Friday, November 10, 2017

Women Involved Series: Katrina Strand

Photo Credit: Sven Martin
I’m complicated haha! I live in Whistler BC, and have been racing and riding bikes for close to 20 years now. World Cup DH, EWS, Trans Provence, BC Bike race . . . the list goes on. I’ve also been coaching for just over 10 years, and now focus on high-performance conditioning as well as mountain bike programs and mentorship for youth.

I also do brand ambassador projects for my sponsors, with a focus on passing on my experience and knowledge to those that want to listen! There’s a lot going on!

Besides bikes though, I love skiing, ski touring, scrambling, yoga, eating healthy good food, my dog and fiancé Yoann.

Instagram: katrinastrand

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what made you want to come back for more?
My good friend Lisa Lefroy and I took her parent cruisers up the bike park one rainy muddy afternoon and slipped our way down the mountain, crashing and laughing. That day started it all. Soon after I bought my first bike. The challenge was the main attractor at first, but soon the social part, the fitness part, simply being in the woods part . . .It flipped to a passion quite quickly. The more you ride, the better you get and soon after I tried racing, I was on the National Team racing the World Champs. The traveling was a HUGE attractor too, going to all these cool places with my bike and friends – life couldn’t be better! I always loved adventure.

It evolved from Dh racing to Enduro and even XC racing . . . But the most enjoyment I’d ever get was from big adventure rides. That won’t change, I know it.

The other angle of progression comes from the coaching/mentorship. What started out as mostly instructional coaching, has shifted to high-performance coaching. Although my fire for personal competition has fizzled (at least for now), it is quite the opposite when it comes to helping others. That’s where my business ‘Strand Training’ comes in, which is constantly evolving as I find new ways to support mountain bikers and other athletes.
Photo Credit: Collin Dodd

Clips or flats? What do you prefer and why?
Clips. Then I don’t have to think about my feet! They just stay put as I’m bouncing around, and generally, I feel I have a more efficient pedal stroke. That being said, I learned on flats and have spent a lot of time on them since. You really can’t cheat with flats, and they teach you a lot about how to use your feet properly while riding your bike.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I’ve had a lot of big crashes, and really quite a few that have ended in injury ranging from a 1 month turn around to 9 months off the bike healing and rehabbing. Injuries are hard physically, mentally and emotionally . . . you are on your own, really, no one can put in a day or week for you. It’s your journey, and the journey can be taxing and sometimes boring!

If you only identify yourself as a mountain biker, then they will be much harder to overcome. If you identify yourself as more (writer, musician, etc. the list goes on), then you can turn your focus to other parts of your being and work on those areas instead.

I also believe that often it’s a sign that you need to take a break, that something ‘is not right’. It’s a hard idea to swallow, but for me, this has often been the case and so the injury gives me the space to stop, take a break and reflect on what I really need at the moment.

All this being said, it is important to use all possible resources to heal properly. If that means therapy (hands-on or mental) or gym work, you do it. It’s always a lot harder to come back from injury physically, mentally and emotionally if you don’t put the effort in. I’ve often come back from my injuries stronger than when I went in . . . that gives me the confidence to ride how I was before 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?
All the skills challenged me! But that is one of the main aspects that attracted me to mountain biking, it is super challenging and always will be. For me back then it was time on the bike with the right people that would push me to learn. I simply spent A LOT of time on my bike. But now, there are all these instructional coaching camps and clinics that give you the tools to learn. Of course, you need to use these tools in order for it all to work, but it does save a lot of time when you work with a coach.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Well, of course, I am a normal person who has fear sometimes! I won’t do something unless I am 100 percent confident that I can do it. There can be adrenalin attached to that, but I am SURE it will work out. I am never ‘oh ya mayyyyybe I’ll make that 40 foot gap jump, let’s find out!’. I have to know it. And this can change day to day, week to week and even depend on who I am riding with . . so if I’m not feeling it, I don’t do it and know I can come back another day when it suits. If it drags me down, it’s my ego getting in the way ☺

What do you love about riding your bike?
Loaded question! I guess at the end of the day, I love the challenge, the exercise, the adventure, the places it has brought me and the people I have met through bikes. I LOVE being in the mountains, in the woods, in nature, and bikes bring me there every day.
Photo Credit: Collin Dodd
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a few for different reasons. I have my Commencal Supreme DH, Commencal Meta AM, Commencal TR, road bike and cruiser. Since I ride up, down and all around from bike parks to epic 10-hour adventures to cruises to the lake, I have a choice for whatever type of riding I am doing that day.

What was your inspiration to become involved with coaching?
I was instructional coaching really right from the beginning, and even had my own business going for kids and youth. I decided that in order to make it all bigger and better, my best bet was to go back to school for human kinetics and add strength and conditioning coaching to the mix. I finished my degree at the University of BC, got my Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach certificate and continued to move forward with both instruction, training, and coaching. ‘Strand Training’ now incorporates all sorts of projects from high-performance conditioning to a youth development team.

The inspiration really stemmed from the success I would see in my clients, and the gratification I would get that I helped them get there.

Tell us about one of your most inspirational moments with coaching-
Much like what inspired me to become involved in coaching has kept me there. My most inspirational moments are seeing the young athletes that I train and coach learn how to be better mountain bikers, athletes, and people. Their successes, and knowing I’ve been a part of it, are my biggest career highlights, much more than any win of my own.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
My guess is that the concept can be intimidating and overwhelming – riding bikes on uneven terrain and surrounded by obstacles that are not forgiving?! The truth is, is that there are so many levels of mountain biking, from crushed gravel to gnarly descents and if you take it one step at a time, with the right guidance and equipment, chances are you will be just fine.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Locally, here in Whistler, I feel we have a lot of programs for the girls. Mentorship programs, coaching, ladies rides . . . the list goes on. A community has been created, a supportive environment exists, and the possibilities are attainable.

It seems to me that this trend is filtering to other parts of the world too. There is room for loads of improvement of course, but I do feel that the industry is finally realizing the impact of women riders and helping to support projects that not only encourage women to get involved but encourage them to stay! I know Fox Head, who supports me, is VERY keen on these concepts in an authentic way.
Photo Credit: Derrick Busch

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Well, I know the positive impact it has had on my life so of course, I’m going to encourage women (and men) to bring bikes into their lives!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Baby arrives end of November! New adventure!

The Beauty of Supporting Local Businesses.

I transitioned in 2015 from working for a business to becoming the right-hand woman at a small, brick and mortar bike shop. This was a decision that wasn't made lightly, but one that I knew would bring forth great opportunities to learn, grow, and better serve the community.

When you go from the predictable comfort of working for a larger business to start working as a two-4 person team, you lose that shell that protected you from the "real world" and you get a very insightful and sometimes nerve-wracking perspective on what it's like to be part of a small business. Especially when that small business is seasonal and you go from being as busy as the Co-Op on a MAD sale day to literally not seeing one other human walk thru the door for 8 hours.

It is daunting at times. "What" and "If" are mentioned a lot.

The period of time when the riding season seems to end abruptly for most of the population seems to happen overnight. We go from having foot traffic and rentals to literally nothing in less than 24 hours. Bikes stop coming in for service work, folks aren't buying bikes or accessories. It is as if cycling, in general, has gone on hiatus. We know it's the weather; that dismal time when it's not winter but feels bone-chilling cold outside. Everyone huddles indoors during this time period, saying "If there was snow, I'd be fine" as it seems virtually impossible to recreate when it's cold and not a winter wonderland.

I am the perpetual optimist and take the time to learn more about how to do a better job with social media, our website, and blogging. We also have time to start training new hires and get (in general) a lot of good things done, like prepping the store for winter recreation. I know that once the snow flies, we'll have folks coming in again to rent skis, snowshoes, ice skates, and fatbikes for wintertime fun.

The holidays will come and folks will stop in and either look for the perfect accessory or item to purchase for their husband/wife/best friend. Sometimes you'll still find parents or grandparents coming in to purchase that coveted new bike for a child. Those times are very exciting because it might be, possibly, their first "Bike Shop" bike!

Last year I made it a focus to shop as local as possible for gifts. These are tumultuous times that we're in, and I feel that everyone feels a bit strapped emotionally and mentally. In the eyes of a small business owner, I feel that keeping dollars local as much as possible is very important for our community. We've heard it over and over again this year from various sources stating how wonderful, awesome, scenic, beautiful, and welcoming Decorah is. We need to, as a community, keep it that way. We can't always rely on tourism to keep our shops afloat- we shouldn't...we can't...have tourism as our only source of income. What happens when tourism slows down? What if we have flooding again like we did in '16 that impacted heavily on our recreational resources? We need to remember that we, as a community, need our businesses to thrive- not simply survive.

On that note, like last year, I am going to do my best to make my gift buying for the holidays local. With saying local, I mean literally buying in the Decorah community.

If I'm purchasing a book for my mom, I'll order it at Dragonfly Books.
If I'm purchasing some warm socks, I'll go to the Decorah Hatchery.
If I'm purchasing some bread or soup mix, I'll go to Pinters.
Maybe I'll gift the gift of craft beer, thus I'll go to Pulpit Rock Brewery or Toppling Goliath.
If I'm purchasing some chocolate or other fun treats like essential oils, I'll go to the Co-Op.

The list goes on.

We've all done it at some point in time. We've gone to the beloved computer and plugged in the item we're looking for and purchased it online due to convenience. You save the hassle of having to talk to someone. You sometimes save dollars and cents. You don't have to wait forever to get the item when you order it. You can stay in your pajamas with your cat on your lap, sipping coffee, and not step foot outside if you didn't want to. Yes. Online can be convenient. Online can provide low pricing. Online can't do things for you that your local businesses can. Shopping local provides you an experience. Of course, you have to want that experience and appreciate it in order for it to be important.

Some businesses are not as affected by online shopping as others, for example, I wouldn't go online and purchase a tattoo gun to give myself my own ink. Unless you like being hands on, you'll still go to someone for vehicle maintenance. I don't think too many folks try to give themselves a dental cleaning at home.

Most of those jobs are service jobs. However, every small business I know is part of the service industry in some way.

Shopping online is seriously one of those things that's "too good to be true." We cannot always compete with the prices you see and we need to charge sales tax. We know that folks don't always understand, but those dollars don't "just" go into our pockets.

What do your local dollars go to when you purchase items at a small business?
Wages for staff.
Health insurance.
Bills. Loads of bills. You're looking at electricity, possibly gas, insurance, phone/internet, and any bill that comes from ordering in inventory.
Maintenance of said business.

The owners of said business need their income to also pay any or all of the following (and likely more)-

Bills. Anything from electric to gas, Dr. bills to the Internet, and everything in-between.
House payments.
Maintenance of their home/Vehicle.
Groceries.
Home/Vehicle insurance.

You may say "Well, it's their choice to own a business vs. work for someone."
Yes, you're right. It is a choice that we decided to provide you an opportunity to stay in town vs. drive to La Crosse or Rochester to go book shopping. A store providing you the gear and clothing to go on adventures chose to exist so you could come into the building to purchase your favorite Patagonia/Outdoor Research apparel without having to go online or out of town. A small Co-Op has grown into a larger entity with the same mission as they had from the start- to have a location where folks could easily go to purchase local, organic, and wholesome food. The list goes on. Next time, ask why someone started the business they did and what their hopes are for their community by having that business exist.

We are damn lucky to be in the town we're in. Really, compared to some towns I've visited, we are so extremely fortunate to have our town as OUR town. I'm saying this as a person who calls Decorah home and as one half of a small business which is a bike shop. We are a business that provides you the opportunity to explore outside of town, inside town, and promotes a more healthful lifestyle. Bikes, man. Bikes are a good thing.

No one said it would be easy.

No one ever said owning a business was easy. I would imagine many have gone into business ownership knowing that they can't look at it with rose-colored glasses, even if they might want to.

All we can do is hope that our customer service, knowledge, and dedication to our business will bring forth a solid consumer base that can help us keep doing what we hope to do for years to come, even if they are purchase things online. Our mission is simple, to get more folks on bikes and to keep things working mechanically for them.

From personal experience, I know it can be daunting to walk into a bike shop. You have no idea what experience you'll have. You probably don't want sales shoved down your throat and you might not really have any idea what you need. I walked into two bike shops as the person who knew they needed a bike but had no idea where to start. Many would rather avoid conversation and simply gravitate towards something that looks pretty/cool but might not be the right size or right type of bike for their needs. I'm someone who likes to just go in, purchase what I want, and leave. With some things, you can get to that point once you have some things figured out- but it can take awhile to get there. We want to help and do so in a kind, respectful, and encouraging fashion...we're excited for you! It might be #newbikeday for you and we're so stoked to be part of it!

Our goal isn't to sell you the most expensive bike or product in the store. Our mission is to find you the best product or bike that meets your needs and will suit the experience you're wishing to have.
However, sometimes that can be challenging because we might not have it in the store that day. So, if you're looking around and not seeing what you were hoping to see, but not willing to talk with us- we can't easily tell you that we can very likely order in that bike or accessory for you.

Did you know-
If we order an accessory for you, you might get it the very next day. Literally. No joke!
Most bikes arrive within 2-3 days after we place the order. We also try to get bikes that are ordered in for folks built within 24 hours.

You aren't waiting months, you may not even be waiting weeks. You might literally be waiting 24 hours to 4 days and I've waited longer than that when I would order items on Amazon to get free shipping because I'm not a Prime member. I've waited less than 4 days to get a book in from Dragonfly books! I've had similar wait times ordering something from the Decorah Hatchery! Yeah!

For service work this year, even with RAGBRAI happening so close to us, we maintained a 48 hour or less turnaround time. We were so stoked to say to folks that they wouldn't be waiting weeks for their bike to get done! We were able to maintain that turnaround even with building bikes for folks, awesome!

The retail experience when purchasing a bicycle is hands-on and sometimes it can be stressful because yes- you have to ride bikes. However, we do what we can to make the experience as painless as possible. We've been there, we've bought bikes before, and we know that it can be a process. For some, the concept of renting a bike for a week or a month helps make the choice come easier. Especially if it's a mountain bike or a fatbike.

Did you know that if you rent from us for a month you have up to 30 days after you return the bike to use 100% of your rental dollars off the purchase of a bike?

We are passionate about helping you make the best decision for your biking needs. We're happy to talk to you in store, on the phone, or even email! Whatever it takes. We're here for you!

We also stand strong by being involved in the cycling community either locally or elsewhere so you may have noticed some closures so we could attend some cycling events. We believe it's important for us to establish and maintain comradery with our riding community and riders in other areas by doing the thing we love most: biking!

This year we:
Helped out at the Park and Rec Mountain Biking class for kids with fellow DHPT volunteers.
Hosted Sunday Mountain Bike group rides.
Hosted Fearless Women of Dirt women's nights and Fearless Women of Dirt specific group rides.
Hosted a couple FWD Mother/Daughter rides that were successful, and will happen again next year.
We closed up shop to ride with our friends during the Decorah Time Trials.
Hosted a fundraiser every May during Bike Month for Decorah Human Powered Trails: DHPT
We took a pilgrimage with our local cycling friends to Chequamegon.
We closed up to share the love of mountain biking with our friends in Viroqua at the PertNear 20, which raises money for their mountain bike trail system.
Bike shops don't exist just to sell you a product or service; they help to build up a sense of community. We see the social bonding and strength that comes from investing our time in our cycling community and we hope you do, too.

Community is the glue that keeps us together.

We hope you continue to support us and visit us throughout the coming years as we do our best to continue supporting the wonderful cycling community that Decorah has. Biking isn't just something to do for "fun" it is also a lifestyle. Not only is it good for your body and mind, but it's beneficial for the planet. It's an easy way to transport yourself around town, but can also take you on adventures further away. You can take cycling with you, wherever you go!

We are so fortunate to live in Decorah and have this wonderful mecca of outdoor recreation so close to home. We have a beautiful downtown with thriving businesses, fantastic restaurants, and a glorious library. The list goes on with all of the features that make Decorah a wonderful place to call home. It isn't to say that economic stresses do not affect folks in Decorah, I know they do- and that is a constant worry. However, from my personal perspective, it seems we always have a way of making it thru. With the strength of our community and love of our local economy- I believe we'll be around for a very long, long time.

Thank you for the support that you've given us over the years- from the very start until now. I'm new to the Decorah Bicycles community, but I greatly appreciate the opportunity given for me to make my own niche in the cycling community.

Support local, because local supports you!

Women on Bikes Series: Nicole Werts

Five years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be biking 4 days per week or more all summer long. Then I met Tim (my now husband). I started out not realizing there were different types of bikes or the purposes and adventures they could open up. He shared his passion for biking with me and exposed me to many of the types of biking that exist. As I fell in love with him, I also fell in love with biking.

For having recently started the sport, I feel that I have been bitten hard by the bug. I have been exposed to many types and styles of biking from casually riding the trails, cyclocross, mountain biking, and road biking. My husband and I downhill patrol up at Spirit Mountain where there is lift access biking.

We do the local Thursday night mountain bike races at Buck Hill, race cyclocross in the fall, and did the Tuesday night crits this last summer. We also enjoy biking with Team Hollywood Cycles and GirlFiend Cycling Team (GirlFiend is the women’s branch of the team).

I grew up playing soccer and played Division III in college. After finishing college, there was a definite void left behind from no longer training and playing at a competitive level. Cycling has now filled that hole and given purpose to training and increasing intensity of workouts. I love being part of a team as it is fun to ride together and have a team that supports each other. The camaraderie, energy, and social around cycling is fun to be a part of! It is an awesome team of people who, like Tim and I, like to ride bikes.

Tell us the introduction to your #bikelife and what was the experience like?
I did bike as a kid with the neighborhood kids and with my family on the bike trails, but biking was not something that I stuck with. I played soccer and that consumed much of my time until college was over. It was when I met my husband that I started really biking again. It started with biking on the trails around Minneapolis. Eventually, it led to watching and then trying cyclocross. (Which included an intro to dirt riding). From there I got my first mountain bike and we started with cross country riding, this eventually progressed to lift access downhill. Most recently, we tried some crit racing. The experience has been awesome! There is always so much to learn, so many awesome people to meet, and so much fun to be had!

Out of the types of cycling that your husband introduced you to, which would you say was your favorite right from the start?
My favorite is the one with two wheels, pedals, and outdoors. All the forms of cycling are my favorite in some way or another! It can totally vary based on mood and the day! I really like the mountain biking as it is fun to go play in the woods. I enjoy the challenge and learning the lines. I downhill ski in the winter and the mountain biking really connects to some of the same sensations as skiing. However, road riding is totally different in that you can go out and just pedal forever and it can feel very smooth. I find that both riding on the road and in the woods can really present an opportunity to clear the mind.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
Probably cyclocross, as that is where it all started. It has aspects of mountain biking and road biking that I enjoy. Plus, the people make it really fun! I am not always sure why I enjoy competing. As I really dislike the part when you are on the start line and just waiting for the race to start (it always seems to take forever). Sometimes during the races, I question why it is fun. However, afterwards, it is always fun. Cyclocross is fun to push yourself as you learn more about what you are capable of and develop new skill sets.

That being said, I feel a bit torn as I really enjoyed the crit races this summer. It took me a few races to figure out the strategy and not get dropped from the pack. It is very fun to fly quickly around the corners and reach speeds I did not know I was capable of on flat ground. It definitely brought on new and amazing sensations.

When it comes to folks who have not participated in a biking event, what advice would you give them?
Try it! Watch the event if able or talk to someone you know who has participated and learn what you can! We have all participated in our first bike event and are excited to have more women (and people) out there and enjoying it. I am more than happy to talk to someone about what I have learned along the way.

I know firsthand that this can be intimidating to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Thinking back to my first group ride and I was terrified that I would not be able to keep up, would get dropped, and end up lost, unable to find my way home. Tim came along to ease my worry and to guide me back if I got lost or could not keep pace with the group. However, I did not need him and was able to keep up with the group without issue. If it is a group ride you are looking to try, ask about what pace and distance is expected as that can help you to know you are ready to go or give you a goal to work towards.

Take us back to your first few mountain bike rides. What was your experience like and what kept you coming back for more?
First off, I feel truly blessed as Tim’s whole mission and goal, when I started, was to set me up for success. He wanted to make sure I had a good time so I would want to ride again. The first mountain bike ride I went on, I refused to ride over anything higher than about 3 inches high. That ruled out any logs and some rocks. Tim demoed what to do multiple times, but when I said not today, he respected that and I got off my bike walked it at all obstacles. The next time we rode, it was with another couple and when I watched her do it, then I started riding over stuff and found it was not as difficult as it looked. We did a lot of laps where I was comfortable and slowly worked up to more challenging terrain.

The fun and challenge of mountain biking kept me coming back for more. I found that the more I rode, the more comfortable I got with biking. It was really fun to work on technique and then look back and realize that I was no longer thinking about going over obstacles that I had stopped in front of the week or month before. Additionally, there is something very therapeutic about going out and riding and playing in the dirt with the beauty of the nature and trees around you.

Take us into the world of cyclocross- what do you enjoy about cyclocross and why should folks give it a shot?
It is a fun challenge. The terrain and conditions can really add to the challenge. I like that you get multiple laps within a race as it gives you a chance to change and improve how you did on features from lap to lap. The multiple laps can also add challenge as course conditions can change based on the amount of precipitation or how loose the course may be set up. I also like how it is okay to not be able to ride every section, but it is expected to sometimes get off the bike and run. It is about choosing how you can get through stuff the quickest and knowing your skill set. Additionally, the people are really what make the races fun. Spectating and cheering on friends and teammates helps to make the experience what it is.
Any tips or suggestions on getting started with 'cross?
Watch it and then go for it. See if you can meet up with someone to learn about how to properly mount, dismount, and shoulder your bike prior to your first race, then give it a go. I started doing cross before I had really learned how to bike on dirt. I had spent the summer riding on bike trails. I watched Tim race on a Saturday and it looked fun (but intimidating). Sunday, instead of him racing, we went to the river bottoms and I learned to ride on dirt. I fell over in the sand a lot as I learned to navigate the looseness. Middle of that week, the awesome Kristy Henderson taught me to mount, dismount, and shoulder my bike. She also gave some other pointers about what to do when racing. Then Saturday, I did my first cross race. It was challenging, but fun and has kept me coming back for more! There is a challenging learning curve, but it is worth it.

Clips or flats? What do you use and why?
Clips. I do not have a good reason for using them other than that is how I learned when I started riding. I really want to try flats for mountain biking at some point. However, I really enjoy the connection to the bike you have with being clipped to the pedals. At this point, it feels weird to get on a bike and not be connected to the pedals.

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 had some difficulty learning road pedals this spring/summer and being able to competently get my feet out when stopping. I had a ride that I tipped over 2 times because I had to stop and could not get out of my pedals. I really disliked the helpless feeling of slowly falling to the side and not being able to get free. After that, I would start to panic if my foot did not come right out, which totally did not help the situation! To get over my fear, I put the bike on the trainer and did repetitions of just clipping in and out of my pedals. This definitely helped for the next time I went road riding (although I still made sure to prepare for stopping plenty early).

This summer I fell riding a green downhill trail and hit my hand on a rock, resulting in 2 broken fingers (ring and pinky on right hand). This has taken mostly physical healing, but a little mental as well. I was able to return to riding my bike relatively quickly and was able to continue mountain biking and crit racing with minimal impact (adjustment of handlebar grips and buddy taping fingers). The mental healing has not been completed at this time as I still have not ridden the section of trail where I broke my fingers. However, it is 100% mental as there are more challenging sections of trail that I am now riding more competently then I was prior to breaking the fingers.

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, all obstacles were challenging. Repetition helped a lot. Tim was very patient in letting me walk things when I did not feel comfortable. He was also willing to demo and repeat features. If I attempted something for the first time, whether successful or unsuccessful, we often went back immediately to ride it several more times.

I am also a really good nature walker (hike-a-biker). Especially with rock gardens or things that are spaced differently, I love walking through and holding the handlebars while letting my bike just bounce to see where it will go as it hits certain points.

Another thing that helped a lot was that I participated in a women’s mountain bike clinic in Copper Harbor last summer. It was AWESOME! I learned so much, rode with rad women, and had a great time. I really enjoyed learning more about the specifics regarding body positioning and bike handling.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Curbs! I still get uncomfortable with going up curbs. I will ride down them on any of my bikes. I have now gotten to the point that with my mountain bikes I will ride up them, but my road bike or cross bike I will put a foot down and lift the front wheel onto the curb. On my cross bike, I will attempt logs and curb sized items, but not the concrete curb. I do not let it drag me down, I figure that someday I will either master it or I will continue to stop in front of curbs and step over them.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything!!!!!!! What is there not to love when you are outside and have the wind in your face. It is always even better with company!!!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I feel like I did not choose my bikes, but they have chosen me. They have allowed my riding to grow and advance. I have a cross bike that I initially rode on the paved trails and now race cross on. I have a full suspension 26 inch mountain bike that is teal and I mostly ride downhill up at Spirit, but sometime ride crosscountry on. I have a hardtail 29er that is baby blue and orange and ride all over the cities and have used for the mountain bike races I have done. I have a black and celeste road bike that is fun to explore the cities on and I always feel fast when I start a ride on it.

What do you enjoy most about being able to share cycling with your husband?
It is wonderful to be able to spend time together! Tim gave up a lot of rides and speed to teach me to ride a bike. However, it has paid off for both of us as now we are able to ride together. He is still faster, but I am able to ride at a pace that keeps both of us happy and it is fun! We also bike for the same team, so it is great to go on group rides together. Additionally, we support each other at races and cheer each other on as much as possible. I look forward to days when we ride together after work as it is nice to have quality time together doing something we both enjoy

Do you have any specifics that might help a person introduce their partner to cycling?
Be patient. It was also helpful when some clear expectations were set. When I first started mountain biking, I apologized all the time. For being slow, for tipping over, for holding him back, and again for being slow. This was frustrating for him and it did not allow me to enjoy all the aspects of mountain biking. When he told me to stop apologizing as the expectation was that I would be slow and I would fall and that he did not care at that time that I was holding him back, I was then able to relax and ride my bike and started to ride and learn better. I still slow Tim up sometimes and he is the faster rider (and probably always will be), but I now ride at a pace that we can go out, have a good time and both feel like we got a workout. Plus it is awesome to ride and explore trails together.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think the fear of getting injured is a major part. I know that there are times that I see stuff and I really assess how I feel at that time as I want to make sure that I can still go to work the next day. Every woman is different though, but if hesitant, I think the fear of something is likely at least part of the cause. The great thing is, there are so many opportunities available now to get women started with cycling.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I like that I see many more group rides, clinics, and opportunities for women. It is very exciting with the number of youth getting involved in mountain biking and cycling in general. This is great for the future of cycling. However, I would love to see more women out racing and taking advantage of these opportunities. I keep trying to encourage friends who ride but do not race to join in. However, I think the initial cost to try racing deters some. It is nice to see some races offering discounted entry fees for beginner racers as it is a sport we can start at any age! I think we need to continue to encourage each other to race, ride, and achieve greatness.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
That is easy, I want more friends to ride with!!! I love seeing women and girls of all ages out riding
bikes in any form!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I enjoy inline skating. I train for and have competed in the North Shore Inline Marathon since the end of college. Last year I let a friend convince me to do the combined (half + full) and so we skated 39.3 miles. I finished first for the women and am signed up to do it again this fall.

First Review on the Specialized Women's S-Works Epic

Women's S-Works EpicI'm back with another "non-pro" review on a new bike that I've had a couple rides on: the 2018 Specialized Women's S-Works Epic.
If I'm lucky, I'll be able to get out on this bike one more time before the dry season officially ends. If I'm not, I had 2 excellent experiences on this bike and will count down the days to where I can take my Specialized Women's S-Works Epic on the trails again.

I'll report back with a second review in 2018.

This is my second race-style full suspension, we made the decision to purchase the new Women's S-Works for a couple reasons.

Reason #1- We are no longer Salsa dealers, thus my current race bike isn't a brand we sell and it seemed like I should be on a brand that we sell when I'm doing mountain bike races or posting to social media. It's a bittersweet move because I love my Spearfish, yet it's representing a brand we can't bring in- and being (basically) a co-owner of a bike shop, I should be on a shop brand.

Reason #2- I do not own a "dry season" Specialized mountain bike. I have a Specialized Fatboy for winter riding and a fitness hybrid- but nothing pertaining to actual mountain biking with front suspension (or full squish.)

Reason #3- The updated technology sounded intriguing and it was literally a bike we could purchase stock and not change much of anything at all. (Of course, we would change touch points- like my saddle and grips I prefer.) Drivetrain and brakes wise, it was stellar. I also hadn't had women-tuned suspension before, so I wanted to see if it would be a positive change. (Really, it should just say "tuned for smaller riders.")

Reason #4- I like 29" wheels. I'm 5'2". Between the two brands we carry in store: Trek & Specialized, I would not have a 29" wheel size with Trek. Trek would put me on 27.5" wheels. Specialized still gives me the option of going with a 29" wheel. Why do I like 29" wheels better on full squish? Because I do. I don't feel I have many issues at all with handling a 29" wheel. I like my Trek Procaliber 9.8 with 27.5" wheels very much, but something about the taller wheel size and suspension makes me more inclined to take the bike elsewhere. I feel more stable, secure, and confident.
2018 S-Works Epic
I'm going to do the same for this review like I did with the Trek Farley 9.8- I'm not going to nerd out on all of the geometry specs and such. You can find all of that information elsewhere.
With a few changes to the bike, like a different seat & grips. We added a computer, TOGS, and HT pedals. We also swapped the seatpost for one that accepts my preferred saddle (Bontrager Ajna). We changed the stem to make the reach exactly the same as my Spearfish.
Current weight is about 21.8 lbs or so (I never wrote it down when we weighed it-) by next season this bike may have different wheels and grips and the assumption would be that would lessen the weight. The weight of my Spearfish for comparison: 23.17 lbs.

We set it up as tubeless right away with the little plugs vs. using the tubeless rim tape. We did use the bottle cage included with the bike due to the frame geometry not being very forgiving with my Bontrager RXL cage. I put on pink ESI Extra Chunky grips that will likely be swapped for a less chunky style next spring (if I feel I need to.)

Getting the air pressure dialed in with both the front and rear suspension was simple. We put the rear shock setting on medium to start with.
Fast Trak
If you want some quick (tech-oriented) info on the bike that Specialized offers:
S-Works FACT 12m carbon fiber frame is the best combination of stiffness, strength, and light overall weight, resulting in the utmost efficiency and speed. Meanwhile, the new geometry, RockShox Brain shock, and 100mm of travel, make the Epic the best handling, fastest XC bike you've ever been on.
Our custom RockShox SID WC fork with Brain features a full-carbon upper, top-adjust Brain fade, and a custom offset, making it the perfect match to the new Epic.
SRAM XX1 Eagle bits handle the shifting duties, providing a wide range of useable gears that make climbing and descending equally doable.
Alloy 30T front chainring.
Front Tire: Fast Trak, GRIPTON compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29 x 2.3"
Rear Tire: Fast Trak, GRIPTON compound, 2Bliss Ready, 29 x 2.1"
Hand-built, featherweight Roval Control SL carbon fiber wheels.

My first ride on this bike was not a "put it thru the paces" ride as I was needing to burn the brakes in. We took the opportunity to grab some snapshots of the bike, too, as I thought it might be the only ride I'd get on it.
Specialized S-Works Epic
First initial impressions- the fit and feel of the bike was very comfortable. Standover wasn't an issue.
The bike rolled easily.
I wasn't as bothered by the rear shock as I thought I would be. Everyone talks about the "stutter" from the Brain, and I was under the impression I'd possibly hate it. On the medium setting it didn't seem so bad, barely noticed it. I did play around with the rear suspension settings to see how full, firm, or medium felt. I would say that for me, the medium setting takes the cake for me at this time.

I had my front suspension set more in the middle vs. fully on.

The handling of the bike didn't seem awkward, usually, when I ride a new bike I have moments of "relationship building" and this time it seemed very natural. I liked that a lot.

In reality, the second ride is more important than the first...so let's jump to that.

It had rained that Thursday morning, so I wasn't sure if I'd ride the Epic or not. I deduced I should give the tires a spin in somewhat greasy conditions because that's what Time Trials more than likely is. I rode Bontrager Team Issue XR2 tires all this season, but was curious on the Fast Trak tires- they seemed somewhat similar.

This time, I put the bike thru the paces for as well as I could given the conditions. Wet and leafy trails aren't something I desire to ride fast, but I found it way too easy to get up and go with the Epic!

Things noticed:
#1. Climbing was great. I made it up some steeper/more tricky climbs without issue.
#2. Tires worked very well for the conditions. I was running about 18 psi front and rear- few times I spun on a root, but I never lost traction to the degree of having to put a foot down or stop.
#3. I felt like it had a lot of easy-foward momentum. I'm not sure if it's the weight of the bike, the wheels, or the front chainring size...it was excellent!
#4. Eagle makes it possible for me to use a 30T chainring and be more in the middle- I quite enjoyed that. (I have a 28T on my 1x11 bikes.)
#5. I put my front suspension fully open this time. I'm not sure if it was the suspension, grips, or a combo of both- but my hands were not as sore/numb as they get on some rides. That was a treat.
#6. Cornering felt great. Overall my feeling of stability on the bike was top notch.
#7. Rear suspension on medium setting- didn't really notice it nor felt it was awkward or an issue. It's not the same as the Spearfish, but it definitely makes for an efficient bike for climbing hills, which Decorah has plenty of!
Pink ESI Extra Chunky Grips

I'm a "set it and forget it" type of rider, so I'm usually not fiddling with suspension settings on my bikes. The front fork is always on unless I'm on pavement...with the Spearfish I normally left the rear suspension on "Trail" for that happy medium feeling.

With two rides, I can say with certainty that I love this bike.
At the end of my loop, I had an average of 9.6, which isn't something I've had for quite awhile due to the leaf cover! (I've curbed the speed riding for the past several weeks due to feeling too sketchy.)

I also, almost, hit a deer. Yes, I'm totally not joking! I came up out of a little "dip" in the trail and when I came up a deer had been on the side of the trail probably having supper or something. It saw me, turned around, and ran in front of me. It was faster than my by just enough for me to not literally ram my bike into its hindquarters. I had a real "Oh $#*!" moment wondering what I'd do if I hit the deer...how badly would I get hurt...how broken the bike would be.

This bike makes you almost as fast as a deer running away from mountain bikers!

For folks wondering, as it's a tradition that I name my bikes:
Stephen McNasty...but Stephen is pronounced like "Stefan" ...I kinda like to make up my own rules. All in all, we have for you BEASTFACE Squared...and this bike is a beast. I haven't felt quite like this since I first hammered down on Gaston in the pines and thought "This bike is badass!" Yup. This bike IS badass.
S-Works Epic
For folks looking to get in on some Epic goodness, they do have Comp Carbon and Alloy versions of the women's Epic available. You can look at the men's lineup too- the difference is touch points (grips/saddle) and not having the suspension tuned for smaller riders. Personally, I am appreciating the tuned suspension.

Keep in mind, my desire to try this bike out was strong enough that if I wasn't able to get the Women's S-Works Epic, I would've gotten a men's complete bike or frameset. The frames are EXACTLY the same regardless if you choose the men's or women's option. Most folks change saddles and grips to their preference- I've also ridden suspension setups not tuned to smaller riders without issue.

You have great looking options with looking at the men's lineup with some sweet color options! If you're hankering for carbon, you have 3 options to choose from: Pro, Expert, and Comp Carbon. Again, the difference is the Women's Epic has suspension tuned for smaller riders- this does not mean that a smaller male couldn't rock this bike. In the alloy versions of the women's option, you have smaller frame sizes available, unfortunately, there isn't an XS option in the men's frameset or complete bike.

Without a doubt, I'm completely sold on the Epic, and I can't wait to continue hitting the trails with it! 2018 should be a rad biking year!
Women's S-Works Epic

Monday, November 6, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Heidi Kanayan

It all started at a young age due to my dad love of motorcycles. At the age of 5, I was gifted my first motorcycle and the two-wheeled adventure took off from there. I loved riding it and the adrenaline rush from the start.

Finding People to ride with was always tough. Even though I had a younger brother who rode, the fact that we didn't see eye to eye on much didn’t help nor did our almost 5yr age gape. So I was relegated to ride alone but my mom had qualms with this.

Her main concern, aside from injury, was that I was a girl alone on the trails and that the male riders would take advantage of me. After multiple failed attempts to sneak out of the house to ride without my mom knowing (that engine did not make for a quiet getaway), I switched to mountain biking.

It was helpful that I was also able to fix any attempts to disable my mountain bike unlike on my dirt bike. Sad to say but I never did learn how to work on my motorbike. My mountain bike gave me the freedom to anywhere I wanted and to get out of the house and set out on my own adventures. The fact that I grew up in a home that backed up to the national forest and hundreds of miles of trails was a huge perk. It was also great that I could ride my bike virtually anywhere unlike my motorcycle. The cops and sheriff aren’t too pleased to have a dirt bike without street plates and lights to be driven on city streets even if you live in the mountains. I was also under the age of 16 so there was no driver’s license option. My bike was my transportation and I could sneak out of the house whenever I wanted without being noticed. FREEDOM! I convinced my parents to take me to a race. So in 1998, I started racing my bike at the local cross country center. Now I know my bike had been my means of transportation for a while but I was a horrible and slow climber so that first race was brutal. Thanks to all my time on my motorbike the technical sections of trail were a breeze.

It was interesting to learn that a lot of the other riders, though very capable and fast on the ascent, were very intimidated by the descents. So I began to set to work on my climbing fitness. In that time I started to look further into the varying disciplines of mountain bike racing and discovered downhill. The light bulb went off! So let me get this straight, you take a lift up the hill to ride down the trail. The trail its self is littered with technical features. There is little t no climbing involved? What!? Okay, I am in! I had one BIG problem. I needed a better bike. When most 16-year-olds were asking for a car I was asking for a new mountain bike with suspension front and rear. They complied and I got a 1996 team addition Gary Fisher Joshua Y with Rock Shock Judy, 21 speeds. I still have her to the say and refer to her as Old Squeaky. My intention was to race Downhill but as I looked into all the gear that was needed and the cost of it the races, I decided to stick with cross country for a while. This morphed into later racing cyclocross in 2003, Super D in 2005 for the first time and US Nationals at Mammoth Mountain, 24 hour mountain bike races and later in 2007 Downhill, thanks to a downhill bike loan from a friend at Specialized. In 2013 I competed in my first Enduro race at Mammoth Mountain and decided to race in the Pro field.

Over the years I split my time between my bike and alpine ski racing. Unfortunately, I have sustained multiple knee injuries over the years due to skiing. Some of these injuries and their necessary rehab time have taken a great toll on my bike racing career and have forced me to put my goals of racing professionally on hold. The upside is my physical therapists are thrilled that I love to bike. This love has aided me in all of my recoveries from my many knee surgeries. The time I have spent recovering has taken away my opportunity to really make a go at a mountain bike racing career. Though my most recent injury of two fractured vertebrae in my neck was on my bike. It has told me it is time to get back to riding for fun and sharing that love. At this time I am four months out from that life-altering injury and I am happy to say that I am back out on my bike. Things are still a bit fuzzy as to how far things will go racing wise (for fun) and technical riding wise, but it is good to be back on my bike. Like always my bike is helping me through all of this. Every time I go out things feel better and I feel like I can get back to where I was. It will be a long trail but I will be on my bike for it all until the end.

Facebook: Heidi Kanayan
Instagram: hmkanayan

When you were younger, why do you feel the freedom that #bikelife gave you was so important?
Ever since I was young, my mom and I have never really seen eye to eye on things. So my bike was my way of escaping the house and our fights. She didn't understand why I preferred to spend my time participating in sports or my approach to doing homework. It always got done and I had good grades so I did not see why it was a big deal that I did not do things the way she would do them. As I got older, my bike became my mode of transportation and gave me freedom. It was also a way of getting out on the trails when I didn’t have anyone to ride motorcycles with. My brother was too young and we didn’t really get along, so riding with him didn’t really work out. My parents didn't allow me to ride moto alone and it was kind of hard to sneak off with a running motor and my mom knew where to cut me off. I could sneak out on my mountain bike and go somewhere in stealth mode. Even after I was old enough to get a license, I held off because I had my bike and I loved the fitness I gained from riding everywhere.

Tell us about your decision to start competing- what was your inspiration to ride competitively in your teen years and beyond?

I have always been competitive and had a dream of being a pro athlete. Getting paid to do what you love?! Sign me up!! I grew up ski racing but didn’t start young enough so I knew that would not be my professional competitive path. My parents were not so sure about this aspiration and stressed that I focus on school. So there was a lot of butting heads over my choices to compete but competing made me feel alive and gave me the feeling that I accomplished something that I valued. I had my bike and when I got to high school some of my male friends raced and I asked them if I should give it a try. They told me to go for it. I did my first race at the local cross country ski center that summer. The climbs were really hard but I loved the descents they took you to and that had me hooked. As the years went on I discovered Super D racing (predecessor to Enduro). A friend loaned me a downhill bike one summer so I could try it out and I had a blast. Then there was Enduro. The perfect mix of endurance and downhill.

Out of the events you've done, which would you say is your most favorite?

The ones where I feel really fit and ready for! Hahaha! But really, the 24-hour race at Killington Vermont had a great course. It had flowing single track through the trees and the most amazing loam soil. So much fun! During my laps around 3 a.m. I began to hallucinate that the headless horseman was after me, fell and had no idea I was on the ground and forgot it was summer at one point due to some twinkly Christmas lights. Downieville Classic!!!!!!!!! (it is on the do again list) Love that race! I raced the omnium in 2009 and crushed the downhill and held my own on the cross country. I am working on being that fit again. For that race, you had to race both the XC and DH on the same bike with all the same parts. The DH is 17 miles point to point and the day after the 29mile point to point XC race. Any cyclocross race. They are so fun and the vibe is amazing.

For folks who have not participated in an event before, what advice would you give to someone attending their first one?

Believe in yourself and go for it. You will never know until you try. I wish someone had told me that when I was younger. A race or ride will only be as hard as you make it. Have fun! Have enough food and water and ask your friends who bike for recommendations of what to try. Try the food you are going to use in a race beforehand to know if it will agree with you or not. Did I say have fun?!

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn from them that kept you coming back for more?

Gosh, that is a hard one. Well, I transitioned from a motorcycle to a mountain bike because I wasn’t allowed to ride my dirt bike on my own. So the first thing I learned was that I really missed my throttle for the up hills. My right grip on my mountain bike was a twisted mess over the years due to me wishing (and twisting) that I had a throttle. I saw this as a challenge though, so I dug in and worked on my climbing and made peace with walking and being slow for a while. I learned that downhills were fun and reminded me of my moto. My dad instilled in me to avoid rocks so it took a bit before I got my first flat. When that happened I quickly learned to always have a repair kit with me and some tools. Since I was the only rider in the house, I had to figure out how to work on my bike on my own. My brakes were not working very well after several rides, so I took the levers apart and had springs popping everywhere. I figured out then that I needed new brake pads and to not mess with my levers. When in doubt call a bike mechanic or search the web.

Clips or flats, what do you use and why?

I use clips largely due to some knee issues I have, however, flats are great for beginners. I’m a big believer in personal preference and what is best for the situation. That being said everyone who wants to be a skilled rider needs to learn to ride with flats. I really wish I had done it more once I started racing. It teaches you a round pedal stroke and how to move with the bike, especially on jumps.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?

Oh crashing……um, yeah…..well….Biking has helped me come back from a few knee surgeries and allowed me to prolong my ski instructor career. However, since 2009 I have blown out my knees 3 times and most recently fractured 2 vertebrae in my neck. The first knee op was 6 months before I crushed it at Downieville. Due to growing up riding a dirt bike I got used to crashing, dusting myself off, and getting back on because it was the only way home. So when I biff on my bike, aside from the cuts and scrapes, I don’t really think much of it. The times where I have hit my head, blown up my knee, dislocated things, or had to go to the hospital to have gravel cleaned out have had me take a step back. All in all, I have only had about 4-5 big wrecks that really affected me. The blows to my head, same with cuts, scrapes, and joint issues needed time to heal and strength training. My blown knee sidelined me for about a year and it was really hard to deal with mentally because it was a year after I had already had it fixed.

It definitely made me rethink jumping. But I soldiered on and I don’t jump when it is windy anymore and worked more on perfecting my technique. What I have found to be my greatest strength, and sometimes a crutch, is my ability to look at a situation and to know if I can or can’t pull it off, or to know if it is really worth it. But out of all of this, my most recent injury to my c5-c6 cervical vertebrae and head is the worst mentally. I know physically I will get back to where I was, but to be back to square one and having to rethink my whole life has been hard. I also realize more every day as to how hard I hit my head and as to how much it affects my day to day life. I feel like Will Smith’s character in Fresh Prince “my life got flipped turned upside down…” It's going to take awhile to recover from this one and I am trying my best. It's hard and I have to remember to be patient. I have some great friends and family who are helping me out. One of the hardest things is that I have had to move back home while I figure things out. It has motivated me to simplify things including what I want out of biking and life. I am going back to my roots and happy to just be on my 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?
Going up steep hills without stopping, not falling into bushes, and going slow. Hahaha! I am so guilty of target fixation. I attended a skills camp when I was younger with Team Go Girl and they helped me think of looking at the trail and where I wanted to go instead of the bush next to the trail. I have also learned to session things I have trouble with, and to watch other riders who can clear said feature to learn how they handle the feature. With climbing, it came down to embracing the pain and setting out to find the longest hill I could find to work on climbing it without stopping. Then to do it faster. It helped that I had a teammate for a training partner who had an insatiable appetite for climbing. Her minimum initial climbing ride is an hour. Others were 3hrs. I would dream about the slice of cake, burrito, or the large plate of food I would eat after. All in all, I am an observer of others more skilled than me and my background in riding moto has helped me out immensely, except for going slow. That was until I discovered slow races. So fun and great for mixing it up on group rides.

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

Features that give me the most trouble are gap jumps, drops with a sketchy lead-in, and off camber or flat turns. My whole philosophy is starting small/slow and breathe. With gap jumps it is all a work in progress. I did not grow up jumping so I have a lot of trouble gauging how much speed I need to connect a jump. The more time I spend playing with jumps the better I get. Following and watching better riders helps a lot too. In the grand scheme of things, I try to not let it bug me because I know that if I crash I may not be able to ride the next day. I really want to ride the next day. As for drops with a lead-in, it's all a work in progress; this is an area I have a bit of trouble with. It was getting better while I lived in Mammoth because the riding there is one piece of awkward trail to another piece of awkward trail, so I had to be on my toes all the time. Then you mix in the pumice and it is all awkward. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anywhere to easily or safely session and practice features that gradually got bigger and harder. While riding at Whistler and playing in their skills parks I was finally starting to see some improvements, but a move to a developing bike park staved off some of those improvements. The lack of challenging trails and features caused me to get sloppy. When it comes to cornering, my go-to is to start slow and work on my braking, tipping my bike, angling/twisting my body, and trusting my tires. Lots of trust in my tires. Then slowly increase my entry speed into the corner. For all of this, breathing and patience.

What do you love about riding your bike?

The freedom it has afforded me and the adventures it has taken me on. I have seen some amazing places and sights and I have only barely scratched the surface of what can be seen and ridden. It also makes me feel alive and is my own personal roller coaster where I am in control of the thrills. The challenges that riding has presented me over the years has also made me a stronger person and forced me to not give up.

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

The first bike that I really rode was a ridged Sport Mart (think Walmart) bike that was an add special. It was cheap.

First real bike: 1996 Gary Fisher Joshua Y team addition. It was full suspension and I wanted to give downhill a try, but it only saw xc races!

2004 Rocky Mountain Slayer. I was ready for a real bike with disk brakes and could go both uphill and downhill.

2005 Specialized S-Works Epic. It was time for a real xc race bike.

2004 Giant TCR. First road bike! Training bike!

2004 Giant Anthem. I broke my Specialized and it was a great bike for a great deal.

2007 Specialized Big Hit. I was a demo that was loaned to me so I could race DH. I later bought it for a steal.

2010 Giant Glory, single crown. The Big Hit was stolen and this was a good deal.

2012 Rocky Mountain Flatline. I needed more suspension then the Glory.

2012 Felt Z2. New carbon road bike. It’s carbon it has electric shifting!

2013 Intense 951. First nice DH bike!!!!!

2016 Liv Intrigue. Needed a bike to race Enduro and be able to ride up the hills.

Next……

With no racing on the radar- what biking goals do you have for yourself?

The focus is going to be 1) Getting my fitness back that will enable me to ride any length trail/ride I want. 2) Ride for the fun of it. 3) Let go of the what ifs. If there is a race that looks fun, the goal is to be able to enter and do well, maybe win. I am tired of being slow and weak. I have had this crazy idea of being able to ride a double century in a day. Think of the base miles that would entail!!! How awesome would that be?! So cool! I also want to give back to the cycling community with skills clinics and empowering women to get on a bike and kill it at any level.
What are your thoughts on not riding competitively vs. for enjoyment? Is there a sense of excitement? Relief?
I have always ridden for enjoyment and loved racing. I will find my way on to a racecourse at some point but they will be fun races and I will avoid crazy DH races. Racing was a way to travel, meet people and ride new trails. At this stage, the likelihood of having any sort of pro career that would pay for itself is not going to happen. I am okay with that, as sad as it makes me. I have won the races I wanted to win and attained the titles I wanted to attain, even if the big one was last year. That makes all of this bittersweet. In the end, my race season last year was really frustrating. I was the old lady on the circuit, yet I am not old, and I had a hard time connecting with the other girls. Could be due to talking too much due to nerves. I was traveling alone to all the races, where in the past, I had teammates. I made a few friends but still felt alone. I was riding horribly and was having a lot of trouble putting a race together. Something that once came naturally to me. The relief is that I can go ride with friends and not stress about how to cover race fees. That money can be better spent on adventures and seeing new trails. If I do race, I am going to see if I can race in the master’s class. Most of the women I grew up racing with are in that field and I miss them.

On a side note. Since answering this question I have gotten back into racing, for fun. I set a goal to race and win the last Sturdy Dirty race in Big Bear, California. Well, the good news is….. I did it! I won! Best news!! I was excited to race and not scared or driven to panic attacks. So I guess you can say that I’M BACK!! To race for fun.

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

The sport is intimidating. I am a great rider and there are days where still don't feel I am good enough. As for getting women on any sort of bike. That is a hard one. I am not sure how to answer that. I used to say the clothes needed revamping, but that has been taken care of. It is hard to find a selection in most shops though. At least it is hard for me to find the type of clothing I like that is feminine but also functional. Can’t say I am a fan of a tank top while riding my mountain bike. Hmm, road rash and bad sunburns. The more time I spend in the industry the harder it is to pinpoint the issue. I have often said that we need more women working in bike shops and shop employees that are encouraging of getting women on bikes of any style. The more I travel, the more I see that happening. Women are social beings and having an area with a strong women’s riding group has done wonders in getting women on bikes. In the end, I would say it has to be us as women spreading the attitude of inclusivity and support to one another to get out and ride. No judgment. No drop. To remind others that the ride will only be as hard as you want to make. If you want to go slow, go slow. Just ride and have fun.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
In any local area, I feel it comes down to having a strong social network of women to ride with and encourage each other. The industry is making a huge push in demo tours and fun rides, so let’s keep them going and invite your girlfriends to come with you. Here in Southern California, due to the passion that drives Wendy Engelberg, we are fortunate enough to have the Girlz Gone Riding organization. I have been involved with a few women’s cycling organizations over the years, Velo Bella and Team Cycle, and the outreach programs that Wendy has been putting together. The community of female cyclists that has grown from this effort is an awe-inspiring thing to watch and to be a part of.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

I need my girls!!! My self-indulgent side knows that if there are more women out riding our clothing and protection offerings will get better. That means better, cuter, and functional clothing and bikes!!!! Truly, it is an awesome thing to see a woman or a girl find her wings to soar through riding. I have seen so many women learn that they can take over the world and achieve anything they put their mind to simply because they were able to ride the rock garden or switchback this week that they believed to be unrideable last week. Oh, and having people to talk about hair and fashion. The guys don’t seem to be into that as much.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Deathly afraid of spiders (seriously, I moved out of my room once for 3 days due to a huge one) and though I hide from pictures, I actually really want to be in them. Especially action shots. Hahahaha!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

First Review on the 2018 Trek Farley 9.8

I'm here today to write a non-professional review on the 2018 Trek Farley 9.8 fatbike. I say "non-professional" since I'm not going to go into all of the jargon or specs used for most bike reviews because....

#1. I feel there are plenty of reviews out there for the spec person to read, but not as many for folks that simply want a candid opinion of how a bike handles and rides.

#2. I've never done a review on one of my bikes before. My biggest beef is every review I read is so darn "tech-y" and lacks simple candid speak about how their experience was on the bike. It's my blog, I'm not getting paid to write about the bikes, so I figure I can write the review however I want. Ha!

This is the first review on this bike as I plan to write a second review after I've ridden this bike during the snow season.

The fatbike I've used for multiple seasons now is my trusty Specialized Fatboy. It was custom built and custom painted, truly a beaut for those who have seen it. For two winters I started running 45NRTH Van Helga tires (except when icy, then I'd break out my studded Gnarwhal tires.) We have my current rig set up tubeless with a 1x11 drivetrain. Really, I don't have complaints about the Fatboy, but it is lacking some of the updated technology (like those nifty thru-axles!)
Last winter Travis got his hands on a Trek Farley 9.8 and absolutely loved it. He thought it was fabulous and the most fun he's had on a fatbike in a long, long time. I watched him climb up packed trails without issue as I would spin out. I might say a little bike envy happened! My lack of success was more likely due to my tire choice, but I hated the idea of switching tires on a regular basis.

With the success that Travis experienced with his few outings of snow riding, he thought it was worth investing in a Farley 9.8 for me to try. When the opportunity came to back-order the 2018 Farleys we made sure to include a pint-sized 15.5" Farley 9.8 in the mix for me. We jumped on it because it seems high-end bikes build in smaller sizes are minimal. This would be my first full-carbon fatbike (I have a Beargrease set up as a 27.5+ and I aim to keep her that way.) and I was excited to try out the 27.5" wheel size. (It's unknown at this time if I'll scope out any fatbike races this season, simply due to how unpredictable winters are becoming.)

Unlike Travis' bike, mine would come with the SRAM Eagle drivetrain (1x12) and a dropper post, two things that I've been itching to try and would finally have the opportunity to do so. I'm an avid 1x rider and have really enjoyed the 1x11 setup. Would I need 1x12? I don't know. Would I truly need a dropper post? Probably not, but it's something that many folks get to try out on our rentals...it's high time I learn more about it, experience it, and figure it out.
We kept this bike stock minus swapping out the saddle for my women's specific Ajna saddle and changing the stock tires out to put on 4.5" Gnarwhals. The intent was for this to be my winter steed for snow-riding and we'd leave studded tires on my Fatboy for icy conditions. Even with the knobs on, I wanted to test out the bike on dry trails vs. getting my handling experience only in the snow. So, we took Davey Jones (the Farley) out to Palisades for a short jaunt. I will admit, I wasn't 100% in total love with the bike.
#1. I'm so used to riding something with suspension that it took me a bit to get used to the lack of it. #2. It wasn't a lightweight race bike like I had been riding (Duh, Josie!) and going from "fast" to "not as fast" always throws me for a loop. (For a fatbike, compared to what I remember for averages last year,it was fast.)
#3. New bike jitters.
#4. I never dialed in air pressure prior to going out, thus I had a typical "Josie was in a hurry and is going to fumble around" experience.

The other day I decided it was time to take Davey Jones out again because temperatures were going to be dropping and I was going to have to tuck the squishy bikes in for the winter season. I might as well get more used to riding without suspension now vs. later.
Trek Farley 9.8
Not being fair and riding the Fatboy back-to-back with the Farley I have to say I really liked the geometry of the Farley. The 27.5" wheel size compared to the 26" wheels made me feel more at home, somehow. I know some of this is your tire choice on the 26" fatbikes, and having the more minimal Vanhelgas on vs. a wider tire would change the overall height/feel of the bike. I've felt like I'm "low" when I'm on the Fatboy when compared to how I feel on the Farley I was tickled because it felt like I was on one of my other bikes in terms of standover and how I rolled. It might just all be in my head. Either way, it felt more off-road capable and mountain bike-ish, and I really enjoyed that.

I felt the handling of the bike (after a couple instances of not being graceful) was great. It felt like it could turn well and seemed very responsive. I even used this bike to session a particularly tight uphill corner which surprised Travis because there was literally no room for error, and I was successful! Since there was virtually no wiggle room, I learned to maneuver the corner pretty quickly.

Rigid isn't something I love, and I could feel it in my shoulders/arm/neck. However, it was a good way to practice keeping my body "loose" instead of riding ridged myself. There was one point tho where I was almost completely bounced off my bike- yes, being clipped in would've helped, but one instance of "Doh!" isn't going to make me convert. Lesson learned! I should've weighted my pedals more and/or been more aware of what I was riding.

The Gnarwhal tires are AMAZING, granted, more tread than what is needed for our leafy trails- but gosh darn they have so much traction! The bike literally ate uphills and experiencing that phenomenal traction put a smile on my face, probably more than just bombing over obstacles. I am more of a climber than a descender I think, and I can appreciate a bike that helps me get up hills.
Our trails in Decorah have been leafy, so I curbed my speed as I am more of a cautious rider. I wiped out pretty hard, twice, on my Spearfish during a group ride due to leaves. So my trust of cornering/speed/leaves just isn't there- I did feel confident while descending, and that was helpful!

Trek FarleyI focused most of my ride on climb-intensive trails to give myself a workout, but to also see how "difficult" riding a fatbike would be as I was so used to not riding big tires. It really wasn't bad! Folks will ask all the time how "hard" fatbikes are to ride, and they aren't. It's like riding any other bike- you pedal and it moves forward. Depending on the bike and how it's built, you might have a 40 lb tank or you may have something sub 30 lbs. It's up to you and how much you want to spend for what type of ride. For many folks, once they try a fatbike, get why they are so damn FUN!

Take me, for instance. I've become somewhat obsessed with how fast I can go on trails; putting me on a fatbike decreases my ability to go as "fast" but it increases my ability to just enjoy riding my bike. You can bomb over things (roots/rocks) with ease. You can climb hills with phenomenal traction. You can hear the fun "vroom-vroom" sound the tires make when you're going down a hill or riding on pavement. (It's hard to actually write out the sound, it's best you take a fatbike out to experience it first hand!) Short summary: a fatbike makes riding happy.

The dropper post is something that may take me a bit to get used to. I learned to ride our trails with a seatpost up, so having the ability to not have it in my way is different. Sometimes I find myself feeling like it's easier for me to know if I'm back far enough with the seatpost in my way- I use it as a gauge. With it down, I'm a bit perplexed yet successful as I go down some of the more steep sections. "Am I back far enough? If I'm not, I'll find out the hard way..." I felt like it was less of an issue when I went down the Fred trail a second time. Obviously, the more I use it the more I'll get used to it. Mostly I'm hoping it will make my remounts in the winter less awkward and clumsy!

My third ride on this bike had me feeling like I had a better groove- I could tell I was trusting the handling more.  I'm still impressed with how the bike rolls and how even with 4.5" tires I feel like they are "small" and they don't make me think I'm going to fall off the trail because there isn't enough trail. (Oh, depth perception.) That might change in the winter when I'm riding what will seem like a smaller path.

For me, the Farley feels more like a mountain bike than a "snow bike" and I really enjoy that. I'm intrigued by the possibility of turning it into a 29+ for dry-season riding, but we'll take baby steps with that as I'll have two other bikes to test out next season that I'm super stoked about. I started out riding trails on a 29+ so it would be fun to go back to my roots and see what I think several years later.

Also note: For folks not looking to buy a second wheelset and turn their fatbike into a "two-bikes-in-one" you can go the route of adding a front suspension fork! That will allow you to run higher air pressures in the front tire and take away some of the bumpiness during dry season riding. Folks who may have neck/shoulder/hand issues may find that to be a good route to go. It will also allow you to pedal more efficiently instead of working against lower pressure tires, thus, making it feel more like a big-tired mountain bike vs. "a fatbike."

All in all:
Fatbikes are rad. No, they might not be just like your super awesome full-suspension race bike, but
they are totally worth having around.
It puts a smile on your face.
It's an excellent workout.
It'll make riding in snow doable.
It makes riding trails for newer riders more enjoyable and makes riding trails for more experienced riders different (in a FUN way!)
Stability & Traction= Confidence & Inspiring

2018 Farley 9.8
The Farley 9.8 is (unfortunately) sold out for the season, but you might have the option of getting your hands on one of the other Trek Farley options.
So far, without any snow riding experience on this bike, I give it two (huge) thumbs up! I plan to write another review after I've experienced the snow season on this bike. All in all- give one of the new Farleys a try if you can, I left the trails with a big smile on my face, and I bet you will, too!