Monday, May 29, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Courtenay McFadden

Photo Credit: Chris Rose
I’m Courtenay McFadden, I race cyclocross at the Elite/Professional level all over the country and in Europe as well. When I’m not training, traveling, or racing I’m usually at home spending time with my husband and my kitty Nugget. I live in Bellingham, WA out of the Pacific Northwest, and I couldn’t be more proud of where I’m from! My next love after biking, includes the human body. I have both my BS and MS in Exercise Science, and until last summer worked as a Personal Trainer. I decided to take some time off to focus on racing, myself, and have surgery at the end of the 2016/2017 cyclocross season. I know I’ll go back to working as a trainer, as I love watching my clients improve their life through exercise, and I love working and watching the magic of the human body. It’s absolutely amazing what it can do. Even though biking is my all-time favorite outdoor activity, I enjoy running (short distances), hiking, any fun water activity in the summer, and yoga.


Follow Courtenay on: Facebook, Instagram, Website

Tell us about your #bikelife, what inspired it?
I got into riding my senior year of college. Prior to riding bikes I was an avid runner, and a pretty bad one at that! I don’t think I’m built to be a speedy amazing runner, so I’m pretty glad I found the bike. I’ve always been active my entire life, I grew up playing soccer, dabbled in lacrosse, and loved riding my bike growing up. When I was 12 years old it was a beautiful day and I decided I wanted to go for a bike ride. I was having a fantastic time, but upon heading home crossing a busy road (walking my bike through a crosswalk as we were taught to do) I was hit by a car. There was more mental trauma to this event than physical trauma, as the car actually hit the bike and not me, but I was thrown to the ground when it happened. After this day I had no interest in riding a bike ever again, until I was 22. It was my senior year of college and I had been teaching spin classes at a local gym for 3 years (plus other group fitness classes). I had been very interested in getting a road bike as an alternative to running, because running was really starting to hurt my feet and knees. Being a college kid, I had no money, so it was just a dream. A couple of the members of the gym I was teaching at (still do!) pitched in and bought me my first road bike. It was great, I liked it, but it was way harder than I thought it was going to be, and my motivation to riding in the rain was pretty minimal, which meant since I live in the PNW, my riding my bike was minimal was well. At the time I was still enjoying my college years and being 21 years old, so riding wasn’t really a priority, I just did it when I wanted some exercise. I tried road racing that spring with the collegiate team (how I met my husband), and strongly disliked it. I graduated college winter of 2007, and didn’t really ride my bike after that. It wasn’t until summer of 2008 that I started putting more time on the bike, and went back to for my masters that Fall. Since I’m not one to give up, I decided I should try racing one more time, I had been riding more and was enjoying it more than I previously had. I joined the collegiate team and did the collegiate road racing season in 2009. From there it’s history.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
Cyclocross is by far my favorite! I don’t think there is one event that I love more than the other. There’s something sooo amazing about racing cross. The community, how it’s like nothing else you can do on a bike. You can mimic both road racing and mountain bike racing, but you just can’t mimic cross, you really only have the cross season to soak it up. Last Spring I did some of the Epic Rides events (Grand Junction and Carson City) and I was (still am) extremely impressed with the level of those races, the competition, the courses, the weekend of organization, is top notch. The equal payouts for men and women is also wonderful. I love competing, I think because I’m competitive! Although, I’m really most competitive with myself. I found myself getting stronger and stronger on the bike every year I was riding, that I just kept wanting to get better and see how much better and how much stronger I could get. It was like this game with myself, it’s changed a little bit as I’ve become result focused I’ve learned that I need to tap into some competitiveness with those around me and ACTUALLY race my bike! This year was a really good year for me to remember that we don’t just ride hard in circles, that there are other people you are racing against and racing isn’t just about laying out the power, but also being smart about when you lay out the power, and of course off road racing you need the technical abilities as well.

What advice or tips would you give to someone who is nervous with participating in their first cycling event?
I would tell them there is nothing to be nervous about. I think some of what I love about cycling is the community. Everyone is here to lift each other up, we want more people on bikes so we aren’t going to make it a scary scene for new people to join. Sometimes I think that racers get big ego’s, especially around those that don’t race, but I always remind people, you were that person once too, don’t be rude, be welcoming and teach and share your knowledge.
Photo Credit: Dave McElwaine
Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn from those experiences?
Technically my first time on single track was on my CX bike and I was TERRIFIED (of going downhill). I ride those trails on my mountain bike now, and given they are the XC easy trails on our local mountain, but not really fun on an entry level cross bike with brakes that don’t work (also..I don’t miss canti brakes)! I vividly remember my first mountain bike ride. My (now) husband helped me purchase the mountain bike the summer after my first cross bike. It was a 26in hardtail Norco Fireball. It was a good bike to learn on. It took a lot of beatings and it kept trucking! He took me on a very short loop up to this trail called SST and I was scared the entire way down. I got off my bike multiple times, there might have been some cursing and yelling his way. I swear the trail was steeper then, than it is now!

Those experiences taught me that entry level cross bike brakes are terrible for single track descending and to never give up. It took me a long time to ever want to ride SST again, or any trail marked with a black diamond, and that I should ride my mountain bike with girlfriends before riding it with my boyfriend. Girls know the good trails to ride that aren’t scary, they aren’t trying to kill you, and it’s always easier to learn from your friend than your significant other.

What inspired you to keep with it?
When I got my mountain bike in 2010, at that point, I loved riding. It was nice to have another modality to ride for a change of scene. Mountain biking had a lot more casualness and fun around it versus road riding. Also, because I’m not one to give up on things, I wanted to master it. Every ride was like a puzzle, how am I going to get through, over or around this obstacle? I remember going for a ride and being so frustrated because I didn’t know how to get over larger roots, so I would get off and walk over it. I went back and told my roommate how annoying it was to get off my bike, and she told me “Oh you just need to lift your front wheel, this how you do it, I’ve been working on it too.” it clicked instantly and my ability to ride my mountain changed forever! There are still things to this day that I haven’t conquered, and that’s what I love about the sport. You can always keep pushing yourself to become better.

Clips or flats- what do you enjoy and why?
Oh boy that’s easy! I’m an XC rider, so def clips! Clips…because that’s what I learned on. I have ridden on flats (at the dirt jump park) and it’s scary. I do think there is a place for flats and they are good to learn body position on the bike and how you need to distribute your weight, what to do with your feet to help you maneuver the bike. I would like to practice a little more with flats, even though I find them scary.

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 haven’t had any crazy scary emotional crash that has left me scared. I have my fair share of crashes, that’s for sure! I have absolutely crashed on stuff that when I get to it in a trail I get a little nervous trying it again or I wait it out until my confidence has built back up again. A couple years ago I had my friend from Seattle come mountain biking with me in Bellingham. I took her to a pretty techy trail, and she was walking a lot of the stuff I was riding. I vividly remember her asking “how did you get so good”, and I said you just try it and don’t be afraid to crash. Of course, after this I crashed on some steep part of the trail, but told her you can’t be afraid to try it out, it’s the only way to know your limits and improve. Typically, in a ride after 1 or 2 crashes I am little more timid, or some days I’m just not as open to crashing as others and I’ll play it more safe. I think the biggest thing is, you can’t be afraid to crash. The best riders in the world crash, it’s a part of the sport, take it in strides, and remember to relax, the more stiff you are when you crash, the more it’s going to hurt!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I’m still working on being a better turner. I know that sounds somewhat ridiculous considering there’s a lot of turning in cycloross, but it’s such an easy way to make up and gain time. In mountain biking switchbacks were SOOO hard. The main trail to access our mountain is a series of switchbacks up (and down if you go down that trail). I could make it up, but down was so hard. I would purposely take that trail down so I could work on my switchbacks. I’m still not amazing at them, but I’m working to be better, faster, and smoother! Learning the front wheel lift changed my life! Once I learned how to do that, my riding and my enjoyment of riding increased dramatically. Not really sure on the best tips, I wish I had taken a clinic when I first started mountain biking. I think I would have learned a lot and also not picked up the bad habits I’m trying to lose now.

What do you find the most challenging about cyclocross? What suggestions/tips can you give for someone who is interested in trying it?
I believe the most challenging thing about cyclocross for me is the intensity. You’re pushing your limits the ENTIRE race, and not only physically, also mentally, you need to be able to handle your bike and be confident with it when you’re nearly in the red zone.

What would you say is the most challenging part about setting up your own program for racing?
Time and energy. It takes a lot of focus and a lot of time, but honestly I really enjoy it. It’s challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and ask people for things, which I’m so bad at. It’s taught me a lot about marketing, because ultimately I’m a product that I need to market, but also how I can market my sponsors product. It teaches me about proper communication, keeping people in the know and being friendly, smiley and positive. I’ve learned more than I possibly could have imagined by running my own program. I honestly didn’t know how long I would do it, since when I first started it, it was because there weren’t any pro-team prospects, so I knew if I wanted to race I had to take matters into my own hands. I was hoping that I would do it just 1 year and then jump on a team, but after a year of running my own thing I felt this huge connection to my sponsors and I didn’t really want to drop that, and now, I’ve really built something for myself.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career so far?
The people. Absolutely, and how much it’s taught me about…me. As I said before, not only have I stepped outside of my comfort zone in asking people for help, sponsorships, etc, I’ve traveled to Europe…alone! For someone that is terrified of traveling because of irrational fears of being kidnapped, I think that’s pretty big to take matters in my own hands and travel to Belgium, alone, more than once! Given, I was staying with friends, but I figured out how to rent the car on my own, how to drive in an unknown country, how to navigate the races. That was such a big growth for me personally, it taught me that I can truly do anything, and I don’t have to let my anxiety get in the way. I pushed my boundaries, it was hard and I cried, but I did it.

Tell us about your introduction to the cyclocross world, how were you inspired?
My husband introduced me to cyclocross in that I watched him race and then a couple of years later I decided I wanted to race. He didn’t actually teach me anything about it. I learned from my friends boyfriend the night before my first race. My friend and I were living together at the time, and so we went to the park across the street and he gave us a 10-minute lesson on how to dismount, remount and jump over barriers. That’s literally how I learned my cyclocross skills…hence I picked up some bad habits that a couple of years later I worked REALLY hard to get rid of (like the double hop remount). In all seriousness though, I think it’s hard to learn a new skill from a significant other, and I think the best thing for both parties involved, is to learn from someone other than your significant other! Less arguments more love.

What do you enjoy most about being able to ride with your partner?
I love that it’s a simple way for us to spend time together, and when I need to go out for a training ride we can go together, and he doesn’t get mad thinking I’m not spending time with him. Plus, it gives him motivation to keep riding to make sure he stays faster than me and fit! He’s also a great adventure buddy when on vacation and we’re out finding new places to ride.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I absolutely love riding my bike, everything about it. I love that it takes you to places you wouldn’t ever imagine going. I love an all day adventure out on my mountain bike with friends climbing to the highest places and seeing the amazing views that riding can take you to. I love the healthy social aspect of riding. I love that it takes me outside on the nicest and worst of days. I love everything about it!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Oh boy. I have a slew of them.

Road Bike: Pinarello FP3. I love this bike! It’s my second road bike and was my first carbon bike! I bought it in 2010, so I realize it’s a little outdated, but it’s so comfy, I love the way it rides, so I don’t really feel a need to replace it. I bought it when I was in the market for a road bike upgrade, and wanted a carbon frame, I saw it and immediately fell in love, it’s pink, white and black. I loved the way it rode and of course loved the color scheme, so I bought it.

Mountain Bikes: I have 2. I have a Transition Scout, which is 140mm Front and 130mm Rear travel at 27.5 wheel size. I love this bike, it’s not particularly light, but pedals well uphill, plus it’s SO MUCH FUN to go downhill with, plus it’s super playful and inspires a lot of confidence on the descents. Once I got this bike it really changed my riding style for the better. I bought it because I wanted a fun bike, and this is my fun bike! My other mountain bike is a Liv Lust XC full suspension mountain bike. I bought this last summer when I wanted to do some XC racing, and knew I wanted a full suspension. I chose this particular one because I think Liv is doing awesome things for women and their bikes. Plus I knew people who had it and loved it, so you can’t go wrong with that. Also being a small person it’s hard to find bikes that fit well. Hardtails (while light) trash my back (because my hip was/is so unstable from it’s issues), so my back would take a big beating on a hardtail, and the weight saving isn’t worth the uncomfortable back! I love this bike as well, it climbs really well, turns well and can handle the gnarliest of trails. I was really impressed with this bike when I got it.

Cyclocross Bikes: I have my most recent addition to the family the Focus Mares. Focus was my bike sponsor this last year, and I love riding my Focus. I approached Focus for a sponsorship because of their huge involvement in cyclocross that it seemed like the right fit. I’m really glad they were able to step up and help me out. The bike is super light, accelerates out of corners and handles really well. My other cyclocross bikes (because I have a tight connection to them) are my Rock Lobsters. Previously to riding my Focus bikes, I was on Rock Lobster, and those bikes are just plain FUN, plus you can’t knock a custom frame built for you. Once you have a custom bike it’s really hard to NOT get rid of them, so..my family of CX bikes is quite large.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking/cyclocross/off-road?
I’m not really sure what deters women from cycling, I think it could be fear. You hear it a lot that women are afraid of riding on the road because they’re scared of the cars, but the idea of screaming downhill on a mountain bike seems scary too! Also time accessibility plus cost. It’s a lot cheaper and easier to go buy a pair of running shoes and try to be a runner than it is to find a bike that fits, get shoes, cycling clothes, and a helmet. I think it’s harder to get women involved off road because it can be very intimidating. Riding off-road requires handling and skill, which can add another fear factor as a new rider. I think if you have young ones (small children) it also becomes harder to get into cycling due to time, again it’s a lot easier to grab some runners and bring the kids in a stroller and go for a run than it would be to find a sitter and go for a ride!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Industry wise I think more women IN the industry would help get more women on and into bikes. I think companies like Liv are leading the way for the industry. I love what they do. Locally, I believe if women can team up and help lift each other up and be encouraging and show women new to the sport how fun it is, that could really help to increase women in the sport. Also, I think all women clinics are very encouraging to new women riders. The past 2 years I’ve lead a women’s CX clinic where I live, and it’s been so much fun! With this type of environment it’s incredibly welcoming to new women and far less intimidating!
Photo Credit: Yet Another Bike Photo
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I think the most inspirational thing is how positive, encouraging, and fun women are to ride with. Mountain biking in particular, riding with other women pushes me to be a better rider and try things I might not otherwise try if I were riding with only males (or my husband). This aspect of riding makes it easy to encourage women to ride, letting them know that riding with women is FUN!

Tell us a random fact about yourself
I’m a large fan of playing Nintendo, particular the Mario games. ☺ I love Mario Kart on the Wii, but Super Mario Kart (on Super Nintendo) is my favorite. I literally grew up playing this game against my older brothers. I love pretty much any of the Mario games.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Keep Your Eye on the Horizon

I looked down at my phone, reading the email that I figured I would get but had hoped I wouldn't. "Thank you for applying, unfortunately you were not selected this time around."

"Of course." 
I felt like my stomach had developed a small pit, probably the size of an avocado. It sat inside my gut feeling like a 5 lb. weight. 

I closed out my email on my phone and continued my morning errands.

I had two choices- feel sorry for myself or move forward. I opted for the latter as it was the only one to make sense. Over 3,000 women applied for a national women's ambassador program. That's beautiful and impressive- it means that there are a lot of badass women out there doing remarkable things. It also means that a person from small-town Iowa is probably going to have an extremely small chance of pushing herself thru the cracks and being accepted into said program.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." 
-Winston Churchill

This year I will be able to put all of my full focus on growing Fearless Women of Dirt as organically as possible and without pressure other than the pressure I put on myself. Fearless Women of Dirt will grow because of my determination, passion, and drive for cultivating a rich off-road cycling community in Decorah and beyond.
Rides and FWD Women's Nights at the shop will be on my time frame and schedule. I will not have to worry about having the "right" number of events or rides for the calendar year. This is a particularly busy year for me- it will be good to know that what I set up for my schedule of events now will work for what I was hoping to do this year vs. having to try and add more to make myself qualify.

I can take full credit and responsibility for the success of FWD and see it grow because of local support, not specifically because of the backing of a larger company when it would be better to have the bike companies represented at our local bike shop both be equally supportive of FWD and what FWD is all about- thus making it more inclusive and less biased. 

To me, Fearless is not the absence of fear. It's not being completely unafraid. To me, Fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, Fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death.” 
― Taylor Swift

Not long ago it was brought to my attention that someone wasn't fond of my using the term "Fearless" in my women's group name as she did not find herself to be that word. "Why not use a different word, such as courageous or brave?"
 
Fearless is a synonym of courageous and brave- they all mean roughly the same thing, just a slightly different spin. Fearless is something I aspire to be and is not necessarily a word that defines who I am- I still struggle with fears on the trail. Take last night, for example- I had a pretty good crash on one of my favorite trails and tweaked my ankle pretty bad. I had fear while I was falling, I had fear during the fall as I crash landed backwards and sideways into shrubbery and thorns. I had fear as I felt pain radiate in my foot and ankle. I was shaken. I was afraid- what if I had broken something? What would I do? I had to get down the trail somehow.

I picked myself up carefully, assessing my situation. I felt like throwing up. I took a deep breath and put weight on my foot. It was okay, I knew not perfect- but not broken. 
My bike was intact, nothing was damaged.
I was jittery but okay. I could keep going and I could move forward past my fears and embarrassment.
Fearless Women of Dirt move FWD (Forward)
Our bikes move us forward on the trail and in life.
As you progress with off-road riding, your initial fears lesson and your confidence grows.
An experience can scare the crap out of you, but if you can do what you can to continue growth and moving forward- in time you will feel less fearful.

"Attitude is a little thing that can make a big difference." -Winston Churchill

I'm looking forward to this year and what it will bring for the future and growth of Fearless Women of Dirt and my own self. I feel that this group is an important piece of the Decorah cycling community that I am so thrilled to be part of. 

Mountain biking has changed my life. It has made me take things head on with new perspective on what I think I can accomplish versus what I can accomplish. I've found myself continually surprised and it is my mission to help other women find that same excitement, confidence, and inspiration. 
"Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be."
- George A. Sheehan

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
Web: BikeGallery.com

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 shell@bikegallery.com