Friday, January 30, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Nicky Soulsby

I grew up in North Vancouver, and spent pretty much all of my childhood outside. I competed on the BC Freestyle mogul team, the BC women's u-18 rugby team, and played rep soccer. 
My mom tried to get me into mountain biking as a kid, but I didn't take to it.

This June my friend took me up Seymour, and I gave mountain biking another whirl. I fell head over heels for it, literally and metaphorically. I spent the rest of the summer biking, and plan to race in the BC cups this year. My favourite kind of riding is steep and technical, but I like pretty much everything else too. 


When I'm not outside I like to paint and listen to music. I currently live in Victoria for school, and I am at UVic in my fourth year of Mechanical Engineering.





Check out Nicky's Pinkbike Video and 
Find Nicky on Instagram!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding a bike when I was 4 or 5 years old, in our lane way where all the kids in our neighborhood would hang out. My little brother had gotten a new bike with training wheels. I was jealous, so I took off the training wheels so that I could ride it and made him learn to ride without training wheels. 

You mentioned your mom tried to get you into mountain biking as a kid-but it didn't take. What do you feel was different about your experience then vs. now?
I think that I liked it as a kid, but I was probably just more interested in playing with my friends.

Tell us what you remember about your mountain bike ride this year that gave you the bug!
I've always loved being outdoors; skiing, hiking, surfing and camping. When I tried biking I fell in love with it because it filled the gap that skiing fills in winter. It’s exhilarating. Hiking is awesome, but there isn’t the same adrenaline factor.  

If you have nervousness, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Breathing and thinking positively is key. I have definitely been nervous before trying new things, but the feeling you get from trying something new, whether you succeed or fail, is always way better than feeling like you should have tried but didn't. And if you did fall you can get up and try it again, and it will be even more rewarding when you finally get it.

You love steep and technical sections-what makes you embrace that challenge and why does it fulfill you?
There is a natural transition from mogul skiing to technical riding, as a lot of the techniques are similar. I like steep technical sections because you have the freedom to pick your own line, and it is also what came most easily to me when I started biking. Jumping is definitely the most intimidating part of riding for me.

You plan to race in the BC cups this year- tell us about why you want to compete and what it means to you being a second-year rider.
I am stoked to compete in the BC cups next year because it will be an opportunity to improve and to get exposed to the mountain biking community. I am also excited to meet more girls who mountain bike and share the same zeal for riding as I do.  

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I don't use clipless pedals, but I was interested in it before I bought riding shoes. I would definitely consider it in the future, especially since the studs on my pedals have ripped apart my shins.  

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 fallen a lot of times, but getting up, back on my bike and trying again is the best thing I can do. If I don't try again right away I will have a harder time trying it again in the future, because I make it to be more daunting than it is in my head. 

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I haven't mastered any part of riding yet, so I ask a lot of questions, like a ton. Every time I find something challenging or don't know how to approach it, I ask the guys I ride with what they do, and then I consciously think about doing that while I ride. If you don't get it the first time just try again, not everything comes easily so just keep trying and you'll get it. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything! I love the people I ride with, being outside, being challenged, improving, being scared, having fun and pretty much everything else too. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I bought a 2009 Specialized Demo 7 at the beginning of summer. It was really inexpensive and was such an awesome bike to learn to ride on. I sold it at the end of summer and upgraded to a 2012 Intense 951. Having a downhill bike gave me more confidence to try things I otherwise might not have, just because there's that extra bit of give if you screw up. I'm also hoping to get a trail bike soon. 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I have a Giro Cipher and I love it. I also bought Sombrio riding shoes at the end of the summer and they helped my riding a lot. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think that a lot of Women are deterred from extreme sports because of what they have been exposed to. If they watch Redbull Rampage and think that that is what all of mountain biking is like, they probably aren't going to try it. I think that if mountain biking for beginners was advertised more, there would be more people who tried it.

Another factor could be that it is a male dominated sport - little boys grow up riding and they get their friends to come with them, so it spreads the word and gets more guys interested. If there aren't a lot of girls trying, they won't be able to spread the word as far. I think that more girls would go biking if they had girls to introduce them to riding, however; I have tried to get a lot of my girlfriends to come riding, and most of them don't want to try. It doesn't matter how much I talk off their ear telling them how great it is, they just don't have the interest or desire to try - so there is a lack of interest too. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think that exposing girls to riding is key, because that is what will spark an interest. After they have been exposed to it, they need a comfortable environment to learn in. A lot of companies are trying to make that environment by creating all girls riding groups. I worked at Escape Adventures, a kids bike camp run out of Vancouver, for part of the summer. They had Spoke Sisters riding camps, which were geared for all levels of girls wanting to learn or improve their riding skills with other girls. It creates a supportive atmosphere to learn in, and the girls little rippers. I also think that girls should be encouraged to ride with guys. Guys are skilled at pushing one another to try new things while still having a good time. 

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
It's fun and I want girls to ride with! I hope that by introducing more women to riding some of them will also find a passion for it. 

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love to travel, and have been to 5 continents. When I was in Australia I did a 2 night hiking trip with my god-brother, and ended up getting lost at near the end. We found the closest road and hitchhiked back to where we had left our truck. The person who picked us up happened to be the first person to cross the Tasman Sea in a kayak and the first person to cross country ski to the south pole, Justin Jones, from the documentaries 'Crossing the Ditch' and 'Crossing the Ice'

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Women Involved: Chandra Crawford (Fast and Female)

Meet Chandra Crawford who founded Fast and Female! A Canadian Cross Country Skier, she won gold in the 2006 Winter Olympics. Passionate about sports and wanting to keep young women involved, she started Fast and Female in 2005. Young women are much more likely to drop out of athletics than males-Fast and Female creates a positive environment and a great way for communities to take action!


You can find Fast and Female on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

What inspired you to create Fast and Female and why do you feel it is so important to have a program such as yours?
Fast and female exists because of a need in society for more confidence in girls, there is also a need for physical activity for everyone in all walks of life. The value of physical activity is so important for everyone.
In their teens, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate than boys; I created Fast and Female in 2005 with my teammates to do something about that.
I want girls to achieve their potential in life and improve their confidence, and sport is a great way to grow confidence!

What athletic activities does Fast and Female offer? Do girls get to pick and choose what they try?
Over the last 9 years Fast and Female has had events in 24 different spots in 5 different countries and has 40 big events during the year. (Most are located in North America.)
1/3rd of events are in Cross Country skiing, but because of demand of other sports you will find events featuring mountain biking, canoe/kayak, ski cross, speed skate, and triathlons. It all depends on if there is a super motivated volunteer in that sport (community) who gets in touch with Fast and Female to set up the event.

Fast and Female offers very inclusive activities. Girls take part in physical literacy, which are vital skills for health and well being for whatever sport they choose. Imagine girls at various stations working on core, strength, flexibility, and plyometrics.
General athleticism is the main goal of Fast and Female and exposing girls to a variety of different sports, role models, and experiences.

Why was it important for you to get other professional athletes on board to help with the program?
Reason we have so many ambassadors is because they are all such wonderful role models and we can reach many girls! Fast and Female has 100 different ambassadors who are available to go to events.
If someone wants to have an event in their community/sport (it’s really available to them to contact the up and coming athletes, past athletes, etc. who they would want to come out and be role models for that sport.)
It’s so valuable for young women to have good role models- that is what our ambassadors do.

Why do you feel it's important to introduce and encourage young women to athletics?
Athletics and sport will give confidence and confidence is very valuable in life.

What has been the most inspirational moment for you since Fast and Female started?
About a year ago when a 9 year old girl told me she was nervous to advance to her next level ski group. I was really nervous about going to Sochi 2014 Olympics.
Tinisha and I were able to totally connect on our fear of putting ourselves out there, trying things that are hard, trying things not guaranteed, and trying our best and we might fail was one of the most rewarding and inspirational moments since starting Fast and Female.

For someone who is not athletically inclined, how would you help them find an athletic activity that they would enjoy?
There are so many wonderful ways to move and be active! I highly recommend trying as many activities with as many different people you can.
I had never done Tabata, I found a new thing I really enjoy. Another example on finding something you really enjoy- My mom in her late 60’s just discovered she loves pilates! We are so happy to see my mom connecting with something that is a good physical activity for her.
We can all have and do whatever we want and there are so many wonderful athletic activities out there for girls and people out there of all ages and walks of life.

You have Summits, Champ Chats, and Power Hours-how did you come up with these programs and why are they so well received?
These continue to be developed to meet the demand, to meet the flood of emails in our inbox.

We’ve added the Power Hour- any club can have a power hour and do something for their girls. Any club can have a Fast and Female power hour, usually it takes a couple weeks to line something up.
It’s picking a unique activity that will connect/bond them and keep them in sport. It’s a great idea to have the girls do something that isn’t their typical sport. Example- take your basketball team rock climbing, if you have a running group- go swimming.

Champ Chat- classic event format (having events at a national championship) If you are the organizer or part of the club, give us a call and we’ll make sure there is an inspiring program for girls that will make the event even more memorable.

Summit- only had one so far, stand-alone-day full day for girls. The main objective is to spend more time with girls, the parents, and coaches. They get to meet inspiring role models and experience the community of Fast and Female!

What inspired you to reach out and encourage professional athletes to help you with your program/become ambassadors vs. athletic (non-professional) athletes?
We have all kinds of ambassadors! We have athletes who are Olympians, regional champions, recreational triathletes. It’s very inclusive.
The national ambassadors have an elevated profile- more mainstream (girls see them more in media)
For non-professional athletes we have the Expert category. There you will find physiologists, strength/conditioning coaches, and sport psychologists.

Is there a way that non-professional, athletic women can help support your organization?
Absolutely! Women of all walks of life can be part. They can wear our logo and merchandise; connect with us on our social media networks. Those are low-impact ways that one can help. Volunteer at events, help organize an event or fundraiser- I have met a lot of incredible non-professional, normal women who have become friends of mine and help Fast and Female out regularly!

What would you like people to know about Fast and Female and what you do?
They can become involved and host a power hour in their sports club, kids club, with their friends, etc. It’s an extremely fun organization to be a part of. We are trying to create a movement all across North America and the world! We also have a need for many professional services- graphic design, grant writing, database management, etc.
We are a volunteer-driven organization and would love to get people involved in any way they want to. For them to take it on as their own cause, to help further the cause of keeping girls in sports.

Where do you hope to see the program in the next 5 years?
We would want to measure our impact. If a person had a strong research background they could help us with this- help us figure out the measurability of our programs.
We have already reached 8,000, will reach another 3,000 girls per year ideally grow into a movement that people can take into their own clubs, so we can see photos online, all over social media of girls everywhere in all kinds of athletics/sports activities becoming ambassadors for their communities in their clubs.

What can be done inspire the next generation of female athletes?
Role models- strong, female role models!
It’s so valuable if a 12 yr old athlete meets a 16 yr old athlete (or a 30 year old meeting a 40 year old athlete.)
Strong and positive role models are valuable and help girls/women see what they want to do.

What inspired you to get involved with athletics? You are an Olympic XC skier, are there other athletic activities you enjoy?
I grew up in a very athletic community with a great family and was exposed to a ton of different sports.
Kayaking, travel, backcountry skiing, love reading, dancing, singing, playing guitar, yoga, cooking, and mostly love people and animals and have a lot of passions in life.

Were you a natural when you started out, or did you struggle?
I was exposed to sport at an early age (toddler), and my struggles have been throughout my career. It’s always hard to improve yourself no matter how natural you are.
I think it was funny when I won the Olympics, people said “Oh that course was great for you!”
It definitely was NOT great for me!
When I got to the 2006 Olympics in Italy I hated the course, but I worked on it every day for those 3 weeks.
I’d been working on skills like that at home; I made that course into a good fit for me, rather I made myself into a good fit for the course!

What are ways that we can encourage someone who isn't "naturally talented" at their athletic choice-but loves it regardless?
Bill Bowerman said he doesn’t have time for those who are naturally talented and he spends all his time with the ones who are hardworking, dedicated, and passionate for the sport. I think that this is something everyone can get behind. (Coaches, family, and administrators) For individuals to recognize the value of work ethic and down-scale attention of natural ability. To have people praise effort, struggle, and work.

Why is it so important for your own mental/emotional well-being to be physically active?
I just have a feeling when I need to go for a run; I get out there and feel way better. It’s like any habit. There is a need recognized, a habit that happens, and then a reward. I always get that reward!

What is something random about yourself that people may or may not know?
I am really intimidated by my next phases of business school- I’m doing my MBA at the University of Calgary. It’s a big transition like everyone says, but I’m really fortunate to have a lot of support, so it’s not unlike an Olympic endeavor.

Also? I love wearing my cowboy boots! I can run in them, wear them all day, go to concerts, and I think they are the greatest shoes on earth!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Tiffanie Beal

I am 32 years old, originally from the Seattle area and a Colorado resident since 2000. Something about Colorado called to me and sight unseen I hauled my few possessions to Boulder and never looked back.
My outdoor passions include mountain biking, trail running, backcountry skiing, camping, orienteering, and basically anything outdoors.

When I’m not outside I am most likely cooking or reading a book. Working full time at IMBA, I get to live my 9-5 weekday supporting one of my biggest passions.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I started riding in 2005. I bought my first mountain bike in 2004 but had to wait out an ACL tear from skiing before I could really start. 



What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I truly love the outdoors and adventure. Being outside, commuting without a car, getting into the backcountry, riding out my door - it's all about fun and freedom whether it's just a normal day or a challenging race. 

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I loved the Dakota 50 in Rapid City, SD. It was a 50 mile mountain bike race in the heart of the Black Hills, and the race support was wonderful, the racers low-key and encouraging of each other, and the most singletrack I've been on in a race of that length. As for competing, it really feels truly awesome to go as fast as possible and get that eye of the tiger feeling. I seem to forget that technical bits make me anxious when there's competition breathing down my neck. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
I remember I was struggling so hard to keep up. I went mountain biking with my new boyfriend and all his buddies, who are all great mountain bikers. I tagged along, probably crashed a bit, and walked a lot. Years after the fact I found out it was one of the most technical trails in the area, and just on the other side of the hill there was an easy beginner trail. I didn't even know it existed! 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I was always nervous at first, but trying to keep up with the group of boys I started riding with kept me too exhausted to think about nervousness. 

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
Yes, I use clipless pedals. When starting, make sure they are at their loosest setting so you feel more confident about being able to get out when you need to. And feeling them out for the first time, have someone else hold your bike while you sit on it, and clip in and out so your muscle memory begins to recognize the action.

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 still get me, but I'm getting better with those. Tight turns and balancing acts (track stands) are the things that are hard for me to this day, but worth working on as they'll help you through the dicey technical sections. A good way to challenge yourself without being at risk on a trail is to start with a parking lot, using curbs and parking lines as your guides and tools. 

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
When heading into a technical bit, some days are better than others. Some days I'm walking, some days I'm confidently riding through it. The more I try and the more I ride, the higher my confidence goes. Those days are tough when I feel ready to explode in frustration and get tired of walking. But it just takes another day and a better attempt at the section that will make me feel so much better. When I finally ride something I have never been able to ride before, I'm over the moon! That just happened this last weekend. You couldn't wipe the smile off my face for the whole day.

You had a post on Dig In that talked of getting lost on a past adventure race (in the dark!)- how do you get past the general nervousness of riding in the dark?
Once you've ridden in the dark, you realize how awesome it is. I think it's just getting over the hurdle of actually doing it for the first time. It's a quiet and focused time on the bike with no one out and you have the trails to yourself. Your world becomes just what's immediately around you and it's actually not scary to me at all. In fact, it's really cool to experience. 

When did you realize you could ride trails at night? (This is my first year of riding mtb trails at night, I'll admit I thought it would be impossible-even with a great light.)
When I first started mountain biking my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) did a 24-hour mountain bike race in Moab. I went to support him, and saw everyone riding throughout the night and loving it. 

Do you have tips or suggestions for someone who is interested in going for a non-race mtb ride in the dark?
It is important for me to have good lights. I have very bright LED lights on my handle bars and my helmet. That's key to incorporate both light positions as you want to always have the path in front of your bike lit, as well as where you're looking at that moment. Also, keep really loose on the bike as you won't see every obstacle on the trail and if you absorb what comes your way you'll have no problem.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have two bikes that encompass everything I need. One full suspension all mountain bike for trail riding, and one rigid mountain bike for commuting. I love them both! 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Most importantly, a helmet. And please wear a chamois, your behind will thank you later. The last thing being gloves. They protect your hands if you fall.  

What do you love about riding your bike?
Bikes get me outside, to feel the air, see the seasons change, experience the outdoors, and take me places I couldn't go otherwise. That sounds a little sentimental, but it's true. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Adventures of the First Lady- Forward Progress

I started my third week at the shop on the 18th. I can say that I'm feeling a bit more comfortable with the surroundings of the shop.
The weather wasn't cooperating for much outdoor recreating in terms of skating, skiing, snowshoeing, or fatbiking. Sadly, the temps had been too warm and we had a "no renting fatbikes for mtb trail riding" until the ground firmed up again. (Which happened mid-week)

Over the past several days I've cleaned a couple gnarly repair bikes, both of which tested my patience and I decided were terrible objects to try and test myself to see how fast I could potentially clean. One shouldn't try to time themselves when you are cleaning off a bike with probably at least 2 years worth of dirt and stray bird turds. Dried bird poo. I have now seen everything.

Okay...perhaps not.

There is something blissful about taking a rag down the bike and seeing shiny paint come alive again. The bike might be old and a bit unloved, but it still has some beauty to it. The fact that it can be made to be mobile again with some new parts (say new cables, chain, brake pads, etc.)

I have started humanizing the bikes already. Wondering what stories they could possibly tell me- where have they been. The old Gary Fisher that had shiny silver hubs and a pair of crawdad stickers on the seat tube. Would it have a male or female persona? Would the voice be smooth as silk or rough and filled with deep baritones?

I realized that one could make a coffee table book of old repair bikes- what they look like brought in and what they look like cleaned up. Maybe still looking old, disheveled, and worn- but amid the chipped paint and worn stickers they could still show vibrancy of life.

I've been helping Travis put together some Electra Townies. These bikes are amazingly fun looking even tho it's far from something I'm really interested in riding. However, I will admit to being almost head over heels in love with the pink Townie with green rims. It's like a literal, rolling flower. I want a flower power bike filled with a bell that has some sort of peace sign or hippie flower. Throw some streamers on the bar ends and let me feel like a big kid! How fun would that be?

I have installed my first derailleurs and I feel a bit more confident which way I turn my wrench.
I'm installing pedals and can say I know how to tell which is a left and right without any sort of R or L sticker. That was one of the first things I learned.

We've worked a little more on inventory- a task that is obviously never fun for ANY business unless you have oh, like 2 items to sell.

We met with our Trek rep to do a review and SWOT analysis on the business and come up with some new goals. It turned out really well, Travis had a sense of relief over the whole thing after realizing it was much more helpful than not. Keep an eye out for some future changes and fun things- like an email newsletter!

It was a little nerve wracking for me, especially as I signed up for some of the actions to help out. (Well, besides Travis there isn't anyone else that could.) It made me excited as well. It gives me some clear-cut goals/tasks to work on. I'm taking ownership of something that I'm really excited for and I believe in.

We stopped at the Co-Op for an early supper on Tuesday. I still feel a little strange going in as a customer ONLY. It's humbling to go in and see my friends, get hugs from customers (who are also friends!) and still feel welcome at a place that was my home for many years. I'm very thankful for that.

I'm thankful for so much right now, and it's awesome to feel excitement over new changes and possibilities!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Monica McCosh

Meet Monica McCosh, whom you saw in a fun video: My Girlfriend Is a Mountain Biker. (Seriously, check it out!)

Her start with mountain biking wasn’t the smoothest and most inspirational, but she had the gumption to brush the dirt off and keep with it.

Not every mountain bike rider started off accomplishing amazing tricks and mastering tough technical sections instantly.

Like many others, she had to practice and work hard to get to where she is now with riding. It's proof that female mountain bikers are human! Also? Mountain biking is completely doable regardless of gender.

Monica lives in Squamish, BC and has Whistler Bike Park as her weekend backyard, which is likely every dirt-lover’s dream come true!

Currently Monica works for Easton Cycling as their marketing coordinator and is a Dirty Jane Ambassador
Check out Monica’s Instagram!

When did you first start riding a bike?
Too young to remember, but it consisted of a department store brand bike and I was confined to the vocal trajectory of my mother. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
At first it started off social; my boyfriend at the time was obsessive about it so I decided to join or be left in the literal dust. Later on, it became more of a personal motivation for improvement. Then it became social again with women’s groups and rides. Next thing we knew, we had the trucks with the bike rack and the gear & know-how; that was the independence stage when we didn’t need our boyfriends to fix our flats or tune our bikes. All that built a foundation for the next phase which is about bike exploration.  I’m heading to Sedona next week with my best friend for our first out-of-country bike adventure. 

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I don’t compete anymore because I like riding trails that I want, when I want. However, I enjoyed competing for the thrill of pushing myself that extra bit. I suppose there is some serious skills progression that occurs when you push yourself to go further, take the quicker line, and lean into the berm for speed. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
I felt a heightened awareness of my face as it met dirt about eight times on one run.  I felt badass and embarrassed all at the same time. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I would fist-clench the brakes. Now I have learned to feather them.  Seriously though, the best advice has been “If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t do it.” There’s no right or wrong way to progress, but the trail feature will always be there tomorrow.  If I even have the nagging doubt, that’s when my braking fingers tend to overreact. I’ve learned to progress in confident increments. Yeah, it has taken four years to get to the level I’m at now, but I have not had any injuries that have prevented me from working or tying my shoes [knock on wood]. 

You mentioned on your Dirty Jane profile that your first run had you going over your handlebars 8 times-It seems easy to say mountain biking didn’t come naturally? What inspired you to spend a couple seasons to better your riding rather than calling it quits?
Admittedly, I was not sold on mountain biking that day. The encouragement from the guys was enough to give it another shot. The main reason I stuck with it was the camaraderie I felt once I invested in some skills camps with other rad females. Suddenly, we became our own posse and felt self-righteous in pursuit of our new-found adventurous lifestyle. 

Did you work on your skills solo or did you have assistance from other friends who rode?
Best thing I ever did while learning was take a women’s skills camp. Yeah, I learned new techniques which were very helpful; but I honestly feel the best thing about those camps is the networking. You meet other rad females who inspire you to ride your bike - and you usually end up doing that together. I found girls who absolutely rocked gap jumps and drops that I found myself nervous to lead into so they would lead and I could see their line and match their speed. On the next section, the steeps were my forte so she would ride behind to spot the line and technique. “Feeding off each other” is a cliché for a reason. 

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Cornering was a challenge because I never trusted my tires (or skills) to really lean the bike into a berm. Learning and practicing that bike-body separation is key. Even if you have to consciously tell yourself “look through the exit,” or “lean into it” the whole way down. 

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I still find “popping” tricky to remember, instinctually, when going off something bigger. I try to focus on it on little features throughout a trail like roots or slanted rocks and pop off those. Not that that particular act is going to make my popping skills any better, but rather it becomes muscle memory for when features come up unexpectedly that I may have braked on.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I do not use clipless pedals, although I often consider it. Everyone has their own opinions about it, and I’m always game to try something new, but there is no pressing need to switch so it hasn’t happened yet. 

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 can’t think of any that have been too difficult. I suppose when I first started riding, I would rack up some pretty scary-looking hematomas but like with anything, you just listen to your body and be good to it. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
Fresh air, laughs with friends, sightseeing, backcountry adventures, and escaping from the rat race. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I absolutely LOVED my Banshee Spitfire (150ml front; 140ml rear). Transitioning from freeriding/bike park (where I started) to pedaling up to some challenging and technical descents, the Spitfire made it feel fluent and effortless. Coined the “downhiller’s trail bike” that little machine saw more downhill action than any of my other bikes because I knew I could take it anywhere and it would perform.  On bike trips where I wasn’t sure whether to bring a “big bike” or my trail bike, I would bring it because it did not matter what the terrain is like. I’m in the process of building up a Devinci Carbon Troy - my first carbon deluxe - and I’m excited. I haven’t ridden it yet, but it has some mighty big shoes to fill from the red-headed Spitfire I rode all last season. Looking forward to testing its mettle in the coming weeks.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
RaceFace makes the best freeride-oriented women’s clothes, hands down. The styling, detailing, colours, and fit are all designed as if I would have done it myself. As for bike accessories, I could not live without a dropper post (bought a RockShox Reverb Stealth for my new ride). 

How did you hear about Dirty Jane and what inspired you to become a Dirty Jane Ambassador?
Annka and Moe are from my neck of the woods (Squamish). I support Annka in anything she conjures up - she’s an amazing woman with a tremendously positive attitude. Who wouldn’t want to represent that? 

You were recently involved with a fun short film: My Girlfriend Is A Mountain Biker- What made you get involved and how much fun was it?
Lead actress and friend of mine, Leanne Tompkins, texted me one night asking if I would help her and Matt Denniston of NSMB.com in this project. To be honest, I didn’t have many other details and I was weary of it being a cheesy girl power film about woman bikers. When I found out that Kristen, Product Manager of Sombrio, and Micayla Gatto, DH World Cup racer, were both going to be in it, too, I was stoked. Such a rad vibe with those girls. I think the best shots of the film were the outtakes of us girls in the truck chirping away and cracking jokes. Maybe those will resurface some day...

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Great question. And probably one best asked to those women themselves. I won’t speculate or pretend to know what’s going on inside their heads. All I can say is that for me, the deterrence was not knowing how/when/where to start. Ignorance may be bliss to some, but mountain biking is my bliss. I’m happy to take newbies out and show them some confidence-inspiring trails. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think we could all do a better job of bringing at least one new person into the sport each season. If you have a friend or know someone who is always up for an adventure, likes to try something new, and is a closet-adrenaline junkie then take them mountain biking, damn it!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Just knowing the party animal, city-slicking life I came from to one full of adventure, fresh air, and like-minded friends is enough to inspire me to encourage others to ride.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Mayo + mustard makes me gag.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Investing in a Bicycle- Stories Needed!

Recently I posted an article I worked on a few months ago:
Investing in a Bicycle- Thoughts and Suggestions

A bicycle for any style of cycling can be an investment of which some may feel uncomfortable making.

It was based on personal experience:


After a month or so after purchasing my commuter bike, I realized it was not going to be a great paved trail bike. I got stronger and wanted to go faster-something my poor Fuji simply couldn't do.
I also outgrew my Fuji as a regular commuter- realizing that I wanted a more nimble bike and to ride in a different body position.

Often people ask themselves (I sure did!)---
Will I ride the bike enough?
Am I worth purchasing a bike of this caliber?
I already have a bike, why should I spend so much money on a second bike? (common for someone who commutes or participates in a particular style of cycling but wants to get involved with another style (road, mountain, etc.)

I'm looking for individuals who would be willing to answer a few questions on their bike purchase, such as:

Did you go the "budget" route or did you splurge?
--especially if you started road or mountain biking.


When did you realize you needed to upgrade your bike because you "out grew" it? When did you realize your bike held you back?

Did you purchase a higher-quality/dollar bike before you were really "ready" for it? How did that bike help you grow?

You are welcome to email me responses to: josieleah03@gmail.com




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Investing in a Bicycle-Thoughts and Suggestions Pt. 1

Investing in a bicycle is a very big decision for many people, especially if they are entering into the world of a particular style of cycling. Something that comes up often is an individual who wants to buy a bike for say, road or mountain biking, but often look at the price tag and aim for inexpensive. Why is this? What are the reasons behind shorting yourself the experience of a quality machine that can function how you need it to?

I suspect at times a variety of reasons can come into play. I am a person who opted to go the inexpensive route and purchase a used hybrid bicycle. Shortly after I started riding it for recreation (along with commuting) I realized I was held back by my leg-powered machine.

Another thought is that for many people, this is not their first bicycle but their second or third. It seems to be difficult for individuals to commit to spending a larger amount of money on another bicycle. One has buyer's remorse before even purchasing the item!

My second bike was not super expensive, but closer to the $800 dollar range, a far cry from my $150 used Fuji. I wasn't looking for a bike specific to road riding, just something that would be lighter and faster than my behemoth of a bike. If I were looking for a road bike, that price range would be pretty darn low and I would likely end up with a bike that I would a. want to upgrade parts on to make more functional or b. simply either try to re-sell or trade in for an upgraded model entirely.

Sometimes a person simply doesn't have the money to put into purchasing a bike that is within a higher price range. There are some things that one has to accept when one settles for a lower-priced bicycle.
1. Your bike will likely be heavy and you won't be able to do a whole lot to lessen the weight.
2. Your parts, regardless if from a reputable brand, may break, damage, or wear out easily. If you are a novice MTB you may find that it's better for you to replace less-expensive parts more frequently. That's your choice. Expensive parts can be damaged or broken as well, but generally-you get what you pay for.
3. Your ride may not be as smooth and comfortable as it could be.
4. You may decide to purchase upgrades-remember-there is only so much you can upgrade and that may end up costing you as much as a bike a level or two above what you purchased.
5. Do not buy a $700 dollar bike and expect it to function or feel like a bike within the $2,000 range.

You should talk to a bike shop that you have a strong trust and good rapport with. Discuss with them on the kind of riding you want to do, what you expect the bicycle to do, and what you hope to gain. Do you want a tool that you will outgrow in a short period of time or would you rather purchase something that you can grow into and experience a lot of miles on? The bicycle can hold you back as well as aid in your success. I've experienced this first hand with a couple different mountain bikes-a rental and my own.

I asked the question to some of the women I interviewed as well as posted on my Facebook page as well as Wheelwomen Switchboard. I wanted to see what inspired people to take the plunge and invest in their equipment. What was the deciding factor? Also, there are some great tips and suggestions given by a few women that are useful to think about when investing in a new bicycle. (Think size-frame and wheel!)

Jill Hamilton (Petal Power):
For me, I remember the "aha" moment came in 1998 or 1999 when I was first starting to race downhill.  I had been racing cross-county and wanted to give downhill a try since it was more my style, but I didn't want to spend a ton of dough on another bike while I learned the ropes. So I bought this little Specialized FSR full suspension bike billed as a "freeride" bike at the time. It had OK components...not horrible and but not great. It also didn't have enough travel as compared to "real" downhill bikes. So as a result, I struggled on this bike. The geometry, travel, and quality of components weren't right for the job I wanted the bike to do. 

A few months after I bought the bike, a friend let me ride his Intense M1 (Intense's flagship downhill bike at the time) down one of our local trails. I don't think I rode the bike 20 feet down the rocky descent before I realized I needed a different bike. The M1 made me feel confident. I felt like I wasn't fighting the bike to get it down the trail.  It just felt as smooth as silk. So needless to say, I sold my Specialized and bought an Intense M1 shortly after that point.  My results got better and I became a stronger, more skilled rider because I knew my bike would handle just about anything I rode it down.

Here are my recommendations for people looking to buy a bike:
Do your research and buy a bike that will be best suited for the type of riding you'll do. There are lots of great resources online to help you initially determine what sort of bike you need. Once you have some knowledge under your belt, seek out a good shop with knowledgeable sales staff.  Most bike shop employees are riders themselves and are really familiar with the local trails/paths and will be able to help you determine what you need.

Buy the very best bike you can comfortably afford.  Bikes with better components and/or frame material will generally be lighter, ride smoother, and last longer than entry-level bikes.  You will have a much better riding experience and will be much more likely to stick with it if you buy a higher quality bike.
If for some reason cycling isn't your thing and you want to sell the bike, the resale value will much higher on a better bike.
(Note from Josie-the better quality of care you give your bike will help with trade-ins or re-selling. Don't trash your bike and expect to be able to trade it in or sell it at book price.)

Don't fall into the trap of "I'll buy a cheap bike with a decent frame just upgrade the parts over time"!
You will spend much more money this way since the parts are more expensive and you'll have to pay someone to install them if you aren't good with a wrench. 
Here's a little secret: bicycle manufacturers negotiate big discounts with parts manufacturers because they buy in volume. These savings are then passed on to the consumer in the form of a complete bicycle. Take advantage of the discounts the manufacturers get by buying a complete bike!  If you buy a frame and all the parts at retail and pay your shop to build it up for you, you will likely spend at least 30% more than if you would have just bought the bike complete from your dealer's floor.

Julie B (WheelwomenSwitchboard)
I bought a more expensive road bike (my ride preference) after I aged a bit and started getting very sore on a bike I’d had for ten years, that really didn’t fit me. When younger, I didn’t notice the twinges, but after aging a bit, those twinges started becoming all out pains that kept getting worse...“It just doesn’t fit you.”
Almost another ten years later, that “new” road bike (which has some carbon, I admit) continues to fit me like a glove.

Steph Hageman (LOTW Facebook):
Having spent some time on bikes with better brakes/tires than I currently had made me want that really bad...and made a world of difference in my confidence while out on the trails. I knew I wanted to ride more frequently and wanted something I wouldn't need to trade in after a year or so. AND after talking with the guy at the bike shop and hearing how bikes are tools...ok, enough- I'm sold!

Frank Stpaul (LOTW Facebook)
When I rode with friends and realized the performance and quality of their bikes screamed value over the so called bargain bikes. I've always road good bikes but the decision to step up to the road bike I recently purchased was definitely made with help from fellow cyclers.

Rachel Scott:
I totally splurged on my first road bike. And I’m so happy I did (despite paying those credit cards off for a while). I would still own that bike if I didn’t need to sell it - Titanium Litespeed with Ultegra. So I guess you could say that I immediately knew that I wanted to use that bike because I knew I would enjoy cycling. It’s ALWAYS worth getting a better bike because having a bike that doesn’t shift well, is too heavy, or constantly breaking down makes you regret gearing up for a ride. 

I didn’t head my own advice when I purchased my mountain bike. It was heavy, noisy and all around just not very fun to ride. I began regretting going on mountain bike rides. Definitely not the best bike to learn how to mountain bike on. I know they say it’s not about the bike, but with this particular bike….it most definitely was. It took a year of riding that before I realized I needed a much better bike and it was definitely worth the investment. 

The mountain bike wasn't the right fit for the Colorado trails I wanted to ride. There's a lot of climbing and when you're bike weighs about 30 lbs and is fit for all-mountain riding, but you want to climb with your fast friends on 20 lbs bikes, you're going to have to work twice as hard. You'll also tire out a lot faster, too, which can lead to crashes. Never fun when learning how to mountain bike. 

Things that I looked for when purchasing a new mountain bike:
--weight (I needed a carbon frame if I wanted to be competitive). Women especially are lighter than men so think about having to expend all that energy to haul a heavier frame around a technical section or a steep climb

--wheels - while you don't need carbon wheels, I would advise (getting or going) tubeless. You have much more traction on the trail which can make cornering or tech sections seem much less frightening. And you can carry more speed without fearing of a pinch flat!

--fit - If you're short (below 5'3") does a 29er wheel make sense? Would you have toe overlap? Could you feel more comfortable on a 650b wheel set? You absolutely want a mountain bike that fits. Mountain biking is already hard enough and when you're body doesn't feel comfortable on the bike to let it do its job, you're likely not going to ride it or have a really hard time. 

Tonya Bray (*mtbchick*):
As a skills coach I have worked with many women on lower end bikes. I often have to repeat instructions over and over. I finally realize, it must be the bike. So I jump on my client's bike and realize why she is having issues with a certain skill. It's the bike. By now, I know which brands have funky geometry and what to look for in a bike when I begin working with a new client.

A heavy bike with incorrect geometry (this includes 90% of women's specific bikes) is a hindrance to learning and enjoyment on the trail and on the road. Most women are riding a bike 20-25% of their weight; the same bike might be 10% of a man's body weight. Consider this while riding up an 8% hill.

A bike is an investment in health and happiness. I recommend making the big purchase and keeping up with technology. You can ride a bike for one year, resell it and get a new bike each year. Find a bike brand that holds its value-- something people will want. 

Claire Buchar (Kovarik Racing):
One thing I have found that can't be compromised is the size of the frame itself. If it is too small, which is almost always the case if there is a frame size problem, the client can't find a solid body position on the bike. Body position is the foundation for everything. It is important for safety and acquiring any skill on top of that.

I am a roadie (who does triathlons, but never went the tri bike route because I want a more versatile bike). Anyway, I had a perfectly functional 'entry' aluminum road bike for several years, but what make me want a better bike (carbon) were two things. I was tired of seeing my friends be able to accelerate easier (their bikes were just so much more responsive than mine) and I wanted to ride longer distances and was just becoming more uncomfortable on my current bike. Since I was really going for fit and comfort, once I test rode the bike (that fit perfectly), I was willing to spend what it cost. 

---I had to get to the point where I knew why I wanted a better bike and then found the one for me. I wasn't shopping on price anymore (I did have an upper limit, but still).

I think it's like most things we make purchases on. Do you buy the awesome butter soft pair of leather boots that will last you forever for the big price tag, or do you buy the pair that mostly fit and are good enough that will fall apart after their 2nd winter?

Sheryl (Mud Chix)
After taking this clinic I knew I had to do my homework and start researching and trying new things on my own to see what worked for me. I discovered that my riding mistakes were not only wrong technique, but also wrong bike fit for what I wanted to accomplish.”

When I found out that my bike didn't fit I most definitely went out and bought a new bike. Having a bike that is too small or too big can hugely impact how you ride because it affects your center of balance. Also the length of your handlebars and stem can change your ride greatly. A wider bar will make you feel more stable while riding.

I knew I was into biking for the long-haul so that is why I invested money into something that was a bit more expensive. I knew that by choosing quality stuff it would last longer and I wouldn't have to go out and buy a whole new bike again in another year or two. I went with a custom bike because I am short and many bike companies didn't have stock bikes that would work for me.

I would say that for beginners that are just getting into mountain biking that a lower end bike is great for the very beginning. They are going to fall and replacing parts is cheaper with a lower end bike not to mention you are less likely to break the frame. After about riding for six months to a year I would say investing in a higher quality bike is very important. It will last you quite a while and the difference in components like a fork or your shifting system will improve exponentially based on how much money you spend. Usually you can find a lot of pretty good stuff for middle-of-the-road prices. I don't buy the highest priced piece of equipment because if I need to replace it then I will be spending that money again later on when it breaks. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Adventures of the First Lady- Trials

(An update from around Jan 11th-12th)

I'm feeling a bit tired, emotional for reasons that we could say are biological, and the residual feeling of being overwhelmed.

At this point in time I find myself in continual pep-talk mode laced with "What the heck are you thinking?"

I can say for updated progress, I am confident with skate rental set-up.

I can't say I'm in love with ski rental. I tried to adjust the wrist strap for a kiddo and popped the top off the pole. I He-Man'ed another pole from a set. What the heck! What is with me and not being able to gently coax the top up on a ski pole to adjust the strap length?

Sizing skis is also a "best guess." You raise your hand up high, ski should meet the wrist, however- it's technically weight based- go longer if someone is heavier and shorter if someone is lighter. Plus, ski boots are in Euro sizing.
Oy. All I can say is that.

My big project of the morning hours was to take a list of closeout bikes, find their images online, and save them. (Later in the evening this would result in me making many days worth of posts- each day featuring a new closeout bike.)

Afternoon hours was my gathering returned skates, assisting with more skate rentals, and trying my hand at cleaning a bike that had been brought in for the shop to re-sell. It was quite dirty, and this would be a test to see if I could clean a used bike to Travis' standards. Learning how to polish the bike up with Bike Lust and when/where to use Goo Gone. (Overall I did good job and Travis showed me on Wednesday some other areas to clean better.)

There is such a process to cleaning a bike, and at this point I'm slow, but I know with time I'll develop my own process and that will help.

I practiced sharpening a skate, which I'm not very fluid at and felt really worried about.
Later in the evening I started unpacking a bike, continually forgetting that ergonomics are important and yet again being told to not bend over and cut off packing ties.
I moved a hot iron over wax on a ski, for one pass- the worry of destroying something was high.

There is a lot right now that is making me revert to some negative personality habits. Fact of the matter is that I'm not the first person to ever change jobs. Personally, I hold so much weight on being able to do something successfully that I ultimately make myself feel like a failure when I'm working on something new.
Thus far every few days I seem to ride a wave of an "I'm going to be a baddass" to a low of "I just don't know ANYTHING at all."

I'm still the "First Lady" regardless of what I know or not. And my thought is that the "First Lady" takes the challenge as it comes, doesn't think any less of herself, and keeps a positive attitude.

Kinda easier said than done, but I've got to keep remaining open. Not let my feeling overwhelmed take over entirely. Accepting the feeling is there but not let it consume me. Each day offers new knowledge- eventually I won't second-guess myself so dang much.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Tina McCarthy (Wheel Women)

After a career as a graphic designer spanning 25 years, Tina McCarthy has had a total career change. Now trained as a Level 1 AustCycle coach, Tina set up Wheel Women at the end of 2012 and now works full time running rides and teaching women to be safer and more confident cyclists. 

Having experience running her own design business, many of those skills have carried through into building Wheel Women into one of the most talked about women's cycling groups in Australia in just 2 years.

Motivated by a loss of fitness and too many years of inactivity, Tina returned to cycling in her late 40's after a health wake-up call while riding with her son. 


Though once a very fit part time running coach and veteran of many 10km fun runs, returning to cycling and then taking up the challenge of being a cycling coach seemed almost a natural progression. But it took a lot of rides and a lot of learning before Tina realized she needed to ditch the design and get on the bike as a full time coach.

Tina lives in inner city Melbourne, Australia with her husband, teenage son and 2 lovable rescue dogs!

Check out Wheel Women on their WebsiteTwitter, and Facebook!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding a bike before I can actually remember. I'm the youngest for 5 kids so I've seen lots of family video of me sitting on a tiny trike. But I remember my first bike was this gigantic 3 wheeler in blue and white - I could hardly reach the pedals! I had one and my brother who is 15 months older had one - we rode those things into the ground and ended up playing 'smash up derby' on them. We would tear around our driveway and crash into each other - I still have the scar on my leg to prove it!!

But my first ‘real’ bike was this gorgeous red 20” two wheeler – I LOVED that bike and it was the first of many bikes I would own through my life. 

I was kind of lucky because the next 3 oldest in our family were boys, so there was never really a hand me down to suit – I always scored the new bikes!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I rode a lot as a kid because we lived in a such a great area – there was a park across the road, all my friends lived close by and school was also just a 5 minute ride away.
But as I got older, even though I always owned a bike, it stayed in the shed or storage. When I had career I kind of forgot about it. But when our son was born there was a period there where he was on the baby seat, then graduated to a tag-along, then of course had his own bike. But when he had his own bike he was too small to go very far.
It wasn’t really until he was in high school and he decided to do the school camp on the Great Victorian Bike Ride (https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/racv-great-victorian-bike-ride/) and as a good parent I decided to do the training with the kids. I suddenly realized that all those years off a bike had caught up with me and I couldn’t cope – slow, unfit, put on weight. It was a bit of an epiphany on how much I had let myself go.
So its really my teenage son who inspired me most to get off my butt…if it weren’t for him I’d still be sitting on the couch!

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
No, only recreational sportives – nothing serious. In fact, I never even bother about checking my times really on those events – I ride for the fun of the ride. I don’t care about how fast I am – it’s the thrill of being a part of it that excites me.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
Because I don’t compete, I’ll say the Tour de France. I just love the late nights with my husband as we sit glued to the tv watching all the drama and skill. It’s always on during winter here so it’s kind of cozy cooking up a nice warm meal, then the Tour is on tv and we watch with a glass of wine while it’s freezing outside! Love it.

What kind of riding is your favorite? 
I love a long ride through the country on open roads with quiet traffic. I could sit in the saddle nearly all day so the long distances don’t bother me…100km is a nice distance. But when you combine that with some undulations, maybe a small climb and then the countryside I just love it. We have some amazing places to ride here in Victoria (Australia) and one of my favourite spots is on the Great Ocean Road – totally stunning!
But last week I was out riding with a group of high school students I volunteer for (so they can do the Great Vic Bike Ride) and as we were riding not far from the city, a mob of kangaroos was hopping in a paddock beside us. That was fun! The jokes about a ‘joey’ burger for lunch were questionable!!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about a first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
I remember when I was a backpacker travelling through Denmark I was lent a bike from some friends. My sister lived there at the time and she was at work, so were all my friends, so I was left with not much to do. So one day I grabbed the bike and just rode…I ended up going for a really long way (about 50km, which for me at the time was monumental). But I clearly remember the incredible euphoria I felt that day – TOTAL freedom. Riding beside the beach, sun shining, the wind blowing a gale but I was having the best time. I think that day flipped it for me with bike riding – I discovered how much fun it REALLY is. But I let it slide when I returned home and it wasn’t until a few years back I rediscovered that ‘moment’ when my husband bought me a second hand bike! That lighter bike after my 22kg mountain bike was a treat.
I’ve never been a mountain biker, even though I have one, and it is FUN, but road riding is really my thing now.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I think the nerves came from not understanding what I had to do on the road, combined with not feeling at one with my bike. It was heavy, hard to change gears and the brakes were probably questionable too. But with a lighter bike that worked well, and going out on the road following my husband I became pretty comfortable – It think it was having someone to shadow when I was starting to get back into it that made a difference.

That’s why at Wheel Women (the group I run), we always try to shadow our riders on the road as much as possible so they get a little more comfortable with what to do and when to do it.

It goes without saying, having a partner who understood my fear and encouraged me, as well as a few other guys I know who kept telling me to keep going – it gave me the confidence that what I was doing was good, and valuable, so I should keep going. Thanks fellas…you know who you are!!

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
Yes I do use clipless…silly name really!! I have several types, but started on a single sided clip (flat pedal on one side, clip on the other – Shimano 530). But because I teach I found that clipping in and out so many times I was getting very sore knees and ankles. I needed something lighter but didn’t want to use just my running shoes.

Then I discovered the Shimano Click’R pedal. It’s fabulous for beginners because the cip action is so light and easy, plus your foot doesn’t come out even though the fastening isn’t too tight. It is also really easy to get into because the footbed is very large, so there is room to maneuver the foot a little if you miss the clip first off. My tip is to start with those, and of course just practice on the grass to start with – I recommend these to all our riders at Wheel Women who are starting out and so far no-one has any problems at all.

I use them too for when I’m teaching, but on my carbon bike I use the Shimano Light Action road pedal – same deal, easy to get in and out of but still holds the foot nicely. It’s like a step up from the Click’R. Great for those of us with bad knees and ankles!

Have you had a bike accident? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
When I first started using the clips, and we’re talking the single sided Shimano 530’s here, I went for the first ride using them. It was an 80 km ride and I was fine for the whole distance, until about 100 metres from the car on the return leg I came off. I got spooked at a road crossing and slammed the brakes on and just didn’t get out in time. I fell on gravel and grazed my arm and knee. But it was my left hand and collarbone which suffered the most. I cut my hand through the glove and it probably needed stitches, but we were too far from any doctor so I just held it together with tape. My collarbone still gets aggravated – it didn’t break, but it was evidently badly jarred and causes some pain occasionally.

Recovering physically was fine, but the scare it gave me with those cleats never really healed. I was tentative from that day forward, so having the light action pedals suits me just fine…I don’t need falls at my age!! (I’m 51 now, but feel like a kid because I ride so much!)

Emotionally I was wounded too – I felt pretty smug that I’d done the whole clip thing and hadn’t come off. But I was with my husband and son and they laughed about it for a while…it was sort of funny, but deep down it hurt. Every time I go back to that same place I am extra careful and I’m reminded of how much that fall hurt!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have far too many bikes for one girl…but I love them all! When my husband bought me the second hand eBay (Giant CRX2) bike it wasn’t long before I upgraded to a road bike. It happened to be at the same time we were buying a bike for our son to to do the Great Victorian Bike Ride, but they had a men’s and a women’s bike on sale…I fell in love with the pretty blue Fuji Finest 2. I found it hard at first getting familiar with the race position, but pretty soon it was as comfortable as anything and I rode that bike everywhere…I still have it and treasure it. It’s an alloy frame with a slightly weird geometry…kind of touring bike at the front end, with a race geometry at the back end. It’s seriously comfortable but it weighs the equivalent of a small car!

I ended up getting a small job in a local bike store because the guy who owned it really believed in me and the fact I wanted to get a women’s group going – he employed me for just a few hours a week so I could learn more about bikes. It didn’t take long before I spotted a magnificent carbon road bike – a LaPierre Sensium 200L. It’s a gorgeous bike and very twitchy, but sometimes I feel as though I’m not in quite the right position on the longer rides. For that reason I purchased an alloy LaPierre Audacio 400L. It’s a size larger than the Sensium and I recon I’m in between both sizes. The alloy bike is the work horse and has climbed many hills for me – I replaced the rear cassette to include a 34 tooth so I could get up the long climbs.

I also have a LaPierre flat bar road bike – that’s the fun bike for zooming to the shops or going out to dinner. I also often use it in classes when I’m teaching as most of our riders have flat bars, so it makes sense to be on the same kind of bike.
I have a mountain bike too…but sad to say, it’s never seen any dirt! Not yet anyway, but when I get a chance over summer it will hit the trails and get a workout!


What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Hmmm…lots to recommend! My  favourite things I tend to wear over and over again.
Pearl Izumi convertible barrier jacket – I love the wind breaking in this and the fact I can wear it as a gilet. The colours are awesome too. I love it so much I have 3 of them – pink, blue and orange!
Rapha high viz gilet – this is seriously the best high viz gear I’ve ever seen. I’m not really into the high viz look, but I love this gilet. It’s so lightweight and the reflective strips are fabulous, so it’s great in day or night conditions.
Santini Anna Meares kit – I love the look of this kit and love the colours! Every time I wear it I get comments on how flattering it is, so of course I’m gonna wear it whenever I can! But it is REALLY comfy and the soft lycra on the sleeves and mesh sides is so great on a hot day.

I always wear bib shorts or leggings because I get sick of hitching up the knicks…bibs win hands down every time for me! We have our own range of Wheel Women gear so I will of course say ours is the best in the world…it looks very cool and everyone loves the purple and aqua colours!

What do you love about riding your bike?
WOW…where do I start! Freedom, I feel like I’m flying, I love the challenges of seeing if I can do the next hill, or the fight the wind. I love that feeling of being on the open road and just zooming along! It’s awesome and there is nothing like it…the other day a little bird took off just next to me as I was riding and it flew right next to me for a moment and I felt just like I was flying with him!

Riding also gives me something that’s my own – it’s my ride, no-one else’s, I do it my way, on my own terms and can start and stop when I want. It’s also keeping me fit – keeps mature onset diabetes at bay (I am a candidate having had gestational diabetes), and helps me keep my heart strong (my dad died of a massive heart attacked when I he was 52, so at age 51 now, it’s often on my mind).

I’ve also met some INCREDIBLE people over the last few years that I’ve made riding a big part of my life. From the guys who inspired me to keep going in the first place, to the women I meet who are starting their journey of riding now, and to the people I meet who are seasoned riders with great stories to share and tips to keep you going…I Love it all!!

Of course, riding my bike has also provided a career change – it came just at the right time when I was pretty sick of being a designer. So I started Wheel Women to teach other women to get on their bikes and help them improve. I run this full time now…there is no better job!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Anna Williams

I'm 37, live in London and work in Market Research - I'm a freelancer, hence I gave myself a bit of time off to ride the Divide!

Day-to-day I enjoy outdoor activities but am not over-achieving sporty type (in fact, I've come in the bottom 10 of a triathlon TWICE!). In terms of cycling, I didn't have a bike until the start of 2013, which I bought as I'd entered a 100 race on a post-Olympics high, not really expecting to get in but I found out in January I got a place through the ballot.

So I trained for that, enjoyed cycling and, with a natural love of travel and of the US, an extended bike trip out there seemed a good idea. 
Plus I love animals and the thought of seeing bears, wild horses and antelopes was just too enticing! And I like burgers...and fries...and milkshakes...so, all-in-all, there was a big draw to do the Divide and, aside from fear of losing clients having a career break, not too much holding me back. I figured life on the road would be cheaper than day-to-day London living. 

Check out Anna's blog 

What motivated you to start cycling? 
I’m an Olympics baby! I watched the London Olympics Road Race live and that, coupled with all the buzz in London post-games made me enter the ballot for a place in the Ride London 100 mile event, a public race which follows the Olympics course, just with fewer climbs of Box Hill. I was lucky enough to get a place, bought a bike and that was the start of me cycling.

I didn’t really start combining adventure and cycling until I did a few overnight microadventures a few hours from where I live in London. Around the same time, a good friend of mine (http://uninspiredramblings.com/ )got quite into bike touring and his enthusiasm rubbed off a bit!

You recently rode the Divide, what made you decide to take on that challenge? 
Interesting you use the word challenge as I wasn’t looking to challenge myself, just enjoy a fun ride somewhere beautiful, although I suppose there are far easier routes I could have chosen!

The Divide ticked all my important boxes:
I’m not really a planner and didn’t feel I had the time, patience or inclination to pour over maps and plan a route of my own: I fancied a route I could do pretty much straightaway or I felt I may go off the idea (then latterly regret it) or life would take over and my plans would never materialise. Being able to buy easy to follow maps of a route and a book from the American Cycling Association  with a suggested 70 day breakdown of the route was perfect for me
     It’s off-road but not mountain-biking: I had an accident on the roads that actually put me off cycling for 15 years!  I was forced to overcome that fear whilst training for the 100 mile race but a mild fear of cars still lingers. I’m not a MTBer so didn’t want too off-road – the Divide is the perfect mix of not much tarmac but not too much standing on the pedals, white-knuckle stuff either
     I love that sort of scenery and am a big animal fan: the sun shining off glacial streams, Grizzly bears going for a wonder, miles of pristine forest, colourful alpine flowers, wild antelope… enough said!
     It’s in an English-speaking country: I went on my own and, given it was a short break rather than immersing myself in a longer, global tour, the idea of being able to readily converse with the locals appealed. Not that I’m adverse to non-English countries – far from it! – I think it just felt that at least one element would be familiar when engaging in an activity I hadn’t done anything like before and sometimes I think you need a little comfort factor


What was one of the most difficult experiences you encountered while riding the Divide? 
Physically, mud in Wyoming and some rocky climbs in New Mexico!

Mentally, it was one when someone I met early on in the trip pretty much I implied I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was furious at him for being so de-motivating  and crushing someone’s dreams before they’d really got going in even trying to make them true!

What was one of the most exciting experiences you’ve had while riding the Divide? 
Some of the thunderstorms were epic!  One struck when I was on a particularly primitive road which soon turned to clay and I was literally stuck in the mud, so had to dump my bike by the side of the road, pick up my panniers and make my way to a few square feet of rocky ground that could support a tent. I spent the night there with an unpegged-down tent being rolled in the wind like a tumbleweed ball with me inside it. Next morning, I saw some Grizzly bear prints in the mud not far down the road – exciting night!  

How did you prepare yourself for the journey? 
I tried not to get overly caught up in preparation and get carried away reading too many forums etc. where you read contradictory things which mean it can take you ages to make any kit-buying decisions! I bought Tom Allen’s Essential Gear for Adventure Cycle Touring http://gearforcycletouring.com/?from=13 which is great for, in the author’s words, “non-gear-nerds”.

Deciding which bike I wanted was the main thing but it didn’t take me long to settle on a Surly Troll. Physically I made sure I was reasonably fit but figured we simply don’t have the same scale hills in the UK as in the Rockies so there was no point in trying to get myself up to Divide-level fitness before I was out there as it simply wouldn’t happen!

Most of my prep was psychological, telling myself I only had to try it, not finish it.

Was the ride everything you had hoped it would be? If you were to do it again, would you change anything? 
It was more than I hoped it would be! I wasn’t really sure whether I’d find the Divide too physically and mentally challenging, or too remote, but it wasn’t at all.

I’d love to do it again. I was glad I did it on my own and would actually recommend others do so too: contrary to what you might expect, you can have more fun as I think local people are more prone to approaching and offering a meal, accommodation etc. to people on their own; you come across plenty of other riders to not feel lonely; and challenging conditions – hills, fatigue etc. - can put a real strain on relationships so, if you started the route with the wrong person, I think you’re unlikely to finish it with that person!. However, if I do it a second time, I’d consider riding it with someone else purely to change the dynamic from my first experience (and cut down the number of selfies taken).

What did you learn about yourself on the trip? 
I learnt that if I do things my own way, there probably is quite a lot I can achieve in life and if I try and follow what works for other people, the opposite may be true!  

Doing the Divide my style was really important to me and I didn’t follow a lot of the ‘rules’ about travelling light, training etc., but I followed an approach that intuitively felt right to me. I don’t mean I ignored the advice of experienced people or didn’t make what-to-take decisions without a sensible head on, I just felt that if I was to have a fighting chance of reaching Mexico, I’d have to travel in a way that I knew I could deal with and enjoy. So I followed my instincts about what I felt was an ok fitness to go into it with, how much researching the route to do beforehand etc. and, sure enough, it worked for me!  I think that if I’d been steered too much by other people, I’d have got overwhelmed and not even started it.

Which location during your ride did you feel was your most favorite and why? 
You can’t ask that – that’s like asking a parent which child is their favourite when they see equally great things in their whole brood!

If I had to pick one bit, I’ll say Fleecer Ridge which is notorious for an extremely steep, hike-a-bike DOWNhill section.  I’d been dreading it but it was beautiful and I loved the idea that it had totally blown my expectations out the water. 


What should people know about the Divide before they make the decision to go on their own journey? 
That it’s not as hard as some people make out! I think people in general (especially blokes ;-) ) have a tendency to over-dramatize how hard things are as it makes for a better story than saying “it’s fine”.  Get in the right mindset, and it’s really enjoyable and not too physically challenging at all! It becomes clear over time that there is no flat on the route (end of New Mexico aside), just less steep versions of up or down – but accept that fact early doors and you’re laughing! 

And be prepared for bad weather – the temperature fluctuated by 35oC when I was out there – so don’t leave the bulky cold / wet weather gear behind thinking you’re willing to chance it.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all? 
I actually use flat pedals. I know they’re not as efficient but after my accident I have a mild fear of being attached to my bike, even though I know it’s unjustified as you can release very quickly!

What do you love about riding your bike? 
It’s hard to put into words but there’s something quite magical in manoeuvring a heaving beast of a fully-laden bike off the ground into the standing position, swinging your leg over and then, with one simply foot stroke, you glide away almost effortlessly!



Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them? 
I’ve got a Trek 7.6 which was a fairly light-weight but not too expensive bike for my 100 mile race. I wanted a hybrid bike as I’m not familiar with drop handlebars and they scare me!  

For the Great Divide I got a 14” Surly Troll as they have a great rep as an off-road touring bike and, being 5ft 2, 29ers aren’t a great option for me so that rules out a few models.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends? 
My FiveTen Freerider shoes are fab – so comfy and better than proper cycling shoes for when you need to get off and push – and Assos shorts cost a fortune but I love them!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? 
If you’re talking about cycling touring specifically, I’d say it’s a fear of not knowing enough about the mechanics of bikes. I did a basic maintenance and still don’t know a lot about how to fix a bike but I knew enough to stay safe on the Divide. Unless you’re really, really remote, the chances are you can have a mechanical failure and someone will rescue you in a few hours so you don’t need to know how to fix anything but the basics of puncture repair and brake tightening are invaluable.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride? 
I think blokes get a kick out of a bike being a machine to love and tinker with. I’m not sure women have the tinkering gene to the same extent and it’s more just a medium of transport! If more women felt comfortable in the fact that you don’t have to be part of a bike-loving, gear-nerd crowd to enjoy riding, there might be a few more female bikers.

Tell us a random fact about yourself! 
The Bee Gees used to own the house opposite where I grew up.