Monday, February 2, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Aimee Ross

I am IMBA's Advocacy Manager. My position is house'd in the Government Affairs department. My job is to work specifically with our Region Directors to develop training materials and public relation materials to coach locals on how to ask for what they want and look for a larger success rate. I also work with the rest of the Government Affairs team on federal and state policy initiatives to support our mission to protect, preserve and enhance great mountain biking experiences.

I work to engage locals with their land managers in order for all to effectively work together in policy creation for their local lands as it pertains to the land's users.

I also participate in a number of coalition partnerships that IMBA fosters to build a larger basis of human powered recreational voice throughout the US. 

Katherine and I work closely on the Women's Blog to ensure we never get to one sided and look to tell a variety of unique stories. I also am the "go to" in house staff member that works closely with NICA on a National Level to leverage a partnership to bring more youth into our advocacy efforts.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I learned to ride a bike without training wheels when I was about 6. Prior to that I had a big wheel and a bike with training wheels; but let's be honest the advent of the Strider has changed things and when I think back to how I learned; training wheels just doesn't cut it.
So when I was about 6 my parents started me on my brother's "bmx" bike. I was barely able to reach the pedals; but in a matter of a couple of afternoons I got it down. From that point until when my birthday rolled around that year and I got a new bike I always had to ride my brothers. And while I wasn't tall enough to mount the bike myself; I would roll his bike up to the porch and saddle up; ready for takeoff. If I was able to make it back to the porch I could easily dismount; however I can remember plenty of times the only way I was able to stop was to crash.
I spent most of my childhood riding bikes until I turned 16 got my driver’s license and strayed from the bike until I was in my early 20's. Then I got back on and the bike has not stopped being a part of my life. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I think the biggest piece of motivation to ride more than when I first got back to the bike; was my first job in the bike industry. Since then it has been building on my skills and discovering different types of bikes. With the technology in this industry always evolving you have to be willing to try a bunch of things. Now I ride a 5 inch travel full suspension 27.5" wheel, carbon Juliana which is currently my favorite. I also own a 29" wheel Juliana hard-tail which is great for a lot of front range riding in Colorado and makes for a fast non-technical race rig. I also own a Carbon Focus road bike for additional training and recently have been loaned a FatBack to ride for the winter to dabble in the fat biking world. Having a few different bikes to ride also helps to keep me motivated. 

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
The Beti Bike Bash has to be my favorite at this point. It is a women's only race event that allows juniors, never ever's, beginners, sports, experts and pro's to all race on the same course and show camaraderie and support for more women in the sport. I'm not a huge advocate for a lot of women's only events; however I think a few really well done events like the Beti Bike Bash is awesome to introduce more women into the side of racing. I'm not the most competitive person; however my reason for competing is to better myself by providing me an outlet to achieve a specific goal I've set for myself. Those goals are always changing.  

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
I can't really recall how I felt on my very first mountain bike I ever had; however what I can recall is my first full suspension mountain bike ride in Southern California. Growing up in Northern Michigan trails are what most now days would called flow trails or xc singletrack trail. I had never ridden anything technical by any means. So when I arrived in SoCal and went on my first full suspension "mountain" bike ride I was scared out of my mind. The bike was a demo and let's note was WAY too big for someone who stands just under 5'4". I rode at that time what was an illegal trail system. I had no idea and like many was blindly following one of my co-workers through this twisty turvy technical descent. It's a good thing the bike was too big for me; because that quickly became my excuse to divert off the trail and finish for the evening. And in all honesty once I was on a bike that fit I quickly became more confident with the technical riding that I encountered in SoCal's vast country side. FIT MATTERS

If you have nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Now when I feel nervousness or not confident I chant to myself "low and awesome". I was told by a master mountain bike trainer that you are either "high and afraid" or "low and awesome". And it is true; if you are standing in your feet and getting low and awesome you are ready to handle almost anything that comes your way. While yes I still pucker at some really technical sections but at least I have more confidence and will power to at least try and know that I might not make it; but if I'm already low to the bike I'm lower to the ground in which I have less distance to fall. 

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 ride clipless pedals. And I've been on them now for about 7 years. My first experience was HORRIBLE. I had no idea what I was doing; I let a group of boys I was riding with in Moab set me up with a pair of crankbrothers Candies. I knew nothing about adjustments or really how to disengage from the pedal. Needless to say when they set them up they put the "dot" on the wrong pedal which made them harder to release from and never explained to me how to disengage from the system. I must have looked like a fish out of water trying to unclip until I fell over still clipped in within the first mile of slick rock trail. I had meet a guy who became a great friend and mentor. He is still both those to me to this day. He switched my pedals out to a pair of Shimano's in which have more options for release settings and then he continued to work with me on how to "unclip". And while I was still practicing the "unclipping" part; if I couldn't quite get the motion then I could still release without falling over still attached to both pedals. So my suggestions would be; understand what clipless pedals are and how they work. Read up on the different styles and find the right one for you. Don't try them until you are ready and don't let anyone convince you that you are ready if you are not. Practice first on a non-technical trail that you are already confident in so that you are not having to think about you riding skills and how to unclip. And last I would say PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Don't give up you'll get the hang of it if that's what your goal is you just have to practice.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I guess I would say that I never really understood how to let the bike move underneath me. The bike will do A LOT if you are not fighting it. Once I took a few skills clinics and continued to keep learning about letting the bike be an extension of my body and letting it move underneath me; that skill changed my riding style and for the good. I'm not a surfer; however I always would hear people telling newbie's that when they catch that sweet spot on the wave they'll get what it feels like to really ride the wave. I would have to say that this mountain bike skill is comparative to this feeling of surfing. Once you feel how the bike will move and grip in the dirt your confidence increases and thus your skill level increases. You know how it should feel and that's what you look to accomplish each and every ride.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding? 
Technical climbing is my short-coming. I have struggled with this for years and still struggle with it. It doesn't get me down anymore; because I found that my first love with mountain biking is going downhill. Once I took some clinics and honed in my downhill skills this is what I look forward to and is my strong suit. So now I can ride with others who are technically way better climbers than me or even faster climbers than I am. But here's the cool part. When it's time to go down I'm usually in the lead; it's a give and take. That doesn't mean that I still walk every technical uphill section; I still try like hell and by taking all those clinics to help secure my downhill skills I also learned a lot about how to ride up technical sections as well.  

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Bike accessory that I love is my crankbrothers Kronolog dropper post. I put that post on every bike I own outside of the road bike. It has been my favorite item. It is so responsive that when I'm descending down a technical section I can drop it really fast so that I can get low and awesome. And then it's just as agile when returning to its full position so that I can tackle that next accent. I would recommend anyone get a dropper post! 

Clothing accessory right now I'm loving my POC Women's Trail Shorts. They are long enough to get me the confidence I need that if and when I crash they will protect me and they are so stylish in color choices. The fit is perfect and they feature velcro straps at the top so that as they start to loosen on a ride; or you become less bloated you can tighten them up and they still fit the same. No bunching or awkward feeling. I also recently started using the EVOC FR Pro Hydration Pack for Women. This pack features a back protector which helps gain a little more confidence and it fits so securely that I feel like it's a part of my body and not this bulky pack hanging off my back. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I am a Juliana Ambassador and I proudly chose the Furtado as my primary rig. It is a 27.5 wheel 5 inch full-suspension bike that can do almost everything with. I upgraded this year to the carbon version and this is my first carbon mountain bike. This is my dream bike and I'm so lucky that I am able to own it! I also own a Juliana Nevis 29' wheel hard tail in which I put a crankbrothers Kronolog dropper post on and it's my favorite quick ride bike or my XC racing rig. Much of the riding in the front range of Colorado isn't technical so having the Nevis in my quiver has been a great addition for me and a throwback to my first days of mountain biking. Riding a hard tail means picking lines!
I also own a Focus Carbon Road bike that is so much fun and allows me to get out on those long distance rides that can go on for what seems like forever. It is very comfortable and fast.
Recently I was also loaned a FatBack for a couple months throw this winter to test and chronicle my experience. I've done a couple fat bike rides in the past and I'm looking forward to adding a whole lot more to my experience this winter. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
The challenge of what every day brings. Some days are really good and some days are well not so good. The days that are awesome just keep me motivated and give me the strength and mental awareness to ride longer and more technical trail. 
The days that are not so good also gives me motivation to reflect and understand what was different and then motivates me to go back and have a better day or improve on whatever was holding me back the last time. It could be physical and more often than not it can be really mental. 
Every time I ride it's different whether it's the same trail or not. The day you clear a section that you haven't been able too; that's where I find the "love" in mountain biking. 

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