Women on Bikes Series: Leigh Donovan

Several weeks ago I posted Leigh Donovan's Women Involved interview. She talked of her mountain bike skills clinic-which you can learn more about at  ichoosebikes.com

"I love teaching and educating women about riding, racing, and the industry and since we need to even the scale out a bit more and if you're a single woman you can't beat the chances you'll have at the bike races/events!"

Leigh can be found: TwitterInstagramLinkedIn, and on Facebook
Check out her website! ichoosebikes.com 
When did you first start riding a bike?
I can't be specific but I remember at 5 my dad found this awesome banana seat bike with streamers at a garage sale and I rode that thing for about 5 years everywhere.  

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I'm motivated when I find something challenging and with cycling I've always felt like I can learn something new and improve. I'm still a work in progress believe it or not, I'm hoping to someday (in the near future) do something I've never done on a bike...still haven't decided what that is just yet though. J

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
I began racing BMX bikes when I was 11 years old (1983). I loved racing the boys, I was always more competitive with the boys than the girls (because the girls were all my friends and the boys weren't as nice when you're young). At age 20 I was introduced to Mountain bike racing and by age 23 I was World Downhill Champion and 2 time US national champion. I competed because it was the only time I wasn't scared when I was going fast on my bike.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
During my glory years I loved racing the UCI World Cup events, but today I love the Crankworx event in Whistler, B.C. (Canada)...in my opinion it's the funnest and most social event of the year!!!

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
My favorite kind of riding is Downhill mountain biking when you're taken up the hill by chairlift and given beautiful trails to ride down. I prefer jumps, rock gardens, and technical corners but I also do love a great cross country ride in some of my favorite towns like Park City, Utah and Whistler, B.C. 

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 do remember my first mountain bike ride, it was on my local trails (I still ride today) and I struggled with the heat, the uphills, and trying to keep up with the riders I was with. However, the downhill was AMAZING and I blew right by those riders that smoked me up the hill and I thought to myself, if I can ride up this hill a little faster I might be pretty good at this (that was before I knew there was an official category just for downhill). I still managed to get pretty good at racing cross country too, but never quite as gifted at that as the downhill. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I have a ton of fear. I'm afraid of heights (which made riding the gondolas to the tops of the hill to race a bit scary for me), but I learned self hypnosis which really helped me overcome my weakness and actually look forward to the things that scared me most. Being nervous is good and I've learned to embrace it as a positive...sometimes it's the humble side of you that keeps you safe! 

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I love clipless pedals, but they take some time to get use to. I suggest for a new rider to the pedals that you ride on a grass field and practice putting your foot into the pedal and pulling out of the pedal (many times). I recently change pedals after riding the same manufacturer for 20 years and I started on a grassy area to get use to the new pedal. Clipless pedals might look intimidating but honestly if you ride on grass and practice the motion of putting your foot in and out you'll see how much they will improve your ride. 

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I've had so many "biff's" on my bike, but riding bikes is my therapy and I couldn't live without it. I tell riders who have had a rough crash to start back at the basics. Ride easy trails, bike paths, or anything that feels easy to you. Once you're back consistently then you can start moving forward toward the riding you were doing before. Never let a crash beat you...it may take you 3 years to get ride that section, but NEVER let it win! You shouldn't give up something you love and that empowers you just because you hurt yourself.  

What do you love about riding your bike?
I could probably write a book about what I love about riding my bike, but in one easy sentence...Riding my bikes completes me. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I ride for Liv Cycling (which is the female specific bike of Giant USA). The bikes are 27.5" wheel bikes (the new wheel size is the best I've ever ridden and suggest your readers when purchasing their next bike to highly consider this new wheel size). I ride an XC bike (the Lust) and an Enduro bike (the Intrigue). The Lust is more of a race bike (very light with not a lot of suspension), while the Intrigue is for riding up hills and downhills faster, it has lots of suspension to soak up the bumps and is just a lot of fun to ride. I feel honored to work with a brand that supports women specific at all levels and in my opinion they make beautiful bikes!

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I work with Troy Lee Designs and was their first rider back in 1998 to compete in their race gear. I think their gear fits well, is well made and is well priced, but I also am impressed with brands like Voler (great chamois's), GORE-tex (expensive but great fit and well made), and the Liv clothing is beautiful and fits awesome! I would recommend these 4 brands if you're in the market for a quality product.