Monday, August 15, 2016

Women Involved Series: Ash Bocast

Ryder is my official sidekick. She's been living the van life
with me since the day I got her.
I've been living full-time on the road for several years first as a bicycle tour guide and most recently as an event manager with Liv Cycling.

I travel the Western US with 20 demo bikes and a cattledog in a Mercedes Sprinter van putting on and attending clinics, coaching weekends, and events geared toward women.

I also produce and host a women's cycling podcast with two shows: Roam Rydes (inspiring stories about women cyclists) and Cycology (bike 101 from industry experts)






Social media links:
Instagram: RoamRydes
Facebook Page: Roam Rydes
iTunes Podcast Search: Roam Rydes & Cycology

Tell us about how you came into your #bikelife- What fueled your love of riding?
My sporting background was team sports and racing, specifically sports that were very physical (rugby, boys lacrosse, wrestling) and fast (downhill snowboarding, track & field)…when I moved to New Zealand at 25 years old, a bunch of crazy Kiwis told me to huck down a mountain on two wheels, it sounded like a combo of everything I loved… My first day riding I went (what seemed like) insanely fast and took this gnarly crash that was reminiscent of getting annihilated in a rugby tackle – I was hooked!

What styles of riding do you enjoy and why?
I would be stoked if I never had to pedal again. There is something about the speed and finesse and sheer thrilling terror of riding fast downhill through technical terrain that gets into my soul. Every once in awhile I can be convinced to go out on an epic vista-induced road ride.

What was the most interesting experience you had as a bicycle tour guide?
I lead a private trip in North/South Carolina with 11 couples from Colorado. One of the women on the trip was two weeks out from her last chemo treatment and a week away from her first radiation treatment as she battled breast cancer. She wasn’t by any means in good physical condition (for obvious reasons), but she wanted to keep up on the 50+ mile daily rides with thousands of feet of climbing so she opted for an electric road bike. Imagine my surprise when I drove the SAG van around a corner to witness her one-hand on the handlebars and the other physically pushing a friend who was struggling up a big climb. E-bikes are pedal-assist, so pushing another human up the hill was by no means easy for her… tears welled in my eyes as both women made it to the top of the hill and stopped for a big embrace.

What inspired you to connect with Liv as an event manager? What were your goals?
Being a tour guide for Backroads Active Travel was a dream job, and when an acquaintance mentioned I should look into the Liv position, I wasn’t really interested but she insisted and I promised to call. I was roughly 30 seconds into speaking with Liv US Marketing manager Jen Audia before I was asking where and when I could send my resume. If being paid to lead vacation trips was a dream job, the Liv Event Specialist position was an upgrade to heaven. I’ve always loved community-based events; coaching and teaching clinics was something I really missed doing as a tour guide and both those elements are a huge part of my job with Liv.

Being a part of a company doing so much for the women’s cycling movement brought such gratitude to my life. My initial goals were to enjoy traveling and to have fun, but this job has become so much more meaningful as I’ve connected to women (and some rad men) in so many cycling communities. I’ve witnessed first-hand how life-changing riding a bike can be for someone and my new goals are to catch those outliers – the women and girls on the cusp of falling in love with riding, and to help them take the plunge.

What is the most enjoyable part about being able to travel and put on clinics, etc.?
I feel so incredibly lucky to have explored so much of the US. I started out with Liv on the East Coast and then moved West…I've had 33 different states in my territories and its been a crazy ride visiting them. I have to say, as fun as the travel is, making connections with local ladies all over the country has been awe-inspiring. I could fill pages of inspiring stories about the women I’ve met, the things they are doing for their cycling communities, and the generosity they’ve extended to me as a total stranger.

How were you introduced to mountain biking?
“Go down the hill, look ahead, brake with both hands, and walk anything you don’t feel comfortable riding”. This was my “pep talk” a coworker gave me before we rode Skyline trail in Queenstown New Zealand. We both worked for an outdoor company that had a bike shop with rentals, so they asked me to come along on a post-work ride. I had no idea I was on such an iconic trail and no idea it wasn’t normal to start out riding with full-on downhill trails!

Do you have suggestions for those on the fence about trying off-road riding, based on what you've experienced/learned?
Ladies tell me all the time they are terrified to mountain bike because it’s dangerous. I gently remind them that trees and rocks don’t move and they also don’t have cell phones that they text on while driving thousands of pounds of metal… If you can brave riding on the road you are definitely capable of riding on the trail. I ALWAYS suggest starting riding with a group of supportive friends…if they are predominantly women, even better! So many women don’t join group rides or scheduled women’s events because they don’t think they are good enough… a little insider secret is that almost all women’s group rides (unless specifically stated otherwise) are thrilled to have new and beginner riders! My favorite women to ride with are beginners… it is immensely rewarding to share my love of bikes with someone just starting out.

Clips or flats? What do you prefer and why?
98% of the time I am on flats. I consider myself an expert rider, but when I’m clipped in, I second-guess every technical feature on the trail and end up clipping-out and walking a lot more. Clipping in is great if it is important for you to hammer fast uphill and on flats (and some riders like the stability through rocky terrain)…but my uphill and flat pace is “chill mode” – so no clips needed! On road I ride clipped in because I do like to pull on the pedals…and every once in a blue moon I’ll clip in for a non-technical cross-country mtb ride.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
About two years ago I was on a trail I had ridden a gajillion times. Because I was by myself, I didn’t want to try and ride an extremely technical high-risk drop on an exposed section of the trail. I was riding clipless at the time and as I went to clip-out and step off my bike, my pedal unthreaded from the spindle and I couldn’t unclip. I fell about 15 feet off a cliff, the first 8 feet I free-fell onto my head, I was knocked unconscious, and then tumbled still attached to my bike about the same distance into a dry riverbed. I came-to and thought my back was broken (my hip was actually displaced 3 inches). If it hadn’t been for my backpack and helmet, I don’t know what would’ve happened. The physical recovery wasn’t bad…playing rugby for 10 years makes every injury feel minor. I rode clipped in for another year, but I mentally panicked any time I rode exposed trail (Hangover in Sedona was TERRIFYING!)…being on flat pedals is a big mental booster as well as accepting that I don’t have to ride everything. If there is exposure or a high wooden feature etc… I happily opt-out. My friends know I’m a good rider and they respect me when I say “I choose not to ride this”.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Bahahaa! ALL of my handling skills were mediocre at best the first five years I rode mountain bikes. I took a clinic with Lindsey Vories about two years ago and my riding changed dramatically for the better. I was doing almost everything wrong based on what a bunch of “really good dudes” had taught me. Since building a foundation of the basics, my focus this year has been on corning with style and speed. I’m pretty damned lucky that I get to work with coaches like Lindsey, Leigh Donovan, and Katie Holden all of the time and they have really helped me develop a mantra that I mentally have on repeat as I come into every turn: “Control speed, look ahead, swing the hips, separate the bike, ease the squeeze, smile.” Everything didn’t come at once; I worked on each piece of the mantra separately until I had the bandwidth to think of them all in succession.
Having an absolute blast hosting the Liv Ladies Weekend
in Whitefish, Montana.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Technical climbing is my kryptonite and is probably why I enjoy riding downhill so much. I used to get really frustrated by step-ups and techy punchy climbs until I rode with my friend Sarah Viggers. Sarah is a REALLY good pro downhiller and during our first all-mountain ride together, I was able to clear a lot of climbing features that she really struggled with. It was that “ah-hah” moment of realizing that if Sarah was struggling and she is so much more badass than me, I was totally okay with not being great at everything. I still attempt most technical climbs, but I’ve really embraced being happy with attempts even if they aren’t successful!

What do you love about riding your bike?
It might sound cheesy, but I love the freedom I feel when I’m on my bike. I get to be totally present wherever I’m riding and checkout from whatever else is going on in my life.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I’m probably the only person that has a complete quiver of bikes at my fingertips at all times. I literally live with 22 bikes ranging from aero electronic road to big hitting all-mountain machines…I even travel with a cruiser style bike during certain months of the year! My go-to on the road is the Liv Avail Advanced Pro. I have some lower-back issues and the endurance geometry integrated with DeFuse seat post technology allows me to ride for a long time before I start feeling any discomfort. On the dirt I am INFATUATED with the Liv Intrigue SX. It helps a lot that I got to be a part of the design process of this bike…so it was basically built up for my style as a rider. I tend to ride the Intrigue SX regardless of the terrain. I’ll go out on mellow cross-country rides with 6 inches of travel just because I love this bike so much… it might seem ridiculous, but I actually bought two of them this year!

You are also actively involved with your podcast shows: Roam Rydes and Cyclology. Could you tell us about these two shows and what inspired you to create them?
In 2014 I moved into a van full-time for the second time in my adult life. I was really jazzed on the whole #vanlife movement and was already becoming an avid podcast listener at the time. I thought, “Hey, I’m living in a van, I’ve got a background in video/audio production, why not make my own podcast?”

Initially I wanted to do a podcast focusing on the dirtbag vanlife thing, but quickly realized a lot of folks were putting out really amazing content that I didn’t want to compete with…at the same time I had been trying to find a podcast about women’s cycling and didn’t really come across anything that piqued my interest.

So I shifted focus from vanlife to women’s cycling and cannot believe where that journey has taken me. I wanted to share inspiring cycling stories from women I met on the road and have just been in awe and so grateful to relive those moments of resilience and inspiration with our guests. I have to give a lot of credit to the fact that I started my job with Liv (moved into van #3!) just a few months after launching the Roam Rydes podcast. Having a job that pays me to meet hundreds of incredible women through bike events was really pivotal in producing the show.

In fact, meeting so many badass women almost became a problem. I was going mad trying to figure out how to get all these female leaders and influencers and athletes on the show while at the same time giving airtime to the regular small-town cyclists who had equally incredible journeys and stories to share. I was having coffee and talking podcasts one morning with my good friend and mentor Mel Bowan when we both kind of had this “ah-hah” moment and Cycology was born. We both have been lucky enough to learn from so many experts in the industry and we realized that a podcast was the perfect platform to bring that experience to a broader audience. Because of my job I have access to dozens of experts in the bike industry and 99.9% of them have been thrilled to have the opportunity to share their knowledge on the show.

What has been one of the best moments you've had since creating your podcast?
I was coaching a clinic with Roam Rydes guest Meg Valliant (Episode 7: Send It) a few months after she was on the show. She told me, “I was coaching at the Rays Indoor Women’s Weekend and a bigger girl came up to me and told me that my podcast episode changed her life.” I got pretty choked up… I had experienced first-hand how inspiring Meg is, but it really struck a chord that Roam Rydes could transcend physically being in Meg’s presence in such a way that our listeners were moved by her too.

What was the most interesting thing you've learned?
I was absolutely floored when I interviewed Hall of Famer Leigh Donovan for Roam Rydes. She opened up about personal struggles that I, and the rest of the public, had no idea about. I jokingly told her, “I want to hear the real Leigh Donovan story, not what I can read on Wikipedia” and she totally took the request seriously. It taught me not to be afraid of asking the tough questions and be vulnerable with my guests during interviews. I find the best content comes from the moments that require just that extra few seconds of thoughtful silence and patient listening on my part.

Do you seek women out or can women volunteer to be on your podcast? What is your process and how can others support the cause?
Most of my guests have been on the podcasts because I interacted with them through biking , caught a tidbit of their personal stories, and asked them to be on the show. Now that I’ve got a bigger audience, I am definitely getting more recommendations. That’s actually how I got connected with Brooklyn Bell for the first episode of the Minority Report series.

I’m quite obsessive about telling people to reach out to me if they know of anyone who has an inspiring story. My biggest challenge has been finding the time to produce more episodes so I can keep up with the recommendations. That being said, I would like to hear more stories from women who ride road, cyclocross, and race triathlons – get in touch if you know someone!

The podcast has been supported quite organically and I really appreciate that the bulk of my listeners have come from word of mouth recommendations to listen to the shows. Recently a fan of the podcast recommended I add a “donate” button on our website because she wanted to support us, as soon as I got it uploaded, she sent $10 to get things started – I was incredibly touched by her suggestion and follow through with support. We sell hats and shirts through our website, the proceeds of which help mitigate the costs of producing the show and keeping the website running... lastly we've been seeking out sponsors that we can stand behind and gleefully recommend to our listeners, so far we've partnered with Blowfish Designs with the double-whammy of them making our hats, and we couldn't be happier.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I hear the word intimidation constantly, and I don’t disagree that getting into cycling, and specifically mountain biking is intimidating.

When someone gets into running, its easy…buy some shoes and go run. A bike is expensive, can be mechanically complicated, require a mental and physical skillset, and knowledge of routes and trails. It’s a lot to take in and it’s really easy for one jerkoff to create a bad experience for a new or potential rider. And don’t even get me started on the elitist attitude that deters a lot of people from feeling like they “belong”.

I can honestly tell every person who is getting into cycling that we have ALL been there. I’ve even talked to pros who reminisce how awkward and out of place they felt when they started riding. I wish more women knew it was totally normal to feel like a fish out of water and, just like anything, if you stick with it, it eventually becomes less intimidating and a whole lot more fun.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Locally I think more riders could encourage and actually insist their female friends join for rides. How many of us started riding because of a friend or partner? I also think it is really important to follow up with new riders. How many of us know those ladies who went riding once or twice, didn’t feel comfortable or confident, and stopped riding because no one checked up on them or offered support?

I really believe the bike industry has started making strides when it comes to leveling the playing field for women…we finally have some quality women’s focused product, I feel like media coverage is getting better and better, and women’s ride groups are popping up like crazy. It’s a process, and as riders, we can encourage this change by actually putting our money and support into the companies, bike shops, and organizations who are making the effort. I feel really lucky to be a part of a company (Liv Cycling) that I truly believe is a powerful leader and catalyst for positive change in the industry.

Any free time off the bike is spent fly fishing.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Smiles are addictive to me. When I’m coaching or out riding, I cannot contain how happy it makes me to see women totally in the moment smiling ear-to-ear because they are experiencing how incredible the power of cycling can be.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love to fly fish! I’m not great at it, but I have a damn good time throwing fake bugs into water!



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