Sunday, January 8, 2017

Let's Get Real about #bikelife

With a candid discussion about my #bikelife, I was asked to answer some questions that would give additional insight into what I'm passionate about. I gave my responses, but after some time I realized that the second question held a lot more weight than I anticipated.

My fears were not only based on skills yet to learn, but with the challenge of introducing others.

First I was asked about my fears when I first started mountain biking. In my opinion, that's an easy question to answer because just about everything scared me. The second question was if I had any fears with mountain biking now, after I had some experience under my belt.

At first I felt I didn't have any concerns other than crashing harder because I was riding faster, or that I might not ever be as fast as Travis...my fears and concerns were more based on speed, skill, and attaining those. My fears before experience were based on: speed, skills, and attaining those...along with getting hurt, and ledges (they still make me nervous!)

As I thought more about the question, I realized that one of my fears or at the very least, a strong concern of mine is that I have inadvertently made other women too intimidated to ride with me. This troubles me because I am passionate about increasing women ridership in my area- how can I do so if everyone feels like I will blow them out of the water or that I truly wouldn't want to ride with them?

My goal and focus is to create a safe and encouraging environment for women to come to, to work on their fears and anxiety with riding off-road and gravel. I worry that I'm judged for my rapid success with learning to ride off-road and my handful of wins at a few races, not for my desire to aid women in becoming more confident with riding dirt- be trails or gravel.

I've always made it a point to reiterate- I want to ride with you. My introducing other women to trails or gravel isn't a showcase of my abilities or speed, but rather my wanting to be open and willing to be what newer riders need- a source of support.

I was in an emotional standstill with myself and I wasn't sure where to go with my thoughts. I had to answer the question, who am I riding for? Am I riding for myself or am I riding for all of the other women out there. What I mean by that is- Would I have more folks interested in riding with me if I didn't race, even tho the races I attend are infrequent in nature and I may or may not podium? Does my attending races/events inspire women or make them feel like off-road riding is something unattainable to them because they can't fathom participating at an event? Would I be more successful with FWD- Fearless Women of Dirt if I curbed what I enjoyed doing and focused on what the new rider would be willing to do?

Would I be happy if I cut the adventure out of my riding?
Would I feel inspired to help other women if I stopped inspiring myself?

I feel that if I stopped participating in events, stopped meeting other women who inspire me, and stopped pushing myself with something that I might be somewhat good at (with a lot of hard work and effort) I would not be passionate about helping other women experience it.

Pushing myself further, testing my limits, and exploring different areas either with day trips or races is something that I enjoy. I have to be selfish; once I found out I could get over my fears and anxieties of riding off-road and could improve further with skill, I became hooked. Sometimes I find trails that scare me or sections that are too technical for me to ride yet. I still get nervous when I attend events, but once I'm immersed with other folks on bikes I feel invigorated!

Just because I push myself doesn't mean that I do not understand what it's like to be a new rider with new rider feelings. Believe me, I know myself more than anyone- I still have those feelings at times!

Progressing with a sport you love can be a bitter sweet experience because you might start out feeling like no one understands you or cares (tho there are folks who most definitely do!). You may feel like you are slow and that it will take forever before you are "good" at whatever it is you're doing. Eventually you become better and with that you may see the same trend that I have seen as I progressed- the difficulty in finding other women to join you. Especially when you are in a male-dominated sport like mountain biking.

You can grow with cycling if you allow yourself the time and dedication, but also if you allow yourself to accept the assistance of someone who wants to help you succeed. I was introduced to mountain biking by an experienced rider- I didn't wake up one morning having "become" a rider.

I wouldn't ask and encourage women to come ride with me if I didn't want them to; if I felt the experience wasn't worth the effort, I wouldn't encourage women to give it a try. When was the last time you challenged yourself to something new, that you might have thought was a little scary? Were you successful? If not, do you feel you would have been if you had the right support network? It seems we are more supportive of our fellow women when it comes to diets, but not something that challenges us on an athletic level.

If you had a negative experience with mountain biking or gravel riding in the past, I ask to please give me (or the FWD Ambassadors) a chance to help you have a positive experience with it. Not all rides are created equal and I can tell you without a doubt, with time and patience, you will feel more confident with riding off-road.

Don't just be inspired by someone...inspire yourself and be open to the possibilities.
If you have been invited on a ride by someone, say yes, especially if the rider has openly said they will ride at your pace. This is someone reaching out to you with the hopes that they might have a new friend to ride with and they want to help. They understand what it's like- they've been there.

I decided I am riding for myself and I am riding for all women. I attend events because I want to see the number of women participants become more equal to the men. Winning is not as important as showing up and being supportive of my fellow women. I race because I can and I ride because I want to.

I ride to show women of all ages that they can do whatever they want to if they put their mind to it, because gender has nothing to do with being able to mountain bike. I do it to show you that you have the ability to take on challenges and prove to yourself that you can do something you never thought possible.

So, when the going gets tough, I take time to remember to be true to myself and true to my mission: create a supportive environment for women new to off-road riding. Like with my #bikelife, it takes time and effort to create success. It's a journey that excites me, humbles me, and inspires me- and it can be the same for you! #bikelife

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