Women on Bikes Series: Lauren Taggart

Becoming a brave soul and wanting to extend my reach to other female bike riders, I started to randomly contact businesses that support the bike industry. I contacted and presented my idea to Lauren Taggart: brand manager and designer of Mechanical Threads which can be ordered at your local bike shop through QBP. Check out the Support Your Local Bike Shop t-shirt and sweatshirt :)

When did you first start riding a bike?
When I first learned to ride a bike it wasn’t a good experience. I looked back in dismay as I felt my dad let go (after promising he would hold on) and I pedaled right into the bushes. I think a lot of riders start out this way, losing a bit of trust in their parents.

I really started biking for fun when I learned to mountain bike. I live in Minnesota and grew up in the 80s so mountain biking was completely new. I was thirteen when I went to the Rock Lake Namakagon Cluster in Wisconsin with my father and my sister. It was my first real mountain biking experience. It was love at first single track. Great single track is like a roller coaster that you can control. A few times I came to obstacles I was too afraid to go over but after trying them slowly and cautiously I was able to go over them the next time twice as fast. Sure I’ve crashed a few times, but I’ve never had any that I haven’t been able to get back up and right back on the bike. The only time I’ve ever really got hurt on a bike was when I was in college and I was hit by a car and broke my hand.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
When I was about 15 years old I won my age class in the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival race. Before you think I’m unusually fast-- I should tell you there were six girls in my age class and two of them road a Huffy. Still, I finished a race through mud, rocks and grinding hills faster than anyone else my age and that was something to be proud of.

I used to go once a year to Lutsen Ski resort to ride in the summer. It was all the thrill of the downhill without the rigorous climbs of the uphill. I spent a year in college in Salt Lake City, Utah. I mountain biked on famous trails in Moab and in the Cottonwood mountains. I did down hill in Park City. It was incredible fun. It was extreme and it was gorgeous. While riding in real mountains my fear of heights would occasionally take over and I’d walk my bike past a cliff while others raced by easily.  I’ve found that looking over the edge is worst thing you can do, keep your eyes on the trail and you will stay on the trail. After about a year I moved back to Minnesota. Minnesota has some of my favorite trails. For example, the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System because it’s made up of fast red dirt single track along ridges looking over lakes comparable to the Boundary Waters in beauty and serenity. 

For me, mountain biking is all about the ride itself: exploring, navigating the trail, getting some fun exercise and sharing nature with friends. When you road bike you are often commuting from one place to another, when you mountain bike you are transcending to one place in your mind to another.

Do you use clippless 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 switched over right away after learning to mountain bike. When I went clippless I noticed I was faster and had more control over my bike. On the flip side while pedaling up a steep hill I can’t clip out if I don’t make it all the way up the climb. My advice is always to take your foot out of the pedal before you start the hill or MAKE IT UP THE HILL NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOUR LEGS ACHE.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
 I really don’t like commuting in the winter in Minnesota. Brrr! I think if I owned a fatbike it would be better but the wind and the cold are formidable foes here and I’m a fair weathered commuter.  In the summer it’s great, especially for short rides to the coffee shop or around a lake to get ice cream. It’s great to commute to work too if you can, it can really be an easy way to get your exercise in for the day. Also it’s not stressful like rush hour traffic in a car is.  It’s amazing how much more you notice and how much more you see and experience on bike. Especially if you lengthen your route a bit to avoid high traffic areas and include more paths and bike trials in your commute.  

What suggestions would you give someone who is completely new to riding a bicycle in town (or city)?
Join your local cycling community.  There is usually a group of people that you can quickly find in searching the internet that will have tons of information to offer about the best rides; good commuter routes and you can meet really cool people that way too! Or if you mean new to riding in a city that they have lived in for a while already, I'd say always wear your helmet even if you think it's dorky looking, even if you are not going far. Also it's more fun to ride on designated bike routes so even if your route is longer you will have more fun and be more relaxed if you make your route to include the most bike paths possible. 

What suggestions would you give someone completely new to mountain biking?
 I'll admit, starting off with learning some of the off road trails last year have proven to be a challenge. I do not have that child's fearlessness and am conscientious of my mortality. Learning how to mountain bike is a lot like learning other extreme sports. When I teach people to snowboard, I make them wear all kinds of extra pads so they can fall and be fearless while learning.  Break out some knee pads and elbow pads and even shin guards and go nuts! 

Falling will help you get rid of your fear of falling. Clipless pedals also help you fall a lot less and give you greater control of your bike.  Learn how to use them on an empty street though, before you mountain bike with them. I suggest going a few times and making sure it's part of your muscle memory to clip out before you stop first.  

Always wear a helmet, never bike alone… serious injury can happen on a mountain bike, so it's a good idea to  start with flatter easier trails. In Minnesota for example, I started at the River bottom trails because they are less rocky and hilly than most other trails in the state.  A good option is starting on gravel and fire roads and many mountain bike trails have beginner loops where it is much less technical.  

Also, don't be afraid to sign up for a local race! Nothing helps you get motivated to ride and find people to ride with like races. Also check out this website for tons of information on how to start mountain biking: http://www.active.com/mountain-biking/articles/beginner-s-guide-to-mountain-biking

With your accident with the car, did you have mental/emotional feelings to work out while getting back on the bike?
As a designer and breaking my hand I was really angry for a while at people who drive even though they know their reaction time isn't fast enough to prevent most accidents. I avoided the downtown area of Minneapolis for a long time.  It wasn't until years later when I had a job downtown that I overcame my fears and starting riding in to work again.  One reason the accident happened is that I was in an unexpected place, so afterwards I made sure to always be where drivers expected me to be, on the shoulder, in the bike lanes etc. Also I was longer so darn confident that they could see me, I rode a little more cautiously—assuming they could not see me.  In the end you may have the right-of-way but they have thousands of lbs of heavy sharp metal that no helmet can truly protect you from. 
***(These statements are not meant to be a guide)

You can check out Mechanical Threads online: Mechanical Threads Website
or on Facebook: Mechanical Threads on Facebook 

Check with your local bike shop on ordering Mechanical Threads clothing through QBP!