Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Bike Life Adventures: Living the Happyness Life

It's not a typo, I legitimately wrote "happyness" and I'm not going to change it. Last year, I found a letter that my dad had written to me and he had written that he hoped my heart would be lined with happyness. I feel like that Y is important in the big picture of what this weekend represents for the continuation of my "Yes Year."

Let's go back to Friday- the day we left Decorah to make our way up to the Northwoods. I'm always excited about this drive as it's very scenic.

I love how the trees change the further you go up north; something about those pine trees resonates in my soul. I'm not sure why, but I am absolutely in love with the area. It's also an easy drive with minimal navigational requirements, and that makes it enjoyable for #TeamGreensmith to get out of town and somewhere else.

It's funny how we come from a town known for eagles, yet I get so damn excited every time I see one. For me, it's like dad is saying "Hi!" to us, and I was taking it as a good sign for the weekend.

We pulled into Hayward early afternoon and took the opportunity to figure out where to register for the Chequamegon 40 event. It took a little finagling, but we managed to get where we needed to go. The unfortunate part of Friday was the on and off again rain, plus the cooler fall-like temperatures. After getting our bags, we went out to do some exploration of the booths and socialize. I ran into Chelsea and we ran into some Decorah friends and inquired about the course. I will admit, I started to wonder if Chequamegon was really going to happen for me this year. We were told that it resembled more like last year than not. We then chatted with the folks at the Anderson's Maple Syrup booth where I procured some packets of their delicious dark maple syrup packets AND a big can of a rootbeer that had some of their maple syrup in it! From that booth, I saw Leia, and we made our way to say hi to her. Her pre-ride description had me question the idea of participating again.

I did a lot of thinking on the way back to our truck, and I then opened up a can of word vomit to Travis.

I really didn't want to see myself as a "quitter" but I did not want to put myself through something similar to what I did during 2018. I didn't have that kind of gumption in me. I've done the race in the worse possible conditions and it basically made me swear that I wouldn't do a race in conditions like that again unless I really, truly wanted to.

I didn't.

I knew what I would be up against. Not only challenging, muddy, and wet conditions- but knowing I would ultimately drop my chain numerous times. I did not train for this race, I did ride mountain bike trails a lot. I knew I could finish it, but I didn't care to put myself nor my bike through conditions like that again. I know my bike is an inanimate object, but McNasty is important to me and I did not desire to trash him out with sand-filled mud in every possible nook and cranny. I knew how I would feel after the fact- I would likely stay off my bike for a week and my neck and shoulder tightness would be awful. Putting forth that much effort during that distance really burns me out.

I had nothing to prove.

I looked over to Travis and said "I don't want to do it."
I came to terms with what I was saying and what it would mean.
I would DNS my first race, ever. Something I swore I'd never do.
I was rebelling against the rules I had set for myself since I started racing (If you could call it that...) and said "Yes" to doing me.
"Let's go mountain biking instead!"
Travis was all for that. (As I knew he would be.)

Before I continue on, let me say how grateful I am that Travis didn't really care what we decided to do so long as I was happy. He didn't say anything negative about my not wanting to race, even tho I had signed us up for it months ago. He knew it was a big decision for me. I knew it was a big decision for me. It was the right one.

After the discussion of our plans, we decided to visit the two bike shops in town. New Moon Cycle and Ski and it was a neat looking shop with a small cabin-like vibe. We didn't get the opportunity to talk to many folks there since it was busy, but I was super stoked to find a Camelbak pack that will be absolutely perfect for our Arizona trip and any other larger trips we have in store! I was thrilled with the size, storage, and soft-lined pocket that was a perfect size for my phone! The color was perfect, too! (Purple accents anyone?)
Then we visited Riverbrook Cycle and Ski which had an entirely different look both outside and in. This shop was located in a historic looking brick building and it had two full stories to work with. It's fun as a bike shop owner to see how other shops are laid out, what they have for inventory, how it's labeled, displayed, etc. Travis chatted at length with Cindy, one of the owners, who was completely awesome. So open and candid, I shared with her a little about Fearless Women of Dirt and being a fellow woman in the industry. I got a pair of cute sunglasses that were far more casual than my regular biking glasses and some of their special coffee blend. (The bag smells amazing and I hate that I have to wait to grind those beans!)

Let me tell you, I felt high on frickn' life.

We went over to the grocery store near the little motel we stay at to see what they had for some fun beer. After finding some options, we went to officially check in to our room to unpack. Not long after, we went to Angler's Bar and Grill for supper. I took a photo of my strawberry margarita and a funny picture on the wall but neglected to take a picture of my prime rib sandwich. (It was very good, and since I get prime rib maybe once a year, I was very happy.) I had also tried to take a picture of a stuffed badger looking kinda bug-eyed, but it didn't work out too well. (sad face.)
We went back to the motel room to chill out, watch a movie, and stay off the internet (since the wifi connection was back to being awful this year.) I didn't mind the break from technology as I knew I had gotten pretty sucked into my phone. Taking time to literally decompress, watch "regular" t.v., and get a foot rub while reading a book...that sounds like something you do on vacation, right?

We went to bed late and we didn't care! We weren't getting up at 4:30 in the morning to be ready to go place bikes. I even turned off my 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. alarms! Talk about luxury.

We woke up to my 7 a.m. alarm and had a lazy morning of watching a little bit of the Today Show. Once we were good and ready, we got dressed and headed over to the Norske Nook next to our motel and I had this amazing lefse wrap filled to the brim with sausage, eggs, and cheese. It was topped with hollandaise sauce and it was absolutely divine. I ate like 98% of it. #sorrynotsorry
After breakfast, it was time to go riding! We had to figure out the best route to go due to the event, and we ultimately ended up heading over to the Namakagon Cluster. We went to the Namakagon Town Hall trailhead and rode our way on the Namakagon trail over to the Rock Lake trailhead and continued on Rock Lake so I could finally ride down Wall Street, and eventually made our way back to the Namakagon trail via Patsy Lake. It was over 20 miles of a mix of intermediate to advanced riding with several mini victories along the way for me. It's amazing to know I was on Rock Lake in 2017 and would have been scared sh*tless to ride some of the stuff I rode at that point. It really helped me to put into perspective how I've grown as a rider.
At one point, we found a hiking path down to the most beautiful lake! It was amazing how quiet and serene it was. I could've sat on the ground and stared out over the water for hours. There was just enough color to the trees to make everything bright with lots of contrast.
Word to the wise, there are a lot of rounded rocks and it was a ride that I enjoyed for the challenge, but it sure did beat me up! I will say the Specialized Mimic Saddle definitely helped me out a lot!

We came back to town at a weird time, which was way past lunchtime, but too early for supper. My breakfast had kept me satiated all day! I absolutely loved how I was able to go through a day of riding and not feel hungry because of my breakfast. (Reading the F*ck It Diet.)

We killed some time at the grocery store and came back to the motel room to order pizza from Frankie's Pizza. My request was to have mushrooms on one half of it for myself- otherwise, I didn't care how simple or exotic it was. I don't consider myself a pizza connoisseur, but I did enjoy it. It was similar to our local pizza (Mabe's) but had in my opinion, a slightly thicker crust (yeah!) The mushrooms were big, too, and had a great texture. I have no complaints and would order it again. We relaxed, watched some Disney movies on t.v. (hooray!) and eventually went to bed.
I will say that I slept like sh*t for the past two days for whatever reason. I'll assume I was just so damn happy that I was living my "Yes Year" to the fullest, that I couldn't sleep.

Sunday morning we got up, I'll say somewhat reluctantly (I was reluctant...I wanted to sleep...damnit.) We got dressed and went to Hayward Family Restaraunt for breakfast where I had a delicious eggs benedict. I love eggs benedict and I won't apologize for my ordering it as often as I can. I have a hollandaise sauce addiction. (This breakfast would power me through a bunch of riding and our trip home. Can I say again how I love not feeling hungry all day?)
We went back to the motel and changed into riding clothes. Based on my experience in 2017 I found that after a rain, the trails hold up pretty well (similar to ours) so the plan was to accomplish another bucket list item and get ourselves to a trail named Flow Mama to ride Gravity Cavity (I rode it in the Borah Epic a few years back and hoped to get Travis to it at some point.) This meant driving to the OO trailhead to ride Seeley Pass to Flow Mama and back. Thankfully after the rain, the trails weren't bad and no worse than anything I've ridden here in Decorah conditions-wise (which I was grateful for!)
I had a great time rolling through the woods and announcing when I saw either beautiful colors or neat mushrooms. We did meet a few folks here and there on the trails, everyone seemed absolutely happy with being out on singletrack regardless if they were on foot or bike. We did get to Gravity Cavity and I opted to have us turn around after we rode that a few times- I will admit my body was feeling tired. I mean, we did do 20+ miles the day before, and we were going to be very close to 20 miles at the end of our Sunday ride. Overall, we had ridden over 40 miles of singletrack in two days!
I felt sad to leave, but I felt rejuvenated...at least until I realized that I had aggravated my left knee and it decided to blow up into a fluid-filled mess. Hindsight is 20/20 and maybe I pushed myself a little too hard, but also I felt that it was way worth having a fat knee after mountain biking over 40 miles rather than pushing myself in mud and crud and riding without happyness.

On our trip home, we decided that we would seek out a different adventure option for 2020 rather than returning to Hayward to continue on our Bike Life Adventures, a new series that I plan to start that will showcase our trips and the rides we go on. They might be few and far between, but I find this to be an extremely worthwhile route to go. I'll highlight the communities we visit as well as the trails- so I'm looking for recommendations on where YOU like to ride!

The biggest lesson I learned this year at Chequamegon was to be true to myself and find my happyness. Do what makes my heart and soul happy and excited, take care of my emotional well-being, and enjoy life to the fullest. Sometimes that means saying no to something in order to say yes to what will really make it worthwhile.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Specialized Power Saddle with Mimic Review

Shortly after becoming a Specialized Ambassador I was given the opportunity to demo a new saddle, the Specialized Power Saddle with Mimic. The concept of this saddle was intriguing, and I figured I didn't have anything to lose. I had a saddle I was currently running that I liked well enough, but you never know what can be improved unless you try.

The saddle I had been using had a cutout, which I thought worked well for long rides as well as mountain biking. I found out after my last Chequamegon 40 event that the cutout did not help me as much as I thought.

I had spent a lot of time in the saddle that day due to wet conditions and I found that I was not only numb for a while after the ride, but I had discomfort all over my lower half- sit bones, pubic bones, you name it. I was excited to have the opportunity to try new technology that could make my soft tissues happier.

It wasn't a perfect fit at first, truth be told, the Power Saddle might not be for everyone due to its unique shape. I struggled with the size that had been sent, which was a 155mm, as I felt like it irritated my sit bones and my inner thigh too much. Even with adjustments to angle, fore, and aft, I made the decision to try the 143mm size instead. When the smaller saddle arrived, I compared it to my previous favorite saddle and the shape of the rear looked more similar in size. I became hopeful!

Since figuring out the size of saddle that worked best for me, I have put that saddle on all of my mountain bikes. It's on my Specialized S-Works Epic, Specialized S-Works Epic HT, Specialized S-Works Epic Evo, and my Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper. I wanted to give myself the most consistent experience possible with having it on all of the bikes I would utilize during the riding season.

I was given another busy year with few gravel rides to be had, so most of my rides were mountain biking. One day I was feeling strong and decided to hit a 20-mile goal (20 miles of riding mostly Decorah singletrack. Doable? Yes. Challenging? Yes.) I figured it would be a good way of helping me to mentally prepare for Chequamegon, plus get a lot of butt-on-seat time. I wasn't going to make it easy, I had several climbs in mind for my ride that would keep my butt on the seat in order to crank them out.

I rode McNasty, my S-Works Epic which has the Down Under LTD. Power with Mimic Expert Saddle and I also wore Specialized Liner Shorts with SWAT under my Shredly Multi-Sport shorts.
The liner shorts have a 3-D chamois that you can find in other Specialized shorts, and I found that design to work super well with the saddle on previous rides, so it was a no brainer to wear them on this longer test ride.
Hours later after my ride was done, my butt was tired, but only because I had ridden for 20+ miles. Nothing hurt or felt numb and tingly- truly awesome! I've found that the Mimic technology has been super effective at increasing my comfort, especially when I'm putting out a lot of seated effort.

When it came to Chequamegon weekend, we opted to ride mountain bike trails instead, so we put in over 20 miles on that Saturday and nearly 20 miles that Sunday. I would say that my lower half was pretty tired after all of that riding, especially on Saturday due to how rocky and bumpy it was in the area we were riding. Was I numb? Nope! Chafed? Nope! Where I felt tired was to be expected and I was extremely happy with how the saddle performed.

What is special about this saddle is the Mimic technology used to increase comfort- instead of having a cutout, there is soft, memory foam-type padding that is in the middle and on the nose to give support to soft tissues. I have found this to work a lot better for myself when putting in a seated effort on climbs. Instead of feeling like I'm ramming my soft tissues into the cutout of my seat, there is support and cushion instead. I have found the mimic technology to make a big difference with how my soft tissues felt post-ride. I would recommend this saddle to anyone who likes to put in lots of miles of riding be it singletrack, gravel, or road.

Women Involved Series: Heather Mason

I started working in the bike industry when I was 18 years old. It started with a local shop in my area, simply unpacking and hanging clothes, then merchandising, then building 12 and 16 inch Kent bikes. Eventually, that turned to sales, and service and then Management. 15 years later, I was Head of Operations, managing all aspects of 4 locations.

I became a bike mechanic and ski technician. I attended management courses, sales clinics, city board meetings, and marketing classes. I studied and learned accounting and public relations. I analyzed broadcasting and print media to understand the market and the value of advertisement.

I engrossed myself in commercial roofing, investments, employee rights, supply, and freight. After 15 years, my portfolio grew.

Eventually, I opened my own athlete-focused Bike Shop and launched a formalized Bicycle Club Promotion Business, which transformed into one of the largest bike clubs in the Northeast US, hosting multiple bicycle races and events annually. I co-founded a non-profit, called Butts on Bikes, focused on getting more people into the sport.

I held both NICA and USAC coaching certifications for several years and became a specialized youth and female instructional leader. I hosted many learn to ride clinics, ditch the training wheels and beginner and intermediate MTB skills sessions. I still love to coach today.

I shifted focus a few years ago, connecting myself to top brands in the industry. This shift has allowed me to broaden my scale. To work as a representative in the industry bringing my knowledge bank to the local bicycle shop entrepreneur.

I started racing when I was 13 years old. My father, who is my greatest influencer introduced me to the sport. It was fun for me to find freedom in the woods, the way the trail would come at me and then flow past. I loved the speed, the bruises, the blood. I loved the equipment. I push myself in anything I do, and this was no different. I found 24-hour racing, and loved the limits that racing solo took the body to. It was hardcore, it was survival. I entered several races, and it became not only finishing, it became, not stopping, pushing for speed, taking the podium stop. I became known as the fastest solo female in the nation for several years. I set a record for fastest female lap overall at every race I entered. I took to the world championships twice with a best 9th finish.

I took a few years off from top-level competitive racing while my kids were born and just in school. I did not stop racing fully, still competing in several mountain bike stage races, 50-mile plus endurance trail runs, and fondo style events. I also focused on coaching athletes and kids to ride during this time.

I love to coach kids and adults with on-the-bike skills. I currently work with many athletes on bike and meet them in their local trails to help them push past their current comfort level. I am available for one on one sessions or group sessions based on your needs. Please email me to learn more about working with me via the contact page.

In 2019, I want my love of pushing personal boundaries and exploration on the bike to be contagious. Check the calendar for a “Ride with a Dama” or “Ride with Heather” event. These events will be fun focused, full of surprises and made for participation!



Current Business Development NE United States at Bianchi USA

Current National Dama Program Coordinator at Bianchi Dama Ambassador Team

Current Bicycle Waist Pack Designer at Tough Traveler Ltd.


Mountain Bike Skills Coach

Learn to Ride Youth Speciality Coach

Former National Sales Manager at Ridley Bikes

Former National Sales Manager at Eddy Merckx Bikes

Former Managing Director/ Coach at HRRT

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I was introduced to Mountain biking when I was in high school. My father bought a bike and was all in. He took us to Mount Snow Vermont and we explored the area and found some great trails in an area known as Sherwood Forest. I loved being in the woods and the adventure on 2 wheels, I was hooked!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I started riding learning the balance was a tough one. Trusting that I could get my butt way back off the saddle ad the bike would not tip over. I just kept practicing the transfer of weight back until I felt like I could slide the saddle through my legs efficiently.

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

I still find steep downhills or drops to be my fear zone. If I do not know they are coming I typically can handle no problem, but If I see something approaching that makes me nervous, it will stop me in my tracks. I tend to remind myself, "you got this" to get through these sections- it either works or not..sometimes I just close my eyes and go for it (although I don't suggest this) Its never a drag because I know some days you win and others you ride safe..

For folks who are nervous about giving mountain biking a shot, do you have any suggestions on how they can go about creating a positive experience?

For sure! Find a group of friends that inspires you and will be motivating. Get the right bike and make sure your tire pressure and suspension is set properly. Choose a nice day and nothing to tough. You will get the bug! You improve with riding... More time on the bike. So get out there and go for it.

Have you had any biffs (accidents) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I have had my share of dabs and accidents. It comes with the territory. A few took me out for a bit, and then it is like starting over on the bike. You need to stay positive, this too shall pass. As long as the bike is not damaged- things heal.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Ha! What's not to love?! Freedom, the fact that everything melts away. its a feeling you can't get from your 2 legs or a car..a unique speed. The trees smell different, the air has a unique texture.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I ride a Bianchi Orso Gravel Bike, its steel and has an amazing ride quality. For my road bike I am currently on a Bianchi Oltre Xr3. It is sick fast. Mountain is an Ibis HD4. It's amazing. Lots of travel, super lightweight and always eager to go for a spin. I don't fret over bike selection, it just happens somehow...I am not sure..I think they choose me. I am a wheel girl. Needs to be light, most likely carbon.
You have spent many years in the cycling industry and have held several job titles throughout. What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've learned over the years?
I am fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to share my passion with consumers and shops via employment in the industry. I don't see the cycling industry as one you can just show up for clock in and then leave at the end of the day. It's evolving and if you want to evolve you need to move with it. In this industry, you need to share, spark ideas and create. Innovate. I will never stop sharing my passion, its who I am.

Why do you feel it is important for women who are interested in being involved and working in the industry, to pursue doing so?

I feel it's important to pursue anything that you are interested in, regardless if it seems easy or hard. Too often I think we get intimidated by the unknown, or let fear or perception hold us back. The cycling industry connections I have are some of my closest "family". If you want to feel connected and part of something bigger and you love bikes and have great ideas on how to connect to more cyclists, or build new products or help shops- we need you.

What originally inspired you to become a skills coach?

I love working with people to achieve something they think is out of reach. It started with helping a few kiddos lose their training wheels and then a female I was coaching conquering her first triathlon. At one point we transformed the farm into a full-on MTB skills area. Once I start something it just sort of rolls...

What have you enjoyed most while coaching youth in mountain bike skills?
One of the most enjoyable things for me is watching them grow into older, faster, smarter riders. One of my favorite memories is taking a group of middle schoolers out to the trail and having them session these roots, full speed, half speed, in saddle and out...over and over...now these kids hop the roots like they don't exist...I did that, I taught them. It brings a smile to my face.
Why is it important to introduce youth to cycling early? How can people continue to foster their love of biking as they age?
There are so many team sports and so many parents looking to get their kids involved at such early ages now. You're not a good parent if your kids are not doing 2 sports and another activity, you're driving all over...thus leaving you spending actually; no time together. I think introducing kids to sports early allows them to build a desire to spend time doing something with you outside. This allows them to develop with you as you both age, by finding new places to ride, creating biking trips and making your life culture to include the bicycle.

What have you enjoyed most while coaching adults in mountain bike skills?
Adults are a challenging group to teach. They want to learn but will be the first to be afraid to try something. The most enjoyable moment is when something that was so hard, is finally ridden and you see that kid smile come out.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I don't think anything deters women. I think this is almost a made-up cultural norm that says ladies are afraid to ride, or not ready to invest in the gear.
It's exposure at a young age. I think enough females don't get exposed to it. We need to open the box earlier.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
It has to start at a younger age. So maybe we connect to Girl Scouts, Frontier Girls, or Campfire USA to make cycling a part of their program. Or its getting cycling into schools. For connecting with grown women, the industry needs to partner with the movers and shakers, for instance, Built by Girls, Shapeways, Girlup, Girls on the Run, or Girlgaze. We need to go after it instead of them coming to us.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

Cycling has changed my life. It has made me stronger, led to travel, friendships and experiences I would not have had otherwise. I want to share this with others.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My initials spell HAM.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Finding My Happily Ever After

The days leading up to Chequamegon MTB Festival had me feeling a bit mixed. My emotions were all over the place and I couldn't really put a finger on why. I was missing my dad as well as missing Travis. This year has been (overall) pretty good with my being able to get out and ride, but I did not have quite as many rides with other folks like I had hoped. I also had less time with Travis this year than last- primarily because he and I spend multiple hours away from the shop working on getting my dad's place cleaned up. This year it's been logging extra hours at the shop to keep caught up. Working together is better than nothing, but it's definitely not the same as having actual quality time together.

Really, I keep myself entertained plenty with solo rides, walks, reading, and sometimes riding with friends- but I was reaching a point where I was starting to feel lonely. That frustrated me as I didn't feel like I had a reason to.

The more I looked at the forecast leading up to the Chequamegon weekend the more apprehensive I began to feel. Rain, rain, and more rain. I started to mentally prepare myself for a muddy ride several days early. In 2018 I experienced a very muddy course that exhausted me not only physically, but emotionally. Was I ready to go through something like that again? Not entirely sure, but I am one to not quit once I've signed up for something. I did the race during a year that changed me and hurt me, only to feel how utterly human I was. It was a painful experience in multiple ways, mostly because I couldn't share the experience with my dad. This year, I've ridden a bit more, but I feel like I'm still recovering from 2018 in all sorts of ways.

Which brings me to say that I feel a sense of relief that I'll be taking a break from racing events for an indefinite period of time. I've said this already, but I'm saying it now knowing that this is the best decision for me. I'm already excited for 2020 with our planned trip to Hayward in October for mountain biking! I'm so happy to think about that. I'm excited about our plan to attend a dealer event out in California so I can ride mountain bikes in a new place.

The next chapter in Bike Life is to seek out enriching experiences and do what I love most- which is to ride bikes the way I really like to ride. I like lots of miles (and smiles!), legit singletrack, and being able to sit on the side of the trail and eat snacks (because when I race, I can't eat for sh*t). I want to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. I like to explore new towns and shops, maybe have a local brew, and eat at some of the favorite local food stops.
I realize now more than ever, that my system was shocked and I think I haven't entirely recovered from the emotional and mental stress of 2018. I was given a gift of sorts, it was to step back re-prioritize my life. I developed a sense of missing out. How could I not? My dad missed out on retirement. Of being able to live the latter years of his life doing what he loved most, and that hit me hard. Ever since I started mountain biking, I wanted to explore trails elsewhere because everyone has told me "If you learn to ride in Decorah, you can ride anywhere." So I hoped that I could prove that correct- that's one of the small reasons I started to do events. It was an easy way of riding somewhere new because it was all marked out for you.

The thing that has worn on me is the chronic "Go Go Go" during events, and being I was a pretty solid mid-pack rider, I'd sometimes win in my age group. Awesome. However, that took away any "I'll just do this race for fun" mentality I might have tried to have. Instead, every event turned into "I have to prove myself to myself." I also used results to define who I was as a rider, and that is a slippery slope, one I wish to avoid as much as possible.

Chequamegon will happen and I'll do my thing, and when it's all said and done, I'll be glad that I did it one last time. If anything, to close (for now) a chapter of the Bike Life I created so I can hurry up and start on the new chapter that I'm chomping at the bit to create.

I am also reflecting on some changes for Josie's Bike Life and Fearless Women of Dirt for the near future, both of which are near and dear to my heart.

Rest assured that neither will go away, but I need to expand more on what I'm feeling drawn to right now- time will tell how that will play out in those two areas.

Either way, I anticipate positive change and growth, and am more accepting of the fact that time will be a larger factor than not.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Women Involved Series: Erin Wells

I founded Muddy Pedals in 2013 out of the desire to create an inviting environment to introduce more women to mountain biking. The sport had such an incredibly positive impact on my life, I wanted to make it as accessible as possible for other women, breaking down barriers and opening doors.

People would always ask what my plans were for Muddy Pedals, and I honestly never had an answer. I wanted it to evolve into what women needed at the time. And it certainly has evolved and changed in ways I could never imagine. I lead rides, clinics, and camps both for women and kids. And now it has evolved into a great community of women supporting and encouraging one another. It is so much bigger and more important than bikes.

@muddypedals
@campsidesessions

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I moved to Richmond, VA right after college and needed something to do! I signed up for a Balance Bar Adventure race which involved kayaking, trail running, and mountain biking. Once I signed up I figured I should probably learn how to mountain bike! I had a real job just out of school and felt like, “Oh man, I can afford a REAL mountain bike!”. And so I bought a Kona Kikapu for what felt like a whole TON of money at the time. It quickly became “my thing” to do with downtime. I had moved to Richmond not knowing anyone and this gave me an outlet and a way to meet people. With all of that being said, I don’t actually think it was until many years later that I would understand the true impact it would have on my life.

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 thought I was such a good rider for so long. I wasn’t. I rode with the same people, at my same ability so it appeared to myself that I was good. I wish I would have taken clinics by professional instructors early on in my mountain bike life. One of the things I struggled with that I just assumed everyone had problems with was log overs. I would get to the other side of the log and my bars would just turn and over I would go. Well, now I know, get those elbows out and be in control of the bike, don’t let the bike control me! The other big misconception that I think still plagues new riders, is the need to push people to wear clipless shoes. I almost stopped riding after I switched to clipless and felt like if I couldn’t wear clipless I just shouldn’t ride. This is so wrong. I actually had a shop tell one of my clinic participants that she shouldn’t even put a bashguard on her bike (pre 1x drivetrains) if she wasn’t wearing clipless because she wasn’t going over any logs anyway...after I had just taught her how to do log overs with flat pedals. I wanted to be like “listen bike shop dude, just because you don’t have skill enough to get over that log without clipless pedals doesn’t mean she doesn’t”.

So my suggestions are to take clinics, no matter how long you have been riding. Ride with other women on regular group rides. A crew of women who encourage you along the way and share life’s joys and passions cannot be discounted. You will conquer obstacles that you never thought possible.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Absolutely. I find that if I am working on a particular skill, some of my other skills go to the wayside. But the skill I constantly find myself tweaking is cornering. And it always comes back to fundamentals. I teach it over and over and over and I know the whys and hows and I still find myself getting too far in the backseat if I am not paying super close attention. I don’t let it get me down because though I may have skills that need constant tweaking, I also see progress in other areas. It is so important to focus on the progression, not the regression. And when looking back over the course of years, I am still a better rider overall.
For folks who are nervous about giving mountain biking a shot, do you have any suggestions on how they can go about creating a positive experience?
I will go back to clinics again on this one. In my level I clinic, we focus on balance and stability on the bike. So before you even hit the trail, you feel more confident than when you arrived that morning. And then on top of that, join a women’s only group ride. I know, some people are opposed to women-only group rides, but I am telling you from experience, this is a game-changer. I have a ride for beginners. Like, beginner beginners. So when people say, “No, I’m like...a BEGINNER”, yes, this ride is for you. The environment is so comfortable, encouraging and inspiring.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I rode clips for many years...until I started coaching. I had to pass certification on flats, which is a hard task when you have been in clips forever. But once I understood the use of my feet on the pedals, I actually felt more in tune and one with my bike. That being said, I am now flats 90% of the time. I will wear clips on a ride sometimes just to change it up.

Have you had any biffs (accidents) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
During an enduro race several years ago, I was heading down the most challenging section of trail. I was on it. It felt good. There was a photographer in my line of site up to the right. I must have just caught him in my vision and my wheel followed up the rock ledge to the right instead of down through the chute. It ended with me flipping on my back from about 8 feet up. It could have been worse, but it knocked the wind out of me and I had an instant bruise down my spine. Because of that, my hydration pack feels like my safety blanket. It’s really hard to ride without it. Thinking about what would have happened had I not been wearing one is… terrifying. I just can’t imagine life without biking being a part of it, so I would hope, that no matter the injury, I would figure out how to return.

Overall, I feel like I usually ride the line of pushing my limits and riding safely within my ability. I’m a calculated rider, always weighing my skill versus the obstacle ahead.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the sound of the dirt crunching under the tires. I love the people that biking has brought into my life. I love that when I am on the bike, problems seem so small and insignificant. I love that even once the bike ride is over, life feels better than it did before the ride started. I love how empowered and courageous a good bike ride can make me feel.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I currently ride a Trek Slash and a Trek Remedy.

I chose the Slash because it really does it all. I love the feel of a big bike tearing down the trail eating up rock gardens, sending drops and jumps and landing with that endless feel in the suspension. It also pedals like a rockstar considering the amount of travel.

The Remedy is brand new to the fleet. Trek made some great changes this year. The 27.5 wheels are so nimble. The new geometry sits you on top of the bike, making it feel so efficient while pedaling, yet so capable on the downhill gnar as well.

What inspired you to become a certified coach?
I really just wanted to give other women an opportunity to experience life with mountain biking as a part of it. I wanted to help them overcome barriers to trying it. However, I quickly realized that though I may love biking, I had no idea how to teach women and make them feel comfortable. I was participating in a race and talking to one of the other racers and she suggested that I get certified so that we are all on the same page and teaching is consistent no matter where the women are learning. That was the best advice I could’ve been given.

Any tips or suggestions for those who are thinking about becoming certified?
Do it! Even if you don’t use it that often to coach, it will significantly improve your understanding of riding and the importance of fundamentals in your riding. It will teach you how to breakdown the fundamentals into pieces that are manageable and easily teachable. Whether for yourself or for teaching others,

Tell us about Muddy Pedals and your inspiration for founding it-

Muddy Pedals is a community. It is a place where women can feel comfortable and confident exploring mountain biking and how it may fit into their lives. There are so many obstacles to overcome in order to get into the sport. Whether they are physical obstacles or emotional obstacles. Muddy Pedals exists to break down those barriers.

There are many programs out there for women and mountain biking, who do you feel Muddy Pedals best suits?
Muddy Pedals exists for women looking for a community. Whether you have never been on a mountain bike or you have been riding for decades, there is a place for you here. We have weekly rides, social events throughout the year, we encourage volunteering at trail workdays and being involved with NICA, and all kinds of other fun things. On top of this, I host clinics for women throughout the year. This is such a good way to build a foundation and hone your skills. I also collaborate with a business similar to Muddy Pedals to put on women’s weekends called Campside Sessions. These are weekends where you will walk away with not only new found skills, but a group of incredibly rad friends.

You are a Trek Women's Ambassador, tell us why you love being an ambassador for a bike company-
When I was approached by Trek several years ago to be part of the Advocate program… I actually told them no! I hadn’t been on a Trek in a while, but I also didn’t want to ride something just because it was given to me or just because of the perks of the program. I want to ride bikes and use gear that I love and that I want to ride and use. They came back to me and simply offered up a bike for me to ride for the weekend. If I didn’t like it, no big deal, thanks for trying. Well, I didn’t like it, I loved it. I almost couldn't admit it. It rode so well. The suspension felt so bottomless. So, like every normal mountain biker would, I took out a different model just to prove myself wrong. Nope, loved it. PR’s on just about every trail I rode.

It gives me in-depth knowledge on the bikes, the gear and the company. When I talk to folks looking for a bike, I have real information for them and real options to point them towards. It’s also a movement. I want to be a part of this movement! More women on bikes, yes! I want to be involved with a company putting real efforts into women on bikes. I get to be a huge piece of that as a Trek Women’s Advocate.

Why do you feel Ambassador programs are beneficial for the cycling industry?

Ambassador programs are taking women who are already out there, riding and leading, and giving them more tools to do what they are already doing. These programs help give women a voice and a place in a male-dominated sport. They take feedback from these women and put them directly into products and the industry. I’m not even sure these programs understand their full potential yet.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think there are so many barriers. Both physical and emotional. Physical barriers such as not having a bike, or if they have a bike not being able to transport the bike, not knowing the trails, not having riding buddies, etc. Emotional barriers include fear of falling, fear of failure, feeling like they aren’t fit enough like they will slow people down. Any one of these barriers is enough to stop someone immediately, but overcoming those barriers is so rewarding!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Opportunities. We have to create opportunities for women to get on bikes in an environment that fosters confidence and encourages women outside of their comfort zone. I have been leading women-only rides for several years now and they continue to grow and the feedback is outstanding. Women love riding with other women and being encouraged by other women. You see someone you can relate to something that you thought was outside of your comfort zone and suddenly it becomes attainable.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I am inspired to encourage women to ride because I have seen how important riding is in life. This is so much bigger and so much more important than mountain bikes. Sure, that's how it starts. It starts by going on rides here and there with each other. Then you find yourself consistently riding with a crew. Then, because you are on your bike and adventuring together, you get worn down a little and start to let yourself show a little. You start to share life. You start to talk about things that are real and hard. Suddenly, you think, "Wait a second! These people are my friends, disguised as biking buddies."

Mountain biking has nothing and everything to do with real life. It can take you away from the pains and worries of life and let your brain focus on the trail, the sound of your tires tearing through the dirt and leaves, the feel of the wind in your hair and your adrenaline rush as you push up the hill or get rowdy on that gnarly downhill. In the totally opposite way, biking relates directly to life. You conquer that obstacle, you make it up that hill, you beat your original time- whatever it is that you conquer on the trails, translates directly to real life. You can overcome that life obstacle because you overcame some obstacle on the trail. You have confidence. You have the encouragement. You strive to push through the pain to get to the end goal. This is so much bigger and so much more important than mountain bikes.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I was super shy growing up. I sat by myself at lunch in high school for an uncomfortable amount of time. I would have never believed that the future me would be up in front of groups of women on a regular basis.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Jen Malik

My name is Jen Malik and I just earned my PhD in Biomedical Engineering two months ago from The Ohio State University. I started riding/racing bikes in 2014 and immediately fell in love with the sport!

My primary focuses have been in cyclocross and mountain biking but I do love a nice long road ride.

When I first started riding the Columbus cycling community was so welcoming and even lent me a majority of the gear I rode for that first year of racing.

I can honestly say that without having such a supportive community I probably would not have been able to progress in the sport as quickly nor would it be such a huge part of who I am. I do my best to "pay it forward" and volunteer at local cross practices as well as serve on the board of the Central Ohio Mountain Biking Organization. This past year I won the Collegiate National Championship race in Reno and competed in my first ever European races for cyclocross -- it was epic! I also am one of the founding members of the KS Kenda Women's Elite MTB team which has been an amazing experience in and of itself!

Social Media:


Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I was introduced to mountain biking after my first cyclocross clinic when some of the ladies there invited me to come join them for a mountain bike ride the next day. It was myself and 6 other women most of whom I had never actually met before but everybody was so warm and welcoming that I just immediately fell in love with it! I have always loved being out in nature and the warmth of the mountain bike community especially the women who welcomed me with open arms (bikes, gear, food, trail help... etc ha).

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 really struggled with maintaining momentum through roots or rocks and often times would just get off the bike and run through them. It is still something that I am working through but what has really helped is being light on the bars and remembering to stand up and pedal into ("attack") the features. Also, hopping off the bike and walking the section and then going back to try it a couple of times has really helped me with confidence building.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I still struggle with rock gardens or bumpy terrain but look at each one as a challenge and focus on the little victories/ progress I am making each time. Some times I will go back and retry a feature if I cannot get it but if after a couple of tries I am still unsuccessful I will wait until I can come back and ride it with a friend who can help me figure out the lines and get pumped for the challenge.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I tend to use both. I predominately use clips but when I am practicing skills work or out riding and want to work on my technique I will use flats. I noticed that flat pedals keep my honest and help me work on body/foot position while giving me that nice safety detachment from the bike if I need to bail ha!

For folks who are nervous about giving mountain biking a shot, do you have any suggestions on how they can go about creating a positive experience?
I would say that going with the right group of people is huge! Mountain biking doesn't have to be about who can get up the hill fastest or racing your friends. Some of my favorite rides have been with newer riders and just chilling and tackling features that looked scary and all getting pumped when we clear them!

What was your inspiration to start participating in mountain bike events?
We had a local short track series that I really enjoyed and through that I made friends who traveled to races and started going along.

What helped you make the decision to race in the elite field?
I am a very competitive person by nature so as soon as I started racing I started watching the UCI Elite XCO races and was inspired to compete at that level. Also, seeing the level of difficulty and mental toughness needed in order to complete the races was really inspiring.

What were you surprised to learn when you started racing elite?

I was surprised at how fast the starts were and definitely underestimated the level of focus it takes when you are red-lined and exhausted yet still have to navigate tricky descents or rooty/rocky sections.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the KS Kenda Women's Elite MTB team?
This is a tough one because I absolutely love everything about the team and my teammates! I would have to say I love having teammates that are my friends, my family, and my support system. We talk pretty much daily and even when I am racing cyclocross both Nikki and Emma still find time to ask how my races are going, wish me good luck, and talk about whatever we are thinking about that day. I am seriously counting down the days until our team camp when I can see them again!!

Tell us about your favorite event!
My favorite event this past year was MTB Nats. We rented a hutch right on the mountain and spent the whole week pre-riding and hanging out. It was really cool to be able to spend more than one day pre-riding and to work together as a team to help each other dial lines and then be there to catch each other at the finish.

Why should folks participate in at least one event?
It is a really neat way to push yourself and test your limits. Also, even though it is a race I have found that everybody is so encouraging and stoked to see more people out racing that you can form some amazing friendships.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that when I am riding my bike it is the only thing I am focusing on. I am in nature, not worrying about work, or any other problems. It is just me, my bike, the random trail nature. I also love the feeling of being able to ride a feature that I hadn't been able to previously.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I ride the Pivot Mach 4 (27.5) and Pivot Les (29). I love how playful the Mach 4 is and I feel like I can bomb down descents -- it has definitely been a confidence builder. The Les is incredibly lightweight and can climb like a beast as well as has a more relaxed geometry which allows for easier handling down steep technical descents. Next year I will be switching to the Pivot Mach 429SL but still keeping the Mach 4. I seriously love how it can ride both as a playful shredder and an aggressive race machine (having a KS dropper post definitely helps with that one!).

Tell us about volunteering with the Central Ohio Mountain Biking Organization and what it entails-
Volunteering for COMBO has given me a huge appreciation for the amount of time it takes to maintain trails, build them, and also run events. While we only meet once a month as a group, we are in constant communication and have several small meetings to make sure events are organized and do trail work. Being a board member on COMBO and getting more involved with the mountain bike community actually inspired me to lead the charge to bring NICA to Ohio!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I feel that riding with the wrong people can really deter anybody especially women from cycling/mountain biking. A ride can turn into a frustrating experience if you get dropped and are left to pedal by yourself while seeing everybody waiting up ahead only to leave you again when you catch up. I am lucky to have experienced this type of ride only once but riding by yourself and being overwhelmed by the trail (and also scared) can be deterring enough and then to have a group of people "ditching" you can make for a very negative experience.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think more women's group rides or reminding experienced riders what it is like to first start mountain biking would make a huge difference.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

I am inspired by the excitement and stories of new ride successes after a day on the trail. It gets me so pumped and excited to see my friends/new riders confidence grow after riding. I feel like mountain biking has given me a sense of self-confidence that I was missing and I want every woman to experience that light bulb "I'm a Boss!" or "Yes I can do it!" moment.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Before every race, I like to listen to Rock Lobster by the B-52s. It gets me pumped ha!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Flat Shoe Review: Specialized 2FO 1.0

In 2018 I wrote a review of 3 different brands of flat pedal shoes that I have utilized for mountain biking and daily wear.


After some deliberation, I decided that I should try out the Specialized 2FO 1.0 shoe again, especially since it had come out in a color combo that I loved and would be far more work-appropriate than the Dynamite Panther colorway of the pair I currently had.



While the 2FO 1.0 shoes are similar, I feel there has been a slight change in the sizing due to Specialized making that particular shoe model unisex. When I purchased the Dynamite Panther shoes, I ended up in a size 38.

The new 2FO 1.0 shoes I've purchased in the Black/Purple/Blue fade are a size 39. I originally ordered size 38 and found that they were smaller compared to the 38 I got last year. With the older shoes, I had a little space for my big toe to move and not feel mostly slammed- and I could see a slight difference with how large the 38 from last year as compared to the 38 from this year. So be aware that if you are banking on being the exact same size in the 2FO 1.0 shoe, you might find it slightly smaller.

When I got the size 39, it was an instant "Yes, this is the right size!" when it came to the fit and comfort level. I did keep the slightly too small-sized shoe for a riding shoe and opted to make the size 39 shoe my daily driver along with riding shoe.

The reason for going back in for a deeper look was due to the Dynamite Pather color being super fun, but not something I could see myself wearing at work on a regular basis due to the color. I was really curious to try another brand out as a daily shoe. How durable would it be? How would my feet feel after wearing it during a workday? Will regular riding eat at the sole quickly? I was super sold on my Five Ten Freerider Pro shoes until I saw that with minimal use/wear that the soles could get beaten up/worn very quickly. I felt that for the money spent, they wouldn't be the shoe to go to for multi-purpose use, and that's something I prefer as often as possible.

Since having the shoes, I've worn them regularly around 5 months (daily), utilizing the smaller pair for mountain biking and the larger pair for work. At this point, I would say their durability is great. Nothing looks beaten up from my pedal pins from my commute, nor do the heels show dramatic wear from lots of walking.

The Pros and Cons
The elastic loop to hold my laces is a huge plus! I get tired of jamming my shoelaces under themselves only to find they pop out later. The loop is so handy and gives a cleaner look.

The built-in "sock" is awesome. I wear socks all the time, but the soft material they use instead of a traditional shoe "tongue" is very nice, and it makes it super easy to slip the shoe on or off. I think that was one of the features about this shoe I didn't take advantage of to the fullest the first time around, but am totally loving it this time! I know that when it comes to traveling and flying- these will be the shoes I grab for that easy on/off.

The rubberized outer shell that covers the top of your foot looks "plastic" but I have found that it's been a great asset for my commutes, especially if it's raining. It won't help if I go through puddles since water can get through the fabric portion, but it can keep my feet drier in light rain than other shoes. I would say after several months of wear, it's still looking pretty alright, but the abrasion-resistant material on the front of the toebox is starting to develop a lip on one side of both shoes. With as much walking and bending/flexing of my foot at the bike shop, the pair I've used for daily wear has held up great. Nothing has cracked or flexed apart that could negatively impact the structural integrity of the shoe.

I feel the arch support is comfortable enough, but for some, it might not be supportive enough. For general workday use and riding use, the stock insert is fine, but it probably wasn't enough for the walking I did at Disney. I have experimented with the Blue inserts from Specialized and felt that they were supportive, but they can feel a bit stiff. Great for riding, but I wasn't 100% sold on wearing them on vacation. I ended up taking the Blue inserts out after I had a mishap and strained a tendon that ran along the arch of my foot. The insert put too much pressure on my arch making it painful to walk, but going back to the stock insert helped.


In general, the shoe isn't going to be super stiff so it's very walkable- great for those who want a good pedal feel but if you are looking for support, it might not be enough. The design of the 2FO is a lot better than it was when it first came out, but the rubber is not going to have the same "stick" as the Five Tens I've used. For some who do not like to feel "stuck" to the pedals, they would be a nice option, but if you are looking for a lot of grip, then these shoes might not be the ultimate choice. (However, keep in mind some pedals have longer pins and will work well with these shoes, which I found to be the case with my HNS10 Supreme pedals on my Stumpjumper.)
All in all, if you are spending the money on a shoe that you are wanting to be multi-use, I would recommend exploring the Specialized 2FO 1.0 as a viable option. Price-wise it's in the same ballpark for most of the flat shoes I'm familiar with or have worn and is in the top tier for being a great multi-use shoe comfort that is durable.