Monday, May 22, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Shelbi Fields

Hi, I am Shelbi Fields. I am 9 years old and live in Olive Branch, Mississippi. I have been riding trails since I was three years old. I like to ride trails with a group called Ladies of Trails in Memphis.

I have started racing and I love it. I have won 1st or 2nd place in every race so far. I have even tried downhill in West Virginia. I fell pretty hard but it was still fun. Last year, we traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma so I could go to a skills clinic with Switchback Training Systems.

I did so good that I race on their team now. I would like to help to get more young girls interested in Mountain Biking.

I don't have very many young girls to ride with, I usually ride with adult friends. My last 2 races, there were not any young girls and I had to start the race with teenagers and adults. It was pretty scary. I don't think people understand that mountain biking is so fun, it's good exercise, a good way to get out of the house and make new friends.

Tell us why your #bikelife is an important part of who you are-
I have met a lot of good friends mountain biking that I like riding with. I love the fun and excitement. I love the challenge.

You have been riding since you were 3 years old! Who was the person who introduced you and how?
I was riding my scooter down a hill and my dad told me to try to ride my bike down the hill like my scooter. I did it like 3 times with my feet just off the ground. Then dad told me to pedal and I did! The next weekend, we all went camping and my dad had me ride the trails.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and why did you love it? 
My first few rides were fun at first but I would get tired soon. The hills were really tough and I didn't like it at all. A few times, I stopped in the middle of the trail and wanted to go home. I would walk out of the trail. I was angry that I couldn't ride some parts and I quit talking to everyone. Other times, riding was a lot of fun. One day, my dad took me on an all women's ride called Ladies of Trails. That ride, I rode 10 miles and kept up with all the women. I met a bunch of new friends. That's when I learned when I could ride a bike pretty good. One of the girls on the ride asked us to go to a skills clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma where I met Nicole. Nicole taught me the ready position, how to use both brakes, butt way back and other skills.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
The Dog Dayz Race in Arkadelphia, AR was my favorite race. I liked it because I won first place. My grandparents got to come watch me. We had a great camping spot and I love camping out at the races. The trails are tough and I like tough trails. They had a BMX track and an obstacle course that was very challenging and fun. I like racing in Arkansas because the Friends of Arkansas Single Track Kids (FAST Kids) race there. I like racing against kids my own age. They are a lot of fun to hang out with.
Do you have any suggestions for folks who have yet to compete in an event? 
Have fun, don't panic too much and you can't stop the butterflies.

Your last two races you were racing with a lot of older folks, which was pretty scary. How did you overcome your nervousness?
I tried not to panic but it was pretty hard. I didn't ride the best because I didn't have anyone near my size or age to ride against. I had a hard time keeping up. It's a lot more fun racing against people my own age. My last race was a duathlon that I raced as part of a relay with by friend, Eli. He is 8 and can run. We beat a lot of adults. That was fun.

Clips or flats? What do you like and why?
I am trying to learn clipless but I am riding flats on the trails. My friend, Tara, got stuck in her clipless and fell into some poison ivy. I don't want to do that.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I first started riding, I only used my back brake. I was worried that if I used my front brake too much, I would go OTB and bust my face. I went to the Switch Back Training Systems skills clinic where I met Nicole. Nicole taught me the right way to use my brakes and a lot of other good skills. I went to another little clinic in Louisville, KY where I met Kate and Danielle. I got to practice skills in a cave. I would suggest going to a women's skills clinic. It was a lot of fun, I met some great friends and they had good food.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding? 
I would like to do long wheelies and manuals. I want to learn how to do big air tricks like a handstand or a front flip. It's doesn't drag me down because none of my friends can do that stuff.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love riding with friends. All of my riding friends are grown up and they go really fast so they are fun to ride with. My bike riding buddies are the best and they take really good care of me.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Specialized Rip Rock. It's white and pink and it is really fast. It has fat tires and I can go up hills and through sand really good. I just put hydraulic brakes and a new crankset on it. My dad helped. My dad picked the bike out and surprised me with it. This bike is a 10!

What do you love the most about mountain biking?
Riding with my friends, making new friends and winning races.

Who would be your mountain biking idol and why?
Amanda Cordell is my mountain biking idol. She is a professional rider. She is adventurous, strong, fast, cool, awesome, funny, silly and sweet. When I grow up I want to be like her.

If you could mountain bike anywhere- where would you like to go?
Snowshoe, West Virginia Mountain bike park is my favorite place to ride. Dreamweaver, Raging Bull, Easy Street and Skyline was so fun. You could go so fast on Easy Street! I liked riding the chairlift. The apartment there had bunk beds and it felt like home. In the village, I liked bungee trampoline jumping and rock climbing. I wanted to do the zip lines but I was too little. I loved swimming at the indoor pool and the lake. I like the obstacle course at the lake. I really want to go back.

Do you have thoughts on what could happen locally to inspire more young women to give mountain biking a go? 
Our Ladies of Trails ride is great. The Memphis Hightailers Bicycle Club does this ride. I think if more girls knew about this ride, they would have a lot of fun. The other women are really supportive. Women are nicer and don't leave you. At the guys ride, they go fast and are like, "Bye Felicia!" and whoosh, they are gone. It's not fair or fun to get left behind on the trails. The ladies take good care of each other and let you go as fast as you want. If more girls could ride with us girls, they would have a good time. Our girls bring good snacks too. I am working with the president of the Memphis Hightailers Bicycle Club to start a kid’s ride in Memphis. Hopefully they will start it this year and I will be a ride leader. I am so excited to lead the trail ride!!!!! This will be my first real job!

What inspires you to encourage young women to ride? 
Mountain biking has made me feel so strong and confident. It is good exercise. I feel really, really proud of myself when I win a race. I have met so many awesome friends because of mountain biking. I would like more girls to experience how much fun mountain biking really is.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
This was the longest paper I have ever had to write. I am on honor roll in 3rd grade and my favorite activity, by a lot, is PE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Women Involved Series: Jane LeMasurier

I live in Norwich, VT with my husband and two kids ages 3 and 5. I try to ride my bike almost every day (at least in the summer months)!

I race Cat1/Pro XC, but I ride primarily for pleasure and for the opportunities it has granted me for connecting with people in my community--with other riders, kids, and trail advocates.

I have my PMBI Level 1 certification and this past fall I coached a mountain bike class for 4th-6th graders. Beginning this summer I will be leading a Little Bellas Chapter here in the Upper Valley.

Little Bellas is mentoring program for girls ages 7-16.

Our Upper Valley chapter will be held in the Boston Lot trails in Lebanon, NH. This is a great location because of its proximity to so many different towns. I think our area is ripe for a program like this. It should help foster a growing trend amongst women and girls to get on bikes and get out on the trails!

Little Bellas on Facebook

Tell us what introduced you to discovering your #bikelife and how it has influenced your world-
I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three siblings and incredibly lenient parents. Given our proximity to the woods and mountains, it was free-range living for many years! Most of our childhood days were spent exploring on bikes in the backwoods. I have vivid memories of barrelling down creek beds with my younger sister, no gps, no map, no cell phone, just a sense of general direction and a couple of quarters in our pockets to call from a gas station pay phone if we got lost. Things were certainly different back then. But we survived! Without a doubt this is the inception of my #bikelife.

What would you say is your favorite racing event to attend? Why do you enjoy competing?
I absolutely love the Vermont 50. It starts out so cold and dark on a late September morning. I question my sanity when I’m nervous and shivering on the start line (why am I doing this??). But around mile 20, we crest the top of a place called Garvin Hill, and it affords the most spectacular views of the Vermont countryside. Even amidst the pain of racing, seeing that view and realizing where I am and what I get to do is one of the most spectacular moments I have on a bike.

Do you have any suggestions for folks who are thinking of attending their first event? What could help with potential nervous feelings?
Keep it in perspective. Nervous feelings are inevitable, and in some ways they’re essential to fueling the racing fire, but don’t let them overwhelm you. It’s only a game! At least that’s what I try to tell myself.

Can you take us back to your first mountain bike ride? What did you learn from it?
I don’t necessarily remember my first mountain bike ride, I just remember being a kid with a bike and lots of places to explore. My sister and I would build jumps out of plywood in our backyard and ride around the roads where we lived. Eventually this progressed into finding trails in the woods. I remember the thrill of discovery when we would “make loops” we could ride from home. I still feel that thrill today.

For those nervous about off-road riding, do you have tips or suggestions that may help them cope?
Know yourself and listen to your instincts. If a bridge or rock or any off-road feature seems too difficult, walk it first, take a look at it, and then go back and try it when you’re comfortable. Follow people who are better than you. I’m a visual learner, so if I see someone do something, I’m more willing and able to try it myself. It helps to have a bike buddy who you can learn from and feel comfortable trying to imitate. I can promise you, the confidence you gain from improving your off-road riding skills is addictive!

Clips or flats? What do you like and why?
I use clips because I like climbing and it’s harder to climb as efficiently with flats. But in regards to skill acquisition, I envy those riders who use flats. I try to use flats every once in awhile to become a better rider.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
No major biffs (knock on wood!). I’ve taken some hard crashes and spent a lot of money on damaged bike parts, but nothing too serious. Counting my blessings!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
All of them! It’s a little counterintuitive, but most handling skills are actually harder to do at slower speeds. It requires more precision. For example, you need momentum for riding over a log or a rock pile. So the sooner you feel comfortable trying things at a little faster speed the easier they will become.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I feel so free -- and this comes from being able to choose my challenges and choose where I go. It’s life-affirming.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
At the moment I have an XC race bike. I like racing and for a majority of the riding I do, it’s a perfect choice. However, I would love to have something a little more slack, more Enduro-style to ride the gnarlier, more technical trails in the area. It just makes it more fun.

What was the inspiration to become a certified coach?
I’ve been coaching some camps and recreation classes in my area. I became certified to better structure my progressions with the kids I teach. It’s a challenge to learn to ride, but it’s also a challenge to know how to teach someone to ride! Having education on how to instruct new riders gives me more confidence as a teacher.

Tell us how you became involved with Little Bellas and why you enjoy working with the organization-
I ski raced in high school and college. Lea and I were the same year so I knew her from our skiing days. After I graduated from UVM in 2005 I lived in the Burlington area for a few years. When Little Bellas first got started in Williston, Lea and Sabra invited me to be a mentor. I’m so glad I did because now I’m coming back around to it 8 years later!

You plan to start your own Little Bellas chapter! What are you looking forward to the most as you move forward with your group?
Little Bellas does a great job of creating a strong sense of community, amongst the participants and amongst the mentors. I look most forward to seeing this group of riders come together and to be part of the group’s evolution from the beginning. I have a feeling it will be an invigorating experience.

What has been the most challenging aspect of creating your own Little Bellas chapter?
To be honest, given the success of all the other Little Bellas chapters, it’s so well organized and all the parameters are in place for me to create this chapter. I’m mostly just recruiting girls and mentors, and this aspect of it is fun!

What have you learned about creating your own chapter that could help other folks out who are looking to create something similar?
Don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm. People feed off of this energy. If they know you’re passionate, they know the program will have a heart behind it. Good heart + good structure = a popular program!

Why do you feel introducing young women to off-road riding is important?
Selfish reason: because I like to do it, and I want more women riders to ride with!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Several things: time, access, equipment, and confidence. It seems women are more likely to get out if they have a group of friends to ride with, which is why I’m so happy to get the Little Bellas chapter rolling. I think it will be a good introduction for a lot of women into the sport

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Things are changing. As evidence, I taught a course this fall with 9 girls and 3 boys. It’s a sign that girls are just as psyched to get on bikes as boys are. Furthermore I think the barriers are dropping in every aspect of sport. Not to get political, but I think women feel galvanized in general these days and this will trickle down into the biking world.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
If I set an alarm, I always set it on an odd number. No rhyme or reason to it. Maybe it’s superstition. For what, I’m not sure! Odd numbers just feel edgier.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The FWD Group Ride Season Begins

I was brimming with excitement as well as nervous energy- May 7th would be the kickoff of my first FWD Ride of the season and I was feeling incredibly stoked! On Saturday I was informed that a group of women from out of town would be joining- awesome! This is what I love about having a women's ride and the group FWD- it welcomes everyone from locals to out-of-town riders who want to meet like-minded folks and have a great time biking.

The first ride started with minimal prep as most folks arrived with a bike that would work off-road. The plan was to ride River Trail, take the gravel to the back road that goes up to Palisades Park, and ride Upper Palisades to the scenic overlook and then back down. Both are off-road trails that are relatively easy to ride yet still provide new riders an opportunity to learn some good basics in terms of momentum and climbing.

With the group of morning riders there was a whole mix of experience levels and it worked beautifully. I greatly appreciated Kristin, our Decorah Bicycles Ride Ambassador, being along and helping keep the group together by being in the back. I knew those who were at the rear of the group would be in good hands- someone who was encouraging and supportive, that knew the trails, and would keep the stoke high.
I'll be the first to fully admit that I can be a wee bit awkward when it comes to group conversation- I'd say it's more due to the fact I've had a large group ride experience only once before. I was grateful for the kindness and generosity of the women who joined- no judgement! 

I the best part of the whole experience was hearing how much fun everyone had. Yes, there were challenges for some, but the experience was overwhelmingly positive. Especially when I mentioned that I plan to lead the same exact route a for a few Sundays more (my morning rides with afternoon rides are the first Sunday of every month.) This way, depending on schedules and if there is opportunity for folks to go on Kristin's rides- there will consistency before we explore other trails to aid in confidence. In the future we may have to consider having a separate, intermediate ride for those who are more familiar with trail riding- this way we can better cater to the needs of riders who are looking for something a bit more challenging.

I came into the rest of Sunday feeling extremely happy! It was a women's ride beyond my dreams, and I was so happy to have had such a wonderful turnout for the inaugural ride of the season.
Sunday afternoon came and I was again excited for a great turnout for another ride! I felt a bit more confident this time with conversation. I'm not sure if it was because we had a great day at work or I was still feeling the rush of the success of the morning ride. Either way, I was stoked to be out with a rad group of women!
We worked together as a group to ensure everyone had a fun ride- Kristin and Steph were extremely beneficial, not only for ride leaders but also as friends! 

I was given a gift last Sunday, and that gift was being able to share something I love with other folks and finding a way provide a good time to all. Hearing the words "I had fun!" made my heart warm- seriously, the best words I've heard yet! 

This is what I'm passionate about and this is what I thrive off of. Women finding out for themselves that they can do something that they didn't think possible. Women overcoming worries and anxieties over something new, different, and likely mysterious. I felt fortunate to make an adventure be a positive one for so many women, and I can't wait to do it again!
Also, for folks who would like to seek out knowledge and get to know the off-road riders in the community, I will be hosting another FWD Women's Night at Decorah Bicycles on June 27th! The first one was a huge success and we feel that this would be a great way of helping more women check out what we're doing for the upcoming riding season.

What's better than getting a casual group of women together who all have a shared interest? It's the perfect opportunity for folks to learn about Fearless Women of Dirt and what we're all about!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Josie Welsh

I am a junior in high school and spend a ton of time working on school. All of my spare time is dedicated to bikes. I work as a mechanic at a bike shop, which is super fun.

In the winter I cross country ski, run and road ride as preparation for the season. During the warm months of the year, I ride my bike almost every day.

While I train on the road, I am really a mountain biker. I race during the summer on my own and when fall comes around, I ride for my high school team in the Minnesota High School Cycling League. Over the summer, I helped out at the high school league's summer camp and was a junior mentor for Little Bellas.

What inspired you to participate in mountain bike events?
There were a few things that pulled me into mountain bike events. I’ve always been competitive --especially when I was younger-- so once I started riding, I knew that I wanted to do races. My dad was the one who got me into mountain biking and he always made me feel confident in myself. 

What suggestions would you give to someone new to event participation?
Be positive and stay calm. If you are anything like me, your brain will go into overdrive thinking of every possible scenario-- especially the bad ones. I do a lot better when I slow my brain down and focus on the positive. I like to think about things that make me feel more confident in myself. For example, if the race is a technical race, then I think about how I really do a lot of technical riding so I should be able to get through the technical sections.

Take us back to your first mountain bike ride(s), what did you learn and what made you continue with the sport?
My first few mountain bike rides were awesome! When I was ten, my dad and I rode down to the trail by our house. We did a 3ish mile loop of single track and then rode home. These rides were by far the most fun as well as the most exhausting thing I did the entire summer. I was hooked. The biggest thing that I took away from the first few rides was how impressed my dad was. He gave me a ton of confidence and made me feel like I was amazing at mountain biking.

Clips or flats? What works for you and why-
I use clips almost all of the time, but I trade them in for flats for a few weeks every year. Riding with flats helps me develop my technique. When I put my clipless pedals back on, I have more power and control, but still using the technique I have learned. I use clips most of the time because of all of the racing that I do. They give me more effective power transfer and make sure I have control after I have been racing for an hour.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Lucky for me, I haven’t had any really bad crashes (knock on wood.) I spend a lot of time doing technical riding, because it is fun and it minimizes risk of crashing. Anytime that I crash, it slows me down for a few rides because I lose the confidence required to ride aggressively. After every crash, I always consciously think about good technique. I think to myself: Where are you looking? How is your body position? Thinking about these things help me mentally recover from a crash. 

What are some handling skills that have or still challenge you? What has helped you better your skills?
The skill that I am working on right now is holding wheelies and manuals. I spend a lot of time working on slow speed skills, which has really helped me ride faster and smoother. It also makes riding a lot more fun! I find that watching videos of people who know how to ride helps me visualize what I am supposed to be doing. Other than that, I just practice a LOT. Every ride that I go on has a block of time dedicated to practice wheelies, bunny hops, manuals, pumping, etc. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
There are so many things that I love about riding my bike! First of all, it is fun. There is truly nothing I would rather be doing with my time. Something about the speed and flow of a trail puts a smile on my face. I love the feeling of satisfaction and confidence that I get when I ride a technical section or do well at a race. Up until a few months ago when I got my driver's license, my bike was also my form of transportation. If I wanted to go somewhere, my bike was there and it gave me a lot of freedom. One of the things that I like the most is that riding can be really hard and can push you out of your comfort zone, which is not something that I get almost anywhere else. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Specialized Fate carbon, with a 90mm SID brain fork, SRAM XO1 groupset, Shimano XT brakes and Roval control carbon wheels. I got this bike because a hardtail fits Minnesota riding and racing. I was really interested in Specialized because of their women’s specific design (WSD) and it has been a perfect fit. It's comfortable, rolls fast and can do some serious shredding!

I also have a 2017 S-Works Era with 100mm of suspension in the front and 95mm in the rear. It has Roval Control SL wheels, a XX1 Eagle groupset and SRAM Level Ultimate brakes. I got it because I am going to Nationals next year, which will be in Snowshoe West Virginia. East coast riding is notorious for having a lot of root-and-rock, so I wanted to have a little more suspension, but not be weighed down. Like the Fate, this bike has a women's specific design, which works really well with my body type. I got this bike at the end of last season, so I haven’t ridden it very much yet, but from what I can tell it is really fun and really fast. 

You are a student who races with the Minnesota High School Cycling League, tell us why you feel having mountain biking as a high school program is beneficial to students-
Cycling is good for a lot of reasons. For starters, cycling attracts a lot of kids who probably wouldn’t be doing a high school sport otherwise. Cycling has a lot of health benefits associated with it as well; it helps kids maintain a healthy weight, improves muscle strength and flexibility, reduces risk of heart disease, obesity and other lifestyle related problems. It can help kids with ADHD focus in school. It reduces stress and anxiety, and is a known sleep aid. Cycling also teaches a number of important skills like determination and perseverance. It also helps kids become confident in themselves, which for kids in high school is huge. Unlike a lot of high school sports, cycling is something that you can do for the rest of your life.The high school cycling league is also a safe space for students to have fun and be themselves. Anyone who has ever been to any race knows just how awesome this community is. People are competitive when they are racing, but very friendly afterwards. 

Do you feel having the league available in school has encouraged more young women to participate in the sport?
I do. I think that in general, girls are less likely than boys to go out and start doing an action sport on their own. What the cycling league does is help give girls (and boys) a place and a group of people that will help them learn how to ride and keep them safe. I think that the structure and support system that the high school league gives makes an action sport like mountain biking more approachable. The other thing is that it helps girls ride with other girls, which is often a problem. The majority of the time, I ride with guys-- and I don’t have a problem with that. But I have met a lot girls and women through the high school league that I ride with now. 
As a young woman and student- what would you like to tell parents who are unsure of having their daughter participate in mountain biking (in general) or the cycling league?
I would say that they should keep an open mind. Often times, the main reason that people are concerned about mountain biking is that it is dangerous. But contrary to popular belief, most of the time it isn’t that dangerous. This is especially true in the high school league. Every kid who joins it taught how to ride safely and in a way where they won’t get themselves into trouble. I would also tell them about all of the benefits that cycling can bring. I would definitely focus on how mountain biking is really good for developing confidence and high self esteem.

You volunteered with Little Bellas last summer. What did you enjoy most about your experience?
I really enjoyed watching the little girls go from being nervous to being excited, and confident in themselves. It was cool to be a part of that experience for them. 

You work at Erik's Bike Shop as a mechanic- what was your inspiration for seeking employment in the industry?
When I was just getting into mountain biking, I had a 400 dollar bike, which I managed to break just about every time I rode it. I have always liked to take stuff apart, put it back together and try and fix the problems and naturally, I began to tinker with my bike. When I started going into the shop and asking to buy parts without installation, the manager took notice. When I was 15, he asked me if I wanted a job, which I immediately said yes to. This job gave me a professional training course and a ton of hands on experience.

Why do you feel more women should seek employment/be active in the cycling industry?
When there are more women in the industry, it helps encourage more women to join in on the action. Bike shops become more approachable for women-- when you are a new female rider, going to a bike shop and talking to knowledgeable men can be intimidating. Women’s products also start being designed by the people who actually use them, which makes them better. Companies will start marketing towards women more and more women will be exposed to cycling and its benefits.

What has been the most fun/interesting thing you've learned since working at the shop?
Being in a position where I can work on just about any problem that arises with any bike is extremely nice. When I am out on a ride by myself or with other people and something goes wrong with my bike or somebody else’s and I can fix it, it is very satisfying. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think the biggest problem is that they don’t believe that they are capable of doing it. When I ask girls that I know if they want to go mountain biking, almost everyone says, “Oh no. I would kill myself! There’s no way I could do that!” I know that they are capable of riding, but they don’t think they are and they don’t believe me. I think that women and girls are taught by society to not believe in themselves when it comes to physical challenges. And for mountain biking I think that this feeling is compounded because of the fact that they are riding a machine, which is another thing that women aren’t traditionally pushed towards. 

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Having programs like Little Bellas and the high school league is the key to having more women in the sport. Teaching young girls to be confident in themselves and believe that they are capable of doing whatever they set their minds to. Also, having more women in the sport will make new riders more comfortable joining in on the fun. 

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
When I think about all of the things that cycling has done for me, I can’t help but want to share that with as many people as I can. All of the amazing experiences and things that I would never have been a part of or seen is what inspires me. Cycling has sculpted every part of my life and I can't imagine my life without it. If I can share that with anyone, I most definitely will. I feel like women are more likely to miss out on the opportunity, because they aren’t always pushed into cycling. 

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Last year I took a ceramics class in school, and I loved it. I signed up for the advanced class and I am hooked! Ceramics is really fun!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Women On Bikes Series: Shell Sumerel

My name is Shell and I work as bike mechanic for the Bike Gallery, a Portland based bike shop with 6 locations. I work out of the Beaverton location, but lead the Women's bike program which includes maintenance clinics, social clinics and events, and rides. I also serve as the warranty manager at my store.

I got into riding and working on bikes from my parents. My parents, mom an avid commuter, and dad a bike mechanic, met in a bike shop.

They started one when I was a small child (Pedal Power, Chapel Hill NC) and after they decided to close shop, my dad worked at a few different shops in the Chapel Hill area. When I was a kid, I loved biking, and used to take weekend bike rides with my dad. When I left for UC Davis, I immediately started working at the campus bike shop - The ASUCD Bike Barn. It turned me into the cyclist I am today, and made me realize that working on bikes wasn't just something I did because the people were cool, but something that defined me. I am still the Bike Girl, just now in a bigger city and bigger shop. I am proud of the work I do day in and day out for cycling.

I own many different bikes, from single speeds, to full carbon road bikes. My two favorites are my Trek Emonda SL 6 in California Sky Blue and my Remedy 8 (also light blue). The colors remind me of my UNC Carolina Blue blood and my later years in California. Somehow, bikes end up becoming more than something you ride, but a physical representation of what's inside your soul. Without the bike, who knows where I would be. When I got my job at the Bike Barn, my mom was excited and joked that I would meet my future partner there. Moms are always right, and that's where I met Trent, a fellow cyclist, who is my partner in life. Life has a funny way of working out, and mine worked out to be centered around something with two wheels, and I couldn't be happier.

Why I love to ride on road: The smoothness and speed. Riding through wine country and being able to see things from a different perspective

Why I love the mountain: Mountain biking showed me that I could combine my love for adrenalin, love for hiking, and love for a laid back day.

Facebook: Shell Sumerel
Instagram: @mssumerel @BikeGalleryPortland

Your #bikelife started at a young age, tell us how you feel that it has influenced you over the years-
People gather more from their parents than they usually realize. For me, it was the love of the bike. My parents are both avid cyclists, as is a lot of my other family. My parents owned Pedal Power, a small bike shop in Chapel Hill, NC when I was small, and even after it closed its doors, my dad continued to work in a bike shop. And while that has always inspired me, it also became MY passion when I left for college. Working in a bike shop and going to UC Davis really showed me how to love riding, which has only increased since I left Davis.

You not only ride bikes, but you work in a bike shop. Tell us how you first got started at the shop-
I applied for a job at the student-run bike shop at UC Davis because I remembered spending time with bike people who were coworkers and friends of my Dad’s growing up. They were cool people, so I figured the best way to have a good job is to surround yourself with fun people. It turned out well ☺ I made some awesome friends and really learned a lot, not only about bikes, but about myself to.

Tell us about the women's bike program and how folks can participate-
I run the Women’s Program Bike Gallery (PDX, OR), which includes rides of all sorts, social events and maintenance clinics. Everything is geared towards getting women on bikes, no matter their ride style or skill level. There’s a ride or an event for everyone, and everyone is welcome at everything I host. The best way to participate is to show up and spread the word! Come out and ride with us, come hang with us, and come learn with us. It’s about a friendly, non-competitive environment where people can grow in their skill level.

What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of being a woman working at a bike shop?
Judgment. Not all men are comfortable with a woman in the shop, and not all male customers are comfortable either. There is still such a belief that only a man can be a mechanic, which isn’t true at all. You also have to be very direct and outspoken about your opinion because people are less inclined to believe you. It’s an uphill battle, but a fun one.

What would you say is the most fulfilling part of your job?
Besides running the Women’s Program, just working day in and day out with customers and helping them with their bikes. We have our regulars, and we have new faces. I love being able to share my passion, and teach while I am at it.

When it came to learning mechanicals, what was the most challenging part for you and what helped you feel confident in learning?
While I have a knack for mechanics and have always loved taking things apart, I was also super lucky to work in a teaching shop. It helped that I was hired with people who were learning just as I was. When I first started fixing flats, it took me a very long time, but slowly you get better. You have to be humble enough to ask questions, or you will never get better at anything. Even now that I have worked as a mechanic for over 7 years, there is still more to learn, and there always will be. There’s no shame in asking for help, or using online resources.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for women who are looking to work at a bike shop?
Go for it! Just apply. Women are so underrepresented in the industry that most shops wish they had more women on staff, but just do not get women applicants. Most of the entry level jobs will be for floor or sales positions, which is super fun. If you love to ride bikes, and are willing to learn as you work, any shop will scoop you up (if they are smart). There are not many shops that spend time teaching mechanics, but there are resources on line and schools you can go to if that’s a requirement for the job. If you are interested, reach out!

You met your partner at the bike shop! What do you enjoy most about having a partner who enjoys riding as much as you do?
There’s always a bike adventure or vacation where I will have company! He also will never judge me for having too many bikes, because he is the same way. It has also been enjoyable to take on new cycling disciplines together, because then we are at the same skill level. Anything cycling related, we do together and it has only made us stronger.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What was the experience like and what did you learn?
When I moved to Oregon, I thought mountain biking would be fun, but I never knew HOW much fun. I went out to a Trek demo day my shop hosted at Sandy Ridge and bought a mountain bike a week later. It combined my love for adrenaline and my love for hiking. It was just FUN! My handling skills were definitely weak, especially given my road riding background. I took on some easier trails, and learned how to control my bike. I do the same things these days: take it slow, take it carefully, and have fun. Your skill level can always get better.

What would you say was your inspiration for learning to mountain bike?
It’s fun and I live in Oregon where we have amazing trails that are just a few minutes away. It has made me better at all styles of riding, especially in non-ideal terrain conditions.

Clips or flats- what do you enjoy and why?
Depends on where I am riding! I have both. For more cross-country rides, I like clips. For trail climbs and downhill, I like flats. What I wish the industry made was more downhill flat shoes for women!

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
The first time I ate it mountain biking, I got pretty scraped up. It has made me a little more cautious, especially in turns, but never held me back. I am such a proponent of safety gear. I take risks but I also rely on my gear to keep me safe. No matter how many times I fall, I will always continue riding.
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Cornering on a mountain bike and going over obstacles. Keep your eyes focused on where you want to go, not where you are and just go for it. I learned a lot when I was out at Trek riding with all the Trek ladies. I can hear Ross yelling at me “EYES ON ME!!” as she stood just past a turn on over an obstacle, and always remind myself to look ahead.

What do you love about riding your bike?
There’s nothing as fun or that feels the same. Some people are born to become good at baseball or swimming or singing or whatever. I was born to be a cyclist. It’s the feeling on wind rushing by, or the sound of dirt sliding under a wheel, and it’s the feel of my heart pumping either from adrenalin, or a tough climb. Every time is a success, and every time is an adventure.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why you chose them- (you can list all of them if you like!)
I have two carbon road bikes, one steel touring bike, one full-suspension mountain bike, one vintage mixte bike, two commuters, and a fixed gear. My favorites are my Trek Emonda SL6 (carbon road) and my Trek Remedy 8 (full-suspension). Both offer awesome rides, and have taken me on so many adventures. It also helps that they are both a homage to my background of being a UNC fan, and living in California! One is “Powder Blue” which is Carolina Blue, and the other is “California Sky Blue

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think they view it as too “extreme” While it is true that there is some extreme riding and riders, not all of them are that technical. Mountain biking can also be expensive to get in, especially if you aren’t sure you will love it. Most nice mountain bikes (especially full-suspension) are over $2,000. I encourage women to rent a bike and see if they like it. I encourage them to try an easier trail, and have confidence in the bike. The best thing to do is to ride – no matter what bike you have or what style you prefer.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
More focus on the women rider and more resources for women to get involved. Lots of areas have competitive outlets for women, but fail to catch them at the start, when they are beginners. There should be rides and events for all levels, so that they are accessible. Women also seem to have some fear about walking into a male-run shop because they feel they might get talked down to. While I can’t speak for all shops, that should never happen to any customer, regardless of skill level or gender. At my shop, all questions are welcome. We know we are the experts and that you are coming in to get knowledge or gear and we love that! We love helping people and sharing our passion.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I am inspired to encourage women to ride because of how much I love to ride. Mostly, I just want friends to share my passion with. Some of the guys I ride with are super competitive, but I am not like that. I love to ride to ride, not to win. I want to bridge the gap between those who don’t ride, and those who ride to win. If I can (and I am very clumsy) anyone can.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I also love to cook and make an awesome chocolate cake!

Questions? Comments? Want to get connected in your area?  Send shell an email at

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Race Day Adventures: Decorah Time Trials 2017

The Decorah Time Trials is almost like Christmas- it's the longest running mountain bike event in Decorah and is a mountain biking tradition.

Back in the day, folks would use the Time Trial to help gauge themselves for the upcoming race season. Folks nowadays use the event as a motivator to get out of the house as soon as possible to start training for the upcoming season.

The Time Trial may not have the same use as it did in the "good ol' days" but it does serve a purpose: Bringing folks together to have fun. The Time Trials isn't a "race" against others so much as a race against yourself. The goal is to complete the course with the fastest time (overall) or for your age category. You can be the first female across the finish, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll have the fastest course time. The riders are released at minute intervals.

The Time Trials are annually held on the last Saturday in April, rain or shine. Only a couple times has it been cancelled due to dangerous weather. Last year was a complete slop-fest....this year would not be as messy. (Thankfully!) 

This year, there was a solid group of high school youth that came to participate and race among the adults. (I certainly don't feel like an adult, so I'll just leave it at that.)

The kids race prior to the official race is always a treat. A young, local lady was first female and I got to see another wee lass roll across the finish line. It is so encouraging to see youth participate in this event at any age. It also is vital that we get more young women interested in participating. 
The volunteers at this event are fantastic, I mean, really- many are seasoned volunteers who annually donate their time and energy to help make this event go on smoothly. Ron "Chewey" Moffit is an excellent race director with his fun-filled energy. He can totally shoot the shit, but he definitely shows care and concern for wanting to make sure everyone has a great time- racers, volunteers, and spectators alike.

Well, now that I've shared all of the great things about the Decorah Time Trials, and why you should come check the event out next year- I'll get on with the Race Report.

Getting ready for the Time Trials on a physical and emotional level takes a bit of time for myself. The anticipation builds after the first of the year hits, and for me Time Trials is like Christmas. It's a day when we close up the shop and go out and ride bikes with friends. Weeks prior to the event I was studying the weather- really, it's a joke to do so, but I felt like it would be a great way to prepare myself for the best, or worst. Bike, tires, and clothing- three things that can make or break your experience depending on weather, trail conditions, and temperatures.

My goal for this year was to ride my full suspension, carbon, Salsa Spearfish by the name of Gaston aka BEASTFACE. I love this bike, it boosts my confidence, and I wanted to ride something a bit more lighter and nimble than my Beargrease. I had done a couple trial runs of what I thought the Time Trial course would be, and felt I did very well with the full suspension. Where I am not confident in going fast, I feel I can ride faster with the suspension vs. on a hardtail. 

As the days counted down, I did my best to rest up for the event. I have a hard time with rest days and have the habit of possibly over-training. I wanted to be bursting with excitement to ride and have strong legs to do so. I was already going to have a card against me and that was menstruation. I went into Time Trials knowing I would not be at my peak like I was a week, even two weeks prior and I would have to simply let that frustration go. Doing a race on your period can be brutal- especially when you go in knowing what you have the potential of doing yet your body just can't. I was past the point of being able to use it to my advantage and it was going to be what it was going to be.

Travis and I registered early, and unexpectedly were able to choose our start times. We opted for spots #11 and #12 which were early, but not too early. This way we could have the possibility of not having to pass too many folks and reduce the probability of getting passed multiple times. Also? I hate waiting.
The time came and it was off to River Trail while my mom, Stego, and Kenzie went to Death Valley to spectate. My nerves would ease up as we rode, I was dressed what I felt would be good for when we got going. A short sleeve jersey, a wind jacket, and knicker tights with tall socks. I wanted to be cold to start with the knowledge I would warm up with all of the climbing.

Pre-race meeting was over and it was time to head to the Luge. I couldn't stop my legs from knocking; the cool air was getting the better of me with just standing around. Soon it was time for Travis to take off, and I took my place behind him. I chatted with Spinner and the other volunteers until it was time for me to go! Damnit...I flubbed up almost instantly, but brushed it off and kept going. 
I kept telling myself to remember to not blow myself up right away, take it steady- I had a lot more climbing left to do and there wasn't any sense in wasting all my energy at the start. I came to the end of Luge, to a fun spot where I typically bomb down on my full suspension. I bombed as usual, came around the corner and BAM!!! My bars turned, my front wheel went out, and down I went. 
I felt my head smack the ground hard, my jaw slammed shut, my right shoulder and elbow area took a mighty blow. I heard O'Gara yell, "Get back on the bike! Shake it off!" With encouragement I got up, scurried, and kept going. I had crashed in front of my mom...and a dozen other folks. I was embarrassed and all I could think was "Crap. Crap. Crap!" I didn't need everyone to see that, and I worried about my mom. First time seeing me race and I take a digger in front of her. Ugh!

I made sure while I was riding to Rocky Road that I was assessing myself in the process. My front teeth were okay, I wasn't dizzy or woozy, and I had mobility in my neck, shoulder, and arm. I was okay, but I would definitely feel it the following days with how hard I fell. I found Travis further up on Rocky Road and told him why I was slow to get to him. I don't think it fully registered to Travis until later on how hard I had actually hit. There was mud on my visor that stayed with me until the very end.

We both had rocky starts to our start, and I did my best to push away all the down feelings and embarrassment and just keep going. I made some advances during my ride, which made me feel pretty okay- I questioned my ability to stay ahead. I had a hard time shaking off the fear of wiping out on corners during the race. I knew I had come down from Luge too hot and leaned too far in on a greasy spot, but it's hard to shake that worry of the same thing happening everywhere else.

When we came to North 40 I found myself square behind another rider. The question came- "Do I pass now or wait until the Fire Road?" The rider offered us the pass and I took it with nervous welcome. Would I be playing leap frog or would I stay ahead. I pushed myself forward and hoped for the best. Really, that was all I could ask for at the time.

I didn't find myself emotionally in the best of places during my race- the gel that had been taped to my top tube had torn during my crash. Travis was able to retrieve it after it had fallen off my bike, but neither of us had a great way of storing it during the race. When we had come to the Fire Road to head up to Pines West, I was gifted about half of my gel- the rest had leaked all over Travis' leg. Honestly? If I had a full gel I doubt I would've done better. I would say the constant discomfort of my body was draining me physically as it takes a lot more effort to keep going when you're injured than if you're not.
Trail: North 40
Photographer Credit: Nick Chill
When we got to Dunnings and up to the Ice Cave loop, I was finding myself falling off the emotional deep-end. I was battling disappointment and frustration with my riding along with the aches and pains of my battered body trying to keep hold of my bike. It just wasn't what I was hoping for, but I would be damned if I would quit or let an imperfect ride stand in my way of finishing! I felt very humble. My body was starting to ache more and my bruised area by my elbow felt like it was burning every time my wind jacket brushed against it. I felt certain I had broken skin and was bleeding (I just bruised it badly.)

Everything was piling up and taking notches out of my mental game- I could feel myself wanting to break. I wanted to shed tears so badly, yet my mind was playing this: "Just keep it to yourself until the end. You can cry at the finish if you want to cry, but damnit Josie! Don't cry now!" (Because I was sure if I did, I'd probably crash into a tree!)

The loop in Dunnings was slightly different from what Travis and I had ridden, so it threw me for a loop. In true fashion, the folks who marked the course did a splendid job- so even tho I didn't know for sure what I was doing, I knew where to go.

Rattlesnake Cave trail was a disappointment to me, I had made it up the steep climb but messed up on the technical rocky section. A rider whom I respect greatly had come up from behind and saw my mishap. My heart dropped a little. In all honesty, I had several instances today where I rode imperfectly and had to hustle up this or that because I simply did not have the energy to pull a climb out. Again, more frustration.

River Trail was the biggest challenge- it's already though to ride fast because of all the twists and turns. It was more difficult yet due to the standing water in sections, my anxiety was up when it came to cornering because I didn't want to wipe out again. Finally, we exited the twisty section and made our way down the "runway" to the finish! I hauled as hard as I could, managing to get my front wheel off the ground just a little for show.

I had been able to hold out on my emotions until the very end- my cry was short and it happened more because of my mental state of having to hold together all of the discomfort for so long. I was grateful and thankful to be done. All I could think about at that point was a hot shower and some beer- and the wish for my racer's cough to go away. (That took several hours.)

In the shower I thought about the day and what it gave me in terms of lessons. I crashed bad, but I was fortunate to have not gotten seriously hurt and was able to continue and finish. I had my period, but I pushed thru and did the best I could under the circumstances my body allowed. It was, all in all, imperfect yet a perfect example of what I am able to do under less-than-ideal circumstances.

Had I performed flawlessly, I imagine I wouldn't have done a few minutes better than my finish time.
When results were posted, I was shocked, humbled, and happy- I managed to represent Decorah and get 1st overall female! Even with the crash, fumbles, and scampers up hills- I managed to do better than I hoped. I was relieved and happy! Last year I felt almost like a fluke that I had won...this year I felt that I most definitely earned it, even if my riding had lacked a certain luster.

I look back on how I was in my younger years with things that challenged me and look at myself now and wonder "Who the hell are you?" I was not someone who persisted under less-than-ideal circumstances, I usually would try to run away. I was definitely flight when it came to the "fight or flight" concept. My, how things have changed. Back then, imperfections in life would rattle me to the core and I could barely deal with it on an emotional level. Now? "Lil' Bit Don't Quit."

Mountain biking has changed my outlook on life- somehow I became a person who can deal with frustration a bit better than I used to. Not to say that I do not get upset over things, but when I'm on two wheels I can find myself literally rolling past those emotions. I became a person who can shake off embarrassing situations with a laugh; pushing myself past the "Why are you doing this?" and tell myself "It's because you can."

Thanks, Travis, for introducing me to mountain biking. Maybe not all of our moments are perfect on two wheels- but I can assure you that even when it's not I'm still grateful for you. I appreciated the company even tho I was so gassed I could hardly talk half the time. You can do amazing things, like say hi to people and give high-fives and stuff. I'm in awe of you and what you can do on a bike and in life.

Thank you again to all of the wonderful volunteers and to Race Director Extraordinaire- Chewey. Ya'll are awesome.
Thank you to the rad folks that showed up to ride bikes! You're the best!
Thanks to my mom for showing up to one of my races- I'm sorry I crashed in front of you. You apparently created a woman who can persevere.

Until next year, Time Trials! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Women Involved Series: Melissa Petty

I am a passionate rider and sponsored racer for well over 10 years. I am a women's mountain biking advocate promoting the love of cycling by supporting and encouraging no-drop rides dedicated solely to the female rider by helping to lead women-only rides in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The mountain biking community in Knoxville — my family — has grown into an amazing and energetic group of people.

It’s all about hard work, good fun, and at the end of the day, a great place to ride and live. I love riding a mountain bike and being a part of such an incredibly connected community/family, so why not share that joy with others and perhaps turn that someone into a passionate, lifelong rider and advocate?

For over a year now, I’ve enjoyed being one of the original eight selected Joy Ride ambassadors for the new grassroots Bell Joy Ride Program that was developed to get more women into mountain biking. The company was inspired to try to build the most comprehensive map that will connect existing women’s riding groups in America. Bell welcomes all women’s groups that want to be listed on the map and encourages their participation to be included. Now in its second year, the Bell Joy Ride Program is designed to inspire and enable female mountain bikers with regular, structured, fun and social rides that appeal to all levels of riders. I, along with many awesome women in Knoxville, have created a space where female riders (as many as 50-100 per Joy Ride) can enjoy both challenge and camaraderie in a non-race oriented environment. Bell Joy Ride is an informal women's mountain biking group. It's not a club or a team. There is no membership fee or initiation. You don't have to join or commit to anything. Ladies just show up! I host rides organized by rider level/ability. Beginners to advanced and everyone in between can join. I offer opportunities to connect with other female riders in a casual, friendly environment. Our goal is to have fun! I love being a part of women inspiring other women to ride and progress in mountain biking by providing rides and resources that are supportive, social, fun and confidence building. As a Joy Ride Ambassador my goal is to help women (young and old) realize their potential through cycling. I aim to create a community that empowers girls and women through the sport, emphasizes the importance of goal setting, promotes healthy life styles, and recognizes the positive effects of strong female bonds. While this program is centered around creating camaraderie for women on bikes, it is most importantly about having fun in a constructive environment.

Social Media Links:
Instagram: BellJoyRideKnoxvilleTN

Tell us about your #bikelife and how that got started-
Biking for me began when I was a kid and my dad pushed me off down a dirt road without my training wheels. That was it. I was hooked. Biking fell to the way side once I became the biggest nerd in college, but kicked up again for me once I started working on my graduate degree at Virginia Tech and joined their cycling team. I was always very independent and determined. The bike provided a freedom for me that nothing else ever has. I find solace, peace and even healing on the bike when I need it and biking has always brought me joy and contentment in the deepest sense even after long hours/days of suffering on the bike.

What was your motivation to be a women's mountain biking advocate?
Mountain biking is not easy. It can be intimidating, challenging and downright hard. When I started mountain biking in the mountains of southwest Virginia 10 years ago, the sport was not as accessible as it is today. Had it not been for other women riding and inspiring me to keep believing in myself, that I could ride a mountain bike, well I probably would have given up. Nothing has ever inspired or motivated me more to progress, ride, and race mountain bikes than meeting and riding with other women in the sport. Mountain biking empowers me and enhances my life now in such a positive way that I want to share that feeling by being an advocate for women to ride mountain bikes with other women in a non-intimidating environment. It is my time to give back.

What has been your favorite event you've participated in and why do you enjoy participating at events?
I have so many favorites: Shenandoah 100; BC Bike Race; The Icycle; Pisgah Enduro; Coldwater Enduro; Pisgah Monster Cross; Three Peaks. My favorite events tend to be the ones that challenge me the most both physically and mentally. After racing endurance mountain bike events for a few years, I decided to try something new. I’ve been racing Enduro events for the past couple of years because technical downhills are my weakness. I’ve always enjoyed a new challenge and how empowering it can be to tackle tricky technical sections during a race…maybe sections that I might not ride if not for doing them in the heat of the race! Mountain biking allows me to push the limits within myself and break through boundaries that for me can just be my mind telling me that I can’t.

Do you have suggestions for those who have never participated at an event?
You can’t fail if you don’t try! ☺ Have a friend sign up with you and when you show up, let others know that it is your first event! You will be amazed how many kind people at events will take you under their wing and help you with pointers! Be as prepared and as focused as you can possibly be for that particular event. What I realized was that by doing an event regardless of my results, I found myself riding features and technical sections of trails that I would have never ridden before if I hadn’t been “racing”. For me, a race is about how I progressed that day. Did I try something new?? If I can answer “yes” to that question after an event…then it was a success, a win for me. But, most importantly…have FUN! You will always win first in FUN if you are smiling and remaining positive no matter what happens on race day. Things will happen on race day that are out of your control, but stay focused and smile even if you don’t finish. Just be proud that you started!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Yes. Some trail called Hair Ball at Pandapas Pond in Blacksburg, Virginia, with my friends Laura, Chris and Russell. They were all waiting on me at the bottom and laughing because I rode down the entire thing. Probably only because I was too trail dumb to be scared! It was exhilarating. Then I realized that I had a lot to learn! I fell HARD for mountain biking. I loved the challenge of learning how to change and adapt to dynamic terrain and overcoming obstacles that seemed impossible at first! The focus required for mountain biking also quiets my ever-racing mind. I love the calmness and stillness that I get inside while riding. Nothing compares.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
Smiling helps. A lot! Also, telling myself that I can instead of I can’t…always helps. Maintaining positive thoughts and focusing on staying loose and having fun really helps. I tend to get stiff when I’m nervous and have to remind myself to stay loose! Remember that you are on your bike and riding dirt…focus on having fun!

Clips or flats? What do you enjoy and why?
Clips for me most of the time, but I think that if you practice you can ride either and accomplish any skill or maneuver. I do ride flats on my dirt jumper since I’m it’s easier to throw a foot out more easily if I need to. I enjoy clips more because I learned how to road bike race and mountain bike race initially with clips, not flats. I think that I would like to try flats some over this winter just to see if it might help me to progress with maneuvers such as wheelies/manuals.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Lots of crashes, road and dirt. Concussions, lots of stitches/staples, thumb ligament surgery, sprained ankles, shoulder separations, numerous bruises, scrapes, abrasions. I typically clean abrasions and ice the injury as soon as possible. The one constant in my life is biking, so mentally I am always determined to get back to pedaling as soon as physically possible. The sooner the better for my spirit! I get down and blue when I can’t mountain bike, so I do what I can do get back on the bike as soon as I can. I’ve realized that nothing one does in life comes without pain. That is the beauty of life… Pushing myself to go “full stoke” requires dedication and practice in order to ride a technically challenging feature. I think I’m learning where my limits are with mountain biking and just how far I’m willing to push myself.

I’ve definitely toned down how “big” I’m willing to go on certain trails and features. And, I’m ok if I decide that I’m not going to ride *full stoke* that day. Mountain biking for me is about progression and mastering a skill on a feature that has smaller consequences before taking it to a feature that has bigger consequences. In time and with practice, your confidence will continue to soar!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Steep, off-camber ridge with ruts would cause me to freeze with fear. I learned that braking too much only caused me to freak out more and fall more. Proper braking technique is crucial for maintaining control of your bike and also for building confidence. Sometimes just letting go and not braking as much or as hard will allow your bike to flow through technical terrain. Also, sometimes you need to use your feet and legs to pump your bike while using your arms to help maneuver and not just apply the death grip to go down while hoping for the best. When I’m loose and using proper handling techniques, the fear turns into FUN! Don’t be afraid to take skills clinics by professionally certified mountain bike instructors. Good cornering skills were also essential to helping me gain more confidence. Learning to be more dynamic on my bike is still something that I constantly work on. For more technical features you may need to get comfortable getting out of the saddle. I think it is surprising to many, including myself, how aggressive you need to be on more challenging, technical terrain with your body positioning and maneuvering of your bike.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Really steep, super rocky trails with big rock drops. I will stop and walk over tricky sections to scout the best line and then session those trail sections. If I ride through some or all, then I consider that a success. I don’t have to clean every technical section on a trail. I just don’t let that drag me down anymore. Learning to use my brakes effectively and not with a death grip allows my bike to flow over technical rocks easier with less bucking of the bike. If you are braking too much that tends to start a rippling effect of feeling out of control. When braking improperly or too hard, the more my bike’s suspension sags and I tend to get bucked more. I also wear more protective gear than I used to which helps me to gain more confidence on these types of trails. I practice the same technical trails over and over so that every time I go ride there, I see progress. That’s the beauty in riding the same technical trails over and over. If I start sessioning a feature and I can’t clean it in three attempts, then I acknowledge and move on. If I don’t then I just get tense and start feeling defeated. No point in that! I would also love to be able to have more confidence when jumping and clearing tables!

What do you love about riding your bike?
What’s not to love?!! The freedom of losing myself completely in order to focus on nothing else but riding. There is no greater solace for me in life than riding my mountain bike. I also love the community that mountain biking provides to me. The people I ride with have become my family. I am never alone.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Ibis Mojo HD3 size small (I’m short!). The HD3 features the famed dw-link suspension—bike is very fast going up. Geometry is longer, lower and slacker, with 6” of plush rear wheel travel—bike is scary fast going down! The lightweight carbon fiber frame design by Roxy Lo evens allows me to put a water bottle on top of the downtube! The 27.5 wheels are incredibly playful and the bike is SUPER fun on jump downhill trails and steep technical downhills. I cannot believe how well it climbs. I chose this bike because I switched to Enduro racing in 2015, so this has become my playful Enduro bike!

Tell us about the Bell Joy Ride program- what was the motivation to apply?
For a year now, I’ve enjoyed being one of the eight selected Joy Ride ambassadors for the new grassroots Bell Joy Ride Program that was developed to get more women into mountain biking. Now in its second year, the Bell Joy Ride Program is designed to inspire and enable female mountain bikers with regular, structured, fun and social rides that appeal to all levels of riders. I, with the help of many awesome women in Knoxville, have created a space where female riders (as many as 50-100 per Joy Ride) can enjoy both challenge and camaraderie in a non-race oriented environment. Bell Joy Ride is an informal women's mountain biking group.

It's not a club or a team. There is no membership fee or initiation. You don't have to join or commit to anything. Ladies just show up! We host rides organized by rider level/ability. Beginners to advanced and everyone in between can join. We offer opportunities to connect with other female riders in a casual, friendly environment. Our goal is to have fun! I love being a part of women inspiring other women to ride and progress in mountain biking by providing rides and resources that are supportive, social, fun and confidence building. As a Joy Ride Ambassador my goal is to help women (young and old) realize their potential through cycling. I aim to create a community that empowers girls and women through the sport, emphasizes the importance of goal setting, promotes healthy life styles, and recognizes the positive effects of strong female bonds. While this program is centered around creating camaraderie for women on bikes, it is most importantly about having fun in a constructive environment.

Motivation: The Urban Wilderness initiative is unprecedented in my city, Knoxville, TN. The idea of taking isolated and often under-visited parks and connecting them with more than 100 miles of trail has created a synergy in Knoxville that has transformed it into a huge outdoor destination. At the core of that synergy are the nonprofits, Appalachian Mountain Bike Club (AMBC) and Legacy Parks. I have been an active member of AMBC since 2010 and attend the monthly meetings and join in the social rides and work days AMBC offers. They host some of the most consistent social gatherings in the city with their weekly rides, obtain large grants and land easements, and work tirelessly to build and maintain a huge portion of the trails that exist in Knoxville. They’ve taken public areas with once-seedy reputations like Sharps Ridge and built miles of recreational space, pumping life into parks, improving the quality of life for residents, and increasing the market potential for local businesses. Businesses, parks, people, and public image: they’re all connected, and the connectedness is set to continue spreading.

I love riding a mountain bike and being a part of such an incredibly connected community/family, so why not share that joy with others and perhaps turn that someone into a passionate, lifelong rider and advocate? I see mounting evidence that mountain biking is gaining widespread acceptance as a valued activity that benefits recreation-minded people here in Knoxville and around the globe. Women mountain bikers have made tremendous strides but there is obviously more work ahead and my role as good Joy Ride Ambassador is to make sure that women are represented and our voices are heard by providing support and encouragement. It’s time for women to come off of the sidelines and feel the connection to Knoxville’s mountain bike community that I feel. I want to continue spreading the connectedness! I hope to inspire female mountain bikers with regular, structured, fun, and social rides that appeal to all levels of riders. Women inspiring other women to ride mountain bikes and progress is something I will never tire of seeing or being a part of.
How has being part of the Bell Joy Ride program helped you with your group rides?
Bell, modeling off the successful Girls Rock Santa Cruz program, provided me and the other ambassadors a ride checklist for success. The number one thing that was stressed was that women need an invite. Girls Rock Santa Cruz and Bell Joy Ride Programs were founded by Jessica Klodnicki (former VP of Bell Bike Helmets and now Camelbak). Girls Rock Santa Cruz was so successful because they would host a consistent ride every month and the women would be invited to each event. Over time, an email list of over 330 women opted in because they wanted to ride with other women. The events are totally unofficial, but super organized! I’m pretty good at organizing, but the Ride Success Checklist Bell provided initially really helps me to stay on track each month. The rides are consistent and once a month that everybody can count on and everyone will get an invite! Fun themes are good to keep the rides exciting too! So far the Bell Joy Ride Knoxville has an email list of over 230 women who have opted in to ride with other women!!

The Ride Success Check list includes:
*Identify host and start location
*Theme, schwag – what’s the hook? Secure “sponsors”/donors where possible to enhance the experience (driven by word of mouth and interconnected with industry folks and influential women in the mtb community)
*Email invites sent via Eventbrite at least 2 weeks and 1 week in advance with ride details
*Ride details posted on FaceBook page, often reposted by others
*Secure RSVP’s to get a sense of how many will attend (limit according to # of ride leaders/sweepers)
*Identify routes and volunteer ride leaders for different levels – great to have ride leaders
who are also coaches that can help beginner groups “session” during the ride
*Show up early prior to ride start
*Announcements – welcome the group, say a few words about the ride & the routes
*Host says a few words to the group about their brand/business, etc…
*Take lots of pictures before, during and after the ride
*Split up in to ride levels and roll out
*Informal post-ride meet up – tailgate, brewery, restaurant, etc…
*Post ride recap sent out by email and posted on the FB page by the end of the weekend with thank you’s, shout outs and pictures
*Begin planning for the next one!

When it comes to applying for programs such as Bell Joy Ride, why should women apply even if they might not get chosen?
Ladies! You don’t have to be chosen to be an official ambassador for a company in order to be an advocate for getting more women on mountain bikes. If you want to start your own local Joy Ride and call it that or whatever you want, then go for it! Just start small and watch it grow. Several of my friends have done just that: Lauren Breza in New Hampshire and Terri Watts in Athens, Georgia!! You ladies rock so hard!! The Successful Ride list above is a good start for a successful all women’s mtb ride. Try it and see what happens. You might just be amazed! It is all about connecting women to each other and connecting them to the local resources that are available to them and then maintaining those relationships!

Do you have suggestions for those looking to start up women's rides in their area?
Go to Facebook and “like” the Bell Joy Rides across the country including Knoxville, TN ( and follow what the ladies are doing in their areas with the Joy Ride programs. You can get some really cool ideas and be inspired at the same time. You can also follow the Successful Ride Checklist to get started. Start building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships in your city with your local bike shops, breweries, wineries, REI’s, sports medicine doctors, local coffee shops, restaurants, your local mountain bike club, etc.
Do you have suggestions how one can deal with the potential slow start that some women may face with getting more women involved with riding off-road?
Try to get skill clinics to come to your area or close by and advertise to get more women to attend. Skill clinics can be incredible for confidence building, which is usually what is holding most women back from trying the sport. Also, work closely with your local bike shops to get demos for a ride/event for women. A bike that is set up for a rider can sometimes make a big difference. The local bike shops in Knoxville have all been incredibly supportive and have sponsored events as well as coming out to them to provide pre-ride bike checks and maintenance. Lastly, it helps to find a trail system that has at least one true beginner trail that is more accessible to new and beginner riders.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Cost can be the biggest deterrent. Mountain bike technology is increasingly more advanced and with that comes increased cost! For me, I had to look at it as an investment in my health but mostly in my happiness. I have incredible life experiences because I’ve chosen to invest my money into a mountain bike. It may not be for everyone, so I suggest trying as many bikes as possible before deciding to invest your hard earned money into the sport. As well, mountain biking can be intimidating and I think that some women are really scared of getting hurt, or of not succeeding. In mountain biking, I’ve realized that you have to let go of negativity. I’ve accepted that I can fall and maybe I won’t ride a techy section clean every single time. But, if I’m positive and think my way through a technical section, then I can usually have a positive outcome. With the Joy Rides, the ladies get to ride in a group of women with the same skills thanks to all of the incredible women that volunteer to lead rides for me. It becomes less intimidating when you see other women riding a mountain bike on technical terrain. It gives you courage that maybe you didn’t have before. When women see how to get out of a scary/intimidating situation on the bike by thinking it through and staying positive, it translates into having more positive outcomes in life.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved? 
Locally, I think Knoxville is kicking booty at getting more women to be involved. The scene of women mountain biking in Knoxville is soaring and the momentum continues to blow me away! The local bike shops are all willing to come out to local rides and events with demos and to offer bike checks, clinics, etc. The support is outstanding and I couldn’t be luckier for that! I think the mountain bike industry is slowing getting there.

I feel that the cycling industry as a whole still has a ways to come in really welcoming women into the folds of cycling. Bell, Liv, Trek, and Juliana all have the right idea and are making huge strides, but when I walk into most bike shops, the presence of women employees is still astonishingly low. I think that getting more women to work in bike shops in order to provide a welcoming experience to women that visit bike shops is key to encouraging more women to be involved in the industry as a whole.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Seeing eyes light up and smiles on faces when women try something new and they are successful. It’s the best feeling to see someone do something that they thought they would never even try. I am continually inspired by the women that are now going out and riding solo. I see this empowerment and I see it changing women’s lives for the better. Ladies are now friends and riding together…connected through the happiness that biking together provides. What could be better?

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have a M.S. degree in Fisheries and Wildlife. I love to snorkel in freshwater streams throughout the
southeast, especially in the mountains to learn more about fish, mussels and the environment they depend on. We too, depend on these freshwater environments to sustain us. After all…water is life. I also love to identify birds by their songs as I’m riding through the forests! Wheeeee!!