Monday, February 29, 2016

Women Involved Series: Chelsea Koglmeier (Bikes of Reckless Optimism)

My name is Chelsea Koglmeier and I'm the founder of a socially conscious bicycle company called Bikes Of Reckless Optimism (ORO for short,www.bikesoro.com). I've spent the last year prototyping and designing simple & clean commuter bikes. With each purchase, we support the donation of a bike to someone in need around the world.
As background, I'm a 26-year-old, Duke graduate. Motivated by the sun and by getting people access to opportunity all over the world.

This company is a dream that began with a few months, 8 years ago, working in a refugee community in Kampala, Uganda.


When did you first start riding a bike?
When I was really young -- although I couldn't tell you an exact age. I lived in a great town for riding, so was always on my bike. Best memory was riding no handed all the way to swim practice, including down the last hill (it was BIG), over the grass, and into the bike rack. I practiced everyday, but that was serious success.

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

When I was a kid, riding was pure fun. When I got older, I would ride out of necessity. I didn’t get a car until after college, so I rode everywhere around campus. I also race triathlon, so I ride my road bike multiple times every week and I’ve been doing that for years now. Now, I ride because I work inside and it’s a good way to get some outdoor time.

You created Bikes of Reckless Optimism- what was your inspiration for a bicycle based business?
The inspiration actually came from living in a refugee community in Kampala Uganda and seeing how powerful a bike could be to change someone’s life. It also cam from a general interest in supporting the movement for businesses with double bottom lines -- for profit and a social mission.

In your words, why is it important for those in need to have a bicycle?
Access to opportunity. In a lot of countries, there’s bad infrastructure and schools aren’t close to where kids live, things like that. Bikes help get people to opportunity— like school and work— by simply giving them a vehicle. They can travel 4x farther than on foot, so options really increase.

You work in partnership with World Bicycle Relief- why are they an organization that deserves support from those who love riding bicycles?
I think the majority of bike donation nonprofits deserve people's support! They’re doing important, empowering work. It’s always important to look into the details of how nonprofits function though. You want to make sure you know where your money is going. For ORO, that’s incredibly important. I wanted a clear picture of how our contributions were able to impact peoples access to bikes. WBR is an incredibly well-run, transparent, and iterative nonprofit. They track their effectiveness and change things to make their organization and their distribution run smoothly. I’ve been very impressed!

The process: someone purchases a bike from O.R.O. ...quarterly you look at numbers and write a donation to WBR that goes towards wheels for a Buffalo bike. Is there anything else we should know about the process?
That’s what it looks like for now. We’re teaming up with WBR for that “everyday” style ride. We may bring in some other “mobility” related nonprofits for other product lines. For example, we’re launching a handmade tricycle (built in New Jersey by an amazing woodworker) that has “you can change the world” inscribed on the foot platform. I’m really excited about it because it’s such a great way to open a conversation about social impact and conscious consumerism with kids. We’re probably going to be working with a US based nonprofit that refurbishes and distributes kids bikes for that product.
I think it will be a constantly changing landscape, but the theme will always be getting people access to mobility.

What do you love about riding your bike?
So cheesy, but it makes me smile for no reason except the feeling of riding. It also connects me to people around me. When I ride around, I engage the people I pass and see things I wouldn’t otherwise.

Why should people look at a bicycle as a viable form of transportation (vs. a "toy")?
This is a great question! I’m so happy it came up because I think it’s something that we’re working to change around the US. Other countries absolutely see bikes as viable forms of transportation — think of the Netherlands or think of Rwanda. In the US, we’ve seen bikes as kids toys or competitive toys for a long time and they’ve got a bit of that stigma attached to them. With the emergence of more bike lanes in cities, and bike share programs, I think we’re just on the brink of a whole new bicycle world in America, where people really start to view bikes differently.

It’s a bit of a paradigm shift, but it’s happening. Slowly but surely.

Tell us about the bicycles that people can purchase from O.R.O.-
Right now, we’re launching just a single bike in 3 sizes. It’s a porter style — which means it’s a casual bike, somewhat upright, front basket, nice curved top tube. It’s equipped with 3 speeds, an internally geared rear hub (which means the gears are inside the back wheel and less likely to break), and a Gates Belt Drive. For people who don’t know about belt drives, it’s a drivetrain that replaces the traditional chain links with carbon fibers. It’s an amazing product that lasts 7x longer, doesn’t use grease, and is incredibly low maintenance. No reason not to have it!

If someone isn't in the market for a bicycle, but wants to help out O.R.O. what would you suggest?
Well, for our Indiegogo campaign, there are a lot of different/fun perks. Anything they can contribute is welcome! For someone who is interested in helping, but the crowdfunding campaign is over, they could apply to join our Ambassador team (www.bikesoro.com/ambassadors) or just email me directly if they have another idea.

I believe in partnership and working with people to make things happen, so am always open to a conversation.

What has been one of the biggest challenges for O.R.O?
Working alone for a year has been tough.

What has been one of the largest successes for O.R.O.?

There’s 2 really: 1) building a great bike product that should exist, but doesn’t; 2) building our Ambassador team full of inspiring people.

What do you hope for O.R.O. in the next several years?

I hope we turn into a linearly scaling small business. Every year growing a small amount, becoming a little more sustainable, and eventually being able to sustain ourselves without outside capital. I’d like us to link our team to the work of the nonprofits and get people out on adventures and create a branded line of products around our tagline “built with reckless optimism”.

Are there any ways that individuals can become involved with O.R.O. to help spread the mission? How can they do so?
As I mentioned above, joining the Ambassador team is a great way to help spread the word. We love chatting with the press and joining in on big bike rides. The fun thing is that it’s still new, so the options are endless and we love go-getters.

Do you have any suggestions for women who are looking to be involved in the cycling industry based on your experiences?

It’s such a unique industry and at a serious inflection point right now. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the next year and in the next 5 years. If you like being in a space with unpredictable outcomes that you may be able to help define, it’s a good space for you at this moment. And, it is the truth, there are a lot of guys, so we could absolutely use more more lady presence in the bike ranks.

What do you feel could happen industry-wide and locally to encourage more women to be involved with cycling and the industry?
I think the bike lanes are big. It is proven that ladies feel like riding on the roads is more risky, so the more public funds are put towards developing that infrastructure, the more ladies we will see riding. Also, ladies need to be spoken to in a different way then men. Every other industry seems to target messing differently based on gender, but it is not really happening with bikes. I think speaking in a more accessible (less tech-y) and warmer (optimistic) way, is a great way to connect.

What inspires you to encourage others, especially more women, to ride?
Bikes are a great tool for taking care of ourselves and taking care of the world. If it's been so good to me, I hope it can do the same thing for other people. Specifically on the women note, I guess I've seen the stats and women are lagging significantly behind men in ridership in the states. I don't understand why!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I’m into farming. I live on a great plot with goats and chickens. Every year we raise fruit trees, bushes, all the vegetables. The more I do it, the more into it I get.
It’s all kind of linked to the general wellness concepts, but maybe farming will be the next business :).

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Revisiting Rachel (Scott) Beisel

Rachel hails from music-city Nashville, Tennessee where she got her start in marketing and public relations in the country music scene. Her experience ranges from writing copy for shot gun shells and jib furlers (now she’s writing Ruby and JavaScript) to creating rebranding strategies for 100-year-old nonprofit organizations.

From the music, outdoor, textiles, nonprofit, and government sector, Rachel found herself in the tech industry – where she’d like to stay. She’s VP of Marketing for Gorilla Logic, a custom software development agency headquartered in Boulder, Colorado.



Rachel has a rough time with idle time, so she also co-founded the Colorado Women’s Cycling Project, co-organizes Wednesday Morning Velo and Boulder Startup Week, is a current board member for the Downtown Boulder Initiative, women’s committee member for the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado (and former BoD member), and current advisory board member to Opera Denver. Her athletic ADD is just as bad, diving into new sports as quickly as she can obtain the gear. She’s an elite road and mountain biker, daily hot yoga addict, avid climber, trail runner, nordic skier, and is dabbling in biathlon after a failed attempt at motocross.

Check out Rachel's On Bikes and Involved interviews!

You had several things happen in your personal life, one of which was changing careers. What helped you take the leap and how have you been enjoying it?
I’ve always been focused on building my personal brand with my professional one. This includes public speaking, teaching workshops and guest lecturing at the university and volunteering in my community. I believe my online and offline presence has helped lead me throughout my career. And believe it or not, the bike has played an instrumental part in my professional identity as well. My new CEO and CTO are both avid cyclists as is our VP of Engineering in Costa Rica at Gorilla Logic. (http://gorillalogic.com)

Speaking of personal, you were recently married and bought a house! How has married and house life been going?

After my new year’s resolution of never dating for a year in 2015, I shortly after that met my now husband, mountain bike pro for RideBiker Kalan Beisel (http://kalanbeisel.com). I’ve never been one to rush into things (unless it was an adventure), but we both fell head over heels and got married in October! Everyone I’ve talked to said it ended up that way. We both say it took two very happy people who were perfectly content being alone to be alone together happily. And with buying a house (my Realtor is the 2012 Road National Champion Timmy Duggan), Boulder real estate is going bonkers with it’s growth. Needed to get in while interest rates were still low and before Boulder becomes the next New York or San Francisco. I’m thankful we did. We’ve been putting a ton of sweat equity into the place in hopes of a pay off.

Any words of wisdom for those looking to purchase their first home?
Just like business or bike racing, don’t give up on your first try. We had three different offers go out, and we lost out on two of them to people paying 100% in cash and over asking price in the 10s of thousands of dollars. When something like that happens and we had a measly little downpayment, you get discouraged, especially in a market like Boulder. Timmy was fantastic though and new some ways that would make our offer more appealing and the third time was the charm. We had to be patient, not giving up, and it paid off.

You also adopted an older cat- I have 3 cats I adopted from a local humane society. What inspired you to adopt a an older cat vs. a kitten?
Old kitties need love too if not more! Most kittens will get snatched up from the Humane Society almost immediately but there are some older animals who aren’t so lucky. We wanted to give Pippin the opportunity to experience a house with a lot of love to give so he has some good years for the rest of his life. I tortured myself for weeks looking at the Humane Society website and my husband had an opportunity to bring home an older lover boy. He is absolutely amazing. The best cat either of us have ever had - so I’d say we lucked out big time. #adoptdontshop

Tell us about the Colorado Women's Cycling Project and what it's all about-
Colorado Women’s Cycling Project is a competitive women’s cycling team and club team. We started with 7 members in 2010 and since have grown to have over 100 women. We compete in road, mountain bike, track and cyclocross disciplines and promote the growth of women through sport. Our club team accepts members year round and gets mentorship from our racing riders. They also get their dues back if they race five times. Last year, we added a Domestic Elite team and competed in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge women’s race. We’ve been recognized regionally and nationally for our volunteer work and cycling efforts - including winning Best All Around team in Colorado for several categories and disciplines and were recognized as USA Cycling’s Women’s Club of the Year in 2012.

What are some future goals you have for Colorado Women's Cycling Project?
We want to focus more in engagement with our members. I know this is a struggle with many membership based organizations, and ours is no different. We’ve beefed up our team management, appointed mentors to our club and newer racing members, opened up some of our requirements to be more inclusive and have senior women on the team giving their time in a lot of different ways to make the experience for our team a lot better. When we grew so quickly it became difficult to manage and we didn’t even know everyone’s name on the team. This year will be different and hopefully allow us to serve our mission better while still getting even more women into cycling. We could not do it without the help of our sponsors financially and also without the involvement of those women on our team who give their own time to see it improve.

What has been one of the best moments since you started co-organizing Wednesday Morning Velo?
So many great moments with Wednesday Morning Velo! It’s the best unstructured interval work out for me, but also a fantastic way to network on the bike. I’d say one of the best moments was leading our last ride of 2015 to a Boulder Golf Course (Golf is the new cycling?) and we all had breakfast at the end of the ride compliments of Lake Valley Golf Club. Each of us also got two free rounds of golf (over 100 cyclists!).
The ride is amazing and I love meeting my professional friends in spandex and trading attacks on the roads of Boulder.

Tell us about Boulder Startup Week-
Boulder Startup Week brings entrepreneurs, local leaders, and friends together over five days in May to build momentum and opportunity around Boulder's unique entrepreneurial identity. The celebration is led by entrepreneurs and hosted in the entrepreneurial spaces everyone loves. I volunteer to be the Adventure leader because while my day job is software, I love bringing people together through hiking, biking, yoga and more. Boulder is also home to several professional athletes in addition to its thriving startup community so I enjoy marrying the two.

Tell us about 40 under 40-
The 40 Under Forty events ​recognize ​top ​40 ​young ​professionals ​under ​the ​age ​of ​40, ​who ​represent ​the ​best ​and ​brightest ​emerging ​leaders ​that ​make ​a ​difference ​in ​their ​companies, ​industries, ​and ​communities in two separate events, one in Boulder Valley and one in Northern Colorado. It’s put on by BizWest Media and I’m honored to be recognized. I get back the day before from a 24 Hour mountain bike race called 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo so here’s to hoping I can stay awake.

You had a few races in, such as Brek Epic, Dakota five-0, and 24 hours of Old Pueblo. Do you have any tips or suggestions for those considering entering a big-ticket event?
Just keep pedaling :) I had a rough year this year. While our team won the 24 HOP event in February of last year, my year went downhill after that. Buying a house, changing jobs, getting married and more had a few things to do with it but I still managed to have a lot of fun even though I was bringing up the rear and forming breaks off the back most of my season. I had to have a mind shift about how I approached events, and took it more as a supported fun ride that took me to new trails. I’m glad I did because I had more fun taking pictures, looking at new trails and meeting new people than I would have if I were killing myself in a race. It was actually a nice break.

Out of those events, which one do you feel most proud of?
I would say Breck Epic. I started out with a teammate in a duo competition but she got ill and had to pull out of the event. We were in the leaders jersey for the women’s duo and I was riding a lot of brand new trails that were much more advanced than my capabilities. I didn’t quit though and finished up the next 4 days solo. I had a blast doing it despite a lot of flat tires, hail, someone mistakenly taking my aid bag that had my rain jacket in it and spare tubes, and more. It was an adventure that I liked so much that I signed up again this year!

This hasn't been the best year for you on the bike with multiple setbacks, how do you keep yourself in a positive mindset?
Luckily for me, I lost my ego and have been eating a lot of humble pie since moving to Colorado six years ago. I love the bike win every way - for transportation, for networking, for meditation, and more. It’s not just about racing and training. Yes, I love those things too but when life gets in the way, it’s ok to take a step back as long as you can keep your head on straight about it. It was rough at times, but had to remind myself that I did not a single interval all year and was lucky if I got 4 hours a week in. Every second I got to ride my bike, I was so thankful that I could. Even if it was getting my legs torn off in a race.

You have been dealing with a back injury flare up, injuries such as that can affect one both physically and mentally. What has helped you deal?
I’ve had a low back injury since I was a competitive gymnast from nearly 20 years ago. I had to stop doing gymnastics for about 6 months to get it to heal and it flares up every now and again ever since. This year, it was either my new bed or a 9 hour bike ride up Rollins Pass on my road bike (and that’s a mountain bike trail) that triggered it. I’ve been getting regular chiropractic, dry needling and always therapeutic massage. My practitioners are all cyclists too so they get it and can help talk me through it while getting treatment. I’m not one to take a pill or opt for surgery so if there’s a way to treat the cause and not just the symptom, I’m all for it. It takes longer but it also took my back several years to get in the spot that it’s in so I can be patient about it. I think of it like a cavity. Cavities don’t just show up over night - it takes a while to treat. You still have to go to the dentist twice a year at a minimum to treat your teeth whether you have cavities or not. It’s preventative and that’s how I view my care that I seek out.

Since our last interview you acquired a couple new bikes, tell us about them and what do you like about 650B?
Giant Lust Advanced 0 - I LOVE THE 650 B and the new RS1 fork. I feel so much more comfortable on the new bike compared to my 29er. I feel it accelerates and more easily, too. Plus the dropper is going to totally change my descending game.

Specialized Amira - I’m trying out a women’s frame again. I think some of my back troubles have stemmed from riding men’s bikes because they don’t fit me just right. The best frame I have ever ridden was a women’s specific frame and I’m looking forward to trying one out again.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Fear of injury and the time/money commitment. Also people don’t want to “suck” at first; however, everyone struggles when they pick up a new sport. As we get older, we fear more and more getting out of our comfort zone. Especially with mountain biking. I remember being terrified for the first 2 years of riding (and still sometimes am) but it gets better and I love the challenge. Also mountain bikes have a lot more things to tune and thus a lot more things that can go wrong - tubeless tires, suspension settings, and more. It’s hard to just air up the tires and go sometimes. And mountain bikes can be nearly double the cost of a good road bike. I think you can learn so much more every time you ride on a mountain bike and the racing scene is so much more chill.

What do you feel could industry-wise or locally to help encourage more women to become involved (in cycling and/or the industry)?
Model more races after the Beti Bike Bash and have more support for groups that support young women like Little Bellas and Impact 360. The bike is a powerful tool that offers independence and confidence. Most girls start falling out of sports between 11-13 and begin to fear certain activities. I think we need to get through that hump, develop more role models in the sport, and encourage our fellow women out there to get on bikes. It’s a community and we must build it and nurture it to make sure it survives. All ages, all disciplines and all socioeconomic persons deserve to feel the joy and freedom that two wheels provide.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Watching the growth that comes from it. I love it watching when there’s a women who is new to the sport come in and then become a mentor herself over time. It’s so much fun to watch. They continue to transfer the love of riding to their peers and new generations. It’s like stories and culture, having to be passed down in order to survive and thrive. When I see a new person come to the sport, I want to share so much (maybe too much about riding) and then watch them digest it and eventually pass on their own versions of why they ride. It truly is the most rewarding thing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Race Day Adventures- Fatbike Frozen 40 (20)

Photo Credit: TMB Images
It was a few months ago when I saw on Facebook that a friend was planning on attending an event called Fatbike Frozen 40. I will admit, I became instantly intrigued and wondered if this would be something I could potentially tackle.

Travis expressed his concern for my well being, especially since I had not ridden over 20 miles more than twice in the past year or so...and one of those times was on a stationary trainer. 


I found that there was a 20 mile option and I felt that with my lack of long-distance/endurance miles under my belt, 20 miles on a fatbike would be a great challenge.

Training consisted of:
Riding over 20 miles of groomed singletrack at Levis a couple weeks prior to the event. Thus proving I would not die.
Riding my usual mile-set on home track, which would be anywhere between 5-10.
Worrying, wondering, & dreaming. I am so great with pre-race jitters. Pepto shots for all!

With luck, I wrangled a friend into coming along. Raina has more experience with driving in heavier traffic areas, so I felt confident that we would get from point A to point B safely. Plus, she's fun. Having someone around for a few photos, food-getting, and moral support was great. 

Hotel was close to Elm Creek. Hotel had Surly Furious on hand. I banked on sleeping, but got probably less than 3 hours of crappy shut-eye that gave me some weird dreams. I wondered if it would've been better for me to have just not bothered. Either way, I was up right away and started the process of changing. I put my lucky "I "heart" Beer" socks on over my longer and thicker Sockguy socks. My racing socks will be retired soon, you could see thru parts of them. I should frame them.

We headed to the trail head and found a parking spot in the lot. (Yay!) I unloaded my bike and started the prep process. Front wheel in, check. Check tire pressure, check. Pump and re-check, check. Fingers feeling like they might fall off? Yup.

Our neighbor who parked next to us asked to borrow my pump and pressure gauge, unfortunately having broken the seal on his tubeless tire. He was going to ride the 40 mile course. He was nice and also point blank on race nerves. If you let them take over, you might as well go home- it takes all the fun out of it. I agreed. I guess you could say it was the "tough love" speech of the day.

I snagged a burrito filled with egg and cheese. It was perfect in size & texture. Just enough food for me to feel okay. (Insert more shots of Pepto)

I had so many awesome game plans on what I would do to prepare myself for this 20 mile adventure. Hot hands over the insides of my wrists and one for each calf. I didn't have room for them to be in gloves and I didn't want them to be in my boots in case I go too warm.
I told myself to put a GU in my pogie pocket.
I told myself to use my inhaler before start.
I put some Fireball in my Camelbak water thinking it would help it to not freeze. (Oh I felt smart!)
I decided my Camelbak should be on the outside, because I didn't want to take my coat off to get emergency supplies. Can you say, "Brr?" It was -8 degrees.

The announcement for lining up came and I walked to the start with my bike. I was encouraged to move forward. I chatted a tidbit with the woman next to me....not sure if I should wear goggles or not. They always ice up on me and I didn't want to bother with it. I had accidentally broken one of the arms to my sunglasses that morning...and those would fog up too. I will ride with naked eyes.
In the lineup, I suddenly realized I was closer to the front of the pack than where I anticipated I should be (middle)...."why am I up here?"

I realized that I hadn't used my inhaler. "Crap." Most of the winter I had fared okay without using it, but it was much colder today and I would be pushing myself. I hoped it wouldn't be too big of a detriment. If I had issues, I would stop, but I decided to chance it and see how it would go.

The gun went off and we started pedaling forward. The start of the loop wasn't far away and we all lined in. I was behind the woman I was next to at the start, the pace felt good and I didn't feel like passing was necessary. Not long after, a woman asked to pass, so I moved to have her pass. The woman who had been in front of me spun out on an uphill (ice) and I passed her at that moment. I had read an update on Thursday stating that studs were recommended. I'm glad we went ahead and swapped tires because they really did give me more confidence, even tho the thought of change before an event made me nervous. I rode on Bontrager Gnarwhal tires- they were fast enough for my needs.

I had the woman who had passed me in my line of vision for some time. I wasn't close behind, but I was using her as my trail guide. I hadn't ridden the trails up in Elm Creek before and was worried about taking a wrong turn/corner. It was totally a game of "cat/mouse" and there were a few times where I was scared I went the wrong way. I'd see a blue coat. A sigh of relief. I figured if people followed me I must be going the right way. Then I never saw her again. 

You'd ride for awhile completely alone (at least I did) and then you'd end up coming to a group of people ahead of you and feel confident you're in the right area. Sometimes you'd see someone behind you. For the most part, I was happy I didn't wear a winter helmet because I could hear voices slightly better. If you could hear/see often times you would move out of the way without being asked, otherwise you'd move if you heard a voice.



The trail was fun, fast, and had great flow- just like everyone had told me. I was having a great time right off the bat, minus sketching out on icy areas here/there. I felt really proud of my riding ability, being able to use momentum and fly down some flow parts. I went over 2 bridges (which would normally freak me out) and felt I could sustain a comfortable/athletic pace.

First loop was done without incident. No falls/crashes or otherwise- instead of stopping for a break I opted to keep moving forward. It was during this time where I attempted to have a sip of my water, only to find that the hose was frozen.
"Crap."

I suppose I should have drank more of the mixed water prior, but I didn't because I wanted to avoid bathroom breaks. Most times when I'm riding in the cold I'm not drinking fluids (bad.) Those rides are at the most nearly 10 miles. Closer to 8 or less. Not a huge deal. 20 miles....well, I didn't have a choice. 

I then realized that my Gu was in my Camelbak.
"Crap!"
I assessed myself quickly. I was a little tired, but overall I really wasn't that bad. I'm used to riding a bit tired/hungry because I go on my morning rides before eating breakfast. It's good to get used to feeling hungry and riding thru it sometimes, because you never know.

I kept going. I had my computer set on the mileage, so I would look down and see 12, 16, 19, etc. That was my motivation. Closer I got to 20 the more adrenaline kicked in and confidence that I would not bonk.

I came behind a fellow at one point, he had pulled off to the side because he spun out on ice (I think.) I almost did too. I got my first official "push up" and he told me I was doing great. I played leap frog with another fellow for a bit- he let me pass and not long after I wiped out on ice and opted to let him go ahead. 
I wanted to get my bearings situated, and a bit later he had me pass him.

The people I passed and some who passed me were super nice. I received words of encouragement from both men and women, which I think was really special. I attempted to give kudos back and make sure to say my thank-yous.

Photo Credit: TMB Images
At one point I tried to sing a song, but I only knew a phrase"Welcome to my house" and that really made it impossible to sing because I didn't know any other words. Only the tune and that phrase. Kind of a waste if you ask me, but it kept me focused. I had a couple points thought I might be doing really well, but I didn't want to get ahead of myself. A couple times women passed me- and without knowing 100% if they were in the 40 or 20 you really didn't know. My overall goal was to be 10th or 5th for the women's division. (Depending on how many showed)

My competitive drive came in at the end when I saw someone in a green jacket behind me close to the end of the 2nd lap. I wasn't sure of the gender and wasn't sure if they were at the start with me or not. I resigned myself, knowing that they were going at a pace that was far more powerful than mine and I moved over to give them the right of way. HE said thanks, and that lit a fire under me! I scolded myself for being competitive, but at the same time I was brimming with excitement.

I made it to the finish!

I was not quite sure what to do, it's different than the Decorah races because they had timer chip stickers, but I asked a friendly woman and then rode to the lot. I wanted to find Raina...and food...and fluid.
I filled her in on my mishaps, laughing about it. We propped my bike against her vehicle and went back to the tent. I drank some of the hydration drink they had in coolers and she got me a brat. It took awhile before my body stopped shaking. I pretty much banked on getting a large coffee at the nearest gas station.

Soon awards started, we were all outside huddled around looking at our raffle tickets hoping to be winners. They had Finisher plaques to give for those that didn't place. I wasn't sure where I placed so I grabbed one knowing I could exchange if necessary. 
They announced the third place woman in my age category and then went to "Open"...thus I was mighty confused. Maybe my chip got all wonky and nothing got read. I shrugged it off. Then I hear my name! 2nd?! What?! Besides 2nd in age category it was 2nd overall for women in the 20 mile!

We shared a hug and I frantically searched my pockets for my finisher plaque. I gave up on trying to give it back right away. I had talked with friend/rider Melissa who was in search for a finisher plaque and decided to save it for her so she wouldn't have to look for the box.

Shortly after, Raina and I decided we should hit the road back to Decorah while we still had ample light. I was ready for more fluids (Coffee & Sparkling water) and ready to eat more snacks. (My Skratch cookies that had been uneaten during the duration of the event.)

I met some remarkable individuals- some I've interviewed and some yet to be! Yet again, my appreciation for rad bike riding folks has been elevated to an all-time high. I surprised myself on multiple levels. I really can say that I can appreciate going elsewhere to ride because I learned to ride in Decorah. 

Experiencing a fatbike event in more ideal conditions than PWC of '15 elevated my confidence as well. Rather than being DFL and 2nd, I was 2nd in my category AND 10th overall for the 20 mile race. I accomplished two goals in one event, which is a first for me! A friend told me to believe in my training (cough cough...training? What's that?) and my abilities...and he bet that I would surprise myself. Besides being a great event to attend (and one I'd like to attend again!) It was also a good lesson in believing in myself and allowing myself to ride without fear of the unknowns.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Revisiting Sibohan Dolan (Spokes Gal)

I was late to biking in life, learning how to ride at age 30, but in the few years since have crammed all types of cycling into my life. I was racing for a short while, until a crash and surgery set me back. Because of that, I came back to why I ride in the most basic of terms. And it made me realize that I didn't have other women to ride with and rarely saw a woman pass me on my commute, also frequently seeing very small groups of women in the races, too.

I connected with a budding women's cycling club forming in Los Angeles called S.W.A.T., She Wolf Attack Team. It was a fast nightly ride for women only that matched dozens of male-heavy rides all over town. I found allies! I found friends! I began the slower-paced weekly night ride and have led that for 2014-1015. It has been an amazing community that has taught fellow women on the road to ride in groups, rider safer and believe in themselves to get stronger, fitter and faster. 

I was on a very good track to perfect health again myself after the surgery but then was hit by a car while making a left turn at a light. It's been months since but I have been slow to find my confidence and strength again and hope that re-connecting this your interviews and the friends that I have made through cycling to once again find my passion. I have before believed that cycling gives me more than it takes away, and I want to believe it again.

Check out Sibohan's original On Bikes and Involved interviews.

You have had a bit of a hiatus from your blog- Braking the Limits. Do you feel it will be something you'll regularly update again or can others find you elsewhere in the social media world?
The biggest struggle for me was "What is relevant now?" For awhile I wasn't sure I was comfortable making light about my situation, my pain, my fear. I thought, as many say it does, that writing would help me through. But once I felt strong enough to come back after surgery (after a bike race crash) I was then hit by a car and really lost my motivation to connect via my blog. Now on my recovery road, I am unsure what readers would want from my blog, or what I want from bicycling myself.

Since your last interview, you became involved with a cycling club called S.W.A.T. (She Wolf Attack Team)-tell us about the club and what they're about-
S.W.A.T. is a women's bicycling club that creates weekly fast/slow rides, weekend climbing rides, and encourages women cyclists to try everything cycling has to offer, like racing. At the time in LA, there was one fast weeknight ride and it wasn't encouraging to women. Initially this was the response to that, but we have grown to be so much more once we found the demand and energy was there.

When it comes to joining a club, do you have suggestions for those on the search for one to join?

TRY THEM ALL. Honestly, I was a solo rider and found out about clubs through bike shop websites and Facebook. I just showed up to all of them, ready to leave if I felt the vibe wasn't for me. And I did that on occasion. On many more occasions those rides pushed my limits and also showed me new routes. But what I really wanted was more women to ride with, someone who truly shared my experience. And I was glad to be at the right time when SWAT was forming.

How has it been finding other women to ride with? Why is riding with other women a positive thing?
My personal life has benefitted too. I have fellow cyclists that I now call wonderful friends, and I have a safe space for my health questions or biking issues when I wouldn't go to a bike shop or a male friend to discuss. I have encouragement the way I need it, and empathy the way I give it, and most importantly, I have a reason to be accountable and RIDE. They make it more fun.

After making headway in the healing process (accident mentioned in first interview), you were faced with another setback- being hit by a car. This is a worry of mine and I'm sure of many other bike riders. How has the recovery process gone mentally/emotionally?
I felt angry. Angry that something was taken away from me. When you crash yourself out, say clipping in or making a bike handling mistake, you can laugh it off. But when a ton machine comes crashing towards you and it's their fault according to law, you feel wronged. It caused a chain reaction of expenses, lost opportunities, pain and sadness that is all mine now, even though it was their fault completely. I was left without a working bike and had to save a lot of money to replace it. Then once I went for small rides, I noticed I was tense. I was afraid. In everything I saw danger with a capital D. I lost my confidence, the confidence that told me I was right to use this road and choose this method of transportation and fun. But I saw big car bumpers, circus-mirror style, everywhere I turned. It's been almost a year now and I am much better with help but it's never the same.

Do you have any suggestions from your experience that could help others who have been thru the same?
Reach out to someone immediately. Admit the fear, to yourself and to those you trust. I couldn't have gotten through it unless I let some tears fall and admitted to my closest friends and my partner that I was in a bad place. Their sensitivity and encouragement to take my time was what I needed. Then I found myself not wanting to be left out of their great rides and fun events and I felt safe with them with me while I tried these things out again.

Do you have suggestions for those who ride/commute in traffic? Tips on how to (hopefully) prevent an accident and stay safe?
Do what you want to do. If you want to hop on the sidewalk to avoid one bad stretch, do it. If you want to pull over and wait for a block of cars to go by, do it. If you want to wear bright colors, attach a mirror to your handlebars, even get a blowhorn instead of a bell, DO IT. It's your right to be there. It's hard as one person to fight against a car for your space, and sometimes it's better to bow out and let the aggressive drivers just go on their way to their important life, but you can get back to it and keep pedaling. And remember that pedaling there makes you healthier, happier, and better able to focus at work and get things done in your day. Knowing your rights is the most helpful thing. Second would be to take a cycling safety class. A lot of cities or nonprofit cycling advocacy organizations offer them and they were incredibly helpful in understanding how you can safely move, within your rights, with traffic on the road. And they give you excellent resources to navigate tough traffic spots.

What has been the biggest step in your healing?
Strength and exercise off the bike, actually. I found that when my body became stronger again from physical therapy and swimming, I felt excited again to ride my bike. It's disheartening to have a setback occur and when you ride again you feel like a beginner again. But I found fitness with yoga, spin class, weight training, etc and then felt killer on the bike. It was a smoother transition to riding.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
Safety is the biggest issue. Our cities fail us in safe infrastructure. We need to build not for cars but for the most vulnerable users of the roads. Only from that perspective can be keep safety the key focus and make it better for everyone. But community can overcome this. I encourage all women to seek each other out and become a force to reckon with.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?

We certainly have a voice within our cities to implore them to recreate our infrastructure to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians better. I do feel more women's cycling is being covered at a national and international level (but not enough IMO) and that encourages more women to ride. There is a big benefit to seeing someone like yourself in media, as we see with children and TV.

What would you say is your biggest goal for '16?
My biggest goal is to attempt a century. Maybe a charity ride, maybe a friends ride, but I haven't done that kind of mileage and as a goal it could be great for fitness.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
When I first started I was alone. I didn't have any friends that rode bikes. I did a lot of learning on my own and the chance to share that learning with others makes me very proud. I'm happy to be a resource for other women. I want to see women get the empowerment that I did on the bike and I will give to that cause for as long as I can.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Kimberly Mrozinski

About 6 years ago, I decided to "try" out mountain biking. After a bit of research, I decided if I was going to learn I'd "GO BIG" and signed up for a women's weekend clinic in Utah. What I found there was a game changer. Mountain biking has enriched my life on pretty much every level.

From the obvious physical rewards, the mental challenge and stimulation, amazing places and even more amazing people I've encountered. I can no longer picture my life without it and wonder WHY I didn't start sooner!? After coming back from out west it inspired me to help support and further the MN women's MTB community, thus TC Ladies Trailblazers was born.

Through this experience I've met some amazing women from all different backgrounds and walks of life who share the common bond of wanting to throw down two-wheels, get dirty (sometimes bloody) and have FUN!!!

My focus for 2016 continues to be finding ways to give back. Locally - by way of helping with trail advocacy/work, racing (with Team Muddbunnies) to support local programs and the MTB community, and continuing to network within our growing women's recreational MTB groups in the Twin Cities (strength in numbers)!! Outside of MN - am also planning to race/train on the Enduro scene, start obtaining my IMBA certification and possibly start working/invest in a small MTB start-up business!!! All of this.. is just the tip of the iceberg for a sport that knows no boundaries/limits and is fast becoming an "IT" sport for women.

When I'm not riding, you can usually find me at my day job at Accenture (to bankroll my bike problem), doing something else active (inside or out) spending an obscene amount of time with my dog or cooking and enjoying a craft beer. Hope to see you all sometime out-on-the-trail or just outside period.

When did you first start riding a bike?
"Officially".. I didn't really start riding bikes again in my adult life until 6 years ago. It suddenly dawned me on how fun riding bikes seemed as a kid and something was pulling at me to try it again. After venturing out on my "train wreck" of a first local ride (wrong pedals, wrong shoes, wrong everything.. but still FUN!) I decided to learn how to do it again the right way and signed up for a women's MTB camp out west. The rest is dirty, sweaty, history!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Simple. The places and the people.. MTB has helped me to experience some amazing places and meet some incredible people and vice-versa. I remember a time when I first rode in Park City Utah.. there's this trail called mid-mountain that goes on forever and all of a sudden, you feel like the only person in the world and you are a surrounded by a sea of beautiful, green aspen. I remember this overwhelming sense of pure happiness and I started tearing up a bit. It was just an ordinary day, on a typical out west trail but I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland. As for the people, the sense of shared adventure and comraderie that is forged in this sport is amazing. It creates bonds of friendship that I think become a lifelong gift.

For '16 you have joined Team Muddbunnies, tell us your reasons for joining the Muddbunnies and what you hope to achieve.
The Muddbunnie organization has a strong core philosophy of getting more women on bikes. Nothing wrong with that!! But it is also about providing a community to support this sport (through the Club Chapter Membership, Race Team) and being responsible members of the community by giving back with volunteer work and trail advocacy. If we don't all work to maintain and protect what we do have (resources and rights) it won't last forever. As part of the MB team in 2016 I look to continue to support the women's MTB community and to also (of course) race and have FUN!!

Why should women look into joining the Muddbunnies?
If you're looking for a community of strong, passionate, and supportive female bikers Muddbunnies Ride Club is it!! And if you're interested in perhaps pushing a bit outside your current comfort level and setting goals, starting to race, etc. the Race Team might also be for you. It's NOT about ability or winning.. it's about representing the sport and supporting the community of women who love this sport and encouraging those who might be new to it! It's a sport where women can lift each other up positively!!

Tell us about TC Ladies Trailblazers, what is the group about and how can people join?
Starting TC been one of the best experiences ever! Our group is all about providing a community and outlet for women to get together to ride in a supportive environment and definitely have fun along the way. When we first started out... it was amazing to hear so many of the women echo the same sentiments. That they were "tired of riding with all guys" or "wanted to try MTB but felt intimated" in what can sometimes feel like a male-dominated sport. Although the face of that landscape is changing vastly and the growth of our group and others like us prove that. For anyone interested, just find us on Facebook and ask to join the group :)

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
It was very fish-out-of-water but exhilarating at the same time. It's amazing as you ride more and progress.. how trails that once seemed so intimidating become straight-up FUNNNN!

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I think a lot of mountain biking is about trusting in yourself. The physical skills and stamina don't hurt either. But it's interesting and powerful to see women overcome something they were capable of all along just by making a mental adjustment.

Why mountain biking? (vs. road/gravel/etc.)
Ah yes, the age-old debate - mountain vs. road. Something about mountain biking just appealed to me.. I'm not sure if it was the draw of getting dirty, the initial sense of almost borderline danger or the thrill of just letting it all go and cruising down a trail. All of those things have collided in my love affair with mountain biking. I think part of it is just inherent in who you are.. you either love this sport or you think it's one of the most insane things out there.

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.. but definitely not right away. We have all joked you can tell what stage of clipping in someone is in by the scars from the knee down. My simplest advice is be prepared to fall, period. It's inevitable when you first start clipping in unless you're gifted with amazing cat-like reflexes.
The serious advise would be that clipping in successfully and learning to ride that way is kind of about learning to fall properly.. which was also some key beginners advice I received. When you start clipping in you have to think about how you will fall (if you do) and separating yourself from the bike. Let the bike fall away and worry about the rest of you. As for the riding part it's really about the comfort level and improving your sense of balance, etc. through practice which really equates to time. So, be prepared to fall but be patient with yourself as well.

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 think endurance races as a whole are again a mental challenge. At that juncture you've probably trained enough, etc. to the point where your body is capable but if your mind fails you're pretty much done. An example is a century race where I got lost (around the 80 mile mark) and as soon as we realized we would be DQ'd it was hard to even finish the 15-20 miles back to camp. Until that point though I was feeling pretty good physically which really means my mind gave up and my body soon followed. We all have different physical limitations but realizing what motivates you and drives you can be an invaluable tool to finish that race, or just finish a lap alone.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them? Are there skills that still challenge you?
All the basics.. things that you should never stop reinforcing. Correct body placement, weight distribution, braking, climbing, etc. It never hurts to take a refresher or spend time alone just doing drill sessions. Eventually, I think it pays off when something eventually clicks and translates into your riding effortlessly. When it happens you will just know - you'll feel it. Since there is so much to riding I also think it's good to have a list of things to work through. Spend time on something for a little while or most of a season and if you put in the time/effort you'll eventually see it pay off. Right now I'm still working on a lot of things but specifically the technical finesse aspects: cornering smoother/faster, maintaining speed, taking bigger drops, and climbing more efficiently.
The biggest payoff is when you do see the progression in your riding because then it "instantly" becomes that much more fun!

Soon after getting involved with mountain biking you went to a women's clinic- what inspired you to go to a clinic let alone one in a different area/state?
I think a big part of learning anything new (and especially as a women) is giving yourself the right opportunity. You will never really know if you truly like something unless you have the chance to learn it the right way, from the right person. I think women communicate differently, which means in a learning situation women seem to connect better with other women. There is also a comfort level factor of not feeling judged or stupid if you're in a male-dominated group. So, I wanted to try it in the right environment and figured only then could I decide to love it or hate it - but fortunately I loved it!!

Do you have tips or suggestions for women looking to go to their first women's ride clinic?
DO it!! I don't think you'll regret it and even if you decide MTB isn't for you, I think it will still be a valuable learning experience about yourself either way.

You plan to get your IMBA certification- how do you feel this will benefit you and what are your long-term plans?
For me, I think getting my IMBA will be a two-fold benefit. First, I think you can always learn by learning to teach others. Second, I'm excited to be able to constructively coach and be able to share this sport with others. So, really.. there's no downside. It's all about making women more rad on bikes!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I could say everything but that would be generic. As previously stated, it's the life experiences of travel and people that it's brought into my life. But on a smaller scale.. it's the simple joy I sometimes find just riding alone. How it can be such and intense physical and yet zen mental experience on a bike.. something I've not found anywhere else, in any other sport.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Currently, I'm a bit of a purist.. as I only rock one 26" FSR (Trek Fuel EX8 WSD). But recently, a new love has come into my life.. I've been seduced by the call of Carbon and 650B. So, this winter I'll be making a pilgrimage to get my new Norco C7.2 Sight!!!! But what I always tell people about buying a bike is pretty straightforward. Try out MTB first (in the right environment) and see if you even like it. Then think about the type of riding you want to do short-term and near future. Then decide on budget and research like you would any other purchasing decision. And try them.. you will be amazed at how different bikes can feel once you've been riding for a little while.

You also help out with trail workdays- why should women consider joining their local trail workdays?
All people should.. if you've ever picked up any MTB magazine you will quickly learn and realize how much effort it has taken to get the sport to the place it is today and the work it takes and will take to maintain it. If people don't keep maintaining, giving back, advocating and putting a positive political spin on the sport we are very much in danger of loosing what we have. Whether by legal, financial, environmental and other repercussions.. we have to keep the wheels turning!!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think for most women it's themselves. For whatever reason they just think they can't. Once you start this sport and learn to love it you realize a lot of things. You will have good days and bad days but they will all add up to a lump sum of positive. So, have a little bit of faith and get on a bike, I guarantee you'll be surprised in good way. And if you're not.. it's not because you're not doing it right it may just be because the right fit (teacher/riding companion, bike) hasn't arrived yet. So, keep trying!!

What do you feel could change locally/industry-wise to encourage more women to be involved with cycling/bike industry?
I think it's already changing.. the industry as a whole is seeing a tremendous shift in the sport and they are working to keep up. Women want it all - options, performance, the best of the best. As long as we keep showing our strength in numbers the industry will keep working to support us and fuel the growth of this sport for women.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

To see them achieve something they never have and experience the pure joy it can provide!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Maybe not so random.. but I love to cook! Biking and cooking are probably not a symbiotic relationship but I love to make a fun meal almost as much as I love riding and of course eating it!!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Kayley Burdine

I am a 27 year old professional cross country mountain biker riding for Eastern Shore Cycles/Specialized, and I live in Mobile, AL. I love traveling all over the U.S racing my bike and tasting all the wonderful/different foods in every city!
Aside from all the traveling and racing I am a personal trainer. My fiancé, Dennis and I run a personal training studio in our hometown. I am also an ambassador for Strongher, a wonderful group of ladies passionate about motivating and introducing women to cycling!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding in Feb of 2014.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Racing! I love it and the feeling of winning/accomplishment after a race. I always want to be the best at what I do so that's what has been driving me to continue to ride. When you see yourself progress each and every time you ride it's so motivating to just keep going out there and putting that time in on the bike. That's what makes it fun to me, progress!

What inspired you to start competing? What made the final decision for you?
I have always been a very competitive person. I went on a group ride with a few friends of mine and one of the guys told me I was fast and should try a race. So I did, I jumped in my first race in the beginning of May. I only "trained" a week for it! It was the most miserable, fun time I've ever had in my life. I say it was miserable because I was dead after the first minute of the race, I went all out from the beginning and got the hole shot. I remember seeing mile marker 1 and thinking there is no way I'm going to make it another 8 miles like this. I did though and afterward I felt so amazing and like I had actually done something! Although I got 3rd, I found my passion that day, racing mountain bikes. It was the hardest thing I've ever done and I immediately wanted more!

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
That's a hard one....I guess I would have to say Bump N Grind at Oak Mountain State Park because it feels like home. Birmingham is close to where I live and I raced Bump N Grind my very first year of racing as a Cat 3 and did really well there; this is where I fell in love with short track racing. I did my first short track race in 2014 as a Cat 3, they grouped the girls and guys together and I ended up coming in 2nd overall, out-sprinting the 3rd place guy right at the end. It was intense! Then the very next year I did the short track race there as a Cat 1 and out sprinted a really fast pro chick for the overall win! They always have a great crowd that comes to watch the event and I feel like they've kind of watched me grow into the rider I've become from the beginning. If you have never been to Oak Mountain you should give it a go, the BUMP crew does an amazing job with those trails.

You started out on a $500 mountain bike, what was the deciding factor for you upgrading your ride?
The fact that I almost didn't survive my first race on that entry level bike. My home trails were nothing compared to the trails I raced on for the first time! That bike was beating me to death and it was a tank, but I knew instantly that racing mountain bikes was going to be my new passion and I knew I would enjoy it a lot more on a better bike.

From personal experience are you happy you started out with a more entry-level bike or if you could go back in time, would you tell yourself to get an upgraded bike right away?
If I knew then what I know now, that I was going to take mountain bike racing this far, I would definitely have bought a better bike to begin with. At the time I had no idea racing even existed, I just wanted something to ride to work for cardio and to take to the trails on weekends.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Oh yeah, I felt terrified and excited! There were some things on the trail that I would look at and say "I'll never ride that." It's funny because those small obstacles are nothing to me now; it's incredible what a little confidence can do.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I'm always nervous when I ride something new. I just tell myself, everyone else does it and you can too!

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?
Yes, I started using clipless pedals the week of my first race. I fell...a lot! I would recommend getting in a door frame and practicing clipping in and out. I didn't do that, instead I just clipped in and went out for a ride! I had a lot of unnecessary falls and crashes that could have been avoided had I practiced getting in and out of those pedals.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Oh my, way too many to even recall! I guess the one that I remember most is the hard time I had at Nationals. My training wasn't going well for me leading up to Nationals, I had a lot of bad luck many days in a row. Then when I got there the altitude affected me way more than I had anticipated, I had never been anywhere like that before. We were racing at 8,000ft above sea level! I took off and immediately knew I didn't have a chance; I was done before I got half way around the short track once. I wasn't recovering and it felt like I was pedaling through sand. I was so disappointed, short track was supposed to be my best chance and I completely bombed. Not only that, I still had a cross country race to do the next day. After the race I got to sit and chat with one of the coolest pro mountain bikers and the one that I look up to the most, Georgia Gould. One of the things she told me was that the gauge on my floor pump would be off at altitude, that I needed to get a digital gauge. Come to find out I had 12lbs of pressure in my front tire, I normally run 20 psi. Basically, I raced the whole race on flat tires. So there was a little more hope for the cross country race. Still, It was hard to forget the feeling I had felt during the short track when I went past my limit and couldn't recover. Basically I just had to go out there and race with the "I've got nothing to lose" mentality and I was able to get on the podium! I learned a lot of lessons that week.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I started riding, anything that had to do with handling challenged me. I hit trees all the time, crashed in numerous corners, I seriously couldn't go ride my bike without crashing! I didn't grow up riding dirt bikes, motorcycles, or anything like that, so the handling didn't really come naturally for me. I basically just went out and kept riding until I figured it out through trial and error. For the really tricky stuff that I couldn't figure out on my own I would go watch a YouTube video and that helped a lot. Where I live there isn't a whole lot of people you can ask about handling which is what inspired me to hold some beginners clinics here at my local trails! I don't want people making the same mistakes I made over and over and for that to discourage them to continue to ride.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Yes, it seems like every time I go to race at a new trail I encounter something tricky that I've never seen before and that I don't quite know how to do! Mainly rocks, we don't have any here so I don't get a lot of practice on them. Sometimes those tricky sections do get me down and I'll either go back and do it over and over until I get it or I'll go to a part of the trail that I love and forget about that stupid rock that made me fall, haha! It just depends if I'm racing at that trail or just riding for fun.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the feeling of progressing on my bike. It could be anything from conquering a tricky section to beating my times on certain trails. Progression means I'm getting more comfortable/confident on the bike and that's what I love. I want to come back and say "wow, that was an amazingly fun, fast ride."

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Specialized Epic pro World Cup (FS) and a Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon World Cup (HT). I chose the Stumpjumper because of its beautiful orange color, how light weight it is, and the wheel size. This was my first 29'er and I immediately fell in love. After racing it in various parts of the U.S. Last year I realized I needed a full suspension, too! The great thing about the Specialized Epic is the brain in the fork and rear shock. You set it stiff and it doesn't bob when you pedal. It only opens up when you hit a rock or root. It's so amazing.

Tell us what inspired you to become a Strongher ambassador-
I've gotten to travel to so many places over the past year and see all the different mountain bike communities in each place. It really made me think about the mountain biking community in my hometown and how much I wanted to grow it, specifically the women's community! I started doing some beginner clinics and girls rides and then I found STRONGHER. I thought it was an amazing group of women from around the world trying to promote women's cycling and I immediately wanted to be involved!

Why is Strongher a great organization to be involved with?
They truly are an amazing and impressive group of women that work really hard to build women's cycling! It's like an international family to me, I've gotten to meet and talk to so many inspirational women through this group.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
This one is a tricky one because I have not found any specific brand of clothing that I am 100% happy with as of yet, especially for my body type! I think that is a major way that the major brands could improve, to get more women involved. A little more investment into the women's market could go a long way. Until then, I'll keep searching.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Honestly, I think men do, but I don't think they do it on purpose at all. I think they mean well and they truly want women out on bikes, mainly because it's something they can do together as a couple. I just feel like they go about it the wrong way. They expect that because they picked it up so easily that we will too and that's not always the case (sometimes we do, but not always.) I've seen and heard many times where a guy will put his girl on a heavy, cheap bike and send her out on a MTB trail without any instruction at all. In that case she'll either learn the hard way or crash and burn and never look at another bike again. Men and women learn and understand things differently, for the most part, that's why I think it's great to have someone who is willing to patiently help you and answer questions, whether it's male or female...patience and a little instruction is key!

What do you feel could happen locally and/or industry wise to encourage more women to become involved with cycling and/or the industry?
I think holding women's group rides/clinics regularly is a great start. I also think getting the guys involved in some group rides is a great way to get their women out on the bike more. I know a lot of women that started riding because their significant other introduced it to them. I like riding with my fiancé, so I know some other women have to feel the same way. We shouldn't always exclude men from our rides.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Riding has really helped me be a happier person in my everyday life. Before I started mountain biking I felt like I didn't have a purpose besides going to work, don't get me wrong I love my job, but it is work! I didn't have anything that I would just do for fun, until I started biking. I fell in love immediately. I just want other women to have that same feeling that I got when I first started riding. I also want them to have confidence on the bike, which is why I enjoy holding the clinics. Not everyone is out there because they want to race and that's ok!
It's all about enjoying yourself on the bike and if you're crashing in every corner or have to get off for every obstacle you encounter then you're not having fun.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am a very shy person. When people first meet me, they sometimes get the wrong idea because I don't say much. The truth is that I'm usually a nervous wreck around people I don't know. I'm also a very focused person on race day, I like keeping to myself and my thoughts until the race is over. I will say focusing more on building our cycling community locally and holding more group rides/clinics has definitely helped me come out of my shell and has made me much more outgoing!