Women on Bikes Series: Beth Simon

When I started on my quest for finding women to talk to, I emailed QBP and asked them if I could perhaps interview any women on staff. Beth was one of the first who got back to me and shared her stories-Thank you, Beth!

It's really neat to read about how a bike related business gives incentives to get their employees out on two wheels. Rock on!

When did you first start riding a bike? 
I started riding as a kid.  My parents didn’t have a lot of money for other sports, so we did a lot of walking and biking.  I started commuting in the early 90’s…I lived in Denmark for most of the 90’s and commuting is so engrained in their culture there isn’t really a term for it, like we have over here – it just is.  If that makes sense?

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
When I moved back from Denmark, I had such a culture shock and numerous meltdowns – driving 15 miles would often take nearly 1 hour.  It was such a waste of time that it left me in tears.  Once I figured out routes, I was commuting daily in nearly the same amount of time.  Not only did I feel better, I made a number of new friends (as the commuting community is quite small) and it completely eliminated the need to find time to “work out”.  What I have learned over the years, is that my life is much more in balance both at work and home if I am biking.  While I am biking my mind “flows” with thoughts, creative ideas, planning my day, conversations I need to have, etc…  Working at QBP, I am fortunate to have the extra financial incentive of getting up to $3 to bike.  So, not only do I earn $12 a week in commuter credits I also save about $35 a week on gas and get additional money into a Health Savings Account (a new commuting benefit QBP rolled out).  As a parent, I now want to be a role model for my children and hope they pick up the same passion.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain) 
I love road riding, as it allows me to slip away into a zone where my mind just flows.  I also love mountain biking as well.  I am by no means a great mountain biker and I am very safe, but I love how you need to be so present in the moment – always watching the trail, looking ahead to plan your course/route, gearing, etc. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
The first time I mountain biked I was actually more aggressive than I usually ride now.  It was on the river bottoms of the Minnesota River and we had just had lots of rain, so the course was extra muddy, extra slippery and so much fun.  I had never been so covered in mud.  I did a few easier log hops and climbs, wound up on my back in the creek with the bike on top of me when my front tire went into a hole and had SO much fun.  I went and bought my own mountain bike the next week.  I love mountain biking now, but I am a very cautious rider—even riding cautiously it is a physical and technical workout.  With two younger kids and a busy lifestyle I do what I can to avoid broken bones.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Being too nervous and cautious can be more dangerous. For example, if you are scared riding with traffic and ride too far to the side, cars will run you into the curb or you will run into gutters, etc.  I don’t think I’m a rude rider, but I will confidently take a lane until I can get out of the way quickly for traffic.  So, I guess I try to own my space confidently but also be considerate of drivers and get out of their way when possible.  Mountain biking I push myself physically, but I don’t push myself to a limit that puts me in danger.  Most of the people I ride with are much more technical than me and I don’t try to keep up to their levels unless I feel it is safe.

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? 
Yes, I almost always use clipless.  I would first ask what the reason is for wanting to go clipless in the first place.  I had a couple of older relatives who were going on bike trips and were feeling like they needed to learn how to go clipless for “performance”.  After talking with them, it sounded like the bike shops and trainer had almost been pressuring them to go that route.  The fact was, they weren’t out to break any records and were really just riding leisurely.  I encouraged them just to use flat pedals and not feel pressure to do the other—both were in their mid-late 60’s, so the damage from a fall in clipless outweighed any “performance” they would be getting from them.  Both parties have thanked me many times for that advise—I think there are a lot of bikers/shops that don’t take the individual comfort level of riders into consideration and pushing people into things like clipless pedals is not for everyone.  For beginners…practice clipping out with both feet, over and over.  Always check the screws on your shoes to make sure they are tight…or, when you go to clip out your foot will just keep turning on not release.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
Now, it is the additional time it takes me to commute.  My commute takes me 1 hour each way—in the car it is about 30 minutes.  With two small children, the additional hour can be tough to work in.  I keep reminding myself that the additional hour of time invested gets me 2 full hours of exercise and it is about the only time I have for myself during the day, so I protect it. 
I have hired a woman who comes in the morning to get my kids ready and off to school as that was THE biggest barrier for me.  It is an additional cost, but if I had to join a gym there would be a cost associated with that and the fact is, I would not be going to the gym for 2 hours a day.
I pack my bag, make my lunch and have EVERYTHING ready the night before, so I can just jump out of bed, into my clothes and onto my bike.  If all my gear is not ready the night before, it is just one more excuse not to ride.  Another trick I learned from a co-worker is to keep my car with a low gas level.  That way I know I have to stop and fill up should I choose to drive. 

If you live where there is a snowy or icy winter, do you still commute? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
I often just do partial rides in the winter.  Instead of riding 15 miles each way I ride, 6, 8 or 10 depending on the conditions.  I am by nature a cold person, so I have layers, upon layers of clothing…everything is out and ready to go the night before.  I always opt for too many clothes, rather than not enough…nothing is worse than being cold in route.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?  Nothing memorable – thankfully!

What do you love about riding your bike? 
The mind flow, the exercise, the community, fresh air, not being in a car…