Friday, March 7, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Kristin Torresdal

I've known Kristin since I started working at the food co-op but never really talked to her a whole lot for the first few years. Honestly ithe timing in our lives and what we were interested in that really dictated that. I was in a period of time where I was very much "go to work and go home" with little desire to go out and I was not physically active either.
That all changed after I bought a bike, which slowly but surely helped me open up and start talking to others who were bike riders themselves. I'll admit, I thought Kristin was probably close to professional! This is where new bike riders typically make snap judgments without actually knowing the truth behind the thought. I had recently started my Let's Ride Bikes facebook page and talked with Kristin about going for a ride. I will admit, I was slightly nervous and intimidated. I hadn't ridden with another female before and considering she had been riding for longer than I had, I worried I would have a difficult time. That first ride together gave me more than just someone to pedal with, it gave me a new friend! We've ridden a few times with Clara and tackled several night rides together. Kristin was very much a positive force for me and would help me push myself to go a little farther or a little faster.
When winter came I was sad, for Kristin and I had to put off our rides together, that is until fatbikes came to town! It was a blast taking Kristin out for her first fatbike ride up in Van Peenen, and it also gave me a new sense of confidence as I was actually leading for the first time. Long story short, I can't wait to see what bike riding adventures Kristin and I go on this year!


When did you first start riding a bike?
My parents were avid cyclists when I was a kid, so they started pulling me in a car seat strapped into a Cannondale trailer when I was 6 weeks old ("As soon as Mom would allow," Dad says and Mom adds "I'm amazed that I was willing to do that!"). I have fond memories of eating snacks and watching the scenery roll by, having picnics at Moe Park, throwing my shoes out of the back of the trailer (Mom does NOT remember this as fondly..), and counting the number of roadkill animals we saw (what a weirdo!). The summer I turned 3, I started riding on the back of a tandem bike behind my dad (we had a kid-back conversion kit). I spent many years as a "stoker" and many years sneering at the people who LOVED to say "can't you just stop pedaling?" (NO, you actually can't). I got my first single bike when I was 5 ("Buttercup," complete with glitter and butterflies) and I told anyone who would listen that I learned to ride without training wheels (as evidenced by my scabby knees). We rode a lot of country roads and some paved trails in the tri-state area.
What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
After riding quite a bit when I was young, I hit the phase when nothing your parents do is cool anymore and avoided getting on a bike any way I could manage. I don't remember riding much- if at all- during my middle school or high school years. From age 12-22, I was also busy shooting sporting clays competitively for 4-5 months of the year, so my time and focus went towards that. I finally got a bike again when I was 17 (for transportation purposes during college) and then got a mountain bike (for gravel rides) about 6 years ago. NOW I ride because I love everything about it: the workout, the chance to see our beautiful region up close (best viewed by bike or kayak, or with fly rod in hand), the mental and physical challenges you face, the fun I have riding with friends and family... the deliciousness of a well-deserved snack at the end of a challenging ride... it's all great!
What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain)
For a long time, I would've said that gravel was my favorite (and I do still love it) but I got chewed on by a farm dog a few years ago and that took some of the fun out of it for me. I've not spent much time mountain biking but I'm making it a priority this year to really give it a shot and see what I can learn. I'll be surprised if that doesn't quickly become my new favorite! 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
I did just a tiny bit of mountain biking a few years ago.. I don't remember the very first ride, specifically, but over all I was NERVOUS! We have some pretty intimidating trails around here and I was both out of shape and out of touch with my bike. Any hill I climbed without stopping and any trail section I made it through without having to walk over some seemingly insurmountable obstacle (ahem, like a small tree root...) felt like a major victory.
If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
In the case of mountain biking, I never really overcame it.. I'm not proud of it- but I allowed the fear of getting hurt (to the extent that it would interfere with both of my jobs, or my ability to take care of my big dog) to overshadow everything else and I just threw in the towel. Now, thinking about getting back out there on some singletrack and actually learning how to RIDE it this time... I know I just need to push fear aside and trust that all will be well (and if nothing else, I have good insurance). The reality is that you can get hurt riding pavement or gravel (or walking across the street, for that matter) and I have FAR more to gain by getting out there and pursuing trail riding than I have to lose if I get banged up a little. And I always, ALWAYS wear a helmet and gloves, so there's that.
Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share?
I use clipless pedals for riding pavement and gravel; I plan to hold off on that for awhile when I start riding trails, until I get somewhat comfortable- but ultimately, I'll definitely use clipless for everything (except maybe winter commuting...). Tips for getting started.. just practice (and try to do it away from a lot of traffic). Know that you WILL fall but you'll be fine. I got used to clipless while riding gravel- maybe not the BEST choice but only the occasional tractor-driving farmer witnessed my falls (and they mostly seemed to think I was crazy to be riding where I was, anyway).
If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
Last year I was a fair weather commuter- the worst challenge I faced was sweaty helmet hair, so no biggie there. This year has been my first winter commuting experience and I'm LOVING IT. The only real challenge I've faced is how frustrated I get when circumstances force me to drive my car instead (picking up dog food, taking my dog to the vet, etc.). I'm an all-or-nothing type of person, so I start to feel like an abject failure if there are a couple of days in a row when I have to drive. BUT I hate driving a car in snow, on my bike I never have to search for parking, I've paid less than $20 a month for gas the past few months, and I've been better-dressed for the weather so I've not yet been cold (something I can't say for the days I've had to drive and the car takes ages to warm up...). PLUS, few things are more peaceful than the crunch of bike tires on snow, surrounded by holiday lights with stars and a big bright moon overhead. I'll definitely be riding year-round after such a good experience this winter (even with the epic winter weather).

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level? Have those at all impacted how you ride now? How did you overcome the stress of those situations?
I've had a few minor falls and one dog incident... the falls were no big deal thanks to my helmet (and lavender oil works wonders on road rash), so really the worst part about those was missing outdoor rides or the gym for a few days (or a couple of weeks, in one case). The dog bite was a bigger problem- usually they just nip a little bit but this one took a pretty big chunk out of my thigh, stitches, and a hefty ER bill, etc. Actually, that was the least of it- the BIGGEST problem was that I became so afraid of dogs that I basically quit riding gravel (which I LOVED), unless I was in a group with enough burly people to (hopefully) prevent such a thing from reoccurring. I won't ride gravel alone again (which probably wasn't very smart to begin with) but enough time has passed that I'm less afraid... and more bucky about the whole thing. So, bitey dogs, watch yourselves!

What do you love about riding your bike?

I love the sense of accomplishment, both mental and physical, that stems from overcoming the challenges one faces on a bike.  I love the new experiences, the way you simply MUST get out of your comfort zone, and the new friendships that form through cycling.  Now that I'm teaching indoor cycling classes at Reefuel, that adds a whole new level of enjoyment and opportunity- and a way to increase fitness rather than lose ground during the winter.  Few things are more fun and inspiring than spending a chunk of my week with people who want to work hard, sweat, and have a good time (on bikes)! 

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