Monday, July 15, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Katie Lo

I go by Katie Lo, because my last name, Lozancich, has notoriously been butchered my whole life. I'm an avid outdoorswoman and am so grateful to be working as a digital content contributor for the action sports media company Teton Gravity Research, in Jackson Wyoming. My role essentially means I'm a creative team member that wears a lot of different hats. Some days I'm writing feature-length stories and then there are others in which I'm on the ground photographing events or trying to keep with athletes with camera gear strapped to my back. It's pretty wild. What I love most about my job is that no matter what I do, I get to tell a story. Right now I'm particularly interested in stories from those who haven't always had a voice in the outdoor industry. One of my biggest focuses happens to be on mountain biking. It's a sport that I dearly love. I've only been riding for two years, but I can't think of something that makes me feel more empowered, and when I was first introduced to the sport I didn't see many women reflected in the media.

So, a considerable part of my career has been trying to change that. Off the clock from TGR I'm biking, skiing when there's fresh pow, and balancing a side career as a freelance artist.

My Instagram: @katielo.zancich

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
The experience that hooked me was a ride at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort bike park. It was my first time ever riding in a downhill setting and I anxiously squirmed the entire chairlift ride up. There had to be a thousand different questions and worries bouncing around in my head. It was until a few pedal strokes in that they dissipated and were replaced with small bouts of laughter. Aspens that glowed from the warm summer light surrounded me and each banked turn brought me to a new part of the trail. I've been chasing that feeling of wonder and adventure ever since.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Hmm, all of it?
Kidding, tight hairpin turns. We have a few nasty ones on this trail I love on Teton Pass called Blacks Canyon. I've found improvement with looking through my turns and leading with my chest.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Turning will always be something that could be honed in, but that's okay! In fact, the ability to improve is what I crave most about mountain biking. The sport is about constant progression and I find there's always a skill or part of the trail to improve on. This progression keeps the sport exciting and an enduring challenge.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Flats. I've never ridden with clips, mostly because they make me a bit nervous. But I'm always open to trying new things.

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?
Find a local riding group to ride with, I got lucky that Seattle (where I lived during college) had the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance which held weekly ride meetups through the Seattle area. Riding with other people is the best way to learn. It pushes you and also reminds you to just have fun and enjoy the company you're with. Watching other riders is also a great way to push your riding as well.

You work for Teton Gravity Research as a digital content contributor; what do you love most about sharing stories?
Storytelling is one of the most powerful and unique tools we have! Simply look throughout history, whether it be through oral traditions, art, or written word, stories have been used to inspire, impact, and empower one and another. We all carry such unique narratives with us, and those narratives are more compelling than we give them credit.

What do you love most about giving people in the outdoor industry a voice?
Simply seeing the narratives within this industry expand to include a diversity of voices. I hope one day that anyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic background can feel like that outdoor community is a space that welcomes them.

What do you love most about covering/featuring mountain biking?
It's such a beautiful sport to photograph. I've always seen parallels between dancing and mountain biking, there's so much grace to it! As far as the narratives associated with mountain biking, I have often found that biking has been used a metaphorical vehicle just as much as a physical one. The bike is an incredible machine to empower, explore, or simply celebrate the places we love.
Your mission has been to increase the representation of women in media, how have you done this and do you feel as a whole, it's getting better?
I found that a genuine way to address this dilemma is to just provide a platform for women to share their stories. So much so that hopefully it doesn't feel like there has ever been an imbalance. The most successful stories are the ones that highlight individuals for their experiences, meanwhile their gender speaks for itself. I think we've made some significant progress but there's still room for improvement. I'd love to see the narrative expanded to include stories we haven't seen as much, like motherhood in the mountains or how the #metoo movement fits in with the outdoors.

What do you love most about being a woman involved in the outdoor industry?
Think about the term "mother nature", womanhood is an innate part of the outdoors! I love this industry and the fact that my more work celebrates these beautiful wild spaces we play on.

What do you love about riding your bike?
There are a plethora of trails out here in the world, and I want to ride them all.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I just have a 2016 Liv Intrigue. I picked it because it I liked the geometry and it was the perfect fit for my level of riding. I'm hoping to upgrade this season now that I know a bit more about bikes and components.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
There's a myriad of reasons why women are intimidated by cycling and the one I hear the most is "I'm scared". A lot of gals have this perception that biking is solely big whips, riding fast and gnarly terrain. But that's just one facet of this sport.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
It all starts with representation. There's this saying, "you can't be what you can't see," and moving forward marketing needs to also showcase young girls to middle age women thriving in this sport.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

There are so many positive byproducts of biking. It's healthy for you, it's empowering, it's a wonderful way to explore your local area, and it fosters new relationships. These are the things I gained from riding my bike and hope to share that with everyone!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
In addition to writing and photography, I am a painter. My Acrylic artwork ranges from small 8"x8" pieces to 6ft murals. I hope to someday blend art and biking together but haven't quite figured that out yet.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Susan Ward

My given name is Susan Ward. My biking name is "Kitty". I am from the midwest and live in Janesville, Wisconsin. I have two sisters who live in other states. My favorite time of year is summer. I got my first bike when I was three years old and my latest bike this summer.

I love cycling and ride many different bikes many different ways with many different people in many different places all year long. I love my bike family!



I'm working on being a better climber of hills. I do not possess a racer's heart.
I keep a roof over my head and support my bike life by working as a registered nurse.

Favorite web sites: www.bellhelmets.com > Bell Joy Ride: Madison, Wisconsin

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!" 
I like to read at night. One night in November 2012 I was reading a Bicycling Magazine article about Fat Biking. Never heard of it. The tires were crazy wide and you could ride it in the snow. At this point, I bicycled the roads and went out weather permitting year-round to keep active. So I was not riding much but wanted to... Winter is long in Wisconsin and can keep you indoors if you let it. Come to find out a local bike shop, Backyard Bikes, in Lagrange, Wisconsin rented fat bikes. Gasp. I went over to their shop and rented one asap. They recommended riding in the nearby Kettle Moraine State Park John Muir Trail system on the beginner loops. If you've ever been on a fat bike, you get reminded of when you were a kid and first able to ride on two wheels. Two fat bouncy wheels in this case. The trail was exciting compared to the road. It challenged and channeled my attention. I had to really focus on the trail, trees, rocks, roots, and steering. It was F U N. I rented that bike a couple times and bought it. Still have it, ride it and love it. 

I was empty nesting at this same time and my only child now lived in Mammoth Lakes, CA. He kept telling me about all his mountain bike adventures and we talked about riding together when I visited next. 

My personal life had been on a downward turn for a while and I found myself feeling relief from my crappy sad "day to day". Riding this little bike made me feel better, so I started to ride it and ride it. This riding helped me press my "reset button" so to speak. Salvation. That's when I said, "Yes, this is for me!"

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Reading a trail was new compared to riding on the road. We all know the road is... you know...boring.

Riding uphill over roots and rocks was a momentum problem. You gotta ride faster and remember to make the most of downhill speed. Put your speed acquired descending into the "momentum bank" to conquer the next hill.

Berms and off camber riding was a confidence and equipment trust issue. Trust your bike, tires, balance, gravity, and muscle memory. It's real folks! Don't freak out.

Adjusting fat bike tire pressures was trial and error on snow, sand, pumice, and any soft loose terrain. For the tire pressure, I was taught to start out with extra air and adjust as/when needed, because it's easier to let out air than pump it in.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Definitely. I'm not a fast (but would like to be)...so going up hills remains challenging. Same for going over bigger or complicated obstacles when climbing.

I feel anxiety when I'm the last rider. Is that herd anxiety? Anyway, I'm working at letting that go. I gotta get rid of the trash talk in my head that tells me I can't get up a hill or ride faster. I let it defeat me at times. I personally do not possess the heart of a racer.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
I use flats, the wide platform spiked type, for mountain biking with sticky bottom shoes. I like to have my feet immediately free! I want to be thrown free from the wreckage! Flats are an accessory you know! So many pretty ones are available.

Clips for 2019 on the Lefty? Maybe. Definitely clips for riding gravel and road.

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 rent a mountain bike and ride with a friend or small group of friends who know you're just getting started. By renting you can get the right size/fit for the trail you plan to ride. You can rent different bikes or have the mechanic "build" it different for you each time you rent. The shop knows you're a potential buyer at this point and will be excited to accommodate you. Try as many bikes as you can. Go on a short comfortable ride because you can repeat a trail loop most likely. Doing this helped me most to figure out where I felt comfortable riding. Work at it.

Both beach and snow riding can be a really good place to start riding soft terrain and going over obstacles. If you tip over or fall these terrains are forgiving.

Find a fun non-threatening event because there are plenty of non-race rides out there. I was really fortunate to have access to so many fun biking get-togethers nearby. The founder of Fat-Bike.com lives in Wisconsin. His name is Gary Lake and he hosts countless bike events for cyclists of all skill levels. His events are really creative and fun! Also, you can really keep up on equipment and the industry by reading the online magazine. https://fat-bike.com/ A side note about fat bikes...they roll over almost any obstacle and they do it confidently. It's a forgiving way to start out on a trail. Fat bikes are mountain bikes.

And you're gonna wanna get yourself a "bike family".

Why do events like the CAMBA women's fatbike weekend help break barriers?
As I see it, the main barriers are knowledge deficit, lack of social support, lack of industry support, and cost. These barriers can cause fear and lead to intimidation from venturing out to give this kind of biking a try. For the ladies CAMBA fat bike weekend a woman could sign up for $65, try out a fat bike without having to rent or purchase one, have no prior knowledge of trail riding, winter riding, and be welcomed with open arms in a friendly social environment. For several women, this was their first experience on a fat bike or trail or snow. Break out groups worked on riding skills based on the group's input/needs. And because it was a three-day event ladies could build on previous days skills and friendships.

The event covered all the above barriers in detail(even though I'm not outlining all of that here). We left with so much good information and the stoke level was definitely high. It was a true camaraderie experience.
Tell us about your Bike Family! How did you meet them?
My grandparents got me my first bike, a trike. They started me out, but the story goes I saw a red trike and wouldn't get off the thing without crying, so my grandpa bought it for me. I knew what I wanted. My grandparents rode into their seventies around Florida and always had fun stories about stuff that happened when they were out and about. My own parents didn't ride though. Guess it skipped a generation there.

My sister, Mary, remains my favorite biking partner of all time and always will be. We like to explore on bikes, don't mind taking wrong turns, or getting lost. We ride for rewards too...like a cold Coke or a beer. We were quite the bike packers in the early 1980's. We loved the prevailing westerly winds at our backs.

My son, Nick, is the person who pushes me beyond my limits now. He encourages me and tells me I'm doing a good job when I'm pretty sure I'm just ok. He keeps me thinking young. I started Nick out by pulling him around in a Burley wagon until he could ride on his own.

I have fat bike "parents", Sue Franz and Craig Smith from Roscoe, IL. I was introduced to them by the folks at the Backyard Bikes in Lagrange, WI. Sue and Craig took me under their wings so to speak. They invited me to ride with them and nurtured me along without pressure and still do. They like to have fun riding bikes. They showed me the ropes and introduced me to lots of other fat bikers...my extended bike family! I'm not sure if they are cousins, brothers, or sisters, but they are definitely my bike family. I love these 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?
All my real accidents involved falling from horses actually. I used to distance ride, which is long distance trail riding only on horseback. I still "remember" the pain and immobility of a pelvic fracture I had in my 30 s. Lots of broken bones involved in that...geez. Don't get me wrong, I fall down plenty and get bruised/scraped up, but I kinda take it easy. It takes so long to heal.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The way it feels. To me, it feels like I'm flying. And riding when the sun shines through the trees-I love how that feels. Riding fast downhill is the best.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My first "mountain" bike was an orange 9ZERO7 fat bike-it brings smiles to all who ride it. I got orange because when I first started riding it was deer hunting season.

Next came another fat bike, a Borealis Echo. I chose it partly because it was on sale, partly to amp up my game, and partly to have a second fat bike so my friends could have a bike to ride along with me.

Last year my sister, Mary, gave me a Cannondale "Lefty" to use. I started campaigning it last summer. It's a 29er with full suspension and that crazy fork. I do love it. And you might know that Tinker Juarez rides one. And...well....he's famously fast! A girl like me can hope.

I also acquired a Surly Wednesday single speed last year with a baby blue and pink color scheme called "Cotton Candy". Pink fat tires! Goh! All I can say it's pure fun to ride. It has I-9 hubs and makes that "I-9 sound." As my friend, Bethany, says...single speeds actually have 3 speeds-sitting, standing, and pushing. Riding it is a real leg work out on the trail. This is my prettiest bike. send another pic to Josie.

An older Fuji Royale has been kinda converted to a "gravel" bike thanks to John Sotherland at Bicyclewise. He's an awesome mechanic.

We all know bikers almost always have more than one bike. You know the rule.

There are a couple cruisers in my garage too-an Electra "Betty" and Schwinn beach bike. Gotta keep it mixed up and get em all out for a ride, usually with a little help from others.

The last one in the stable is a 1981 Trek touring bike and we'll never part. We've seen the country together.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think a lot of us get some kind of bike as a kid. Some of us will try out different kinds of bikes and riding, others not... A young girl will be fortunate to get an introduction to mountain biking by a family member I think. Even though my Mom didn't ride a bike, she promoted it so she didn't have to drive me and my sisters into town. She made me think of biking as transportation instead of just something to do...it translated into exercise, strength, and exploration later on. It's embarrassing because I really wanted that ride in the car. Inherent laziness? Anyway, thanks, Mom!

Transporting bikes, maintaining, troubleshooting your equipment, and emergencies are a real part of the sport and can be a deterrent to getting started. If you don't have a regular partner, this falls on you alone and you need to be prepared and know your resources. You have to be prepared for anything. I struggle at times figuring stuff out. I'm not a mechanic, but am trying. Thanks, Youtube. I call on friends and bike mechanics in the area. They are a "must have". Something I notice though...other bikers are genuinely supportive out on the trail. They stop to inquire and help out. You still have to be prepared, because you may not encounter any riders at times. There is definitely a serious side to this kind of biking.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women and youth to be involved?
A couple of years ago the Bell helmet company started the "Bell Joy Ride Program." It's designed to inspire and enable female mountain riders structured, fun, and social rides. It's for all levels of riders in a non-race environment. We have one in Madison, WI. Usually monthly or every other month rides take place at different locations in the area. Our Bell Joy Ride Ambassador is Meagan McGarry of Madison, Wisconsin. There are several "ride leaders" and I am one of these volunteers. There are nine Bell Joy Ride Program locations across the US. And two in Canada. Ours can be found on the internet and on Facebook. My "sisters" in this group support biking in many ways in Southern Wisconsin. It's a motivating group of people.

One of my bike buds, Brittany, unofficially started a spin-off group from the Bell Joys. It's a Tuesday night ride open to any riders at Camrock County Bike Park. The draw is, of course, riding with others and honing skills, but also half price homemade pizza at a local shop just off the trail.

About the industry...some guys don't like to hear this, but it's male-dominated. Guys are just different and when they get together to ride, testosterone can rule the day. Riding with them can be challenging and my goals are different it seems. Not all guys, but it's happened often enough for me to say it. It's true. I've observed comments about women's rides from guys.... they feel left out surprisingly! Although those were not the exact words...

Invite a friend. Invite a kid. Facebook is a wonderful way to get your biking buddies together or discover a group. Volunteer at a local race. Take your bike to the beach any time of year. Ride your bike across a frozen lake in the winter. Race your bike down a dual slalom course if you can find one. Go on a themed pub crawl. Be a local trail builder-there will be something to do-don't worry. Try a "Tweed" ride over hill and dale! Get out there and meet others like yourself. Shake hands first! Check out their bike. Lavish them with compliments and encouragement. It's not hard to do.

I met a gal at the Fat Bike Getaway Weekend in December. Her name is Wendy Crawford and she's from Lakeville, MN. Wendy really has the spark to get other women riding. In fact, she brought two women along to that event who she had met at Global Fat Bike day near the twin cities just a week prior. Wendy has since started Life Wellness Group Rides in Lakeville, MN. You don't have to ride alone! Wendy's group can be found on Facebook.

I think there are more and more women entering the industry. We definitely need more input and support from female cyclists, simply because we have some separate needs.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

I'm a kind of a gal's gal and live my life in a woman's world. I grew up with two sisters (no brothers) and am a nurse. Nursing school was mainly women and so is the profession. I work with a lot of women and have a lot of female friends. I'm comfortable with women. It's just a natural "location" for me. Riding makes me feel better mentally and physically. I feel like a better version of myself. It's a confidence booster. Plus I also feel myself getting older, so it's important for me to continue to ride. I'm p[retty sure I'm not the only one...I know "the kick" I get out of riding and I see that reaction in others when they give it a try. Women are problem solvers and have good endurance.

I think biking is a lifestyle for anyone and can make you "a better you" in ways you may not understand until you try it out. This is something we can all do for the rest of our lives. With so many types of "mountain" biking and bikes, what's not to encourage?

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have a button collection.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Debbie Leaf

My name is Debbie Leaf, I'm 52 years old, I have twin boys who are 21. I've been a hairstylist for 33 years. I recently bought the 4 unit building that my salon has been in for 20 plus years. I'm on my own and needed to find a way to have the building earn for me. So I realized that vacation rental was something I should try, and since I'm a block off the trail, and I'm so passionate about the bike fellowship, I should try to aim for the bike community.

I was introduced to mountain biking by my kids' basketball coach. He and his son were so patient with me and took me out for around 13 miles. I do not have an athletic background. I tried many sports, I am spirited but not athletically inclined. But the kindness and patience they showed me drove me straight to bike shop. A biker girl was born. I dove head first and within 2 months was on my second bike and clipping in.

My passion was so huge and I felt compelled to share my newfound joy. I think through Facebook my joy was contagious and I took risks and put myself out there to meet people and participate. I began volunteering to build trails, lead rides and bring girls out to share everything I learned. I am convinced that I MUST SHARE the knowledge and gifts I've been given in order to keep them. Because I really don't care to ride alone, I'm always looking to get rides together. I love all types of rides, especially when I feel like I've conquered features that I've struggled with. I love to feel as though I've had MY ASS BEAT! That's my HIGH. No drugs no alcohol, BIKE HIGH. I went to become an IMBA certified level 1 guide. I just kept opening doors and stepping across the threshold. I wanted to be A DEEP PART of this fellowship, so I kept asking "What can I help with? Or do?" And I am getting deeper. Meeting more women, holding my own little mini-clinics through the community schools, with kids and women. Being involved in the first Ishpeming high school 906 adventure team and helping with the summer program for the 906 adventure team. We had over 100 kids last summer. My next goal is to become a mechanic.

My passion is to inspire and uplift girls and women and build self-esteem. I use all my bike mentality in my everyday life. I push myself to limits and continually work on my self-talk. I work hard to accept myself for who I am and be kind to myself and others. I honestly can be shy, but I force myself to power through.

This may be more than you need but this was good for me to put my thoughts into words. I have a lot of growing to do, and I'm GAME! MY life is AMAZING, not easy...AMAZING.

Tell us about your introduction to #bikelife, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
My friend and his son took me biking for the first time 8 years ago, they were so patient and kind and they encouraged me. It felt so good to be outside and they kept on inviting me so I had to buy a bike right away because I was hooked. I had watched my friend on Facebook have great adventures on her bike but never thought I could be a part of that lifestyle. Well, here I was with a new bike and now I needed to reach out. I was invited to join a group on Facebook called women shifting gears, and so it began. I started to join the group rides and connected with some amazing women who guided me and held my hand.
What keeps me motivated is that I have so much yet to learn and I conquer skills every ride.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
A skill that challenges me is to keep my eyes ahead of me not down by the tire, and letting my bike ride with me and connecting to the bike. I tease myself and tell myself to mind my own business and to keep my eyes on the trail. If I look at the logs and rocks down right in front, that's when I get in trouble. I also think it's great if you are in a group ride to get behind a good rider and watch their body language.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Hell yea there are technical features that are tricky, that's what keeps me motivated. Amy calls it Slaying Dragons!!! I love going out and working on features in an afternoon. Conquering fears is a motivator for me. There is a trail that I love called The Flannel Shirt, it's full of features, I say it's like a boxing match. One fight after another. When you get to the end it feels like I've been in the ring. Fight after fight. I LOVE IT!!!

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
So I clip in all the time. I felt compelled to jump right into clips. I received candy egg beaters from a special someone who watches over me, I honor his spirit. I remember Amy saying she feels safer clipped than not. It was horrible getting used to clipping. Now I totally feel safer clipped to my pedals. A huge challenge going through my brain now is maybe not clipping and learning something new. It does get tough when you are getting on and off your bike.

What was your inspiration behind getting IMBA Level 1 Certified? Was the process challenging?
My inspiration to become IMBA level 1 certified was a girl in our fellowship just out of the blue said there was a session coming up and would I be interested. I was in a really tough time in my life and I was really vulnerable but willing to keep putting one step forward and do the next right thing in my life. So I powered through it because I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. I have grown tremendously through this journey and writing all of these things down on paper for this interview reminds me of where I came from and how I've grown through this process.

Tell us about the CAMBA Women's Fatbike event you attended and what you helped with-
I was invited by Lori who is a seasoned coach and the executive director of the Noquemenon Trail Network, to help out with the Camba women's event in Seely, WI. It was an event to bring more women involved with fat biking. They had a group of Salsa women there to help out and to provide women with fat bike demos. I led a group of women along with Kim from the Salsa team. We made a great pair she had so many skills and tips to share. We worked on basic skills and drills and tried to get as much information to these ladies as we could. I'm sure they felt bombarded! I know I did after my first clinic. I really saw these women's confidence soar. That's why I participate in these events.

What was your favorite moment at the event?
My favorite moment was seeing and hearing one of the ladies reset her self talk. Instead of I can't, she heard me when I told her that she needs to say she CAN!!! That's a great moment in a woman's day. I feel very strongly about self-talk and keeping it positive.

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 women who are nervous about trying biking, I think that going to a bike shop and ask if they know any girls that may be able to work or take them out and share skills. Or ask anyone they may know who bike if they know any women that may share their skills. I offer a workshop through community schools to introduce women to biking, and am always offering women to take them out. They have to make the step to come through, I believe most of us women understand how scary it is and how we need to pay it forward and share our skills with others.

What do you love about riding your bike?
What I love about riding my bike are the skills I learn from biking that I can apply to my everyday life and vice versa. I love to conquer challenges and there are always so many challenges in the woods on trails for me.

My favorite day would be exploring trails and terrain and sessioning features. It's so rewarding to ride something that you were afraid of the last time you were there. But most of all I love the fellowship that I had built through biking, that's what it's all about for me.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Well I have many, I'm building a vintage bike with Clyde who is s vintage bike GOD! He is teaching me and sharing his wisdom and spirit. We are building a 1939 Cosway. He taught me how to build and true a wheel. I feel the need to learn from him and keep the history alive.

My first love is my 2016 Liv Lust adv. full suspension. I put a new eagle drive on it last summer, I love how light and playful this bike is. My only wish is if it had more suspension in front. That may happen. I really love riding technical terrain and this is the bike for it.I bought it because Jeff at the bike shop told me too!!!!

I also have a 2017 Borealis Echo which is a snow bike. Its beautiful and its light and gets me around in the snow. Jeff also told me to buy that one. I trust him to lead me in the right bike direction.

My next bike is a custom built 2017 Salsa Woodsmoke frame with 29-inch wheels and a great drive train. I spoke with Evan about this bike and he put his thinking cap on and put this bike together to fit my needs of a fast rolling hardtail for gravel grinding. I don't have many miles on it yet, but it sure is pretty and I rode it in a race and also a few technical rides and it sure was fun.

I also have a Liv Avail and I don't know a lot about it. It's a road bike and road biking is not my love. I've ridden it a couple of times and I'm grateful that I have it, and I hope to let ladies use it . I have a special lady who is inspiring her friends to ride the paved trails, so I'm hoping to put her on it as a gift for her work someday. Or at least turn her on to get herself something that is .ore comfy than what she is riding.

Why do you feel it is important for women to be involved in the cycling industry?
That's a tough one to answer. I think women should do whatever it is they are inspired to do. I did want to be an auto mechanic and took all of the classes in high school, and I cut all the guys hair in high school too! MULLETS!!!!! I was good at em. Had one myself. But I figured as opposed to dealing with being a girl in a Male dominated career, I'll just go to beauty school. Which it's kinda funny now because, after 33 years in the salon, I'm totally ready to explore and study bike mechanics. So I am following my dreams.

Why do you feel it's important for women to be involved with their local trails organization? (to help out on trail work days, etc.?)
I'm very involved with our local bike club RAMBA, Range Area Mountain Bike Association. I am a proud member of the board. I feel a sense of pride to be a part of the decision process to make us a great group and community. I feel my strength for this is my ability to bring people together. It also allows me to build and maintain trails which gives me such a sense of ownership and pride. I love to bring people on rides and tell them I built this trail. I'm very proud of the fellowship of our community and the people I represent.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
FEAR!!!!!! The "I could never do that!" self-talk. Excuses!!!! I have a million. I can share some!! Haha. It's scary to step outside of the box. The beauty is there are women out there to hold your hand. TAKE THAT FIRST STEP. Approach a woman no matter what is and ask for help. Share your fears and watch them go away!!!!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I truly think everyone is doing a great job encouraging women. It may be that it will take a bit more time to even out the field.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I'm inspired by the growth I've personally and physically seen in women. I think this might tie into the previous question, I feel that I am a part of what needs to happen to get women out and explore more options. Getting girls together builds fellowship and we can learn that our issues are universal and we are not alone In our struggles.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I'm an ADDICT! I'm addicted to a strong emotion called BIKE HIGH!!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Getting Shreddy with Shredly: A Shorts Review

Since re-discovering my love of baggy shorts, I had been tempted to get a couple pairs of Shredly shorts. Thankfully, I have a friend who is pretty much a carbon copy of my height/weight/body type, so I was able to try on a pair of her shorts for sizing purposes.

One of the things that I'm most picky about would be how wide the legs are. What had me fall out of love with baggy shorts were wide legs that would snag my saddle whenever I would get off the seat on climbs or to simply get back on my bike.

Thankfully I didn't find the legs of the Shredly shorts to be too wide for comfort. I also liked the embellishment for the snap closures (wee jewels!) So full steam ahead on ordering some fun and expressive shorts!

With the Shredly shorts, there are several style options available depending on what you are looking for, where you ride, or body type.


All of the shorts come in a wide variety of patterns/prints, but depending on which short you go with, it might have some key features for comfort or functionality. If you want an in-depth look into those differences, checking out the Style Guide is super helpful.

With my first Shredly order, I ordered the MTB Short and the Multi-Sport Short. I had contemplated going with the MTB Long shorts, but I didn't feel like the extra length for the majority of where I am riding would be necessary. I'm 5'2" so most shorts have a tendency of looking a bit long on me without trying!

I picked a pair of Multi-Sport shorts because I thought it would be fun to take a pair to wear in Florida, but to also use them as mountain bike shorts first and foremost. Between the two shorts, I didn't see enough difference to make me think I'd lose out too much. Upon delivery, I saw that the Multi-Sport shorts did come with an internal waistband adjustment, which I was prepared to go without, but was stoked that it was there!

The Multi-Sport shorts I snagged were the Nikki shorts.
The MTB Shorts I got were the Tina shorts.

I've had the opportunity to wear both shorts for a good bit of time and I feel I can say that they are a quality product that is fun, stylish, and functional. I don't have saggy bum syndrome when wearing them, the cut is flattering, and the legs aren't too wide. I'm used to riding where I live, so I'm not crashing a whole lot or anything of that nature to put the fabric to the test in terms of durability, but I feel they have some weight to them so should survive some sort of impact in some capacity.

I recently wore the MTB Shorts during a nearly 3-4 hour day of riding/tree trimming/ice cream eating. I was comfortable the entire time, granted I did get super sweaty- and I did take advantage of the vents towards the latter portion of my biking/time outdoors. I really liked that the hand pockets were deep enough to put my foldable hand saw in when I wasn't using it. Pockets are amazing when they are a functional size!

All in all, I am very pleased with my purchase of the Shredly shorts, and I can't wait to meet the folks behind the brand at the Roam Bike Fest in Sedona! If you are looking for a short that allows mobility, functionality, and a bit of style with fun prints- this is a great short to look into!

Check out a prior interview with Shredly Founder, Ashley!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Being A Unicorn

I apologize for the radio silence. I've been struggling to write the updates in my life over the past few months. Every time I've sat down to type out the words, I end up feeling unsatisfied with what comes out. I think I'm also just mentally and emotionally fried from the estate dealings. I'm very close to closing on the sale of my dad's property. I have a mixture of sadness and relief. There are many emotions surrounding the whole thing, and when the estate business is done, I think I will actually be able to take time to grieve (that is if I'm feeling the need to do so, which for the past year+ I have not allowed myself to really do so.)

A few months ago (before the busy season started up at the shop) I talked with my doctor and decided that I needed more help than CBD, bike riding, or meditation could bring. I'm grateful to her as a friend and patient, as she does believe there is a time and place for everything. I went on medication to help with my anxiety because I knew it was getting out of hand. 

I've always had high anxiety, but there were enough things happening to me on a regular basis to know that it was time. I, thankfully, didn't have horrible side effects- however, I can tell I'm on the medicine. I started on a low-dose and am currently taking half of the original dose. 

I cannot express to you how awesome it is to have a brain that is not traveling at 500 mph. I feel as tho it's been trying to multi-process so hard for so long. I call that "panic brain" and having lived with "panic brain" for so much of the time, to have it be quiet and allow me the time to think and speak without the fear of not being able to get my words out is immense.

I'll be honest, I spent a lot of 2018 in I'm sure, a depressed state for a majority of the time. My anxiety over all of the unknowns that I had to deal with was also very high. I wanted to give myself a break in 2019. If I felt like time was right.

I'm not sure at this point if I'm going to ever go off of the medication. Being on it has given me a good bit to reflect on, and I'm sure I will go off of it in the next few months (towards the slower end of the season at the shop) and see if it's something that I need to incorporate for long-term. I can say with what I've experienced now, I do feel like a different person. I'm still me, but more normal and can process much better. I'm a better me. I'm not as quick to fly into fight or flight mode, which "panic brain" had me go into quite often. I'm less inclined to jump into a "defensive" mode. 

I'm riding my bike more this year than last year, but also riding a bit differently. Even tho I logged onto Strava and started tracking my rides, I'm not as judgemental of my rides. I know I've been hyper-focused on maintaining averages/speed, but this year I'm allowing myself to just ride. Sometimes with purpose and other times for fun...solo or with friends. I feel like I can appreciate the rides more this year.

I've made good use of the handsaw that I took from my dad. It's the only way I'll cut any sort of tree. I've found it to be therapeutic in a way, and I'm also happy to be able to do some trail work that I know I can accomplish. I feel connected to him in a way, because I know he used the hand saw for his own tree-trimming purposes. 

Earlier this year I talked about the decision to pull away from racing, and I have to say that I'm very happy that I've made that call. Again, I'll do Chequamegon this year, but I'm looking forward to biking adventures that are not "race-based." Frankly, I feel like I've just gotten myself to a good place where my body is starting to recover and adapt, plus, I'm just needing a break from the stress and adrenaline that comes from "races." This year and next, #bikelife is strictly for enjoyment and/or trimming limbs and small trees off the trails.

I'm already excited for what next year will bring per #biking adventures, and I can't wait to share them with you! I want to get back to my roots and write more, which brings another change of sorts.
Josie's Bike Life is still in full swing, but the interviews and that format may be changing next year.

I guess blame it on another busy year. I mean, I can't believe how quickly it's flying by and trying to secure interviews months in advance take a lot of time and it creates a good bit of stress. Especially when you have folks on board that ultimately get busy and can't commit. With the interviews, I end up not writing a lot for various reasons. One being I want the person interviewed to have the spotlight, and two, it takes time to curate content- and I spend more time drafting and getting an interview set up than I do with my own writings and reviews.

It's not that interviews will stop, but I can't continue to focus on them being the sole goal of the year. I'm running out of resources and the format isn't what everyone is up to doing (writing). It's also mentally/emotionally tiring to send out messages all over Facebook/Instagram to not get a response at all. I've spent hours upon hours over the years, working to connect with folks, and sometimes it works and other times it doesn't. 

I figure during the winter months would be the perfect opportunity to work on that side of JBL, during the busy season I can go back to writing reviews and general #bikelife thoughts, and during the fall months (when we can travel!) I can write about the places we go and biking adventures!

I've really missed writing, and there are reviews I wish to write on gear that I've been using this year, follow-ups on bikes, and general stuff. I'm excited to give myself some time to focus on bringing a bit more of "Josie" back to Bike Life.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Women Involved Series: Keely Shannon

I'm a mountain biker living the dream in Bellingham, WA! I started a small fender company, Ground Keeper Fenders, in December of 2017 and gradually made the leap from side hustle to full blown job. Our “fancy bicycle fenders” are all made in Bellingham, use recycled plastic, and feature funky, loud designs.

After months of testing different plastics and printing methods, a rad product was born and people are STOKED! It’s really been amazing to be on this side of a business and watch your baby grow. I still get a big ole’ smile every time I see one of our fenders on the local trails :)

Before the GK hustle became a full-time gig, I had been working as a graphic design contractor for clients in the bike, motorcycle, startup, and financial industries. Having worked in the bicycle industry for the last 7 years, it was really cool to dip my toes in other industries. 

I’ve been self-employed for almost four years, but prior to that, I worked as a graphic designer, and eventually marketing manager, at Specialized Bicycles in California.

My time at Specialized was incredible - it shaped me as a young professional, taught me how to work with people from all over the world, and gave me a genuine love for the bike industry. But awesome times were also accompanied my bathroom cries and being a young woman in the bike industry did not come without it’s challenges. My ideas were trampled on a daily basis and I felt like I was never taken seriously. A week after calling out several teams for not including women in their marketing plans, I was “quitted”, a Specialized term for being let go. Later, I even learned my male counterparts with the same job title were making double what I was. It was a rough time for me, but it gave me the kick in the butt I needed to start my own business. And so began the hustle….

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 remember when I first started riding because it was so long ago! My parents had me on two wheels at a very early age and I’m fortunate to have started riding mountain bikes so early. But in my later years, jumping has been something that continues to challenge me. I suck at jumping, but I’d say spending as much time pumping on a pump track helps you learn timing and the basic feeling.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I’ve been battling injury for the last two years so have been off and on the bike between surgeries. Upon returning, just about everything seems a bit trickier than it used to be. Roots and chutes have been a mind battle for me lately, and it’s been frustrating to walk things I used to ride without hesitation. For me, it’s all mental so the best thing I can do is try to shut my brain off. And maybe have a beer before the descent ;) I also have to make a conscious decision not to compare myself to others, or to pre-injured Keely.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?

Clips on the MTB. I’d like to try flats though. I feel like I’ve picked up bad habits with clips so I may give flats a try one of these days. I did recently get some magnetic pedals for my gravel bike and I’m not a big fan of those.

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?
Start small and work your way up. Don’t go out for a three-hour ride with seasoned riders - you’ll get frustrated and will hate life. Try and find people of similar skill-level and start with manageable rides that you can enjoy. Facebook and other online groups make it easy to find riding buddies. Once you start to feel comfortable on your bike and new trails, build up from there! If there’s a tricky section of trail you struggle with, go out by yourself or with a patient friend and session that section a few times until you feel comfortable.

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?
Yup, sure did! Like I said before, it’s a huge mental battle. In May of 2017, I fell off a weird skinny/bridge and completely destroyed my knee. I’ve had 6 knee surgeries in the last 2 years and am currently dealing with some chronic knee issues. In between surgeries, I would start riding again and quickly get myself in over my head trying to follow friends or ride moves I used to. Honestly, the best thing for me was to ride by myself for the first few weeks. This allowed me to walk what I needed and not feel pressured to go fast or ride moves that everyone else is.

What do you love about riding your bike?

So many things! I used to be a lot more competitive and always enjoyed pushing myself harder and faster, but in the last few years I’ve really enjoyed the social aspect more than anything (this makes me sound old! Ha). Living in Bellingham a mile from the trail, it’s so easy to meet up with friends and head out for a rip. Also, there’s no better feeling than finding your flow on familiar singletrack :)
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I JUST got a new Transition Sentinel that I’m super stoked on. I just started riding again since my last surgery and it’s nice to start fresh with a fancy new whip!

Tell us about Ground Keeper Fenders, what inspired you to start creating fun and colorful front fenders for mountain bikes?
I definitely didn’t set out to create a fender company, but discovered a gap in the market and went for it. It all started when I tried to order a small run of fenders for a project I was doing with my finance, Tony (of Made Rad By Tony). To my surprise, I couldn’t find any fender company who could print what we wanted. Most of the companies were in Europe and only screen print, so colors and designs are very limited. Not to mention, minimum order quantities were upwards of 200! So I decided to try and make the fenders myself. After months of testing prototypes and printing methods, I solved the puzzle and decided to start a fender company! We have no minimum order quantity, no printing restrictions, quick turnaround and sweet graphics! In the end, I’m really just tired of lame race graphics so I’ve really enjoyed bringing rad art to the bike industry!
Being your "own boss" what has been the most challenging aspect of owning your own business? The most exciting?
I’ve been self-employed for about four years, and I’m not sure I could ever not be anymore! Besides the obvious benefits of setting your own schedule, traveling, etc, it’s exhilarating to build something from scratch and watch it grow. I suppose a challenging aspect is just holding yourself accountable. If I don’t do basic things like make Instagram posts or reach out to shops, we don’t have sales. And when we don’t have sales, we don’t pay mortgage! So when the couch and a good movie are calling my name on a rainy morning, I just remind myself of that.

You also work as a graphics designer, what do you enjoy most about working with other industries?
As a freelance graphic designer, it’s been fun to dip my toes in lots of different industries. When I started freelancing, I made it a point to take on jobs outside the bike industry in order to gain another business perspective. I have clients in the motorcycle, health care, and finance worlds and each of them have unique challenges and processes- all of which gave me great insights for starting my own business.

Being involved in the cycling industry for so long, what has been your biggest frustration?
I started working in the bike industry immediately out of college. As you might expect, being a young woman in the cycling industry has its challenges. Pay discrimination, mansplaining, general lack of respect: these are all very real things that I experienced quite often.
Aside from gender inequality, the other frustration for me was how serious everything was. When a launch plan has to go through 15 people and is completely watered down by the time it’s approved, you've lost the point. Bikes are fun! This isn’t rocket science. I applaud the brands, big and small, who are able to keep it light and not take themselves too seriously.

With Ground Keeper, I try to keep it fun. At the end of the day, we’re making pizza fenders for bicycles….

Do you feel there has been progress during the past year? What are you most stoked about?
For sure! It seems like there’s been some progress for professional female racers in the last couple of years, which is good to see. I can only hope ladies working in the bike industry are seeing progress also. From the mechanic in the bike shop who isn’t trusted by their male customer, to the marketing managers and product developers. I hope they see equal pay and feel respected.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think the best thing we can do is start with kids. My two nephews are on NICA mountain bike teams but when I ask my niece why she doesn’t join, she shrugs her shoulders and has no good reason. When I go to her brothers’ practice, it’s obvious why she doesn’t join. It’s all boys! WHY IS THIS STILL THE CASE??? Programs like Little Bellas are what will make a difference. We need to change the perception that mountain biking is not a boys sport.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Again, perception. Mountain biking is seen as a boys sport. And it’s true - there are way more men on mountain bikes than women. We need more women in order to get more women. Last year, one of my friends asked who cut my hair. Within a year, my whole lady friend circle used the same hairdresser. Women talk and word of mouth is very real. When Susie Que tells a couple friends about this awesome sport of mountain biking, they’ll buy a bike! We just need more Susie Ques :)

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Women like my friend, Haley. She’s incredible. She rides a very old school Specialized Endruo Y-frame that her dad bought at Goodwill for $60 many years ago. She is the ultimate “rung what ya brung” girl and she absolutely kills it. She is proof that you can be a mountain biker and have fun with everyone else no matter what you ride. 

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I can walk on my hands. You can take the girl out of gymnastics but you can’t take the gymnast out of the girl ;)

Monday, June 17, 2019

Men Involved: Ken Barker

"I ride bikes, crack jokes, develop trails, love my kids; work to make my community a better place."

Ken Barker has been building and riding trails for decades and as a result, gained vast experiential knowledge. His travels have taken him, along with friends and family, to first-rate trails across North America, deepening his belief that quality trails are a conduit for outdoor appreciation and building community.

Ken has a passion for the exceptional trail experience and understands the value this can bring to communities everywhere.

Ken’s professional experiences outside of trail development have been predominantly in the field of education, where innovation and collaboration are a must. During his 18 year tenure as an educator, Ken has led teams of teachers in designing and executing student-centered educational programming.

As a trail builder, Ken Barker has an unwavering commitment to quality and sustainability, noting that, “Building mountain bike trails is an art form. Trail concepts and design best practices are based in science, with new techniques continually evolving; however, the final result is truly a work of art. This merging of science and creativity contributes to unique and exciting trail experiences. I strongly believe these sorts of trails should be within striking distance of every home.

"My biz BYT is a trail development firm... design, education, assessment, construction, maintenance, etc. all things trails!"

Tell us about your introduction to #bikelife, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I'm sure most everyone you interview says something to effect of "I've been riding bikes my whole life!" and I pretty much have been, but as I think about it... for me it's the general positivity of the activity and lifestyle: it's fun, it's healthy, it can provide challenge - exercise - escape - etc. and many friendships have come of playing around on these silly contraptions. Simply put, I love riding bikes, always have, and likely always will.

Have you always known that biking would somehow be incorporated into your work?
I've always tried to use a bicycle when feasible for "regular life" stuff like commuting to work, grocery getting, traipsing my children around, etc. This has led to me continuously advocating in favor of community improvements for cyclists of all types, pedestrians as well. I've started mt. biking clubs in schools as an educator, and in communities as a rider / advocate. And now: trail development as a profession.

How did you get started with trail building?
Like many kids, I was digging in the dirt in order to have more fun on my bike, somewhere between Star Wars and The Goonies movie releases. Upon ditching my automobile for an MTB in the early 90s I began to cut paths in wooded areas, feeling that I could do better than the deer when it comes to flying through natural environments. Eventually, this led to advocating for trails and working with land management agencies to bring "legal" singletrack to various properties.

When did you decide to create Backyard Trails LLC.?
I’d been thinking about starting a trail development firm for many years, but it wasn't until 2017 that I went all in and launched the official business.

What inspired the name of your company?
My belief is that the most important trail in the world is the one you ride most often... i.e. your hometown (backyard) trail(s) #LocalSingletrack #HometownTrails #BackyardTrails and now IMBA's #MoreTrailsCloseToHome

What has been the most challenging trail you've constructed?
Nearly all of the time I'm building trails it is for others, and those trails are often in the novice to intermediate range. It's exciting when I get the opportunity to build something challenging. There's some fairly tough stuff in my own backyard, however, on public property I was recently able to design and build a local trail named The Miscreant; I think people would call it challenging. It's a good thing when riders of all skill levels have access to trails that challenge them, it's rewarding to be a part of that growth / progression.

It should seem logical, but what do you do as a trail builder? How do you build trails right?
It begins with intentional design / planning... to meet the needs of trail users of today and the future, the intent: trail experiences that satisfy a variety of what people are seeking; or may not even realize they’re seeking. Practices that keep the trails sustainable are a given, the part that leverages my expertise is creating trails that satisfy the wide variety of what trail users are looking for.
As a rider, where is your favorite trail located? (You can have more than one favorite!)
Omigosh, that is a tough one! Holy Cross Trail - Grand Jct. ColoRADo is one of the first to come to mind. The variety of amazing trail experiences in British Columbia is so vast there is simply no way to choose one… Samurai Pizza Cat at the Whistler Bike Park, Full Nelson in Squamish, the list goes on and on. A zone that really surprised, and inspired me, is Whitehorse & Carcross in the Yukon, very remote yet amazing trails. I also enjoy how creative and fun many bike park trails have become… Little Switzerland in Wisconsin has all sorts of fun lines, on a little Midwest bump in the landscape, I love it! I have also been visiting Arkansas for years, and to see the steady evolution to explosion of trails occurring there is mind-blowing.

As a builder, where is your favorite trail located?
The way the feeling of flow is eeked out of minimal elevation in the upper Midwest will make anyone smile. I find it amazing trails of that quality can exist in such harsh environments, it is inspiring to me as a builder and rider. They get after it up there, do yourself a favor and check it out: Marquette, Houghton, Copper Harbor all in Michigan; Bayfield, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota are a few of the places you can find what I’m referring to.

How do you work with mountain bike chapters/communities?
It depends where they are with their trail development needs: planning / designing new trails or reroutes, rehabilitating old or damaged trails, consultation and or training for trails advocacy / construction / maintenance / etc. And my favorite… actually building trails.

What has been the most interesting thing you've learned since making trail building your job?
The “sales cycle” can take years! Operating a small business has its own set of challenges and rewards. Overall I feel lucky to engage in my passion as a means to make a living.

If you could build a trail anywhere, where would you go?
Right here. I love bringing surprisingly fun and high-quality trail experiences to places people may perceive as not having the potential. Trail systems of any size accessible for more people to enjoy… shouldn’t be an afterthought, they should be amazing as those are the most important trails in the world.

Why do you love riding? 
Many reasons, but what really speaks to me is the feeling of getting lost in the moment, losing yourself in a way that is engaging on many levels; an almost hypnotic immersion into the experience of navigating your bicycle through a natural space.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more folks to be involved?
Dream big for your local trail(s), but keep it realistic and do what you can. Think about singletrack trails as you would any other community amenity (ball fields, playgrounds, etc.) and advocate for them as such. You don’t necessarily need to volunteer every weekend, donate huge amounts of resources, and turn your life upside down to make it happen. It is amazing what can be accomplished by groups of people working together, when they engage with the right partners, think in and outside of the box, it can make a big and positive difference in communities.

What inspires you to encourage people to ride?
The positivity and well being it brings to peoples' lives... exercise, challenge, joy, camaraderie, escape; all the above!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I wore the Singlespeed USA belt for a year.