Monday, December 28, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Ann Pai

Ann Pai is the organizer of the Kansas City Women's Dirt Summit, a womens-only social mountain biking event presented by the Earth Riders Mountain Bike Club in Kansas City.

Ann is also a board member of Urban Trail Co., the Kansas City non-profit organization that manages resources and agreements to build and maintain area trails.

A professional technical writer, Ann changed her sedentary life and became an adult-onset athlete in her mid-40s, taking on multisport, then trail running, which led to her great loves, trail building and mountain biking.


When did you first start riding a bike?
I learned to ride a bike when I was 35. It was heavy and didn't fit me well, and it didn't really take. I was 41 when I decided to do a sprint triathlon. I couldn't run a mile, couldn't swim 50 yards, and couldn't hold my line on a bike path. Finishing that race was a proud moment! I did 9 races each of the next two years, mostly duathlon, and added trail running, then mountain biking.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?

It feels good.

My body feels good when I ride. Not numb - alive. Worry and worn-down feelings dissolve.

I get bruises from riding a mountain bike. I fall down on rocks or smack trees. Climbs are hard work and make me ache and gasp. But no bruise hurts the way worry hurts. No scrape is painful the way a fearful life is painful.

No hill is as exhausting as giving up once was.

What influenced you to bring physical activity into your life?
I had never been active, and struggled with an eating disorder and severe body image issues, as well as the physical challenges of a sedentary body. Living this way was miserable. But misery generally conflicts with my outlook, so I was going to have to change one way or the other! I would not have seen a way out without the example of friends who told me about how they had cleaned up their nutrition, how they enjoyed trail running, cycling, and mountain biking - and who encouraged my baby steps.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
All local mountain bike races, anywhere, tie for first place. The Dirty Kanza gravel race comes in second. I loved our newest KC race this year, Single Speed KC - tough course, full field, good spectator opportunities - and boxed wine handups! 30 miles of single-speed riding on beautiful, technical singletrack. Tales are told.

It feels great to see people happy to be where they are, doing what they're doing, in each others company. That's why I like MTB races and the Dirty Kanza - the participants aren't isolated so much, but pay attention to each other and hang out.

I haven't competed in a while, but when I did, I loved the feeling of excitement at a start line, the physicality of sustained effort, the energy among the participants, and the feeling of being spent at the finish. And it's fun to find someone to race, even if it's only for a little ways - a little kid's reflex. Race you!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? 
My first two mountain bike rides were races. It was a good way to try it out, with friends in the woods and with plenty of first aid patrollers! I had only been riding any bike for a year at that point, and I was 42 years old. It was a deep dive into new sensations - scary, but exhilarating. On my first ride, I walked a lot and crashed 3 times, but didn't feel defeated. It was so cool to be doing this unexpected thing, in nature, with a bunch of highly energetic folks.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
After those races, I kept riding alone - walking tons, crashing on every ride, having almost zero athletic ability or natural gifts for mountain biking. I wasn't nervous. I was terrified.

Sometimes I would sit in my car at the trailhead working up the courage to get on my bike. But the good moments were so physically amazing, so powerful, that it was worth pedaling through the fear feelings. My theory was that if I kept coming back to the trail, my brain would eventually stop freaking out at what I was asking it to be part of. So far, so good.

Tips for brand new beginners: if you're scared on your bike, or the trail freaks you out - stop, look around at the woods, shake out your arms and hands, and find a reason to crack a big grin. It's a lot harder to tense up if you smile. When you pedal, look as far down the trail as you can. This will make the rocks and trees seem like they're not coming at you quite as fast.

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 SPDs. I change to flats for winter riding, when I participate in clinics, and when recovering from injury.

I'd suggest to beginners, first of all, that there's no right and wrong. Try both flats and clipless pedals, find out what you like about both, and go have fun on your bike in the woods. If purchasing flats, get some that have pins so your shoes will grip to them. Don't buy super expensive shoes right off. Don't use your fancy soft Vibram trail runner soles with flats; the pins can chew through. For beginner clipless - practice on grass a few times, and if the clipped in feeling scares you, breathe - after all, you're just goofing around on your bike; it'll be OK. And you may be putting a foot down and walking occasionally, so consider a cleat type or a cleat-and-shoe combination that won't make your foot slide on a rock.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
 I've had three significant bone injuries (all random flukes, none from a big crash!) and more than a few deep bruises. But no injury gets in my head the way my own hesitation does. In either case, my protocol's the same. Try to use the slowdown as an opportunity to learn something new, then start pedaling again.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Everything challenged me. I had to build almost every physical skill for mountain biking from the ground up. I'm not that far along now. But more than any handling skill, the biggest challenge is always confidence. Seems the only way to gain it is to do, with enthusiasm, the very things that you don't feel confident doing.

Also, again - keeping my chin up and looking down the trail helps everything.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding? 
Oh, sure! I have mastered nothing at this point. Jumbly rock gardens and downhill switchbacks - particularly tricky. No shortage of playgrounds around here for those! Challenge is fun. Learning is fun.

There's a temptation to get sucked into blaming and shaming: "I ought to be able to ride that," or "Why didn't I try that," and feel like I've let myself down and am having a worse ride than I somehow deserve. Ha. The bike is heavy enough without carrying a whole other imaginary rider.

Fortunately, it's easier to adjust my attitude than my technical skills, and remember - I am on my bike in the woods! No matter what, how awesome is that!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have four bikes, which is an immense luxury. (I'd encourage your readers to consider giving to programs that help girls who don't have bikes, such as World Bicycle Relief or a local nonprofit - here are Kansas City's.)

Bike #1 - Orbea hardtail 26er. I had only ridden trails a half dozen times when I won the fork in our local trails fundraiser raffle. I started researching components and looking for deals, and built the bike with hands-on help from a couple of friends. I found the frame on eBay.

Bike #2 - Specialized AWOL. Newest addition, which I am adopting away from a friend. I wanted a do-it-all bike with a steel frame, especially for gravel, bikepacking, and winter rides that go from paved paths to singletrack.

Bike #3 - Trek FX hybrid. I did my first, get-off-the-couch triathlon on this bike! Commutes to work, runs to the grocery store, paved paths.

Bike #4 - Trek Madone. Bought for triathlon/duathlon, but since I now prefer not to ride in car traffic, it's on the trainer.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Oh, gosh. I'm the last person. I wear my holey old lycra underneath $6 clearance Kmart capris. I wear regular tights or leggings instead of the cycling-specific ones. I cut the toes out of long socks and use them for arm warmers.

I absolutely love Champion model 6242 underwire sports bras, which they don't make anymore, so I love my mending kit too. I love my bike bell when I'm on the paved path - people don't always respond to "on your left," but they seem to appreciate the bell warning. I love my smartphone and its charger, which help me feel more secure when riding alone in the woods.

I'd recommend to my friends that they go to a hardware store and check out safety glasses and mechanic's gloves before they spend two to five times as much on the cycling-specific ones. Then, take they money they saved and go to their LBS and buy a replacement chain or a new tool for their home shop or something else that is truly bike-specific.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The independence. I like the air on my face, and the way I can feel myself breathing. Bicycles are such simple, beautiful pieces of equipment. I wish everyone who could, would ride one. And heck with how they looked or whether they were fast or strong or any such concerns. Independence.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wrapping Up 2015- What a Year!

It's been an exciting year for this blog which included a face lift and domain name. Wow!

My goal of finishing up the year with interviews for every month was a success and for that I am truly grateful. It's such a treat to be able to feature rad individuals who contribute to the world of cycling in their own way.

I'm continually inspired by the people I meet, either in real life or in the virtual world- you all rock! Thank you for taking time out of your lives to share your experiences to help inspire others. It's truly a gift.

This year also highlighted my first time mountain biking out-of-state! It was wonderful to explore the trails at Snow Basin during #saddledrive and ride at Levis Mounds and Viroqua. For being somewhat shy I have a bit of an adventurous soul- it's not always easy to get out of my box, but every time I do I appreciate the experience.

I'm lucky to live in Decorah with our trails, they still challenge me on a regular basis. It is always good to mix it up a little bit so I can learn more techniques/skills and keep igniting my love of riding.

Another challenge to my year was learning to ride clipped in on the mountain bike trails. Oh, it was a reality check in my world, that's for sure! I had to battle what felt like regressed biking abilities and keep pushing myself to try. I ended the season feeling that it wasn't something I was completely in love with, but that I'd give it another go next season. My goal- be proficient and confident with riding in both flats and clips.

Soon I'll have my year anniversary of working at Decorah Bicycles and it has been quite the adventure. In no way was this was an easy transition for me. One thinks that a person who loves riding will find the job super simple, but I will state wholeheartedly that it is not "easy." We had some successes and definitely some stresses- employees coming/going and the ebb and flow of busy. I feel the year was filled with lessons for Travis and myself. When I worked at the Co-Op I was aware of the bike shop stresses, but I wasn't there so it was different. You have to live it to experience it.

Now I am fully immersed in Travis' world- which includes the constant up/down of business ownership. You see the changes in the industry, buying habits, when people ride, and much more. It's not always a cakewalk being in an industry that surrounds a passion you enjoy. Unexpected weather can definitely throw things off (too wet, warm, cold, no snow, too much snow, ice, etc.)
Decorah is fortunate that it has the paved Trout Run Trail as well as the mountain bike trails and gravels- riders of any discipline can enjoy whatever flavor they choose in terms of riding. It's a buffet for riders.

Which means Decorah absolutely needs their bike shops! A town with a bike shop has an additional sense of community (in my opinion). Riders need a base that feels welcoming to them regardless if they like to ride paved, gravel, or dirt. I find it especially important to have women feel comfortable coming into the shop. I'll admit, when I bought my first bike I felt a awkward as I was the only woman there in any shape or form. I now feel that more women are establishing a comfort level with the bike shop and there has also been growing interest in our rides- awesome!

This year we started regularly scheduled off-road rides on Sundays, inviting those of any ride level to join. Yes, for some off-road riding may not be their cup of tea, but we try to introduce it with a ride that will be doable for most. Riding off-road can be intimidating, especially if one isn't sure of how the trails string up. We want to show individuals that it is possible to have a group ride that doesn't end up being turned into a total "shred fest."

FWD- Fearless Women of Dirt was officially launched as well! It's a small but growing group of women who enjoy mountain biking. All levels of riders are welcome! The purpose of the group is to have a hub for women where they can ask questions, schedule rides, and overall feel like part of the women's mountain biking community.

Getting more women out on our mountain bike trails is a big dream of mine. With practice, patience, and determination I was able to overcome my fear and doubt of mountain biking. I believe that if women have a way to be introduced in a positive, gradual way, they will feel that it's possible. It's important to have a bike shop be invested in helping and developing the future riding community. As much as I like to think I'll be tearing it up in my "golden" years, there will be a point where the next generation has to take over. With how fulfilling mountain biking has been for me on multiple levels, I can only imagine it will do the same for other females (and others in general!)

This was also the year for me to get some races out of my system, going boldly into the unknown and throwing on my favorite "racing" socks. I found that being involved in events really is darn fun! I accomplished placing 1st (for women's category) on my birthday at the Night Shift race. There isn't anything more fun doing something you enjoy AND having a celebration that you didn't have to coordinate! (Sov is a great singer.)

For 2016, Travis and I will put on our first race together- The Snowball Sprint. Before the Sprint I will brave 20 miles on my fatbike during the Frozen 40. On the calendar will also be the Time Trials, pertNear 20, and the Night Race. Who knows what else, it will depend on what the work schedule allows.

This year I was also fortunate to have several blog posts hosted over at IMBA's Dig In blog as well as have a short story published in Our Bodies, Our Bikes. This year really opened up some fantastic writing opportunities and I hope to carry that forth into 2016!

Other news for 2016 is that I'm happy to announce I've received sponsorship opportunities from both SockGuy and Shebeest!

I've been a Shebeest ambassador once before and look forward to being so again. I'm proud to support women-based companies and I've loved their products. They are continually evolving and I'm excited to see what's next as well as unleash my inner #beestmode!

SockGuy has been a favorite company of mine since Travis introduced me to their socks. I have disposed of all my "boring" socks and my drawer is embarrassingly full of socks. You can tell my absolute favorites by the wear marks on the bottoms. I'm thrilled to be able to be part of #teamsockguy!

Dirty Jane (Anka) and Team Tough Chik (Shannon) also deserve thanks as well! Their continued support and friendship means a lot- they've given me opportunities to grow/expand and have been so supportive of my blog as well as myself. There are some seriously rad women who make up Dirty Jane and TTC and I'm proud to be one of them!

2015 has been a pretty epic year with meeting new people, establishing connections, making friends, and riding in new places. I can only imagine that will continue to happen for 2016 as well!

For my blog, I hope to continue providing a personal light on mountain biking and being newly involved in the industry. I aim to keep interviews happening, but they will likely be more spread out as it was genuinely difficult for me to keep up during the busy bike shop season. Connecting with people and writing is a passion of mine and I want to keep it as such- it's been a privilege to meet (in virtual form or in person) these fantastic individuals.

Continuing to share stories and experiences that inspire others thrills me to no end; thanks to each and every one of you who reads my posts and the interviews. Words can't fully express how grateful I am for the comradery, encouragement, and support- it's amazing and I feel very fortunate to be part of it in my own way.

Here's to rad women building relationships, community, and inspiration!
Thank you for being you, doing what you love, and spreading the stoke.
Keep rolling!


Monday, December 21, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: April Morgan

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph
I'm a Professional Off-Road Cyclist living in the Minneapolis area. In addition to racing bikes year round I balance a full time career and I wouldn't want it any other way.

 When I'm not on my bike or at work it's likely that I'm hanging with my husband Tom (an Ironman triathlete), blogging or posting ridiculous photos on Facebook of our two cats Chubbs and Vito!

 I’m stoked about traveling and just about anything that involves beaches, mountains, bikes, cats and beer!

Check out April's Blog and Instagram: @AprilRides

When did you first start riding a bike?
One of my favorite memories from way back when was my dad teaching me to ride my first Huffy without training wheels – I think I was four?


What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Early on I loved bikes because they provided me a sense of independence and freedom. I would ride to my friends' houses and we'd take trips to the local park and ride our bikes through the woods. It was playful and carefree. These days’ bikes fill a major role in my life. I ride for fitness and I ride for fun. Riding provides a release from the daily grind, but even more importantly it gives me a chance to test my own limits…. to suffer, and to persevere.

What are your ride styles of choice and why?
It's hard to decide which style of riding I like the most. I spend a lot of time training on the road and I really enjoy some of our local group rides. When it comes to race however I keep it all off road - gravel, fat, mountain, and cyclocross. It's hard to say which one I like the most, but right now I'm really enjoying fat bike season and the exploding gravel scene. Both disciplines have a fun and festive atmosphere. I love the mass starts and the camaraderie that exists at all of these races.

You compete in a wide variety of events- gravel, road, and snow! What inspired you to start competing?
I swear the day I was born God said “this ginger girl….she shall be a competitor!” Ha! Honestly I’ve always had an innate attraction towards any challenge or any type of competition. I was a total “Tom Boy” growing up - playing baseball and hockey with my brother and his friends. After finishing up a college basketball career in 2006 I knew I needed to replace the daily challenge that basketball provided me. I bought my first Trek 1000 that year and quickly realized benefits of tight fitting jeans (Quadzilla!) and 18 years of defensive slides. I started out racing triathlons and finished 4 Ironmans before becoming a dedicated cyclist in 2012. I get bored easily and am always looking for the next challenge!

What events are your favorite to participate in?
I am always drawn to those big epic events with huge racer turnouts. I am so grateful for those directors and organizations that come together to produce some incredible first class events. Some of my favorites are Fat Bike Birkie, Ore to Shore, Iceman Cometh, Chequamegon Fat tire Festival, Dirty Kanza 200 and Whiskey Off-Road

For those new to competing, any tips/suggestions on how to break the ice with other riders, get over jitters, and just have fun?
Remember that there is nothing serious about riding your bike. It’s supposed to be fun and all of us have been at our first race at some point. Both the bad thing and the good thing about being a female cyclist is that we’re the minority. Therefore many of us have gotten to know each other really well over the years. I remember this being really intimidating early on – showing up to the races with 10-15 women that were all hanging out, high fiving, and I knew none of them!! Have patience as we’re all stoked to have you join us and we’re even more excited about growing women’s fields at the races and generally more women on bikes!

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 love my colorful iSSi Triple II clipless pedals. When it comes to switching to clipless at some point you just have to decide to take the plunge. It will be a big adjustment and there will probably be that one awkward crash moment where you forget to unclip at a stoplight (it’s happened to all of us)….but you’ll survive and eventually unclipping will be “just like riding a bike!” I suggest early on ensuring that you’ve loosed up the adjusting screws as much as possible. This will provide you with the most room for error.

Have you had any biffs (accidents) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I remember my amazing bike fitter Chris Balser (Bicycle Fit Guru) taking me on my very first mountain bike ride back in 2012 and being absolutely terrified. The competitor in me wanted nothing more than to keep up but I was seriously scared because I knew my technical skills were not in line with my desire for speed. Early on in that ride we came to a technical step up section and rather than dismounting like a normal person or lifting up my front wheel I rode my tire straight into the rock -- catapulting myself over the handlebars! Ouch!! I was skinned up and totally embarrassed. After that I learned to be patient and to respect my current ability. Over time my confidence and capability grew and I learned that crashing is just a part of this sport and nothing to be embarrassed about. These days when a gnarly crash happens I dust myself off and am generally stoked to have survived unscathed!

Matthew Fowler- Emporia Gazette
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Step ups! I took me more than a year to finally figure out how to properly make my way up a set of step ups. I spent a lot of time that first year really focusing on body positioning and what it means to load and unload the bike. I was a total Bull in the China Shop early on – breaking chains and crashing. Mountain biking requires a lot of finesse and understanding how your body and the bike work together! Practice, practice, practice and whenever you can ride with someone better than you. I’ve become a better rider just by watching those in front of me and mimicking their body positioning around corners and following their lines through technical sections!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that I learn something new about myself every time I ride. My bike takes me outdoors and it reminds me of the miracle of breathe and the amazing life we get to live.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I currently have 3 bikes; a Salsa Beargrease (fat bike), an All-City Macho King (gravel and cx), and a Salsa El Mariachi Ti (mountain). What I love most about these bikes is that I’ve been fortunate enough to build up each of these frames from scratch with the help of my local shop, Tonka Cycle and Ski. It’s about the closest thing I’ve come to being an artist and there is truly something special about making the decision about every single piece of equipment on your bike… weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the costs vs. performance, weight, etc. When it’s all said and done it’s an incredibly rewarding to see and experience your own unique work of art.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends.
45NRTH saved winter for me when they invented the Wolvhammer boots and Sturmfist gloves. They both allow me to get outside and stay outside. I also love the Craft Storm tight for winter rides. Some of my other favorites are the Lazer Genesis helmet, Lazer Waymaker2 shades, Lift Cyclewear Blouson tank, Pearl Izumi Mtb gloves, Sockguy crew socks and my new set of HED Big Deals laced to hot pink Onyx hubs!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling and/or competing in cycling events?
I think the cost of entry is pretty high in terms of purchasing a bike. A trip to the local bike shop is still unfortunately not the best experience for women although it is improving. More so though I think women are looking for a sense of community in fitness and unfortunately there aren’t enough women’s cycling clubs or weekly women’s rides.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
More women in working in the bike industry, more women’s clinics and group rides, and more women specific avenues to obtain cycling related education/knowledge.

You help out locally with Ride Like A Girl events. Tell us your reasons for joining the group and why it's a positive initiative!
I was pretty excited when I heard that Teri Holst was starting up this initiative. I’m incredibly passionate about getting more women on bikes so it was a natural fit to be a part of the effort. It’s really been incredible to see it take off and to realize how many women are really out there looking for more opportunities such as those that Ride Like A Girl provides. This opportunity to get more women on bikes is so much bigger than people realize.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Athletics have played a huge role in my life, and all of my successes and failures over the years have provided me with the confidence to face some of life’s toughest challenges. Growing up I never thought of myself as a girl - I just thought of myself as an athlete. Therefore I never set limits. I played baseball when girls didn’t play baseball. I wore hockey skates and played hockey when girls didn’t play hockey. I lived and breathed athletics and I ate like an athlete. I also looked at myself in the mirror through athletic lens which meant that I was proud of my muscles and broad shoulders even though I struggled to find jeans and t-shirts that fit my athletic body. My body allowed me to do the things that I loved to do. Today, I get so much enjoyment out of cycling and sharing my passion with others in this incredible community – it’s just a flat out riot!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I still sleep with a stuffed polar bear at night! I guess the “kid” in me just doesn’t want to leave.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wake Up.

I opened up my laptop and like many individuals out in the world went to Facebook and saw this article pop up in my feed. Written by a woman, she talks about how she loves Maxxis tires and recommended them to another female friend. Not long after, discovered that said Maxxis had a "Maxxis Babes" calendar, which really disappointed her- typical of a company in a market that is built of many men, but few women. The company said that money from purchased calendars would go to charity- but really, does this make everything 'better'???


You can read comments on several posts and some of what I read were along the lines of these:
What's the big deal? Men look at attractive women, Women look at attractive men.
Women enjoy the attention, why else would they pose for a calendar?
Women wouldn't complain if it was a man glistening with sweat, laid out on a towel on the beach.

I understand that women who are in calendars such as the one discussed are very happy to be in them. I won't knock them for doing their job as they are probably paid models. That said, I still understand where the frustration comes from.

However-
I'm tired of the pointed comments directed at the women saying we "all" enjoy the attention, we "all" need hot guy calendars, and we're "all" jealous because "we" must not be as attractive/beautiful as the women shown. "All" our complaints must be emotionally driven because we're feeling bad for ourselves.

A comment by a Maxxis girl said most companies have promotional girls. Why? Is the future of motorsports or any other sport that has "promotional girls" on a line so thin that they will cease to have a following or exist because there isn't a scantily clad female involved? If so, I'll be blunt and say- "That's pathetic."

People wrote comments stating the author needs to "explode, in the good way..." or that she (and others like her) "have a single track mind and can't handle the fact that other people have different opinions." Thus women are "punished" for not being on board with calendars or advertisements ladled in sex appeal, specifically marketed to the male market. We're basically told to put a sock in it and that we're just mad because we don't have enough "hot men" images reciprocated to us as if chiseled 6 pack abs make everything better. We're told to put up and shut up because that's "just the way it is."

I'm tired of continually being scolded for not accepting that sex sells everything.

The women in the ads are objectified by those who see the product and think if they were to acquire the product, somehow, they will be just as beautiful and desirable as the woman in the ad.
The woman seeks out the product because she thinks that is what men, obviously want.
The man purchases the product he sees on a female model for his girlfriend/partner/wife because he likes how it made the model look.

This advertising also affects men as well because I have seen ads out there that basically tell the male that if he has this or that he'll get "all the girls" because he is now irresistible.

I call Bullshit-
Same thing goes for bike related advertising- I want to see real riders doing what they do best.
I also seek out women-focused companies, but that doesn't mean that they can fulfill all of my product/accessory needs. Thus, I respect companies who do not go to extremes with their advertising or feel they need to showcase "promotional women" as the companies appear to try and cater to both genders equally.

It's great to have products/items marketed to the rider vs. gender. I have no issue seeing a calendar or ad that had images of attractive individuals (fully clothed) shredding their favorite trails which would inspire me to get on my bike and ride.

Ultimately-
I realize I'm likely a minority when I say I really don't need/want sex to sell me my products nor do I need it filling up my senses on a 24/7 basis.

I wish more men (and companies) would realize and respect that more women are getting involved with cycling. It's not just grown women getting involved with the sport- young women in high school (or earlier) are becoming involved with mountain bike programs. Many kids have exposure to social media and are seeing all of this, too. Young women shouldn't be trained to think that it's okay for their gender to be sexualized so long as men do the same in return and men shouldn't be saying "You'd be fine if....(you had a calendar too, etc.)"

I am a woman and I can appreciate attractive individuals, man or woman- this does not mean I need to see them half naked at any given point in time. My quality of life does not depend on this.

I look at it this way, if the lack of "promotional babes" for products decreases the sales of said items to the point that the company were to fall thru, how great was the company anyway? Would the lack of promotional women really make certain sports cease to exist? I feel companies that use athletes to promote their products in an inspiring way are much more intriguing to me than not.

How about this for equal? Stop using sex to sell products to either gender.

The Inside Scoop on Josie's Bike Life: The Casey Sheppard Takeover

We're switching it up today! Casey Sheppard from Case Of The Nomads had the idea of turning the tables on me with an interview of my own.

So today I'm featuring Casey's interview of me and I will admit, it was tough! So without further commentary from myself, here's a little blip from Casey-

"It’s rare to find really rad and down to earth people in the world, let alone in the biking world. I am grateful and damn lucky to have found one such person, Josie Smith. With her secret ninja ways Josie has made a big cutthroat punch as an advocate for women’s cycling. It’s like she’s a collector of all things female and badass on a bike. 

From your everyday street rider to your DH Pros; she’s interviewed them all. Now it’s my turn. I am here to find out what makes this bike goddess tick; how she started it all and why she is much more than your average Jo-sie."

I grew up in Northeast Iowa on a dairy farm and now I live in a cute little house located in Decorah.
I've worn several hats over the years (farmer's daughter & cosmetologist). Now I’m a budding writer/blogger trying to make her mark in the cycling industry and am store manager at Decorah Bicycles (owned by my partner, Travis.)
I'm the proud "mom" of three wonderful kitties: Cordelia Joy, Phoebe Layne, and Sir Alistar Figaro Newton.

I bake the perfect frozen pizza and have a fondness of IPA and stouts. I love mountain biking.

Facebook, Josie's Bike Life on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram

When did you first start riding a bike?
This could be answered in two parts. I learned to ride a bicycle after a very traumatizing experience at school where they had a course set up for all the students to ride and earn a permit to ride a bike to school. I lived 10 miles outside of town= not happening. They didn't let me opt out and my entire class learned I couldn't ride a bike. 

I eventually rode a bike, but not much since I lived on a gravel hill and was "allergic to exercise." Eventually I stopped riding and forgot about it. I didn't fall in love with riding until 2012 after I purchased my first bike as an adult.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I enjoyed the feeling of freedom that I hadn't never experienced before and it lets you see things from a different perspective- it stimulates the mind or helps to quiet it.

Riding was my therapy during some tough and emotional times; I found I benefit from physical activity on a regular basis and it has greatly improved my emotional/mental health.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
This is tough to answer as I've only done a handful of events so far! I've had an enjoyable time at all the events I've participated in thus far and each has their own story. I think Time Trials this year would've been my favorite as it was my first dirt event and there were 9 women total who rode, which was a pretty big deal as last year there was only two.

Competing is a mixed bag for me as I have a bad habit of putting pressure on myself which leaves me riddled with anxiety prior to events. When I start riding I get in a zone and the worries melt away.

Mostly I go because I want to up the number of women participants and I love meeting people! There is such a fun culture to experience when you participate in an event. That is a main reason I keep being drawn to events. Maybe the beer, too. ;)

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
My first few mountain bike rides were traumatizing and I was a complete chicken. I didn't know how to get on and off a bike properly (not starting/stopping while seated.) It turned into a horribly embarrassing time of Travis having to teach me and explaining why what I had been doing wasn't safe. I was mortified.

I was extremely nervous of falling, potentially getting hurt, and/or any other calamity I could think of. The first few rides that I went on were not the smoothest and I felt like I retained very little. There were about 3 rides that year ('13), and those rides made me become bound and determined to become a better mountain biker.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I'm not entirely sure what helped me get over my nervousness other than my first few falls. I learned I was sturdier than I thought; tho my legs looked like they were riddled with cheetah spots. (Your first season will likely leave you riddled with bruises. They are badges of honor.)

I became addicted to accomplishing things that challenged me. I never thought I'd be mountain biking, and each obstacle I overcame made me feel like a queen of the mountain. I proved to myself I could not only ride a bike to work and on paved trails, I could ride technical dirt trails too.

To deal with nervousness if I'm somewhere that's on the more technical side, I will hum or do some sort of poor example of beat boxing to help me maintain focus.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
My first "real biff" knocked the air out of my lungs and bruised my ribs. I was coming down from a hill onto a wooden bridge, hit the planks wrong and wiped out.
This particular biff has made me leery of bridge structures- this is an ongoing thing that I'm working on.

Two weeks after that I had my second biff, which would be the most traumatizing due to a concussion & chin stitches. It happened on a Sunday evening when Travis, our friend, and I were going out street riding. We went thru a basketball court that had a curb that curved, which launched me upward vs. straight out. I had gone off it pretty fast and wasn't paying attention. The front wheel came down and I launched off the bike, pounding my chin into the cement. I was lucky I had a Vice helmet on (bolted on visor) otherwise I'm positive I would've broken my nose and broken my front teeth. The majority of the injury was my chin (8 stitches) and a concussion.

I barely remember being in the truck, hospital, or visiting a friend; I had a week off work and two weeks off the bike. The first few days I was stuck in a repetitive rut- I remember waking up in the early morning hours that Monday and obsessively looking at my phone at the day/time/reading texts. It hadn't helped I had recently had an accident- I seriously thought I had been in a coma.

I wasn't afraid of riding my bike after the accident but it gave me an eye-opener to brain injuries, handling skills, and helmets.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
With mountain biking I would say pretty much everything! I can't say there was one thing that came naturally to me when I first started out riding mountain bike trails. Lots of hours sessioning and practicing- also learning when to say "Try again another day."

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Getting my front wheel up and off the ground when getting over logs. I'm okay at it, but my technique needs improvement.

There are some super steep climbs which require you to be pretty much squatting as you pedal up the trail, sometimes I get it and other times I don't. It takes practice and the right amount of balance/maneuvering.

I remind myself that building/practicing skills are part of learning and that doesn't go away after a couple seasons. I desire to become better and remind myself that perfection isn't attainable; give yourself a break when learning and don't be so hard on yourself.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Absolutely love how free it makes me feel as well as how physically strong I’ve become because of riding. I still find myself thinking "Wow! Last year I struggled to clean this trail..."
I appreciate that I got over my nervousness and found love with something that challenges me mentally, emotionally, and physically. Overall I feel my best and most confident when I'm on a bike.
View on article here.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them? Does working in a bike shop give you access to other bikes that you may have never known about? What are those bikes?
N+1 is my life! I have a heavy duty list of bikes which you can see if you click here. I'll talk of the ones I'm riding the most right now- I have a total of 11, or you could say 10 1/2 as the 11th is a work in progress.

I have two Surly Karate Monkeys, one is a "summer" bike for commuting and rare gravel rides named Nikita. She's also known as the "Engagement Ring" bike because Travis built her up with a nice spec. She was my first, legitimately expensive bike. Athena is her blacked out counterpart who is now primarily a winter commuter. She's "Semi-Fat" as we swapped her original fork for one that holds a fatbike wheel/tire.

Erza- a Trek Cali Carbon SLX, I feel confident and stable on this bike and she's my go-to for most races. I started learning to ride clipped in on this bike during some of the dry season. Next season we'll be putting the fastest rolling tires she's had yet along with clipless pedals so I can really rip around!

Trixie Firecracker- a Trek Lush Carbon with 27.5 wheels and also my first full suspension bike. We had to tweak the reach with a longer stem as I live in a more climb-intensive area. The stock stem size made it fit short and swapping helped with the twitchy handling, too. This is a very playful, nimble bike and it lets me rip down sections I was more apprehensive of. She's my go-to bike for exploring new trails.

Snow Queen- a custom painted Specialized Fatboy who is my winter trail bike. She gets a ton of fan mail (kidding!) I'm experimenting with Vanhelga tires on her this season and so far I have to say they get 2 thumbs up! She doesn't get ridden much outside of the winter/spring/thaw. She's not the lightest bike in the world, but she's purpose built and I like how she rolls.

Jem- In progress! Salsa Beargrease X7 that is being turned into a 27.5+ with front suspension. I rode the Beargrease X01 at SaddleDrive and was instantly in love with the geometry. There wasn't any "first date" jitters with this bike...so once we saw the purple frame I pretty much fell in love instantly. I won't be riding this bike until next season- it'll be the bike I'll use for those days where I just want to roll over things/have more stability for slippery conditions. Who knows? Maybe it will be my go to machine for the whole season!

A relationship with Travis and working at the shop definitely opened doors to bikes I may not have ever owned. I know with 100% certainty I wouldn't choose to live with just one bike, I'd always have at least 2. One would be a fatbike as I enjoy riding trails year-round and I wouldn't want snow to limit me. Without riding the 27.5+ I feel that I can't answer for the second bike quite yet, but for now I'll say a carbon hardtail 29'er as my second.

Again, with working in a bike shop you are exposed to a variety of clothing/bike accessories, What do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I have favorites from the bike shop, Shebeest, and Dirty Jane- You can read my product reviews here.

Clothes:
I love my liner shorts and the Century shorts from Shebeest.
Winter specific- Craft Stormshell (25 degrees on down) or Shebeest WeatherPro tights (20-32 degrees)
I've fallen in love with thermal jerseys! I'm still getting the hang of this layering thing and they work great.

Accessories:
Cobrafist Pogies from 45NRTH- super excellent.
Lights- NiteRider Lumina 650 for commuting and Light & Motion Seca 2000 Race for night riding.
Gloves- Specialized Deflect and Race Face DIY
Shoes- Five Ten Freerider and Freerider Contact...lovelovelove. Best shoes for riding flats, hands down and comfortable enough to wear all day at the shop.
SockGuy socks are awesome!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I feel that the fear of getting hurt and fear of the unknown are huge factors, especially for those starting out as adults. Mountain biking isn't riding a smooth paved trail or straight stretch of road, it's unpredictable and can change rapidly when you are new to the trails. You also get an introduction to handling skills you probably didn't know about if you primarily ride paved trails/roads.

You WILL FALL, but those falls have hurt a lot less than the falls I've taken on pavement. You really surprise yourself with what you CAN do when you start mountain biking. I was challenged a lot during my first season and it wasn't toward the end that I felt pretty confident with my abilities.
I'm STILL nervous with some areas- and that's okay!

With biking in general: money for accessories, the amount of accessories one may need, potentially realizing you need another bike, and time. Lack of fellow riders to ride with and being worried about being "slow" and having others wait up. Start slow and work your way to where you want to be- don't get down on yourself if you're not commuting to work every day or biking all winter long. Know that there are people who would love to ride with you! (Such as myself.) We've all been there.

What prompted you start a blog about female cyclists and what inspired you to get other women riding??
I wanted inspiration. I was on my indoor trainer watching "If She Can Do It" and thought "These women are SO rad!" At first I started with a few local women and then quickly expanded to women from all over. Why stay small when you could potentially go big?

I have tried to get as many riding disciplines covered as possible. Mountain biking is favored, but you'll find there are commuters, road riders, triathletes, bmx, DH, and many others that have been featured! I want all women to find someone that inspires them to get on a bike.

Inspiring others to ride happened naturally as I had a couple friends who became interested in having me lead them on off-road rides. Thus we came up with the idea of offering me up as a ride guide. For those new to riding, you'll find that riding with multiple people can be helpful- sometimes one has a different technique or method that helps make something click.

Often women learn from their significant other and sometimes it doesn't go smoothly. I can't praise Travis enough for his knowledge and skills, but there were times that learning from another woman would've proven helpful for me. I want women to know they have options and we want to support them so it's a positive experience!

You have done interviews with rad ladies like Amanda Batty who DHs and others like ultra-endurance racer Andrea Cohen along with many more. You also just had an article published in the Woodinville newspaper with your interview with Shannon Leigh Kehoe. Did you think your blog would take off like this? What’s next?
I never, ever expected my blog to take off like it has and I'm still humbled by how recognized it has become. Writing is something I enjoy and being able to combine two passions of mine and create a hub is so exciting! Admittedly, my own posts are sporadic and I'll be adding more of them in the future- especially next year.

The future of my blog- I'd love to keep it going as it is, but hopefully grow it as well- I'm still trying to figure that part out! Maybe more travels/adventures and other opportunities to meet women I've interviewed, go to clinics, etc.
I definitely want to keep the interviews as a regular feature- I just need willing participants! I'm always open to suggestions and love making connections.

I enjoyed seeing the dynamic between you and Travis (your partner) on my recent visit to Decorah. How is it working with him? Riding with him? Is there competition or pressures? Do you have any advice for women who want to ride with their partners?
Working together has challenging moments because you can't work with your partner and have it be rainbows and sunshine 24/7. As a team I feel we have accomplished a lot of good things in a short period of time; Decorah Bicycles is Travis' pride and joy and I'm thankful that I can be part of what he's passionate about. I feel fortunate that I can be involved with the industry that has given me so much.

With Travis and riding I feel much closer to being in the same chapter now as I've grown with my abilities. Travis was my cheerleader and coach when it came to my riding the paved trail; many times I wondered if I'd ever be able to ride with him vs. him riding at my level. I put a lot of pressure on myself in my learning stages of riding, and there are times I still do. Travis was a natural and I was not; I hated embarrassing myself by flubbing in front of Travis- especially if it was in an area I had become proficient at. (Still do.)

I love that I have a partner to ride with! It's fun to be able to go on mountain bike adventures and do an activity with someone who enjoys it as much as I do.

In terms of advice for riding with partners: every relationship is different, but I feel communication is very important from both parties. Both need to listen and be open to critiques.
Express what you need- if you need to have visuals, session an area, etc.
When you get feedback on how to do something better try to not shut down! Travis gave me feedback in order to better my skills and keep me safe- there were times I got defensive for no good reason.
The partner/instructor must also be open to critiques on teaching methods- what worked for them may not work for you, etc.
Don't be afraid to ask questions!
Be sure that you are doing this for yourself and not just because your partner thinks it's a good idea. The learning process will go much smoother if you have the desire to ride mountain bike trails yourself.

What is Fearless Women of Dirt? How did this come about?
Fearless Women of Dirt aka FWD (Forward) came about because I thought it would be awesome to have a recognized group of women mountain bikers in Decorah. Fearless Women of Dirt is the first (to my knowledge) women's off-road group in Decorah. I wanted local and area riders to be able to connect, join our organized rides, and perhaps meet up with each other for rides. It's open to women who are experienced, intermediate, beginner, or mountain bike curious- don't be afraid to join, ask questions, or inquire on rides!

What advice would you give to others who want to get more women into cycling?
Patience is key. Depending on your area, it'll take time to create a solid base of riders so make connections, have a women's ride option, and spread the stoke!

With taking new riders out- remember what may be easy for you may not be easy for the next person. Being able to tone it down is important and helps a new rider feel less intimidated. Be open to hearing how they would like to be guided- one of my friends asked for me to not tell her anything that was coming up as it psyched her out too much. She felt better watching and mimicking what I did vs. hearing verbal cues. Others liked having a heads up on what was coming up. Variety is the spice of life!

If you could interview ANYONE, dead or alive, who would it be and why.
This is a very tough question...
My grandma Gert (deceased)- I loved hearing her stories of her younger years...she was also divorced during a time when it wasn't common to do so and ran a gas station- which wasn't a common job for a woman, either! It would be great to get those stories down.

Gary Fischer and Tom Ritchey- Beer or coffee, they could choose. Decorah Bicycles featured Klunkers during a past Oneota Film Festival and it was such a neat movie. These two are iconic- I'd love to hear about the past and their thoughts on today.

Juli Furtado-how she transitioned from rider to creating Juliana would be really epic to learn. I'd love her take on being involved in the industry and how she feels it has changed from when she first started to now.

Anna Schwinn- To learn about all the radness she's doing for women riders and her experiences in the industry. I think it would be great to take her out for a ride on the Decorah local trails!

There are many more- this is just a very, very short list.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Top 3-
I'm ambidextrous- many things (besides writing) I do as a "lefty"
I loved dipping Hardee's Curly Fries into a chocolate or strawberry milkshake.
I had my appendix taken out when I was 5- that was back when they stapled you shut. Imagine how that went.

Casey- "Wow, 11 bikes….that’s super rad! What great advice for newbies; I loved getting a bit of a look into the mastermind of such a supportive, strong rider. Thank you Josie for letting me take things over for a day and for allowing me to take you to the place you have taken all of us, into the (un)comfort(able) zone."

Casey Sheppard is an avid mountain biker, freelance writer, metalsmith, lecturer and adventurer. She’s currently on a solo yearlong road trip to connect these communities and living on the road with her adventure dog India, Surly MTB SKidMaRk and her converted ford transit connect, Jones….Full of Grace. Check out her website for more information and please follow along on social media.

Blog: www.caseofthenomads.com/thechronicles
Instagram: @caseofthenomads
Twitter: @caseofthenomads
Facebook: Casey Sheppard Presents Case Of The Nomads

Monday, December 14, 2015

Women Involved Series: Liz Sampey

I’m Liz Sampey, I’m 32 years old, and I live in the beautiful mountains of Crested Butte, Colorado. I am a professional endurance mountain bike racer, competing in ultraendurance and stage races around the US and the world. I am also a USAC and PMBIA certified cycling performance and mountain bike skills coach. I own a coaching business called Vital Motion, where I combine my expertise as a physical therapist (I have a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree) and my experience as an athlete to help other athletes, both recreational and competitive, reach their athletic goals as well as rehabilitate from any injuries they might be dealing with. I coach private athletes, small groups, and for awesome camps and clinics like VIDA! When I am at home in the Gunnison Valley, I also practice as a physical therapist with Heights Performance. My life is full, and I love every second!



Athlete website/blog: www.speedy-lizard.com
Coaching website: www.vitalmotioncoaching.com
Instagram/Twitter: @speedylizard 

What inspired you to become a mountain bike coach?
Mountain biking has absolutely changed my life and even possibly saved my life. It pulled me through the darkest time in my life during my divorce. I know firsthand how powerful the bike can be in giving people inspiration, tempting them to try things they never thought possible, making them get up each time they fall, rising to big and small challenges, celebrating big and small victories, and teaching people patience, persistence, discipline, creativity, and resilience. It is an amazing sport, and its lessons translate directly to the rest of life. I have also made so many amazing friends through mountain biking, throughout the world.

I was just in Guatemala for a stage race, and it was amazing to see how mountain biking brought people from all over the world together for that race and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I love every single person I met at that race. This is the way it is with everyone I meet through racing and riding. This sport is just full of incredible people. When I coach, I take all of that, my love for life as experienced from the seat of a bicycle, and pass it on. Coaching helps me open doors for people to live extraordinary lives. For me, there is absolutely nothing in life better than that.

What inspired you to become involved with VIDA MTB?
I have known Sarah Rawley for quite some time, and her passion for riding and for sharing her love of riding with other women was inspiring to me. Sarah and I have always been very supportive of each other as athletes, in our individual passion projects- me as a coach and her as an event mastermind, and as two women who have big dreams. We have very similar goals and beliefs, and I love the philosophy on which VIDA was built. For me, it was a natural fit.

Why do you feel new (or seasoned) riders should look into mountain bike clinics like VIDA MTB?
This is the wonderful thing about mountain biking. ANYONE, at ANY level, can improve in their skills, confidence, and enjoyment of riding! VIDA caters to all women, from never-ever beginner to professional racer. I know that I learn many things every time I coach, and every time I take a clinic myself. There is always a new or different way of looking at things that resonates with me either in my own riding or in my coaching style. If I could give one piece of advice to anyone, it would be to NEVER stop learning, and never stop being passionately curious.

What has been one of your most inspiring moments since being involved with VIDA MTB?
When I was coaching at the Crested Butte clinic last year, there was definitely a special energy in the air. My group was amazing in how each woman supported, encouraged, and inspired one another to rise to challenges and overcome fears. Watching them progress in not only their skills, but their confidence in themselves and their “team,” was incredible. Lindsey and I were simply facilitators of the magic that happened with our athletes that weekend. I remember thinking to myself that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

With coaching, what is one of the most common situations you've had to deal with when it comes to new mtb riders?
The mental game seems to be the most challenging aspect of riding for any new rider- whether it’s a brand new rider or someone just getting into racing, or someone who has been at it for years but hasn’t specifically worked on this skill. Negative thoughts, self-doubt, and sending ourselves into the black hole of “I suck” or “I’m not good enough” is the most common challenge I see riders deal with. We ALL go through it. I don’t know one athlete, beginner or professional, myself included, that has not dealt with this at some point. Our minds can be our best friend, or our worst enemy, and it will honestly make the biggest difference in the world if a rider can master the mental game.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think the fear of getting injured and not being able to tend to their life’s responsibilities, whether that’s a career, a family, or just not being able to do the things they love, holds a lot of women back from getting involved. I think skills clinics like VIDA play a HUGE role in calming those fears. Most women, myself included, don’t like to just wildly hurl themselves over things or off things hoping for the best- we have way too much on the line to risk injury like that. At clinics like VIDA, or with coaching, we can actually LEARN the skills we need to ride correctly so that our risk of getting injured is much less. Education is empowerment. When we feel in control of what we are doing, we are much more likely to put ourselves out there and accept the challenge of trying something new.
Also, I really see the fear for a lot of women that they will not be able to balance their new sport with their family life, career, other interests, etc. I hear many women say “I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy with xyz” or “I can’t take that kind of time for myself, I have my family/job/house to take care of.” We women are such natural caretakers that we tend to always put others first, and neglect ourselves. But, I would argue that if WE feel joy, strength, fulfillment, passion in our own lives- which cycling and mountain biking can certainly provide- that we are better able to care for our loved ones and our life’s responsibilities. And there is no better way to lead our loved ones than by example.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
As I said, I think the rise of women’s skills camps and clinics is a HUGE factor in encouraging women to ride, for reasons I explained above. I also think that having more women’s mentorship in beginner mountain bike races would be really helpful. I used to be involved in a women’s mentoring program with road racing, both as a beginning racer being mentored, and later as an elite racer doing the mentoring. We would race the criteriums alongside the new racers, giving them coaching on tactics and strategy, and encouragement along the way. I would love to be able to do this with mountain biking: ride in a beginner’s field and give coaching and support to the women who are getting out there and trying it for the first few times, showing them that it doesn’t have to be intimidating and scary but that challenging themselves in this way can actually be really empowering and fun!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I think I said pretty much everything I have to say… riding has been such a powerful, positive force in my life. It has shaped the person I am today. I am continuing to learn and grow as a person and as an athlete every day through my time spent on my bike. Opening doors for more women to enter this amazing sport is the most fulfilling path I could possibly think of.  

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Worms make me really happy. I love when it rains and they all come out and wriggle around. They are cute. :)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Martha Flynn

I work in health care by day, but my true love is teaching and welcoming new female riders to mountain biking. I am the director of Crank Sisters, an outreach program of the Minnesota High School Cycling league and my mission is to recruit more girls to the league and do what I can to make sure the atmosphere is welcoming so they stay with it, hopefully the rest of their life.
I’m also completely obsessed with bike racing, mostly on my mountain bike and fat bike in the winter.


When did you first start riding a bike?

My dad taught me how to ride a bike when I was about 8 or 9. He told me if I learned to ride (on my big sister’s bike), then he would buy me my own. I was so jealous of my older sister having a bike. I couldn’t wait to prove I could ride and be able to follow her everywhere again. Our local bike shop was at the bottom of a very large hill in St. Paul. Part of the deal was if dad bought me the bike, I had to ride up the big hill home. Now that I think of it, maybe that’s why I struggle with hills to this day.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I have FOMO (fear of missing out). I love the social aspect of riding and racing and love having something to look forward to.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
My favorite event is always the next one on my schedule, and that usually means a mountain bike or winter fat bike race. I enjoy competing because it pushes me to work hard. I have trouble doing that on a ‘normal’ ride, where I tend to space out and take in the scenery. Racing can be whatever I need it to be that day. Some days I need to dig deep and push my limits. Some days I ‘ride’ the race and encourage others during it. Some days it’s a mixture of the two. No matter what it is, I’m on my bike with ‘my people’ who share in this obsession. It always makes me smile.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Prior to trying mountain biking, I had only been out on asphalt. . bike trails or streets. Biking was either transportation or a workout that felt like a chore. I hated the wind, the hills, the sun, the boredom of it. I remember my first few times mountain biking and realizing how cool it was to ride in the woods. So different than the road. It was a ride without purpose. . just for fun and to be outside in nature. It wasn’t the chore it felt like on asphalt.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I was lucky in that I had a friend who taught me mountain biking the right way. We started on easy wide trails, and slowly worked up on the difficulty. I do remember being nervous when I switched from flat pedals to clipless.

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 use clipless pedals, though just this year went back to flat pedals at the beginning of the mountain bike season to help reinforce good technique. It was wild to go back to flat. My feet were flying off the pedals anytime I hit bumps. Going back to flat pedals reinforced the need for ‘heavy feet/light hands’ and keeping my heels down when on downhills, braking, or rock gardens.

I switched back to clipless when the racing season started because they really help me on hill climbs, and I feel more confident clipped in for the technical sections.

When I first switched to clipless I spent time riding around a park and practiced getting in and out of the pedals a ton. I’d suggest doing that for sure. Spend time coming to a stop and unclipping. . start slowly, then increase the speed so you’ll be ready to bail if needed. Know you are going to fall over and be ok with that. Everyone does and it’s nothing to feel bad about. .if people laugh about it, they are usually only laughing because they know exactly how you feel. And you have to admit, it does look kind of funny.

I also used to unclip one foot when going through rock gardens because it made me feel safer. Honestly, it’s more difficult to ride through rock gardens that way, but it made me feel better so I did it.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
After I had been riding about a year, I was at a point where I was fearless. Because I had been introduced to mountain biking slowly, I hadn’t had a really bad crash. I felt like I could do anything. I remember riding with my then boyfriend (now husband) and we were ripping down some pristine single track on the CAMBA trails in Wisconsin and he yelled that there was a jump coming. I thought, “SWEET!” and kept my speed up. I hit the jump and went flying through the air, then crashed hard over the handlebars. I landed on my shoulder and had a huge bruise and scrape. He felt so bad and said, “I thought you knew to pull your front tire up.” Yea, NO, didn’t know that. The ride back to the trailhead was painful and slow.

After that, I was scared to get any air at all. I still don’t take big jumps, but I got over it by practicing smaller bumps and slowly increasing my speed and the size of the jump, but I still don’t like to take bike jumps to this day. I recently did a women’s GRIT clinic and forced myself into the ‘jump’ group for the skills sessions just because I know it scares me. I like to remind myself of the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “Do one thing every day that scare you”. Mountain biking is good for that!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I started I would freeze up on rock gardens. It was weird, I could go over a log easily, but if a rock was in front of me that was smaller than the log, I’d think I couldn’t go over it.

Two things helped me get better at this. One was learning the ‘ready’ or ‘attack’ position. I remember the first time I tackled a nemesis rock garden after taking a mountain bike clinic and it was a light bulb moment. . “Wow, this position really works!”. The second was just riding rock gardens, over and over. Going out by myself and walking it to figure out my line, then trying it. Though I will caution, if you are going to try this. . give yourself three tries. If you don’t get it after that, move on, if you stay there and repeat failure again and again it can de-motivate you. I also talk to the rocks as I’m walking to check my route. The “Oh yea, you think you can scare me? No way, I’m riding over you, you puny rock.” kind of self-talk.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I’m getting better at rocks, so now I’m trying to improve on riding skinnys—logs, skinny wood bridges, especially those with height or bumps and turns. I know it’s mainly mental stuff that prevents me from even trying. I am working at not doing the negative self-talk for the times I decide NOT to try a skinny.

Here’s a skinny I finally got the guts to try, AND I made it! Video Link Note: video is a friend of mine riding it, not me.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Wow, everything. I love riding hard or long and feeling completely spent at the end. I love competing and digging deep during races, at time hating the women out on the course with me, then loving them again at the end as we tell our race stories. I love that I can share this experience with my husband and friends. I love using my bike to commute and feeling like I’m making a difference in the world as one less car.

I love riding alone, especially in the woods, and taking in the enormity of nature and reflecting on life and appreciating all that I have.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Specialized Epic Mountain Bike: I got this bike after getting a bike fitting from Chris Balser on my old Orbea. He told me he couldn’t fit me on it because it was too big. Darn, I had to buy a new bike! I looked at the Specialized line up because they are great supporters of the High School Cycling League, and my son worked at a Specialized Dealer Bike Shop. So I test rode the Specialized Epic (in a small) and I loved it! I felt comfortable in the cockpit like I could completely control it, even though it’s a 29r. The full suspension and upgraded dropper post was what my advanced age body needed. And the carbon frame helped keep it light. I LOVE this bike. Can’t imagine riding anything else for mountain bike racing.

Salsa Beargrease Fat Bike: I upgraded to this bike last year from my Salsa Mukluk. The Beargrease is carbon and perfect for racing. I end up doing about 12 or more Fat Bike races in the winter, so it’s worth it. Rocking this baby with my 45North tires, and a spare set of studded tires for the ice--I’m ready for anything.

Salsa Casseroll Commuter Bike: I bought this as a singlespeed, then had my husband deck it out as a 1X10. I have a fenders, bike rack, panniers, and lights as staples on this one. Gets me around the hills of St. Paul (and Minneapolis) nicely. And yes, we do have hills in Minnesota!

KHS Crossbike: I raced recently on this bike and someone pulled up with the same bike, looked again at mine and said, “you’ve swapped out everything on that bike except the frame!”, and yes I have. Carbon fork and new wheels helped to make this pretty light for schlepping on my shoulders during a cross race. I’m looking to do more gravel races next spring so I’ll try this out for that as well.

Specialized Allez: This is my road bike that gets ignored most days, unless the mountain bike trails are wet and I want to go on a longer ride with skinny tires. I’ve had this bike the longest and I still love it, for a road bike of course. This bike fits me to a T. I never get aches riding it, even for those long summer rides.

Fatbikes- people often times question why one would ride one. Why do you like riding a fatbike?
My fat bike gave me the freedom to ditch cross country skiing as a winter sport, and lets me ride all year round. Riding trails in the snow is an experience everyone should try! I have become such a better summer mountain biker from the bike handling skills I’ve needed to acquire from riding in slushy snow, icy trails and deep snow. Though now that more and more trail bosses are investing in grooming equipment, it’s getting easier to ride on the trails in winter, they are so nicely packed down.

Many folks ride fat bikes all year. Fat bikes are great entry level bikes for folks new to mountain biking.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Since we’re getting into fall weather, merino wool base layers, socks, hats, neck warmers, etc are the bomb. I love the 45North brand because their designers are all winter bike enthusiasts who are always looking for ways to make us more comfortable riding in cold weather.

I also recently got a Lift cyclewear jersey. It doesn’t look like your typical lycra jersey with graphics. It’s a solid color, soft, super comfortable and has a waterproof zipped pocket in the back.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think many women (and girls) don’t try mountain biking because they think it’s all about jumps and wicked downhills or technical sections. Yea, it can be that if you want, but the majority of mountain biking, especially in Minnesota is cross country type trails.

I also think the equipment, the maintenance and the attitude that in order to ride you HAVE to have X part, or X wheel size, or flat (or clipless pedals) are off-putting for women. In reality, it doesn’t matter what gear you have, just ride your bike, any bike. The equipment tweaks and loyalty can come later.

What could change in the industry (or in general areas) to encourage more women to ride?
It almost seems like bike related companies and local bike shops should have advisors to come and do an analysis on how they are doing to attract and retain women (customers and employees). It seems like we are doing a lot of two steps forward, one step back lately.

Things like if you are doing women specific design, don’t make the women’s line be only recreational with no high end products. I’m glad to see women’s bike mechanics classes, but the ones I’ve attended still have the ‘gear head’ attitude. I attended one with a girlfriend new to biking and they looked at her mountain bike and told her she NEEDED to get clipless pedals. I waited until they walked away and told her they were completely false, she could stay on flats as long as she liked. Have hands on interactive classes, not here let me show you how to change a flat and think that we’re good to go.

Train the staff at bike shops to walk that careful line of not being overbearing, but don’t ignore us either. And most importantly, don’t condescend. I’ve heard many stories of women wanting to but a higher end mountain bike and the sales guys are steering them to a hybrid!

Hire women in positions of leadership. We look at this in the High School Mountain Bike League. We are always trying to get more women to sign on as coaches and ride leaders.

You are involved with Crank Sisters- tell us about Crank Sisters and why it is important for the community:
Crank Sisters is a program within the Minnesota High School Cycling League with a goal to recruit and retain female athletes, coaches and ride leaders. 

It is important for these girls to feel that this is their sport, even if their numbers are lower compared to the boys. These girls are the future of our sport and we want to do what we can to encourage and empower them through the sport of mountain biking. The mountain bike teams are all co-ed and can be very masculine focused with the majority of coaches and volunteers being men as well. The Crank Sisters program will send a woman out to lead a girl’s only practice for teams, so they have some time to practice outside of the male dominated environment, and they get to see an adult woman who rides. We also do ‘Try It Out’ sessions for girls thinking of joining or trying mountain biking. These sessions are important to do separate from the boys, as girls benefit from a different approach to learning the new skill of mountain biking.

We are just now seeing some of the impact of our efforts this season. Friendships have been made through some of our programs, girls from competing teams are arranging rides together that end with hanging out at a coffee shop, girls are wearing the bike jewelry they made on race day at the Crank Sisters tent and that sparks conversations with others about riding and they share the story of the High School League and let other girls know that it’s an option. I get goosebumps hearing the stories.
You are a Level 1 IMBA certified instructor- how was the certification process for you? Any suggestions/tips for those thinking of becoming certified?
The certification process for Level 1 was not difficult. You do have to commit to studying the material ahead of time, and then giving a full weekend to the task. The instructors we had were fabulous and really encouraging. Level 1 certification is pretty basic; you learn how to assess for basic skills and safety lead a trail ride. Still, the test out on the last day (written and on the trail) was a little intimidating. My only suggestion to those considering is to commit to it 100%. It is an interactive process and exhausting. Don’t plan on any other events over the weekend of the course.

What is the best part about being able to help others learn riding/handling skills?
The best part is seeing someone do something they didn’t think they could, or they were afraid to do before. 

Tell us about Ride Like A Girl Cycling and how you became involved-
Teri Holst and I were talking about how Penn Cycle could help with the Crank Sisters efforts and during that discussion she talked about the Ride Like A Girl program and I knew I wanted to help. It is such a great grass roots program to give women the skills, resources and community necessary to embrace cycling. I just love seeing the friendships develop from women involved with it.

Why do you feel women’s groups are a benefit and/or necessity?
Women’s groups are particularly beneficial for beginner riders. Women in general take to riding differently than men. Most women want to see skills demonstrated, hear why we do things a particular way, and then attempt it in a safe, non-judgmental environment where we can try things at our own pace. Not all women fit into this mold of course, but that’s the general characteristics of women I see in clinics.

Women’s group rides are a necessary activity for me as a way to socialize with other likeminded women. I love how women are so encouraging to each other on group rides and bring the fun factor on.

Any suggestions on how a woman can find a group to join? What are some key points for people to consider before joining?
Start with your local bike shop and see if they have any women’s only rides. Volunteer at a bike race and watch the beginner races. Talk to the women afterwards and find out how they started riding, if they know of any group rides. When you show up for your first ride, bring an openness to trying new things and a positive attitude. Know that these women want you to succeed, to have fun and they have been in your position before so they understand.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Seeing a woman accomplish something she didn’t think she could do. Riding over that log, making it up a hill, whatever. I soak up the joy and triumphs of the women around me. I recently gave a private lesson to a woman that needed to quickly progress to 'advanced' mountain bike skills for a trip she's taking. After we finished she said, "I feel so bad ass now!" Doesn’t get much better than that.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
In my early 20s I went for a full month without telling a lie while I was writing my senior thesis on lying. I was a Philosophy major.
To this day I try to tell the truth as often as possible, it’s simpler, and you don’t have to keep track of your stories.