Monday, November 28, 2016

Women Involved Series: Jane Quinn

My name is Jane Quinn and I'm lucky enough to live in Bend, Oregon and to work at Pine Mountain Sports. I am the Apparel buyer, I work on the shop floor, and I am Program Coordinator for our Dirt Divas women's mountain biking program. I'm also a PMBI certified mountain bike coach. Managing the Dirt Divas program has been an utter joy. To hear shrieks of excitement and to see tears of joy when a woman accomplishes something she didn't think possible on her mountain bike... there's just nothing like it.

I feel very fortunate to live the life I live, especially considering I started my career out in the corporate world. Taking that leap of faith and following my heart into the outdoor industry when I knew literally NOTHING about it feels like a huge accomplishment, though at the time many people questioned my sanity! I have a passion for outdoor education and recently got certified as a Level 1 Avalanche instructor. I also have a passion for long-distance mountain bike racing, with my favorite event being the 24-hour mountain bike race.

Tell us about your #bikelife discovery and how it changed your life-

I rode bikes quite a bit as a child, but once I got focused on ballet and playing musical instruments, biking fell by the wayside. My first mountain bike ride was on a black diamond trail in Montana with some shop co-workers. I was not intimidated, but I definitely was also not skilled, and nearly broke my arm underestimating the technicality of a tricky switchback followed by a little rock drop. No one even really warned me about it... Despite getting bruised and battered that first ride, I fell SO IN LOVE with mountain biking. I loved that you have to remain really focused on what you're doing. I loved that you could cover so much more ground in a faster period of time than you could hiking or trail running. And I REALLY loved the challenge of LEARNING how to mountain bike. Although I'm very active overall, mountain biking has definitely become my favorite thing to do, and I get so much joy out of getting other women into the sport as well. It's becoming such an outlet for me in so many ways, I don't know where I'd be today without mountain biking.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
My favorite event by far is racing solo in 24-hour mountain bike races. I LOVE the challenge, it's taken me years to develop a strategy, and I tweak that strategy with every new such race. I enjoy it because the challenge is both mental and physical, and I absolutely adore racing singletrack at night with a good lighting system. It's such a rush to go as fast as you can at night, sometimes with a full moon, sometimes when it's incredibly dark. I also love how less "agro" 24-hour races are. I often have conversations with people if I'm on their wheel or they are on mine. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging, and it's much less cut-throat. Until you realize you have enough time to do one more lap and there is someone on your heels! I currently hold the course record for women in the local Oregon 24 (though I did not win it this year despite my best efforts in overcoming the difficulty of my bike breaking).

What suggestions would you give to someone who is on the fence about participating in their first event?
I have a couple suggestions. One would be to get a friend to sign up with you, so that you can do it together and put less pressure on yourself. If you can't convince anyone to race with you, it's important to set goals but to not put too much pressure on yourself. Things happen on race day that are out of your control, and you can't let that bring you down, even if it means not finishing the race. Focus on knowing that you did the best you could to prepare before race day, and on race day just be proud of yourself for having the guts to be at the start line. All the training you did will pay off, and if something unexpected happens like an upset stomach, dehydration, or a flat that makes the race that much harder, take it in stride and just do your best. The first event is ALL about having a positive experience and NOT AT ALL about winning.

Do you have suggestions for folks looking to participate in a high-mileage/endurance event? Preparing for a high-mileage/endurance event is all about getting the in the miles. There's so much training information out there, that trying to research it can be overwhelming. It's about becoming very familiar with your body, learning how to listen to what it's telling you, and putting your race-day strategy in terms of hydration and nutrition through it's paces over and OVER prior to event day. It's imperative that you learn what works and what doesn't work FOR YOU prior to race day in order to avoid a DNF. It's also a little bit about becoming comfortable with a certain level of pain and discomfort. These are tough events, mentally and physically and there will be a point where you consider quitting. Learn about yourself in terms of what motivates you and use that to help pull you through those tough moments. What motivates me is setting personal goals for myself and racing MYSELF, not necessarily other racers. Other things that help from a comfort perspective: a really good saddle (they can be spendy but SOOOO worth it), a really good chamois, and perhaps Ergo grips for a mountain bike event (I use them for 24-hour events so that I can dissipate the pressure on my hands and also change up my hand positioning because... for 24-hour events it's REALLY hard to keep your core engaged in order to keep the pressure off of your hands!!) Lastly, it's really important to recover well, stretch those muscles that you're working so hard, and do activities that balance all of that cycling so that you don't lead yourself into an injury. Especially an overuse injury. I learned that overuse injuries take twice as long to heal as they do to present themselves, which can be a scary thought given how long they sometimes take to present themselves.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? 
Oh heck yes!! Just bursting with excitement and kind of in disbelief that it took me that long to go on a mountain bike ride! Also, because it's kind of my nature, just a little bit competitive and feeling like I wanted to prove something from the perspective of athleticism.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it? 
I honestly don't recall being nervous. There are rides after that where I remember getting butterflies and feeling slightly nervous, but for me that's all part of the experience. MOUNTAIN BIKING IS EXCITING! I think nerves can work to your advantage because it can keep you more alert and I feel like it improves my reaction time. The one down side I notice is that being nervous can make me feel stiff and locked up. So when I notice that, I will have a mantra in my head like "Stay loose. Loosey Goosey." and I will intentionally be more playful on my bike, practicing level lifts and trying to jib off of small features.

Clips or flats? What is your preferred pedal and why? 
It 100% depends on what and why I'm riding. If I'm cross-country riding or racing I will ride clipless for that little bit of extra pedal efficiency and the confidence that my feet are solid on the pedals. If I'm enduro racing or riding to practice skills, or coaching, I will ride flats. It's so nice to be able to throw a foot out/down when you need to. And learning how to pressure your bike without relying on being clipped into your pedals is HUGE in terms of building skills and confidence. My preferred clipless pedal is the Crank Brothers Candy. Especially for riding in different terrain where mud/snow can impede the ability to clip-in on SPDs. My flat pedals are Canfield, and it's a really low profile pedal so it's light and there's slightly less there to contribute to a pedal strike.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome? 
Ha! I'm working on overcoming one right now! There's a rock-drop on one of our local trails that is my nemesis. I either land it really "squirrely" or I totally crash. It's really hard to get good speed going into it, and trying to roll it sometimes works but I'd rather launch it! In terms of healing, it depends on how bad the crash, but icing is always my first remedy. Depending on where the injury is, I will still be active to keep the blood flowing through the area of injury. As far as overcoming, it's again about putting in the time. Pushing yourself to "take it up a notch" and ride a technically challenging feature cleanly requires dedication and practice. I'll have my husband or ride partner take videos of me and compare with the videos I have of them. I will work on a similar feature that is slightly smaller to build confidence and to really know that I have the body mechanics dialed. Mountain biking is about progression, so you master the maneuver on something with smaller consequence before you take it to something with greater confidence.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them? 
Switchbacks and technical climbing. For switchbacks, the keys are entering wide and looking at the exit as soon as possible. Entering wide helps you complete the turn without ending up so close to the outside/downside of the switchback, so it's a little less scary if there's a lot of exposure. Looking at the exit of the turn helps keep you focused on where you want to be, not on the awkwardness of being in the middle of a switchback. It also helps get your shoulders and upper body into a tight turning position to help you complete the turn. For technical climbing, it's all about body positioning and remaining dynamic on the bike. Depending on the terrain it helps to either scoot your butt up onto the nose of the saddle and to let the bars come up to your chest. Sometimes bringing your elbows close to your sides can aid in letting the bars come up to your chest. For more technical features you may need to get comfortable getting out of the saddle and figuring out where your weights needs to be so that the rear tire doesn't spin out. If it's a step-up, you'll be surprised how far over and in front of the handlebars you need to be to get up over the feature. I learned to demonstrate this by using a picnic table, and putting the front wheel of a bike on the bench of the picnic table. Then I balance the bike and have a rider mount the bike, place the pedals in a level position to the rider can get off the saddle, and then tell her to get as far forward over the bars as she needs to be to be able to take her hands off of the bars and balance. It's a huge learning experience to help the rider grasp how aggressive and forward the need to be.
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 still working on bigger drops and I will ALWAYS be working on cornering. Technical climbing that involves lots of step-ups and doesn't let up wears me out and frustrates me. I finally understand that it's all about progression. Cornering takes a lot of practice, and I love following someone's wheel who is really good at cornering so that I can copy their body articulation while keeping in mind the key points of cornering technique. It works better for me to follow a woman than a guy too, because I feel like women exaggerate more and I can see the articulation better. Drops for me are all about starting small and building confidence and working my way up. It's very mental for me too - I will do fine on a drop that has a straight entrance without many things distracting my visibility. But if a drop from the same height is after a tight corner where it's difficult to build speed before launching, and if it's tight and there are rocks that diminish the visibility of the take-off and landing that really screws with me. I'll usually give something three tries before I let it go and keep moving. If I keep trying and failing then I just get frustrated and my body tenses.

What do you love about riding your bike? 
I love the feeling of freedom. I love that you can sometimes zone out on buff trail and get lost in your thoughts while other times on tough technical trail you can't think about anything else but the here-and-now and are forced to be solely focused on the trail and where you are putting your bike. I love that mountain biking will always challenge me and I love that mountain biking brings people together in a way that nothing else quite can.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them? 
Oh geez. It's been an interesting journey from being the girl who worked at a bike shop but still didn't own her own bike. I always wondered how anyone ever got to the point where he/she had a "quiver" of bikes. BUT... the newest addition is the Trek Remedy 9.8 WSD (her name is Kandy). She's a loaner for now (I might buy her though...) from Trek because I was picked along with 55-ish other women across the country to advocate to get more women on bikes. This bike is SUPER fun on steep technical downhills and still climbs pretty well for a bigger bike. I pretty much have perma-grin when I ride it. I chose it because I started dipping my toes into Enduro racing this year, and this is the perfect Enduro bike for me. My staff bike as a shop employee is the Juliana Furtado. It's a jack-of-all-trades kind of bike and I also have perma-grin when I ride it. I chose it because even though I rode the Roubion last year, the changes in geometry were such that this year when I rode the Furtado, it just felt like an extension of my body where-as I was overthinking too much when I rode the re-vamped Roubion and it didn't feel as versatile as the Furtado. My XC race bike is the Trek Superfly 9.8. That thing has served me well through more miles than I can count (Seven 24-hour races, one 100-mile race, and I'm not sure how many average distance MTB races, and all the training rides in-between). It's fast and light and handles great. Oh yeah, her name is Rocky. I also have a Trek Rig, which is a single-speed 29-er. Some seasons I ride it more than others, but it's great to force yourself to get out of the saddle and work a little harder. It's great for training and it just breaks up the monotony a little bit because it's a hardtail. And lastly, I have a Trek Boone. It's a cyclocross bike, but so far (sadly) it has only seen one true cyclocross race. I've raced in a couple hard-core long-distance gravel grinders and I use it as a commuter and as a training bike for endurance events.

You work at Pine Mountain Sports as the apparel buyer- being involved in the industry, what do you feel is the most fascinating thing you've learned so far?
Wow, that's a really great question. It all revolves around building and maintaining relationships. I think having only worked at brick-and-mortar shops (none, to minimal online sales), it's interesting to work with different vendors and learn their philosophies, especially when it comes to whether and how much they support their retailers. For instance, working in specialty outdoor shops is awesome because the staff all knows the products extremely well and we go to GREAT efforts to educate our customers, which you think would be something vendors would value and support but that's not always the case. For me the whole process of developing strong and mutually beneficial relationships with our vendors is fascinating. On that same note of building relationships, it's also fascinating to finally work at a shop whose owner is such an intelligent and forward-thinking business man. His foresight has gained us new customers and has solidified existing customer relationships. He understands that the core of our success is excellent and unmatched customer service. He also understands our community's values and has demonstrated that in big ways, like by installing solar panels on the roof last summer and by installing two electric car charging stations this summer. He's the first among our local competitors to be so proactive and it's inspiring.

What do you enjoy about being a woman involved in the outdoor/cycling industry?
Well, perhaps contrary to what you normally hear (or maybe not?) a little bit of that has been the challenge of proving myself. I hear a decent amount of complaining about being a woman in the industry and yes I've had periods of struggle, but it's made me stronger and it's increased my confidence in my ability. I've earned a lot of opportunities in this industry and I'm happy to say that I get treated with a lot of respect from my boss, my co-workers, our customers, and other companies within the industry with whom I've established solid relationships.
I DO love how female focused the industry is becoming. I love that Trek is grabbing the bull by the horns and insisting that their dealers be more proactive in hiring women and in welcoming and educating potential female customers. I also love being given the opportunity to be part of the movement as a Trek Advocate, where I can use my skills and my relationships to host events that empower women through mountain biking.

Tell us what inspired you to become a certified mountain bike coach-
It all started when I met Meredith Brandt, who owned and operated Grit Clinics (which is now folded into the Liv Ladies Allride program). She was familiar with the Dirt Divas women's mountain biking program that I ran and she asked me if I'd be interested in helping with her weekend ladies' clinics. I was a little nervous but after that first weekend of helping women do things on a mountain bike that they never thought they could do, I was hooked. I'd also taken a free 2-hour clinic from Lindsey Voreis around that same time and was blown away by her passion and her ability to communicate and CONNECT. I started volunteering and then coaching for Lindsey's Allride clinics, and right when she and Meredith partnered, there was an opportunity to get a PMBI certification in Bend, so I jumped at it.

What has been your most inspirational moment as a coach?
Honestly I get the same amazing and joyful feeling every time someone looks at something that they think they can't do, or that they've tried unsuccessfully to do, and then I help them to do it. It's just awesome to be able to celebrate their accomplishments with them and to help them understand their capability. Every weekend clinic that I help coach is inspirational both for the progression that the women make throughout the weekend and also for the support that we all offer each other. I've never experienced anything like it. Tears of joy are pretty common.

Tell us about the Dirt Divas program and how women can join-
The Dirt Divas program began in the spring of 2011 with the goal to empower women through mountain biking. We started out offering two group rides per month and one in-store clinic. As the program evolved we started offering ladies shuttle rides through Cog Wild, small group evening skills sessions at a local bike park, and night rides with demo lights available. We are constantly striving to improve the program and to get more women on bikes! This year we had our largest group ride ever, with 95 ladies showing up to ride the singletrack out at Phil's trail head, which is a nice sub-3 mile warm-up ride from the shop. Women can learn about the program through this Pine Mountain Sports web site link: Dirt Divas. Currently there is no cost to join the program, but certain events may require a fee. There is an RSVP and waiver process associated with any ride event we hold. Also, most group rides offer 4 rider ability levels, while other ride events may be offered to a specific rider ability level.

You were chosen as a Trek Women's Advocate for 2017, tell us what it means to you to have been one of the few chosen to be an Advocate?It means a lot... more than I can really express. I pour my heart and soul into everything and there are times when I questions why, and I don't want to say that being selected as an advocate is THE REASON why, but it just feels nice to know that I have amazing support and that people recognize the importance of these programs.

What do you hope to accomplish next year as a Trek Women's Advocate?
My goal for the Dirt Divas program is the same, whether as a Trek Advocate or not, and that is to ALWAYS work to improve the program and stick to its core value, which is to empower women through mountain biking. I do hope for the Dirt Divas to support the community more through at least one new event, which will be the Cancer BikeOut held usually on the first weekend of October every year here in Bend. As a Trek Women's Advocate and as the Director of the Dirt Divas program, the common goal is MORE WOMEN ON BIKES!

Why do you feel programs for women and mountain biking are vital? 
I think that a lot of women underestimate themselves and find the concept of mountain biking intimidating. Our program targets beginner and intermediate level riders and strives to provide an overwhelmingly positive experience. Mountain biking is FUN and if it is presented in a non-threatening way and in a supportive environment, we've seen that women can and will fall in love with mountain biking! I think these programs are vital for helping women understand their true capability, and also from a shop perspective to bring more customers into the shop.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
The most obvious deterrent is cost. Bikes are getting more and more expensive, especially mountain bikes. From my own personal experience with a background as a trail runner, buying a new pair of trail running shoes is a much smaller pill to swallow than throwing down for a full suspension mountain bike. It comes down to looking at it more as investment in a healthy lifestyle and a new, amazing experience and opportunity to grow. As mentioned, the other deterrent, especially for mountain biking is the intimidation factor. I talk to a lot of women who tried mountain biking with their significant other and felt too much pressure. So much pressure that it was not fun. Although I love mountain biking with my husband, I've had my share of frustrating moments where I just didn't want to do it anymore! It's important to have that FUN, relaxed environment where you can push yourself if you WANT to, or just be supported and to support others.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved? 

I feel the cycling industry as a whole is still a little bit hesitant to welcome women into the fold. Things have gotten A LOT better, but there's still some improvement needed. As a shop employee, and having been to Trek World, I think they have the right idea about embracing women, both as customers and as employees. They have a women's advocate program of which I am a part, and they are very adamant about having a female staff presence among their dealers. I feel very fortunate that my shop employs a nice percentage of women, but I walk into other shops where that is not the case. From an industry perspective I'm happy to see that in addition Trek, other bike brands have a women's ambassador program that strives to support women's cycling programs through their dealers, like Liv (Giant) and Juliana Bicycles. From a local perspective, since the inception of Dirt Divas in 2011 to now, there are numerous other shops in town that also offer women-focused events and rides. Providing a positive and welcoming experience to women in bike shops and at events is key to getting women involved.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride? 
I think my Dad instilling the idea in me that I'm capable and I can do anything I put my mind to inspires me to encourage women to ride. Once the confidence is there, it's the most joyful activity because it takes you back to your childhood... riding around the neighborhood with your friends... it just makes you feel like a kid again and puts a huge smile on your face. And again, helping women build confidence on a bike can empower those women to face and tackle their fears in life as well.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I played violin, flute and sang in a semi-professional Eastern European Folk Ensemble called The Tamburitzans for a partial scholarship when I was in college. We played over 100 shows per year while managing a full coarse load. It taught me so much about communication, performing under pressure, and responsibility.

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