Friday, October 11, 2019

Bike Life Adventures: Hixon Forest

A couple months ago we went on an after-work adventure to La Crosse, WI to visit Hixon Forest with our friends to scope out the new downhill (DH) trails. We had ridden our local trails plenty, so it was high time we ride elsewhere for a change, even if it was for a couple hours. That evening was a small sampling of the fun that could be had if one took a trip to La Crosse, and since then, it had been on the fall riding bucket list.

It feels like our fall weather will be short-lived, so I've been working on cramming as many Tuesdays with out-of-town adventures as possible.

The weather became favorable and the trails had tried out enough for the ORA website to scroll "Trails are Good" across the top. I squealed with glee! (and scared Travis while I was at it.)

The bike of choice would be Frankie G. The Glitter Queen aka my custom-built Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper. Even tho we would check out some of the other trails that Hixon Forest had to offer, I knew she'd be the best option for the DH trails, particularly the trail named Vader.

We rolled into the parking lot early afternoon, and as luck would have it, we got to chat with Jed (he's done trail work on the trails for years, is involved with ORA, and a genuinely rad fellow.) Turns out, there would be a film crew out to take footage of locals riding the new DH trails- so it was the perfect opportunity for us to explore some of the older singletrack, some of which had been re-routed since our last ride in La Crosse. I had done some research on TrailForks to get an idea on the trails and which ones would be considered "one way" and to figure out some sort of route. There are a couple trails that are listed as directional and several that are good for both ways. Even with research, there were still times when we weren't 100% sure if we were doing it "right." I suppose that's the adventure part!

The loop of original trails we worked on was Stinky to Chicanery to Quarry Trail, back to Chicanery to boB. There were some beautiful sights along the way, like riding through a prairie filled with dragonflies. When we were back on Chicanery, we took time to session a rocky section that I'm sure I would have avoided at all costs the last time we visited. It took me a couple attempts to clean it, but I got it on the third try and did it again on my fourth. That made me feel pretty darn good!
After we exited boB we took the prairie path back to the parking lot so I could get a swig of water. In my excitement of going out of town for a ride, I pulled a "Josie" and totally spaced out on bringing my Five Ten Freerider Pro shoes and my water bottle. I purchased a bottle of water before we got to the trailhead so I could have something to drink besides Travis' Camelbak water. (Am I saying warm, chlorinated tap water doesn't taste good? Yup.) The shoes weren't a huge deal, I was rocking my Specialized 2FO 1.0 shoes, and they work great with the pedals on the Stumpjumper.


It was time to hit the downhill trails!

The first trail on the menu was Jedi which featured a good number of fun berms and plenty of jumps for those who are confident in doing so. At this time, I will admit I'm completely novice with being able to ride DH trails well and incorporate jumps in at the same time. I need a few more runs first, and probably some backyard jump sessions before I'm to the point where I'll send it off of most.
On this trail, there will be a bigger jump that you can launch, but there is a ride around next to it. I opted to go that route. Just note that if you aren't a fan of ledges, ride cautiously and don't look to the left. All in all, a fun trail that can definitely help folks grow their skills!

Next on the list was Vader. This one is a more technically challenging DH trail with a jump in at the start (which I'm not ready for yet), rocky berms, rocky downhills, bigger berms, a few chunky spots, and a whole lotta fun. The first time on this trail I opted out of a couple spots, but this time I was determined I would ride everything but the very beginning. When you first start riding around the rocky berm you come to a small rocky start thinking "NBD, this is great!" Until you roll up to the larger and steeper rocky steps down a little and is full of chunk. That sobers you up real quick. Today would be the day!

Travis was nervous about my gumption to ride this downhill spot. If you mess up, there would be a pretty steep price to pay because you are far from a soft landing. (Sorry, mom...) I had knee and elbow pads on, but that wouldn't protect my face. Frankly, I was more concerned about my bike and maybe a limb than my face or anything else.

I took a deep breath and told myself I was very capable of conquering this downhill. I rode down Wall Street, I've ridden down Backbone, and I had a bike more than capable of eating the chunk.**
I rolled in, and on the first try, I was able to ride down what I would call "Rocky Danger Hill" successfully! I did it a few more times to bolster my confidence. (I made sure to be extra careful because it is a DH only trail.)

The rest of Vader was "easy" to me compared to that steep hill, and I enjoyed rolling around the berms and blasting over some of the chunk. The only part that wasn't as fun would be the ride back up to the top. I'm used to "paying the toll" on our local trails, and really the climb back up isn't technically challenging. It does make my left knee a bit grumpy, so I knew I'd be limited with the number of runs we could do.
Next was Nerfherder, which I would say is the least technical of the other two DH trails. It has some more "pump track" type rollers, some jumps you can do or avoid, and berms. I rode down this trail with a big ol' smile on my face.

I knew my riding time was coming to a close, I would have to stop before my knee really took a disliking to me. Plus, our hope was to be back home in time to go to a movie, so...figured out priorities and asked to do Vader again one more time. This time no sessioning spots, just riding! It was fun to go in and (responsibly) blast down chunk, hit berms, and feel my bike and self as one unit. I was sad to have it end so quickly, but I was happy to see a chipmunk dash down into his hole that was smack in the middle of the uphill climb. 

I ended the day on a positive note: I accomplished some personal goals, rode some stuff that challenged me, and also got to enjoy a style of trail we don't have locally. It was a great day, I was tired, and my knee didn't fully blow up. 

I would highly recommend checking out the trails in Hixon Forest, but before you make a trip, make sure to check out the website to see if all of the trails are open, or if only the legacy trails are open. Folks spent a lot of time and energy to make the new DH trails and when they are too wet they are closed- obviously for good reason. It doesn't seem to take the area trails too long to dry out, so be patient and check the site.
**In the process of writing this recap, I went back to read my first writeup on the Hixon Forest trails and I said this: "Something with larger tires or more suspension would've been helpful." I would say that my Stumpjumper was an excellent bike for the job. Perhaps I could get away with a Stumpjumper ST, but for now, the full squish was most excellent- especially on chunkier areas that I wanted to session. I felt like the bike ate it up! I keep saying that this bike is amazing and I'm so grateful to have her in the fleet because I really am. It's been a fabulous and versatile machine and I highly recommend folks to try one out for themselves.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Women Involved Series: Joy Patten

I started mountain biking in 1995, on a steel hardtail mountain bike with V-brakes. It was a steep learning curve, but I immediately fell in love with the sport. At the same time, I was going through college getting my Mechanical Engineering Degree from Cal Poly SLO. I became a better rider over the years as technology improved. I raced a lot of cross country mountain bike races in the 90s, it was fun and pushed my skills and fitness.

While I was going to school the Downhill Race scene was big, it was on TV and I was just in awe of it. I wanted to be like Marla Streb, Missi Giovi, and the other fast girls. I had a roommate who made movies for Fox Racing and I told myself, one day I would race Downhill. While I was going to school though I knew I didn't have the money to afford the equipment nor did I have the time to dedicate to DH racing. I focused on finishing my degree and finding a job.

I completed my degree in 2002. I have worked at fossil power plants, nuclear power plants and I currently work for a company called Solar Turbines as a Field Engineer. I was a Rotordynamacist for 9 years, from 2004 to 2013, which means I designed journal bearings, found rotating equipment's natural frequencies and completed vibration analysis for turbomachinery. I have worked for Solar Turbines for 15 years. They are the largest manufacturer of Gas Turbine engines in the 1000 - 30000 hp range. (Jet engines on the ground) I am currently a Field Product Support Engineer and I support our Design Team and our Field Service operation. It is a fun dynamic job that is rewarding.

In 2004 I purchased my first downhill bike and it was love at first ride. I love the feel of downhill riding /racing, the speed, big hits, the drops, the experience of riding a downhill bike is just otherworldly. From 2005-2008 I raced as an expert DH rider, I had a boy in 2006, and I worked my tail off to learn more bike skills. In 2008 I came back from having a baby and worked my tail off to win expert races and gain the points to be able to go to the pro ranks. At the end of 2009 I applied for my Pro License and received it. The women I have met over the years of riding and racing have been the best part of the experience. The other pro ladies are encouraging, sincere and incredible. In 2009 for my first year as a pro I raced for Vixen Racing, which was a team of amazing fast women. I have raced/ridden all over the US and Canada in the last 10 years. I love racing, as it pushes me out of my comfort zone.

In 2007 I started as a women's skills mountain bike clinic. I loved how much I have received from the sport of mountain biking and I want to give back in some way. I have coached with Dirt Series, Grit Clinics, and quite a few other organizations over the years. I am a certified PMBIA instructor.

I moved to Utah in 2013, I continued to do some racing, but now I do more clinics than races. I work with an amazing women's community of AndShesDopeToo. I developed a bunch of clinics for them and another local women's mountain bike community of WomenMTB. For 2019 I am also a Santa Cruz Juliana Ambassador. I also started snowmobiling, which not many women do and I really want to start coaching snowmobiling and getting more women in the backcountry with a throttle! Mountain bike skills crossover to the sleds really well!

Below are a bunch of website sites to give you a little more information about me. My website has more pics and racing info from my heyday of racing!

Solar Turbines (This is what I do in the real world!):

Instagram handle: @joyridemtns

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I was introduced to mountain biking at 19 by a boyfriend. I was living in San Luis Obispo, California, which is quaint, picturesque, town with mountains all around. He had a mountain bike and loved it. He spent a lot of time reading mountain bike magazines and ogling over the latest product and news. That piqued my interest that he thought the sport so cool. It made me think I must try this. In 1996, he had a nice Specialized hardtail with good components. It was too big for me, but I decided one day to borrow it anyway and I took it on a 5-mile dirt road loop behind Cal Poly. It was one of my running loops, so I was familiar with the terrain and the course. I got to the first real descent, that was long enough to gain some speed. The wind blew through my hair and I went fast, and I was hooked. I got to the bottom and the exhilaration I experienced was incredible. I knew I had to be a mountain biker.

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 struggled with braking and not sliding out. I would try to stop and end up sliding the bike out from underneath me. I also struggled with control on the front wheel over terrain. It took me a while to sort these skills out, I worked on braking slower, I wouldn’t slide, and I got comfortable with handling the front end. I don’t ever remember anyone giving me any tips though… I crashed a lot.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Riding a wheelie for an extended period is not something I have mastered yet… I can get in 5 or 6 pedal strokes and then I must put the front wheel down. It’s not something I need for an extended period of time, so I just keep telling myself to practice.

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?
Take a clinic with a trusted company/coach/group. Make sure they are certified and know what they are teaching you. Good coaches create a positive learning environment. There are a ton of good programs out there now.

What was your inspiration for becoming a mountain bike coach?
I was fast in the early 2000s, I didn’t have all the skills, but I was decent, and I could ride a bike. I understood most of the mechanics of what riding was with my bike. I could see my friends doing so many things wrong and struggling with the bike. This made them timid and afraid on the bike. I wanted to see them feel confident while they rode, and I wanted to do more than just race, in 2007 I started JoyrideMTB Clinics and started working with quite a few women. I did a lot of drills before we would hit the trail, I could watch their body position and see what techniques they needed improving. Then we would go hit a trail and go from there.
Tell us about your coaching business, Joyride MTB!
I started Joyride MTB as a Women’s Clinic when I was living in Southern California/San Diego area. Many of the women I rode within SoCal were timid and struggled with bike-handling skills. I could see what and how they were doing it wrong and I wanted to help them. There was a technical trail in the mountains above San Diego called Noble Canyon, an 11 mile (mostly descent) from 5800ft to 4000ft that was super-fast, rocky, technical and fun to ride. I could ride all the sections and many of the women I went with really struggled to clean them. I put together clinics where I would teach a whole bunch of skills at the top of the trail, then we would ride the trail and we would stop and session the harder sections. I had a lot of success with my drills style of coaching. I could help women right away understand what they needed to adjust and then we could put it to use. I developed a teaching plan that worked quite well. I continued coaching over the years and found more women’s groups to coach with. I reached more women this way. My schedule is so busy, with a career and being a mom, that working with a group that does the marketing side makes my life so much easier.

Tell us about the AndShesDopeToo and the WomenMTB communities and why you enjoy working with them- 
AndShesDopeToo is the embodiment of everything I could want in a women’s community. The owner really knows how to bring women together and put women at ease. The environment is one of trust, openness, kindness, support, and empowerment. There is no judgment of who you are, just a want and desire to enjoy the outdoors together. The goal of ASDT is to get women outside in the mountains and build confidence in outdoor sports that they can carry over to their personal lives. Along with a lot of fun!! I have always been a shy person and not someone who wants to deal with drama or cattiness. I think women are amazing and I truly love seeing them build skills and ride mountain bikes with confidence. ASDT builds an environment that is so accepting of everyone, the love and support is truly felt. I come away from the time I spend with these women as a better person. I know how much happiness riding my bike brings me and I want to give back to my community in some way. ASDT allows me to give back in the best way I know how.

WomenMTB is similar, they are also a great group of women. I love their mission and I love working with them! They do so much for women just getting into mountain biking with beginner rides and no-drop rides. The ladies I have met in that group just great!

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?
Yes, in 2005 I was trying to learn drops with a bunch of guys, who didn’t give me any real advice on how to do it. Just send it basically… And well that didn’t work, I went off a drop, landed on my head and broke my left collar bone into 3 pieces, broke a bunch of ribs nearby spine and was basically a disaster. This injury took over 6 months to heal from the physical, and it was at least 3-4 years for the mental/emotional healing to occur. This was the second drop I had endo’d on with serious injury in 2005, this one just a lot worse than the previous. After this injury, just thinking about a drop made me so nervous, when I got near one I would literally start hyperventilating. I wanted to race downhill so bad and I knew if I didn’t get over my fear of drops, I would never be able to get there. I decided after that injury in 2005 I would take some time off because mentally, I just couldn’t handle what I was trying to do. I had my son in 2006, and by the end of 2007, I was ready to get back on my bike. I wanted to race, and I wanted to go fast. I didn’t figure out how to do a drop properly until I got my first Santa Cruz V10. I got the V10 Christmas of 2008. The first time I took it off a drop I floated through the air, my front end wasn’t nose heavy at all. It was such a different feeling, that I finally realized how it was supposed to feel going off a drop. I spent the next few years slowly learning to trust the bike and drops. Many drops I would do, and some I still wouldn’t.

Now, I love drops, I love the feeling of flying through the air, sending it off a ledge, floating and landing with my two wheels at once. It is a good time! But some days it takes me time to warm up to them and remember how it feels!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love dancing with my bike, I love it when I find the Zen and me and my bike are one. When I am one with my bike and the trail I can find the moment of utter bliss and happiness. It’s one of those moments of surreal joy. I wish I was better with words to explain how finding Zen on your bike is so incredible. It is truly mind-blowing!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Juliana Strega and a Juliana Furtado. I am a downhiller at heart, I love squish, I love my bike being able to handle lots of chunky terrain. When I bought the Strega, I wasn’t sure if I was going to sell my XC bike or my DH bike. I did back to back laps at Winter Park Resort in Colorado with my V10 and my Strega. My Strega felt better. The Strega handles all sorts of gnarly technical terrain, jumps, drops, and could pedal uphill. The bike is mind-blowing, it is a downhill bike that pedals. My favorite combination of traits! My Strega makes descents so easy it almost feels like cheating. She plows through the chunk and she knows how to handle the big jumps!

But my Strega is NOT a cross country bike, and when I want to go for a long pedal, the Furtado fits the bill. I have taken that bike down some seriously steep terrain, off big drops, and climbed thousands of feet with her. The Furtado is an excellent climber and has handled all the gnar I have thrown at her. It really is an impressive bike for only 130mm of travel. She is my mellow xc ride/ or long climbing ride bike that can still perform when it gets techy. She is playful and easy to put her where I want her on the trail.

Why do I have two bikes? Because when I want to ride the real DH tracks I need a bike that can handle it, the Strega laughs the harder I push her. When I want a long pedal, the Furtado works, she likes to go uphill.
You have done quite a bit of racing over the years, tell us what you enjoyed most about your experience-
I have most enjoyed the people and the experiences. The women on my teams and that I raced against are just amazing women. They inspired me every day with their passion, kindness, skills, and love. I was welcomed with open arms into a group of women I didn’t think I was good enough to be a part of. They made me faster, they made me laugh, they gave me support when I needed it and they pushed me to be my best self.

The experience of achieving a goal was also just as amazing. When I would complete a race at level I wasn’t sure I could achieve I was stoked. When I would hit a big jump or clean a technical line I was excited. I never really think I am that fast and then I get my race results and I am surprised I did as well as I did. I remember finishing a qualifying run and telling myself, okay I got to take at least 30 seconds off and when I took 40 seconds off my qualifying time I was thrilled! Time and again when I really pushed myself I found I could do alright. I belonged in the Pro class. I dreamed of being of Professional Downhill Mountain biker for 10 years before I became one. Achieving the goals, I did really put a smile on my face.

For folks who have never participated in an event, do you have any tips or suggestions that might help them feel more comfortable/enjoy the experience?
Join a women’s group that also races. They can show you the ropes, help you feel more comfortable and help you understand how to handle the event. This way someone who has the experience can take you under their wing and help you work through any fears you might have.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I would say the perception that the sport only supports super gnarly riding. If skiing only supported double black heli-skiing many women would be deterred. Mountain biking is for all levels, all-terrain, all sorts of options. I don’t think the beginner; mellow side of the sport is advertised enough. People probably think we are all riding down bootleg canyon gnarly steeps, when really there is something for everyone.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved? 
More sponsored women at the top. This would give more visibility to women that they are welcome, supported and part of the club. When I say sponsored, I mean racers, ambassadors and coaches. Full-time support to get them in front of more people. There are a handful of sponsored women in the US who can ride their bikes as a full-time job. That should not be the case. We should have hundreds!!!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride? 
How mountain biking has changed my life pushes me to want more women on bikes. Mountain biking has given me the confidence to try more than I think I am capable of. Mountain biking has made me believe in myself.

Women do not give themselves enough credit. We are very critical of ourselves, we are unkind to ourselves, and we don’t push ourselves to achieve what we truly can. I see so many women who don’t know how amazing they are, how capable they are. I want to change that.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I was my company’s (Solar Turbines) first female Field Engineer in 2012 and was encouraged and pushed by the President of Solar Turbines to do so.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Advocating Bike Life and Happyness

2018 s-works epic
I have come around full circle since I started mountain biking in 2014. I remember myself as a new mountain biker, nervous and full of excitement for the challenges that would await me in the woods. Of course, I shed tears a few times, but I kept what the locals said in my head: "If you learn to ride in Decorah, you can ride anywhere."

Eventually, we sought out new places to ride and I loved the adventure of it! I couldn't wait for our road trips to new trails so I could see what I could or couldn't ride. The trips would provide an opportunity for me to grow and gain handling skills, along with keeping me humble.

Then the allure of strapping on a number plate came into my life because I was a woman and women were underrepresented in local races and beyond. For someone who battled high anxiety, committing to a race was challenging, but I did so for several years.

I tried to book myself with a couple of races per year, but the more I did them the less I enjoyed them. The pressure to perform was high, and even tho I had become a fairly skilled rider, I came to the conclusion that the environment just wasn't for me.

I loved the communities I visited, the folks who volunteered, and the new friends I made...I had no problems with that. It was the pre-race anxiety and the post-race drain that started to get old for me real quick. Well, not so quick, because I kept committing myself to races up until the fateful day that I decided to DNS and go mountain biking instead.

I had more fun that weekend in Hayward than I had for the 4 years Travis and I traveled there. That's saying a lot.

I admitted to myself that a lot of the reasons I had for racing weren't necessarily for me, but for everyone else. I was doing it to increase the number of female participants by one, I was racing because I felt like I was obligated to because I was a decent rider, and I had an expensive bike that would be classified as a "race" bike. Yes, I wanted to see how I'd do, but showing up to the start line every year wasn't truly for myself. I had the feeling that I had to prove something to everyone, and that's not why I started mountain biking.

Why is it that we put so much pressure on ourselves? For some reason, I walked away from the parts of mountain biking that brought me the greatest joy. I brought in aspects of it that weren't necessarily bad, but they didn't really resonate with who I am and what I wanted to represent as part of the women's mountain biking community.

Instead, I felt drowned by the pressure, because I was more of the weekend warrior who had streaks of luck (mixed with technical riding ability) rather than the rider who had time to legitimately train. I worried that if I quit racing I wouldn't be taken seriously as a female mountain biker. I wondered if my blog would be ignored because I wasn't putting myself out there as a competitor, thus not being seen by folks on a regular enough basis. (If you feel that showing up for a race maybe once or twice a year was regular!)  I might have the bike and the gear, but I don't have the heart and soul of a racer.

I have the heart and soul of an explorer.
I want to visit new towns, ride new trails, and make more friends.
I want to immerse myself in the communities I've grown to love along with finding new "second homes."
I want to take in the views, snap photos of the local flora and fauna, and enjoy my ride however I'm feeling at that moment. Maybe fast or possibly slow, it really doesn't matter as long as I'm having fun.

I've found my current calling at this point in my Bike Life is to advocate the fun, adventure, and exploration of mountain biking. You don't have to race in order to explore new places- you simply have to take the time and effort to do so. The nice thing about not racing and increasing exploration and adventure is you can do things your way more so. You're not on a schedule dictated by an event, but by what you want to do. Get up when you feel like it, eat where you want/whatever you want, and choose your adventure for the day!
specialized s-works epic 2018

I realize that by not racing I'm not getting my name out in the mountain bike community with results, and that's okay. I'd rather folks find me because they are curious about bringing more exploration into their Bike Life. Bike Life should be whatever brings you happyness, and if you aren't feeling joy with how you're rolling currently, then it's time to take a look and figure out what needs to change.

This is what Josie's Bike Life is all about.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Women Involved Series: Lindsey Watson

Despite growing up in Colorado, she didn’t consider herself an outdoorswoman until her mid-twenties, when she decided her soccer career was over but needed another outlet to satisfy her need for adrenaline. She first discovered the great outdoors through snowboarding but then jumped all-in when she took up a part-time job at REI. While at REI, she was exposed to almost every outdoor sport and finally realized what this great state has to offer and all she had been taking for granted before.

She then found a community of like-minded mountain bikers through the Women’s Mountain Biking Association which led her to pursue a job in the cycling industry. It felt most natural – where her passion and her profession could exist harmoniously. That was almost 10 years ago.

Currently, she works at SRAM/RockShox, one of the largest cycling component manufacturers in the world, as a Product and Marketing Data Coordinator. Besides her day job at SRAM, she also is the team mechanic for the Juliana Pro Team, a mountain bike skills coach for Grit Clinics, Ladies AllRide, and VIDA MTB Series, and last but not least, she gets to travel around for the SRAM Women’s Program teaching product education/suspension set-up clinics and lead mountain bike rides.

The best part of her job(s) is that she gets to ride her mountain bike for fun and work all over the world, but her real passion lies with getting more women into the outdoors (especially on bikes) and to experience that “ah-ha” moment just like she did.

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I fell in love with mountain biking through the Women’s Mountain Biking Association of Colorado Springs (WMBA). I had just finished grad school and was working some part-time jobs and lacking strong community in my life. I had a mountain bike and decided to show up to a Thursday evening WMBA group ride. It wasn’t necessarily the mountain biking that I fell in love with first but rather it was the community and social aspect. Immediately, I felt like I had found my people, or my tribe, and the bike was simply a commonality between us all. Sure, I loved the adrenaline rush, fear, speed, and challenge of mountain biking, but what I really loved was the ability to share that “high” with other like-minded ladies, many of whom would become some of my best friends and who I still ride with today, 8 years later.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Technical climbing has always intimidated me but I am so in awe of it. I would watch others (men and women) pedal their way up techy climbs with such finesse and control. I knew that to be a “good” mountain biker didn’t just mean you were fast on the downhills or had the guts to huck big drops, but rather, it was a balance between being able to climb as well as you could descend, if not better. So, I’ve really worked hard on my balance, timing, and power to get good at techy climbs. But, this came with a lot of bloody crashes. It’s the worst when you’re trying to get up a techy section and you just fall over or backwards, ha! Working on track stands, slow speed bike maneuvers, balance, power strokes, and repetition has been key for me. Sometimes my friends and I would go out to ride and JUST work on techy climbing. We would maybe ride one mile in two hours but we would practice, practice, practice. Mountain biking is so much more than just being able to ride fast. I’ve always wanted skill over speed, knowing that the speed will come when the skills get dialed in.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Absolutely! Cornering has always been tricky and something I don’t think I will ever fully master. The bike/body separation and counter-balance make total sense in my head but I find it much harder to actually do. That is the most frustrating part when you know in your head what you need to do but that doesn’t translate into actually doing it. I try not to beat myself up about it, or any bad riding days, for that matter. As consistent as I try to ride, I know I will have good riding days and bad riding days. I’ve learned to take the bad with the good because it’s hard to measure success without failure. I also like to remind myself that any day on the bike is a better day than not on the bike. I just love being outside and having the freedom and life circumstances to ride my bike in beautiful places. I hope to never take that for granted.

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?
First and foremost, ride a “good” bike. I know the barrier to entry isn’t cheap for a sport that you may or may not love but I promise that having a good bike will set you up for success and only make your experience that much more enjoyable. So, invest some money in a bike that has decent suspension (RockShox of course) and a seat dropper. Second, find a riding community. Although mountain biking can be an individual sport, it’s always more enjoyable when shared with others. There are so many groups out there these days and can be easily found on the Internet. Join one! I promise there will be people just like you with your same hesitations, nerves, and riding ability.

Your involvement with the Women's Mountain Biking Association led you to pursue a job in the cycling industry, how did that come about?
I guess I would say that the stars aligned and I stumbled right into the industry. My educational background is in Biology with a Master’s degree in Philosophy. I always thought I’d grow up to be a teacher and coach, get married, have a couple kids, and settle into the traditional female role that I learned of growing up in a conservative, middle-class town (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that at all; I just didn’t know there were any other options). Working in the cycling industry or even the outdoor industry never even crossed my mind as a “career path.” So, when I met a girl at a WMBA group ride who worked in the cycling industry for a company called “SRM PowerMeters,” I was in awe. And, she liked her job. I had just finished grad school at 25 and knew it was time to get a “real 9-5 job” and start adulthood. I later saw this same girl out at a local restaurant and she introduced me to her boss, the owner of SRM. I thought nothing of it but my friends who I was at dinner with insisted I ask him if he was hiring at SRM. Peer pressure and a couple drinks can definitely inspire me to put myself out there, haha! He said they needed someone who was good on the phones and that I should email him to come in for a tour. I left the conversation thinking, “No, I don’t want to be on the phone all day talking to customers.” So, I left it at that. But then when my friends and I asked for our bill, the server told us that the gentleman at the bar took care of the whole tab. Now, this was something I couldn’t ignore. I emailed him the next day and we set up a tour. I brought my resume and had an interview on the spot. A week later I was offered my first full-time, salaried position. I did customer service, sales, and marketing at SRM for 5 years. My time at SRM was awesome and I really fell in love with mountain biking and the industry even more. But, after 5 years I felt the desire to “do more” and “be more” in the cycling industry which led me to pursue a job at SRAM. I’ve now been at SRAM for almost 5 years and know that I’m exactly where I need to be at this point in my life.

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 actually haven’t had too many (knock on wood). I deal with some pretty intense lower back issues from time to time but I feel like those are manageable if I can stay on top of my core workouts and stretching. I’m scared to death to get hurt since so much of my job requires me to be able-bodied. This definitely gets into my head sometimes when I chicken out on riding sections that I know I can ride or have ridden before. This is one of the reasons that I don’t race enduro anymore. I just scare myself out of racing fast out of fear of getting hurt and then I get last place and beat myself up about it. The mental and emotional stress of racing just isn’t for me.
What do you love about riding your bike?
Oh gosh, there’s nothing better. The high, the adrenaline rush, the freedom, the failures, the successes, the places my bike takes me, the people I’ve met, the people I get to ride with, and the comradery. It’s a tool that gives me life, a sense of purpose. And now, it has given me a career that I am very passionate about.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
-I have a Juliana Roubion. It’s a 150/160 enduro bike and I absolutely love it. I have given up on my desire to be a fast climber and consider myself more gravity focused. I want something that can pedal but really excels on the downhills. The Roubion is my favorite bike that I’ve ridden so far due to its responsiveness and the ability to really throw it around but feel in total control. It makes me a better rider!

What do you enjoy most about working for SRAM/RockShox?
The culture, and what SRAM/RockShox stands for and who we stand for. There’s so much passion for bikes, but more than that, there’s a deeply rooted passion to get more people outside on bikes because we all know what it’s like to find that freedom you can only get from being on a bike. I get to work with some of my best friends so we get to do work and life together. Also, I love that my job has so much variety in it. I do a little bit of product data coordination, a little bit of marketing for RockShox, a little bit of teaching tech clinics and skills clinics for the SRAM Women’s Program, and a little bit of wrenching on bikes. I’m learning so much, constantly growing, and continuing to meet people who can help me along in my journey.

You have a full-time job at SRAM as a Product and Marketing Data Coordinator, but you also do A LOT of other things. What do those entail?
I like to stay busy. Ever since I was young, I just couldn’t sit still. I always like having about four different “jobs” going on at the same time. My day job is at SRAM as a Product and Marketing Data Coordinator. Basically, I work between Product Management and Product Marketing and make sure the data and content between the two are consistent. It’s fun, challenging, and engaging. One thing I’ve learned over the past four years at SRAM is how important and exciting it is for me to see how and where my job affects the world outside the four walls of SRAM. So, I satisfy this fix by helping out the SRAM Women’s Program. We travel to events and lead women’s rides, teach women how to set up their suspension and make tuning adjustments, and coach skills clinics. Our mission is to grow the women’s cycling community by educating women about SRAM products and technologies through technical presentations, ride clinics, and events. Additionally, I do some MTB skills coaching for Ladies AllRide, Grit Clinics, and VIDA MTB Series. This year I’ll coach at Ladies AllRide Sedona and Big Sky and at VIDA Valmont and Beti Bike Bash. I also do private coaching through Grit Clinics. Another more recent endeavor of mine is learning how to be a bike mechanic which has led me to wrench on bikes for the Juliana Pro Team and teach a few women’s mechanic clinics at Evo Denver for VIDA/COMBA (Colorado Mountain Biking Association). Oh, and last by not least, I watch my friends and co-workers dogs as another side gig…you know when I’m not traveling to all these other events, ha!

You are also a mechanic for the Juliana Pro Team, have you ever found it challenging or stressful being a mechanic during events? How do you keep cool?

At certain times, for sure. But, it helps that all of the girls are super kind and understanding. It’s a real “team” atmosphere where I don’t feel an immense amount of pressure from them.

How did you get the job as the Juliana Bike mechanic?
Kelli Emmett (Team Manager) and I went for a MTB ride one day over lunch (in early March) and she was explaining how she needed to find a mechanic for each of the team’s races. She mentioned the first race was Sea Otter (mid-April). I asked what it meant to be the “Team Mechanic.” She listed out the roles and responsibilities and I piped up, “Oh, I can do all that.” The truth is that I couldn’t do all that. I had basic bike mechanic knowledge (how to change tubeless tires, change brake pads, clean a bike, and set up suspension), but I wasn’t comfortable adjusting shifting, bleeding brakes/seatposts, servicing suspension, or diagnosing and fixing issues. But, it sounded like a great opportunity and I wanted to go to Sea Otter. So, I didn’t really lie, okay, maybe I did a little. But, I said, “Yes, I’m in. I can do it.” Later one of my co-workers broke the news to her and said, “Oh, Lindsey is a bike mechanic?” Haha, my secret was out. But, hear me out here…sure, I didn’t know exactly everything when I committed but I knew that I could learn it and I was determined to not let Kelli or the team down. I spent the next 5 weeks learning as much as I could. I watched YouTube videos on shifting adjustments, wheel truing, suspension servicing, brake and seatpost bleeding, brake adjustments, and common mechanical/hydraulic problems and how to fix them. I also asked questions of my co-workers and volunteered to fix and/or build my friend’s bikes. I even had to borrow a tool roll and all the bike tools; total amateur! But, I went for it! Gosh, I still remember flying into San Jose and Kelli picking me up. I kept telling myself, “I’ve got this. I can do this.” I was so nervous to meet all the girls, who would trust me to look after their bike needs all week. I didn’t want to let any of them down and knew that this was my “big test.” If it went well, maybe Kelli would invite me back for more. I had no idea what to expect or what I was getting myself into. But, in hindsight, I’m soooooooo glad that I jumped on the opportunity because I have been invited back to more races and I’ve developed a strong friendship with all the girls. I care a lot about them, both in racing and in their personal lives. It’s a real “team” feeling and they are like family to me. Also, working with Kelli has been amazing and I’m forever grateful she gave me a chance. We work super well together and are always one step ahead of each other.

What has been the most challenging mechanical thing you've learned that makes you go "Damn, this is awesome!" because you understand what it is you need to do-
Drivetrain adjustments (limit screws and barrel adjustments). It just never really made sense to me…tightening the cable, loosening the cable, B-bolt, limit screws, etc. But, once I took the time to learn not just how but when and why it is actually very intuitive.

Tell us more about your mechanic skills... Have you always been able to work on your own bikes? How did you learn? Did you take classes or watch youtube videos?

I’ve always had the desire to work on my own bikes but didn’t fully commit to learning until the Juliana team mechanic opportunity arose. I was always so intimidated by drivetrain set-up/adjustments, bleeding brakes/seatposts, and wheel truing. I can’t even tell you how many SRAM and Park Tool YouTube videos I watched learning about how and when to loosen the cable vs. tighten the cable, how to set limit screws, how to replace a cable, how to bleed brakes, how to service suspension, and how to true a wheel. I also learned more than I ever had before about SRAM/RockShox products and finally felt confident when talking to others about the technologies, features, benefits, and servicing. It led me to asking more and more questions to really understand our products. For example, I could always rattle off the various offset options that our forks come in but, until last year, I couldn’t tell you what the practical, on-the-trail difference is between them all. My personal journey of “I want to be the Juliana team mechanic at Sea Otter” has opened my mind to much more. Even though I am constantly learning more and more, I am now able to work on my own bikes, build my own bikes (and my friend’s bikes), and even teach other women how to work on bikes. I also get to test my knowledge at events with RockShox and the SRAM Women’s Program by educating consumers. The details can be intimidating but, once you dive in, it all starts to make sense and you start to feel empowered to start turning knobs and making adjustments.
You have helped coach at Ladies AllRide events, Grit Clinics, and Vida MTB Series events- what have you enjoyed most about those experiences?
This is really where my passion lies. I thought after grad school I would go into teaching and coaching soccer. I am most fulfilled when I can give back and help people navigate this messy thing called “life.” I had no idea that I could experience this fulfillment in the cycling industry and in a sense “find myself” through it. I love seeing women overcome obstacles on the trail and then have that translate to life obstacles. Mountain biking teaches you about strength, perseverance, grit, success, failure, insecurities, fear, confidence, and so much more and I love how those lessons translate directly to “life” as well.

Tell us about the SRAM Women's Program and what it entails-

The SRAM Women’s Program was started a couple years when SRAM saw a need to reach more women. We weren’t necessarily ignoring women but we were directly speaking to and influencing women. The SRAM Women’s Program is dedicated to getting more women on bikes through education, riding clinics, and a general demystifying of bikes and bike culture. We put on events at various venues around the world. It’s an amazing program and it’s great to see SRAM investing in women. For 2019, there are 16 female road ambassadors and 36 MTB ambassadors around the world helping us spread the message that SRAM cares about women. Recently, the program has grown to include diversity and inclusion efforts and this is super exciting not only for SRAM but for the cycling industry as a whole.

SRAM Women’s Program. All-inclusive, never exclusive. A community-built to help cultivate women to be their best selves. Inspiring female cyclists through experience, education and social connectivity while supporting them on their purpose-filled journey with innovative product.

How do stay motivated to do keep up with everything? Do you do any other activities away from the bike?
Variety is key. I stay busy with lots of different things. I am constantly bouncing around from sitting at a desk knee-deep in product and marketing data to working on bikes to coaching MTB skills to dog-sitting. Oh, and believe it or not, I do find time to ride my bike or go for a run as my outlet. Exercise keeps me sane so I make sure to work that into my schedule. And, if I’m honest, I do get pretty burnt out by November. Winter is a time for me to reset, get back into a routine, and spend time at home. I also took up a new sport this past winter, splitboarding, and dove right into the deep end. I was shocked by how much I love it, despite how difficult it is and how much I struggle. I even went on two “snow-only” vacations. That’s right: no bikes! I seriously couldn’t recall the last trip I went on that didn’t involve a bike, or work of some sort. Those two trips and all my additional weekend splitboard missions have been so amazing and rejuvenated my mind. I’m ready for winter to be over and for summer to start.

Besides variety, another key motivation for me comes from others. I’ve had so many people give me a chance and then come alongside to push me, encourage me, and support me. When I’m tired, worn down, and lacking motivation, it’s those friends and mentors that I lean on. I’m lucky to be surrounded by such amazing role models to watch, learn from, and follow.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Intimidation, fear, not having a safe space to learn or friends to ride with. Not feeling good enough. Personal insecurities.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
More marketing activities featuring women and all kinds of women…short, tall, big, small, white, POC, gay, straight, transgender, etc. We are all more likely to do something when we see others “like us” doing it.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The sport helped me in a sense “find myself” and once I realized the power the sport has, I want everyone I know to jump on board.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

My nickname or alter ego is Pam from SRAM. This name came about at the Ladies AllRide clinic in Grand Targhee when Katie Sox and Emily Ford found it difficult to survive the weekend with two Lindseys (Lindsey Richter and myself). Katie made an off-the-cuff statement, “I just really want to call her Pam from SRAM.” I then walked into the condo and Emily said, “Hey, Pam from SRAM!” Well, it stuck, and the rest is history.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Bike Life Adventures: Levis Mounds

Our last trip to Levis was in 2017 and the stars aligned for Travis and me to finally go back to Wisconsin to ride mountain bikes!

Levis is not far past Black River Falls, WI and the drive is a beautiful one. Like heading to Hayward, you eventually come to a point where you see tall pine trees lining both sides of the road. Gosh, I love that so much I can't even tell you. The GPS took us on some back roads giving us a scenic tour through some countryside that we had never seen before.

It was a gorgeous day with sunshine and temps in the 70's. Truly luxurious when it comes to having a great time on the bike. My water knee had also gone down and was looking normal again after our Hayward adventure. Yes! I was hopeful that I could get in as much biking as my heart desired, which would be at least 20 miles.

If you're driving that far, you might as well make it worth your while, am I right?

Levis has a wonderful chalet that offers not only restrooms but showers too! Yaaaas Clean! You pay $8.00 per person for a day of mountain biking awesomeness, which I think is well worth the price. The volunteers put in a lot of time and energy to make their singletrack trails awesome during the dry season plus they do a lot of winter grooming during the snow season (snowshoe, skiing, and fatbiking) me, you should go fatbiking in Levis! In other words, what you get out of your experience is totally worth $8.00 and then some.
When we arrived, there were a couple folks parked in the lot, and I can say with absolute certainty that we never saw a single soul out on the trails while we were there. That's how much space there is in the park! Now, weekends are likely different, but going on a weekday you can (most times) feel like you have the entire trail system to yourself.

Now, the hardest part of the whole adventure was trying to decide what bike to roll on. I had the idea in my head when I purchased my Stumpjumper that it might be the perfect Levis bike, but Travis wasn't sure that it would be ideal due to the climbing. Levis has a great mixture of XC singletrack that has you on lower areas without extensive climbing, but there is a lot of climbing if you want to get to the top and see the beautiful overlooks. The terrain is a mixture of sand and dirt with rocks and roots thrown in. When you are coming down from the top you'll have a wide variety of easy downhill to more technical lines with rocks and roots that having a bike with squish would truly come in handy.

I thought long and hard and decided that my Stumpjumper, Frankie G. The Glitter Queen, would be my Levis steed. I've ridden Levis on a full-suspension bike before (that was 27.5" wheels and 130 for suspension) and the last time was my 27.5+ Beargrease. Both of those times I had a lot of challenges and neither option was my "perfect" bike for one reason or another. I felt confident that the tables would turn on this day with my S-Works Stumpjumper boasting 27.5+ wheels and a cushy 150/140 front/rear suspension. If nothing else, it would look good in pictures!

Levis has a lot of trails, so there are a lot of different options when it comes to riding, and because we don't ride enough there on a regular basis it always feels like we're touring around. It keeps it fun and low-key. 
Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 2020
We started on the lower trails to warm up first, so Lower Glen and rode Wolf Run where there was a new wallride. It looked large and intimidating to me, and I told Travis I wanted to find some smaller wallrides to do first before committing to that one. We made our way to Goat Dance where my wish was granted, and there I did my first wallride and found it to be incredibly exhilarating! I forget how many times I rode it and each time I felt my confidence rise. Eventually, we continued on and rode a smattering of trails that took us up to the top of the bluff and around.

One of my favorite moments was sitting up on top of an overlook (FYI, find Clarence and you'll find them!) We took some time to sit, eat our snacks, and listen to the breeze. There wasn't much for fall colors, but it was still beautiful and calming. Vultures were gliding around while we watched a butterfly and a dragonfly float around until they disappeared into the green of the trees below. It felt extremely therapeutic to sit on the sandstone rock and stare out over the world. I felt like my dad was there, appreciating the beauty with us. I could have sat there for hours, but that would mean we wouldn't be riding bikes.
Another success was riding through "Plumber's Crack" and making the lefthand corner when you exit. Granted, I made it through my second attempt, but it was the first time I made it through without scratching my bike or bumbling. (Overcoming my anxiety of bridge-like structures and tight turns!)

I don't remember the trail we were on, but there was a tight corner wallride that we took time to session. I didn't ride it successfully until after my 3rd attempt or so. It was all about having the right momentum, and once I found the "sweet spot" it was game on! I had so much fun conquering something new and challenging. I was felt pretty darn euphoric. 
S-Works Stumpjumper
We made our way back down to the lower trails, took a quick break back at the truck to adjust air pressures/use the restroom/have more snacks, and then made our way back up. We played around on Lucy's Loop where I surprised myself with being able to ride quite a few of the features. I was able to ride a long skinny without falling off, which surprised me! I know the last time we rode at Levis I tried multiple times and didn't make it. I rode on some teetertotters and another log ride that would've originally freaked me out because of the height off the ground. Skill-building achieved!
On our way to the upper trails, we did the loop around Porky Point, and I successfully rode 99% of it! (I had to session a spot where we had to ride up some rocks to get to the top.) I was super impressed with myself. Well, actually, I wasn't sure if I was impressed with myself or the bike. Both? Likely.

With the second half of the ride, we were trying to ride trails we hadn't ridden during our ride. I saw the sign for Cliffhanger and reading "Advanced" piqued my interest. Okay. Let's see how challenging this is! (Josie of 2017 would not have said that.)

I know I've ridden down Cliffhanger in the past, but I also know that I spent a majority of the time walking over the drops, rocks, and rooty sections. This time I dropped my seatpost and went for it- I kept my bike rolling and didn't have time to worry over what was coming up. I went slow and steady in some spots, a little faster in others, and when we were done with the trail I had to ask "Did I just ride Cliffhanger dabless?" I was so focused on what I was doing that I wasn't even thinking! Hot damn! 
S-Works Stumpjumper Sunset
The final goal of the day was to go back to Wolf Run so I could do the wallride that I opted out of the first time. I was getting a bit tired, and at one point I worried that I somehow took a wrong turn and missed it! Then, in the distance, I saw it. I hammered down and rode that wall like a boss. (Travis would say so!) I had to ride it a few more times so we could get some photos/video, and each time I loved it. Who knew I'd like wallrides so much?!

What I learned from our Levis Adventure:
I have progressed a lot with my technical riding ability.
Having the right bike makes a huge difference in how confident I feel.
Plus-sized tires definitely have their place in my world.
A dropper post is a luxury that is nice to have.
I feel ready to ride in Arizona.
Not having anxiety while riding is completely awesome.
I love that I have a bike that can store snacks!
S-Works Stumpjumper Sunset Acid Kiwi
After we cleaned up and changed, we made our way to a bar & grill called Re-Pete's as I had decided a week ago that I wanted to have their version of the Frisco burger. (Back in the day when Hardee's didn't have mammoth burgers, they had a Frisco burger that I absolutely adored. That being said, I can't remember the last time I ate at a Hardee's so it's been a very long, long, long time.) The burger was very good and the horseradish sauce did this funny thing where it would make the back of my sinuses tickle like I wanted to sneeze, but not make me sneeze. I had a big ol' mug of ice tea and believe me, I drank down two of them. All in all, the meal was excellent and I felt that it was just the thing I needed after biking over 20+ miles.
On the way back we made an impromptu stop at Woodman's to check out their beer selection as well as sparkling water options. Truth be told, I'm making the conscious choice to not drink beer on a super regular basis anymore. After talking with a friend, I realized that I've had a beer a night, every night, for several years in a row now. I've never really taken a break from it because I didn't feel that there was a specific "need" to. It's not like I put back multiple beers a day or in an evening...sure, sometimes on special occasions I'd have multiple (max 3)...but I felt like I had legitimately come to a point where I was curious on what would happen if I had less. Not eliminate 100% but just less. I guess I came to a point where I felt like having something like beer becoming a habit more as something out of enjoyment just didn't sit well with me. So now I'm indulging on different flavors of sparkling water- and it's amazing how many boxes of sparkling water you can purchase for so little money! (Compared to beer that is!) It's not to say I won't have an outing with a friend for a beverage, but I'm going to decrease the consistency of which I have a beer for the time being. (More on that in a different post.)

S-Works Stumpjumper 2020
All in all, our adventure to Levis Mounds was a success and after riding there again I can definitely say I'd take my Stumpjumper back. No question! I felt the most confident I had ever felt while biking up there on my Stumpjumper, which makes me feel extremely grateful I bought her. Nothing makes me happier than experiencing a truly united relationship with a bike.

It was awesome to see Travis truly impressed with my riding, even he didn't think I'd take to wallrides like I did! The Josie who rode Levis in 2017 surely wouldn't, but the Josie of now totally does. I also felt more excited to ride in Levis because I was able to ride I'd say 90% more this time than I did last time, which made me feel excellent. Progression rocks.

There is much going on in my Bike Life right now, and I can't wait to see where it takes me! 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Women on Bikes Series: Erica Swann

Howdy!! I was given the name Erica and born into a family of Swann’s. I grew up in NorCal. I attended school there and went to The University in Adelaide, South Australia for a year then graduated from CSU Sacramento.

I grew up in a family that liked to commute on bikes and ride bikes for fun! My dad commuted every day to work by bike. My brother and I rode with him on the weekends growing up. As I grew older and life became busier, those weekend rides gave way to other competitive sports and traveling.

In my young adult life, I reconnected with the bike and embraced trail running as well. I fell in love with riding bikes all over again! I bought a used, but gorgeous, deep-dish wheelset, all carbon, TT bike. Every second I had free was spent riding. No one could come between me and my bike! I also rode my first century on it!

Not too long after, I sold it and bought a mountain bike and a road bike.

Fast forward and several bikes later...I was schooled in the way of a bike mechanic because I wanted to work on my own bike without taking it to a bike shop. I started working at a Specialized shop and was building and doing tuning ups like a pro. At the shop, I was asked by Specialized to apply for the women’s Specialized Ambassadorship. Months passed and I moved out to San Diego. I was contacted by Specialized for the Women’s Ambassadorship and I was over the moon!! I still am! I raced my Epic Carbon Comp 29er where I could, went on group rides and coordinated group rides with other women riders and new riders alike. I love the fun rides. But it always feels good to push your limits on hard rides.

I love riding my S-Works road bike too. It’s a great space to socialize or push or zone out and think. My last big ride was the BWR aka Belgium Waffle Ride and was 132 miles and 11k feet of climbing. I rode that on my Specialized Diverge gravel bike. Not easy when you’re returning from Vegas Super-cross supporting our race teams from work at 3:30am and on the BWR starting line at 7am. It was aggressive for sure as the President, John Hinz of Ktm North America, Inc. said to me. But I’d do it again! Was so great to see so many women on the line!

I currently work for KTM North America, Husqvarna Motorcycles North America, and WP Suspension Group. I love my job and I get to ride dirt bikes (my other passion) in some pretty amazing places.

I love skiing too and doing anything outside!

To me, it’s important to share with people my love for two-wheeled things in hopes that it will spark a new interest, teach them something new, or learn something new about themselves. We need more women on bikes with great attitudes! :-)

Instagram: Dirtgurlridahs
Instagram: Ehapagurl 

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I used to supplement my road riding with trail running. I love dirt, rocks and everything gnarly that goes along with it. Short story short; I started suffering horrible IT Band pain and had to hang up my trail running shoes. Enter MTB! Still wanting to be on trails and play in the dirt and not as a hiker, I bought my first used Cannondale fatty with head shock back in the day. My seasoned MTB friends took me on my first ride and soon everyone else started inviting me to gnarlier, bigger rides in the desert. Skinned knees and elbows were all part of trying more technical terrain. I was so hooked!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I think desert riding is some of the most technical riding there is. I had no choice but to jump right into it and learn. I rode with people who were moto veterans and MTB veterans. They gave me a few pointers on switchbacks and breaking techniques. But ultimately this is my outlook and what has helped me learn...It’s mostly mental! Yes, the more you ride the better you get but your mental attitude is 90% of it. If you have fear, that will inhibit your growth and learning curve as a rider.

I’d love to take downhill tight turns much faster. If I’m not constantly trying to push myself then I’m not learning anything new. My worst days are usually when I’m in a funky headspace and I’m picking horrible lines. Those are the days I usually take trails that are more chill or go ride road.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Chunky rock gardens can sometimes make me feel like I’d like to get faster and pick better lines. If it’s a new-to-me trail I try not to get down on myself or let fear control me. I just focus on what’s in front of me, keep pedaling and go with it. 9 times out of 10 when I get through it I feel like I leveled up on my riding skills or learned something new about myself. Even if I eat it I will go back and try again. Getting down on myself for not clearing something isn’t constructive so I just stay positive and happy that I’m on the trails. Plus getting down on myself on a technical trail would apt for some disastrous line choices for the rest of my ride. Staying positive with my mental attitude keeps me in a good place even when I feel like my skills are being tested.

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?

Definitely go out with someone who can take them out on some fire roads, double track, and maybe some easy-to-chew-on single track depending on how comfortable they are. There’s a level of trust here with the person who is taking you out. It’s nice to have a demo laying around to help introduce MTB to new lady riders too. As a guide, you have to listen to the rider as well and acknowledge their feelings about riding. You can’t push a new rider. If you do then you’ll most likely lose them forever.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
My very first ride was on clipless pedals. Horrible for climbing and horrible for jumps! I was like no way. I was already used to being clipped in on my road bike so I immediately switched to clip-ins. Crank Bros to be exact!

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?

My biggest accident was no fault of my own but frustrating nonetheless. When I first started riding MTB I signed up for the Over the Hump MTB summer races. My new-to-me MTB had a faulty rear brake that ended up needing to be fixed. Between a few crashes in one ride that happened with the faulty brake and two male elite riders taking me out at the race, I ended up opening one wound on my right leg 4 times total. Was really gross and the medical scrub that followed was worse than any of the crashes. It didn’t kill my ride vibe though and I kept racing Race OC and had fun!
What do you love about riding your bike?
You know when you see a dog hanging out of a truck with their face in the wind, tongue sticking out and they look like they are in pure bliss? Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Long ride, short ride, outside, solo or with friends. I’ve never ended a ride saying, “I wish I didn’t go riding.” What’s not to love!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My bikes…hmmm. Like people, although inanimate objects, they all have different personalities. I have my Specialized Epic for all my local rides and races. I love the 29ers on this thing and the brain for rear suspension. So rad it automatically adjusts to the terrain I’m on. Plus, the color is To Die For! Epic rolls over rocks like nothing. Oh, and YES you can do switchbacks on a 29er. ;)

I have my Sworks Amira with di2 Dura Ace components for my road bike. This bike is amaze-balls on the roads and climbs. I have my new StumpJumper Carbon Comp 29er. Great for bike parks and single track trails for sure! I have an ancient 10-speed bike I sanded by hand, clear coated and turned into a single speed. My frankenbike!

I also have a Specialized Diverge I got for BWR that I leave at work to ride at lunch. Awesome for road, gravel and some singletrack.

You have worked at a bike shop, tell us what your experience was like as a woman working in the cycling industry-
I wanted to work at a bike shop because I wanted to work on my own bikes without having to ask someone to do it and wait. I worked with other mechanics in the shop and became a bike builder, then learned to actually work on bikes. I went to SRAM tech classes and learned so much about suspension, dropper posts, and brake systems and how to work on them. It was honestly so awesome to be a girl mechanic. Customers always thought it was rad. I don’t work in a bike shop anymore, but I created my own mechanic station in my garage. Friends bring me their bikes to work on and I work on my own bikes.

Learning to be a bicycle mechanic can be challenging, what helped you learn all that you know?
Being a mech can be challenging! Depending on the age, type and keep of the bike, easy fixes on a new top of the line bike can be difficult on an old bike. There were so many talented mechanics at the shop and everyone had a mechanic hack that worked for various problems. Hands-on training for me was the best way to learn.

Why should more women work at bike shops?
Women came into the shop with their husbands or alone. So many times I was asked by women to help with their bike, saddle issues, chamois, chamois creams and everything else relating to “girl bits”, riding and being comfortable. I was so happy to help them and educate them on what’s available to women riders. As a mechanic and a rider of both MTB and road, I felt like women appreciated they had another woman to ask and answer their questions. For this reason and to help grow the population of women riders we need more women ambassadors in shops and on the trail helping women riders of all ages.

You participate in races, tell us what you enjoy most about challenging yourself at an event.-
Oh gosh, the summer series for Quick and Dirty and any other races they put on, or the SoCal Endurance series…they’re all so fun. Feels good to push your body to the limits. The fun afterward is the cherry on top! Races give me a marker on how far I’ve come as a rider.
You are a Specialized Ambassador, tell us why you are stoked about the opportunity to be an ambassador for Specialized.-
Oh man! There’s so much I can say about this. I worked for a Specialized dealer and I love their bikes! The Stoke is Real! I love the excitement of talking about our bikes. I love participating in demo days and at Specialized Ladies Nite. The Specialized Ambassadorship gives me a platform to share my stoke for riding the Specialized brand with new and seasoned women riders alike.

Why do you feel Ambassador programs are beneficial for the cycling industry?
With great power comes great responsibility. :) Women ambassadors help other women coming into the industry as riders and consumers. I feel excited and fortunate to be able to talk to women about their goals as a rider and to help match them up with the right bike. I am able to organize MTB rides like the one I have coming up with the Girl Scouts of America in October. They made me an honorary Girl Scout! So Rad! I’m excited to get the youth stoked on riding and introducing them to Specialized. They are the future of cycling. Plus, on top of all this, I get to introduce new riders, meet other riders, and make new riding buddies along the way. Some of my most fav rides have been taking women out on their first MTB ride. The cycling industry automatically benefits when ambassadors are out spreading rider stoke and bringing people together with bicycles.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Lined up at an MTB race. Waiting for the pop. Looking around. There are a sea of men lined up with a million different categories and maybe 30 women lined up between three little categories: elite, sport and beginner. MTB women know what I’m saying here. We are the minority. Why? Most times I hear this: “It’s too hard.” “It’s dangerous.” “I don’t want to fall going down a hill.” And the biggest reason of all? “I have no one to ride with.” Most times it's fear-based. When I’ve taken brand new riders out on my old mtb they are surprised at how fun it is and how they can start off on terrain that’s good for new riders to ease into. It’s never a good idea to take new riders out on the gnarliest of trails. They can work their way up to that. We need more women ambassadors with the capabilities to be able to share a bike with a new rider and take them out. It’s awesome to have my extra bike around to take new riders out. I can’t tell everyone enough how important it is to take someone out on their first ride and be patient with them. Enjoy the moment and remember your own first ride. Pay it forward.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Specialized is definitely doing their part in the Encourage Her rides and Women Ambassadorships. I'd like to see local demo days just for ladies happen. Doesn’t have to be big but needs to be marketed local schools, bike shops, bike clubs, and social media. Creating and sharing a new experience with a new friend to try out bikes should be part of the theme. You can talk to people about their fears and acknowledge them and help show them the way from there. They just need a bike to ride. New riders don’t usually have access to a bike. If women ambassadors had access to bikes, taking a few new riders out in a group would be so awesome. Having the right people guiding them is just as important.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The feeling I get from riding my MTB or road bike or any bike? Like that dog sticking his head out of a moving truck with its tongue flapping in the wind…it’s pure bliss! I want other women to feel that. It feels empowering and freeing. That’s what inspires me to encourage women to ride.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Random fact about myself? I ride moto, as in dirt bikes on singletrack. OMG! So fun! I love skiing too.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Bike Life Adventures: Living the Happyness Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I didn't.

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

I had nothing to prove.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We woke up to my 7 a.m. alarm and had a lazy morning of watching a little bit of the Today Show. Once we were good and ready, we got dressed and headed over to the Norske Nook next to our motel and I had this amazing lefse wrap filled to the brim with sausage, eggs, and cheese. It was topped with hollandaise sauce and it was absolutely divine. I ate like 98% of it. #sorrynotsorry
After breakfast, it was time to go riding! We had to figure out the best route to go due to the event, and we ultimately ended up heading over to the Namakagon Cluster. We went to the Namakagon Town Hall trailhead and rode our way on the Namakagon trail over to the Rock Lake trailhead and continued on Rock Lake so I could finally ride down Wall Street, and eventually made our way back to the Namakagon trail via Patsy Lake. It was over 20 miles of a mix of intermediate to advanced riding with several mini victories along the way for me. It's amazing to know I was on Rock Lake in 2017 and would have been scared sh*tless to ride some of the stuff I rode at that point. It really helped me to put into perspective how I've grown as a rider.
Women's S-Works Epic 2018
At one point, we found a hiking path down to the most beautiful lake! It was amazing how quiet and serene it was. I could've sat on the ground and stared out over the water for hours. There was just enough color to the trees to make everything bright with lots of contrast.
Word to the wise, there are a lot of rounded rocks and it was a ride that I enjoyed for the challenge, but it sure did beat me up! I will say the Specialized Mimic Saddle definitely helped me out a lot!

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

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

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

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

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