mountain bike been while you traveled during 2016?
Favorite place is a loaded question. I love to ride my bike and part of the joy is experiencing different types of trails all over the world. I love red rocks and shelf riding like in Sedona and Moab. I love the zippy fun trails in Copper Harbor, MI, I love the DH trails at Snowshoe MT and I love the riding at Kingdom trails and East Burke, Vermont and the trails in Brevard, NC are pretty rad. Sweet trails are being built all over the US so it's an exciting time to be a traveling mountain biker!

What has been the most influential moment for you during one of your clinics? How did it inspire you?
I am influenced and inspired at every clinic. Seeing ladies face fears and do things they didn't think they could do fuels me and inspires me to keep doing what I'm doing. When I hear ladies' stories of perseverance, or any life-changing affect mountain biking has had on them, it inspires me. When women express to me that their lives are changed because of the clinic, that inspires me more than anything to continue on my mission to educate more women about the power of mountain biking.

What would you like women to know about the Ladies AllRide clinics and what can they expect when they attend one?
I would like women to know these events are all about bringing ladies together to play on bikes. No matter what level, from brand new, to advanced racer, our clinics offer something for everyone. Instead of attending races to meet more like-minded people who love bikes, we are creating events centered around learning as a meeting place for women who love bikes and women who don't know they love bikes yet. :)

What do you feel industry wise and/or locally can be done to encourage more women to be involved with cycling and the cycling industry?
I think Liv is doing a great job with their ambassador program around the world. Women need to be invited into this sport. It's really hard to assume they'll decide to try it on their own one day, they need an invite. The Liv ambassadors are out there to create inviting women's events to help women get into the sport in a non-intimidating way. I also think brands are making more products for women and it's making the industry feel less intimidating and more inviting to women. It's happening and I'm so proud to be a part of it!

In your own words, why should more women get involved with mountain biking and why is it such a positive thing to be involved with?
I could go on and on about this... Basically mountain biking is a physically demanding sport that can be scary and intimidating. When women put themselves in scary situations, then find the strength to seek first to understand the situation and how to get through it, then accomplish it, it can literally change lives. A sport like mountain biking teaches us how to think differently, how to choose our thoughts carefully to keep us moving forward, how to allow only positive thoughts in to create positive outcomes. Mountain biking is the best at teaching us about ourselves and how to handle life.

Last question- if you were to ride anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I get to ride almost anywhere in the world! :) I guess bucket list places would be New Zealand and Scotland. :) I'll get there.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Women Involved Series: Jane Quinn

My name is Jane Quinn and I'm lucky enough to live in Bend, Oregon and to work at Pine Mountain Sports. I am the Apparel buyer, I work on the shop floor, and I am Program Coordinator for our Dirt Divas women's mountain biking program. I'm also a PMBI certified mountain bike coach. Managing the Dirt Divas program has been an utter joy. To hear shrieks of excitement and to see tears of joy when a woman accomplishes something she didn't think possible on her mountain bike... there's just nothing like it.

I feel very fortunate to live the life I live, especially considering I started my career out in the corporate world. Taking that leap of faith and following my heart into the outdoor industry when I knew literally NOTHING about it feels like a huge accomplishment, though at the time many people questioned my sanity! I have a passion for outdoor education and recently got certified as a Level 1 Avalanche instructor. I also have a passion for long-distance mountain bike racing, with my favorite event being the 24-hour mountain bike race.

Tell us about your #bikelife discovery and how it changed your life-

I rode bikes quite a bit as a child, but once I got focused on ballet and playing musical instruments, biking fell by the wayside. My first mountain bike ride was on a black diamond trail in Montana with some shop co-workers. I was not intimidated, but I definitely was also not skilled, and nearly broke my arm underestimating the technicality of a tricky switchback followed by a little rock drop. No one even really warned me about it... Despite getting bruised and battered that first ride, I fell SO IN LOVE with mountain biking. I loved that you have to remain really focused on what you're doing. I loved that you could cover so much more ground in a faster period of time than you could hiking or trail running. And I REALLY loved the challenge of LEARNING how to mountain bike. Although I'm very active overall, mountain biking has definitely become my favorite thing to do, and I get so much joy out of getting other women into the sport as well. It's becoming such an outlet for me in so many ways, I don't know where I'd be today without mountain biking.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
My favorite event by far is racing solo in 24-hour mountain bike races. I LOVE the challenge, it's taken me years to develop a strategy, and I tweak that strategy with every new such race. I enjoy it because the challenge is both mental and physical, and I absolutely adore racing singletrack at night with a good lighting system. It's such a rush to go as fast as you can at night, sometimes with a full moon, sometimes when it's incredibly dark. I also love how less "agro" 24-hour races are. I often have conversations with people if I'm on their wheel or they are on mine. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging, and it's much less cut-throat. Until you realize you have enough time to do one more lap and there is someone on your heels! I currently hold the course record for women in the local Oregon 24 (though I did not win it this year despite my best efforts in overcoming the difficulty of my bike breaking).

What suggestions would you give to someone who is on the fence about participating in their first event?
I have a couple suggestions. One would be to get a friend to sign up with you, so that you can do it together and put less pressure on yourself. If you can't convince anyone to race with you, it's important to set goals but to not put too much pressure on yourself. Things happen on race day that are out of your control, and you can't let that bring you down, even if it means not finishing the race. Focus on knowing that you did the best you could to prepare before race day, and on race day just be proud of yourself for having the guts to be at the start line. All the training you did will pay off, and if something unexpected happens like an upset stomach, dehydration, or a flat that makes the race that much harder, take it in stride and just do your best. The first event is ALL about having a positive experience and NOT AT ALL about winning.

Do you have suggestions for folks looking to participate in a high-mileage/endurance event? Preparing for a high-mileage/endurance event is all about getting the in the miles. There's so much training information out there, that trying to research it can be overwhelming. It's about becoming very familiar with your body, learning how to listen to what it's telling you, and putting your race-day strategy in terms of hydration and nutrition through it's paces over and OVER prior to event day. It's imperative that you learn what works and what doesn't work FOR YOU prior to race day in order to avoid a DNF. It's also a little bit about becoming comfortable with a certain level of pain and discomfort. These are tough events, mentally and physically and there will be a point where you consider quitting. Learn about yourself in terms of what motivates you and use that to help pull you through those tough moments. What motivates me is setting personal goals for myself and racing MYSELF, not necessarily other racers. Other things that help from a comfort perspective: a really good saddle (they can be spendy but SOOOO worth it), a really good chamois, and perhaps Ergo grips for a mountain bike event (I use them for 24-hour events so that I can dissipate the pressure on my hands and also change up my hand positioning because... for 24-hour events it's REALLY hard to keep your core engaged in order to keep the pressure off of your hands!!) Lastly, it's really important to recover well, stretch those muscles that you're working so hard, and do activities that balance all of that cycling so that you don't lead yourself into an injury. Especially an overuse injury. I learned that overuse injuries take twice as long to heal as they do to present themselves, which can be a scary thought given how long they sometimes take to present themselves.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? 
Oh heck yes!! Just bursting with excitement and kind of in disbelief that it took me that long to go on a mountain bike ride! Also, because it's kind of my nature, just a little bit competitive and feeling like I wanted to prove something from the perspective of athleticism.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it? 
I honestly don't recall being nervous. There are rides after that where I remember getting butterflies and feeling slightly nervous, but for me that's all part of the experience. MOUNTAIN BIKING IS EXCITING! I think nerves can work to your advantage because it can keep you more alert and I feel like it improves my reaction time. The one down side I notice is that being nervous can make me feel stiff and locked up. So when I notice that, I will have a mantra in my head like "Stay loose. Loosey Goosey." and I will intentionally be more playful on my bike, practicing level lifts and trying to jib off of small features.

Clips or flats? What is your preferred pedal and why? 
It 100% depends on what and why I'm riding. If I'm cross-country riding or racing I will ride clipless for that little bit of extra pedal efficiency and the confidence that my feet are solid on the pedals. If I'm enduro racing or riding to practice skills, or coaching, I will ride flats. It's so nice to be able to throw a foot out/down when you need to. And learning how to pressure your bike without relying on being clipped into your pedals is HUGE in terms of building skills and confidence. My preferred clipless pedal is the Crank Brothers Candy. Especially for riding in different terrain where mud/snow can impede the ability to clip-in on SPDs. My flat pedals are Canfield, and it's a really low profile pedal so it's light and there's slightly less there to contribute to a pedal strike.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome? 
Ha! I'm working on overcoming one right now! There's a rock-drop on one of our local trails that is my nemesis. I either land it really "squirrely" or I totally crash. It's really hard to get good speed going into it, and trying to roll it sometimes works but I'd rather launch it! In terms of healing, it depends on how bad the crash, but icing is always my first remedy. Depending on where the injury is, I will still be active to keep the blood flowing through the area of injury. As far as overcoming, it's again about putting in the time. Pushing yourself to "take it up a notch" and ride a technically challenging feature cleanly requires dedication and practice. I'll have my husband or ride partner take videos of me and compare with the videos I have of them. I will work on a similar feature that is slightly smaller to build confidence and to really know that I have the body mechanics dialed. Mountain biking is about progression, so you master the maneuver on something with smaller consequence before you take it to something with greater confidence.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them? 
Switchbacks and technical climbing. For switchbacks, the keys are entering wide and looking at the exit as soon as possible. Entering wide helps you complete the turn without ending up so close to the outside/downside of the switchback, so it's a little less scary if there's a lot of exposure. Looking at the exit of the turn helps keep you focused on where you want to be, not on the awkwardness of being in the middle of a switchback. It also helps get your shoulders and upper body into a tight turning position to help you complete the turn. For technical climbing, it's all about body positioning and remaining dynamic on the bike. Depending on the terrain it helps to either scoot your butt up onto the nose of the saddle and to let the bars come up to your chest. Sometimes bringing your elbows close to your sides can aid in letting the bars come up to your chest. For more technical features you may need to get comfortable getting out of the saddle and figuring out where your weights needs to be so that the rear tire doesn't spin out. If it's a step-up, you'll be surprised how far over and in front of the handlebars you need to be to get up over the feature. I learned to demonstrate this by using a picnic table, and putting the front wheel of a bike on the bench of the picnic table. Then I balance the bike and have a rider mount the bike, place the pedals in a level position to the rider can get off the saddle, and then tell her to get as far forward over the bars as she needs to be to be able to take her hands off of the bars and balance. It's a huge learning experience to help the rider grasp how aggressive and forward the need to be.
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 bigger drops and I will ALWAYS be working on cornering. Technical climbing that involves lots of step-ups and doesn't let up wears me out and frustrates me. I finally understand that it's all about progression. Cornering takes a lot of practice, and I love following someone's wheel who is really good at cornering so that I can copy their body articulation while keeping in mind the key points of cornering technique. It works better for me to follow a woman than a guy too, because I feel like women exaggerate more and I can see the articulation better. Drops for me are all about starting small and building confidence and working my way up. It's very mental for me too - I will do fine on a drop that has a straight entrance without many things distracting my visibility. But if a drop from the same height is after a tight corner where it's difficult to build speed before launching, and if it's tight and there are rocks that diminish the visibility of the take-off and landing that really screws with me. I'll usually give something three tries before I let it go and keep moving. If I keep trying and failing then I just get frustrated and my body tenses.

What do you love about riding your bike? 
I love the feeling of freedom. I love that you can sometimes zone out on buff trail and get lost in your thoughts while other times on tough technical trail you can't think about anything else but the here-and-now and are forced to be solely focused on the trail and where you are putting your bike. I love that mountain biking will always challenge me and I love that mountain biking brings people together in a way that nothing else quite can.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them? 
Oh geez. It's been an interesting journey from being the girl who worked at a bike shop but still didn't own her own bike. I always wondered how anyone ever got to the point where he/she had a "quiver" of bikes. BUT... the newest addition is the Trek Remedy 9.8 WSD (her name is Kandy). She's a loaner for now (I might buy her though...) from Trek because I was picked along with 55-ish other women across the country to advocate to get more women on bikes. This bike is SUPER fun on steep technical downhills and still climbs pretty well for a bigger bike. I pretty much have perma-grin when I ride it. I chose it because I started dipping my toes into Enduro racing this year, and this is the perfect Enduro bike for me. My staff bike as a shop employee is the Juliana Furtado. It's a jack-of-all-trades kind of bike and I also have perma-grin when I ride it. I chose it because even though I rode the Roubion last year, the changes in geometry were such that this year when I rode the Furtado, it just felt like an extension of my body where-as I was overthinking too much when I rode the re-vamped Roubion and it didn't feel as versatile as the Furtado. My XC race bike is the Trek Superfly 9.8. That thing has served me well through more miles than I can count (Seven 24-hour races, one 100-mile race, and I'm not sure how many average distance MTB races, and all the training rides in-between). It's fast and light and handles great. Oh yeah, her name is Rocky. I also have a Trek Rig, which is a single-speed 29-er. Some seasons I ride it more than others, but it's great to force yourself to get out of the saddle and work a little harder. It's great for training and it just breaks up the monotony a little bit because it's a hardtail. And lastly, I have a Trek Boone. It's a cyclocross bike, but so far (sadly) it has only seen one true cyclocross race. I've raced in a couple hard-core long-distance gravel grinders and I use it as a commuter and as a training bike for endurance events.

You work at Pine Mountain Sports as the apparel buyer- being involved in the industry, what do you feel is the most fascinating thing you've learned so far?
Wow, that's a really great question. It all revolves around building and maintaining relationships. I think having only worked at brick-and-mortar shops (none, to minimal online sales), it's interesting to work with different vendors and learn their philosophies, especially when it comes to whether and how much they support their retailers. For instance, working in specialty outdoor shops is awesome because the staff all knows the products extremely well and we go to GREAT efforts to educate our customers, which you think would be something vendors would value and support but that's not always the case. For me the whole process of developing strong and mutually beneficial relationships with our vendors is fascinating. On that same note of building relationships, it's also fascinating to finally work at a shop whose owner is such an intelligent and forward-thinking business man. His foresight has gained us new customers and has solidified existing customer relationships. He understands that the core of our success is excellent and unmatched customer service. He also understands our community's values and has demonstrated that in big ways, like by installing solar panels on the roof last summer and by installing two electric car charging stations this summer. He's the first among our local competitors to be so proactive and it's inspiring.

What do you enjoy about being a woman involved in the outdoor/cycling industry?
Well, perhaps contrary to what you normally hear (or maybe not?) a little bit of that has been the challenge of proving myself. I hear a decent amount of complaining about being a woman in the industry and yes I've had periods of struggle, but it's made me stronger and it's increased my confidence in my ability. I've earned a lot of opportunities in this industry and I'm happy to say that I get treated with a lot of respect from my boss, my co-workers, our customers, and other companies within the industry with whom I've established solid relationships.
I DO love how female focused the industry is becoming. I love that Trek is grabbing the bull by the horns and insisting that their dealers be more proactive in hiring women and in welcoming and educating potential female customers. I also love being given the opportunity to be part of the movement as a Trek Advocate, where I can use my skills and my relationships to host events that empower women through mountain biking.

Tell us what inspired you to become a certified mountain bike coach-
It all started when I met Meredith Brandt, who owned and operated Grit Clinics (which is now folded into the Liv Ladies Allride program). She was familiar with the Dirt Divas women's mountain biking program that I ran and she asked me if I'd be interested in helping with her weekend ladies' clinics. I was a little nervous but after that first weekend of helping women do things on a mountain bike that they never thought they could do, I was hooked. I'd also taken a free 2-hour clinic from Lindsey Voreis around that same time and was blown away by her passion and her ability to communicate and CONNECT. I started volunteering and then coaching for Lindsey's Allride clinics, and right when she and Meredith partnered, there was an opportunity to get a PMBI certification in Bend, so I jumped at it.

What has been your most inspirational moment as a coach?
Honestly I get the same amazing and joyful feeling every time someone looks at something that they think they can't do, or that they've tried unsuccessfully to do, and then I help them to do it. It's just awesome to be able to celebrate their accomplishments with them and to help them understand their capability. Every weekend clinic that I help coach is inspirational both for the progression that the women make throughout the weekend and also for the support that we all offer each other. I've never experienced anything like it. Tears of joy are pretty common.

Tell us about the Dirt Divas program and how women can join-
The Dirt Divas program began in the spring of 2011 with the goal to empower women through mountain biking. We started out offering two group rides per month and one in-store clinic. As the program evolved we started offering ladies shuttle rides through Cog Wild, small group evening skills sessions at a local bike park, and night rides with demo lights available. We are constantly striving to improve the program and to get more women on bikes! This year we had our largest group ride ever, with 95 ladies showing up to ride the singletrack out at Phil's trail head, which is a nice sub-3 mile warm-up ride from the shop. Women can learn about the program through this Pine Mountain Sports web site link: Dirt Divas. Currently there is no cost to join the program, but certain events may require a fee. There is an RSVP and waiver process associated with any ride event we hold. Also, most group rides offer 4 rider ability levels, while other ride events may be offered to a specific rider ability level.

You were chosen as a Trek Women's Advocate for 2017, tell us what it means to you to have been one of the few chosen to be an Advocate?It means a lot... more than I can really express. I pour my heart and soul into everything and there are times when I questions why, and I don't want to say that being selected as an advocate is THE REASON why, but it just feels nice to know that I have amazing support and that people recognize the importance of these programs.

What do you hope to accomplish next year as a Trek Women's Advocate?
My goal for the Dirt Divas program is the same, whether as a Trek Advocate or not, and that is to ALWAYS work to improve the program and stick to its core value, which is to empower women through mountain biking. I do hope for the Dirt Divas to support the community more through at least one new event, which will be the Cancer BikeOut held usually on the first weekend of October every year here in Bend. As a Trek Women's Advocate and as the Director of the Dirt Divas program, the common goal is MORE WOMEN ON BIKES!

Why do you feel programs for women and mountain biking are vital? 
I think that a lot of women underestimate themselves and find the concept of mountain biking intimidating. Our program targets beginner and intermediate level riders and strives to provide an overwhelmingly positive experience. Mountain biking is FUN and if it is presented in a non-threatening way and in a supportive environment, we've seen that women can and will fall in love with mountain biking! I think these programs are vital for helping women understand their true capability, and also from a shop perspective to bring more customers into the shop.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
The most obvious deterrent is cost. Bikes are getting more and more expensive, especially mountain bikes. From my own personal experience with a background as a trail runner, buying a new pair of trail running shoes is a much smaller pill to swallow than throwing down for a full suspension mountain bike. It comes down to looking at it more as investment in a healthy lifestyle and a new, amazing experience and opportunity to grow. As mentioned, the other deterrent, especially for mountain biking is the intimidation factor. I talk to a lot of women who tried mountain biking with their significant other and felt too much pressure. So much pressure that it was not fun. Although I love mountain biking with my husband, I've had my share of frustrating moments where I just didn't want to do it anymore! It's important to have that FUN, relaxed environment where you can push yourself if you WANT to, or just be supported and to support others.

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

I feel the cycling industry as a whole is still a little bit hesitant to welcome women into the fold. Things have gotten A LOT better, but there's still some improvement needed. As a shop employee, and having been to Trek World, I think they have the right idea about embracing women, both as customers and as employees. They have a women's advocate program of which I am a part, and they are very adamant about having a female staff presence among their dealers. I feel very fortunate that my shop employs a nice percentage of women, but I walk into other shops where that is not the case. From an industry perspective I'm happy to see that in addition Trek, other bike brands have a women's ambassador program that strives to support women's cycling programs through their dealers, like Liv (Giant) and Juliana Bicycles. From a local perspective, since the inception of Dirt Divas in 2011 to now, there are numerous other shops in town that also offer women-focused events and rides. Providing a positive and welcoming experience to women in bike shops and at events is key to getting women involved.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride? 
I think my Dad instilling the idea in me that I'm capable and I can do anything I put my mind to inspires me to encourage women to ride. Once the confidence is there, it's the most joyful activity because it takes you back to your childhood... riding around the neighborhood with your friends... it just makes you feel like a kid again and puts a huge smile on your face. And again, helping women build confidence on a bike can empower those women to face and tackle their fears in life as well.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I played violin, flute and sang in a semi-professional Eastern European Folk Ensemble called The Tamburitzans for a partial scholarship when I was in college. We played over 100 shows per year while managing a full coarse load. It taught me so much about communication, performing under pressure, and responsibility.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Exploring New Trails- Winona, MN (Holzinger)

Right around the time we made plans to explore the HPT trails in La Crosse, WI we were told that we should go to Winona, MN and see what they had to offer. So, back-to-back riding Tuesdays ensued!

The trip to Winona, MN from Decorah was an easy one. The drive was simple and not complicated- which gives extra points for the destination.

We got an address for a trail head/parking spot and getting there was relatively easy. On a Tuesday there was ample parking and the port-a-potty was well-stocked and mostly empty. (Yay!)

There was a large kiosk with a trail map at the trail head, but you also found smaller kiosks around which we thought were great and super helpful. I still haven't quite mastered the MTB Project app, but I had downloaded map on my phone and Travis has good navigational skills where I am lacking.

We found that the trails were very similar to ours and less rocky in areas than La Crosse. We really enjoyed the Wildwood section of trails, tho for me I had anxiety over some of the bridges we had to cross. That's a personal thing on my account and it's a work in progress- but the bridges were well made and wide.

The overlooks were beautiful, however the first one we came to apparently was a nesting ground for Asian Beetles. As soon as we stopped so I could try to get a photo, I kept feeling the wee pinches of the beetles biting me. We decided it wasn't worth the effort and continued on. We found other overlooks that were lovely even tho the fall leaves hadn't really changed yet.

I rode my Salsa Spearfish, Gaston, and was pleased with the choice. Ideally, I should've ridden him in La Crosse, but I wanted to have more time on the Procaliber. The Spearfish was excellent for the terrain, which in some areas was pretty rocky, like on the Quarry trail! There was a good amount of leaf cover, but you could tell where you were going. The only downside of the leaves was the moisture they had- but we have that in Decorah, too, so it's not a huge deal. The bike was able to handle it well given the tire pressure and circumstances. A plus bike would've been a great choice as well for some of the trails. If I get the opportunity to go back before the leaves fall next season I would like to try riding the Procaliber on the trails.

Quarry was a challenging trail, really it was the most challenging one we rode. I enjoyed parts of it, even tho there were areas I either didn't feel confident riding or simply wasn't skilled enough to ride. I wasn't able to make it up a rocky climb, but I looked down at it and thought "Gosh, I want to try and ride this because it scares me." So we set up camp for me to ride down it...and my front tire hit a rock, completely stopping me. What ensued was nothing short of a comedy film and I yelled to Travis that I was okay but "Don't look!" and "Don't come up here!"

So I gave it another go, successfully making it, and opted to ride down it a couple more times for good measure. In Decorah we don't have a rocky downhill quite like that where I can work on skills that would make me more confident on similar trails elsewhere. So I took advantage and tried to desensitize myself as much as I could in a short period of time. I did feel nauseous a couple times, but my last run down the rock-laden hill was the smoothest and I felt damn proud. Okay! Time to move on!

There was another steeper hill we eventually came to which had a weird root poking out from under the leaves. Travis said for me to make sure to lean back, which had me instinctively stop to look and assess what was coming up. I'm a cautious rider and I like to know what's up- so I walked back to a spot to give me a better go towards the downhill...and I hit the root wrong. So I had to go back and do it again.

We had a fun downhill back to the rollers and rode a double-wide, smooth trail down and back to our parking area. That was super awesome!

If you enjoy Decorah, you will most definitely like what Winona has to offer for trails. They may not have oodles of mileage for them, but what they have are well-built and I feel, well marked. You do have a bit of climbing to get to the top, but as in Decorah- the climbs are well worth the effort. The views are beauteous and you'll have a mix of intermediate and advanced riding which is sure to please.

The second best part of the day? A random trip to the Starbucks in Target which had the option of using almond milk in specialty coffee drinks. If you're happy to have something besides beer for your post-ride beverage, I highly recommend the salted caramel mocha frappuccino!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Larissa Fitchett

If you're riding a mountain bike anywhere within a half mile of where I am also riding you will know it. You will know because I cannot help myself but to giggle, squeal and laugh my way down pretty much any trail, and I think that pretty much sums up my relationship with the #bikelife.

To find a pastime that fills you with so much joy it cannot be contained, that simultaneously challenges you and rewards you with the luxury of getting to see some of the most beautiful natural places around you is pretty special.

To turn that pastime into a career has been hard for me to wrap my head around, and still is.

That's exactly what happened in June of 2016 when I was able to pack up my high school math classroom and turn in my keys to become a full time professional cross country racer.

Now, one year into 'just racing my bike' I am still overwhelmed with gratitude for those who made this happen and bewilderment at the fact that this is my life. I have raced in 6 countries, competed in 6 world cups, won the US Pro XCT series, and competed with team USA at XC world championships. All of these dreams are dreams I didn't know I had 10 years ago, but the bike gave me something big to get excited about and work for. At the end of the day though, I am still just a girl who gets a kick out of riding a bike, up or down hill.

Tell us about the discovery of your #bikelife!
I have been riding mountain bikes for as long as I can remember. During my childhood the bike was a way to seek freedom and independence, to explore the state park behind my parent’s house and spend as much time in nature as possible. In college at UC Davis though I discovered road racing, and happened to be kinda good at it. Through collegiate cycling I met my husband, and when his job at Felt bikes forced us to relocate to Southern California I switched to mainly mountain bike racing. #bikelife shaped my life from being a gawky teenager to a collegiate racer, to pro XC racer, a bike has always been in my life, and gradually took over year after year to the point where it is my livelihood.
Rather than being deterred by the challenges that surely came with learning to ride off-road, why did you aspire to conquer them?
When I was a kid it felt so important to keep trying to clean that one rock garden on Spring Creek trail in Annadel state park every summer morning riding with my sister. Although we both struggled so much when we first rode that trail, we both somehow knew that one day we might be able to clean the whole thing, and we had all the time in the world to commit to trying day after day during lazy hot summer days in jr high and high school. We didn’t know then that the persistence we demonstrated was the number one characteristic that would later shape my professional cycling career, but it was never a question to give up, we just kept trying. I think this attitude is the reason I have never given up when facing challenges, because it has always been part of who I am to keep trying, over and over. Being stupid competitive also helps; you better believe that sister and I were both striving to beat the other to be the first to ride the whole trail without putting a foot down :)

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?

This is super tough question because if you ask me at the finish line of any race I will say they are all the best race ever, but if I had to choose just one it would have to be the Annadel XC hosted by Bike Monkey. This race takes place on my home town trails, which are seriously fun, sometimes techy, sometimes screaming fast and super pretty, and is one big loop so you get to ride tons of fun trail! It’s put on by an incredible group of people who have every detail dialed and make the whole weekend stress free and fun from reg to the post race atmosphere. Proceeds of the race go towards saving the state park it’s held in, and this is so important to me, because I learned how to ride a mountain bike in those valleys and on those ridges, under those trees and swimming in that lake. AND they have by far the best free post race Paella you have ever tasted! Cherry on top is racing with hundreds of amazing people, most of whom live in my hometown Santa Rosa, CA.

Do you have any suggestions for those who are on the fence on whether they should compete in an event?
Racing doesn’t have to be for everyone, I think it’s perfectly ok to enjoy #bikelife without ever toeing a start line. BUT if you’ve never competed and have the opportunity to race then set an achievable goal and focus on what is important, getting the opportunity to ride bikes (possibly in a new place) with cool people. If things don’t go well, you are still riding bikes! Also try to do one lap of the course if you can in the week before the event. Knowing where tricky rocks and stuff are makes is so much less stressful on race day.

What is the most important thing you've learned about yourself since you started racing?
This is really deep, haha, but I learned in the past 4 years that I don’t take disappointment well, and that has been something I have been working on so so hard. Racing bikes can be a mega roller coaster of good and then tragic things happening and you really need to ride each wave of good and survive each depth of the lows knowing that things always change (for better or worse) so no matter how bad things seem now, they will get better. I let the lows get me down a lot, and it’s been such a great life lesson that I shouldn’t let them bring me down so much.

Who or what was the biggest motivation for becoming a professional racer?
My husband told me at the end of my first year racing that I needed to upgrade to pro. When I resisted because I was afraid I would never win a race again he said ‘I can buy you trophies if that’s what you are after’. So he basically shamed me into racing pro. Then after a year of racing regionally he pressured me into traveling to compete in the PRO XCT races all over the country because he thought if I was traveling I wouldn’t want babies… we have a very healthy relationship :) Brendan is my biggest supporter though, he has always believed I was strong enough to compete on the World Cup level and when I was first starting out he traveled to all my races and wrenched on my bikes/fed me bottles during races. He always encouraged me to give it everything I had and told me I was good enough to leave my day job to pursue cycling, basically I wouldn’t be here without his encouragement and support.

What would you like folks to know about being a pro racer? Is there a common misconception some may have about what it means?
Ooofa, this is a weird one. It seems like a dream job and in many ways it is, but there is so much nuance to wrap your mind around and a huge portion of the job itself is about mental strength, maybe as much as physical strength. When I was teaching and racing most of the time I didn’t have a choice in how much I was able to train and recover, but as soon as I became a full time bike racer I was overwhelmed with constantly wondering if I was doing things right, resting enough, training enough, doing enough yoga, core, sleep… or doing too much of all these things! Having the mental strength to trust what you are doing is HUGE and even though it seems like the job is pretty easy/straightforward, it can be incredibly stressful because of this (at least for me, maybe everyone else things this isn’t an issue!).
Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
My first real mountain bike ride was in Soquel Demonstration Forest on Braille trail with my now husband then boyfriend on a super crappy frankenstein bike and I was TERRIFIED! I kept thinking Brendan didn’t value my life to take me down such a steep, technical trail, and I broke up with him maybe 7 times on the ride (in my head because I was alone the whole time since everyone else was way faster than me). At the end I think I was pretty stoked to have lived and then I got hooked on that ‘I survived!’ feeling.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I think I was too naive to be nervous. Had I know what I was in for I would have been pretty scared, but nope, just thought we were going for a spin in the woods, haha.

Clips or flats? What do you like and what has worked for you?

I always hear that riding flats will make you a much better rider, but I have ridden clipped in my whole life and I am honestly a little scared to try flats. I’m mostly scared about how much harder the climbing will be, but I want to try it out sometime! Clips just works because it’s all I know!

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 crashed between intervals this year the Wednesday after my first UCI win and thought I broke my arm, that was a doozy. I had so much confidence and power coming out of the Fontana race and to crash and be injured for the next few races was really hard physically and mentally. The hardest part was knowing if racing the following Saturday was the right thing to do, and then pushing through the pain in my arm during the race was also a rough experience. A lot was riding on those races following Fontana so I used the series points to motivate myself and it was also a great test of whether I was the type of athlete who is willing to suffer extra physical pain to make it happen, and I’m glad I went to the start line the following Saturday and gave it my all despite the injury.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?

Everything! Haha, well, I started riding with people who were WAY more skilled than me so I felt like I sucked at everything except climbing fire road. I never really focused on improving individual skills, but I spent a lot of time watching the rider in front of me, and trying to copy where they went and how their body moved. This is probably the slowest way to learn to ride well, but I had a great time riding with a ton of different, rad people!

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?

I would say right now I am most intimidated by slippery muddy rooty riding because I live where it never rains, so I don’t get to practice it much. In races where I have to face these conditions I focus on the learning experience over feeling like I HAVE to master it and then crashed and slip ups in the race don’t stress me out as much. The World Cup in Le Bresse France was a great example of this, I pushed myself despite the crazy slick conditions, crashed A LOT, but I had a great time and learned a lot!

What do you love about riding your bike?
Mostly getting to see new places, being in nature and getting a workout at the same time. But the thing I love the most about mountain biking is that feeling you get when you ride a really scary obstacle you have always been afraid of before for the first time, that feeling is amazing!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Right now I’m riding 3 bikes on a regular basis, my Felt F1 road bike, Felt Edict FS mountain bike and Felt Decree trail bike. The F1 is like a freakin rocket ship, seriously the fastest road bike I’ve ever been on. It’s so snappy and quick I feel like I have super human speed on it, and I often ride WAY longer than I should because it’s so comfy and fun. The Edict is the mtb I take out when the ride will be on the less technical side and I want to go fast! I love this bike A LOT a lot, and I raced it a ton this year as well. And the Decree is the bike I ride on long, epic, technical training rides and when I want hubby to be able to keep up :) It’s a tiny bike heavier than the Edict but has 150mm travel in the front and rear and a dropper post. It’s crazy capable on really gnarly trails, and climbs pretty well for a big travel bike too! Extra bonus: hubby designed it so that makes me super happy/proud!

Any product favorites you'd like to share with us?

I have a love/hate relationship with my Oakley Radar Prizm sunglasses. I love love love them for being unbelievably comfy and for making everything seem a million times prettier than it really is, but they’ve given me unrealistic expectations of what the world looks like because the real world isn’t nearly as pretty as it is with them on! Also I never go anywhere without my Mobot foam roller/water bottle. It’s 40 oz so I never run out of water and I can foam roll any time anywhere!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
It’s so dang intimidating to walk into a shop and when you do I feel like you never get taken seriously. Although this is changing a lot lately, up until recently I would always get treated like a bike path rider and it was frustrating to not get treated like a legitimate mountain biker. There’s nothing wrong with just riding paved bike paths, but don’t automatically tell me I can’t handle a trail or a long ride just because I am a girl. You don’t know me, I’ll kick your butt!

If you could talk to someone who is curious about mountain biking, what would you tell them?

Just getting out in the woods and smelling the dirt makes it worth it, so why not give it a try! You don’t have to start by hucking 5 foot drops, and if you have to walk a section, who cares?! I still walk stuff!! And pretty much everyone who has ever ridden a mountain bike has as well! So get out there and smell the dirt!! And you don’t NEED an insanely expensive bike, but if you think you’ll like mountain biking, a nicer bike makes everything a little more fun.

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

I think the industry is doing a really good job shifting its attitude towards women lately. There are so many clinics and women specific products out there that it feels like we are a valued portion of the market. I think getting more women in magazines and websites is kinda huge. It’s getting better, but the media is still male dominated, I look through current mtb magazines and I still see mostly men. I know ladies can shred and huck just as good as dudes so print their pictures!!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

Honestly it’s the women around me who work tirelessly to put on clinics and ladies rides and who raise money to get bikes to women in 3rd world countries that inspire me to want to encourage women to ride. I live in a place where there is so much going on, so many women’s groups and rides, sometimes I get invited to participate, and the energy and enthusiasm is contagious!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I was born with my twin in my neck and it had to be surgically removed when I was 4 years old. I like to tell students that I basically ate my twin… :)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Decorah Bicycles/FWD Jersey: Coming Soon!

First off, I have to thank Borah Teamwear a thousand times over for their generosity and fabulous customer service. Because of this, Decorah Bicycles will be having new shop jerseys made by this wonderful company based out of Wisconsin. Not only will we have a colorful option that will be great for visibility/style purposes, but this will be our first shop jersey offered in both a men's and women's cut!

The jersey that will be ordered will be the Team SS (Short Sleeve) jersey, which provides what I would say is a "classic fit." It will be semi-tight, so not too tight nor too baggy, but just right. Like Goldilocks and the porridge! This jersey would retail for $89.99
The jerseys will be full zip, and we plan the women's cut to be without the elastic waist band.

I have been wearing the Pro cut of the short sleeve jersey (which is tighter than the Team cut) and I have found it to be very comfortable and have received so many positive comments about it! The Team cut will allow for more versatility with sizing- if you want a tighter fit, size down.
If you want a looser fit, size up. Otherwise, stick with your usual size for a mix! For the size chart, click here.
Decorah Bicycles is encouraging folks who are interested in purchasing the jersey to let them know what their size and style (men/women) preference is so there is plenty ordered. Regardless of how many people pre-order, they will be placing an order- however if you are an XS or a size larger than XL, then it would be helpful so quantities can be figured.
Decorah Bicycles is very excited to be working with Borah on these jerseys for several factors. One, they are a local company! Being a small brick and mortar bike shop, supporting local is something that they try to do on a regular basis.

Second, the customer service has been outstanding.
Third, they offer their Titanium Pledge- a lifetime guarantee against any material defect or flaw in workmanship.
Fourth, you get to see who had a part in making your jersey! They are very community-focused in their workplace and they want to share that with you. Everyone who had a part in the product signs a card. This came with my orders and I must say- it really makes you feel special when you see human signatures on a card detailing who did what!

The SS Team jerseys will be ordered late December/early January regardless of pre-orders. However, if you want to be guaranteed your size, it's best to pre-order!
Decorah Bicycles is also considering getting the unisex Team Long Sleeved jersey in as well, which would retail for $94.99

I have been able to experiment with my long-sleeved jersey and I have to say, it's been outstanding in terms of the versatility. I will definitely be wearing this next spring, fall, and early winter (depending on temps.) Wearing solo would be fine on days that are warmer where you still need full-arm coverage but do not need a base layer. November 18th I was able to sneak out for a ride in the morning when it was 54 degrees and I wore a light wool base layer and the jersey- it was plenty warm and comfy! The material wasn't super thin, which I liked. Days where it's in the mid to lower 40's, I wore a warmer base layer and the jersey and felt comfortable. If windy, I would wear a wind vest or something to cut the chill. All in all, for 5 dollars more you get a jersey that you can wear during 3 out of 4 seasons!

The jersey I purchased was an XS based on the unisex sizing.
(Normally I wear a women's small depending on cut/brand)
There is an elastic band at the bottom and also around the wrists. I actually liked having the bands around the wrists to keep my sleeves in place. Non-banded jerseys I tend to have trouble keeping them over my wrists (over my gloves.)
It is full-zip, so if wearing layers, you can easily unzip to cool off. Very handy.

Needed: 15 pre-orders of the long sleeved jersey to make it happen! If this is something you would enjoy having- we want to make it happen! Cooler weather is upon us and this would make an excellent layering piece.

Also note- Decorah Bicycles is more than happy to ship out jerseys as well if you do not live in the area. Add $4.00 to the cost of the jersey and you'll be set! These jerseys are not only showing support for Decorah Bicycles, but the Decorah-based women's off-road group: FWD-Fearless Women of Dirt.

Would you be interested in a Thermal Winter Jacket that would be perfect for winter riding and also custom made by Borah?
Decorah Bicycles can get the ball rolling if they have 5 committals. The jackets retail for $165. Here is what Tad from Borah has to say about the jackets: "I love our jackets! I mean I love almost everything we do but our cycling jackets are maybe some of the nicest riding jackets I have ever had on. They are not waterproof but other than that they are warm, comfortable, long enough in the sleeves, short enough in the waist... just a great fit. One of those things you throw on and you completely forget that you are wearing it!"

For pre-orders or further questions you can comment on the blog, call Decorah Bikes (phone number is on website) or fill out the contact form found here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Women Involved: Dee Bartlam

Squamish, BC Trip
My name is Dee Bartlam. I've lived in Duluth, MN for 20 years. I started mountain biking 10 years ago. I found my niche a few years ago when enduro came to Duluth. I love going fast down rocky, technical terrain!

We have the amazing new Duluth Traverse linking all the trails so XC is pretty fun too!

This spring I became certified to coach through PMBIA (Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association), with the goal of teaching more women how to gain confidence through a skills based approach to mountain biking.

This summer I coached the Spirit Mountain Divas and with Vida Mountain Bike Series.

I'm amazed at the increase in women who are getting into mountain biking! When I first started riding I didn't know any other women to ride with, nor did we have beginner friendly trails in Duluth. I often rode alone and fell a lot! I took a clinic and saw improvement, but soon realized this wasn't a one and done. Taking a clinic every once in a while and/or from a different person is a great way to increase and hone your skills.

It was through a women's mountain bike clinic that I learned so much more: there exists this amazing community of women who may not have yet met or realize what they are capable of until they take a mountain bike clinic!! By the end of the clinic weekend friendships are formed and most ladies have this new found confidence in what they achieved. This is what I love about coaching, leading rides, being an advocate for women riders!!

When I'm not riding I love spending time with my family!

Tell us about when you discovered your #bikelife- when did you realize that you found something you loved?
I really didn't get into biking until I was thirty. I wanted a mountain bike but a friend said I would get more use out of a road bike. So I bought a used LeMond on eBay and fell in love with road riding. Through road riding I met a gal who did triathlons, so I spent the next 7 years doing triathlons, centuries, trail runs, an Ironman 70.5, a marathon, a half marathon, and then...I had my first hip replacement!

Just prior to the hip replacement I fell in love with mountain biking.

Riding the Makwa Trail in Hayward, Wisconsin was where I fell in love with it. This was the first time I had ridden on this type of trail: it was flowy, rolling, winding, and exhilarating! I wasn't gasping for breath or having to get off my bike to walk up or down hills. It was so much my first experience mountain biking.

I spent the next couple of years driving an hour and a half on days off from work to ride there. The trail seemed to go in one direction for as long as I was willing to ride! I was hooked.

So after the hip replacement running was out of the question (thank goodness, never like it), so I biked all the time. Road and off road, I love to ride my bikes!

What has been your biggest motivation for riding?
My biggest motivation for riding is the fear of one day not being able to ride my bike! That fear has been all to real with the hip issues I've had!

Tell us about the world of Enduro for you and why it's so fun!
Dave Cizmas introduced enduro to Duluth's mountain bike scene a few years ago. I rolled up in my Ski Hut kit the first race, unsure if I was just going to go ride or check it out. I stuck around and here's why:

Enduro racing is composed of 3-5 stages. You are timed only on the actual stage, which can be cross country-ish but is generally downhill. (You have to work with the terrain you've got!) After you have completed the stage you are given ample time to get to the next stage start. You're combined stage times are added and the fastest overall time wins.

I have seen this grow in popularity over the last few years. There would be at most 20 people, with a few gals, to this last summer upwards of 60+ riders at each of the Wednesday evening races.

My friend Pam Schmitt likes to call it the Beer League of mountain biking (Lycra bike shorts and jerseys have been replaced by baggie shorts and tops to accommodate knee and elbow pads). It is extremely social. There's a lot of time waiting for your stage to start, as riders go out 15-30 seconds apart. So social that I have almost missed my start from gabbing too much!

In addition to the local Wednesday races in the summer there is a regional Lake Superior Gravity Series, which includes Copper Harbor, Marquette, and Duluth. Fun stuff! It's less about racing and more about having a good time with a broader community of mountainbikers.

What is your favorite competitive event and why?
My favorite competitive event would have to be the Copper Harbor Trails Fest. It's just a whole weekend of fun events with xc, Enduro, downhill, dock jumping, and just fun riding all weekend. It's less about the competitiveness and more about the camaraderie for me: pre-riding the stages, "sessioning" the more difficult sections, and having a beer or two at the end of the day.

Do you have suggestions for those who are on the fence about participating in an event?
Yes. I like to call it just that: participation in an event. I don't like to do "races" because that puts me in a different mind set that makes me bike outside of my limits and do stupid things that can lead to injury. Participate, have fun, do the best you can and realize this is just mountain biking. It is supposed to be FUN!!

The trails in Duluth have literally exploded, making riding so much more accessible than ever before. Get out and make every ride an event!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
My first experiences were disheartening. Lots of falls and frustrations. Those experiences have long been replaced by joy and exhilaration. I just love how going for a ride in the woods can make any day better. It makes me feel alive and relieves stress.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
Several falls, minor injuries, and the drive to ride better technically led me to my first mountain bike clinic. Learning the why and the how helped me so much. Most importantly I just kept at it. Practice, practice, practice with a lot of internal dialogue ("you got this!" "Look at the end of the bridge"). Go ahead and pat yourself on the back when you conquer a fear like crossing a bridge or rolling down a big rock. Reassure that brain that you've got this!

You spent a lot of time riding solo and learning by yourself- if you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself to do differently (if anything.)

I spent a lot of time riding by myself but kept reaching out to other women who were already in the sport or were interested in trying. Social media, women's mountain bike clinics, our local bike club, COGGS (Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores), and IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) have all helped cast that net further to build the women's mountain bike community. I don't think I could have done anything differently but am happy how the community of female mountain bikers has, and continues to, grow.

For women on the fence about giving off-road riding a go, do you have any suggestions/advice?
I would recommend that they are comfortable riding on the road and have a basic fitness level just for safety reasons.

In Duluth we have a Tuesday Ladies Ride that we market as first and foremost social and for riders of all abilities. We will ensure that you will not ride alone, will meet other gals at your level, and can ask questions in a supportive, friendly, non-intimidating atmosphere.
2016 Gitchee Gumee Gallivant
Tell us about how you feel women's clinics are vital for those new to off-road riding and even for those who are seasoned-
I have been a participant, volunteer, and coach at several women's mountain bike clinics. I have learned something new every time!

I believe these clinics are especially vital for the new mountain biker, before bad habits have had a chance to form. I am a PMBI certified coach as of this spring. PMBIA (professional mountain bike instructor association) teaches a progressive, skills based approach to learning the maneuvers involved in mountain biking. For example, cornering incorporates several "skills": body position, braking, scanning. It's a logical approach that makes sense. This skills based approach can accelerate the learning curve.

Aside from the practical skills, there is magic that happens at these clinics! Women learn more about the sport, they learn some skills, conquer some fears and make new friends. It's incredible to see this community come to life.

Clips or flats, what do you enjoy riding with and why.
Ah. The age old question. Whatever you are comfortable on. I started out clipped in with road riding and triathlons so it was an easy transition to off road. I've been encouraged to ride flat pedals because "it makes you a better rider", meaning that it makes you stay connected to your bike, to your pedals, whereas being clipped in you don't have to think about it, you take it for granted that the bike is connected to you.

If you are a new rider, I highly recommend flats for a couple of reasons: it is safer. Simply put your foot down if you lose your balance or are unsure. The other reason is you will learn to be connected to your bike through body position, without that false sense of connectedness you get being clipped in.

All this said, I ride both, but prefer to be clipped in.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Last October I crashed pretty hard coming out of a run at the base of Spirit Mountain. I had been riding for about 7 hours that day, having a blast, riding the most technical terrain Spirit has to offer. I had been really used to wearing flats that summer. I came out of the woods at the end of the run, got a little air and my back tire hit a bump and I got bucked off. I landed about 15 feet away onto my right shoulder and ribs. I didn't break anything but an MRI showed a tear in the cartilage of my shoulder. Unrelated, I had my other hip replaced a couple months after this crash. My hip healed long before my shoulder. This was tough mentally, emotionally, and physically. I felt like a broken mess and wasn't sure I'd be biking this year. I was pretty bummed, then I got a good cortisone injection into my shoulder. I was then able to do some strengthening and was back in shape in no time. I have had the most incredible year biking, coaching, and participating in enduros. Keep your chin up if you are injured and keep in contact with your biking buddies. Live vicariously through them even if you can't participate.

As my friend Todd McFadden says, "we are all one second between having fun and eating $h;t". Mitigate the risks. Falls happen. Get back on the bike.

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 fell over a lot! Learning to be balanced on the bike has helped immensely. When you aren't pedaling, keep your pedals level. This is a more balanced position and you won't be as likely to hit your pedals on rocks and roots. A balanced position is a stable position.

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 always working to be a better rider. I still struggle with cornering efficiency. Ideally, you brake before the corner, look through the corner, aim your body out of the corner. All corners and berms are different, requiring different degrees of bike body separation and lean so there is much to practice. When it is done correctly the centrifugal force pulls you through the corner and it feels AMAZING!! Practice. Practice. Practice. I don't let it get me down. I just keep saying "next time"! I love that there is always more to improve.

What do you love about riding your bike?
When riding by myself I love the solitude, getting lost in my thoughts, the beauty of nature. I'm always stopping and taking pictures with my iPhone.

When riding with others I love the camaraderie, I love "sessioning" steep, technical sections. I love being part of a "train" of riders flying through switch backing trails. I love sharing beer and food with others after epic and not so epic rides. I love traveling to other parts of the country and experiencing it by bike. I love being part of the community that is mountain biking. I love sharing that passion with others!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My quiver includes a Specialized Crux gravel race bike. I've done the Heck of the North gravel race on it and use it for shoulder season riding when the trails are too wet.

I have a Trek Madone that I used for several years for century rides and triathlons. It is now on my trainer in the basement. Still very much loved, it just didn't make it outside this year!

I have a Salsa Beargrease Fat Bike that is super fun. I can't wait for winter riding and riding the frozen beach this winter. Park Point is a seven mile sand bar in Duluth that makes for a super fun winter day or night ride!

I have a Trek Remedy 9 29'er that has been my fave. It loves being pointed downhill and climbs like a champ.

The newest member is the new Trek Fuel Ex 9.8 29'er. I've only gotten a few rides on it but I'm super impressed with its fun, agile capability. 20 miles of new Duluth Traverse single track recently was amazing!
Cuyuna Whiteout
Tell us about why you love owning a fatbike and why folks should consider one!
I got a fat bike because it enables me to bike year round. There's no end to biking season. The floatation through snow makes me feel like a little kid! I'm seeing a lot of women purchasing these as their primary bike. It offers more stability and all around fun than any other bike.

What was the inspiration to getting certification to be a coach?
I was inspired by all of the amazing women's coaches I've met in the past few years and by my daughter Madalyn, who is newer to mountain biking. I wanted to share everything with her but didn't know how to organize all those thoughts, to tailor them, without confusing or overwhelming her. Most of all, I've had this passion for Mountain biking that I want to share with others! Maybe make the learning curve a little less than it was for me.

What has been the most enriching experience since you have become a coach?
I've been surprised at how much I get out of coaching. Coaching has made me a better rider, a better listener, and a better coach each time I get that opportunity. But most importantly, I love when a woman learns something that truly makes a difference in her riding, like getting off the saddle when descending. Life changing!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Cost. Bikes are so expensive. As a result someone might borrow a bike or buy a used one that doesn't fit. A poor fitting bike can turn someone off biking forever.

So, go to bike demos, try out different bikes, and if you are going to buy a used one or borrow, know that a property fitting bike can increase your safety and enjoyment.

While a new bike can be expensive up front, consider the amount of fitness, fun, and good health you'll be getting in the long run!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Be the change you want to see! You can't change the world but you can change yourself. Want to see more women on bikes? Invite them! Make it social, make it fun, be encouraging. In Duluth we have a very successful Tuesday Ladies Ride. The success, I believe, is because the emphasis is on the social, the all inclusiveness, regardless of whether you are new or a seasoned rider.
Tuesday Ladies Ride!
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I remember how intimidating it was for me to bike. Everyone is going faster, everyone is more fit, no one else is falling. This was my internal dialogue when I started. What I didn't realize is that those things are achieved or overcome by riding more. I didn't have any one to share that process with.
By bringing more women together in a supportive environment, they will have an entire tribe to lean on!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I'm a grandma as of July and I love it!! My heart is full.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Experiencing Growth as a Fearless Woman of Dirt

 It was a beautiful Tuesday in November with temps close to 60 degrees. I couldn't think of any better way to spend it other than mountain biking! Levis Mounds is an area where Travis and I wanted to hit up again this season before the snow season hit. Our friend, Stego, was interested in taking a road trip with us, so the three of us got into the red truck and headed to good ol' Wisconsin. Yup, road trip doughnut holes were purchased for this voyage.

The drive was typical- you could see some color still mixed within the trees and the sun was brightening up the world around us. It was beautiful, yet at times, slightly boring. I suppose that's because I tend to run out of conversation. I stared at the scenery as we drove by, wondering how my riding would go for the day.

Levis is a different flavor when compared to our local, Decorah trails. There are similarities but also stark differences that make me question my riding skills. It's a good way to remind myself that I have confidence issues to work on when it comes to riding my bike in some areas. Terrain challenges are still something I'm working on as well as structures. Large rocks make me anxious along with drop-offs and ledges on my right hand side.

I was also concerned about the various bridge structures that had challenged me in my previous trips to Levis. My goal this time was to ride as many of the lower-lying bridges as possible. My first time riding at Levis during the dry season had me death-gripping the bars over a couple and walking others. I can only guess that my first bike crash is what has made me leery of bridges over gullies, streams, etc. I have yet to find the best way to desensitize myself with bridges other than to push myself into riding them; I have issues with heights, that's for sure. Travis had also mentioned he wanted to take Stego to the "Plumber's Crack" feature. I was nervous to ride it last time and didn't fully ride it due to the rock/bridge combo that it had. I wanted to be victorious this time.
Last time riding Levis during the dry season, we had detailed instructions with us on a loop a friend of mine enjoyed. This time we haphazardly threw together trails that we felt we remembered well enough. As luck would have it, the route we took on Toad Road led us to Plumber's Crack up the plank bridge, thru the crack, and down over a rock/bridge combo. Last time it was the opposite way- this time, the entry was easier and I successfully rode the Crack! I might have felt like my heart was in my stomach, but it couldn't take away the feeling of accomplishment I had. Combo hit of overcoming nervousness over bridges/drops/heights= done!

There were several sections at Levis where I walked due to technical difficulty. I was proud over the fact I didn't walk EVERY technical section; you have to accept the small victories!

Select Cut and Yellow Jacket were the two trails that had bridges I wanted to ride over- even tho they were not multi-feet above ground, they were still tall enough to trigger my anxious feelings. They are various lengths and some cross water...both things that intimidate me.
I'm not sure what has helped me the most this year when it's come to riding bridges, maybe it was riding the long bridge on the Makwa Trail in Hayward that seemed to be over a lake. Maybe it was riding over multiple (small) bridges in Duluth. Perhaps it was knowing I rode over some of the bridges in Levis last winter when the snow was packed up around them. Regardless of what it was, I felt more mentally prepared to take on the challenge of these structures that cause me such anxiety.

I think the point that brought me the greatest joy was when I was peer pressured in a good way to give this little launch a try. I had fun watching Travis and Stego attain some pretty big air going off the little build, tho I worried I would fail and crash down on my face. Travis said for me to treat it like going off the curb at Fareway- don't try to push myself for "big air" just keep my front end level. My first attempt was a huge success, apparently really great form and everything. So I did it again. And a third time...and a fourth time! (I had kept promising just "one more time") but finally made good on my "last time."

Both of them were encouraging as I braved my insecurities of possible failure and came out feeling like a gosh darned winner instead.

I am, at times, slow on the confidence scale- but these small achievements make me feel like progression is truly attainable. No one ever said progress didn't come without a price tag, for me that price tag is dealing with anxious and nervous feelings that try to limit what I do. I have to question myself- do I want to improve or do I want to be steady? For me, riding off-road is the first time I've seen myself really progress with something. I can visually see it and also physically notice the difference in my health and myself. So, yes. I want to keep progressing, pushing my box outwards, and seeing me grow with cycling.
So, a thank you goes to Levis Mounds for having such amazing trails that cater to so many riders. Various technical challenges keep things entertaining while giving you something to work on but also providing trails that are run and easy to ride. Thanks to Travis and Stego for being great riding companions and not letting me get the better of myself when it came to trying something that made me nervous. The whoops of encouragement definitely made my day. I might not have gotten off the ground very far, but it was hard not to feel like I was 10 feet in the air when they made it sound like I was doing something SO COOL!

Thank you, me, for not giving up on yourself when it came to getting past the bare bones of learning to mountain bike. Keep being rad.