Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Review on Adventure Gear!

Prior to our trip to Florida I made a mad dash to purchase a few new adventure items that I could use for biking as well as our trip. I knew from our last Disney trip I would need to keep as much weight off of my bad shoulder as possible, so I spent a good amount of time looking at hip packs. Who knew that "fanny packs" aka bum bags (and whatever else you'd like to call 'em) would become popular! An item I pretty much sore I'd be caught dead wearing has become one of my favorite accessories.

Three packs were brought to Florida:
Dakine Hot Laps 2L Pack
Travis used my Dakine pack, which since my purchasing it, had been my most favorite pack. This one had ample storage room, you also had a soft-lined pocket for your phone, and it had the ability to hold a water bottle. It was apparent early on that we needed to use packs with the most room so we could store essentials- emergency ponchos, sunscreen stick, lip balm, and money. This pack had plenty of room for Travis' needs about 99% of the time. There was maybe a 1% where we wished we had a bag with us instead due to needing an extra shirt or keeping a hat with us.

Pinch Flat Designs Enduro Pack
This pack became the clear winner for me during the tip. Not only was it roomy enough for me to carry my emergency poncho, sunblock stick, travel-size deodorant, lip balm, and eye drops- it also had room for me to put in a kleenex pouch and my sunglasses! Bonus storage, I used the bungee on top to hold a long sleeve shirt in case I would get cold at sit-down meals or in AC. I used this pack 99% of the trip and really liked it. Plus it was perfect on water rides due to its water-resistant properties. It doesn't have a soft pouch for phone, but it came with a zipper pack that I used to store my phone in and it works slick! (I'm no longer using a ziploc baggie, haha!) I even used the pouch as a clutch when we had dinner at California Grill to keep it classy.

Silver Rider Stitch Works Marine Biologist Pack 
Because of how much stuff we had to be able to carry with us, I wasn't able to use this pack as much during the park days as I had hoped. During the day we had to be prepared for everything, and there wasn't enough room in the pack for me to hold everything and a shirt. However, I did use it a couple times when we went in the evening hours when I knew for sure that I wouldn't have to carry sunblock or an extra shirt. It is a very comfortable pack with a good amount of room if I didn't need to carry the kitchen sink with me. (At Disney, you need to be prepared for any/everything.) I like that it's not flashy and the pink color is a fun contrast to the black, so it can go with a lot of outfits! It's water repellent as well which makes it handy for use on rides or other adventures. I will use this pack more for home and rides, but knowing what I know now about Disney in the summer months, I need more storage.

All in all, they were excellent investment pieces and were totally worth the money spent. It was surprising to see how many folks were using hip packs on our trip- there were a lot!

Clothing choices were all aiming towards comfort in hot weather, as a person who wears jeans 99% of the time, I knew I needed to up my shorts game. For reference for Shredly gear in terms of sizing:
I wear a size 0 in the Shredly shorts.
I wear a size Small in most Shredly tops
I'm 5'2" with a short torso/long wingspan and roughly 30" inseam.
Weight- honestly I don't know, but the last time I was weighed I was 116 and some ounces.

Shredly Multi-Sport Shorts were excellent to wear in the Florida heat. I wore my Shredly shorts the entire time we were in Florida minus our dinner at California Grill. I really liked the size pocket with the snap closure, which is where I kept my small wallet. It made it simple to grab and I knew it was there all the time because of the weight. The snap was secure, which made me feel confident that I wouldn't lose my money.
I did have first-gen pair of Multi-Sport shorts that did not have a waist adjustment, and that was okay. They were still comfortable and withstood rides and snacks without me feeling like "Gosh, I wish I could let these shorts out!"

I loved how the shorts I purchased worked with pretty much every top I wore, and they brought some fun and pizazz to the daily outfits without looking quite as loud as I typically do on the mountain bike trails.

Shredly has a lot of patterns and colors, in my opinion, something for everyone- colorful, flowers, patterns, you name it!

For tops, most of what I wore were Shredly Honeycomb tanks, and they were absolutely amazing. They were lightweight, comfortable, and had a flattering fit. Not to mention they felt silky soft, too! I loved how they had a lightweight material back to them that really allowed for breathability. I also liked the fact that if I did go on a water ride or got sweaty, they would dry out rather quickly. I'll admit, I did wear a couple multiple times, but usually split the wears between half-days.

I also have to say that I was super impressed with how anti-stain the shirts are, and maybe I just had incredible luck. I was wearing a lighter, mint-colored shirt and ended up getting a little colored soda splatter on it. I dabbed the spots with a wet wipe and it totally disappeared! Then during dinner at Be Our Guest I unknowingly splattered some sauce on my shirt. Again I wet wiped, and there may have been the slightest hint of discoloration, but the heathering of the fabric made it hardly noticeable. I did pre-treat when I got it home, and it looks as good as new. Amazing!!!

I also loved the Wheelie Tank from Shredly! I bought two of the same color, one in size Small and XS. I like how long the tank is, and the design on the back is super cute.

Long sleeve shirts that were brought were the Shredly Explorer shirt and my Outdoor Research Reflection LS shirt.

I won't link to the OR shirt because they have since re-designed it or changed the name and I can't find a "current" style/name for it.

So, the Explorer shirt I feel I will have great luck with it back home or if we go to Flordia in the winter again at some point. It was a PERFECT airplane shirt as it ended up being very cool on our flight out. Our first night in Magic Kingdom it was useful, but I found that after that evening that the lighter weight OR shirt worked better and was slightly smaller to pack on top of my hip pack from Pinch Flat.

The Explorer shirt is going to be a casual-fitting shirt, but it does have a feminine fit. It's going to be roomy enough for all of your layering needs. Travis felt the shirt looked too big on me, however, due to my wingspan and shoulders, the size small is what I feel to be the appropriate size. Otherwise, if it were a smaller size it would be tight in the shoulders if I snapped it shut or the sleeves would hit above my wrists.

The OR shirt worked like a charm for many days/nights, and what I love most about it is that it is water repellent to a degree. It's very quick to dry out, which is super handy. I really loved that ALL of my tops had that ability, and really nothing shirt-wise ended up smelling stinky! (Which I thought was an awesome thing.)
I had 2 pairs of Teva sandals and my trusty pair of Specialized 2FO 1.0 shoes...I nixed bringing my running shoes because I feel like they are a half-size too small OR I'm just not used to my big toe feeling like it'll blow out of the top of my shoe. For long hours of walking, I didn't feel like I would be comfortable, so I went with the everyday shoes that I'm used to. They also made it quick to take off in the airport. For biking shoes, I've really enjoyed using these shoes daily for work as well as for biking.

Now, another thing I'll talk about randomly is that since the winter I transitioned over to natural deodorant. I feel I'm still in the process of finding what I like the best, but I do know that the kind I use the most can cause some discoloration on my shirts due to the oils.

At this point, my go-to deodorant is Schmidt's Charcoal + Magnesium as it (imo) really helps neutralize odor and goes on fairly easily. I've found that their rose-scented one really needed to be warmed up a lot before it could be applied, and if it wasn't soft enough I rashed my pits.

For reapplying during the day, I got travel-sized deodorants from Native in the Coconut & Vanilla scent. I tried this deodorant for a few weeks prior to our trip and after a day at work, I felt like I could smell a little...smell. So I figured that this wouldn't be my go-to to start the day, but I could reapply with it if my original application failed.

For traveling, I used my Dakine carry on roller bag and used my new Supacaz Swag Bag for my additional carry on. I packed the backpack fairly light, primarily only using it for fluid storage so I could bring back items from our vacation rather than shipping them. It worked super slick, and I really liked that I could buckle it across my chest and waist. There was plenty of storage as well, which was awesome. I unfortunately found it covered in someone's lunch remnants after it was under the seat on the airplane, but it was super easy to clean by tossing in the washer. Good as new!

So there you have it, a detailed list of some awesome products that I tried out for multi-use during our trip to Disney! I had a great time putting these items to the test during our busy days in the Disney Parks and know that they will work awesome for any future adventuring we will do.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Women Involved: Amanda Wais

The essence of my being is to help save the world -- one heart at a time. My son, Brady P., was born four years ago with Down syndrome. His wisdom, charm, love, and strength through adversity has inspired me to make love and fortitude a priority. I want to inspire others as he has inspired me.

Well, I'm raising him as a single mom up on Copper Harbor, Michigan which is literally at the end of the road. It's all Lake Superior and sweet trails from here! My main outlets for inspiration are writing books (I have three published so far), blogging weekly about my and Brady P's life, taking macro pictures of wildflowers, giving wildflower tours, coaching mountain biking and giving Brady P. the best life possible here in this scenic sanctuary. I don't spend as much time on my bike as I'd like to at this point in my life, but my time is coming again! And if someone calls me to coach, I am there.

Copper Harbor Vitality, LLC, A Fresh Air Inspired Life
The Brady P. Project, Promoting Love, Acceptance and Mother Nature

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
My intro was pretty brutal. I rode a rigid frame over rooty, rocky terrain with my then-boyfriend who had no good advice to calm my nerves except, “Just go. Just do it.” And then leave me in the dust. It wasn’t until I started riding with other women that I felt comradery emotionally and speed-wise. We would laugh and session the obstacles, building each other’s confidence and actually having fun! Then I felt it was something I could do for me – not just my boyfriend.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Roots and rocks about 3 inches high would stop me in my tracks -- because I looked down at them and stopped! Once I realized that my bike could naturally roll over them, I started to look past those minor obstacles at what was ahead and kept my momentum going right over and through. The lesson was to look at where I wanted to go instead of focusing on what was in the way.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I try to focus on where I want to go. If I don’t think I can make it over a boulder, I stop and find the best path, then execute the proper technique to make it over. If I’m scared to go down a feature, I watch a friend do it and think, “Man, if they can do it, I can too!” Where I ride, however, there are a lot of insane features that I have come to terms with the fact that I just will never attempt them. And that’s okay. I’m a mom!

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?
Go with somebody you like who knows what they are doing! Preferably a woman because they are often patient teachers. And do it for yourself. You don’t have to ride at anybody’s standards except your own. Be nice to yourself, and have fun!

What was your inspiration for becoming a mountain bike coach?
I took my first skills clinic in 2016. I improved sooooo much. And I actually went to college to be a teacher, so I really loved to teach. I thought I can do this! I can teach people how to a mountain bike! And the next year I helped coach the same clinic I took. I teach more clinics every year, and it just fills my heart to help build confidence in other people.

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?
Oh, yes. One day I was riding with a girlfriend who was an awesome downhill rider. I was in front and I wanted to show off how good I was at some of the gnarly features. Well, with that mindset, I crashed on a rock bed. Something sharp went right into my knee and I could see inside my body. That night ended with stitches in the ER.

Then, three weeks later, after I finally healed from that crash enough to take my first ride, I crashed again. Why? Because I was trying to catch the fast girls ahead of me. Now, those girls were also the other coaches I was coaching with that weekend. And suddenly I had a nearly broken thumb. But I coached through it!

I can say that that biggest lesson I learned from those consecutive crashes was that riders should only ride for themselves. Once we get cocky about our skills or try to be something we’re not, we are shown instantly that that isn’t our path at the time. And we are humbled and broken. So I took a different approach after that and have remained safer ever since.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the freedom I feel in my soul, the fresh air I breathe, the challenges I need to overcome, the concentration it takes to do it right and the sweat that pours out of my body.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Right now I ride the Trek Lush. It’s a “women-specific” design that they don’t make anymore. The wheels are 27.5” (an upgrade from my 26-er) and the frame is carbon fiber. It climbs like a dream, but I do notice I might need a little more cush on some of the jumps I’ve been taking. I just might have to get another bike!
The outdoors is something very special to you and you've made sure to incorporate it into your son's life. Tell us more about the Brady P. Project-
When my son Brady P. was born, my whole outlook on life changed instantly. I never really wanted to be a mom, and suddenly I was a mother of a little person with Down syndrome. Not ever understanding people with different mental capacities before the moment I found out, I was suddenly forced to. I realized how important accepting people’s differences was going to be in order to be a kind person in this world. I watched love, strength, perseverance and great joy pour out of Braeden’s being. I realized that every person in this world is a gift worthy of love. Unconditional love. And one of the best places to practice feeling love in the moment and exploring curiosities is in Mother Nature. That’s why I make sure to get my son out to experience the wonders of the natural world, and it’s why I have created a non-profit organization that can facilitate getting other people out in that sacred space as well – promoting love, acceptance and Mother Nature. That’s the mission of the Brady P. Project!

You've published three books so far, tell us a little about the books you've written-
My first book was published in 2012 called Little Slices of da Harbor – Copper Harbor, Michigan. It’s a collection of super-short stories where the people, places and things in the town tell you about their life during each season of the year. It’s great reading for bedtime, at the coffee table or on the john.

The second came out in 2014, and it’s a pocket-size tour guide book called Touring the Tip. It offers step-by-step directions for biking, hiking, skiing, and paddling while reaching the desired skill/activity level of the reader. It covers Copper Harbor and beyond and gives insights along the way like a real tour guide would.

My latest and greatest is an inspirational memoir published in 2017. It’s called Digging for Light. I love it because it’s the real, raw story of what I went through after my sweet little nugget, Brady P., was born. It showcases the tough situations we endured, yet uplifts the spirit because we made it through, and we are stronger. Most people read it straight through because they can’t put it down!

I now publish my books through my own company, Copper Harbor Vitality.

How did writing become an outlet for you?
I loved to write stories since I was a kid. In college, I took writing classes and even tutored other students’ writing. When I moved to Copper Harbor, I filled notebooks with inspirations from nature and this quirky little town. Then I put it all together and realized that I have to write, or I feel like a part of me is dead. To make sure I keep up, I post a weekly blog called “Downs by the Bay.” I’m also loosely working on my next book.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Mostly fear. Mountain biking can be a scary thing. I have thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to die!” many times on the trails – especially on advanced or poorly maintained ones. Also, a lot of women get introduced to the sport through their male significant other. I like men, but they often don’t take the time (or even know how) to teach a frightened person how to correctly perform the task of traversing the trail ahead while still keeping it light-hearted and fun. The dudes just want to send it, but they bring their girl with them! It’s not an effective way to learn, and I’ve seen many women stop riding because of it.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I see many women’s bike clinics rising up. Some focus locally and some take it around the world. I have found that once a woman enters the female bike scene, she is hooked. A truly open-minded, free-spirited mountain biker chic goes to those clinics and thinks, “Wow. These are my people!” And then they show up as often as possible. I think that the more these opportunities take place, the more women will get the chance to find this comradery. It truly is a beautiful thing.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
When I coach other women, I watch them transform during the hours I spend with them. I love to learn why they are there because then I can reach them from where they’re at. I want to know what already motivates them, so I can keep that momentum moving forward. And when I watch them relax, improve, find joy, let their true self shine and encourage the other ladies in the group, I know I did my job well. It’s the most rewarding part for me.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Here are two: I make homemade wine from local berries, and I am the singer in a classic rock band!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Emily Oppliger

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoorMy name is Emily Oppliger, and here is a little bit about me. I grew up in a world of adventure tucked away in the middle of Lake Superior, the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. My parents, both incredible athletes, opened my world to so many adventure sports, including cycling.

I started working at the local bike and ski shop Down Wind Sports and I would not be where I am today without that job. It didn’t take long to take my mountain biking passion to the next level. I was emerged in the sport and tried to learn as much as I could about the industry and mechanics of mountain bikes.

I raced cross country since I was a young girl but by the time I was in college I was intrigued to another side of the sport and never turned back.

Facebook Emily Oppliger
Instagram @emily_oppliger

Tell us about your mountain biking introduction? What made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Well, I have been riding bikes since I was a young girl, but there definitely was a turning point in my riding. The tables turned when I working in a bike shop I started riding with the shop employees more and more. Our rides were mostly based around how much fun you could have, while hitting the most jumps, and drinking the most beer. This was a side of the sport I had never seen as I was previously only riding endurance cross country. I quickly got the craving for adrenaline from hitting features and fixating on downhill speed. That was it. The turning point.

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you-
Although it all started with jumping around on my home trails, my bikelife accelerated fast. I dove into downhill racing and dedicated my time to it. I raced professional downhill and enduro around North America, gaining incredible riding experience and building a network within the outdoor industry. I always thought my passion was racing but the tables quickly took another turn. I started working with Lindsey Richter and coaching for Liv Ladies AllRide. My racing ego was suddenly ripped from my soul and my passion shifted. Lindsey took me under her wing and my career as a ladies mountain bike coach began. I could not get enough of it. Being surrounded and included by the leading women in the industry was eye-opening. My perception of the sport was changed again… into the bikelife I know today. I pour my enthusiasm into my coaching and encourage women to overcome obstacles and build self-confidence in riding and life!

Tell us about your favorite mountain biking event?
The riding event that means the most to me is the Copper Harbor Women’s Weekend. This women’s event takes place at the tip the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan in one of the most special and unknown mountain biking meccas, and sold out in 6 minutes this year. Every year in a town with a population of 100 people, we double the population with the women on mountain bikes. This is a mountain bike skills clinic that is driven by the incredible Lindsey Ritcher herself and the dedicated Copper Harbor Trails Club. We have an amazing team of coaches from across the country and bike industry who travel to coach this special event. Copper Harbor is a Disney World of all varieties of trail and your face will always be sore from smiling when you ride there. The energy of this event is truly unique and the people and location make it so. Honestly, I will never be able to give the spark by words, so you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!

What do you love about coaching/teaching mtb skills?
Honestly, what I love about coaching/teaching mtb skills is showing people there is an actual technique to a sport that many people jump into without much advice, support, or confidence. I am fascinated by how everyone learns differently and problem-solving to flick that switch of a lightbulb, usually followed by a huge smile.
What has been one of your favorite skill-teaching moments?
This is so hard to choose but there is one that comes to mind. I was coaching for SRAM MTB at CrankWorx for their women’s program. I had a beginner group on a green trail - which I don’t usually have because most the time I am working with advanced riders. But I love to teach beginners just as much because I get to go back into looking at the sport from a new perspective. AND this story is great because it just supports how important the more basic skills are. So I am on this green trail with my beginner group and we are working on looking ahead on the trail. I am leading the group down a kitty litter, wide and flat trail, so I decide to reach down and set the compression on my shock. I gaze down at the switch for just a moment and BAM I am hit the ground HARD.

Which proves the point, everybody falls! This is one of the best lessons you can burn in a new rider's brain, and really just for general life. Even though I had to take stitches in the knee and not race the Garbo DH, I think the lesson is still worth it.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Both!! I think both pedals have their place. I use my flats for dirt jumping and my first couple seasons of DH racing, to make bailing easier. Now almost all my bikes are clips even my DH bike, although for dirt jumping and BMX I will still go flats. Flats are GREAT because they can teach you so much about the importance of your footing on the pedals and pressure points to keep traction at all times - especially in the air!

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Unfortunately, I have a pretty bad track record with crashing my body into dirt, trees, rocks, and about any other features on a downhill/enduro track. There isn’t really a specific crash that really broke me down but the accumulation of them definitely has… in different ways. Physically, my body has been strung out over these injuries which has led to some tough realizations as a 26-year-old. After multiple surgeries, concussions, and broken bones you can really see the impact on the body. This past year, I had a considerable crash that led to some internal bleeding and a very extensive concussion. My confidence in my riding and myself has been pretty broken since, but I am slowly training myself and working on building my confidence again.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
It's hard to say with handling skills when I started because that was so long ago but I would say the biggest challenge for me was the mental obstacles. Getting myself to try features I had never done before and scared me. I use to ride up to things a million times and psych myself out on the feature. Then I started subconsciously closing my eyes when I would hit features…. This had about a 50% success rating by the way (not recommended). I knew there had to be a better way so I started to train mentally and get myself to think through the process/skills and try to visualize myself riding it correctly. I think one of the crucial skills, often overlooked (no pun intended) is just looking ahead.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Mental blocks have always been and since my crash, have been very active in my riding. It makes riding tricky because it makes features and trails I have hit in the past, scary again and sometimes I feel like I have taken this huge step back. But, like I said I am practicing my confidence and reminding myself that I know the technique and have the skills. This is a huge part of cycling (and life) but confidence really is the key, and it might not go well every time but also remember the other key, everyone falls!

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?

It always seems like a good idea at first, and don’t worry you’ll be able to ride together for sure farther down the way. but learning can be very stressful, competitive and high tension when learning from a significant other. This isn’t always the case but for a good experience as a beginner, I would definitely suggest looking into a clinic or a local group of friends or peers. I know that joining a new group or clinic can be intimidating but the energy there is so welcoming! These groups are always excited to have gained a new rider.

What do you love about riding your bike?
What I really love about riding, is the places it brings me and the vast network of friends I have created from it. I have been able to travel all over the world for riding and just being outside breathing fresh mountain air in some of the most picturesque places in the world is what I cherish most.
Image may contain: one or more people, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Building a bicycle quiver for your riding style is important and exciting! I have many bikes in the quiver but let me tell you about some of my favorite steeds.

Number one all-around steed - Stumpjumper 27.5 - this bike is the most playful but stable bike I have ever ridden. Its responsiveness on the trail is incredible and it jumps just as well.

Number one Downhill Steed - Demo - talk about a nimble, quick, blaster DH ride.

Number one adventure bike - Diverge - This bike has a special place in my heart - this gravel/adventure bike has brought me to exciting places with the best adventure groups!

What do you do at Specialized?
I am a service representative at Specialized providing mechanical and informational responses to our riders. Most of my time is spent conversing, troubleshooting, and giving information on bicycles and gear. It keeps things interesting every day, and there is never a dull moment.

Why do you feel it is important for women to be involved in the cycling industry?
Like a bicycle - balance is essential to the ride. Having women in the industry keeps or at least starts a balance of thoughts, ideas, processes, and most of all perspective to be successful.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Well it is often jumped to that women do not have as much interest in cycling but a study by People for Bikes shows that the gap is not actually so large. ⅓ of the population over the period of the year rode a bicycle with 45 million (43%) women 59 million (57%) men. So essentially, I think many women are interested in cycling I just think that keeping them interested and them actually having good experiences is what deters many. And that is why I think women's activity in the industry is so important and most of all it's why I pour my soul into coaching, because those good experiences with the sport are everything!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think industry-wide many brands (not all) spend focus and money on elite athletes and racing which is incredible, and as a previous racer, I appreciate this support. I just believe that the women that need the industry the most to encourage them in the sport cannot relate to those athletes and elitist focus. I think brands that can relate to this general community of ladies who ride or want to ride will succeed most with women riders. I believe the key is creating content that women can make personal connections to and feel like they fit into the brand at any level.
Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
There are so many reasons to be inspired to give ladies more confidence on bikes. I would say the biggest inspiration for me would be every time that light bulb goes off in a ladies mind and they conquer a skill or a feature for the first time. This is a contagious high from the riders happiness and confidence and those moments are what drive me in my coaching for sure.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
One time I got to be a double for Micayla Gatto and I am a twin!! (not with Micayla lol)

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Mountain Bike Gear at Disney? You Bet!

This year Travis and are doing something we've never done before, and that would be going on a (literal) summer vacation! We might be going to the happiest place on earth, however, we will not be entering a land that is any cooler than Iowa in the summertime. Frankly, it'll likely be worse.

When we last went to Disney I found myself wearing tank tops and overshirts most of the time, paired with a skirt or my favorite Outdoor Research Ferossi shorts. I utilized my Outdoor Research sling bag a lot, and wore either Teva sandals or some running shoes.

Overall those items were fantastic, but this time I knew I would have to make some changes in order to stay comfortable as much as possible in the Florida heat as well as keeping my shoulders and neck happy.

#1. More tank tops and some of those will be from Shredly. I know wicking is important in hot weather, and I have a tendency of overheating fast, so I figured that "mountain bike" clothes would work great! I'll be trying out the Honeycomb tank in a couple different colors and am absolutely stoked over the mesh back on them. Plus, the fabric feels amazingly soft.

#2. More shorts! I'll be taking down a couple pairs of Shredly Multi-Sport shorts in addition to the Outdoor Research shorts for additional color. Not too heavy, wick away moisture, and won't look too wet if I go on a water ride!

#3. My Outdoor Research overshirt and the Shredly Explorer shirt. I know it will be hot, but I also know if we go into a restaurant for a sit-down meal I will likely be chilly. I'm always one that likes to travel prepared for some arm coverage, especially if we're out at night.

#4. I will (gasp) likely not be taking my sling bag because after wearing it for hours on end in the parks, my neck and right shoulder were super sore. HIP PACKS to the rescue! I'll be utilizing one from Silver Rider Stitch Works and one from Pinch Flat Designs (and possibly my favorite Dakine hip pack), depending on the day/what I need to carry/what we might be riding (lots of water rides or not.)

I figured this vacation would be a fun way of trying out some items that are for mountain biking (or outdoor-sport-advertised) and show that there are items out there that are truly able to multi-task from the sporting world to the casual vacation scene. Also, I feel my happiest when I'm in bike clothes, which works out well that I'll be taking some on the trip with me!

After the trip, I'll write a review of the gear options I took with me and let you know what worked well and what didn't. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Women Involved: Jessica Combs

Hi, I am Jes Combs, a pretty okay mountain biker, mom of a toddler, wife of a trail builder and proud founder of the MsFit Mountain Bike Brigade-a WTF mountain bike advocacy nonprofit based out of the PNW.

Tell us about your introduction to #bikelife, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Actually, #bikelife wasn’t necessarily something I was too open to exploring at first. It took almost 2 years of convincing from my husband and best friend before I finally gave it a try. The cost of mountain biking was always my excuse; it was hard to justify spending so much on something that I (at that time) considered to be a kid’s toy. Quite honestly, I had a rough introduction to the sport! After my 3rd ride, lots of curse words, tears & walking I was considering selling my bike and throwing in the towel. Luckily with some wise words and encouragement from my best friend Sarah, I created a network of women riders through social media and my passion for the sport started to flourish.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Mountain Biking did not come naturally to me, I struggled with bike body separation and the feeling of shifting weight into corners. Learning from women has been an instrumental catalyst for my progression. I credit Kat Sweet, Angi Weston and Emily Sablehaus for helping me find confidence on my bike, & highly recommend checking out their clinics. Sweetlines, Radical Roots, & Flying Squirrel.

Often women try to learn from a spouse or partner, which poses its own stress and challenges. I know personally, I cannot learn from my 6’2 husband that has been riding since age 4. Our bodies and thinking processes are night and day. He is more leap before you look… and I am more look before you leap. So, recognizing that you don’t have to just send it has also helped me with my mountain biking as well. It's OKAY TO WALK SISTER!

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Every day I wish I could just rail into corners. It’s a skill that I tend to hyper-focus on, and typically when I put too much thought into something, I tend to mess it up. My trick is to keep a chill vibe out on the trails, riding is not a competition for me. I may not be the fastest out there, but I can guarantee that I’m having a blast. And with that relaxed vibe, my riding seems to be at its best.
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?
Mountain biking is intimidating, especially if you are starting from ground zero. I recommend chatting with your local bike shop to inquiring about group rides & local bike organizations. Also, I can’t stress enough the importance of mastering fundamentals. Participating in a clinic within the first few weeks on your bike can make a world of difference and keep you from acquiring any bad habits.

You founded MsFit Mountain Bike Brigade, tell us about the group and why it was started-
The day after a miserable experience on my bike, I was sitting on my couch and I opened my computer. I was taking some words of wisdom that I had just received from my bestie whom lives out of state: She said, “before you give up, try and find other women to ride with.” So I took to Google. After realizing that there wasn’t much to offer locally for women’s groups, I decided to create my own social platform. Through the powers of social media; what started as a way for me to make some gal pal riding buddies, manifested into a way of life. I honestly never expected there to be such an overwhelmingly positive response to the creation of the Ms.Fits. Once we all started to ride together, there was a dramatic shift in our progression, and our fully stoked trail etiquette organically seemed to draw in more riders.

How can folks join MisFit Mountain Bike Brigade?

A great resource to connect with our brigade is the website, from there you can find links to our social media, event details and awesome Bio’s on our Badassadors. It doesn’t take much to become a Ms.Fit! Just the desire to hit the trails, an open mind and heart, the willingness to try new (sometimes intimidating) things, and a desire to give back to our community.
Why do you feel mountain bike groups geared toward WTF are important for inclusiveness?
My own personal belief is that we are much more powerful as a tribe than an individual. The Ms.Fits are passionate about supporting the WTF community and providing a culture where everyone is supported and can thrive. And anyone who has a problem with our open-door policy is free to ride with another group.

How did you come up with the name of your non-profit?
I get this question a lot… Long story short, one of my favorite bands is the MisFits.. lol.

Now looking at our organization, the word Ms.Fit is so suiting of who we are. We are unapologetic & at times rebellious. We come from all walks of life and have created lasting memories while pushing the limits of our comfort levels. But most of all we laugh, cry, party, and shred together. No matter what your ability level, background or way of life the Ms.Fits offer a secure environment to be the best version of yourself, both on and off a bike.

Any plans for the 2019 year with MisFit Mountain Bike Brigade?
2019 is going to be HUGE for the Brigade. Our Board of directors has been investing countless hours into what’s to be our most productive year to date. We will be taking on more environmental contributions through trail building efforts, our race team is thriving and we have several events in the works; including a Ms.Fits Summit. Also, we will continue to work with bike companies to provide women with the resources necessary to explore the trails before committing to the purchase.
Many of us have gotten PMBIA Certified and in 2020 we will start hosting MsFits Shreducation clinics. Getting womxn comfortable with the basics before they take on the big stuff.

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 CRASH ALL OF THE TIME! Lucky for me I haven’t sustained an injury that has sidelined me for too long. But a few weeks prior to the Sturdy Dirty Enduro a couple years back I did compound fracture my rear brake finger. And that’s where the power of support from fellow Ms.Fits came into play. Having my brigade there to encourage me through the healing process, had me back on my bike and ready to shred the Sturdy.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The athleticism and focus required for mountain biking work well for my busy mind. I also enjoy the outdoors, and I’ve explored places that I had never dreamed about seeing from the cockpit of my bike.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I am an ambassador for Specialized, and this year I am on a Rocket Red Stumpjumper Expert 27.5c. I chose a stumpy because it’s a great all-around trail bike that likes to get rowdy. Plus the bright red frame can be seen from outer space, so you can't miss me out on the trail.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with mountain biking?
I know for me it was the cost associated with getting into the sport, and that’s why the Ms.Fits focus so heavily on working with bike companies to get women in the saddle before shelling out their hard-earned money.

I also think there is a fear of failure or injury. Inherently, most recreational activities possess some type of risk factor, however, the thought of falling off a bike is scary. And that circles back to my recommendation of taking a clinic. Not only do clinics provide a foundation for learning proper bike skills, but you will also be introduced to riders that are feeling the same hesitations on their bike.

I have made some of my best friends during clinics!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I have noticed that some companies have finally got the memo… NOT ALL WOMEN LIKE PINK! Or purple, teal, or flowers. I have seen a shift in how brands market to women riders, and it’s refreshing. But I do think there is always room for improvement! I wish there were local shops that carried more women’s fit option. Especially pads! I realize that shopping online has taken away some of this option, but I often dream of a day where I can try on a pair of knee pads before buying them.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Because the women’s bike community is KICK-ASS (can I say that?)! I truly believe you can make some of your best memories and relationships while out on the trails. And I just want all the women to have all the bikes and all the fun!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
HMMM…. A random fact about myself…. I hate doing laundry… So much in fact that I have bought new clothes instead of washing my dirties. I typically will hide my growing pile in a basket tucked away in our guest shower until I literally have nothing left to wear.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Specialized Mountain Bike Apparel Review

For 2019 I wanted to step back into the casual mountain-bike apparel scene and break away from the full lycra kit that I had sported for way too long. I had drifted away from baggy "mtb specific" gear because I had grown tired of snagging my bike shorts on my saddle all the time. It seemed I couldn't get away from shorts that drowned my legs in fabric. I also found myself preferring the total lycra kit due to full-zippered jerseys for easy venting and shorts that didn't snag my seat.

I signed up for Roam Bike Fest, and with that commitment, I knew I would have to get some baggies so I wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb. Plus, I'd be wearing knee and elbow pads

I looked to Specialized for some mountain bike clothing options due to the color choices they had. I am one that does like bright colors and minimal patterns (most of the time...) and from my perspective, they had several pieces that I was keen on checking out.

Since then, I've been converted back to the baggy side and I'm loving it! I'll still throw on lycra here and there as there is a time and place for everything, but I'm feeling a lot happier with having more casual options to wear on a regular basis.

The following are the shorts and jerseys I've been wearing regularly this riding season:

Andorra Pro Mountain Bike Short
These are not the same Andorra Pro shorts from yesteryear, rather they have improved the design and I have found them to be a lot sleeker than the previous generation I had. That could've been due to my wearing a size Small when I might've been in the XS sizing. Not sure. Either way, with the sizing chart that I looked at when I was making my purchases I went with the XS size in shorts. I worried about whether or not they would be too snug, but I've found them to be comfortable and roomy enough. There is a velcro waist adjuster so you can loosen them or snug them up depending on the fit you're looking for.

The fabric feels more durable than the shorts I had in the '13/'14 year, and they now sport perforations for additional venting. You still have the zipper/velcro/snap closure action going on, and you do have a zippered pocket as well as zippered vents. Their cut falls just to the top of your knee.

The short legs weren't too big or billowy, and they worked well with knee pads. All in all, I was incredibly happy with these shorts and how they functioned for riding.

Andorra Short Sleeve Jersey
The Andorra Jersey has more of a t-shirt style cut compared to lycra jerseys which I have found to be enjoyable if I have the right size of jersey. If it's too big, then I feel like I'm swimming in fabric, but based on the size charts I opted for XS. Overall, I like the fit, but I would recommend sizing up if you wanted to be sure you could layer under the short sleeve or long sleeve Andorra jerseys. The jersey material isn't quite as silky feeling as the jerseys from a few years back. Still good quality, but I'd say not as stretchy or giving from what I remember the jerseys to be. The jerseys this year differ slightly from last year with the removal of the V-cuts at the bottom hem. I haven't noticed this to be an issue in terms of fit.
Keep in mind, mtb jerseys will not come with pockets (most times) so you'll want to have a hip-pack or hydration pack in order to bring snacks/tools/layers/etc.
I went with the two brightly colored options for the short sleeve jersey (Tropical Teal & Cast Berry/Acid Purple) and they pair well with solid-colored shorts, OR my recent discovery of Shredly shorts!

Emma Trail Jersey
I'll admit, the colors of the Emma Trail jersey weren't my usual go-to, but I figured I could dress them up with fun colored shorts instead. I was keen on trying a jersey that was slated to be well-vented as well as cooling, with longer sleeves for additional sun/abrasion protection.

I went with XS for size and felt it was a great fit. The sleeves weren't too tight nor loose, and the fabric was just loose enough around the middle to not look super bulky. It's not something I'd be able to layer up with in terms of a long-sleeved base layer (due to the sleeve fit) but I don't see that to be an issue.

I did wear the jersey out on a trail scoping ride when temps were near 90 degrees. Overall, I was quite comfortable! I would have been sweaty in anything, but I didn't feel as tho I was overly hot due to it not being a full-zip jersey.

The two colors are more on the muted side, and you'll find the black to look more like a dark grey vs. a true black (on the front.)
All in all excellent jerseys with a nice fit that pair well with a variety of mountain bike short colors/patterns.

Women's RBX Shorty Shorts w/SWAT
I was super keen to try this updated short from Specialized that has a new Women's 3D contour chamois. They updated the waistband is exceptionally nice as well as the leg bands, (no more annoying grippers!) To make a sleek fitting short that has an incredibly comfortable chamois pad. This short has felt amazing when paired with the Specialized Power Saddle with Mimic. I've worn the short for shorter rides but also for rides over 2 hours long, and it's been one of the best shorts I've ever worn. Now, it's not a liner short, but I use it as a liner short with baggies and they work well for a dual-purpose short.

So there you have it! A selection of jersey and shorts that I've been trying out this riding season from Specialized. From colorful to subtle, I've found great options that fit well and have converted me back into the world of mountain bike wear.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Women Involved Series: Lisa Uranga

My name is Lisa Uranga and am the President and Co-Founder of Dirt Side Sisters, a 501c3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to get more women riding mountain bikes confidently by increasing their skills and building community around them.

My husband and I have worked together as personal trainers for 11 years now. Generally speaking, we are pretty inseparable. I dedicate most of my time working for Dirt Side Sisters while he works at a local bike shop, Mad Duck Cyclery.

Last year I was certified at United Bicycle Institute as a bike mechanic through QBP’s Women’s Mechanic Scholarship, and I also became RETUL Certified to do professional bike fitting. I am looking forward to partnering up with an amazing fitter in our area to pursue a career helping people achieve their cycling goals with a proper bike fit! This whole journey with cycling started in 2007 when my husband and I purchased our first mountain bikes. Next thing I knew we were racing nearly every weekend all around Texas and all I wanted to do was become a Pro Mountain Biker! I upgraded to a Pro UCI License in 2012 and competed in a few national-level races over the next couple of years. Through this time I’ve won five Texas State Championships in the disciplines of cross-country, marathon, and cyclocross.

In 2014 a friend and I had the idea to start a weekly women’s group ride. Week after week we saw major growth and it felt like we were on to something, definitely filling a void in our local female mtbing community. In 2016 we took the plunge and become a 501c3 non-profit organization. DSS takes up the majority of my time these days, but I am finally finding a balance where I am able to get back to riding hard and training for races with my husband and friends. If I can balance work, DSS, and still race myself I am a happy camper!

Tell us about your introduction to #bikelife, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Oh my, the whole “Yes! This is for me!” was a little bit of an uphill battle. Haha! I have a pretty quirky body, including one leg being longer than the other. No matter what type of strength training I do this has caused random pain in my joints and muscles for as long as I can remember. I’ve played sports my whole life. As a kid I was in soccer, softball, basketball, and track, then focused on volleyball in high school and college. I began Personal Training in 2007 at a gym where I met my husband Carlos. We would work out together and run outside at local parks. My body finally had enough with running. Carlos saw how frustrated I was and wanted to find an outdoor activity we could do together where I wasn’t in pain all the time…mountain bikes ended up being the solution! It was so much fun to explore different trails every weekend and jump in the lake after a hot summer ride. The change of pace and the constant challenge of all the different trails held my attention, but it was a sort of love-hate relationship. I crashed ALL THE TIME and was always super sore and tired. In our first few months of riding and exploring trails, somehow we were talked into entering a cross country race. I was so nervous I thought I was going to throw up or pass out! I remember feeling like I was going to die more than once, crashing right in front of a trail marshal, hopping back on my bike as quick as I could, and finishing in first place with my handlebars crooked! This was my exact, “Yes! This is for me!” moment.

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 was absolutely HORRIBLE at mountain biking. I cannot even emphasize that enough. I crashed ALL THE TIME, especially on flat, tight corners. I fell so much that Carlos threatened to sell our bikes if I didn’t start wearing knee pads. Once I stopped crying (literally), I finally gave in and ordered some gnarly, hard shell, downhill Fox knee pads that also had shin guards attached. Haha. I was really embarrassed to wear them because they were so bulky and we only road cross-country style trails, but no local shops sold knee pads so I couldn’t try any on for size and fit. Although it was embarrassing for a little while, I don’t regret riding with them one bit! They gave me an extreme amount of confidence and saved my legs from getting banged up so many times.

I also distinctly remember the first time I came across a log lying across a trail and saying, “Who put that there?” Riding bikes over obstacles was such a foreign thought to me that I never even imagined that someone could ride OVER the log.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I think I still dislike cornering more than any other handling skill. This probably comes from years of racing and constantly testing the limits of my bike at high speeds…unfortunately sliding out is the consequence and the memories of that stick with me. I talk to myself a lot while I ride, giving myself ques like, “turn your hips,” “let go of your brakes,” “look ahead” and that helps me to relax and get out of my own head.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I started clipping in a few months after I started riding. I was SUPER scared to clip in, but I kept whacking my shins with flats. (Granted I wore tennis shoes with the cheap plastic pedals that came on my bike.) With that being said, I love being clipped in, BUT recently I started riding with a pair of flat shoes to help me become a more well-rounded rider and teacher. I figured, how could I teach someone who rides flats to lift their rear wheel if I can’t do it myself?

The first trail I rode flats with was super rocky and technical. I was surprised with how well my feet stayed on the pedals. There were even a few rock gardens I cleared because I wasn’t scared of tipping over if I got stuck. I still prefer being clipped in for the majority of my riding because my knees feel better being in one exact position, but I think changing to flats periodically is a great way to switch up your riding style and practice certain skills. It helps take away the fear of not getting clipped out fast enough to bail.

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?
Yes! Talk to locals and get several opinions on what trails are the most beginner-friendly. Not all riders may categorize the same trails as beginner, and if there’s one trail (or section of trail) that people keep mentioning it’s probably a winner. There’s nothing more defeating than a first-time rider trying to learn when there’s too much elevation change, super technical terrain, or tons of scary-looking obstacles. Starting out on a dirt road before hitting the trails is also very helpful to practice shifting gears, stand up on your pedals, and how to use your brakes.
You founded Dirt Side Sisters, tell us about the group and why it was started-
In 2013 I was super focused on my training and was trying to get to as many Pro XCT races around the country as possible. I also wanted to do something to be able to give back to my local bike shop sponsor who had helped support my efforts to become a pro cross country racer. I always felt that having a career in the fitness and nutrition industry as a personal trainer was one of the biggest reasons why I was able to excel at mountain biking so quickly. I was also super frustrated with how few women I would see out riding trails, and especially the lack of women at the starting line of races. In an attempt to pass on the knowledge I had gained along my personal fitness journey, I began putting on small clinics at my local bike shop specifically for women, on the topics of nutrition, strength training, and stretching for cyclists. Soon after this clinic series, two separate women reached out to ask if I’d collaborate with them in their own efforts to get more women riding. My train of thought was that if we were all working toward the same goal individually, how much greater could our impact be if we came together? In our very first meeting, we agreed that there was a lack of community amongst female mountain bikers in our area. This is when we decided to start a women’s weekly group ride, where we would teach skills to new and beginner riders. Consistency was the KEY ingredient to what is now Dirt Side Sisters!

How can folks join Dirt Side Sisters?
We always invite folks to participate in one of our group rides before deciding they want to become a member of Dirt Side Sisters. Our rides are FREE to join, but if they like what they see and how our organization is run, they can go to our website to join. Their membership helps us keep doing what we’re doing to get more women riding, and in turn, they get to take advantage of all the membership perks that we’ve put together for them! We have member-only events, discounts, swag, free skills clinics and maintenance clinics, and more!

Why do you feel mountain bike groups geared toward women are important?
Oh my goodness. They are SOOOO IMPORTANT! I always say that magic happens when a group of women come together to ride. The energy is like no other and there is something so extremely powerful about one woman watching another ride through a challenging obstacle or trail feature smoothly and flawlessly. It makes them realize that riding has nothing to do with gender, and sometimes it’s not even about strength if you have the correct technique. This experience creates a contagious desire to become a better rider and a positive atmosphere to learn when everyone is helping each other, encouraging but not pushy and allowing each person to ride within their own comfort zone.

Tell us about Dirt Side Misters!-
Our Misters are our biggest supporters so we finally decided that they’ve earned their own kit! Haha! We’re kind of kidding and kind of not. I was lucky enough to be taught how to ride by my Mister and he was a fantastic teacher. We know that’s not always the case and are super thankful for all the Misters who are open-minded for us to teach their lady friend or wife how to ride while standing wayside to cheer her on and be supportive. Ultimately the Misters reap the benefits when they realize they’ve gained an awesome shredding partner and they really enjoy seeing their other half or female riding friends succeed on two wheels!!! So to sum it up…our Dirt Side Misters makeup all the men who love what we do and truly are our biggest supporters.

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 so many that I almost don’t even know where to start. I’d have to say that with ALL of the struggles I have faced, whether they were from crashes, injury, or illness, I’ve tried not to be too hard on myself. It’s important to have faith and realize that life is about the ups AND the downs. I use the down times to focus on things I feel like I don’t always have time for, and try to put my energy into something positive. In fact, the year I decided to turn Dirt Side Sisters into a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization, the only reason I was able to do all the work involved was because I had a knee injury that kept me off my bike for several months.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The CHALLENGE! I absolutely love that you can make any ride a different type of challenge whether it’s to ride a technical feature without putting your foot down, go faster, or clear a super hard climb. The variation keeps me focused and doesn’t allow me to think of anything else but the moment!

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

2018 Specialized Epic Pro – with Fox Transfer dropper post (Name: Belle) I chose this bike because I wanted a fast cross country race bike in hopes of toeing the starting line again. I had ridden an Epic several years ago, and then in 2014 made the switch to a Liv 27.5” bike. I loved my small wheels, but recently I was in the market for a new cross country bike and Liv was no longer making 100mm or 120mm travel bikes. So I went back to my roots with the Specialized Epic. It was super weird to go back to big wheels, and I first thought maybe I had made a mistake…but now I love it just as much as my 27.5 because it’s so light and nimble!

2017 Liv Hail Advanced 0 – ready to rip out of the box! (Name: Hail-elujah) This is a super light and extremely capable downhill shredding machine. I got this bike for our trips to Arkansas, the El Paso Franklin Mountains, and the occasional Enduro adventure!

2018 Liv Langma Advanced Pro 0 – with a Stages power meter (Name: Cielo) I love this bike! She is comfortable, fits me like a glove, and is fast!

2019 Kona Libre – I love this bike! She’s so comfy and my first dedicated gravel bike!
You were a recipient of the QBP Mechanic scholarship, tell us about your experience!-
It was AH-MAZING!!! I would have never in my wildest dreams could have guessed how great this whole experience was going to be. I was super nervous to be gone for so long by myself, to a place I had never traveled to, with people I didn’t know. But from the moment I arrived, they had us so spoiled and the hospitality was amazing. We had the BEST instructors who were extremely passionate about teaching and so willing to help all of us learn. I loved the way everything was hands-on, super organized, and broken down incredibly well.

QBP did such an incredible job choosing the recipients, and I don’t mean that toward me. All the recipients are amazing human beings, with so much heart and passion toward cycling and their local communities. To be able to connect with people like that and share this unique opportunity together made the whole experience unforgettable. I am so grateful for the new friendships I made all around the country and to know how much support we have from a huge list of different companies in the cycling industry.

Why do you feel opportunities like that are important to get more w/t/f individuals involved in the cycling industry?

It is important to build awareness and to give confidence to w/t/f individuals who feel under or misrepresented in the cycling industry. Just like I mentioned in the previous question, knowing how much support we have will create movement and growth that our industry desperately needs.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with mountain biking?
There are a number of factors. The most common answer I get is that it is too scary and they don’t want to crash. This is actually where Dirt Side Sisters is able to jump in and break down those barriers with our first-time riders group and that our rides are very educational. We try to teach them the skills they need to feel safe and confident, and then build a community around them so there is always someone to ride with.

The other answer I get a lot is time. This one is hard to have a revolving for. Mountain biking is definitely more time consuming than road riding, for example.

The third most common answer is that they don’t have a bike. This is where our borrow-a-bike program started so that it would throw this reason out the door and they could at least put a foot in the door, absolutely FREE, to get a taste of mountain biking.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think having more “women’s only” organizations like ours around the country would make a huge difference. The challenge to this is finding the right people in your leadership team, who not only have a deep passion for riding, but ALSO for teaching. Having certified instructors who are all using the same terminology, speaking the same language, and teaching the same things also helps tremendously. We feel like we are creating a whole new generation of cyclists and building our community from the ground up with our first-time riders group and borrow-a-bike program is huge! It’s not always about the ones who are already riding, but most importantly about the ones who are not…yet!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I don’t have any kids of my own, and it almost feels like this is what it would be like if I did. Haha! To watch these ladies improve not only in their riding, right in front of your eyes, but also to see how they are happier, build friendships and relationships, are able to ride with their guy friends and spouses…it’s just so rewarding!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have the lung age of a 79-year-old. Yay me! Despite the old age of my lungs, it doesn’t seem to stop me from riding hard or fast…unless I’m not controlling my asthma or I have bronchitis.

Moral of the story, enjoy life when you’re healthy, and you don’t need the full capacity of your lungs to be a cyclist!