Friday, August 29, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Monica Garrison

Meet Monica of Black Girls Do Bike! 
Visit the BlackGirlsDoBike website and follow Black Girls Do Bike on Facebook and Twitter

When did you first start riding a bike?
Like everyone I rode as a kid. That's when I got hooked.  As a young adult living on my own with a job in the city I started commuting by bike in my mid-twenties.  But then I didn't pick up a bike again until after marriage and kids.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
As a kid and as an adult I can say that I ride for the pure unadulterated fun.  When I commuted to my stressful job I wanted a way to start and end my day right, to de-stress.  In recent years I've also gravitated to cycling as a low impact alternative to running, in the hopes losing weight post pregnancies. 

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
No, no competitions. I do love to watch cyclists compete.  So far I've stuck to bike tours around town.  

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
I recently attended my first outdoor BMX dirt event and enjoyed that very much.  It was very exciting and I met some amazing people. 

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I love a good trail. Paved roads are my favorite.  Gravel makes for a good workout.  I'd love to try my hand at BMX or mountain biking one day, they are fun to watch. 

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 commuted was great! I conjured up my inner bike messenger and hit the streets.  I was nervous the first time and a little apprehensive but it was early morning with not much traffic.  I quickly settled in and arrived to work feeling energized. Better than any cup of coffee. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I made sure to travel when traffic was light and the weather was cool.  That helped me keep panic at bay.

 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’m adventurous and I am intrigued by clipless pedals. Some cyclists swear by them.  I will try them one day, most likely when I purchase a road bike.  

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I live in the northeast in a city known for its steep hills and lake effect snow storms.  So, if I had to name my challenges it would be weather and terrain. I try to pick routes and are challenging but not insurmountable, that way I am always getting better and I always feel like I accomplished something.  As far as the weather goes, so far I have cut my riding season short during the harsh days of winter and move to an indoor trainer.

Do you commute even if the weather isn’t ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
I actual love riding in the rain and getting caught in a rain storm just makes my riding day. 
My city has harsh winters though so I tend to hibernate in the sleet, snow.  I don’t feel that I have enough cycling experience under my belt to safely navigate snowy, slippery roads. 

Have you had a bike accident? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I wrecked a motorcycle once but never a bike; thank goodness.  I recovered from that accident by spending my recovery time doing my own repairs to my motorcycle so that by the time I was physically healed; my bike was ready to go. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
Riding a bike is as close as I will ever get to flying.  Pure freedom and fun all wrapped into one experience. There is nothing like it. I get off my bike every time anticipating the next time can do it again. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I am a novice only re-starting biking in the last two years.  I have one bike a Specialized, commuter/hybrid.  I purchased it because it was reasonably priced and very versatile.  Versatility means I can explore on my bike and “she” has been a very good companion. I love bikes and would like to own one for every occasion road, track, dirt and mud!  Next purchase will probably be a road bike or a fixed gear.  

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I am real mess when it comes to cycling clothes.  Style is less important as I put more emphasis on keeping cool and comfortable, though I realize that there are “cycling  clothes” that will accomplish these things.  I’ve only recently purchased my first cycling jersey and find it most comfortable.  Still trying to navigate that corner where practicality meets style.

As for my bike it is pretty much stock.  I couldn’t live without a good bike bag and a great set of lights, so I always recommend these to friends. (Let me know if you want specific brand recommendations)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Breaking Down Barriers: Riding

I decided to pose the question on Wheelwomen Switchboard on whether the women were taught aspects of riding from a man or woman. If they have worked with both-what worked and what didn’t. To share the positives/negatives, and also the age-old worry of people assuming you are a “racer” or “professional” because you ride all the time, etc.

Check out Wheel Women Switchboard either on the websiteFacebook, or follow on Twitter 

Elly Blue: “As for people being intimidated by your riding prowess, that’s always a funny one. I used to crack up when people would tell me I must be so “athletic” or that they weren’t athletes like I am. But lately I figure I might as well own it. If you bike everywhere for a while, you do tend to get fitter than the average bear. The occasional high five can’t hurt, though it is sad when folks compare themselves to me and feel like they have to apologize – no way, ladies, you gotta live your own life!

Julie B: “For those who say they are intimidated and won’t ride with me I’ll try to hook them up with someone else I know. In general, I don’t really engage people’s judgments of me until after they’re been out with me. I try to move the conversation away from their intimidation, for example, by getting curious about their concerns and about how serious they are to get out on a bike. I let them know that they can talk with some other people who’ve been out with me if they want. I guess I don’t work on convincing anyone. I think when people feel intimidated use their feelings to dissuade themselves from even trying to ride with me says a lot about their fear. Until they’re ready to move with and through that fear (with or without me) I don’t think there’s anything I could say that would convince them otherwise. So I rely more on their willingness to experience a ride with me, and then discuss their impressions afterward.

Another topic is the concept of “no drop” which means what it sounds like- not dropping a person from a ride. Generally no drop rides will have the leader taking turns with riding alongside those who are slower and/or the whole group will wait until all of the riders meet up before continuing on (say on mountain bike trails, waiting before you start on a new trail section.)

Barb G. “If the guys invited me on a ride, we rode at my pace (or at the pace of the slowest rider). If they needed to train and go faster, I was told that would be the case and it was up to me to either work to keep up or choose not to go. If it was a social ride they would not drop me, which wasn’t the point of the ride. That attitude is something I think is really important. I do a fair amount of teaching bike skills and riding with friends, and I too often hear their concerns about slowing me down. I assure them that a) I am agreeing to ride with them and that it’s important to me that I ride together at their pace, b) that some of the skills they perceive I have, also includes being able to ride happily at any pace, including even slower than they likely ride, and c) I don’t believe in dropping people who I’ve invited on a ride.”

Yvonne P.: “From experience, people dropping off the back are so grateful when you drop back and ride together with them (especially on the road - to take the lane, etc), as it shows them that you don’t mind doing it.

Julie B: “With regards to teaching others, or riding with newbies, I’ve been told that I am a very patient teacher/guide. I try to ask people first if they’re interested in some advice, suggestions or feedback before offering it. And, I try to be very verbal with people about where we’re headed and what they can expect (i.e. turns, terrain, signage, etc) as we’re riding along. For those who are initially intimidated, if they choose to ride with me it seems that they usually find that I’m pretty willing to go at their pace, and that I’m having fun just being on my bike. I also ask them for feedback after a ride to see what changed for them, and how.”

Bethany R: “I had been helping with my LBS on a women’s no drop ride the past couple of summers. To lessen the intimidation for women showing up, I’d always explain that I was there to ride with them and that my goal was for them to have fun. I’d encourage them to let me know if the pace was too slow or too fast or if they needed a water break. Before starting out, I’d ask some questions to gauge their comfort level on street riding and how long they typically rode so I could tailor the ride better to their level. If another lead rider was there, we’d split up to accommodate faster and slower riders. I draw on my experience from personal training to keep things from being intimidating. I think intimidation mostly stems from not knowing; whether that be the rules, the competition level, the pace, the machine, or even just the people and expectations of the ride. If a majority of the “not knowing” is removed, I think you reduce the intimidation level.”

The male/woman dynamic: Who did you learn or have instruction from-were there any differences in teaching methods/style? What kind of experiences did women have when they rode with men or other women? It’s interesting when you hear so often men saying “like a girl” or “typical woman” but sometimes they are the ones women feel more comfortable riding with. Sometimes other women find that females can be more difficult to relate to or perhaps too competitive to ride with.

Yvonne P. “I haven’t found a specific correlation between male / female contributors and effectiveness to my cycling journey. I’ve found different people have different skills and approaches (that I may or may not respect or enjoy), so I started by asking the same questions across all the experienced cyclists that I know and based on how useful I found their advice, I’ve now sort of tagged different people as different go to’s for specific things. (Ex. Someone for what to wear, train, bike handling skills, maintenance, etc.)”

Yvonne also shared this article, which is a really great read.

Julie B.  “I’ve been riding since I came out of my mother’s womb (okay, that’s weird, but that’s my mother’s report of when she remembers my getting on a bike). I believe my father was the person who helped me to start pedaling a two-wheeled bike, and I have no negative memories of that (well, I did “fall” and because the bike he was teaching me on was his, with a straight top tube, well, I hurt my lady-parts–but that wasn’t his fault). I’ve pedaled with both women and men who were incredibly patient and generous, and women and men who were just jerks. So, maybe this is all to say that I can’t really address your question about learning to ride ‘cause I’ve been doing it all my life.”

Bethany R. “When I first started road biking, I rode a lot on my own. Recognizing I needed to learn a few things to improve, I joined a women’s only group thinking it would be more welcoming and less intimidating. I’m a former personal trainer, lifelong athlete, and have always stayed in pretty good shape. I showed up for the ride and the lead rider immediately decided and said out loud that I must be really good based on appearances. This was something of a blow to me, because now I felt like I had something to prove and knew I was going to disappoint. And I did. The lead rider was awesome in not dropping me. But I never learned a lot from this group because the women were quite insular and the leader seemed to think I knew more than I did. I gave up on them and went back to riding on my own and have found more success riding with men where I live now.

My experience in learning to ride from women has not been positive. Perhaps the first group I rode with was intimidated or just couldn’t adjust their expectation and recognize I was there to learn. I’ve had more success learning when riding with men because I didn’t feel there was an expectation there. And they weren’t worried about hurting my feelings. If I was doing something wrong, they’d tell me. I feel I’ve gotten more encouragement from men as well.

Barb G.: When I started riding, most of the folks available to ride with were male. So that’s who I rode with. I think that made me a stronger rider as I had to keep up with them. But, it also taught me that the really good riders would ride with me.”

Kristin E. “I know there are a lot of ladies in my area that ride but I just don’t know them personally so I ride with my male friends. While, for the most part, it’s a great experience and they are very patient with me, I sometimes find that they can see me as more timid than their male friends. Really it’s only one friend that I tend to feel that way around but at the same time, I wouldn’t really not want to learn from him either. He knows what he is doing and I know I will improve because of him and all the other guys I am learning from.

When I was road riding, I think I have had the opposite experience to many ladies. My one female friend really made me feel very inadequate and it was very hard to learn from her. It felt as though she was constantly competing with me and I don’t know why. I felt often very discouraged and frustrated and it wasn’t until I started riding with a couple male friends that I started to improve. I think I just had a very bad experience but it was so bad that she and I stopped riding together and we lost touch. She didn’t have patience with me and felt I should have excelled much faster I guess. Once I did get the hang of things, I could have easily ridden with her but I wasn’t given that chance.”

Rachael R.With riding, I’ve learned best from my very-patient- and-extremely- skilled-rider husband. We’ve been riding partners for 10 years and it’s an amazing shared passion that has brought us together.

Tracy H.I’m an experienced rider–not fast, but confident in my road skills. As for riding with guys, I don’t do a lot of it. Mostly I ride alone. BUT, when I do ride with guys, and when I notice men riding with women, I have noticed that they like to lead. That doesn’t especially bother me, as the rides with guys are generally social in nature, but I do find it amusing to observe.”

These are some fantastic and very real viewpoints made from women. As you can tell, what works for one person may be different for the other. It goes to show that not all women and men who instruct others are created equal. Not all women’s rides will be something you will find enjoyable, simply based on the personality of the group/group leader. The important thing to take from this is to figure out what you need and want out of your riding. If you need an instructor you may have to try out a few individuals before you find someone that really meshes with you.

Be true to yourself-if you feel like you are being pushed too far too soon or not comfortable, say something. If you force confidence on yourself that is artificial and have a negative experience-you may find yourself pulling back even more. I think it’s good to have someone that can push you to get out of your comfort zone, but ultimately they have to be knowledgeable of you, your wishes, and how best to do it so they do not counteract the positive outcome. There is such a thing as pushing too far, only you can decide this-you may have to advocate for yourself and your learning style.

You may not enjoy riding with other women, and that’s okay! Just because you are a female does not mean you must ride with the same gender. You may find that you prefer to ride alone or perhaps ride with the guys. That’s fine! There is no rule in existence that says “You must ride with this gender, all the time, no matter what.”

If riding a bike is something you love, own it! You can make it what you want it to be, alone time, a social outing, a challenge-whatever you want. So get out there and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Women Involved Series: Johanna Holtan

A native of North Dakota, Johanna currently lives in Scotland and manages an award-winning international education project at Edinburgh University and has co-founded TEDx University of EdinburghTrade School EdinburghPenny in Yo’ Pants, and Cyclehack.

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When did you first start riding a bike? What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I rode the bike a little bit as a kid but mainly recreationally. A couple years ago, I moved farther away from work and was frustrated with being dependent on buses, so I started cycling. 

I’m now hooked on the independence, the possibilities a cycle presents, strong legs, the connection to my journey, and the wonderful people I have met since Bikeable Jo. And I love my bike which I talk a little bit later.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
There is nothing better than being out in the great outdoors on a mountain bike, but I have to say - I love city commuting by bike. The other day I was running errands and catching up with friends around town and was curious what kind of distance I had covered - 26 miles! I think being able to be independent and in control of your transportation is addictive and I love how quick I can cover distance in town and not even know it.

Do you remember how you felt on your first commuter ride?
I remember my legs being really tired! There are some killer uphill streets in Edinburgh and I had a few on my morning commute - so my thighs were burning, I was sweaty, and really tired. But as I quickly learned, any hard work you put into an uphill is totally repaid when you get to go downhill on the way home.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I had a bike buddy! My friend at the time (not surprisingly, now my partner) would ride with me every morning. He would go out of his way so we could take a route I was comfortable with before I hit the busier streets. After a month of this - I felt a lot more confident with the flow of traffic and my route so I was ready to try new ways around town. I was also accountable to him - I couldn’t just not cycle in because he was waiting for me.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
Bike storage - we live in a small flat so bike storage is difficult, especially if you are using your bike everyday and can’t necessary store it in the back closet. With Scottish weather, it is almost always wet and dirty - so this does make it difficult to store inside. But once you have a system (and take some inspiration from some cool bike solutions online!) this can be less of a challenge. My work provides some great bike storage - so making sure my bike is safe and sound at the other end isn’t necessarily a problem, like it may be for others.

Storage on the bike was also difficult to crack at first as I found I had to pack everything in a rucksack and throw on my back. Pretty quickly, I started wearing on my bike what I wear to work. I refuse to change clothes because it’s such a hassle on both ends of the trip, and I like how my style has changed to be more bikeable. I also stumbled upon the Wald bike rack which changed my life. I recommend it -

Obviously, some roads are not as safe as others and drivers can be challenging. But the more experience I get on the roads, I feel a lot more confident in traffic and with other road users.

Do you commute even if the weather isn’t ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
The weather here is tough going - especially when it can change so quickly. I’ve become a lot more comfortable with cycling (and living that matter!) when it’s raining and just being a bit wet when I get into work. When it’s really bad in the morning (especially windy), I would think about taking the bus into work but most times - I try and get on the bike!

Have you had a bike accident? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Knock on wood - I haven’t on the roads. We went mountain biking this past weekend I had a small spill, but nothing serious. I have had some close calls on the roads and it’s a good reminder how vulnerable you are with cars on the roads.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Where do I begin!!! Sure, it’s great for getting to work quickly, keep my legs strong, and it’s cheap but there are some benefits I wasn’t expecting. You get an amazing intimacy with your journey when you are on your bike - you can be a witness to activity in different neighborhoods, on the streets, and by people you pass. While the openness of cycling does leave you vulnerable on busy streets - it also allows you to interact with people you meet at stoplights and on paths.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I just have one bike and she’s the reason I cycle.  A late 80s Saracen hybrid, I stumbled upon her at a second-hand cycling shop and it was love at first sight. Apparently, her former owner was a national team cyclist back in the 60s and it was the last bike she ever rode.  Over the past couple years, she’s been pretty beaten up from our daily commute but I couldn’t bear to replace her.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Well, I must say Penny in Yo Pants (@pennyinyopants)! A group of us created it at Cyclehack in Glasgow this past June because we wanted to make our favourite skirts bikeable, we didn’t want to have to buy special bikeable skirts. 
 By simply using a penny and a rubber band - any skirt becomes bike friendly.  It’s been an absolute hit online and we are currently prototyping better versions (with some proceeds going to the women’s cycle team in Afghanistan!). It’s been my number one accessory for commuting since we discovered it.

What inspired you to start up Bikeable Jo?
The more I cycled, the more I wanted to talk about it. The more I talked about it, the more I found other cyclists wanting to talk about it. People love telling others about their journeys to work, how they found their bikes, and sharing their tips for new cyclists. I wanted to try and capture all this energy.

Also, when I first started cycling - it seemed that there were two schools of cycling role models. It was either lycra clad men who had really expensive gear or it was the model-esque Copenhagenise women who looked great, but their look didn’t really resonate with mine. I didn’t fit into either of these categories. So I wanted to create an accessible space where new cyclists could feel like they fit in. I hope it’s a space that isn’t about style or skirts, but being confident, loving your strong legs, and hitting the streets.

Do you have a favorite segment to your blog?
I love guestbloggers, especially those where it’s their first time cycling and blogging. There’s something really inspiring about providing a space for others to share their stories (as I’m sure you know!).

What inspired the Porty Profiles?
I recently moved to Portobello, a seaside community in Edinburgh. Not only is it a really beautiful place to live with the sea, great shops, cafes, and pubs - it’s full of dynamic people. Cyclists sometimes get a bad reputation for going too fast on the local promenade so I wanted to not only hear more about local cyclists, but also give some positive publicity to those that travel by bike in the area.  

Did you foresee your blog becoming popular when you first started it up?
When I started Bikeable Jo, I would have been happy if it was just my mom reading it.  I’m thrilled she likes it, as well as others.

How important is it for you to share to the world, an everyday cyclist?
I think the experience of an everyday cyclist is a really important voice when we talk about cities, communities, and transportation. Sarah Drummond, Matt Lowell, and I launched Cyclehack (@cycle_hack). A 48 hour event to make cities cycle friendly, it aims to generate small innovations to complement the large infrastructure improvements (safer streets, cycle paths, etc) that are happening. This past June, we ran our first hack event in Glasgow, Melbourne and Beirut - over 100 people gathered and created 31 hacks (ideas to make cycling better) addressing barriers we face from poor signage, blindspots on buses, lack of confidence on the streets, and even our handlebars!

I never thought I would be involved in something like Cyclehack or Penny in Yo Pants when I started cycling or writing Bikeable Jo. I guess that’s the beauty of the bike - you sometimes don’t know where it’s going to take you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just ride it already!

Of course I had to have Travis take a "New Bike" photo!
I had been having some frustrating rides as of late and I would say a lot of it is due to stress. It’s easy for stress and frustration to impact my rides; things go wrong with my ride and I get even more crestfallen. It’s the expectation that all rides should be amazing and make you feel like you ate magical skittles filled with glitter and rainbows. Total crap.

I was riding a rental bike that past few days in hopes of gaining bravery and finesse with riding on smaller tires. However, the bike was not amazing (in general) I say that because I was having negative experiences.
I hated the pedals. I didn’t like the seat. The chain ring up front made climbs difficult (it was a 2-by, where I’ve used 1-by and prefer that. I have no time for shifting excessively)…oh the list goes on. I had one really good ride on the bike and that was about it. I was left feeling inadequate and frustrated over my inability to accomplish things that were previously accomplished. I felt low. You take the ride stress and add it on top of the other stressors and you have a very grumpy Josie.

Travis and I had a discussion last night in terms of my unhappy bike rides as of late. Hearing me complain about my off-road riding (similar to my paved riding in some ways) didn’t make him very happy. I was putting pressure on myself for this “perfection” and being hard on myself when it came to re-learning certain things. It’s not that I wasn’t a good rider, far from it. It was the fact that it’s a different bike with different tires…I was getting new lessons in traction and body position.
Glorious! In the sun, you see sparkles!

There has been a bike in the living room, waiting for me to ride it. I was waiting to get on it after I felt ready and more competent because she’s a beauty and made of carbon. Basically she was built as a bike for me to “graduate” to when I’m ready-but will I ever be ready?! The “new bike” jitters were high with her, and that frustrated me. How can one determine if they will ever truly be “ready?”

Some words from a woman who I interviewed awhile back, and I’m so thankful for them:Maybe don't make yourself achieve too many goals before you deem yourself ready. A higher performing bike will up your game simply by being a better piece of equipment, which in turn will improve confidence, enjoyment, and skills!

Travis had also helped me break the ice surrounding me in terms of my confidence or lack of when it came to riding the Cali Carbon SLX- “Just ride it! Stop worrying about if you’ll break it. If anything happens, it’s not like there probably won’t be another bike in your future. I built it for you to ride.”
So I looked over at the bike and made the decision-“I will ride you tomorrow.” And that was that.

Prior to the ride I went on a paved loop ride with a friend of mine. I found that my body felt really uncomfortable on the road bike today. I’ve been having forearm/wrist issues, but I have a problematic muscle in my neck/shoulder that has been aggravated as of late. I hoped that a mountain bike ride would not be an issue.

When I got home I slipped some baggies over my padded shorts, strapped on my Camelbak, and grabbed Erza (the name that I gave the Cali Carbon SLX). We went to the shop so Travis could air up the shock; set it up so it would be firmer (I’m used to not having a shock.)
Away I went!

I wasn’t going to do anything special right off the bat because I had to work my brakes in. Travis suggested I do my old “loop,” a selection of Van Peenen trails that I can ride rather well. I wanted to try the hairpin on North 40 right away, but I met another rider who was going the opposite direction. I figured I would feel better not meeting him coming down (as I went up) so I made the decision to back-track later on.

It's a bit strange riding a smaller, built-for-Josie bike!
I will admit; it was a treat to ride something so much lighter! I also was thrilled over the fact I didn’t have to be in my easiest gears the entire time. Put it into perspective: The Krampus…it’s very heavy. I have big tires that aren’t even filled up all the way-I’m probably pedaling around something near the 20+lb mark. This is hypothetical as I don’t have a scale to weigh it on. Summary: I work hard to get that bike to go places.
The carbon bike is simply lighter. Smaller tires and lighter frame mean I have more energy to ride longer without feeling like I’m going to die. For my asthma issues, that’s fantastic! Given the fact allergies have been terrible this week and I’ve had a lack of energy-stupendous!
This vs. Trek Cali Carbon=not at all the same!
Photo Credit: Raina Hatfield

I extended my ride from the Van Peenen trails to the Dunnings (Lower/Upper Randy’s and Backside.) I figured I’d ride up Rocky Road to get back to the pines, head down Gunnar and ride up North 40-then I would come back to Rocky Road via top half of Little Big Horn and finish off on The Luge. I wanted to ride fast for the end of my ride; I craved the rush and exhilaration of speed. 

The ride today was one that surprised me because I didn’t think I would feel comfortable on the bike. Instead I got on it with a feeling of determination-I will ride you and I won’t be afraid. I felt one with the bike shortly into the ride. No more annoying seat, no more pedals that sucked; confidence trickled back into my subconscious.

My love of dirt renewed. My soul enveloped in the afterglow of a positive experience. My heart was full and grateful.

It’s just the beginning and it’ll only get better!  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Christine Eikmeier (Johnny Ringo)

Meet Christine Eikmeier  who is a pro DH racer. I'm pretty sure I saw her interview on MTB4Her and thought "She sounds awesome!" Plus? When you go by Johnny Ringo, how can you not feel that the cool factor wasn't upped a few notches?

I was so excited when I got the response saying Christine would be up for an email interview. What she does out there is probably far beyond what I will ever do with mountain biking-it's amazing

She's a women breaking boundaries and having fun doing something she's passionate about.
Passion can drive people to do great things, and in a male-dominated sport we need more women need to bust down those walls.

You can follow Christine (Johnny) on Instagram 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I started riding when I was around 4 years old. My mom has been riding all her life, so it was important to her that I learn. Today, my mom and sister are my riding partners. We ride all mountain 3-4 days a week. Like most kids, she started me off on a cheap, heavy hard tail, which now looking back, greatly helped my skills. If you can do difficult things without suspension, you can fly over it when you finally have full suspension!

 In February 2013, I bought my first downhill bike and fell in love with the sport!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
The accomplishment of a hard workout! I love the joy and feeling of achievement that biking brings to me. It’s similar to “the runner’s high”, the feeling that you get pushing your limits and seeing how hard you can ride. Exploring new trails, staying fit, tackling new challenges, and overcoming my fears is my drive for pedaling.  

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
This is my second year of racing downhill now. I compete for enjoyment and excitement. I am currently building a carbon trail bike to use for the “trail” downhill courses and would like to try some enduro races. I also love to travel, see new places, and ride new areas. One of my goals is to race and travel more in other states.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
Definitely downhill! I love the adrenaline and excitement of going fast and accomplishing what I think at first sight to be impossible. As a woman, yes the sport is highly intimidating, but it brings me joy and a sense of accomplishment knowing I didn’t let my fears conquer me.

Would being a woman be the main reason why you chose to do downhill? Is it the concept that you are one of a few who do it?
I know downhilling is primarily a man dominated sport, but it doesn't mean us ladies can't join in the fun and shred too! I find riding with the guys makes things fun and interesting. They are always encouraging me and helping me out, pushing me to progress in my skills. I chose to downhill simply because I love the adrenaline and excitement of riding fast.

How do you feel you benefited from learning MTB at a young age vs. coming into it in your later years?
Usually when I fall, I can easily get back up and hop back on my bike. Yes, being young does greatly help in the way that my body can handle crashes a lot easier. It doesn't mean that age has to keep one from riding! I hope my bike can always be a huge part of my life, even when I am in my later years of life. It is a great way to stay in shape and enjoy life to the fullest!  

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.)
I was grunting, tired, hot, pushing my bike up a steep, long hill, and six years old. Haha My mom took me on a shorter version of the 24 Hours of Adrenaline race course in southern California. I’m glad she introduced me to mountain biking at an early age, and today….I’m hooked! I can’t go a week without riding my bike.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Just ride! Ride it out. I get pre-race jitters almost every race, but over time, I have learned to go with it and use the adrenaline for my benefit. Also, riding with the guys always helps me! They help boost my confidence and give me the extra strength when I most need it.  

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 ride clipless for all mountain, but ride flats for downhill.  The benefits of riding clipless are worth it! Your pedal power is so much more powerful. My suggestions is: practice, practice, practice! Practice unclipping until it is an unconscious, easy, and fast action.

Where was this at and do you remember how you felt while riding down that rock?
My friends and I were riding some downhill trails when I noticed this boulder. My first thought was, "I want to roll down that!" I asked the guys if it was possible and they said it was, but it is super steep. So we took on the challenge and shimmied up the rock. Looking down the boulder, gave me a slightly nervous stomach. I knew it was extremely steep since you couldn't see over the edge until you were at the very tip of the rock. I'll admit, I was a bit nervous, especially after one of my buddies started getting anxious. But after I watched him ride down, I was eager to follow. It's one of those things you just have to examine and go for it before you build up too much fear. The joy and sense of accomplishment after riding down the rock was awesome! I was so excited that I rode down it!   

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
During a two run downhill race format, I made some mistakes during my first course run. Frustrated and wanting to better my time, I pushed even harder and threw in more pedal strokes around every corner. I entered into a sticky rock garden way to fast and ended up going over the bars. All I remember was smashing into a rock with my full face helmet, and having my bike hit me and land on top of me. Out of breath from pushing my limits, the next thing I knew was something was pulling on my Leatt and dragging me by my neck. I couldn’t breathe from my Leatt cutting off my air supply on my throat! Having a 40 pound bike on top of me and laying on the ground in my position, I struggled to get the bike off of me. I panicked, gasping for air and attempting to pull my Leatt off, but I couldn’t. Fortunately, some spectators assisted in pulling the bike off of me. I was shook up but luckily no broken bones. I had a concussion, but filled with determination, my first though was, “I’m not going to get a DNF on my race result!” I picked my bike back up and began to make it down the mountain, only to notice seeing past my tear filled eyes, crooked handle bars and a pebble bouncing around in my goggles. I made it down the mountain and finished my race. Yes, I was in pain, but at the moment my mind disregarded it from the adrenaline.  

After a good fall, my motto is always to get back on if possible. This way, you end on a positive note instead of letting fear overtake you.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The adventures that come with riding! I love riding with friends, meeting new people, and exploring new trails. Something interesting always happens out on the trail; whether it be taking a new drop on my downhill bike, powering up a steep hill, surviving a crazy crash through a rock garden, or running into a rattle snake! Each and every ride yields a story. I also love how my bike pushes my limits and encourages me to try something new every ride.  

What is something neat that not everyone may know about you?
I love to dance and cook! Usually people that I first meet can't tell that I am a mountain biker, but my cuts, bruises, and scars show my passion.

Where do you think you would be if you hadn't discovered the bicycle?
My bike garage would be a barn and I would be riding my horses! Rodeo girl and show jumper right here! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Thank You and Some News!

Photo Credit: Raina Hatfield
I just want to give a big Thank You to those who have been so supportive of me on my multiple journeys, mainly a budding blogger and avid mountain biker.

I’ve “met” some really great people who have truly inspired me to keep on with pursuing my dreams, whatever they are exactly-I’m still working that out! However, it’s obvious that bicycles are a huge part of my life and will continue to be so. I'm looking forward to what is next to come and excited to meet even more inspiring people!

Since the hiatus of Imagine Northeast Iowa came about, you may find some posts from me at Travel Iowa. However, keep a look-out for my writings on here as well!

In other exciting news, Dirty Jane will periodically be hosting some posts from me, or cross-posting what I write. 
Also you’ll find some of my writings at Banditas Magazine-an independent source for women’s action and adventure sports!

I’m really excited to see where all of this goes! The start of my blog turning into something more than just a woman sharing her thoughts-but having it turn into a sounding board for so many great women and their stories.
[If you read my blog and feel you would like to be interviewed or write a guest post-just contact me!]

The journey into mountain biking has been a very rewarding and challenging, but it’s given me something so much greater in return: joy, confidence, inspiration, hope, and healing. It’s given me strength and courage. It’s fueled the desire to inspire. It’s given me the ability to accept change more so than before. It’s also allowed me to learn how to trust myself and feel comfortable with the decisions made.
It continues to open me up, prying away layer upon layer and other deep-seeded issues that I’ve tried to bury. Like I said, it’s helping me to heal.

Two years ago I would’ve laughed in your face if you told me I’d be out there, riding the mountain bike trails by myself (or with Travis and/or friends)…yeah. Not likely! I went into a style of riding that intimidated me and long story short, fell in love.
Photo Credit: Parker Deen

I may never be “the best” nor will I ever claim to be. I might never go “super fast” and I don’t have to. I ride for me! I share my experiences (the good, bad, and ugly) in a hope that it will help others get over their own fears. It doesn’t matter the style of riding you want to do…or even if you just want to commute to work on fair weather days. Don’t hold yourself back-just do it. If you must start out with baby-steps, that’s okay too. Realize that those two wheels can do something more than take you from point a. to point b. The wheels can change your life.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Rachel Dingfelder

In Rachel's own words: "I've been commuting for around 9 years in Pittsburgh, I helped run a volunteer bicycle co-op a few years ago (where I learned mechanics, learned a lot of the skills I use at my current job like volunteer coordination, conflict resolution, nonprofit management.)

I also volunteer with BikePGH and have been involved in women/trans cycling events. For my job I do development for a nonprofit birth center (prenatal, GYN care, and out-of-hospital birth with midwives)

It really matters to me to do most things by bicycle so I ride to work, the store, and just about anything happening in the city. Panniers and lobster gloves are my best friends. It's very important to me in a political sense to be present on the street riding a bike, and help advocate for better bike infrastructure in Pittsburgh."

Find Rachel on Twitter!

When did you first start riding a bike?
The first time I rode a bike was when I was a kid. I lived in Suburban/Rural New Jersey and would ride around my yard, to the park, and my friends' houses within a two mile radius. As an adult in Pittsburgh, I started riding about 10 years ago, in college. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
At first, it was for social reasons. My friends started riding bikes to classes and parties, so if I wanted to keep up with them I needed a bike.

It was, and still is often thrilling to go places by bike, so that was some good motivation! I think social reasons are still a big part of it - most of my friends ride bikes, and half the fun is getting from point A to point B with them. I also love not worrying about parking, love feeling alert when I get to work, and want to be a part of making my city better and safer by being on the street and advocating for things that benefit people who bike and walk.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I like riding in the city, so mostly pavement and urban trails.

Do you remember how you felt on your first commuter ride? How did it go and how did you feel?
I remember the first few rides, though it's all a little hazy. I had a clunky old bike that a friend pulled out from behind a bus stop. It definitely had things wrong with it and I had no idea what, so I just prayed it wouldn't fall apart while I was riding it. I remember that my shoulder bag kept falling forward and that was really annoying, I was tricky getting used to starting and stopping. 

I didn't think about the ride as a commute in the way that I do now, and I don't remember thinking about what would happen if I got hit by a car - it just didn't cross my mind. I was trying to get used to just being on the bike, and figuring all these little things out, like how some purses and bags just don't stay put while riding.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Pittsburgh is hilly, so I was nervous about getting up hills and didn't think about the fact that if I kept riding, the hills would start to come easy. I just thought, "wow, I can't do this," and I would walk up the hills, which is perfectly fine but kind of discouraging. I didn't think about shifting, and then my next bike was a single-speed so it wasn't an option. I found that riding with other people pushed me up those hills the first few times I did them. Riding with other people also pushed me to go faster and get my "Pittsburgh Legs." I often had no choice but to hustle along behind them. I think this was ultimately a good thing. It gave me lots of confidence. 

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 used clipless pedals for less than a year, about six years ago. The pedals and the shoes were comfortable, but I didn't like always having to carry my street shoes with me. I know some people just rock the clipless shoes once they get off the bike, especially now that styles are a lot nicer now than even six years ago... but I like being able to wear all my cute boots and shoes on and off the bike. I use velcro Hold Fast straps, which are kinder to my leather shoes (than metal clips), and super comfortable with any shoe I wear.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
Poorly designed, fast roads are a problem. I look at our city bike map or Google maps and plan out a chiller route, even if it takes a little longer. Luckily, Pittsburgh is an old city with lots of narrow, neighborhood roads so there is usually a good way to get somewhere. Scary drivers are also a problem, so I try to ride as predictably as possible while at the same time riding as if no one can see me. I trust my "spidey-sense" a lot - that feeling you get when you just know the person coming up behind you is going to right-turn you, or whatever stupid thing they are about to do. 

Do you commute even if the weather isn’t ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
Yes, I usually commute in the rain and in the wet, cold, dirty winters of Pittsburgh. To deal with the cold and snow I wear lobster gloves and warm, waterproof hiking sneakers. I have these amazing "Winter Leggings" from American Apparel which are good for 30+ degree days, look cute for work, and I can layer tights under them for colder days. I could go on and on about layering and winter bicycle fashion! When it rains I have waterproof pants and a rain jacket that I just throw on over whatever I'm wearing. I used to ride on those really bad, scary, icy winter days... but nowadays I am a little more risk-adverse so I let myself walk or take the bus on those days.

Have you had a bike accident? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Yes, I was hit by a car in 2009, in broad daylight. They were coming towards me and hit me as they were turning left onto a side street. It took me six weeks to heal from my injuries (and over a year for some of the pain to fully go away), and I'm thankful it wasn't worse. Luckily, everyone involved had insurance so I didn't have financial stress like many others do when they get hit. For a few months after the accident I felt really jumpy whenever I was in an intersection or passing a side street. Mentally, I recovered by continuing to ride every day.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love not having to think about making time to exercise. I love everything cliche about riding in the city at night - warm nights, city lights, the reflections on the river (we have three in Pittsburgh!), blinky lights blinking against street signs, smelling flowers while riding by them. I love not having to worry about parking. I love feeling energized when I get somewhere. I love trying to figure out how to carry things on my bike... and I LOVE my panniers and I love packing them full of groceries.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I am short, so both my bikes are tiny. Both have fenders, a rack, and colorful top-tube pads made by a lovely friend who likes to sew. I have a Salsa Casseroll which is set up as a single-speed right now. Everything on it is gold and red, and it has riser bars which I love. I chose it after my other single-speed bike got ruined in my crash.  For any short people out there who are interested in bikes under 51cm, I'm pretty sure Salsa stopped making the Casseroll in small sizes, which is a bummer.

My other bike is a Surly LHT. With some help, I built it myself and got everything exactly how I wanted it, or at least close enough. I chose it because it's sturdy and practical, it was a good value, and it comes in tiny sizes.

What are some tips/suggestions you would give to someone new to commuting?
Don't automatically bike the same route you would use while driving. Take some time and plan out a calmer route beforehand. Realize that it takes time to reconfigure your mental map of the city. Find a confident, experienced, patient, and somewhat safety-oriented friend who you can ride along with, and follow their lead. Contact your local bike advocacy group and see if they have bike-to-work pools or group rides. Get some fenders for when it rains. Also, it's OK to arrive at work a little early to change your shoes or into your work clothes. No one will think you're weird, and if they do, they'll get used to it.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Winter: Like I mentioned before, winter lobster gloves (I have the Pearl Izumi ones) and heavy leggings are awesome. Warm, waterproof shoes or boots and a hat for winter are essential.Once you got the extremities down, everything else is up to you. I invested in a nice Patagonia soft shell jacket a few years ago, but before that I just wore two scrappy hoodies with two thermals all winter and that worked great, too. 

Summer: Wear whatever you want. Get some little shorts/bloomers to wear under skirts and dresses. That's about it.

Bike Accessories: I could not live without my waterproof panniers or my waterproof backpack, which is essentially my "purse". The panniers are made by Axiom - they are huge and totally worth the price, and the backpack was made by a skilled friend I have a Knog Blinder front blinky - it's bright, it rocks, and it's USB-rechargeable. The back blinky is a Planet Bike USB-rechargeable light. It also rocks! Don't use a cable lock - use a U-Lock or something even burlier. 

Tell us about when you helped run a volunteer bike co-op-what was it like, what did the co-op do?
In 2008-2012, I volunteered with Free Ride, which is an all volunteer-run community bike shop. It's been around for 13 or so years. It runs an earn-a-bike program, classes, youth programs, bike build-a-thons for kids who need bikes, has fundraisers and other parties, and is there as a resource so people can learn bicycle mechanics. It has endless bike parts and bikes available in return for a donation or volunteer time trade. I helped staff the shop, was on the collective council (which is sort of like a working board of directors) and was the Treasurer for a while. 

The shop helped me learn about collective/volunteer-run spaces. No one got paid (except when independent contractors taught classes), decisions were made by consensus, and the philosophy behind it all was to put the tools in the hands of the person learning, instead of doing the work for them. It strived to be a non-hierarchical, radical space where theoretically anyone could walk in and volunteer time to trade for parts or even and entire bicycle, even if they didn't have mechanical skills. The shop itself was organized chaos, with bikes and parts as far as the eye could see - you were literally up to your knees in bike parts sometimes. I was full of amazing people who became my core social group. The people who are there now are awesome, too! 

Being an organizer of the shop gave me the opportunity to learn and hone skills that I use in my current job and other endeavors - managing other volunteers, dealing with conflict and hard decisions, setting up processes to make things work smoothly, and managing financials and donations. It also, of course, gave me the opportunity to collaboratively learn with and from people who came into the shop. I am extremely grateful for the experience, and am really happy Free Ride still exists and works it's magic.

Tell us about BikePGH and what you do when you volunteer for them
BikePGH is Pittsburgh's bike advocacy non-profit. They work with the city, community groups, planners and others to make the streets safer for people who bike and walk. They are extremely effective and do a lot. I'm a member, and I've helped with parties, mailings, bike valet and bike counts. They recently hosted Pittsburgh's first Women's Bike Forum. I attended and also facilitated a discussion for it. The discussion was about safety issues while cycling - crazy drivers, street harassment, etc.

You mentioned you did your first bicycle tour-how did that go? What did you do to prepare yourself?
In October, I did the PGH to DC trip on the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Towpath. I went with my gentleman friend and took my Surly and my panniers full of stuff. Most of the planning entailed figuring out how many miles to do per day, booking B&B's and strategizing which snacks to get from Trader Joe's. I also got my first pair of padded shorts. Next time I'll get the butt cream. I would have liked to have had the butt cream!

The trip overall was amazing! It only rained once, for about 45 miles before we got to Cumberland. I didn't have any mechanical problems until I was two miles away from the end of the trail in Georgetown. I got a flat. Doh!

What would you like people to think about when they make the decision to ride a bike?
Please get some front and rear blinkys so people can see you at night, and take a bike maintenance class so you can make sure your bike is safe before riding it.

What would you like to see happen with your city in terms of bike safety and infrastructure?
We're hiring for our second bike/ped coordinator now, so I'd like to see someone amazing get that position. I want all engineering and public safety efforts to go towards eliminating crashes for everyone using every mode of transport. Some people would say that's unrealistic, but we need to have this as a goal. I would like to see more street trees, because they help slow down traffic and do a ton of other wonderful things. I'd like to see more bike racks and corrals in places that need them, and I can't wait for the bike share to be implemented. We're getting our first separated bike lane this summer, so I can't wait for that. I want to see Pittsburgh do something like the famous Ciclovia in Bogota - like an open streets event. I want people who won't bike in the city now to feel safe enough to try.

How do you advocate for a better biking infrastructure? What tips or suggestions would you give to someone who doesn't know where to start? 
Find your local advocacy group, see what they are working on, and get involved by volunteering or responding to action alerts. When you want to make change in your neighborhood, contact your local politicians like your city councilperson, neighborhood organizations, etc. If your city has a way to report things like unsafe road conditions, bad lighting, and other dangerous situations - use it, especially if it relates to bikes. Find group rides - chances are, some people on the group ride will be involved somehow in the bike scene.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The North 40 Climb

I suppose I have a love/hate relationship with this post for today (August 7th) as it has been the only day so far that I've accomplished this uphill climb. I'm left with the knowledge that under the right conditions (outside and physically) this is something I can do.
I'll continue to make my attempts at tackling this hill, knowing that someday things will click and I'll make it more than once a month.

So onto the story......

Yesterday when I rode North 40 I wasn’t expecting anything above and beyond what I have already done. Each day I go to the backside to work on accomplishing the hairpin turn (hopefully) with one try, but I usually accomplish it the second time. I should say, on the second go when trail conditions are right.

On my way to North 40 I had stopped to have some water and a couple GU gummies since I was feeling a little fatigued and wanted to keep my energy up. A kid rode down North 40 the clockwise-direction, coming close to IPT. It was awesome seeing someone many years younger than me, out on his own, and riding the trails. Perhaps that gave me the gumption I needed for the rest of my ride.

Once I made it down North 40 (clockwise) I decided to immediately backtrack and ride back up (counter clockwise.)
I came to the second turn that always thwarts me, and remembered Travis said that somtimes you have to go slower going up a hill. It seems so contradictory, but it works sometimes due to circumstance. I eased my way around the turn, aimed towards the right (so I could ride over lower part of the big root) and I pedaled and pedaled. I was careful to not stand up too much, because that has made me spin out in the past. I had to squat and keep my weight distributed to maintain traction.
I was at the top!
I was in shock!
I whipped out my flip phone and took a small, crappy picture of my extremely happy face and immediately sent the photo to Travis.

I find myself continually surprised when I find myself accomplishing things that I originally thought would take me years. I'm finding I can accomplish skills in a few months! I'm also not saying that I do this perfectly every time. I’m still developing acknowledgement over the concept that I can mountain bike pretty well with a lot of work and practice.
It’s a humbling and very rewarding experience for me!

It just goes to show what can be achieved if you enjoy something enough to keep at it.