Monday, September 4, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Jenny (Scott) Acker

Mountain biking has been such a wonderful thing in my life and I've met amazing people through it. Being a clumsy nerdy art kid that got cut from a lot of team sports in high school, finding cycling after college was such a great treat. I could do it and be bad at it but not have it matter, it was a way for me to get out and enjoy the outdoors, escape from work, spin out the legs, explore with friends, and so much more, I feel so lucky I get to do it now.
My husband, Matt Acker, has been a great motivator and source of inspiration to me to try harder bike races and push myself further to try new skills and visit new places, mostly because I suffer from FOMO and want to go do all the races he does hehehe! I love attempting to get better at mountain biking, have such a great community of biking friends here in Grand Rapids. We have awesome buds that put on free bandit races and other great organizers that put on the best gravel/mountain bike/cyclocross races I've ever been to.

I love using my artistic abilities and design skills to help out and make bike posters and logos (www.notjennyscott.com), also super stoked to get to help host an all-women International bike polo tournament here in Grand Rapids later this fall (www.ladiesarmy9.com), and also helping out Matt put together this Michigan gravel Race Series (www.michigangravelraceseries.com).

It's a bit of something new to me...helping put on events instead of just selfishly participating in them...but it feels good, being able to give back to the sport that has given me so much. Also very excited for a fun year filled with biking adventures coming up. Matt and I have decided to quit our jobs for a year and save up all our skrilla to go bike packing and other biking adventures all over the US, can't wait to get out there and explore by bike!

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife as it is now-
I got into triathlons 9 years ago, mostly to prove myself to some dudes who wouldn't invite me on their long rides, so I'd ride by myself and did a couple Ironman triathlons. Never was really into the spandex and expensive bike scene met some fun people that mountain biked and quickly realized these were more my kind of people. the ones that get dirty and go grab a beer after a ride together, through that group of friends I was introduced to gravel riding, cyclocross, bike polo and grew a love for all things bike. Met my husband at a cyclocross race (ok, so I stalked his sexy young beard) and then got myself a fatbike to enjoy cycling year round, now cycling is part of our everyday lives and it's awesome! 

What has been your motivation to explore different types of cycling? Why do you enjoy them?When I was doing triathlons, my favorite part was for sure the bike. But I didn't really train with too many people and mostly cycled on my own, which I sometimes enjoyed the solitude of being on the road with my own thoughts. But what I liked more about mountain biking is the camaraderie and friends and encouragement. At first, I hadn't had a great experience mtn biking, so I didn't try it again for a while. when my 26" gary fisher got stolen, I bought a 29er, and gave the trails a second shot, loved it and really enjoyed the types of people that mountain biked more. we'd all get dirty and sweaty and then go to the bar, it seemed to be more about having fun than having the most expensive bike and kit, so that really was why I started riding trails again. then I kinda found cyclocross and gravel and some of the same friends were doing those so I started with those too. then I found bike polo and that's a completely different kind of riding, but a great community of people and friends that I've made all around the world. Got into fatbiking last I'd say but have met such a wonderful group of friends and bad ass ladies in this sport too.

What was the main inspiration behind participating in events?
At first it was just a fun way to spend a day with groups of friends, braving the elements and having beers around campfires afterwards...then I kinda started developing this habit of wearing costumes while I raced, I guess I started liking the attention because although I wasn't the fastest person out there, people tended to cheer for me, so that made me happy. my favorite is making the volunteers and supporters and photographers on the course laugh. they're braving the elements to help us finish our race whether it be support or snacks or blocking traffic or lying and saying "it's all downhill from here" I really appreciate them so if I can make them laugh at how crazy I look, it makes me feel good. Plus I've made so many friends and look forward to doing a similar race from a previous year so I can see the friends I met there before
What would you say has been your most favorite event to attend?
Would depend on the bike hehehe! For gravel, I really like our local race the Barry Roubaix for it being the start of the season and just an awesome after-party reward for lots of hills that can be muddy or dusty. For bike polo, I really loved going to my first Ladies Army tournament in Vancouver with my friend Tara as we road-tripped out there and met a ton of the bike polo family. For mountain biking I really had a hoot at Single Speed USA USA up in Copper Harbor 3 years ago even though I broke my jaw, apparently I self-medicated with a game I made everybody play with me called pick-up-booze-with-your-face-game, hehehe! I had a great time and some awesome party memories. One event that really sticks in my mind for me being the one I'm proudest of completing would have to be the Marji Gesick in Marquette, It's 100+ miles of 90% singletrack, all uphill and 11,000 ft of elevation. I've attempted it two times, the first time I made it about 77 miles but didn't finish, but went back for redemption last year. The race promoters Todd and Danny and Stacy and Stacie, and all the volunteers are amazing, they really encourage everybody and will literally stay up way past their bedtime to let the very dead last finisher finish. It was a very challenging day, but I had the best time. I didn't stop to take as many photos as I did the first year, but met tons of great riders along the way. So cool that you're in it together, shared salt tabs with friends when they were cramping, got free bacon from another rider's support crew. Shared pocket burritos with the guys from the local brewery who were also riding and traded them some of my pickles, rode with some great people, and Matt, my husband gave me the best leg massage at the last aid station to get me to the end. Was able to ride the last 15 miles with a new friend Jim, and though those last 15 miles took us about 5 hours, we friggin finished, dead last but Todd and his wife Stacey and Matt and our friend Tyler were all waiting up for us, it was the best feeling! Though Matt finished the same race in about half the time, him being at the finish line at 2:30 in the morning to give me a hug as I finished was the best feeling, it's an amazing race, with awesome terrain to ride in, I highly recommend it.

Do you have any suggestions to give to folks who have yet to attend their first event?
I know I've been intimidated to do lap mountain bike races or time trial races, because I haven't felt as strong and hate feeling like I'm in the way, plus it's hard to either let someone pass you where you don't have to get off your bike, or on the flip side, have the guts to ask someone if you can pass them. I'd recommend starting with a race maybe that's more open and wide, just to get your toes wet if this is something you think you'd struggle with too. Otherwise just learning to communicate your intentions, for the most part, other racers are very respectful and will encourage you as well.
Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what kept you coming back for more?
My very first time I kinda hated it. I was out of shape and it was super sandy, I slammed on my front brake going down a sandy hill and went over my handlebars...I didn't ride that bike much on trails again after that, then it got stolen and I replaced it with a 29er. I went and tried that bike on a different trail and really enjoyed it. with the bigger wheels, I was able to roll over things easier and I really enjoyed being in the woods as opposed to the road, which is what I had been doing as I trained for triathlons. I loved being able to just enjoy the sounds of the woods and the more I rode the same trails, the better I learned them and knew how to ride them, which made me crave for different trails and more challenges. Now strava helps me come back for more, every time trying to get a bit faster and see if I can make it into the top 10

Clips or flats? What do you use and why?
I clip in almost all the time these days, it was intimidating at first, but then I realize how much extra power I seem to have, and I couldn't see myself riding on flats at all anymore.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Probably my biggest biff was at Single Speed USA a couple years ago, where I wasn't even drinking yet, but maybe riding a course above my skill level at the time. I was trying to impress the lady who was riding behind me as well as catch up to my buds who were ahead, I went over a drop and freaked out and slammed on my front brake (I blame bike polo), flew over my handlebar and landed almost directly on my chin... my shoulder got a little gooey, but I broke my jaw!!! Didn't realize it at the time, the girl behind me after she saw that I was in pain, went ahead to let my friends know. I rolled up, they gave me some whiskey and I finished the last 15 miles of the race. Didn't think anything was broken so self-medicated with more booze that night and got real rowdy crazy....didn't actually know I had broken my jaw til 3 days later, back home. after biking to work, then deciding I should go to urgent care because of my oozing shoulder, where they then suggested to get x-rays of my jaw...which at first I rejected bc I thought they were just trying to scam me outta money, but then they realized it was broken and had to sew me shut for three weeks. That's the first bone I've ever broken (unless you consider a broken toe attempting to break dance at a polo tournament, hehe!) Matt took real good care of me, other than being hungry and having fuzzy insides of my teeth, I was super grateful that a broken jaw doesn't prevent you from riding. I have tons of friends who have broken something where they then can't ride for a couple days/months/years! it sucks I was supposed to be off the bike for 3 weeks, but I think I lasted 1. I'm a little apprehensive going downhill, but I'm trying to learn to not use my front brake, ever, hehehe! I went back last summer to the spot where I crashed on Mango in Copper Harbor...and I rode that guy the proper way, totally redeemed myself, hehehe!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Practicing has been so helpful, little things at a time. standing out of the saddle to climb and starting in an easy gear first and spinning.
Using my front brake, or more so, trying to learn not to use it. I find descending to be more of a challenge for me...I get in my head and freak out, and either slam on the front brake and go over handlebars, or just get off the bike and walk down. Matt has taught me techniques, of keeping weight back, feathering front and rear brake...my heartbeat always bumps up when I actually do a steep descent...it feels exhilarating when I can do it properly.

Your husband, Matt, is also a rider. What do you enjoy most about being able to share a common interest?
It's the best! We get to enjoy our hobby and each other at the same time! We both love doing it so it doesn't seem like a chore or that we're "letting" the other person have their interest, we both want to go to races or train for them, so it just becomes part of our day, and we get to do it together. Matt's really good at time management and realizes that he's a stronger rider than me, so he'll make time for his own real hard workouts and training, and I can still go on my own rides and "flooft" around like I call it, but it's also been nice because he encourages me to train a bit harder and gives me tips on how I can, if I want to, improve and get stronger and faster, so when I'm not being too lazy, I can do that hehehe!
Being your husband is an experienced rider, do you have any thoughts or suggestions when it comes to couples riding together? What have you learned with the "experience gap?"
Matt is super patient with me, and also a huge encouragement. Always helps me push myself to get better/faster without being pushy. He is a very determined and focus person in general whereas I'm a bit more floofty, but with his inspiration I've been able to focus a bit more, train a bit smarter and harder, and getting faster or being able to last longer, ride further, climb steeper hills, get a couple QOM's has been really fun for me.

What do you love about riding your bike?
It just feels natural to me, I love when I'm riding along and get to "look out the window" per se, I don't even think about my pedaling or breathing and just enjoy that my body is propelling me around, the fresh wind in my face, exploring new places and I get to enjoy it all. Plus the biggest positive is all the great people who I now call friends who share this same mentality.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I'm super spoiled, started out picking bikes based on my favorite colors, but have been super spoiled by Matt since we've been together and he's bought me a bunch as gifts.
I have a green Marino custom polo bike - for bike polo
green Spearfish - full suspension mountain bike, probably my favorite bike right now, pretty comfortable for the ride out to the trails while locked out, then super comfy on rocky terrain with the suspension
Salsa Beargrease -  for fatbiking and beach riding
green Twinsix Rando - for gravel rides and cyclocross
green Salsa tandem - for when I really want to be close to Matt's buttcrack hehehe
Scott triathlon bike (bought that because it was green and also had my last name hehehe) - for road riding which I hardly do anymore, or triathlons, which I've pretty much retired from
green surly single speed ogre (kinda poopy green, love the single speed, and this was my touring bike when I went to do a couple days of touring with Jill, Tara, and Emma) - I've been riding this bike a lot lately, something about singlespeed is so simple and easy and fun. I use it as my commuter and also for when I sign up for races singlespeed, because if mountain bikers are fun and weird party people, singlespeeders take that up a notch, and I feel like I fit right in.

Tell us why you feel more women should discover the joy of fatbiking!
Great people, seeing new places, it has changed my winter, one of my favorite seasons now...get to enjoy the outdoors year-round

What is bike polo and why is it rad?
Oh man, this question could have a whole story written about it. bike polo is rad because it's a co-ed team sport on a bike. It's like hockey and soccer combined, but on a bike. It takes cycling which for me was more of an individual sport and turns it into a team thing, which I was always getting cut from in high school, but it's laid-back and open to anybody willing to try. I'm actually probably not that good at bike polo, but the community around it and all the wonderful friends I've made through it is indescribable, I wouldn't change it for anything.

Tell us about the Michigan Gravel Race series and what it will entail - 
What I've loved about the great lakes fat bike series, is that it strings together a bunch of pre-existing races, and makes a longer competition about how well you do at a certain number of these races. Matt thought that with the growing popularity of gravel races, why not string together a bunch of these existing awesome gravel races in Michigan, and make a series out of it, similar to the GLFBS. It's a point series where people men and women will accumulate points based on how well they do at each of these individual races. then at the end of the season, the winners will get some award.

What has been the most exciting part for you when it comes to event planning vs. participation?
I realize how much I love participating in events, and seeing how much work goes into planning them, I think I definitely prefer participating. I've had fun having my hand in organizing a couple bike polo events, but I definitely feel the stress, it's always a huge sense of relief when the event is over and everybody seemed to have fun. What's exciting about planning is you can make it whatever you want, have prizes for costumes or make people play crazy games, but it's definitely given me an appreciation for all the work that goes into it and I, for sure, prefer just mooching off everybody elses hard work and participating in events.

Tell us about this bikepacking trip you and Matt plan to do, what was the inspiration? 
We were out riding one cold night last winter and were drinking a couple beers, and kind of jokingly said wouldn't it be great to quit our jobs and bike around the USA, we pinky swore on it and decided for our wedding that instead of toasters and matching towels that we would ask for moolah so that we could quit our jobs and do just that. I have bee lucky enough to take a year-off from work to study abroad for 9 months, and it was totally worth it. Matt's been working since he was 14, and we thought we could work work work until we're 60 and retire with money, or we could save enough to take a year off, and go do fun things on our bike while we're still kinda young, hehehe!

We're super looking forward to just explore a bunch of places right here in the good ole US of A, and spending quality time with friends and family. We'll be doing lots of small trips to different states to check out their trails, and do a couple races in Iowa and Colorado and Kansas, as well as a bunch of our favorites back here in Michigan. We're hoping to make it up to the Pacific Northwest and maybe even Alaska, and our big year end plan is to do the Baja Divide, which sounds amazing!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have triple citizenship! Mexican, Brazilian and Ohio-an hehehe!

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