Monday, March 6, 2017

Women Involved Series: Amber Krueger

My name is Amber Krueger and I currently work at Revolution Cycles in Madison, WI and am (currently) one of 12 Bell Joy Ride Ambassadors in the U.S.!

I have worked on and off in the bike industry for 6 years. I started while in college restocking and doing general "grunt" work, slowly working my way into service. I definitely set out from the beginning to work in service and was eager and willing to do what it took to prove myself.

For me cycling has brought a great sense of self-sufficiency. It is a powerful feeling to be able to assemble, maintain, and ride my sole means of transportation by myself.

I currently work at Revolution Cycles in Madison, WI as their buyer and bookkeeper. It wasn't until I moved to Madison that riding dirt became a part of my life (now it's a HUGE part thanks to Bell!). I was primarily a commuter, and occasional tour-er. Cycling was just how I got around my city, it was more of a tool. It tool patient and kind friends to get me excited, and more importantly comfortable, with riding off road. For the last 4 years I have been riding more and more dirt, still commuting, but now even my commuter bikes look more like mountain bikes! Ha!

Last year was the first year for the Bell Joy Ride, and I have been thrilled to be a part of it. Our mission is to grow women's cycling by holding monthly group rides and events. for ALL women and ALL riding levels, in our own communities. Since starting I have met the most amazing and fearless women! Being able to encourage another woman to ride a rocky decent or over a log she thinks is to scary is awesome, helping someone to realize they can do way more than they think they can is AWESOME! Bikes are SO EMPOWERING! It's so amazing to be apart of another woman's off-road discovery!

I am really excited for another year of Joy Ride! I have such a great group of women who are helping to grow the movement and just spread the stoke for riding dirt, the program would not be possible without them! There are also a bunch of brands stepping up to help us, I have no doubt this year will be even better than the last!

I think the scariest part, but also the most essential, for someone wanting to learn to ride is to SHOW UP! Showing up is the first step, after that you realize you can do anything and you have a whole community willing to support you!




Your #bikelife is an important part of who you are, what would you say cycling has brought to you over the years?
Cycling has made my life what it is. The whole reason I started riding, and eventually working on, my bike is because of the self-sufficiency, and the feeling of being empowered, that is gave me. Being able to maintain or build a new bike, which is my sole means of transportation, was a really big deal, and step for me. I came to cycling when I was 19, in college in Milwaukee, and dating a guy that worked in a shop. I traded in my fixed gear (which was all the rage), that I only rode a handful of times (fixie riding was NOT for me! ha!), for a Surly Cross Check that he built up. Since getting my Cross Check it all snowballed from there. I got hired on at a shop, doing whatever they would let me do. I showed an interest in learning service and that turned into working as a mechanic and now I’m a buyer and bookkeeper and inventory manager and occasional mechanic for Revolution Cycles. I never planned on working in the industry, but after graduating college working in a job that was hands-on and kept me active and surrounded me with good people and adventure sounded pretty good to me. It definitely hasn’t been an easy path, but it’s been so fulfilling! My new mission is to make the industry a more desirable vocation for women. (more about that another time)

If you can recall, tell us about your first off-road ride. How did it make you feel and what did you learn from the experience?
My first off road ride was on some really rocky trails, at night, in the middle of winter. I cried. I swore off mountain biking after that night. It wasn’t until moving to Madison that I tried again. This time I was with some encouraging and PATIENT friends. I rode a lot by myself, learning I needed to be patient with myself because it can be hard and scary. It takes time for the terrified feelings to turn into excitement!

If you had issues with nervousness, what do you feel helped you to overcome? What would you to suggest to new riders?
I still get super nervous, especially on new trails. I would walk a lot; it is perfectly fine for you to hop off and walk sections. Now I walk a lot less! I make sure to take a breath and keep my mind focused on the moment and not wander off into the what-if’s.

Clips or flats? What do you like and why-
Off-road flats all the way. I am starting to experiment with clipless but flats are the most comfortable for me. I like to move my feet around when I’m riding so clipless never feels quite right to me.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I tend to think of my biffs as battle scars and wear them with pride, but I tend to be a cautious rider. On one section of challenging trail I went OTB (over the bars,) it wasn’t bad but it was enough to shake me. I avoided that section for a year, not riding it again until this year. Now I think I was silly for not riding it! It’s a fun section that I can ride successfully and the only thing holding me back was my head. Mountain biking is so mental.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Big drops and wooden features. Learning the importance of where your weight is when taking a drop is huge and takes practice. I still take a huge breath before a drop and just don’t think and just go for it. Wooden features are still scary to me. But pointing your shoulders where you want to go and not looking over the edge makes a big difference.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Wooden features. I still get super nervous on them. I try to not think about the fact that there is an edge, rather focus on riding the feature, IDK if that makes sense ha! It’s all mental. I also think going off the edge and realizing you are fine if you do helps, but don’t just go falling off of things!

You were selected to be a Bell Joy Ride Ambassador, tell us why you applied for the program and what your thoughts are on the program:
I applied on whim. I didn’t really think much of it, I didn’t really think I would be selected. I was just starting to get more involved in MTB-ing and our local IMBA chapter so it sounded like a way to make what I was trying to get started happen. More so I thought, and still think, Madison deserves this, it is a great place for riding, but not a lot of people realize it. Madison, WI does not scream epic mountain biking..!
I am so excited to be a part of the program, It’s been an incredible year and I can’t wait to do it all again in 2017! Joy Ride is all about spreading the love of riding dirt. It’s that simple. And it’s a pretty simple role to fill because I LOVE riding, and mountain biking holds a super special place in my heart. I love to see women hit a drop or ride a pump track for the first time. It’s surreal to be able to share the feeling of invincibility and power that I get after finishing a ride with someone. I think every woman should have something in her life that makes her feel unbeatable. That’s what Joy Ride has given me. It’s given me a purpose.

Before you were selected as a Bell Joy Ride Ambassador, how was participation with your women's rides? Has it changed since being part of the program?
Before Bell’s support women’s rides were small, it was a lot of women that I already rode with and new from riding, not many new faces. Now, we get ladies from all over Madison. We have anywhere from 30-70 women show for an event. It’s so exciting to meet so many awesome women. There are so many strong, and driven, and inspiring ladies right here!
Why do you feel women's rides are an important asset for riders and communities?
I don’t necessarily think an all women’s group is crucial, but you need a group that is welcoming and positive, and encouraging, made up of kind people. Mountain biking (or any riding) is scary. New riders need to feel comfortable, and have fun, or they aren’t going to stick with it or with your group. All women definitely puts other women at ease, but I have ridden with some really wonderful men. It’s just about being good people.

Mountain biking has become a passion of yours, what would you say is the biggest reason why you want to encourage more women to try riding off-road?
Pushing limits is why I want women to try riding off-road. The mental strength it takes to drop in for the first time or keep going after punching a tree. There is a huge difference between riding to work on a paved path and riding a loop made up of rocks and logs. I know it’s not for everyone, but if you give it a fair shot you are bound to learn something new about yourself.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Riding means time away from everything. It fills a space between work and home or one errand and another obligation. It’s time where it’s about you and pedaling and moving forward. I can’t imagine going from home to a car to work every single day. I need that time where it’s just me and my thoughts and pedaling.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
(all my bikes are built up the same-ish steel frames, knobby tires, riser bars, flat grippy pedals, ha!)

Surly Cross Check -
This was my first “real” bike and my favorite to this day! It’s beef gravy brown with a sparkly purple straggler fork, added for the disc brake (one is better than none). It’s gone through every iteration--from drop bars to single and racks and slicks to the monster cross bike it is now-- riser bars, 1x8 and the widest and knobbiest tires I could fit. I love this bike!

Salsa El Mariachi-
My first “real” mountain bike--suspension fork, 29er. This bike makes me feel powerful yet graceful on the trails. It fits me and my riding style well and it makes me want to ride more!

Trek 950-
This is my single speed basket bike, puppy hauler, and grocery getter. 26” mountain bike that can handle anything. I ride this bike the most since I tend to commute to work on it. It’s my no fuss, throw it around, leave it in the rain, lube the chain once a month kind of bike.

Surly Krampus-
Newest addition! I sold my Pugsley for a more playful trail but still plus bike. I’m still getting the feel of it but so far I’ve learned it is super fun to ride through all the mud!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think women are held back by themselves when it comes to anything new-- they don’t want to embarrass themselves or not be good enough or they think they will hold someone else back or no one will take to them or like them. In all reality I am just so excited you are trying, It does not matter if you are “good” or have the right bike or clothes. I will have so much respect if you just show up!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
This is the hardest question. I have no idea. I am hoping that programming like Bell Joy Ride will help by providing an opportunity for women. But it only goes so far if ladies don’t show up. My theory is if I provided an opportunity and I have fun and share my stoke it will spread!
You have worked on and off in the industry for several years- why do you feel it is important for women to be involved with the cycling industry/bike shops?
It’s simple--because women ride. Men are dominant in the industry for many reasons but a shift is important because women ride too!

What would you suggest to a woman who is interested in working at a bike shop? What are some things that you've learned over the years that could be helpful-

Be persistent.
Have a thick skin.
It takes time.
There is a lot to learn.
There is always something new to learn.

What do you feel has been the most challenging aspect of working in the cycling industry?
I think one of the reasons more women aren’t in the industry because it’s not always a stable occupation. It’s hard to encourage a young woman to pursue this when pay is low, there are no benefits, and a lot of time it’s seasonal. The instability makes it hard get anywhere. I had to push for someone to teach me service. I made minimum wage, was always the first to get hours cut, but I kept at it and made it work. One of my goals is to make sure employees are treated and paid well at the shop I’m at.

What has been your most favorite aspect of working in the cycling industry?
Everyday I am surrounded by what I love. Rev is a family, it can’t get much better than playing bikes with family day in and day out!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Knowing that I would not be where I am today, AT ALL, if it wasn’t for someone getting me on a bike. You never know what will change someone’s life.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I haven’t driven a car in 5 years.

1 comment:

  1. Amber rocks. Love that she's getting recognized for all that she does for women's bicycling.

    ReplyDelete