Tuesday, September 30, 2014

That Feeling-You Can Do It!

Written 8/31/14
Today was the day it finally “clicked” or perhaps it’s because the stars had aligned just right which allowed me to succeed in the North 40 climb that has thwarted me all but one time.
Every time I would exit IPT I would head to the entrance of North 40 and work my way to the hill that you come to when you ride the trail counter-clockwise. There is a turn, a big root, and a steep climb; this is a hill that even Travis does not achieve 100% of the time. Once you spin out, you’re done. You can go back down to start over or just walk your bike to the top.

I had a few days off from mountain biking due to rain, because I’m not to the point where I like fighting for traction and balance every few seconds. I’m not confident with riding when all of the roots and rocks are waiting to make your tire slip out-so I opted to ride on the paved trail.

Today looked to be a perfect morning to get out there on the dirt.

Yesterday was gorgeous in terms of temperature and there was a breeze. I felt confident that if the trails were a little wet, they would be very ride-able for me.

I did my usual route and started up North 40, the feeling was “Let’s see what I can do today” and I made it a good ways up the hill before I spun out (after the big root, on a ledge where a root used to be but has since been broken off.) “Not bad. I think I can make it today. I have a feeling.”

So I tried again, and again, and again. I think it was perhaps my 4th try or so and all of a sudden, I’m pedaling to the top! Holy cow! That was awesome! I whipped out my phone to send Travis a text regaling him of my accomplishment. However, once was not enough-it needed to happen again. So I walked my bike down, turned around, and rode up that hill! I was in shock, you could say, on how easily it came to me. I couldn’t decide if something had “clicked” or if I was just really lucky.

I continued on my ride, having a grand time, until I came to a point on Little Big Horn where I decided to forcibly dismount myself from my bike. I am not entirely sure what I did or did not do, all I know is that I hit my handlebar with my knee and I knocked myself off my bike. Oh great, another bruise.

Then onward and down Fred’s, rode over to Lower Randy’s and made my way to the top, meandered back down, and up Rocky Road. My flow was stopped to climb over a fallen tree, but that wasn’t a huge deal by any means. Back to the top, through the pines (of course after catching my breath) and I went down Gunnar to the clockwise entrance of North 40.

I had some issues with riding up North 40’s hairpin. Looking at it, the earth on this side was a bit wetter than on the other side. It was a fight for traction and balance, but eventually I overcame and got around the turn and up the hill. When I came down the hill I rode at the start of my ride, I figured I’d give it a shot and see if I could ride up it again. I did! First try! My legs were spent but I felt great about the accomplishment.

I rode home with a smile on my face and felt a bit giddy. Regardless of whether or not something clicked or if it was just luck-I still rode up that hill and that felt great and that’s why I love mountain biking.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Erin Swanson

I started working at Oneota Food Co-Op in 2008 and sometime after that, I met Erin. During our times at the register, I don't think I ever realized that she rode a bicycle, but who am I kidding? I didn't start riding until 2012.

At some point this year, Travis suggested I contact Erin-and here we are!

When did you first start riding a bike?
As a youngster, though high school is when I started riding more distances.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
As a kid, I loved the fresh air…now: Sanity! :) Riding and other outdoor movement sports keep me physically and mentally healthy. I ride, run, and move for sanity! :)

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
I was lucky enough to have an active family growing up and did lots of fun Midwestern rides and races, including an ironman triathlon at 16 because I wanted to see if I could do it or not. I could! :) (The power of the human brain is awesome! I am amazed at how our attitudes and determination can be our best friend or our worst enemy. Tell yourself you can do something, and most of the time you can!)
More recently my son, Peter, and I did the MS 150 in MN to raise money for M.S. (which my mom has).

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
My favorite is probably taking country road-biking trips (southwest Wisconsin country roads are awesome- blacktopped and quiet, though hilly.) Mountain biking is a close second (Decorah trails, Levis-Trow Mounds, north of Black River Falls, Wisconsin, and the Cuyuna bike trails near Brainerd, MN are all favorites). Rails to trails riding like Trempleau, WI or the Sparta-Elroy Trail in Wisconsin are also so fun with kids. (Check out these spots; they are great!) Tandem biking is also so much fun. It’s the best way to bike with my husband, as he’s too speedy for me unattached and it’s a great trust exercise!

Cuyuna Lakes Mountain biking trails by Brainerd, MN
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?
With my husband’s persuasion, I have just bought a pair of clipless pedals. I’m so curious to see how they work! Everyone who has them says they make such a difference.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I work from home, but have a pair of panniers that I can stuff lots of things into to make biking around town easier.

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 wear leather mittens, leather hiking boots, and rain pants when it’s cold. The Blackburn pannier holder on my back tire works like a fender to keep mud and water from splashing up on my back in the rain.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Yep, I’ve had a few through the years, though just a split-open knee and a few bruises. I get back and ride again that day if I can or soon afterwards. (I do carry a cell phone now when I mountain bike alone because of my last crash.)

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the fresh air and the physical and emotional lift that it brings to me. The scenery and the company (when I have it) are priceless!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a ten or so year old Trek 8000 women’s mountain bike that I really like. I picked it because I could buy it locally and it fit me great (the women’s fit helped a lot). I also got a hand me-down Trek 1000 road bike that I like to ride on the roads and around the local bike trail.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love my bike skort because it has great padding without the tight classic bike shorts to leave my bum hanging out for the world to see. I absolutely love my panniers and the Blackburn rack that’s over my back tire. I can hook a pannier or two on the rack or just bunji something to the top of it. I also really like the knog frog bike light that you can change from bike to bike so easily.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Breaking Down Barriers: More Discussion

Continuing discussion with Breaking Down Barriers- I had turned to the Wheel Women Switchboard for additional voices/opinions for various topics. In this post I had asked about what seem to be the biggest deterrents for people in terms of riding, how men/women teach differently, and how group rides can be made into positive experiences.
It's been a great to read the various opinions/thoughts on these topics-a huge thank-you to those who have participated!

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

Feel free to keep the discussion going and post your comments/thoughts!

In this post I had asked several individuals what they felt deterred women (and men) from riding. 

The large focus or seemingly common barrier would be safety and feeling inadequate/dumb. Time is another factor that often puts a damper on riding. Here are the following thoughts:

Barb G.-
Well, my perspective on this applies across genders and it requires a small preface: those who want to do something bad enough find a way to do it.
I’ve seen both men and women overcome incredible barriers in order to learn to cycle. They decided they wanted to do it and then had the courage to find solutions to their concerns.

We are all our greatest deterrent at times. However, if you asked me what the most common concerns among women are, I’d say it can depend on the type of riding. For many situations, safety is at the top of the list. Also being seen looking or feeling dumb/inept is up there too.
Regarding commuters: some studies list messed up hair/appearance, etc., and frankly I rarely have heard those concerns.

Bethany R.- 
There’s been some research suggesting safety is the biggest deterrent. But this is more than just safe roads; I think personal safety is a big consideration. I never gave much thought to this until I showed another woman a fantastic 20 mile trail I ride alone frequently. Her question was whether it was safe to ride alone. Honestly, not something that ever entered my mind. This past winter and going to spring there have been a number of attacks on women on this trail. The worst one was a rape of a woman around 6 a.m. who was walking to the commuter rail. Riding in groups provides a sense of safety. No group to ride with will deter women because they don’t feel safe.

More common is for men to be concerned about their appearance - being sweaty or concerns about their clothes. So, I don’t believe that one is a biggie for women. Time is one that I observe but don’t see verbalized. Women tend to prioritize family responsibilities over cycling more often than men (although I meet many men who do too) so they push cycling aside because they see it as a time obligation that just doesn’t mesh with taking care of the kids.

I was curious on what other people thought in terms of the teaching styles of men/women and if there was a preferred gender for instruction. Personally, I all of my riding instruction has been male-based and there have been times I've appreciated that but also times I found frustration. Regardless of gender, you can find exceptional instructors as well as those who weren't so good. The important thing is to find someone you trust vs. focusing on gender alone.

Barb G.
I’ve had great male teachers and bad ones, same to be said for women. But generally, it’s my experience that men tend to be less inclined to express fear and so are sometimes desensitized (unable to empathize) with the fear a new rider may have in traffic or descending or going fast.

I think men are really good at sharing information as it’s one of their default social mechanisms. Listen in to a group of guys just hanging out and discussing something technical and you’ll see that they talk about what they know, ask questions, and share experiences.

Women tend to be less talkative about what they know in social settings. We ask questions more easily perhaps. 

When teaching I tend to look at the individual, find out about their learning style and not assume a style due to gender.

However, in all of the classes I’ve offered the majority of students were women. It seems to me that women are more willing to recognize they don’t know something and need to learn from an expert. For example, I’ve done support on zillions of organized rides and observed many riders with poor technique - men and women alike. But of all of those riders who have approached me - sought out one-on-one help- over the years to improve their cycling skills, only one of those was a man. He, like many riders, wanted to improve his descending skills but unlike many men, he openly expressed the great fear he had descending. On the other hand, the majority of women I speak to and who have worked with me to improve skills express that fear.

Bethany R.-
I think women are more touchy/feel-y/sensitive than men in teaching. It’s a pro in that women can be sensitive to something like a safety issue and riding. Teaching something like changing a tire gives women a sense of security where for a man, it’s just something to learn and move on. The con on the sensitive approach is that it doesn’t lend itself to pushing or challenging someone. If you’re always concerned about being positive, encouraging, and nice, you’re not going to give some of the tough feedback that a person can learn from. This is what I appreciate in learning from men. Tell me like it is, tell me what I’m doing right and tell me what I’m doing wrong.

Tracy H.-
I’ve had both male and female mechanics instructors. I can’t say that I’m more comfortable with one rather than the other. I think it was more the class participants–with the more experienced guys trying to “assist” the women. I don’t totally hate that; it’s just that some men do it more gracefully than others. When I start feeling the condescension or the assumption that I don’t know anything is when I bristle. And, no matter the instructor, I just get nervous when it takes me forever to figure out something.

I do think the “see one, do one, teach one” method works well for me because it forces you to really understand how to do it. My preference would be for one-on-one instruction, but that’s a dream scenario. I have had occasional thoughts of going to UCI or some kind of more formalized training, but the thought of being put on the spot and/or not being able to keep up with the others in the class banish those thoughts pretty quickly!

Group rides can be a positive thing yet there are times when riding alone are just as fun. Group rides can be women-only or mixed gender. Either way if you look around at what your community offers you may find something you enjoy. If you see a lack, one of the things you can do is set up a ride yourself! Here are some helpful thoughts/ideas:

Barb G.
I guess I plan for the lowest common denominator and I try to see the ride I’m planning from the eyes of the range of riders who may attend. That includes considering ability, knowledge of rules of the road, and experience riding in groups,
If you are considering starting a group ride, think about who the ride is for. Is it for you, or is it for a certain segment of the cycling population?

Determine that (the purpose of the ride), identify an appropriate route for that purpose, then determine what those riders will experience on the route, and also identify ways to support safe riding throughout the ride. Many new cyclists don’t know the rules of the road, or are so preoccupied with the shifting mechanisms on their bikes or just the handling of their bike, that they may not be paying full attention to the other riders or traffic. I always lay down some safety rules - unbreakables - at the beginning of a ride. These have to do both with group riding (eg. using verbal ques and hand signals) AND traffic safety (eg. never cross the center line of a road).

Previous lessons: One of the first group rides that I went out on, I was trying to find out an idea on speed or pace. The organizer would not tell me, she wouldn’t even give me a range. She just told me to come out and I had no idea how long the ride would even be. When I started leading a ride and talking to women about coming out to ride with me, I’d give them an idea that it would be about two hours. For most beginners, that’s not insurmountable. If you give timeframe, they can commit. If you find out they’re in great shape, you can push them and get more miles in during that two hours. If they’re in not great shape, you can turn around at an hour and you haven’t screwed up their day’s plans.

Bethany R.-
1. Experience level and goals - some people ride at a slow speed and have no desire to increase speed or distance. They’re there for the social aspect. They are just as important as those who want to ride at a high level and have lofty goals. You just might want to avoid mixing those two, or make it really clear what type of ride you’re leading so people can make decisions on whether to join or not. If you have easy routes, you can always tell the faster riders to go ahead and ride off the front. Finding a person to team up on leading the ride will be beneficial in being able to split the group so both needs are met.
 2. Pray for flat tires and easily fixed mechanical issues - SERIOUSLY! Experience is the best teacher. I went out for a ride with a friend who has ridden RAGBRAI a couple times, double century, many centuries and a lot of solo miles. We were out for a ride and she got a flat on the rear and had no idea how to change her tire. Sunset was coming and we were probably 5 miles from her house (and the 5 miles lies in the area where the aforementioned rapist is). Not knowing how to change a tire is not a safe thing to do. But she rides with a lot of men, she gets a flat, they fix it. Great when they’re there, not great when you’re on your own. I taught her how to change a tire through a whole lot of laughter. Being able to calmly show someone how to handle a setback like this goes a long way in removing the intimidation of mechanics and the “what happens ifs
3. Things to carry - this goes hand in hand with item 2. Go over the items you carry and why. I lead a ride once where a woman got a flat tire; I used one of my CO2 cartridges to get us to a nearby bike shop. She didn’t have a spare tube. I could have used one of mine, but it turned out that she had some fancy schmancy locking wheels (to prevent theft) and she left the key at home. So the bike shop couldn’t even help her. She had to call her husband to come get her. What needs to be carried is pretty individual, but needs to be considered.
4. Safety and liability - the rides I had been leading with my LBS were in conjunction with the owner’s wife. She frequently bailed out and left me to lead on my own. The women on the rides would ask me if I worked for the shop. I didn’t. My husband is a cop and was concerned regarding liability and in conjunction with my background in personal training and knowing where and when a person is covered under a business’s liability insurance had me concerned enough that I no longer wanted to lead a ride where there was a perception that I was acting as an agent of the bike shop. This was a shop that didn’t bother giving me a discount on items (I bought two bikes from them); I had zero confidence that they’d cover me in case a participant decided to sue.
5. Safety - require helmets, talk about items like road Id, and teach group riding etiquette before setting out. If someone does something dangerous, let them know immediately. If you’re riding in a group and one person on the lead decides to try and beat the light, many in the group will follow. That is a dangerous person and I won’t ride with them. The best rides are always the ones you come back from in one piece. We’re not pro riders and cycling is risky enough without one of the riders endangering the group. Go over hand signals, and what ‘take the lane’ means.
6. Some ways to attract people to your group. You could use social media, like a FB group, Google Groups, craigslist, meetup.org. Let local bike shops know you have a group. It helps them sell their bikes and merchandise. Ask local businesses to put a flyer up on their community boards. Places like coffee shops, bakeries, health clubs, sporting good stores, running shoe stores. Let local tri groups know too. They may have people contacting them that aren’t interested in triathlons, but just looking for a group to ride with.
7. Finally, commitment and follow through. Be consistent in showing up for when you say a ride will be going. It’s not unusual for people to not contact you to say they’re coming. They’re assuming that you’ll be there. They’re uncertain and sometimes it’s a last minute decision that they will meet for the ride. Help them out by being there no matter what. If you’re doing something like Google groups, twitter, or Facebook, add recaps of the ride. There are always a lot of watchers on those groups and lists, and your description of the ride might be the encouraging factor in turning those watchers into riders.

There was a specific situation I wanted to relate about a co-ed ride I was on. Towards the end of a ride a man in the group asked if I knew how to draft. I said no, so he proceeded to teach me. This is a pretty valuable skill and I was thrilled to learn. A woman in the group began chastising the man for trying to teach me something like drafting which she saw as too advanced for me and irresponsible of him to teach me. I think the man had gauged that I was steady on my bike and was pretty comfortable that I was ready for that skill.

I think the woman was gauging that this was my first ride with them and not ready. Watch closely to see how people are handling their bike, how do they look when they swerve and corner, are they smooth on their breaks. Listen to what they tell you about their riding ability and let your eyes tell you what is really going on. If I had to point out a difference, I’d sum it up as the man made a decision based on what he saw me do; where the woman made a decision based on nothing.

Tracy H.-
I ride alone because I’m a great big introvert! I just prefer to ride alone. Most of my riding is transportation or errand-based, so it would feel weird to have others along. Bike time is my time to be alone with my thoughts, to sort things out, to sing, to enjoy my own running commentary on driver behavior, etc.

My partner is female, so when I do ride with another female, it’s usually her! But I have had such fun riding with guys. The ones I have ridden with have been supportive, encouraging, and just good fun. But then again, most guys I know are just so thrilled to see women on bikes that they probably bend over backwards to make us feel welcome. Or maybe I’m just lucky in my selection of riding cohorts.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Hallie Evans

Many locals know Hallie and and Nate from the beautiful works they create at Allamakee Wood-Fired Pottery. (Check them out on Facebook!)

Today you get to see another side of Hallie that involves cycling!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first learned how to ride a bike when I was 6 or 7...but I started riding regularly for exercise my junior year of college, after I met (my husband, now) Nate, who loved biking.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I have always loved to be active, and turned to silent sports once my years of volleyball, basketball and softball in school were over. I especially love biking and running.

Having a partner that feels the same way helps tremendously in being sure to ride or run a lot. And, I just need to exercise to keep sane, especially now with two kids.  :)

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
I have only done 2 mountain bike races. I really like competing, but a move/jobs after the 2 races I did kind of stopped the racing. I did the Cactus Cup ( I can't remember exactly where that one was-Galena maybe?-it was a long time ago!) and loved that one.

What kind of riding is your favorite?
When I started riding in college, trails were my favorite by far. I mainly did that, with a few road and gravel rides thrown in, but now haven't ridden on trails for years, and only ride on the roads, paved, mainly.

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 terrified on my first mtn. bike ride--of crashing, and not being able to get out of my clipless pedals when I first got them.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
The only thing to do with nerves is keep riding and practicing the parts that were hard. Of course, riding with a bunch of guys that could do every technical section of every trail didn't help the nerves at first!

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?
Clipless pedals are the ONLY way to go! Really, they're way easier to get out of than the straps of the toe clips. And you're never messing around with getting them adjusted, etc. Just practice getting in and out of them on a ride around the block. Love them!

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
Not a commuter...I work at home, but live 25 miles from anywhere I go anyway.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I must have had hundreds of crashes (ranging from nasty denting (and needing a new one) the helmet, taking a long time to get up crashes, to little tips off the bike) when I rode on the trails in Decorah, and in NC when we lived there for 2 years. I remember sitting around with Jacky Budweg counting bruises on our legs. We must have each had 30-40 of them. That was when I was in my 20s, and my body could take it! After not crashing daily, and at 39, I would hate to think about how long it would take to recover! There were a few parts of the trails here and there that made me nervous and that always makes it worse, when you're wondering if you'll crash. Just keep getting up and trying it again and again worked for me.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the fitness, the sounds-I know it's silly- (clicking into the pedals, the click of the shifters), the feel of your legs burning as you climb big hills, and I love my bike! It's beautiful! I also love riding with Nate. We used to have a short but steep hill at the end of every ride that we'd sprint up and race each other, when we rode daily in NC. The anticipation of that little race was always great.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Road bike-Masi-steel front triangle with carbon rear triangle, all black, gray with a tiny bit of white and red. Bontrager race lite wheel set. It's so pretty!  :)

Mountain bike-super old school red steel Stump Jumper that Nate bought me when he worked at Decorah Bicycles in 1996. It was my first "real" bike, and with the exception of a Trek Y bike I rode for a couple years, the only mountain bike I've ever had. Most of the parts are upgraded by now. 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I don't use too many things. We used to always use Camelbaks, and really liked those, especially for longer rides. Now we just use water bottles. Gloves and padded spandex shorts are a must. I really like built in bra biking tanks.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Guest Post: Nikita talks of The Little Big Ridestyle Event!

(Original post was published on Magnolia BMX)

The Little Big, a "Ridestyle event weekend for women" is coming up, and it's not an event to miss! 

Nestled in the woods of beautiful Truckee, California, lies the ever improving "Truckee Bike Park" which includes features for all ages and levels of riders.  On September 27th and 28th, the pro ladies of MTB will descend upon the park to coach new riders in a clinic, and host a competition the next day.  This event is for riders of all levels, from beginner, to pro! All proceeds go into the building of the bike park. 

 (Read the flyer below for more exact details on what will be happening).  

I happened to stumble upon this event flyer last year, and made my way to Truckee for the contest.  I had barely ridden dirt jumps, and never met anyone from the ladies MTB community.  

Nervous and shy, I slowly inched my way up to the top of the track, and was immediately welcomed by a crew of amazing ladies, who I am so glad to now know.  Some of the coaches included Kat Sweet, Cortney Knudson, Stephanie Nychka, Lisa Tharp, and Linsey Voreis.  Coming from the BMX side of things, I'd never been around more than one girl rider at a time, so this was such a cool experience having so many throughout the weekend.  The clinics are great, lots of laughs, meeting new people, and learning new things, and the competition is just as fun, and very relaxed (for those of you worried about your first contest).  Overall, it's really just a fun, all girls weekend, that you definitely don't want to miss!

I'm really excited to be attending again this year, and I hope that we can get more BMX girls out there too! If you can hit a dirt jump, or want to learn how to do so, come on out! 

More info as well can be found on their website: http://www.thelittlebigattruckee.com/ 
Photo Credit: Michael Vincent Pavel
I asked Nikita if she could elaborate on her experience with The Little Big-

The Little Big, to me, is the beginning of something so much more. I showed up not knowing anyone there, having barely ever ridden dirt, and not really knowing what to expect. From the second I arrived, I could tall these ladies really loved to ride, and really wanted to evolve the sport.  

I was pretty shy, so wasn’t too quick to start riding. Almost right away some of the girls came over, brought me up to the top, and led me in. The whole day was an amazing time. I’d never ridden with so many women before.  I’m don’t necessarily mind the fact that I usually only ride with guys, but, since riding with these amazing women, it’s really something I am grateful for.  

It’s not common to be able to share your passion with other girls. I believe this event is an amazing opportunity for all women, whether you are pro, just learning to ride, or have always wanted to try it. It’s a supportive, fun, and educational environment that will leave you with new skills, new friends, and memories to last a lifetime. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Women Involved Series: Cortney Knudson

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do off the bike!
My real job is a Cosmetologist. I have owned my own Salon for about 15 years. I trained with Vidal Sassoon in LA. Sassoon gave me a very solid technical background with all aspects of the hair world, cutting, coloring and styling. I work 4 days a week in my Salon and then Travel on site for wedding hair most weekends in the summer.

When I am not working and not riding my bike...where do I start! I will first and foremost do another sport I enjoy. Living in Tahoe we have every opportunity at our fingertips! You will find me skiing, climbing, and hiking if I'm not biking. I am also one of 4 all volunteer group that has built the Truckee Bike Park. 5 Phases total covering 10 acres of land. We started this project 38 months ago and are done with 3 phases. Fundraising, writing grants, coaching biking and picking up a shovel is what I do with the other hours of the day that I am not recreating or cutting and styling hair. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I started riding a bike at age 3. In my 20's I got really into cross country riding. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I had my 2nd ACL surgery when I was 36. My rehab was riding a road bike then I finally graduated to being able to ride cross country again. I found that I could ride strong for 40 miles, but had limitations with fear and I felt I was on a plateau with my riding. It was a great way to rehab my knee, face my demons and be with all my favorite girlfriends in Tahoe. I loved the social part as well as the comradery. The support and encouragement when you wanted to try something new, but you were scared, the girls would offer to spot, ride with you, and be by your side!

What specifically got you into mountain biking and why is it so important to you?
I think when I realized that I was limited by my fears, and lack of skills, I wanted to get better! I took a skills class with Chris Duncan and that was the spark. I realized how much I rode, but had no idea of the skills involved that could help you to become a better rider, have confidence and get rid of fear. This is when I started to branch out to other types of riding. I started downhilling and I loved it!  The bike was cushier and full of suspension and would roll over anything with my eyes closed! Your feet were so close to the ground and I was on flat pedals! No clipping out? Then there were jumps! I had no idea how to jump so I rolled everything and started slow. I was hooked! I bought a downhill bike and the new life on wheels started...I was hungry again to learn this new sport! I was taught and dragged around by the boys. I started BMXing and Dirt Jumping. I was now 41.

Are there any specific mountain bike styles that you enjoy? Why?
As long as it has 2 wheels...I love it all. I do love to be on a bike with my wheels in the air! Whether it's on a suspension bike, hardtail, or a dirt jumper. I love to jump because you have to be calculated and the more you do it the better you get. I love to learn and go to different places; there are different styles of jumps, different dirt. It always humbles you at first. I guess I love the challenge and the accomplishment when you clear a jump. When you land perfectly and then set up for the next jump! It's as if you won the race!!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? Did you have any nervousness? If so-how did you overcome?
I think my first mtn bike ride was just exhaustion. Like any sport when it's new-you are tense and use up a lot of energy. I overcame it by doing it over and over. Taking a skills class is really helped. I have to say I still get nervous when I go to a new DH park or new dirt jumps. It usually goes away once I familiarize myself with the area.

Tell us about LittleBig and why it got started?
Little Big is a ridestyle event for women. Hence the name little girls, big girls, little jumps, big jumps, little progression, big progression! It's one day of instruction and one day of competition. The atmosphere is a fun supportive environment for women to progress in. The coaches are all women pro riders with years of pumping and jumping experience from all over the world! I have been coaching other events in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Coaching at these events I have had the opportunity to work with other amazing women coaches who are certified level 2 ICP with IMBA also. We all decided we needed to have a event and skills class to help grow the women in sisterhood of shred in our Northern CA area . I also decided to do it as a fundraiser to balance out the numbers at the Truckee bike park and get more women comfortable on bikes. Get women on bikes, not watching!

What has been one of the most surprising things to happen since the Little Big was created?
Last year one of the little girls from the pumptrack jam said she wanted to ride with the big girls! So she did! Her name-Hahna she was 11. She wrote me a thank you note after the event was over. I was so caught up in organizing event stuff on Sunday I was unaware of what happened until she wrote her note a week after the event. When I read it I realized that it really was the "LITTLE BIG!" This year she is signing up for the skills class and I am so excited to have little girls taking the skills class with the big girls!!! I wish I had that opportunity when I was 11.  

What is your most enjoyable part of Little Big?
I think my favorite part is being on the developmental side of the park and now we get to share and ride it with amazing women from all over the world! If you build it they will come?

You have several coaches that come from all over to help with Little Big-what is it like to work with such a diverse group of women?
I have to say in this group of amazing women pro riders I was the missing link. Everyone has been riding and competing in DH, dirt jumping and Cross country over the last 20 years. They all knew each other from racing and competing. I was a late bloomer I guess you could say. I met everyone when I started coaching for Kat Sweet in Seattle. They were all asking who the outcast was??? I think it took a total of about 10 minutes to be welcomed with open arms from the group. It was as if I knew them my whole life! We all have so much fun together and having the common interest of the wheels being off the ground....what more can you say? We all look forward to the next event and all of us getting together riding and pushing each other. 

What influenced you to become a mountain bike coach?
Other women riders. I was a late bloomer to the sport, but for some reason I took it up quickly. Other female riders at Northstar would see me ripping around trying to keep up with the boys. They would ask to ride with me and I would! I would give them tips and see how excited they would get when they conquered a new part of a trail. Then I was asked from Luna to asst. in a DH clinic with Marla Streb at Northstar. That same summer I then ran into Kat Sweet and Tammy Donahugh in Whistler. Kat told me if I got certified to teach she would use me as a coach! Kat and I then taught a clinic for Lindsay Currier at Northstar for Shine riders. That winter, Shaums March came to Northern CA and certified Lindsay and I!

What would you say is a common difficulty with coaching?
 Wishing you had the students for more than one day. I would love to do a 3 day clinic.

What has been your most influential moment in coaching?
It's always when the students get their wheels off the ground and they survived!!! Their excitement and smiles from their own accomplishments are pretty priceless. 

Why do you feel many women do not enter the mountain bike scene? What do you feel could change this?
I have heard many women have bad experiences their first few times. They usually are on the wrong equipment; bike is too small or big. Suspension isn't set up right. Usually they are being dragged around so they feel like they are in the back and they can't keep up so they get discouraged.
I think support and encouragement is the answer. Skills classes and being around women in the group that are at similar riding levels so no one feels out of their element. Good coaches are so important too. Coaches that can break it down, explain and demonstrate. Keep women in their skill level not pushing too hard and keeping it fun and a positive learning environment.

Why is it important that women become a presence in the off-road world?
Because it is fun! The confidence they get off road will apply in all levels of their personal life; self esteem and feeling good about themselves. Sense of accomplishment.

What would you like to see happen with women and mountain biking in the next 5 years?
See young women competing! More women on bikes all over in every discipline.

What would you like to see happen with Little Big in the next 5 years?
I would love to see it grow in numbers. More demo tents on site. Opportunities for up and coming athletes to progress in a fun and safe environment. See mentoring going on with girls and women digging, riding and teaching.

What advice would you like to give for anyone who is contemplating on trying out mountain biking for the first time?
Get the right equipment first and foremost-a bike that fits. Suspension that is properly set up. Taking a basic skills class. 

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Oh yes. Many. When I was learning to jump......8 crashes in one day! I had really no instruction but was going for it! If I were to do it all again-taking classes is the best safest way to progress. When you get back on the bike after an injury my advice is stay within your own boundaries,  physically as well as mentally. Don't compete with anyone else but yourself. Go slow and end with positive, always. Go to the smaller jumps, ride slower, and roll things to familiarize yourself with your bike and the terrain. Do a lot of the same laps over and over and have fun! Then you are ready to step it up slowly again to the next level. Set small goals and be good with that. Set realistic goals. Less is more. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
You make it whatever you want every day. You can ride for distance or height! 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Road bike-bike rehab for ACL-distance and fast!!! Cross Country-IBIS carbon- amazing! I don't ride this bike anymore like I used to ride cross country! It's like a mini downhill bike that climbs! S-works Specialized carbon light DH bike-beautiful well balanced bike. Love it in tech and jumping. Corsair slopestyle jumping 4"bike for slopestyle jumping. Deity Dirt Jumper. Steel frame...jumpie jumpie. Beach cruiser for trips to the market and the beach!! I chose them mostly from demoing and then reading. Setting up and switching parts to fit. 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love Race Face, Dakine, Sombrio for women's fits. My favorite t's for dirt jumping are Dude Girl they also make great road riding clothes. I am tall so sometimes I have a difficult time finding clothes that are not half shirts or daisy dukes! HA My favorite shoe??? 5tens...hands down!

Tell us something random about you that others may or may not know!
My dog is sponsored! Her name is Boon and she works at Squaw Valley as a certified CARTA search and rescue dog www.squawdogs.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dealing With Personal Expectations

Riding the hairpin on a drier day.
Photo Credit: Raina Hatfield
On 8/23/14 I had to lessen my expectations of myself and what I wanted to accomplish for my ride. This shouldn’t be looked at in a negative light but as a realization that sometimes I am not able to fully grasp the concept of how to accomplish a technical section solo.

The goal was to get out and ride the trails while they were greasy to build up my handling skills.
(Note greasy does not mean rut-causing wet.)
The trails in most sections are so hard-packed and smooth that if it’s a fast rain, it’ll just roll right off. This doesn’t take away the added difficulty of riding on parts with wet leaves, wet roots, or wet rocks.

I opted to ride my Krampus today, to have the added benefit of some bigger tires which I felt would boost my confidence. I had to battle some hesitation with the cement-rock on IPT.
The one time I rode over it when it was dark from rain I biffed it. I came away unscathed, but I bent my shifter.

I figured every time I ride over the rock after it’s been rained on should increase my confidence, it’ll just take some time.

On North 40, I managed to make up past the large root but spun out midway up the hill that I’ve ridden up once so far. I walked my bike to the top so I could continue on and make forward progress.

Not only am I working on building my confidence with riding greasy trails, I’m also working on using my body to keep my bike moving. Areas that you normally stand, now you're halfway squatting to keep weight towards the back of your bike so the rear tire can have traction. This is not something I have been able to succeed with instantly and it requires me to session the spot.

The example of this is the hairpin turn of North 40.
I worked this spot for probably a half-hour or longer. Over and over and over again, trying my best to understand what was working and what wasn’t working. I was sessioning this spot on a hot and humid morning, resulting in myself becoming completely drenched in sweat. Periodically a droplet would hang from a section of bangs that poked down out of my helmet. My gloves were, simply put, gross.

I kept at it, trying my best to keep my body positioned just right but either aiming too close to the tree or too far over and hitting the root. Off my bike, walk my bike, on my bike, and try try again. Smacked my crotch on my top tube, making me wish I had my Cali instead.

I had looked at my cell phone for the time and had to make a decision. I could session this spot until I made it, but who is to say I would actually make it today? The earth was wet, the rocks/roots were slick, and I kept having “close calls” but not a follow through. When I did, my back tire would spin out on the root and stop me in my tracks.

I finally told myself “Okay. At the very least work this spot until you get BOTH tires over the root. If you spin out on the climb, so what? Just get past the damn root!

A few more attempts later I was past the root with both tires, and climbing up the hill. That is, until I heard the sound of my tire against loose dirt/rock and couldn’t go any further. I spun out partway up the climb and I had a part of me that wanted to say a big “FU” and try the climb again…the whole thing.
I didn’t. I walked my bike to where I could get started again, rode over the log, and kept going. It might rain again today, might rain tomorrow, and for several days after. I was going to ride more than just parts of the North 40 hairpin and make the most of my ride. I had to.

I had a degree of seriousness over me as I rode, I was feeling a fed up with learning. Sometimes I really do feel I would do better with having someone along with me, to help motivate me and/or give words of encouragement when it’s just not happening. I realized that I was being given a lesson in coaching myself. I tend to be a perfectionist sometimes and with mountain biking, I have to let go of that thought and just roll with it. Literally.
Down at the base of Rocky Road
I looked at myself and was reminded of how far I’ve progressed in several months learning on my own. I’ve never had a lot of confidence in my ability to learn a skill by myself, but I am obviously able to. I feel I’m learning the hard way, but sometimes that helps certain skills stick better (instead of being taught hands-on.)

Not every ride gives me a feeling of confidence bursting from every pore, and sometimes I really dislike the lessons I learn. Especially when it means I need to give myself a break and just be happy I worked as hard as I did to accomplish partial success.
Either way, it’s all good.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Vanessa Hauswald

I randomly contacted Vanessa after reading an article about her that had been posted on Facebook, I believe, during the Sea Otter Classic. I remembered that I had seen a video of her not long ago that you can find here.

Here was a woman who had recently landed her dream job as Executive Director of the NorCal High School Cycling League, and she found out she had stage 4 colon cancer.

To read about how the power of riding a bicycle can influence and support someone through such a traumatic time in their life is truly inspiring and humbling. This is a woman who was not going to let anything stop her!

Hearing Vanessa talk about how mountain biking is a mental and emotional experience is something I can attest to every time I'm out there. Some days are truly breathtaking and amazing, other days I find myself wondering why I'm out there on the trails when I'm not "The Greatest
The love of the ride and the experience are what keep me going out there and doing my best. Bad riding days or not.

I think Vanessa is a great role model for so many people, not only for overcoming her battle with cancer, but encouraging the new generation of mountain bikers to get out there and ride! Thank you, Vanessa, for allowing me to interview you for my blog-keep continuing to inspire!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I've been riding bikes since I was a kid. My father was really into cycling so we did lots of road touring in California and in Britain. I got into mountain biking when I moved to Durango, Colorado in 1994 for college. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Riding fast through the trees on swoopy singletrack is one of the most exhilarating feelings ever: this is what motivates me.  

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
Yes, I've done tons of mountain bike racing. I'm not a particularly competitive person, so for me racing is about seeing how hard I can push myself. It's also a social thing. My husband and I like to travel to races, and enjoy all the fun, adventure and time with our friends that comes with doing that. 

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
My favorite competitive event is the Bike Monkey-8 Hours of Boggs event. It's an awesome weekend of camping, riding and racing. My husband and I have done it as a duo for the past few years, and we always have a blast. 

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.).
Mountain biking, for sure. 

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.).
To be honest, I thought it kinda sucked. I was used to road biking and my first mountain bike ride was super hard because of the obvious things: rocks, ruts, steep climbs and technical descents. That said, when I was finished with my first ride, I knew I wanted to get better at it, and continue to ride mountains, as I could tell it would be super fun if I actually had skills :) 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Get back on the bike the next day and the next, and the next. I knew it would just take practice and experience to get over nerves. 

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 use clipless pedals. My advice for folks who are nervous about using them is just to set your cleats and pedals loose and practice getting in and out on a soccer field. Remind yourself that clipless pedals are way more efficient and that you'll get way more out of your pedal stroke than just riding flats.  

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I commute to work every day on my bike; it's a great way to start and end your work day. I ride in heels and dresses all the time...you don't have to have "commuter gear" to get to and from work. The only challenge I've faced is sometimes I have a ton of stuff to take to and from work and I can't fit it in a backpack. To solve this issue, I got a bike trailer and it works pretty well. 

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 commute all the time, but my commute is less than 5 miles. I put a good set of fenders on the front and back of my bike [which is essential], throw on a jacket, and bring a dry set of clothes in my backpack. It's fun to ride in the rain! 

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Of course! Every mountain biker has bike biffs. I have them fairly often, actually. You just have to realize that this is part of the adventure of being a mountain biker. How many other women do you know who can rip their bikes through the mountains? How many other people in the world are having lots of adventure in their lives? Not too many, I bet. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
The feeling of empowerment that I get from it. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have 2 handmade steel Soulcraft bikes that I have had for over ten years. The Soulcraft road bike was a hand-me-down from my husband, and the mountain bike was a gift from the teenagers who were on the high school mountain bike team that I started. They gave it to me when I was going through cancer treatment and it was something I could look forward to riding once I was done with chemotherapy.
I also have a full suspension, Juliana, Joplin, mountain bike; it's my favorite bike. It fits me perfectly, rides like none other and performs really well in all types of terrain. Oh, I also have a commuter bike, a couple of cruisers, and a tandem. 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love the "My Alibi" bloomers. They are boy shorts that have a chamois in them and you can wear them for commuting, or under your baggies for mountain biking. I love my Kitsbow mountain bike shorts...they fit beautifully and are super tough.
The Giro New Road line is also one of my favorites. I have one of the wool jerseys and it is super cute, performs well in any type of weather and is made well. Giro helmets, gloves and shoes are my go to...I never wear any other brand. Lastly, I love my Kaenon sunglasses.

How did you become an ambassador for Juliana Bicycles?
Juli Furtado met my husband and they had a great conversation about the work that I am doing to expand high school cycling in California. She called me and we met up and talked about the future of youth cycling, and what I was doing to make the NorCal High School Cycling League a success. After getting to know one another, she asked me to be an ambassador for Juliana because she wanted the brand to be represented by women who both ride, and do good things for their communities.

What is the main message you'd like to share to others about yourself? As the Executive Director of the NorCal League I would like people to know how rewarding and fun it is to coach teenagers on their mountain bikes; I'd like them to know that not only does it change kids' lives, it can bring some real fun and satisfaction to one's life. As a cancer survivor, I'd like people to remember the importance of not taking anything for granted. I'd like people to think outside of themselves about what they can do for others.

What keeps you going and inspires you?
SO many things!!! I'm inspired by something new everyday so this is a question that I have lots of answers to. Here's a short list of the things that are currently inspiring me: gardening in the late evening sunshine, getting ready to take 40 teenagers to summer mountain bike camp, being the creative director for Rivertown Revival, yard sales, riding summer singletrack with friends, my new green smoothie recipe, my nieces and nephews, my girlfriends' determination, my husband's endless love, red and turquoise acrylic paint, new ideas for work, paddleboarding in the river, moving meditation, sun tea, and much much more.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Breaking Down Barriers: Mechanical

I have posted a couple “asks” on Wheelwomen Switchboard based on the topic of men and women and how we are different (and similar.) When it comes to mechanical skills or bike riding, all of us learn differently and also have the standard “You’re such a” thrown at us periodically. It’s mentioned often that men and women seem to “learn differently.” This may be said by both men and women, so I wanted to delve deeper into this topic.

The first subject will be about mechanical work. Mechanically I am insecure (completely new skill) and I need repetition for I learn best with a lot of repetition. Directions of screws and such make my brain hurt, particularly when on opposing sides. I feel really slow at “getting it.”

Below are responses from several women, their thoughts/input and how they have dealt with this “divider."

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

Kelley W. "Here in Wash DC we are very fortunate to have shops with women mechanics, shops with women owners, and most important, an amazing woman-only biking community through FB where women can just vent, ask questions, whatever. I’m also involved with the Maker movement, and through both of these outlets I’ve gotten to know women who are really good at the mechanical stuff. I find it is definitely easier and less intimidating to ask them a question than a man. I don’t think men intend to be controlling, it’s often their wiring!

We have a Facebook Group: WABA Women & Bicycles. We have women from all over joining – just to have a SAFE place to talk. We didn’t know how many were out there until we started talking, so you might have women around you that you don’t even know are cyclists, or even want to be but don’t know how to get started."

Rachael R. "For mechanical stuff, I find I learn best by doing research myself (alone) on the computer and check out videos and how to articles. Hubby is a mechanic and is happy to explain things, but I get frustrated quickly so it’s best if I take ego out of it and do it myself. Then I’m proud to show him how I learned something new and did it without him. (sort of sad when I write it out… but true!)

My lack of tech-savvy was certainly my fault for many years - I relied on my husband to do all my maintenance and repairs. Looking back, I was just being lazy. Now I work in the cycling industry and I’m trying to play catch up and learn the skills I should know as a rider w/ 5 bikes and 10 years under my belt. I feel especially as a woman in the industry that I need to be self sufficient and show that women can do these things!

When I first started cycling and didn’t know how to change a flat or change my pedals, etc. I was more hesitant to go out on my own – whether around town running errands or on a Sunday morning road ride. Learning how to be self sufficient on the bike really gives you a sense of freedom.
I think my biggest ‘ah ha’ moment was learning, and finally remembering how to change pedals. It was something that I struggled to remember for years, and each time would struggle to figure out the mechanical advantage. I would to go the park tool website each time to double check. When I finally remembered I felt really proud that I could remove & install pedals in 2 minutes flat, and without any struggling or frustration!"

Lisa E. "I learned by fixing the first bike I got, which was a super crappy craigslist thing. I picked it up from internet videos and generally just taking things apart. I don’t experience much of a male/female divide, mostly because 1) I’m an engineer, so I’m the one who ends up fixing my husband’s bike just because I have the mechanical aptitude and 2) I only bike for transportation, not really fun or racing, so I don’t run into a whole lot of “bike culture” type things."

Tracy H. "I share your frustration with all things mechanical. For a lot of women, I think it comes down to not having any exposure to tools and mechanical stuff as kids. Boys take shop class, hang out with their dads in the garage, etc. (I know I’m making a sweeping generalization here, not true for all women OR men) and have that familiarity from the start.

I get frustrated and flustered when taking mechanics classes. The guys kind of take over if it’s a mixed class; either way, it takes me a LONG time to get something. I have to do it over and over and I get nervous in a classroom/demo setting when everyone else has completed the task and I’m still staring at it and breaking out in a sweat because I can’t figure it out. Thus I prefer to work alone or in a one-on-one situation. And I have found myself in the “use it or lose it” situation several times, which is why I’ve taken several Bike Mechanics 101-type classes with no appreciable improvement in my skills. :)

I don’t know if it’s a male/female difference or just a “me” thing, but I am tentative with tools. I’m afraid to break things and also lack the curiosity/confidence to take something apart just to do it. Most guys I’ve met will tear into something with no care as to whether they can get it back together again. That’s the best way to learn but that makes me so uncomfortable! Plus, I hate getting partway through a project or repair and then find myself stuck for whatever reason and then have to sheepishly take it into the shop."

Kristin E. "As far as learning mechanical things, I’ve always learned from my dad and so that’s never been an issue for me. I don’t really care who I learn from so as long as I have a good teacher."

Jan B. "With mechanics, I’ve learned best by jumping right in, even if I don’t know what I’m doing, and asking for help in the middle of a project. Sadly, I’ve found that asking about projects at the start can lead to a “Why are you attempting that, that’s way too complicated” reaction from more experienced mechanics, whereas showing up and saying “I just laced this wheel, can you teach me how to true it” leads to an “Awesome you built a wheel, let me help” reaction. At the beginning stages of projects, internet resources (particularly youtube videos and Sheldon Brown’s website) were super helpful with getting me started.

Also, I second other commenter’s on practicing on old, cheap bikes. Most skills I’ve learned have come from working on my 35 year old yard sale Schwinn, or on donated bikes at a local bike repair nonprofit. It’s a lot less scary learning how to take apart a hub or a bottom bracket when it’s on a bike you can afford to replace if you really mess something up! I also have a newer cross bike, and while I would have been terrified to mess it up doing major repairs a few years ago, the work I’ve done on older bikes has given me the confidence to work on my nice bike."

Friday, September 19, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Nancy Harris

Would you like to tell a little about yourself, what you're involved in and what you do? 
By day I am a mild mannered Customer Support/Helpdesk/Security Analyst. By nature I am a “Care Giver” so I love helping people. 

I’ve always been the one that “reads the manual” and then tells other people how to operate their computer.

I love cooking, reading, playing with my dogs and of course Mountain Biking. I also love skiing and snowboarding but have not done much of either over the last few years because of my knee. I still have to have my other knee replaced, but for now I use a custom CTI brace so I can continue to ride.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I had my first 2 wheeled bicycle when I was 5 years old. Then I progressed to a 10 speed road bike for transportation through grade school and high school. Mountain bikes came along after I was married in the 1980s.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
The love of 2 wheels (both motorized and human powered). I have never tired of riding and have not stopped (except while rehabbing from injuries). We’ve seen many friends come and go and most of the people we used to ride with no longer ride.

Have you competed in events?  If so, what were your reasons for competing?
 Yes, XC, 4x, DS, Super D, Downhill and Enduro. I love to compete against myself and measure my progress. For me it’s not about beating someone else but competing against myself.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
Downhill is my 1st love with Enduro being a close 2nd. The yearly Sea Otter Classic is one of my favorite events because it’s the largest race we have in California.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
Mountain of course with Downhill being my 1st love!

What about Downhill do you find appealing? 
I like being on the track by myself when racing and going against the clock. For me it’s more about improving my skills and competing against myself. I love speed and the adrenaline I rush I get from riding/racing downhill and jumping.

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.)
Why haven’t I done this sooner? I am definitely an adrenaline junkie!

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I relied on the skills I learned when riding/racing motorcycles (Desert, Enduro, Trails and Moto-X). However it took a while to get used to the brakes being on the opposite sides from a motorcycle. I definitely went OTB numerous times until I got it sorted out.

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’ve used both clipless and flat pedals. I prefer flats. And at this point due to the limited ROM in my left knee after a total knee replacement, clipless is no longer an option. I have to be able to move my foot and put my foot down at a second’s notice. There are schools of thought on both. What I tell people is to try both and decide what works best for you.  There are definitely skills you need to learn using flat pedals. It is easy to cheat with clipless and you can learn some very bad habits!

When it comes to cheating with clipless-could you touch base a little on some of the habits one could pick up if they use that system vs. flats?  
Personally I prefer flats as I am not limited to one foot position and I can move my foot around. I do not like having to unclip in loose corners or when I ‘m losing my balance or when I have to stop.  I have used clipless and I do like them for long, hard climbs but I have learned how to climb using flats and my knees are happier. I remember doing a clinic with Leigh Donovan when I first started riding Downhill and she taught us how to bunny hop with flats. I think everyone needs to learn this on flats!

I have a great Coach, James Wilson who operates MTB Strength Straining Systems. Here’s an excerpt from one of his blog posts on the subject:

“What I am against is the use of clipless pedals before someone can ride at a proficient level with flats. I think that there is a process for learning how to pedal and maneuver your bike on the trail and that it begins with flats and, even if you do use clipless pedals, you should retain your ability to ride at a reasonable level with flats. Flats keep you honest and force you to learn good technique and clipless pedals should make you faster by enhancing that good technique, but this is not the case with most riders on clipless pedals.

Most riders have never spent any real time on flats, much less a good set of flats and flat specific shoes like 5-10s, and instead went into clipless pedals right away. My message to them is not that they should throw their clipless shoes and pedals away but that they will get more out of them and be better overall riders if they took a break from them and re-learned how to ride with flats. After learning how to ride without them you’ll find clipless pedals to make you even faster when you go back to them.”

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Several (shattered left wrist, Right pinky finger dislocated (open fracture), Right torn rotator cuff and bicep, sprained right ankle, Left and right torn meniscus, Left total knee replacement, left blown out rotator cuff and torn bicep. I’ve learned to eat healthy and how to exercise around your injuries, and how important it is to listen to your body. And I’ve learned how to make recovery and rehab your goal and to put all of your effort into it (like a full time job). I’ve also learned the hard way that you must listen to your Doctor and your Physical Therapist. It’s important to work with them and to team up to make the best of your rehab, limits can be pushed, but within reason. And most importantly that healing takes time and you can’t rush it. If you do, chances are it will be counterproductive. Trust me, I know from experience!

What do you love about riding your bike?
The freedom of being outside and enjoying the flow of the trails. Spending time with my husband and my friends, and enjoying a shared passion. It’s good for the heart, mind and soul. Recreation, exercise, stress relief and producer of much JOY!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
2014 Santa Cruz Carbon V10 – I am currently sponsored by Santa Cruz Bicycles and got this Downhill bike through my team Incycle Downhill Team sponsored by Incycle Bicycles. It’s a great bike and weighs in at 34.8lbs. Very light, maneuverable, fast and nimble and easy to jump!
2012 Intense Tracer 275 – I currently have the alloy version. I hope someday to purchase the Carbon version! This is my do everything trail bike and I have it set up with heavy tires and a seat dropper for Enduro racing. It’s a little heavy for everyday XC type rides but on the downhill it rips!
Giant TC1 Road bike – I use this mostly on the trainer now as my work schedule only leaves room for riding on weekends and for me, I love dirt way more than pavement. We actually bought road bikes back in 2002 so that we could train for the MS 150 ride in support of my younger sister, Paula who has MS.
1990 GT Zaskar HT – This was originally my husband’s bike and we kept it as it is a classic and we ride it every once in a while. Right now it’s on the trainer in the dining room and we use it for interval training.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?I’m currently sponsored by Troy Lee Designs so most of my jerseys, shorts, gloves and undergarments are made by them. I prefer the women’s jerseys (slender fit) and the men’s shorts (I have really long legs and no hips).

You and your husband ride together, yes? How do you enjoy being able to share something you love with your partner?
Best thing ever! I am very blessed to have a husband that has the same passion for mountain biking. I can’t imagine it any other way.

Did your husband introduce you to an aspect of bike riding you hadn't done prior to meeting him? Did you introduce him to anything new?
I introduced my husband to Downhill, DS and Enduro racing. He loves Downhill and leaves the rest of the different types of racing to me. We have been riding together since the beginning in the 1980’s (we’ve been married 33 years). 

I find with my partner, we sometimes butt heads-especially when he is instructing me (I suck at criticism!) Have you had any interesting situations? How did you both deal?
My husband is a very patient man and is really good at instructing women. He knows exactly what I can handle and when to push me. Once in a while I get stubborn and want to give up (temporarily) and I make him back off. He is very sensitive to this and has learned after 33 years when I’ve had enough.

What are your thoughts on why women do not feel capable of mountain biking?
I think we tend to compare ourselves to others and feel like we need to “measure up” instead of just enjoying the experience for what it is and how it makes us feel.

What do you feel would encourage more women to try it for themselves? 
By providing a safe, non-threatening environment, a decent bike and teaching some basic skills; I think something like a “come out and try this sport” day with demo bikes would be fun. 

Learning to bike from a man, woman, or both (for women wanting to learn how to mountain bike) What are some pros/cons to how genders work with one another? What worked for you? 
It’s not so much about gender as it’s about finding someone who is a good teacher. Some coaches are very talented but have a hard time instilling skills in the pupil. I’ve had both. You need to determine what the best learning style is for you and find someone who you click with. I’ve taken numerous clinics over the years and it’s important to find someone you trust and can relate to. Word of mouth is good but you need to do your homework and find the right course/instructor. And it may take some trial and error.

What would you like others to know about mountain biking, why should they try it?
I realize that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think some women are afraid of trying. It’s like snowboarding. I tell people you need to ride a minimum of 6 days before you decide if it’s the right sport for you. And then you’ll either love it or hate it.