Monday, October 30, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Kyia Anderson

Photo Credit: Todd Bauer
I am a wife, a mom, a bike rider/racer and a sales rep for a cycling apparel company in St. Paul, MNPodiumwear. I live and work from home in St. Cloud, MN where I am very active in our local cycling community advocating, building and maintaining off road cycling trails. I also help with grooming and maintaining the Nordic Ski Trails. I am a retired Professional Mountain bike racer that has recently started back to racing when it's convenient for the family. I retired in the spring of 2010 due to some back issues.
Here is the press release.

After having our son Aunders in July of 2011 I have been able to get back on the bike and have some fun riding and racing. We've shared the love of bicycles with Aunders on several family bike tours (2 in Denmark) and we get out a lot together on the local trails. It's been fun sharing this with him and everything out doors that we love. I also helped start the local HS mountain bike team here in St. Cloud, St. Cloud Composite team and hope to continue to find time to ride and train with this team. I love working with cyclists of all ages at skills clinics and get really excited when the riders gain the confidence needed to navigate the trail or a technical feature that challenges them.

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it developed- 
Thankfully I've always had a bicycle to pedal around on and it was really my main mode of transportation growing up. Unfortunately I lost my way a little when I got my drivers license in my late teens but I found my way again after breaking my knee snowboarding at Big Sky while living in Bozeman, MT and needing a cheap way for re-hab, I borrowed a trainer from a co-worker and got to pedaling. That summer I won my first Sport race in mens and womens at Maverick Mtn in Dillon, MT, The Phun Hog Classic. Ever since riding has been a big part of my daily life.

Take us back to your first few mountain bike rides. What did you learn and what inspired you to keep at it?
Keep up with the group so you know where you need to turn. Also keep up in case your bottom bracket and crank suddenly come out of your bike on a rocky descent which somehow happened to me in MT in 1996! You need people to help you out!

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
The World Cup at Mount St. Anne Quebec. I had some really fun and great results in the World Cup finals and Marathon in the early 2000's and loved the technical and muddy trails. I like to push myself to the limit and it's great when it comes together. Even training or touring it's amazing how that mindset pushes you to ride harder.

You raced professionally for awhile- what did you learn while racing professionally?
It's a fine line between being too focused and too much fun! If you want to do well you have to be really focused but that takes away from the fun....

Do you have any tips or suggestions for folks who are on the fence about participating in an event? 
Do it but keep it fun. If you win it's obviously more fun but just being out and riding is winning versus what most people do on a given Saturday or Sunday.

Clips or flats, what do you like best?
Clips - Clips but I did race flats (with toe clips) to a few Expert wins back in the day!

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Crashing is tough, in training it's one thing but I have to admit my most memorable crashes have been while racing. Yes, that's bike racing but when you travel across the country to compete, ruin equipment, bang up your body and see hours of preparation and money go down the drain it's really tough on an athlete. Flying off my bike at a National MTB race in Tennessee and separating my collarbone is up there on the list and being crashed out in the first turn of the Iceman, breaking my helmet, loosing a ton of skin and not having the race I envisioned is second.

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 learned really quickly that the faster you descend the better, as that is the only way to keep up with the group I started with in MT! Honestly that has helped me out a ton throughout my career. Gotten a few flats because of it but descending has always been one of my strong suits.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
My technical skills are usually the point that gives me confidence but sometimes my training or fitness is the more limiting factor. I go into an event with a whatever attitude and that helps a ton. I prefer to keep my two wheels on the ground but I do enjoy a little air time here and there again. If you don't go beyond Super D you will be OK with that.
What do you love about riding your bike?
Freedom to travel and the challenge to ride faster or farther! Even bike touring I found myself racing people on road bikes, trying to clear climbs on off road pths etc...

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have ridden Cannondale since 2005 and love the geometry and feel. Right now I am riding a Scalpel Mtb (specific model has been chosen because it matches my shoes :)), the lefty is strange on the first ride but then it's a great balanced ride. My bike is light and fast and the suspension keeps the back injury that caused me to retire in 2010 mostly at bay. My road bike is a Cannondale Synapse, I love this bike, you can ride it like a mountain bike or a road bike, it's your choice. It allows for a larger tire for gravel races and the geometry is very accommodating. My "Mom Bike" is a Salsa Fargo and this baby has been a lot of places and pulled my son for the last 6 years. Bike touring, paved trails, single track, it does it all! Not the worlds lightest bike but very comfortable and sturdy!

You also work in the industry for Podiumwear. Tell us about your job and why folks should check Podiumwear out- 
I am the outside Sale Rep for Podiumwear Custom Sports Apparel and have worked for Reid and Jessica since Jan of 2012. Everyone at Podiumwear rides and we have great camaraderie. I get out and use the product we make everyday and I think we have the best custom cycling apparel and customer service of any company. Our women's apparel is the most comfortable apparel I've ever ridden in or worn and I love that I get to assist with it's development. If you enjoy your job, it shows up in your customer service and makes everyone happy!

You've also helped out with the local HS cycling team. Why do you feel cycling for young folks in school is such a positive thing?
Cycling is what got me grounded back in the 90's and represents a great way to get people into nature and the real world. I love to see kids try new things and fall in love with the bike. It's pretty rewarding. I also spend a lot of time maintaining and building trails here in St. Cloud, MN. The Mid MN Cycling Club will host the 11th Annual Single Track Escape, a MN MTB Series event on June 25, 2017 and the second race of the MN NICA League race September 10, 2017. It's pretty special to see so many people enjoying the trails I have built and maintained over the years!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking? 
Intimidation but in reality it's just dirt. Crashing in a time trial at a triathlon has to be a lot worse!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Having equal prizes at races and equal press coverage would be a great start. Women's group rides and skills clinics are a great start for many women as well.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love to share the awesome sport of mountain biking. It's really gratifying to work with women in clinics and see them gain confidence that their initial inhibitions keep them from getting. Usually if somebody tries it they will get it and get better. It doesn't matter who it is I think the world would be a better place if we all had a more grounded and understanding perspective!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I road bike more than I mountain bike! We have lots of group rides and it helps to push me along....I also own and routinely use a power washer....

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Race Day Adventures: PertNear 20 '17

Photo Credit: Chad Berger
This is my third time having attended the PertNear 20 race in Viroqua, WI and I must say- it's one of my favorite places to be! I've said it for the past two years, but Pete and Alycann are awesome folks who know how to put on a great event.

I hoped that when Travis and I finalized our wedding date, that it would fall on the weekend of the PertNear. I'll admit for a selfish reason- I wanted a second day off from work! Really? What better way to celebrate your wedding anniversary than going to a bike race? It gives us something to mark on our calendar for our anniversary and know we'll be in for a good time!

This PertNear would be special for two reasons:
#1. Our first race officially as #TeamGreenSmith because we were officially married on October 14th.
#2. This would be Travis' first time attending the PertNear 20. (Can we all say, finally?!)


The weather didn't cooperate for our outdoor, mountain bike themed wedding, so I hoped with all my might that it wouldn't rain out the race. When I woke up on Sunday morning I kept looking at my phone for updates. When we hit the road I saw the update "You bet it's still on!" so I braced myself for what I assumed would be wet conditions. I wasn't too nervous, as I've had several wet and muddy events and seem to find a way to make lemonade out of that proverbial lemon.

My bike of choice (with a lot of thought put into the choice) was my Salsa Spearfish. A mini pre-ride of some of the course a week prior reminded me there are areas with rock gardens or rocks/roots that I'd feel better needling my tire thru vs. trying to float over with a plus bike. Sometimes I find myself not feeling the most confident riding my plus bike with wet rocks/roots because I tend to slide out more. If I can, possibly, avoid contact with rocks/roots, I'm better off. I have a very good relationship with my Spearfish and would say it's a bike that inspires my confidence.

It was a cool October morning with a damp chill in the air. Temperature prior to the start was around 44 degrees. I have found it difficult to transition into fall riding because the temperature dropped so quickly. I knew I'd fare better if I layered just a little, but not overly much to avoid getting hot. We would be on open road for 3 miles, twice, and that meant being exposed to cold headwinds (possibly.)

I wore (more for reference than anything....)
My brand new, tall, race socks (Yay for Travis!)
Knicker tights
Thin Smartwool baselayer that is on its last leg.
Decorah Bicycles jersey (Super rad!)
Specialized Element 1.0 jacket
Five Ten Contacts
Bontrager Windshell Gloves
Shebeest Cycling Cap

The most controversial point of my getup was the lack of ear cover. At the end of it all, I was able to say "I was right, I'd be fine, I got warm, and you worry too much- but I love you." Ha!

We stayed inside Bluedog Cycles until about 10ish minutes before the race. I decided I wanted to be acclimated to the temp more before rolling out. One of our friends, Benji, came from Decorah to join the race! Woot! It was time for takeoff and I made my way closer to the front- time to embrace my inner Rainbow Dash!

The rollout warmed me up plenty, and we made our way to the singletrack. I stayed behind a fellow for I felt he was going plenty fast for my comfort level. I figured I would pass once we got out of the woods and onto the wider sections in the fields. No point in going too fast at the start and flubbing up! I wanted to avoid crashing or causing pileups if possible.
Photo Credit: Chad Berger
We were on the road before I knew it, Benji caught up to us and we tailed him. He has amazing stamina and endurance! It was awesome to use Benji as my carrot and keep up with him as well as I could.

We arrived at Sidie Hollow and rode around the lake, which was beautiful, and then hit singletrack. This is where I knew I'd be challenged a bit with the trail conditions, but I took it in stride. We came to a section where Travis and I pre-rode on my birthday (I messed up on it that day) and I rode it clean! I was nervous I wouldn't make it, especially since another fellow didn't and he was off to the side. I get anxious when I have to pass folks in a spot where I don't know if I'll succeed or not. Travis was majorly impressed!

I had several more points where I rode sections where Travis was impressed with my handling skills along with a couple areas that just weren't worth trying to ride, so we walked. I was in disbelief I was doing so well!

It was fun when we were closer to the top and the trails snake back and forth, we kept seeing Benji and letting out "whoopwhoops!" I also liked it because I knew I didn't somehow get lost. At the top, Benji took a break at the aid station that was set up with hydration and snacks, we continued on...I forced some GU down and drank some water. Today was a day that the texture of GU, no matter how good the flavor was, made me gag. I will blame nerves for that one.

Things were going well, I was riding pretty alright even tho I did have to remount my bike after spinning out on a rock. While we were higher up on the trail we saw Benji coming from below- Travis suggested I up the pace a little. I was already thinking about the road ride back and the enormous climb we'd have to make out- I wanted to make sure I had ample energy for that. Okay, let's try this.

Photo Credit: Chad Berger

So I upped the pace, I came around a corner and hit some leaves (?) totally wiping out. I landed hard on my left front calf/shin and my bike came down on the opposite side of it. I hurried to get up, brush myself off, and pedal on. Damnit, that sucked. We made our way out of the woods and up the road to the next trail entrance- Benji was with us and I let him go first. I knew I wouldn't be able to go faster than him, especially now with my leg feeling like Gimpy McGimperson. Eventually, it felt less uncomfortable and I was able to get myself going at a solid clip again. It took me a bit to shake off that feeling of "Crap, it's slippery" and not go to the extreme of slowing myself down too much.

We turned to go down the trail that has this root/rock drop step that had thrown me for a loop the past two PertNear 20 races- this time I knew how to ride it....and succeeded! Yeah! I was so happy I managed to make it in front of the photographer. Even better!

We eventually exited the singletrack and started our march up the pavement back to Hubbard Hills. The climb was long, but not too bad- you just pick a pace and go. I wasn't able to really hammer it out due to my leg, so I plugged along as well as I could. It wasn't too windy back to the trails, either, so without having to fight headwind I didn't feel absolutely spent once we hit dirt again. This time we rode back exactly the same way we came; I was pleased to make it thru the rocky sections as well as I did!

It was awesome to see folks spectating, even tho it was a cooler day- when people cheer for you it definitely helps motivate you to put a little more "oomph!" into your ride!
Crossing the finish, I was smiling! I was quite happy, a bit muddy, and almost started to cramp! I had Travis take a couple pictures of the muddy mess that was our bikes and we headed back to the truck. Of all things, I didn't bring clothes to change into....and I regretted that decision tenfold. I did have dry gloves and a different jacket to wear, but I was still chilly. Travis let me use his sweatshirt for extra warmth and we went inside the bike shop for a bit to warm up. My stomach was still not thrilled with the idea of eating a lot of food, but you can't say no to hot pizza! I helped Travis eat a few slices because sharing is caring.

Pete read off names for some raffle prizes, and I couldn't believe I won something! I joked that I would use the bike lock to lock Travis up with, haha! Pete is quite the character. Travis said he reminded him of Sov. I would love to be at a party with both Pete and Sov, I think it would be absolutely stellar.

Photo Credit: Chad Berger
Then awards.
I suspected, but I never actually, fully assume until I see it or hear it.
When Pete said something like "returning champ and newlywed" I let out a snort! Oh gosh!
I was giddy! I did it!
I wish I didn't have this habit of having crashes during a race, hopefully, next year will be a little less bruising. I have literally crashed for every single race minus Chequamegon this year! (4 out of 5 to be exact!)

Folks, if you want to attend an event by two folks who absolutely love their local trails and the folks who come ride them- you should sign up for the PertNear 20. Pete and Alycann are great people who do great things. The put smiles on faces with their bike shop and the trails, and that deserves support.

Until next year, PertNear20! Maybe the weather will cooperate and I can wear my tutu, either way, I know it will be a dang fine way to celebrate our first anniversary!

Special thanks to:
Photo Credit: Chad Berger

Monday, October 23, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Alyssa Ringo

I've been riding mountain bikes since I was about 8. I was blessed that my mother hooked me on two wheels! She has a hunger for big climbs during our rides so while training with her over the years, I've acquired a thirst for climbing mountains on my road or mountain bike.

I enjoy suffering, but I attribute my strength to those I train with. Just as influential as my mother, has been my sister.
We both ride at similar levels so she's my partner in the gym and outside. I'm more than fortunate to have her in my life.

We can girl talk about guys, hormones, life, etc. while huffing up and bombing down the trails.
We both know each other's weaknesses and challenge each other to rise above them.

This year is the first year I've been racing in the women's Pro field on my cross country bike. It has been slightly intimidating, to say the least, but a lot of fun! The song "Sucker for Pain" by Lil Wayne and Wiz Khalifa has been my race prep song as it is so true! I've learned a lot about myself, where I want to improve my fitness and mindset, and how to sit in the pain box when my legs and lungs are screaming.

You've had a solid #bikelife that started at a young age, how do you feel it has influenced you over the years?
Biking has strengthened me as a woman in more ways than one. It has helped remind me to set goals, stay passionate, motivated, take risks, and has served as my therapy more times than I can keep track!

Can you take us back to your first mountain bike ride(s)? What did you learn and what inspired you to keep at it?

I cannot remember the first time I was on a mountain bike, but I do remember riding in Idyllwild on a heavy purple Walmart bike, trying to chase my parents down! It was hot and being about 8 years old, my sister and I were often motivated to climb mountains by receiving those stretchy Pez necklaces. I rode the Rockhopper on and off until I was about 15 and was then given a hardtail Specialized Rockhopper for my birthday. I rode that bike to the ground and continued building skill alongside my sister. It tremendously helped to have an active family and a mother who planned fun bike adventure trips on weekends throughout the year. Starting off on hardtail mountain bikes was a blessing too, as I learned how to pick fast lines through technical sections.

What was the motivation to start competing in mountain bike races? What inspired you to start competing at the Pro level?

A few of my friends I rode with suggested I give racing a try for fun. I had raced Downhill before, but the idea of racing XC was a little intimidating, to say the least! My friend lent me his Specialized S-Works and I raced it (clipping in for the first time on a mountain bike) and I was soon hooked! I sold my hardy all-mountain bike and converted to the cross country life haha! I started off in the "Beginner" category and my times quickly started matching those racing as "Pro's", so I felt more ready to upgrade and race against stronger women.

What would you say is the biggest change for you since starting to compete at the Pro level?

I definitely take riding and my training more seriously. I have sponsors I want to please and represent, as well as fitness goals I want to maintain/meet so my rides are often more intense and scheduled throughout the week.

With racing in general, what have you discovered about yourself?

I have learned how to set aside pain and re-direct my thoughts to something else when racing. You often have to sit in that box of pain and talk yourself down as your mind starts asking, "Why am I doing this again?" I have found racing isn't simply based on physical fitness, but mental strength as well.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for folks looking to attend their first competitive event?

Just keep it all fun! Experiment with nutrition and find what does/doesn't work for you regarding fuel prior, during, and after. Set a goal as far as how well you want to perform and work on the fulfilling the steps that will get you there.

Clips or flats? What do you like and why?

I was 100% for flats because the idea of being clipped into a 42 pound Downhill bike and falling, wasn't very appealing haha! Your performance increases drastically with clips. I regret being so closed minded about them. You release so much more torque being clipped in. I'm never going back to flats!

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
During my first race as a Pro, I had a very immature competitor foul play me in an attempt to shake me off. Her unprofessionalism almost ended up with me over the bars in a ditch. What she had schemed for the bad, however, I used for the good and powered harder into 2nd place behind my sister who earned top box that day. The racing community is large, and yet very small and there are often certain individuals who lack morals, skill, and integrity. I have learned that in order to stay focused and represent your passion to your best ability, it is best to avoid negative energy and those who enjoy the drama or produce it.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Remaining seated during steep climbs is a skill I have been working on. You lose power the minute you get out of the saddle. Simple repetition and strengthening muscle while forcing myself to sit, has helped tremendously!

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?

Taking high jumps on a Downhill bike! I always am a little more heavy to the left when I am in air and I can feel it the minute I land. It might be due to the curve in my back; I'm not sure. I don't let it drag me down by understanding that it is an area in biking I may not be able to improve based on my physical form.

What do you love most about having a sister that you can regularly ride and train with?

I love that I have an automatic best friend with me to share in the good and bad times. We girl talk, cry, and vent as we train. I know her like the back of my hand. When she is weak, I am her strength; when I am weak, she is mine. God has blessed me tremendously with her in my life. I am more than grateful I can train with her.

When it comes to riding and racing, do you and your sister enjoy the same styles or are there differences?
Although we are a lot alike, we are quite different in our styles. She likes going "all out" on downhill segments. She loves speed and her technical skills and guts are top notch! If the track is super technical, I am a little more reserved from a few almost serious close calls involving my neck on my Downhill bike. I've had my bike land on my back and the seat of my Downhill bike get caught in the Leatt around my neck. Other than that, we pretty much mirror each other.

What do you love about riding your bike?

Climbing mountains :)

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?

I have Trek Top Fuel 9.9. Absolutely love it!!! The bike is the best of both worlds. It's like a Thoroughbred when I'm climbing, and just as fast when I descend. I took it down some of the runs at our local bike park (don't tell my mechanic haha) and it handled everything really well for a cross-country bike. My mechanic pointed me in the right direction as he always does! I also have a Specialized Tarmac I purchased from a friend and love him just as much!

Any words of wisdom that you would like to pass on for other women who may be curious about mountain biking?
Feel the fear and do it anyway!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?

For some of my girlfriends, the idea of falling and getting hurt completely holds them back. I understand and can see it from their perspective, it's just a matter of going out, having fun, and continually working on your skill.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?

Probably promoting more women-centered rides and clubs at local bike shops. We are in this together!
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Riding with guys is always entertaining and I learn from them, but doing so doesn't compare to
training with women. There's a unity on a different level that can be reached. Plus, guys simply can't girl talk or understand certain things that women can. I am always inspired to teach and join women on rides because there aren't too many of us out there!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

I love horseback riding as much as biking and miss my horse!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Josie's Guide to Fall/Winter Layering.

Photo Credit: Touch The Sky Blue
I will be 100% honest, I absolutely suck with knowing for sure what to wear on any given day during the fall/winter/spring months when temps are 50 and below. It's been a struggle for multiple seasons, and each fall Travis says "You should start a journal!"

I think "Great idea!" and subsequently do nothing. I found a website about 2 years ago that I used religiously, until they relocated and that handy guide went into oblivion. Drat. Now I was stuck looking at various sites and wishing I could find something as good as I had found.
Then I said..."Maybe you should create your own?"
Well, now, isn't that a genius idea?

So, without further adieu, this is my temperature/layering guide. What works for me may not work for you. I may have Raynaud's, too, which further complicates things when it comes to keeping my hands/feet warm. I'll throw in my two-cents on a few choice gear items that I love, and leave the rest up to you! Full disclosure, I live in Iowa.

This may not be the best guide for folks who live in warmer climates.

50-60° F/ 10-15.6° C
When temperatures are hovering around the 50's to 60's you might feel chilly at the start, but on a sunny day you'll warm up quickly. Start with a short sleeve jersey, shorts and arm warmers/sun sleeves if you're riding gravels/roads. You might try arm warmers up on the mountain bike trails, too, but you will be in trees so not as exposed to wind. Use an arm covering that is lightweight (not thermal) as you are simply looking to cut the crispness. Nice thing about arm warmers/sleeves is they are light and easily packed away once you warm up. For roads/gravels, even mountain biking- folks will wear fingerless gloves. Personally I prefer a lightweight full-finger glove to keep sun exposure at a minimum and to help further with avoiding scraping up my hands/knuckles if I were to crash. Wool socks may not be a bad idea, tho I'll typically wear whatever SockGuy sock I pull out of my drawer. Wool is a wicking material and can keep you warm if your feet get cold easily. I almost always wear sunglasses- but if it's not bright and you want to help avoid watery eyes due to temps, throw on some glasses with clear lenses! It's really helpful if you're blasting down a hill- you'd be surprised how your eyes can water in cooler temps.
40-50° F/ 4.5-10° C
I find this temperature range to be tricky, especially if it is cloudy and humid (aka damp cold.)

Sunny, closer to 50 degrees, and no wind: Long sleeve jersey and maybe a wind-breaking vest. Otherwise I'll go with a lightweight, long-sleeve Smartwool base layer or a Craft Warm baselayer and a short-sleeve jersey. A wind jacket/vest all depends on the chill and how much riding on the road I'm doing. If I'm hitting the trails right away, I'll tough it out and skip the jacket/vest.

On gravels or roads, I would opt to go with a wind jacket that can be tucked away in a jersey pocket. This is where layering is good- you can remove anything you don't need after you warm up- the objective during cooler weather days is to start cold but have yourself warmed up mid-ride.

During a race when it was 44 degrees and damp-cold I wore a long-sleeved base layer, a short-sleeved jersey, and my Element 1.0 jacket. I definitely worked up a sweat.

Some folks might opt for bibs for additional core warmth.

These temps I'll often break out non-thermal knicker tights (especially in the 45-40 degree range) but you can likely do the trick with lightweight knee warmers, too. It's all about preference, where you're riding, and what works for you.

You might opt for a lightweight headband to wear over your ears and wind-front, long-fingered gloves if you're riding in temps below 45 and on roads. If you're mountain biking you may not need to go the wind-front route.

35-40° F/ 2-4.5° C

When temps start dipping below 40, it's a good idea to cover up more. Instead of layering as much, I might grab a long-sleeved thermal jersey and put a wind-breaking vest over the top. If it's closer to 40 and sunny I might wear a base-layer under a non-thermal, long-sleeved jersey (when mountain biking). I might experiment with wearing wearing my Element 1.0 jacket and a lightweight base layer for temps closer to the mid-30's and if it's cloudy or windy. Wind-front or Deflect gloves will typically come out, and I'll be wearing non-thermal tights (sometimes with a pair of baggies over top, for additional wind-breaking if necessary.) Wind jackets are awesome and they can keep you surprisingly warm! I wouldn't shy away from wearing one this time of year. In addition, I'll wear something over my ears more times than not- likely a thermal headband. You might find an additional sock layer to be a good thing and if clipping in for road riding, some toe covers or shoe covers.

30-35° F/ -1-2° C
Now we're getting into freezing temps where keeping your extremities covered is vital. Thermal tights are a great investment- some come with a chamois pad and others you can wear over shots/liner shorts. Do not neglect to invest in a pair of wind-front tights. They are thermal, but have more of a wind-front covering to the front that can be just as important as the thermal quality. Those would be ideal for gravel/road rides. Heavier, warmer gloves and some thermal shoe covers (for road/gravel riders) aren't a bad idea. I tried out with the Deflect H20 gloves last winter and quite liked them. This time of year we start using Bar Mitts on our off-road/commuter bikes, for most folks, Bar Mitts or a similar brand keep your hands from being exposed to the wind and elements. This may allow you to wear lighter weight gloves, however, I have Raynaud's so even with Bar Mitts I have a hard time keeping my hands warm. Without Bar Mitts, you'll want to break out some heavier gloves and more weather-resistant shoe covers (or weather-resistant shoes).
I'll usually start with a softshell jacket, a base layer, and either a lightweight long-sleeve or a thermal long sleeve depending if there is sun or not. Sunnier days=warmer and eliminates the need for thick layers. If I'm wearing a jacket, I try to do what I can to layer smart so I don't have to take it off and stow it.

A thermal skull cap or thermal headband, maybe both under your regular helmet (if you aren't wearing a winter helmet already) to keep your ears covered.

A neck gaiter or a Buff to keep air off your neck isn't a bad idea. If it's damp-cold you might find it helpful for breathing.

25-30° F/ -4--1° C
If you haven't already invested in Bar Mitts or a similar product, do so!

In temps like this, some sort of lobster-claw glove will help keep your fingers warmer.

Folks may find wearing a light-weight balaclava with a winter helmet is sufficient to keep their face/ears/head warm. For those who can't stand wearing balaclavas, I would recommend a wool neck gaiter or a wool Buff.

I will use a winter skin stick from JTreeLife, but you might consider using Vaseline or some sort of thicker lotion to keep yourself from getting windburned. Protecting any exposed skin is important!

You can use a traditional helmet if you layer up, I've done this on warmer 30-degree days. You might use both a thermal cap/headband or balaclava and headband. Some might use a cover over their helmet. A winter helmet usually will have ear covering and vents you can open up to regulate your temp.

If it's on the colder side, you might use thermal arm warmers or knee warmers under your shirt/tights.

I've had great success with the Craft Warm base layer and my Specialized 686 jacket. The jacket has zippers for venting, which is important to keep sweating minimal (sweating=cold). The jacket protects me against the elements & I like the added thumb hole sleeve so I can keep my wrists covered with my gloves.

I can wear a light & small Camelbak type hydration pack under the jacket.

I'll break out my Craft Storm tights when it's closer to the 25 degree temps. If it's closer to 30, I may stick with wind-front or thinner, thermal tights and wear baggies over top.

25° F/ -4° C and below…
Craft Storm tights, all the way. I haven't tried out the updated design- but I sure love the ones I have. If it's below 25 degrees into the negatives, I won't shy away from wearing knickers or full-length (non-thermal) tights under. I'll try to wear goggles, but I often have the battle with them fogging up on me. I'll usually stick to sunglasses. I still have fogging here and there, but it's helpful to not have direct bitter cold slamming into my eyeballs.

I'll use plastic bags in my boots, too, for added warmth. I was told to try socks, plastic bag, and sock over top the bag.

I'll wear my Craft Warm base layer and a thermal long-sleeved jersey under my 686 jacket for the coldest temps. Sometimes I'll break out a thermal jersey with a hood that will fit under my helmet if I don't want to deal with the possibility of cold on my neck.

Bar Mitts and the H20 gloves are my usual go-to setup. I might break out lobster-style gloves if I have to, but I struggle with how awkward it is to work my brakes/shifting. You can always take a hot hands pack or two with you!

A winter helmet is definitely a great investment for temps in this range.

So there you have it, a basic "what to wear" in the Midwest for cold weather riding. Almost all of this
is applicable for both road/mtb, but remember with mountain biking- you will be less exposed to the elements in the woods. So don't be afraid to nix the wind jacket once you're in the trees!

Everyone is different and some stuff will work for one while it won't work well for the other. To be honest- I'm still figuring stuff out, but I've found a couple pieces of gear that definitely work and that does make a huge difference!

Be open to experimenting and remember, if you recreate outside in the winter already (say skiing/snowshoeing) you'll likely have gear that will work for fatbiking. You'll warm up quick; so bundle up and hit the trails this season!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Ann Felteau

I started mountain biking in Minnesota in 1991 on a fully rigid Trek 830. I loved it so much I immediately returned the bike and upgraded to the Trek 970 and the love affair grew from there.

I now live in Golden Colorado where I can ride to almost countless miles of trail from my doorstep. Something was calling me to Colorado in 1993 and once I was here there was no looking back.



I met my husband before a ride with my friends at the Mount Falcon parking lot in Morrison Colorado. I was more interested in his shiny 2000 gold Homegrown Schwinn than I was interested in him! Our VW camper van, named Iggy after Ignaz Schwinn, was our touring/biking vehicle for over 15 years! We still have Iggy but recently added a new van to the family with a bathroom, furnace and more space so that we can go on longer adventures. My husband and I hit the road for a 6 month ‘forever Spring’ tour discovering new trails and meeting amazing people in Arizona, Nevada, up and down the California coast and Utah. It was truly one of the best experiences of our lives.

After 2 previous failed attempts due to VW van trouble and other unexpected plans, he finally proposed to me on Georgia Pass (symbolic of my husband’s home state) while mountain biking the Kenosha /Georgia Pass ride in 2001. Three times a charm!

I’ve raced off and on for many years but I don’t take it too seriously so as not to lose my passion for the sport. One of my favorite races was the 24hrs of Moab. A small tent city was erected just South of town every year for a truly memorable event. Currently, I’m on the Pedal Pushers KIND Racing team representing Cafe13, Pedal Pushers Cyclery, SCOTT Bikes, KIND Snacks and Maxxis Tires. I’m currently riding SCOTT’s Contessa Spark RC 700 carbon race bike. Despite some injuries, I’m really jazzed to mention that I took 2nd place in a recent 50k race!

I love volunteering at races, saying ‘hello’ to other trail users while I’m out riding and simply experiencing good flow on a beautiful day!

I’m a Transformational Nutrition Coach helping women get wellness and movement back in their lives after injury, surgery or getting lost in the corporate grind. I’ve also worked in high tech for over 25 years and have touched almost every industry. I enjoy pulling together large teams working toward a common goal. However, long days, unrealistic deadlines and too many emails have brought me to burn out too many times. Between my personal injuries and corporate burnout, I have a lot of tools to help others bring health and movement back into their lives.

Links:
http://www.annfelteau.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ann.felteau
https://www.pinterest.com/annfelteau/
https://www.instagram.com/anningolden/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/annfelteau/

Tell us more about the introduction to your #bikelife and how your passion for cycling grew from that experience-
I grew up playing with the boys and we spent most of our time on bikes because they offered freedom and fun. However, the sport of mountain biking formally took off during college. I was introduced to the trails in Duluth Minnesota, got hooked, and asked for help to buy my first bike as a college graduation gift from my parents.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what inspired you to keep at it?
Wow, to go back to 1991… Like I mentioned, my first riding was in Duluth Minnesota. I had to borrow a bike to ride because I didn’t own a mountain bike yet. It’s so wet in Minnesota that we went riding in the rain, in the mud, and with slick, wet roots. Hartley Park offered the first trails I ever rode. I loved the tight winding single track, being outdoors, and the beautiful views. I aspired to get better so I could keep up with my boyfriend.

What inspired you to participate in competitive mountain bike events? What did you learn from your experiences?
I simply love the atmosphere and camaraderie at the races. I love being outside and with others who love the sport. I never bore watching or talking about mountain biking. So, I’d have to say it was friends and like-passioned people.

I learned that I get wicked nerves before a race, that my pain threshold is higher than I ever knew, and that once the race starts I get laser focused melting everything else away. I also learned that I don’t like forcing my passion into a training regimen. My love is being outside, the trails, the views, and testing my limits.

How do you strike balance with participating in events, preparing yourself for them, yet not burning yourself out?

We are all wired differently and I’m not wired to put my all into prepping and participating in events. I ride with a light focus on training by choosing certain days for easy rides, hard rides with intervals, long rides, and rest. I have a pretty good base built up after riding for over 25 years, so fitness and strength in the sport come together well. I also stay hydrated, practice yoga regularly, see a personal trainer, go on walks often, eat clean, and get to bed early. It’s really a lifestyle that doesn’t even need to be tied to participating in events but rather simply doing what’s best for my body, mind, and soul.

Any suggestions or tips for folks who have yet to attend their first event?

Find a group that provides community. There are many women’s specific groups that offer no-drop rides, skills clinics, and great education on what to expect and how to prepare for an event. You’ll not only make new friends but you’ll have a great support system cheering you on! They can ask their local bike shop about local women’s clubs and teams or they can even look for a mountain biking Meetup.

Clips or flats? What works for you?
I’ve been a clip rider since 1995 so I rarely use flats. If I’m on a hardcore skills training session I’ll put on flats but otherwise I ride everything clipped in.

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’ve witnessed and experienced countless ‘biffs’ that physically and/or mentally affected me. I have such a deep passion for mountain biking that I am always jonesing to get back on the trail. However, some of the injuries were so severe they required major surgery. Here are some of the things I did to overcome the loss, depression, fear, and sadness:
Got laser-focused on my health, physical therapy, and fully healing
Journaling - put my feelings on paper, celebrated progress and accomplishments no matter how small
Talked to others who’d recovered from the same injury
Added other activities to the mix
Once I was back on the bike, I took a skills clinic to help with confidence

Told myself often that “You have to start somewhere” which gave myself continuous affirmation that it’s ok to be where I’m at and I’m getting better from here.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Looking where I wanted to go vs. what I was trying to avoid. That is one of the most important fundamental skills with riding. It’s amazing what you can ride when you don’t look at that big rock, root, or cliff! However, if you do want to ride over the rock or root, don’t break, keep some speed and you’ll be amazed at what you cleanly roll over.

Other more advanced skills were switchbacks and getting the front wheel up. There are a few tricks that work for switchbacks: Go wide and turn early, but most importantly, look where you want to go. When you are in the turn look ahead and down the trail and your body and bike will take you there.

I was on a fully rigid bike when I first started riding so the technique to unweight the front wheel and get it up was different. However, with full suspension, I love practicing the timing of weighting the front fork to then lighten and lift it to get the wheel up an obstacle. I then stand and bring my weight forward for the final pedal stroke bringing the rear wheel over. You can really feel the flow of it when you do it right.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I’m very inconsistent with cornering. Sometimes when the trail conditions are just right I can tell that I’m leaning my bike into a corner. However, I don’t have the feel of my tires hooking up in the corners mastered, so I don’t fully trust my tires and know their limits. So, I’ll find myself slowing down, getting rigid, or using my fat head to lean over which is a big no-go!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the feeling of flow and being immersed in nature. Getting away from concrete, crowds, and the sounds of lawn mowers to enjoy the peace and beauty that only the outdoors can offer is very soul-fulfilling for me. I love accomplishing a long climb, figuring out tech, and the bouncy splashy flow of a great descent. I also love it when I’m faster and better than the guys!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?

My current bike is the 2017 Scott Spark Contessa. It’s a beautiful, 27.5” light, fast, carbon fiber cross county race bike. I love the 1x12 gearing with the 50-tooth eagle bail out, 3-level suspension lockout, larger front brake rotor, and slacker head angle making the bike really stable at high speeds. After riding a custom built Santa Cruz carbon XC Blur for 6 years I chose Scott because I know many Scott owners who love their bikes, world-class racers are on Scott, and most importantly, I really liked the riding and handling feel when I demo’d the bike. It was the right next bike for me and my style of riding.

You originally started biking in Minnesota, tell us where your favorite areas were to mountain bike-
There weren’t a lot of trails available in Minnesota when I started riding in the early 90’s. In fact, even the local ski resorts hadn’t caught on to the summer money-maker yet. Most of my riding and learning was in Duluth, the Lutsen ski area, and along Lake Superior. The introduction was perfect for me because the trails were interesting, challenging and beautiful. Though my love affair started in Northern Minnesota, it took a completely new shape when I moved to Colorado in late 1993. Front range, high altitude, and desert terrain opened up such a vast diversity of riding. I remember the early days in Moab, Fruita, Grand Junction, Keystone, Winter Park… It’s hard to select a favorite.

Out of the places you have traveled, where would be your favorite destination for biking?

How can I choose a single favorite destination? I loved all the riding we discovered in Utah’s Wasatch mountains and the Park City area. Durango is a close second and there were some pretty cool trails we discovered in Arizona and along the California coast last year. Since I live in Colorado I live at a perfect riding destination, so some of the best local trails are just a short ride out my front door.

What do you love most about having a husband who enjoys riding with you?
This is the best question of them all! I love riding, trails, the outdoors, and my husband. To have the opportunity to combine all of these loves and passions feeds me beyond measure. I feel like our marriage is stronger because we share the same passion and enjoy the sport together. We support each other, make sure we each get much needed time in the saddle and know it’s a priority for each of us.

Any suggestions/tips for couples who want to ride together? Especially those who may not be on the same experience level?

Patience and communication. My husband and I are generally well-suited riding partners though he’s much stronger and faster than me overall. There are days when he makes it clear that he needs to do his own thing and I don’t take it personally. There are days we start together then split up, ride together but gap each other if one’s having a stronger climbing day, or stay together the whole ride. Know and set your expectation ahead of time, don’t take it personally and don’t leave someone behind at a fork in the trail. If the intention is to ride together then my plea is for the stronger person to slow down and ride with their partner. It’s a gift of your time, shows respect, and they’ll love the sport more for it!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Not knowing where or how to start and the fear of getting hurt. Bike shops are becoming more female-friendly and patient with new riders by helping them select good basic gear, providing help with fit, and offering introductory maintenance and skills clinics. Some women’s passion for the sport transcends injury where they can’t wait to recover to get back on the bike. However, there are many women that just want to stay fit and ride with their boyfriend, husband, or friends.

A good local shop, club, or group can help with their fear of the unknown, provide riding tips, and direct them to the best beginner trails. Or, even better, take them out on their first ride.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
The sport and industry aren’t as ‘silent’ as they used to be. Mountain biking has become a much more mainstream sport and the collective user group voice is driving great strides in product, user needs, and trail access. Because of that, I’m going to focus on some of the local and industry changes that I see are already making a difference:
There are more women’s teams and clubs available than ever before.
Co-ed teams are getting really strong female representation.
There are groups specifically supporting kids, helping get them on bikes and on the trails.
Many high schools are adding mountain biking as an available sport.
Companies are offering more women’s specific products like bikes, clothing, gear, and fuel.
Because of communications on social media, bike shops are learning that women are a valid demographic and should be treated with respect, given time and energy, and provided great service.
More high-end used bikes are available for sale making an introduction to the sport more accessible.
There are Facebook groups with a focus on communicating local trail conditions and minimizing trail conflict amongst different user groups with very active female contributors.
Other experienced riders, both men and women, enjoy helping new riders with skills and confidence development.
There are trail maintenance teams that offer volunteer opportunities for all trail users. It’s a great way to meet new people and give back to the sport and community.

With apps like MTB Project and Trailforks, all users have more access to trail beta.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love the sport and activity so much that I simply love seeing other women grow in strength and confidence on the bike. It inspires me when I see others grow in their love of the outdoors, trails, the thrill of earning the descent after a long climb, and the joy and confidence earned after making a technical section.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am going through a major career change! I started my career as an engineer and then moved in to program management and consulting in high tech. However, I’ve always had a passion for nutrition, wellness, and sport. I now have my certification as a Transformational Nutrition Coach (CTNC) and I’m working with people who’ve experienced a setback due to illness, injury, or a busy life to bring a healthy and active lifestyle back to their Every-Day. I am so jazzed to keep learning and to help others that I’m continuing more core education and starting a Master’s program. You can find more information at annfelteau.com.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Being A Fear(Less) Woman

Growing up, I had an idyllic picture painted of how my future would go. I wanted to get married and have my first kid before I was 31 years old. Ideally, I had the idea I should have 3 kids and they should all be born before I was 31 or 33 at most. I would live in a house, have some sort of job I loved, or be a stay-at-home mom. I would have a happy life where there would be few squabbles and I would feel safe, secure, and content.

Real life slapped me in the face.

I married young and would strive to be the best wife I possibly could be. I didn't know what I was doing, but having a job, making supper, doing the dishes and laundry...you know...being a domestic goddess. It was a humble existence where I felt overall content, but I had nothing else to base it off of.
It was lonely a lot of the time, as my then husband worked on the road several days at a time. I would say my goodbyes on Monday morning and not see him again until Friday evening. 


That was life.
I was living solo about 90% of the time and I had a roommate the rest of the time.
I worked during the week and made time for simple chores of laundry, dishes, cleaning, and supper-making.
Life was a ritual. 
I was numb inside.

Same circles of disagreements would occur.
Soon weekends together were taken away by alcohol.
I was lost.
I was afraid. 
What was I going to do?

I bought a bicycle.
I was afraid to ride a bike to work, but I wanted to give it a try.
I think I was trying to reclaim some sort of sense of self along with wanting to prove to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to.
I was tired of fear.
I was exhausted of the unknown.
I wanted to find myself.
I wanted to be free.

My first ride to work on my bike was petrifying and I walked about 80% of the way. It got better from there. Soon I found myself riding the paved trail for my morning exercise, and what originally gave me fear started to give me strength.
Along the way, I met someone, and I didn't expect things to happen the way they did- but it did.
I had to make some life-changing choices, and one of those was to accept that my marriage was a failure and not to look at it as a bad thing, but a life lesson.

I wanted to share more, I wanted to live more, and I wanted to be more.
I couldn't allow fear to stand in my way of having a better life.
I crunched numbers.
I made sacrifices.
I cut the ties.
I'm coming up on a very special day, and one I wasn't expecting to do a second time.
You would think I wouldn't be nervous, but I am...just a little bit.
There are so many emotions tied to the event...the decision. I'm overflowing with anticipation, excitement, and a new sense of self.
With my first marriage, I was excited to change my last name. This time, I'm proud to keep my last name as my own- because it has become a part of me. 
I am fearless- even tho I still have fear. I acknowledge it and I know that I have the power to change the hold it may have on me at any given time.

fear·less
ˈfirləs/
adjective

lacking fear.
"a fearless defender of freedom"

synonyms: bold, brave, courageous, intrepid, valiant, valorous, gallant, plucky, lionhearted, heroic, daring, audacious, indomitable, doughty;
unafraid, undaunted, unflinching;
informalgutsy, gutty, spunky, ballsy, feisty, skookum
"fearless warriors"

My picture of life changed dramatically from the musings of an 18-19 year old. No longer am I dreaming of a home with three children- well, at least human children. I was finally able to release my insecurities of not fitting a "correct" mold of a female and said "motherhood just isn't for me, and that's okay." I love the idea of influencing the next generation of mountain biking girls and women- that fulfills me. Three cats, the kitty kids, take care of the rest. I know this is the best decision for me- I (we) have a lot of living yet to do!

Security has been achieved, for how well a person can feel in this day and age; a job in which I can grow with and work with the cycling community. A humble home that I fell in love with, and a partner in life who I can live and ride bikes with. I have someone to go on adventures with. We push each other to be the best we can be- and that's not an easy task. Someone usually pushes back, until they realize maybe, just maybe, they should give it a try. 

Life may have ups and downs. Working with someone and living with someone on a daily may not be
the easiest thing a person can choose to do- but we made that choice- an imperfectly, perfect, choice. This time around, I have a better idea of myself and I have lived more fully than I ever lived before.
I am Josie Smith. I am Fearless.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Women Involved Series: Lauren Hutchins

In addition to mountain biking, I enjoy road cycling, fat biking (when we get enough snow) trail running, snowboarding and hiking. Pretty much all things outdoors. I was born in KY, grew up in GA, moved to WI and lived there for 7 years. In WI I was introduced to road cycling and then mountain biking a couple years later.

My husband (Travis) and I moved to NC in August of 2015 so that we could live in the mountains and have an all of the things that we love most in our backyard. We have two dogs and a cat. Between the two of us, have about 10 bikes. I am an occupational therapist. I've been working in pediatrics for the past few years, and am now transitioning to the adult population.

In the biking world, I've done a couple xc style races and one fat bike race across a frozen bay in Lake Superior. I just really enjoy riding my bike and exploring new trails. Since moving to the mountains, I've had to work on my technical riding skills especially steep descents and rocky climbs. (WI has beautiful trails, but they are pretty tame compared to the trails around here). I've recently started riding some more rugged and remote trails and I love the feeling of being out in the woods with just my bike and friends. I'm hoping to start some bike-packing in the future.

Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/Belljoyrideboonenc/
Instagram: @the_cycling_ginga_ninja

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how cycling has influenced you- 
I started cycling when I moved to Appleton, WI. I was mainly into trail running but it seemed like all the new friends I made were much more into cycling. I purchased a road bike, joined local group rides. It was a really great way to meet new friends. Nicole Worden, the owner of Chain Reaction Cyclery, was a big help in getting me started. I was introduced to mountain biking a couple years after road biking, there really aren't too many mountain bike trails near Appleton. My first couple years of riding were just going occasionally a couple times a month to the local trails in Suamico, WI. I really enjoyed being in the woods and the new challenge of mountain biking, but it took me a very long time to develop any real skills since I was riding so infrequently. 

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what inspired you to keep at it?
My first couple rides were fun and frustrating at the same time. I didn't understand the basics of body position, bike handling, momentum, etc. You name it, I was more than likely doing it wrong. I felt very uncoordinated and awkward, but I enjoyed the connection with nature and the challenge it presented so I just kept trying.

With the cycling events you've done, what did you enjoy most about the experience?
I love the people at mountain bike events. They are fun, encouraging, and know how to have a good time! There's also a great connection at events with other ladies. Although the sport is growing in popularity with women, we are usually the minority at events and I love that other women are so encouraging on the trail.
Your mountain bike journey started in Wisconsin, tell us about the trails you rode and which one(s) were your favorite(s)- 
I think the CAMBA trail system in WI is top notch. There's a great variety of trails to ride, and the volunteers that maintain the trails are fabulous. I have to give a shout to the trails in La Crosse, WI, this is where I really learned to ride technical features. There was a weekly ladies mountain bike ride and these ladies really helped me learn the basics of riding so that I could conquer some of the obstacles that I felt so intimidated by. The trail system in La Crosse is unique and challenging, they just suffered extensive trail damage due to flooding, and I was so inspired by the efforts of so many volunteers to get the trails back in shape for a WORS race.

In your current location, where do you love riding most?
The local trail in Boone, NC is Rocky Knob, it is an awesome trail system complete with a jump line, pump track, lots of climbing, but then lots of descending. I also love riding in Wilson Creek which is part of the Grandfather District of Pisgah National Forest. Wilson Creek is a beautiful place to explore waterfalls, swimming holes, tunnels of rhododendron, but it's also pretty remote and easy to get lost. It's recommended to go with someone that knows the area on your first couple rides.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all? 
I started out using clipless pedals, I was pretty comfortable with these from road biking. If you've never used them, I suggest riding around in a big grassy area and practicing unclipping 50 times on both the left and right before you hit the trail. I've switched to flat pedals because I realized that I was relying on being attached to my bike when I ride, and my technique was suffering. I've been riding flats for about a year, and feel more confident with my abilities. It made me focus on body position and I feel like I am riding better now.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome? 
My biggest "biff" happened on a section of road when we (my husband, brother, and I) were riding home from a trail system. An oncoming car lost control in a curve an came into our lane. I managed to miss the car and went over the guardrail, the car slammed into my brother who was riding just behind me. It was terrifying, luckily his injuries were broken bones and road rash, but he did have a long recovery process. Physically, I was fine, just a few scrapes and bruises, but it was mentally and emotionally difficult. Even though the accident happened on the road, it took me a while to even want to ride my bike again. I took a break from riding for several weeks, because I couldn't get on the bike without hearing the crash over and over. Sometimes you need a break, and that's ok. I had to tell myself it was fine to take a break and I stuck with trail running, and hiking for a little while until I mentally recovered.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Everything was challenging for me! The best advice I have is to trust your bike and look ahead. Looking ahead at the trail and knowing that your bike is capable to handle the trail will solve a lot of problems you face.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I have a hard time with drops, I can do small ones and I know I have the ability to ride bigger ones but I still get intimidated. I used to get really hung up on it, but now I just ride my bike if I feel good I go for it, if I don't I walk. The beauty of mountain biking is no one really cares if you walk a section. Ride to your abilities and comfort level, you have good days and bad days, who cares if you have to walk. You're out riding your bike, enjoy it.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Descending! 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My last bike was a Santa Cruz, Juliana with 26 inch wheels. I loved that bike, but unfortunately, the framed cracked. Since Santa Cruz has an awesome warranty program, they offered to send me a new frame of my choice since they no longer made the Juliana I now have a Juliana Furtado, 27.5, I9 wheels (a great local North Carolina brand :) This bike can climb and descend! It has more travel than my previous bike which has given me the confidence to grow my skills.

Tell us about why you applied for the Bell Joy Ride program and what the program means to you- 
I was encouraged by my local bike club, Boone Area Cyclists, to apply. I was leading women's rides a few times a month and thought this would be a great way to grow the community of women riders in the area. The program has been awesome. My ride leaders are invaluable to the program and to me, and the program has connected so many women across the region.

Why do you feel programs like the Joy Ride program are important?
Mountain biking can be intimidating, and the Joy Ride program is all about creating a fun, no-pressure atmosphere for women to connect and ride. It can be hard to find other ladies to ride with, and the Joy Ride program is creating an opportunity to make those connections.

Tell us why you feel women should apply for programs like Joy Ride or those similar, even if they might not be chosen- 
If you are applying it means you are already passionate about more women on bikes. Even if you don't get chosen, talk to your local shops, and find out who your reps and dealers are you can make it happen on a local level.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
As a whole, I think we are self-conscious (myself included) and the sport is intimidating. The bike itself is intimidating, I am not mechanically inclined; you need to understand bike set-up, how to change a flat, which chain lube to buy...the list goes on and on. It can get overwhelming, and it's easier to stick with running, hiking, swimming, etc where the gear needed is very minimal.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?

We have to appeal to all types of women, not just athletes. The utilitarian aspect of cycling and biking is a great way to add biking to your life. Commuting, running errands, touring, bike-packing are other ways to introduce cycling to women.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love taking beginners out and introducing them to the sport. It is so fun to watch them tackle a new feature or section of the trail that was once difficult for them.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love pickles

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fearless Women of Dirt Unite! - The Grit Clinic Experience

A couple months ago, a friend of mine who is the epitome of a rad woman, asked if I could have interest in her coming to Decorah and leading a FWD Grit Clinic. She's an IMBA 1 Certified instructor and would be able to lead a clinic to teach new and experienced riders some of the basic, but very important skills that we may or may not learn as we enter the world of mountain biking.

Of course, I thought this idea sounded absolutely amazing, and I struggled to find a weekend that could potentially work with Casey's time frame and mine. September 22nd-24th ended up being the weekend of choice (Darn this whole getting married stuff!) and we went full-force into inviting folks and creating an event.

Registration was slow, but we were grateful that it picked up! We had a total of 6 women join (8 if you included Casey and myself) two of the women had never ridden a dirt trail before while the rest had some experience. One thing I have to stress is that if you are a seasoned rider but have never attended a skills clinic- you should do so! This was my second skills clinic and my first that truly covered basics. I was excited to listen and observe to how Casey went over skills so I could take away and (hopefully) better explain certain things when I lead rides. I was also humbled into knowing that even tho I thought I was doing everything correctly- I really wasn't. I was impressed!

Friday was a casual evening where a couple of us went over to Pulpit Rock to have a beverage and some conversation. It was nice to have some sit-down time and chat, get some #bikelife history going, and share a bit about why we love mountain biking.

Saturday was skills day and I was nervous! Nervous due to it being out of my usual work routine and I'd be helping out at a clinic. I was anxious over how I would do when it came to skills stuff. I was worried on whether folks would have a good time. Once everyone was set up with their bikes, we rolled over to River Trail so we could get the day started.

We were blessed with great weather, even tho that weather was humid and hot. It wasn't rain and it wasn't cold, so you can't really complain!

First up was learning about the three things you should always be doing-
Scanning 18-20 ft ahead
Covering brake levers
Level pedals
I was fine with two out of three, but I will admit I had gotten into a habit of not having my brake levers always covered. It was fun as we progressed into learning some skills, like the Neutral/Ready position and Bike/Body Separation, I would start increasing awareness on what I was doing or not doing. I totally caught myself several times without my pointer fingers on my brake levers- "Dangit!"

We worked on some additional skills and then went to my house that was close by for a little AC and restroom usage. We had a group ride on River Trail to take us to my house; our first group ride of the day! We went the less-twisty route, so folks who have never been on a dirt trail before could establish some comfort level with 1. riding on dirt and 2. not feel overwhelmed with all the new-ness of the day.

Our rest at the house was refreshing, and the cats (especially Figgy) were great little hosts!

Lunchtime was calling, so we went back on River Trail and rode to the trailhead, then we all biked up to Dunning's Springs Park to sit next to a cool stream and eat. Natural air conditioning! It's been awhile since I've seen the falls, they were beautiful. We let lunch digest a bit and went back to River Trail to work on more skills stuff before we headed off for our second group ride.
Casey wanted folks to see the pines, so I put together the most straight-shot route to Rocky Road I could and we walked and rode up that trail to the top. We had a long break at the top for everyone to get their lungs calm and to recover. The day had grown quite warm, so I knew it would be challenging with so much "up" however, once we got to the top it leveled off more. As a new rider when it comes to getting yourself to the easier trails there is usually always some sort of climb.
Everyone who is a new rider or doesn't ride in Decorah regularly loves Pines. Pines West and East I would say are great for cooling down from more intense rides. They are also good for working on speed; Pines East is great for working on speed with cornering. Both excellent to use for taking our lessons of the day and putting them to good use- level pedals (and what level pedals can mean besides literally having your feet level), covering brakes, being more separate from the bike, and proper cornering.
We looped back thru Pines East to Pines West, and towards the end of Pines West, Casey crashed. Fortunately, the injuries were minor, but it was a great opportunity to talk about how to react if you're with someone who's crashed and what to do. Not necessarily a lesson that one wants to learn, but a good one to go over if the opportunity presents itself. Once Casey gave the "all clear" we made our way down Rocky Road (much more enjoyable going down than up!) and went on Luge for our exit. I had the opportunity to whip my phone out in time to get pics of folks riding down, they were all smiles!

We went back on River Trail and back to the trailhead to dole out some raffle prizes! After that, those of us who were able went back to the bike shop and made way to Pulpit Rock for a post-ride beverage and some snacks. Let me tell you, the to Hop and to Hold was absolutely delicious after biking/skills on a hot and humid day!
All in all, I was really grateful for the experience to hang around rad women and see so much progress come from all of us- yes, even myself! It's a rare opportunity and one that I was so thankful to have. It was great to see the smiles and eyes light up when something "clicked" and they understood a new skill. That's why I love mountain biking- you have the opportunity to learn and continue to learn so much! I'd say there is unlimited growth- and that is why I love mountain biking so much and want to introduce more women to it.

Often times we say we "can't" but when we're presented an opportunity to learn and explore in a positive and encouraging environment- we start to learn that we CAN. We saw CAN happen...we saw TRY happen, and we saw DO happen.

A huge thank you to Casey for making this happen for Decorah- it's greatly appreciated!
Thank you to the women who signed up and made the clinic an absolute success It was awesome to spend the day learning and riding with you! Ride on!
Special Thanks goes to Decorah BicyclesChamois Butt'r, Specialized Bicycles, KETL, and Shebeest for donating items for the raffle!