Friday, January 31, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Julie

Last year when Travis and I went to Interbike we met Julie at the Whooha Gear booth. Little did I know how purchasing a few shirts from her would inspire me later.

After Interbike around my birthday and my grandma Smith's passing, Whooha did a shout-out on Facebook for people to apply to be an ambassador...I figured "why not?"

Around the beginning of November I found out I was one of 5 women chosen to be part of the Ambassador program!

Because of this and other goals and ideas churning in my head, this blog series came as an idea to inspire others.

I emailed Julie and asked if she (and others) would be willing to participate; this is her story.

I often joke that I have met the most important people in my life on my mountain bike! I guess I am only half joking because in many ways it is true.

About a year out of college I made the crazy decision to move to Las Vegas. As a small town east coast girl who only knew one person in LV (a college friend) this was a dramatic move. Though I somehow found the gumption to do this, I really did not have a lot of confidence in myself and I struggled to feel like I belonged in the bright lights and fast city of LV.

This all changed as soon as I started biking. I have always enjoyed the outdoors and had brought a barely used mountain bike with me on my move. I talked my one friend into going with me to the mountain bike trailhead that we had heard about. It was the toughest most exhausting thing that I had ever done but, I felt excited and energized from it. Next thing I knew I was riding every chance I could get. Every time I went out I would meet another awesome and inspiring group of people. Before long I had a wonderful community of friends and a new appreciation of the unique desert environment that I had moved to. I had found a home.

One day on a group ride I met a very charming man. Something told me he was special so I took the chance and gave him my number. We were inseparable after that. We road together constantly and through his encouragement, I began to participate in races. I was always an athlete but never a great one. With biking, for the first time I felt like I had found something that I was good at. My new found confidence on the bike flowed over into other areas of my life.

Looking back I can see that this was the point in my life when I started figuring out who I really was. This was crucial in helping me to grow into the more confident woman that I am today.

Anyway back to the boy! For the first time in my life I was in love. I knew I had found someone that I could spend my life with and we married a couple years later. Through our many cycling adventures, I was also fortunate to meet some of the most inspiring and fun women I know.

I didn’t know quite how fortunate I was to have such a wonderful community of friends until the day life threw me a major curveball. My wonderful, healthy husband of 6 and a half years was suddenly gone. He keeled over during a dirt bike race and died for reasons still unknown to this day.

As you can imagine, I was devastated. Our community of cycling friends came through in ways I could never imagine they would. I am forever grateful to the love and friendship they showed me as I found a way through this terrible loss.

Amy, whom I had met, you guessed it, mountain biking, had become my dearest friend over the past several years. From the day my husband died she was there for me every step of the way. When I asked her how I was going to go on she simply replied “one minute, one hour, one day at a time”. And that is how we got through it.

Amy and I had often talked about starting our own company, making women’s apparel for the sports that we loved. We decided that this was the time. I needed to find a way to bring some positive focus into my life and she was looking for something to supplement her job as a full time Mom. So we created Whooha Gear, inspirational apparel for Women. Our name stands for Women Having Optimistic Objectives and Healthy Attitudes. This company brought inspiration into my life when I needed it the most and I can only hope that through our products I can share this inspiration with others.

I couldn’t bike for a little while after my husband died. I finally made myself set a date to get back out on the trails. I put it off half the day and finally went when I hoped no one would be around. I put on his IPod and bawled my eyes out the entire ride. But, I felt him with me that day and every day since.

Finding something that I truly love doing, has been undeniably helpful to me in finding the person within myself that I can love. I am not great with words but, I can say that in many small ways cycling has helped to bring me: a healthy lifestyle, some of the best friends I have ever known, the confidence to love, the strength to face loss and the courage to love again.

Yes back to the boy again! I remarried again about a year ago. Whoever says true love only happens once doesn’t know what they are talking about (at least in my case). I bet by now you can guess where we first met!!!!

I hope by sharing my story I can encourage other women to find positive things in their life that will make them truly happy and help them through the ups and downs that are part of our lives. Take that leap in to the unknown, try something new. Yes it’s scary but, I don’t believe you will regret taking that chance.

After reading Julie's story, I had a few more questions to ask. One of those questions was if she rode a lot as a child and if so, how did she like it.

I always had a bike and rode it around my neighborhood as a kid. I was never a great bike rider but, have many fond memories of riding as a kid. I got involved in team sports all through school and didn't ride at all.
I got re-introduced to biking in my senior year of college when I tried mountain biking for the first time.
I didn't have a community to ride in or feel comfortable riding by myself until I moved to Las Vegas.

I then asked what biking meant to Julie and what she enjoys about it:

Biking to me is simply a vehicle that allows me the freedom to get out and appreciate the world around me. A vehicle that takes many different forms. My bike gets me places but also I see it as a way to a healthy lifestyle and to a community of fun positive people. It always seems to give me what I need, whether a solo "therapy session" or a ride to solve the worlds problems with my girlfriends. No matter the reason, I always have a bigger smile afterward I ride my bike!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Ann Mansfield

So why would a 56 year old, mostly-non-adventurous woman be willing to try a fatbike?
I am basically very motivated to shift my daily "orientation" to being physically as active as I can be.

Everything in the health literature points in the direction of finding ways to consistently integrate physical activity throughout your day to realize your healthiest potential.  I think in order to sustain significant daily physical activity you need to find things that are enjoyable... that you look forward to.

I purchased a new (trail/road) bike last summer.  I rode the new Decorah trail nearly every day and most days twice.

I had not experienced the child-like "lighthearted" feeling of riding trails... I looked forward to getting on the trail every time I could.  

Then came fall and winter.  I'd been intrigued with the fatbikes since Taylor got his bike 2 years ago and then my interest was peaked when I had a conversation with David Bakken after seeing him out on a ride this past fall.

He shared that it was very fun but the part that stuck with me was his description of the work out.  I was very interested in this idea of being able to ride more year round, get a great workout and have it be fun.  

I'm not really an "early adopter" so I encouraged Dan to get one!  At the same time, Decorah Bicycles has been building beautiful fatbikes to rent!

So... it's been a great chance for me to explore the fatbike experience and see what I think.
Amazing!  That's what I think.  I'm a novice rider and have only tried River Trail and the Pines in VanPeenan but it is SO much fun!  Great work out too!  I described the experience of River Trail last Saturday as floating through the woods.  (When I wasn't negotiating a turn or really deep snow... hahaha!)  It was beautiful and delightful.
Upon further conversation I had asked Ann why she chose a bike for physical activity:
“I’m looking for a variety of activities to keep myself interested in maintaining fitness. I walk a lot, snow shoe, cross country ski, hike, ride a stationary bike, and do yoga.”
I asked Ann if she had experienced nervousness when she started exploring trails outside of the paved realm:
“I’ve been nervous to try but my family convinced me that it wasn’t a “speedy” thing. I avoid speed.
The first ride on River Trail was on a trail already made by previous bikers and it wasn’t fast. I realized that it wasn’t scary if I was on certain terrain."
I then asked if Ann’s experiences would branch out into exploring more of the mountain bike trails in the warmer months:
“I think it could. We love the trails, Dan and I walk them weekly if we can. I used to jog them (5 years or so ago) and loved being in the woods in the early summer mornings. I do not see myself trying the “cliffy” places anytime in the near future, but I am realizing there are some that I think I could handle in my comfort zone. That’s been a fun realization.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Are you a woman who rides a bike?

Yup. I'm talking to you!

I'd like to compile a series of blog posts of stories based on your cycling experiences.

What kind of riding do you do?
What struggles have you faced?
Have you had an accident? If so, how did you overcome the emotional/mental/physical challenges?

Have you mountain biked?
Have you ridden a fatbike?
Do you commute all year?

If you have a story you would like to share, I'd love to hear it. Women have often told themselves too much that they "can't" and I would love to inspire women to say "I CAN!"

You are welcome to Facebook me or email me at josieleah03(at)


Friday, January 10, 2014

Clipless? Clipless! I'm Clipless....kinda

So I've ridden my Specalized Vita Elite for almost 2 full years now. This year will be my second year of riding him. Yup, I named my "woman bike" a male name: Captin' Johnny

I rode Johnny in the winter of '12 after I paid Travis off, I didn't feel right having my bike sooner and wanted it to be legit. I was pleased to have the bike so I could do stationary riding in the winter; originally it was mentioned that I should try clipless pedals. Well, it didn't happen during that winter and I rode the entire 2013 season with regular standard pedals.

Travis and I moved in and he started working on making some upgrades to Johnny. Travis feels very strongly about building wheels vs. using stock wheels; so he started working on that for me. Then one night he came home and said "I brought you clipless pedals!"

I spend part of the evening getting used to snapping me shoes in and out. Realizing that I needed to use more force than what I felt I needed. Getting used to having my foot automatically set on the pedal in the spot, getting used to the motion needed to unclip.

My first ride was the next day and it was the first ride of the week where I didn't encounter sandy legs. I very much appreciated that. I also didn't fully realize at first how many muscles I had not been using while using standard pedals. It was pretty darn amazing, Thursday afternoon I had muscles that had been aching where I didn't think possible.

I worked on doing more sprints today, and it was nice to experience doing that without losing my footing. I've also practiced pedaling with one leg for reps and then the other; having read that it's a good exercise to do to avoid one leg being more dominant than the other.

There has been some opposition to my going clipless, but I'm not deterred. It's something I want to try and if I find it's not for me...well, okay then. However, I think it will give my rides this next year some extra oomph that I've been lacking.