Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Women Involved Series: Aimee Ross

I am IMBA's Advocacy Manager. My position is house'd in the Government Affairs department. My job is to work specifically with our Region Directors to develop training materials and public relation materials to coach locals on how to ask for what they want and look for a larger success rate.

I also work with the rest of the Government Affairs team on federal and state policy initiatives to support our mission to protect, preserve and enhance great mountain biking experiences.

I work to engage locals with their land managers in order for all to effectively work together in policy creation for their local lands as it pertains to the land's users. I also participate in a number of coalition partnerships that IMBA fosters to build a larger basis of human powered recreational voice throughout the US. 

Katherine and I work closely on the Women's Blog to ensure we never get to one sided and look to tell a variety of unique stories. I also am the "go to" in house staff member that works closely with NICA on a National Level to leverage a partnership to bring more youth into our advocacy efforts.

Tell us about how you got involved with IMBA and what inspired you to take on your job as Advocacy Manager?
I've been working in the cycling industry for about 9 years and I loved every previous career move I have had within the industry. However I always had some part of me that wanted to give back more. I really never saw myself taking on a position like an Advocacy Manager until I read the job description and thought; "Hey I can get paid and do something that I've wanted to for quite some time." Deep down inside I'm an educator not in the traditional sense; but in the sense that I want to help people be better and be able to share IMBA's knowledge with the mountain bike community on how we act together to legitimize better experiences for all of us. Whether that's the industry or our local constituents.

Tell us why IMBA is such a great organization to work for-
I've never worked for a Non-Profit until I took this position with IMBA. I've always been able to show my value by returned dollars to a company. But this is different. IMBA is an organization in which I feel I can have a bit more creativity. The more I learn about where IMBA has been and where it wants to go the more knowledge I can bring from a for-profit company in and hope that it will help to further our mission. IMBA, to me, represents opportunity for experience; that's why it's so great!

In your words, why should people get involved with IMBA?
As long as there are Public Lands; IMBA's work will never been complete. We work every day to protect access for our community; gain access to new experiences and look for opportunities to craft legislation to further the human powered recreation community. Whether you have the time to volunteer and don't have the dollars; or you have the dollars and not the time to volunteer or you can contribute equally between volunteering and contributing financially. If you are a mountain biker whether that's one day a month or an elite racer we all ride on the same trails and share those experiences and we should all find whatever way works best for each of us to get involved. 

You also help out with the Dig In blog, why do you feel a blog sharing the stories/experiences of women who mountain bike is so important?
Great question. I have experienced so much because of my bike. Many of my stories and experiences are quite comical at this point. I can remember that many where not so funny at that time; but those experiences where what made me the cyclist I am today. They also shaped my own personal determination in my professional and personal life choices. 
My leading blog on Dig In was one of the precursors to IMBA starting the blog. It was dramatic and funny and my husband and I learned a lot about my mountain biking practice that day. I also know that I am an analytical person and I try to pair those analytics with personal experience whether those are my experiences or someone else’s. These days we've lost touch with storytelling and many brands are starting to see that storytelling is what their consumers care about; that emotional connection. IMBA is an educational association so what better place to share experiences that has forced many of us to learn from the hard way. 
If I can spare another female mountain biker from some of the hard lessons that I or my co-workers have experienced than why the heck not? Plus I love learning and hearing other women's stories (even if they are people that I work with in the same office) are informational, entertaining and open my eyes to a different outlook on my own mountain biking practice. 

You also work with the NICA-tell us what that's all about-
NICA stands for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. It is the governing body of high school mountain bike racing. My husband and I started a team here in Colorado two years ago. NICA has been around for about 11 years starting in Berkley, CA. Colorado started their league 5 years ago. Back then they were the third league; which consisted of NorCal, SoCal and Colorado. Now there are 15 leagues in 14 states. It is so empowering to be able to give back to the youth of our community. I started out being a coach and a team director and now I'm a Board Member for the Colorado League (as a volunteer) and working on initiatives with IMBA that teach high school students through the means of NICA what advocacy means to their future of mountain biking. Working with these students is probably about one of the coolest things I've done to date. 

Why do you feel it's valuable to have youth be aware and become involved with advocacy efforts?
In general I think everyone should participate in some sort of advocacy; whether that is mountain bike advocacy or advocacy efforts related to the American Red Cross, American Lung Cancer Association whatever your interest is make a choice and give back in whatever way you can to something that means something to you. Regarding our youth today; as a Millennial myself I can relate to the traits and values they predicted our generation to pose. Being of civic-mind with a strong sense of community it is important to participate in something bigger than ourselves and it is important to give back to that something. Right now IMBA has a gap in our general membership. We have high membership rates in the 35-55 category and very low member rates from 15-34. If we don't do something to fix this now and seek out those youth whom care about mountain biking we'll have to start over instead of being able to clearly pass along that tribal knowledge from one generation to the next. 

Now I don't mean start over by going back to the beginning of IMBA and having to learn our mistakes all over again; but it would be a step backward for us. Youth these days are hungry to learn more, take on more, participate more and activate where they can. What I would love to see is our gap in membership between the ages 15-34 decrease over the next few years. Being a member gives us the sense that you care whether you are just doing what you can or you are joining to learn and involve yourself more with our mission and for their future.

Without being involved in an organization, how can the general public inspire youth to be involved with their local trails?
Take a kid under your wing. Get them out on trail days. What kid doesn't like playing in the dirt every once and awhile? It's the most basic, simplest and direct way to educate them on the importance of trails and what it means for our environment and their future. Teach them the Rules of the Trails; by abiding by these rules and respecting other users that makes you an advocate. While dollars help pay for the work that we do at a local, regional and national level; volunteering and donating your time is equally as valuable to our organization. I've seen a wealth of opportunity from students who have had mentors from within our community. 

It's amazing how involved they become; they are polite, eager, attentive and teachable. That's an opportunity at its best to help educate them about where we've been and give them the motivation to keep us on the right singletrack for all of our future. They are the thought leaders of tomorrow and their ideas are far superior in many cases. They are so innovative if you give them the chance. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Hmmm. Another great question. I don't know that I know the best way to answer this question. Recently I was having a conversation with a female member of the cycling industry and we were talking about barrier to entry of the sport and I loved her response. She noted that she felt the answer to barrier to entry of mountain biking is in the conversation. That hit me like a ton of bricks. Wow; was I thinking about things all wrong. For me when I got into the sport barrier to entry came down to dollars, but that's not true for many. Barrier to entry can be a different dynamic for so many; consider intimidation, dollars, skill or availability as some of these challenges. I was brought up being told that I can do anything I put my mind to and can always figure out a way to make the best of every situation and participate whenever I wanted. It would be so cool if our industry had something like a mentor program; that if a women was interested or a student in getting into mountain biking that there was a way to connect them with someone who had experienced the same barrier and overcame. 

That's why I believe Dig In is so important and we'll talk about this more on the Dig In blog. I also think that for many women style plays a role and it wasn't until recently that more stylish products have been placed on the outdoor recreation market that are also functional to women; in which is super important. We want to feel comfortable and confident in everything we do and if we can create that environment or have the venue to introduce those improvements made in our industry and educate a wider network of women cyclists I think we'll get there. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dads on Bikes Series: Andy Peterson

In his words: 31 years old, married 9 years to Megan, currently two kids Esther (4) and Fenton(2) with another boy on the way (due end of January).

I am a traveled musician and have played drums since I was 5. Grew up in Downers Grove IL with my parents (Scott and Diane), still there, and 2 older sisters Casey and Jill.

I am a trained Manufacturing Engineer and LEAN expert professionally but have a passion for being outside, running my chain saw, hunting, music, triathlons and Spartan Races, cycling, canoeing, traveling, movies, woodworking, landscaping and home construction.

Really there isn’t much I don’t like to do…. It’s a problem. I’m like a shark; stop swimming and I die.

(If you have a younger child now or in the past) How do you transport your child? Seat or Trailer?
We have use trailer, seat, backpack, just about everything. I like the trailer option as do the kids because they can move around a little more and bring toys and snacks with them. 

If you have an older child, how do you bike with them?
Our 4 year old is starting to ride without training wheels and likes to ride with me. She is always asking to go out riding me, and soon enough she will be right beside me, she loves to ride.

What added precautions do you take when transporting a child? (How do you keep your child safe and what do you avoid?)
Since I started seriously riding about 8 years ago I wear a helmet every time I get on the bike, and the kids have picked up that since dad always wears one, it is the thing to do. They each got to pick out their own and like to wear them around like a hat even if they aren’t riding, so they are used to them by now. As they start riding on their own they will also be made to wear good shoes. I cringe when I see kids and adults alike wearing sandals or flip flops while riding. I guess it comes from my motor cycle riding lessons that a good pair of shoes or boots can save you a lot of pain.

What is one thing you would like to see different about bike safety/transport in general that would make you feel safer transporting your child via bicycle?
I would like to see mandatory helmet laws and better education to drivers about bicycle safety and rights.

Have you ever had any close calls while biking with your child? If so, what happened and what was the outcome? Were you fearful to ride with your child again? How did you overcome?
I am very careful when riding with my kids, much more than when I ride by myself, and have not had any close calls thus far. I consider it my responsibility to keep them safe and if that means waiting, stopping, directing, ect, I take that on myself to make sure we are going to be safe. Again, motorcycle training teaches you techniques to make sure people see you and that taking risks can only end with you hurt regardless if it is your fault or the other persons fault. Car vs bicycle only ends one way…badly.

What are tips/suggestions you have for starting a bike riding routine with your child?
Both my kids are always pushing the limits on what they can and want to do, so I rarely have to suggest they try the next harder thing like taking off training wheels. I do my best to include my kids in things I love to do, and for the most part they go right along with it. Setting time apart from the weekly grind to do some riding can be tough but we do our best to accomplish it. After all practice is the only way to get better at something, so spend the time and practice.

For people wanting to incorporate children into bike riding, what products/accessories would you recommend for a parent and their child?
We love our bike trailer, and I think it did a good job of getting our kid involved with us from a very young age. I would also say that kids bikes have a short span of when they are used, like kids shoes, because they grow so fast. So buy a used one for cheap and then let your kid decorate how they want… flags, paint, bar tassels, etc. It makes it fun for the kid to want to ride.

What are tips/suggestions that you have for teaching your child to learn to ride on their own?
One never wants to see their kid get hurt, including me, but I say falling is a way of life. The more you can let the kid practice without your help the better. I think the more you hold on to them the more they start to depend on you to catch them. Pad them up and shove them off. I think that is a dad thing though… and now I sound heartless.

What do you enjoy most about including your child/children in terms of bike riding?
It is nice to spend time with them doing something we both enjoy and CAN do together. If they are in the trailer, they go where I go AND have a good time. I get to bike and spend time with them is more than a win win.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Danielle Jubanyik

Nickames: D and Dr. J (I earned my doctorate last year!)
My loves:  1. My cats 2. My husband (haha) 3. Biking 4. Animal rescue 4. Good food/wine/beer 5. Always learning something new 6. Meteorology/astronomy 7. Reading

When did you first start riding a bike?
I always rode a bike as a kid, but not seriously. My first “real” mountain bike purchase was in 1999-I think. It was a Gary Fisher hardtail. Lots of fun! I learned so much on that bike, and fell in love with the sport!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Well, I have had a few tragic events (the loss of my youngest sister, and years later the loss of my father) that propelled me to want to get out an experience life. Additionally, I’ve always been sort of a loner, so any activity I could take on, and do independently on my own time naturally drew me in. My boyfriend back in 1999 when I purchased my first mountain bike (who is now my husband of 11.5 years) helped my get into riding cross-country and downhill. We ride downhill and cross-country together all of the time. We are best friends on and off the bike!

How have you enjoyed having a partner to ride with on a regular basis?
I really enjoy riding with my husband. I haven’t been able to find too many women who ride, so riding so much with him and his guy friends has really helped me to push my own limits. I am proud to say “I can hang with the boys” haha. I do like an occasional ladies ride though, and have a few girlfriends who like to get out once in a while and shred the trails!

Has your husband been your primary coach? (Travis is mine) It’s been interesting and sometimes challenging to take feedback from my significant other! How have you dealt with the struggles of learning from your partner?
Yes, Dave has been my primary coach, from getting me used to riding clipless pedals years ago, to hitting jumps and drops on the downhill bike. He knows me, and understands my fears and helps me work it out.

A few years ago I paid and met with a private coach once for a few hours on the trails. She is a pro racer and it was great to learn a few different skills from her. She just seemed to show me in a different way than Dave. I always attend clinic if they are free or reasonably priced, because I find I usually take away one thing I didn’t have before- whether riding someone I’ve never been, or going a different pace, or trying a new skill. I have a voracious appetite for learning all things (not just bike stuff).

As far as dealing with struggles from learning from Dave, I’d say that there really aren’t any. Most of the pressure on me is from me pushing myself and wanting to grow as a rider in the sport. He supports me on days when I chicken out on a new feature, and is there on the days when I am sending it, go pro camera in handJ 

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I love downhill biking the most, and although I only competed in one race this season, I am hooked. I don’t have the best stamina, and racing XC just wasn’t for me. In downhill, I love the “one and done” race feel, in addition to the fear factor and adrenaline rush from flying down a mountain.

 Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Barely, I wish I did! I do remember feeling really excited to finally be out and pedaling, and setting small goals, and achieving them early on!

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Have a beer, haha. Okay, not the best advice, but really, it is mind over matter. I find that I need to do something that makes me nervous on my own time/when I am mentally ready. I also find that if I “own it” by talking about it, I am more likely to do said stressful thing.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I use clipless pedals while riding cross-country, flats for DH.  love being clipped in when climbing. As far as beginner tips, I’d say practice on a flat, easy surface first- just don’t expect to ride the same trail in the same way clipped in. Practice  “putting out a cigarette” by unclipping quite a bit while sitting on the bike and holding on to a car or door etc. to stabilize yourself. Be prepared to fall because you can’t clip out on time. Learn to fall in a “good” way when you do. Make sure those cleats can be adjusted to a loose setting until you get the hang of it. The more you ride with clipless, the easier it is. I still see myself and friends just fall over because they can’t unclip sometimes, and it is funnyJ

On your Dirty Jane blog post, you said: “I need to (not maybe) gain more confidence, and clear a few troublesome areas and cobwebs out of my head. I had a few bad crashes last year that have rattled my confidence” How has that been going? What have you done to help yourself heal on a mental/emotional level? Any suggestions for others who have rattled themselves because of crashes?
I find that the more I ride, the more comfortable I become. As the season has progressed I have gone back to areas of the trail where I have had a crash, or issues, and have sessioned those spots that gave me trouble in the past. I have hit a few areas this year that have really made me proud. My husband likes to say “I moved up a few notches” this summer in terms of my DH style and riding ability, which makes me feel proud. Still lots to overcome though! I always want to grow as a rider- even if I reach pro, I know I will still want to work on things and perfect them! I find that helping newer riders, or those struggling with an area I’ve nailed down actually helps me out mentally too. I see how someone is unwilling to give up and desires to overcome their own obstacles, and am inspired.

How has training been going for sustaining a stronger pace while riding? Any suggestions/tips for this? 
Training has been something that I think will have to wait until winter, haha. I have been trying to ride more, but I am not sure if it qualifies as training. Each time I ride, whether XC or DH, I do set a goal though. So maybe on a XC ride, I might try to keep my average pace a 9.5 mph…or perhaps on a DH day, I might scout a new drop/ watch others hit it until I feel comfortable enough to try it. I am hoping that with winter approaching I can pick up some tips from other riders that race and train and blog about it!
Were you able to achieve IMBA Level 1? If yes, how did it feel to accomplish that goal?
No, unfortunately I did not. Money was tight this summer, and the training sessions I was considering were a little too far. That is on my goal list now for 2015! I am a teacher, and have parents coming to me sometimes to ask about training their son/daughter, so I am really excited to put that in the mix down the line!

What do you love about riding your bike?
Ah, there’s so much! As I mentioned earlier, just getting out to clear my head is why I love to ride. But, I love setting goals for myself and achieving them, and riding my bike makes setting goals very do-able. I love nature, animals, and the peace within. And so enjoying a sunset in the forest at the end of a ride is a killer way to live for me. Biking keeps me feeling young, spirited, and capable of doing anything I want.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I just sold my 2013 Specialized Status 2 downhill bike. It is a great bike, but a girl I ride with will now be her new owner! But, that Status. I loved it- all black and tricked out with purple ano Deity parts. I am lucky to be able to get a new Specialized Demo 8 very soon for the 2015 season. Pics and details to follow! But, I am sure the bike will be EPIC!

My current cross county bike is a 2013 Specialized Fate, which is a carbon hardtail designed for women. This thing climbs like no other! I added some Carbon Roval hoops, and love this bike. It is great for the XC trails I mainly ride- fast, twisty, flowy places like White Clay, DE. Not going to lie, I do miss riding full suspension sometimes, especially when I am on a techy trail, I am missing that. Luckily, my years of DH biking really help me out no matter what kind of bike I ride! I love having versatile bike skills thanks to so many years of riding.

My third bike is a DJ bike, a 2014 Specialized P26 am. This bike hasn’t seen much use; I think it might have a cobweb, or two;) But I plan to start hitting the pump track and indoor bike parks this winter! Jumping is my kryptonite! I’m terrible at it, and want to improve on jumping in the 2015 season!

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
As far as clothing, I really love Dakine and Zoic- they have some awesome DH and XC styles that aren’t too girly. Harlot had some cool lines too- looking forward to when they rebrand themselves next season. Troy Lee and Fly Racing make awesome DH moto pants and jerseys. Specialized has some spot on Motodiva clipless shoes, and Five Tens are so grippy for DH and Park, I love them, and couldn’t imagine riding without them!

Bikes definitely should project a bit of your style. Adding some new pedals, a seat clamp, or grips can really spice up your ride without costing too much. Deity has killer stuff!!

How did you hear about Dirty Jane and what inspired you to become a Dirty Jane Ambassador?
I saw Dirty Jane’s posts on Facebook, and was intrigued and visited their website. After reading the bios of some of their ambassadors, I was super impressed and inspired. I new that becoming a Jane would only further inspire me…so glad I took the chance and applied!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think a support group is definitely missing. I was always lucky to have my boyfriend/husband to ride with. I am independent, and have no trouble riding alone. I do know a few women who currently hate to ride alone, and so they don’t get out as much.  Also, just word of mouth when it comes to clinics, etc. I wish more LBS would get involved with helping new riders out on the trail by way of clinics, not just with a purchase in their shop!

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
More exposure for sure when it comes to women riders/racers. I bet that when girls check out great videos, photos, or podiums of lady riders they too will be inspired. I would like to see more opportunities for clinics in a number of areas geared towards women in all levels- beginner through advanced.

Why is it important to you to help encourage other women to ride?
It is important to me to encourage more women to ride because I know first hand the role my bike has been in being my therapist, my fitness coach, & my motivator in my life goals, and I would hate to see someone miss out on any of that without giving riding a chance!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My left eye is half green and half brown; my other eye is all green!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Shebeest WeatherPro Tights: A Product Review

Does the cold weather have you feeling a bit blue? Say, because you’re chilly? Well there are multiple solutions for you to keep your bottom half warm and have fun out in the cold!

I decided to try out the WeatherPro tights from Shebeest to add to my collection of winter tights available for me to wear during the cooler months. A fatbike in my future means that I will have opportunity to ride my bike more than just to work and back, so I wanted to have a third option at my avail.

You will find that having attire for the winter will mean more than just one particular pair of something or other. You will find yourself possibly acquiring a collection of winter weather apparel to suit multiple conditions, such as windproof tights, thicker tights, etc.

The Shebeest WeatherPro tights are to be worn over your favorite pair of riding shorts. They are chamois-free, which means you can wear whatever bottom makes you most comfortable. Also? Rather than wearing a liner short, on the colder days you can wear a more substantial short or perhaps a pair of tights with a built in liner for extra protection from the cold.
The tights are not completely next-to-skin. I find I have ample room to move and since you can tighten the mid-section with a drawstring, one could easily have a thin layer of something under the tights themselves without being too uncomfortable or bunchy.

On the front of the legs they use Wind-blocking SheNook Fleece and stretchy VeloWARM fabric on the back of the legs to keep the bulk down and allow good range of motion. These tights can be used for cross-training such as running, snowshoeing, hiking, etc.

The SheNook Fleece is said to have a highly wind resistant exterior with a velvety soft interior. It’s breathable with excellent moisture wicking properties.
The VeloWARM fabric has a body hugging, 4-way stretch for range of motion and a warm, soft fleece interior for warmth.

My first ride(s) with these tights were on a day after we got our first dusting of snow. Starting out in the upper 20’s and inching into the low 30’s these tights were worn for two rides that day. On the first ride when it was cooler, I have no problems at all with being overly chilly.
I found it was easy to pedal and maneuver with the tights, even tho they fit a bit loose on me (overall). I was able to comfortably wear a liner short, and had no issues with zipping over my longer, wool socks. (Down near the calves.)

I ended up slipping out while riding and landed on the trail, quickly brushing off the snow so it wouldn’t soak through. I didn’t feel any residual moisture and the tights were unscathed-I really love purchasing items that are durable and can handle a few tumbles.
I had a couple hours between rides, and was happy to find that the waist band area was dry prior to donning the tights a second time. I really wanted to give these tights a go, and going out later in the afternoon would prove just that!

The second ride was a couple hours at the very least, and went into the late afternoon/early evening hours when temps start to drop. Not once during the ride did I feel uncomfortably chilly, and honestly? I felt pretty darn good on my lower half. I had a couple more falls during this ride (because trails were a bit slimy and/or the joys of riding a bike I’m not familiar with.) and had no issues with the tights becoming really dirty or tearing.

Both rides had a good amount of wind on my ride home, and on both rides I did not feel unbearable when riding back into town. Honestly? I felt comfortable and I didn’t feel like the wind cut through my tights. I remember feeling happy that my knees didn’t feel chilly-which is something one likes to try and keep at bay.

I tried out the tights a few days later with the Shebeest Pedal Pusher Capri tights on underneath. I had long, wool socks that covered up the ankle area, so there wasn’t an inch of skin without some sort of coverage. The temp was around 25 degrees but had a chill closer to 14. I must say, I might’ve been a wee bit too warm at times. I eventually regulated myself when I’d make it out of the tree cover and the breeze would hit. Overall I was very comfortable and I had ample room to wear the tights over something other than a liner short.

I would definitely recommend a pair of WeatherPro tights to add to your winter weather gear. They are a great product, so far have kept me very comfortable, and you can layer under them relatively easily. The calves zipped up over my thick wool socks-awesome! I also didn’t feel like a sausage with two layers on my lower half.

I would say that these are not the “cure all” tights-I would want something with even more wind-proofing if it were really blustery out. Let's be honest. You can't ride all winter with just one pair of tights because weather conditions change and there are times where you  need extra protection, moisture-proof fabric, etc.

I’m not a fan of the cold months, but I’m not going to let temperatures deter me from riding my bike. Get the clothes that will help you enjoy spending time outside this winter season, it’s so worth it!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Jennifer Lowe-Brewer

Meet Jennifer Lowe-Brewer who works at The Wheel Cyclery  and is an ambassador for LIV!

My name is Jennifer Lowe, I'm a 31 year old mother of two great kids. I've been working at The Wheel Cyclery for about 5 years, and under the tutelage of our owner, Heather Jordan, I've really grown as a cyclist and advocate for the sport and women. For 2014 I was honored to be selected as a brand ambassador for Liv-Giant. 

I used that platform to reach out to women of all ability levels and even started a women's cycling club HellcatRacing (find on Facebook!) and led a small group of women to do their first criterium races.

I also lead group rides and race both road and mountain on our shop team ( Heather and I have held women's clinics covering topics from flat repair, to mountain biking skills, to criterium cornering, to pack handling. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding with my dad. He was my very first riding buddy! We started out mountain biking when I was about 13, and we added road bikes when I was 16 or so.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Cycling for me started out as a very social activity. I loved the group rides, the cool people, traveling to races, having a beer in the parking lot or getting tacos after a ride. As I’ve gotten older I’ve also embraced my competitive side, and that has really motivated me as well.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I love criterium racing. I love the focus it requires, the intensity. When I race my mind just totally empties, and the only thing is the pavement, my bike, and girls around me. Racing makes me feel strong, fast, and capable. But it isn’t all seriousness, it is still very social! The women are all laughing and joking on the line, and often you’ll hear girls encourage each other in the field. I love that about women’s cycling: the camaraderie, even among competitors. I’ve come around a rider about to get gapped off and yelled, “come on girl, you’ve got it, hang on!” and women have done it for me too.
Mountain biking racing for me is very different in its level of intensity and seriousness. For me that is all about fun. I really enjoy the atmosphere at mountain bike races- everyone is relaxed and it’s not intimidating at all. So that is fun too.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
My first mountain bike ride I didn’t really know enough to be worried. I wasn’t scared at all- and maybe that wasn’t a good thing! I fell A LOT at first! I remember sneaking in to the house after a ride while my dad or brother distracted my mom so I could get the blood or mud cleaned off. My mom was always pretty shocked to see her little girl with mud and leaves in her hair. For me, it was fun and excitement- like a roller coaster. Even today, when I go mountain biking I love that weightless feeling of flying through the trees, just like when I was a kid.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I wasn’t too nervous until after I had my first few “good” crashes. On the mountain bike, I went back to those areas and kept working on them until I felt like I had kind of “ridden the scary out of it.” But I think you will always have those parts of the trail that are your nemesis- it’s just that as you get better you conquer some parts then begin the process of tackling others.

On the road, I get some nervousness after a crash. I’ve had two. The first was in a corner, and I rolled a low tire and went down pretty fast. It took a long time to get my confidence back in the corners, and it was a gradual process of going through the corners faster and faster until I was smooth and steady. The other crash was in a paceline in a crosswind. There was an obstacle in the road and zigged when the other guys zagged. I’m still trying to get comfortable being REALLY close in a line. So I’m relearning that. Right now I’m comfortable about a half to a full wheel length, closer if I’m second wheel (the second rider in a paceline). But learning and overcoming fears is a process and you have to patient with yourself.

What advice would you give someone new to the off-road scene?
My biggest piece of advice would be to reach out to someone and find a riding buddy or a group. A lot of groups do group rides and no-drop rides, and you can learn the trails and learn a lot of technique from other riders. And it’s a really good idea to not ride alone, as a general rule. If you can attend camps or clinics those can be a huge benefit as well. Many shops will hole free or low-cot clinics, especially women.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I do use clipless pedals. I rode for many many years without them because I was scared of them. Now that I’m used to it I can’t imagine riding without them. The biggest tip I have to either put your bike on a trainer or put it in the kitchen and hang on the counter and just practice clipping in and out. Once you get the hang of that try riding an easy trail, and stopping several times so you can get the hang of that. I also have the habit of always unclipping the same foot, so you don’t really think about it- it’s more a muscle memory thing. This is helpful more-so on the road though I think.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I think it’s easy to develop a fear of certain thing if you have a bad experience with it one time. Like particular scary log or big rock. We all have them. For me what helps is to just take the time and walk or roll the bike through the obstacle. Scope the line a bit, and then give it a try. And be patient with yourself, try not to get frustrated. It seems like fear and frustration often goes hand in hand.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Heather and Jennifer
The Wheel Cyclery
On the road, one of things that I’ve had to work a lot on is being able to feel comfortable riding in a tight pack and cornering at high speeds with other riders all around you. It can be kind of scary. You have to be predictable, stay in your line, and trust that the riders all around you don’t want to crash any more than you do, but, that they just might surprise you with their actions so you need to be ready for that. If you are riding in a group and someone drifts for you, sometimes the best thing is to stay steady. They might touch you, but then a lot of times they can correct, if it was accidental.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I still have a hard time lifting my front wheel over obstacles. I never really learned how to wheelie, now I can kinda lift it if I really concentrate and am going slow, so I am getting better. But at speed in the woods the best thing for me is to just unweight the front of the bike by tipping back. The the front wheel will pretty much roll over most things.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that roller coaster feeling of flying. Like when you ride downhill, or swoop through a corner. I also really enjoy feeling strong, fast, and capable. Whether its pushing hard down a smooth road, powering up a climb, or grabbing the wheel of a guy who is accelerating away from the group; my bike makes me feel strong.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have three bike that I ride a lot. My mountain bike is a 27.5 Liv-Giant Lust1. It’s a aluminum frame full suspension bike with an efficient xc platform and snappy handling. It’s built up with Sram x9 gripshift. I absolutely LOVE the 27.5 wheelsize, I highly recommend it.

My primary road bike is a Giant TCR SLR. I use this for all of my training and for group rides. It’s a high-grade aluminum road bike with aggressive race geometry. I’ve raced it many times. The bike is light, stiff, race worthy, and I can set it up to have the same fit and geometry as my race bike. This bike is also inexpensive, and because it’s aluminum I don’t have to worry about what will happen to my precious frame if I crash. I have this bike built with Sram Force 10speed groupo and Mavic wheels.

My race bike is a Scott Foil built with Sram Force 11 speed. I got this bike before I became a Liv Ambassador, when we were a Scott dealer. I love to race this bike because it is crazy light, it’s aero, and the handling is super snappy. It’s very very stiff, so it sprints well. I use Reynolds Areo 58’s on that bike- to cheat the wind even more. There is a remarkable difference. And these aero wheels aren’t as affected by crosswinds the way that other dished wheels are. I don’t get pushed around at ALL, even in a very stout wind.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I could talk about gear all day! I wear a lot of Mavic and Castelli clothing. The fit is phenomenal, it looks good, and the function is right there. If you invest in some good apparel it makes your riding so much more comfortable and enjoyable. The gear never lets you down. Invest in really good bike shorts. Do not skimp there! My helmet is a Lazer, and my car rack is a Saris GranFondo. Off road I use a Camelbak pack

How did you hear about LIV and what inspired you to get involved?
I got involved with Liv through the shop where I work. Giant has been working really hard for the last couple of years to not only grow the women’s side of the brand, but also to help grow women’s cycling from the ground up. Their Liv Ambassadors are boots on the ground, holding group rides, training clinics, workshops, and just being friendly, positive women who enjoy sharing their love of bikes with other women! I was recommend to the program by our Giant rep, who knew about the group rides that we do and that I race and just like talking about bikes to other women.

What do you enjoy about being an ambassador for LIV?
As an ambassador, I get to hear the latest word on new products and gear. I get to work with women to help them get the most out of cycling, and reach out to women that maybe might be too intimidated to really give cycling a try.

You work at a local bike shop, are there other women that work at the shop besides yourself?
The shop I work for is owned by a woman, so it’s a great environment to work in. All of our ride leaders have always been women too-we think it is less intimidating to new riders.

As a woman working at a bike shop, usually a very male-dominated setting, how do you enjoy it? What did you do to stand out and carve a niche for yourself?
We try to foster an atmosphere where women feel very welcomed and comfortable, which extends to women who work in the shop as well as our customers. And I have a great boss who lets me be myself and embrace the things that we women tend to be better at. There’s definitely a need for that in our industry I think.

One of your jobs is to lead group rides-how do you enjoy that and what have you found works for attracting people to show up?
I LOVE leading group rides. We use a lot of social media- facebook and a sight called Every Monday we have a no-drop ride to encourage new riders to come out. Our other rides are progressively more challenging.

Any tips or suggestions for those who are looking to start up a group ride?
Get the word out on social media, and be consistent. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think the initial outlay of cost is one thing. A good bike is expensive, and it can be hard to find used bikes small enough for most women. The other thing is just finding a starting point, people to ride with that can show you the entry level trails and don’t’ mind waiting a bit here and there.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think it would be really cool to start a network for women to exchange ride info, or sell old gear, get the word out about races and rides and clinics. We started a separate facebook page for our women. They use it to let each other know about rides and important issues and we post info about clinics and women-centric cycling news.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I have really fantastic cycling memories- it has been such a huge part of my life. I rode with my dad as a kid. I ride with my friends and family and loved ones, and I’ve met so many great people. I just think a lot of people would enjoy that as well.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have purple hair.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Invite

(Written around November 1st)
An invite to ride with another woman is something that I get excited about, but at the same time nerves creep up. Diane and I had talked a couple times of going for a mountain bike ride together, and each time I felt anxious over the idea. However, this is not to say I avoided the invite, but timing (initially) was not on our side. Particularly with a schedule change on my end that decreased my availability.

After seeing a comment from Diane on my Dig In post I emailed her to see what mornings worked best for ride. We decided on a Thursday a.m. and I’d meet her near River Trail for our start.

I was anxious the night before. The thing for me is I become very self-aware and self-conscious over my so-called “flaws” one of which is the fact I have exercise induced asthma. This means that depending on how hard I push myself and the weather conditions (cold/dry, hot/humid) I might have to take more breaks. My lung capacity struggles to achieve “normalcy” and I feel sheepish over potentially showing my “weakness.”

I also become concerned over my riding as I really do not want to disappoint someone on their first ride with me. I know that most all mountain bike riders know that “everyone starts somewhere” but that doesn’t mean I have insta-confidence. The typical thoughts come to surface and the main two would be “Will I be slow?” and “Will I have a bad riding day?
I readied myself Thursday morning with an almost-full cup of coffee and a healthy dose of “I’ll do fine.

The weather has started to turn to the cooler side of fall and I struggled with myself to feel confident that I would be layered sufficiently. Getting ready is not as much fun when you have to think about layers, how many, and what.

I made my way to River Trail and told myself to lighten up on my expectations. Everyone has said how nice Diane is, and how many times have I been told by others and herself that she’d like to ride with me? Not only that, it’s not an unknown I’m a first year rider-so why am I being so silly?
We started off on our ride and explored the new section of River Trail, then made our way to the Van Peenen trails I’m familiar with. So far I was happy with the job I was doing, the climbs I made, and that breaks were fine.

It was a fun experience for me, a morning ride not planned from my own knowledge of trails. Also? Following behind someone isn’t always bad, either. I found myself pushing my body and capabilities in a healthy way, something that doesn’t always happen with the rides I typically go on. We eventually made our way to the Dunnings trails and rode a portion of those. I could feel my energy was starting to deplete and hunger was setting in. Pretty amazing! It was getting a little tough to keep my lungs from getting overexerted, but I didn’t see it as a bad thing. I felt calm and happy.

We went down Boa and rode back to River Trail. After some conversation and a hug, I made my way back through River Trail vs. taking the road back. Amazingly I still had enough energy to make a climb that I was unsure about, and soon I was on my way over the bridge and back home. Hot coffee and a shower were so welcome, and I was very thankful for having gone on a ride with Diane.

It was a positive experience in which both of us had nerves over, which made us laugh, as we both had pre-ride jitters the night before. It seems that it is true, mountain bikers are some of the most easy-going and kind people you can meet. Oh, I’m sure there are some that may not really fit that category, but so far I’ve found my experiences on the trails with men and women to be much more positive than I initially thought they would be.

So…what have I come away with on this ride?
A bit more confidence. More understanding that all riders are human and do not always ride perfectly, and that is okay.
Everyone does start somewhere- offer to take a newer rider out on a trail ride. Basically return the favor that was given to you, if you learned from experienced riders. It’s highly unlikely that either of you will regret it!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Craft Active and Warm base layers: A Product Review

Out of the many base layers Travis has, he loves his Craft one the most. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about how comfortable and warm it is. It's his go-to during the cold season; it would make sense that Travis would want me to try them as well! (Decorah Bicycles can order these base layers for you!)
So for me to try: Craft Active crewneck and Craft Warm crewneck.

The Active crewneck is made to help keep your body dry and comfortable while training in fair to cold conditions. The Active crewneck is light enough but warm enough for me to layer under a t-shirt so I can have a bit of extra warmth. This would also be ideal for the cooler fall days under a jersey or thermal jersey (before the temps really drop.)

It is made with a mixture of texturized and spun yarn to ensure efficient moisture transport and quick drying. It’s soft, not scratchy-it feels great against your skin.
I love that the cuffs are longer and fit tighter around my wrists, an area that tends to get cold quite a bit or I find myself pulling the sleeves of traditional long-sleeved shirts down. No worries of traveling sleeves with this product!
It has a tight but flattering fit thanks to the side panels, and even tho it has a next-to-skin fit, it is very comfortable.

The Warm crewneck is made to keep your body dry and comfortable during training and activities in the cold. Long story short- when it’s really cold you want this base layer.
3D-knit and a sport-specific fit makes this base layer very comfortable. It’s light weight and made with warming thermal yarn for optimal thermoregulation. The bodymapped design keeps you warm and dry and there is extra insulation where you need more warmth.
It has a seamless torso and an elastic feel to give you freedom to move as you need.
I wore the Warm crewneck under my Aria Hoodie jacket on a 23 degree day and felt very comfortable with what I was wearing, at one point almost felt overly warm, so I unzipped my jacket a little. I thought it amazing to be outside riding my bike with just a base layer and jacket!

This wouldn't be a base layer that you could wear alone like the Active one or say, the standard Smartwool base layers. The Warm base layer fit very snugly, you could definitely see the outline of my sports bra.

It should be known, I’m a sucker for base layers-especially during the cold winter months. I had three and found myself needing a couple more. So a big thanks to Travis at Decorah Bicycles for supplying me with two new products to try!

Craft is a brand that has provided athletes with functional sports clothing since the 1970’s and they pride themselves on their wide range of ergonomic and functional sportswear. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Nina Arnold

Meet Nina Arnold, a Dirty Jane Ambassador who resides in Whistler, BC!

She's a goal-oriented woman who loves exploring new trails, pushing her boundaries, and having fun!

You can follow Nina on Twitter, Facebook, or connect on LinkedIn

When did you first start riding a bike?
As a kid I rode bikes around town, but I didn't actually start mountain biking until I moved to Vancouver 4 years ago.  

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I love pushing my limits: mentally, physically and geographically (there's a ton of wide open space up here in Canada)

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
The Crankworx Enduro is hands down the most challenging of any races I ride in during the season. It's the perfect storm of technical and endurance riding.  

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Defeated, exhausted and dying to go out again to clean all those features I walked!

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I have a checklist of skills that I go over in my head before rolling into a big feature or tough trail. I repeat them in my head and hope for the best. 

What advice would you give someone new to the off-road scene?
Stick with it  - The payout is huge. Oh and wear knee pads! 

How would you describe the differences of the trails you rode in California to those in Whistler? What was your most challenging learning curve?
In Whistler, learning to clean features in all conditions is a challenge I still battle with today. Wet roots and jump lines are on the top of my list for continual improvement. 

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all? 
I love riding clipless, it's incredibly efficient for climbing and helps me commit to lines (clip out and I'm thrown off balance, no one wins). I would suggest taking it slow. When you switch to clipless start by riding the road, green trails and mellow terrain until you feel confident moving in and out of clips. It takes a while, stick with it. 

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
For me, discovering how to ride longer and stronger stems from proper nutrition on the trail. I noticed that when my mood shifts (negatively) or I start to feel tired it's time to eat. I keep a watch and eat snacks every 45 minutes. I can stay out on the trail for hours with this simple tactic. 

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 had trouble keeping my eyes off the front tire. I would watch my bike roll over every rock and be surprised when the bike came to a dead stop and I went over the bars. Once I started looking ahead, my bike rolled faster and cleared more obstacles. Keep your eyes up! 

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
With every level of riding comes a new set of challenges, stay positive and try joining local clinics, classes or clubs. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
Adrenaline. Fitness. (And Rock Rolls!)

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Road Bike, A 6 and 6 trail bike and a full downhill bike. It's the full fleet for training, racing and exploring. 

How did you hear about Dirty Jane and what inspired you to become a Dirty Jane Ambassador?
I followed them on Facebook. I love supporting female athletes that hope to further our sport. 

How have you done on your goals for this season so far?
I have met so many and surpassed a few. Just getting on my bike and exploring more on solo rides has changed my experience, immensely. 

What do you enjoy about being the Volunteer Race Director for WORCA’s weekly cross country races?
I love gathering the community together for some healthy competition and some after race beers. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I am on a constant quest to solve this problem. I wish more women could see what a blast it is and how accessible communities are making it. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Eliminating the pink it and shrink it element of action sports. Also, showcasing accessibility.  

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The absolute blast I have as soon as I hit the trail. 

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I'm a huge Seinfeld fan.