Friday, October 31, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Tracy Halasinski

Tracy Halasinski was a founding member of BikeDenver, Denver's bike advocacy organization. She also served as Chair of the Denver Mayor's Bike Advisory Committee from 2005-2009.  

Now retired from advocacy, she spends her off-bike time in the kitchen or hanging out with her black lab, Fletcher.

When did you first start riding a bike?  
I don’t know exactly, but like most kids, I started with a tricycle and worked my way up from there. I started on a 2-wheeler around age 4-5. So, definitely 40+ years of riding!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years? 
Because I love it. That feeling of exhilaration and freedom as I take those first few pedal strokes is the same as it was when I was a kid.

And I’ve found that riding a bike is very important for my mental well-being. I’ve sorted out many of life’s dilemmas, both big and small, from the seat of my bicycle.

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
No, I’m not much for competition or racing. I’ve done a few organized events but they weren’t competitive.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.) 
Most of my riding is of the transportational/commuter variety, so I’d say that’s my favorite because if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t continue to do it. I seem to need a goal or purpose for my rides.

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 don’t specifically remember my first commuter ride but it was probably a mixture of anticipation and nervousness.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Most of my nervousness has been centered around making sure I get to work on time for commuter rides, making sure I have a secure place to keep my bike and I have adequate provisions. Food and clean undies are very important and when you forget either you will be sorry. Preparation is your best tool, but just plowing ahead and hoping for the best is about all you can do.

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 to use clipless pedals but have moved away from them in recent years. I didn’t dislike them and short of the first few times I used them, I didn’t have trouble using them. I just got tired of being limited on shoe choice for my rides. I also have multiple bikes and it gets pricey making sure that every bike is equipped with compatible pedals, etc. I haven’t looked back and don’t miss them.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s almost second nature. But just by trial and error, you figure out what works for you in terms of carrying gear and dressing for the weather. There will be rides that you either freeze, roast, or get wet but you adjust. You’ll pick up clothing, bags, and the other things you need along the way. Some of it will work for you and some of it won’t but you can always sell what you don’t use! I do make it a point to make sure my bike bag is packed the night before to save time and stress in the morning.

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 guess that depends on what you mean by ideal! But I do try to commute as much as I can. If it’s below zero or really snowy/icy, I will pass on the bike commute. I have studded snow tires that are really amazing, but honestly, there aren’t that many days where I live that they are warranted. I have rain gear and cold weather gear that keeps me comfy for rides of several miles.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level? 
Knock on wood, no bike biffs to report.

What do you love about riding your bike? 
I really love everything about it. I like being outside, getting somewhere under my own power, the feeling of freedom and exhilaration, seeing the seasons change, and seeing the sights at a human-scaled pace. I just saw a video featuring Jude Kiersten of Sugar Wheelworks where she said that bicycles are just a nice way of being in the world. That really resonated for me.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have several, so here goes:

Surly Steamroller – My first fixed gear and my great bike love. I got it in 2001 and will never get rid of it.  I was hooked on fixed-gear riding from the first ride and had this bike built up by a local shop and have never looked back.
Jonny fixed gear – several years back, I decided to buy a custom bike. Jonny Bikes was based in Madison, WI, and I met the builder personally at an event and really liked his bikes. He’s no longer building bikes and my bike was one of the last ones he built. It’s lugged steel, has top of the line components, and is a joy to ride.
Rivendell Rambouillet – I wanted one of these as soon as they were rolled out. I picked this one up for a song on Ebay about 10 years ago and it rides like no other bike I’ve ridden. It’s so pretty that I don’t ride it enough for fear that it will be stolen, scratched, or otherwise. I intend to remedy that situation, as bikes are meant to be ridden!
Surly Cross Check – This is the bike I always wanted! I ended up winning the frame in a raffle (!) and initially had it built up as a fixed gear.  Inexplicably, I hated it and converted it to a geared bike. That made all the difference and the bike has been everything I’ve wanted it to be. It’s my workhorse and is also a joy to ride.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?  That’s a tough one! I don’t buy much bike-specific clothing and mostly focus on stuff that can be worn on or off bike. What I wear the most are MUSA shorts from Rivendell. They dry easily, are of modest length, resist stains, fit well, and are made in the USA!  Other than that, I’m all about the bags. Messenger bags, saddlebags, panniers, backpacks, I covet them all. I won’t run down my bag inventory, but they all have their places in my cargo-carrying rotation. And get some good lights. Oh, and I love my Abus Bordo lock.

What do you feel would encourage more women to start riding?
A supportive environment with other women at similar riding levels. But, honestly, I think it’s mostly a matter of just getting out there. Even if it’s just for a ride around the block and building from there. If you can find a like-minded group of women to ride with, that’s also a great way to get going.

What advice do you have for someone who is new to cycling (any form.) 
As I said above, get out there!  You don’t need a new bike or special clothing. Just go. If you can find a bike commuter class where you live, take it. It will help you get more comfortable riding on the road and interacting with vehicular traffic. But most of all, have fun.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Women Involved Series: Veda Gerasimek (Pt. 2)

Veda Gerasimek, most commonly known by her nickname Darth Veda, is a 15 year-old competitive mountain biker currently racing for the Whole Athlete / Specialized Team. 

She is passionate about combining her love of the sport with writing to share her perspective and inspire others. 

Follow her "off-road" to success by visiting her 
You can find Veda on Twitter as well!

How did you get involved with Specialized and their riding team?
            I have been riding a Specialized since the very beginning. I still remember my little 24 inch grip-shift mountain bike! It only made sense for me to join a team with the same brand that has been with me (and never let me down) all these years.

What has it been like being involved with such a well-known name/brand in cycling?
            I feel incredibly privileged to have a spot on the Whole Athlete / Specialized Team. We have accomplished what no other US development program has: 60 wins a year, on average for the past five years, twelve US Junior National Championship titles, 15 riders named to the World Championships, fourteen top-10 finishes in World Cup races, and the first US Junior Woman ever to win a World Cup. It’s been such a positive experience. I look up to so many of my teammates because a lot of them have already accomplished what I am aspiring to do. The team has superior leadership and I completely trust that they will guide me through every step of the process to accomplish my goals. I learn something new whenever I’m with the team because we spend so much time together during the race season.

What do you love about riding your bike?
            I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with maneuvering through technical sections. But mountain biking isn’t always about riding through rock gardens. Sometimes it just feels good to be submersed in nature and take in the fresh smells and scenery.

 Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
            I have a Specialized S-Works Carbon Fiber 29er Hard Tail and it’s so reliable. I especially like all the SRAM components like the 1 x 11 drivetrain. It’s almost impossible to drop your chain with only one chain ring in the front! The eleven rings in the back provides a great range of gears and you have the ability to change the front ring as needed. I have never had a mechanical on this bike… I love it!

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
            If you aren’t wearing a DNA Cycling kit, you are totally missing out. They are made in Italy with quality, comfort, and style in mind. I have worn practically every brand and nothing even comes close. Their bibs are heavenly (no more “sausage legs!”) I also can’t live without my Oakleys. I have a small, narrow face and they are the only glasses that actually fit comfortably and look pro. Their casual eyewear is also super stylish! I love my Frogskins.

Why is it important for you to be a role model and source of inspiration for young women? What made you want to be that for the future women riders?
            I will never forget why I started mountain biking and I want to ignite that same spark in other kids. All it takes is a simple pre-race pep talk or post-race congratulations to make someone excited about what they’re doing. As a kid, I always looked up to women that were personable and approachable, not always the ones that won or got on the podium. My results are very important to me, but carrying on the legacy of the people who inspired me is just as important and necessary to develop the next generation of female racers / riders.

What are you hoping to accomplish riding-wise in the next 5 years?
            In the next 5 years, I would definitely like to gain some international racing under my belt. My utmost goal is to represent USA Cycling at World Cups if I am granted the opportunity to do so. I get goose bumps when I think of myself wearing “USA” in faraway places. It’s an unbelievable, yet realistic goal that I want to reach.

What are you hoping to accomplish advocacy wise in the next 5 years?
            I strongly believe that exposing up and coming juniors to the world circuit will better prepare them to tackle the real World Cups in the future. That being said, I am very disappointed that the Junior World Cups no longer exist. Racing at a Junior World Cup was a main goal of mine. I’m not sure what the transition from racing nationally to overseas will be without these races. I feel the Junior World Cups are integral in developing young talent to be competitive at the world level. I’m hoping that I, along with many others, can advocate this concern and bring back the opportunities that juniors once had.

            I’m also pushing for appropriate age categories for the girls’ short track event at nationals. Short track wasn’t even offered to junior girls until this year and the age categories were not reasonable. The boys have had conventional categories all along. The girls; however, were mushed into one big category (11-16.) The youngest in this category were robbed of any chance of finishing on the lead lap and the oldest felt embarrassed to be racing kids nearly half their age. It doesn’t matter if the fields are small; all that matters is that the girls are given the opportunity to have appropriate competition.

What do you feel deters women (of any age) from riding in the off-road scene? What do you feel could be done to encourage more women riders?
            I think a lot of women believe mountain biking is a hardcore activity that only reckless guys have the guts to do. Very few realize that it has evolved into an activity that all different kinds of people can join. Nowadays, there are more trails that cater to every ability, making the learning curve a lot less risky. To encourage more women to ride, they need to be given the opportunity to ride with people that can guide them and teach them the most basic skills. That way, they won’t feel pressured to ride beyond their capabilities. I would recommend attending a women-only clinic or two. I’ve been to a couple and they all had fun, non-competitive atmospheres.

What advice or encouragement would you give to someone who is curious to try out the mountain bike scene?
            If someone was thinking about trying mountain biking, I would suggest that they make sure they have the proper gear. As nice as it would be to just hop on a bike that was sitting in their garage for years, it will most likely result in a negative intro to mountain biking. If they have no knowledge about bikes, I would go to a bike shop and talk to an employee about which bike to get (as well as getting properly fitted.) Not having the right equipment steers so many “newbies” in the wrong direction. Once they’re set-up, shred some dirt but be patient about learning skills. Just try to enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bike.

What is one random thing about you that people may or may not know?
            I can ride one wheel! I have a couple unicycles that I love to ride around at venues. I can do a few tricks too!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Women Involved Series: Veda Gerasimek (Pt.1)

Veda Gerasimek, most commonly known by her nickname Darth Veda, is a 15 year-old competitive mountain biker currently racing for the Whole Athlete / Specialized Team. 

She is passionate about combining her love of the sport with writing to share her perspective and inspire others. 

Follow her "off-road" to success by visiting her 
You can find Veda on Twitter as well!

When did you first start riding and what inspired you to start mountain biking?
            I started out competing in kids’ triathlons when I was 7. It wasn’t long before I confessed to my parents, “I don’t even like the running and the swimming. Can I do a race with just the bike part?!” Being the ambitious person that I am, I made it clear that I did NOT want to do a kiddie race. My parents were faced the challenge of finding a race director that would allow a 7 year-old to complete in an adult distance race. We finally found a local road race that I could participate in if my parents rode with me. I completed the whole 20 miles, marking my very first bike race! I was a roadie for about 3 years until I did my first mountain bike race when I was 10. 
My dad always rode mountain bikes with his friends recreationally, so he introduced it to me when he felt I was ready to tackle technical riding. I raced road, mountain, and cyclocross for another 3 years until I declared that I only wanted to race mountain bikes at the age of 13.

Why do you love competing in events and what would be your favorite competitive event?
            I’m the type of person who wants to be the best at everything I do. It just so happens that I’ve decided to put all of my effort into one goal: Going as far as I can with mountain biking. I love how every course brings a new challenge; for each one is different and requires a unique approach and plan to succeed. My favorite event would have to be the Windham World Cup in New York. The course is well-rounded; a great mix of climbing, technical sections, and fast downhill segments.

You encountered some struggles as a young competitor, how did that make you feel and how did you overcome?
            In life, there will always be obstacles. The ones in our past build character, the ones in the present test our strength, and, as an athlete, you have to expect some in the future. In the past, I experienced bullying from adults because I was becoming a contender in their territory. It was discouraging and I considered quitting racing all together. I ended up surrounding myself with a more welcoming crowd, reigniting the new found passion that I discovered after experiencing what it was like to be at the front of a race. I am so grateful for the people that welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to continue improving myself in a positive and encouraging atmosphere. Immersing yourself in the right crowd is key to being a happy bike racer.

            A common obstacle that you have to be prepared for is injury. I had one pop up only a few weeks before Nationals. It was not an ideal time to be sidelined for two whole weeks. Oddly enough, I was the most positive I’ve ever been at my lowest point. I just kept thinking of the months that I spent to prepare for the most important race of the year. I wouldn’t let the thought of not competing enter my mind. Even when I was told to face reality when things didn’t improve, I kept repeating, “I’m racing at Nationals.” Long story short, I was healed just in time to race and I am convinced that my persistent positivity played a factor. I knew I wasn’t at my best like I planned to be, but I decided to go in with an “all or nothing” mentality. I could race, and that’s all that mattered.

Do you have suggestions for other young women who may want to compete? 
            If you need a bigger challenge, don’t be afraid to race against men or boys. Honestly, no one will judge you and the competition will probably push you to perform way better than you thought you would. And if you go too hard and fail, you shouldn’t be embarrassed. Most people applaud the courage it takes to push your own limits, whether you finished first or last. You have to test your limits before you know your boundaries. You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you’re too afraid of making mistakes.

Tell us about your goal to become a professional rider. What are you doing now to set things up to achieve that? Why is it important to you?
            Every year when I see photos of Team USA at the World Cups, I know that I want to be there. I just picture myself receiving one of those coveted kits and thinking, “I did it.” To achieve this lofty goal, I have to do more than just train and become physically capable. I need to show appreciation for the people that stand behind me; the people that I genuinely need to help me reach my goals. They would be, first and foremost, my parents. The older I get, the more I realize the weight of the sacrifices that they make just for me. I also have to promote my team and its sponsors to prove that I couldn’t be racing at this level without them. It takes an army for an individual to move up the ranks, so it is necessary that I acknowledge that I’m not doing this alone. 

You mentioned two women in your article for Mountain Bike For Her- Emily Batty and Georgia Gould. Why have they been such an inspiration for you? Why do you feel it's important for the next generation of riders to find inspirational women to look up to?
            Emily Batty was the first professional I ever met and one of the most memorable. I was excited to see someone so young do something so adventurous AND be one of the best. Not only that, but she treated me like a friend, not a fan. She makes everyone feel special and that is why so many people gravitate towards her. Ever since then, I knew I wanted to be just like Emily. Then I met Georgia Gould a few months later. She was so approachable and, not to mention, hilarious. Even when she’s not at the top of her game, people absolutely adore her. Her charisma and friendliness gains her popularity everywhere she goes. Georgia taught me that I can be serious about my results, but have fun with my career to balance out the pressure. I try to embody the characteristics that made Emily and Georgia my idols. Looking back, I realize how big of an impact they had on my life. That motivates me to do the same for other young girls. I’ve been racing for many years around the US and I know there are not too many professional females that go out of their way to connect with the next generation of racers. That’s why I feel a responsibility to do so. I wouldn’t be involved in mountain biking if I wasn’t inspired six years ago. It’s incredibly rewarding and humbling when parents tell me how much their kids look up to me. I love interacting with young racers because they remind me of myself when I was their age.
Besides mountain, are there any other styles of cycling you enjoy?
            I am a huge fan of cyclocross; however, I don’t compete in that discipline as much as I used to. It interrupts my training leading into the mountain bike season.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
            I was very young, so I can’t recall many details! My first mountain bike ride was most likely on the homemade, four-mile trail on our property. I have fond memories of building “stunts” with my parents. We would build little teeter-totters, ramps, and rollers. They never told me I couldn’t ride anything; they just guided me through trial and error. As I got older, participating in cookie cutter school sports just didn’t appeal to me, so I continued to ride and race. I liked being the only girl my age doing something out of the ordinary.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
            They key to controlling my nerves is confidence. I’ve found that the only way to have this confidence is to stick to a structured training plan and focus on executing one workout at a time. I was unusually calm and collected on the morning of Nationals because I did everything I was supposed to do leading up to that race. I didn’t doubt my capabilities. I knew that I would do the best that I possibility could because I put in the time and didn’t slack off.

Why do you feel it's good that you started mountain biking early in life vs. starting when you were older?
            After hearing things like, “I’m too old for that” or “I have to go to work tomorrow,” I can conclude that it’s beneficial to begin riding at an early age! I was able to develop crucial technical skills without even thinking twice. Kids see everything as a fun challenge, not a risky death trap that could result in unemployment! It takes most adults longer to develop confidence and get to the point where their bike doesn’t feel like a foreign object.

As a 15 year old who is adept at the sport, why do you feel more women, regardless of age, should try mountain biking?
            Mountain biking is such a diverse culture and I’m always amazed at how many different kinds of people are involved. I’ve met women of ALL ages and ALL levels who share the same passion for riding. I think more females should give it try because it makes you feel capable and strong, whether you are an expert or beginner rider. Mountain biking provides so many opportunities to accomplish goals because there is always something bigger and better to aspire to. The constant progression and improvement is a positive experience for girls. The key is to start on less technical trails and not take it too seriously at first. Mountain biking is hard but it’s extremely rewarding as you master new skills.

Did mountain biking come naturally to you or did you have some learning curves? What was the trickiest skill for you to learn?
            I have to admit that I had natural finesse, but I brought many challenges upon myself to become a better rider. One of the trickiest skills was learning how to do a track stand. It takes a lot of practice, but once it clicks, you won’t have to put your foot down at stop signs!
Here are my tips:
1.) Practice on a slight downslope if you’re just learning
1.) Always keep your pedals level
2.) Turn your front tire towards your front foot
3.) Keep your weight over the cranks
4.) Tap your brake to allow a little bit of movement if you aren’t solid yet

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 have been using clipless pedals since I was 7 or 8. Since it allows you to put some power into the upstroke of the pedal revolution, I would tell beginners to focus on this. It’s easy to forget that you can pull up, not just push down like regular pedals. Being able to do this utilizes different muscles in the legs and produces a more effective pedal revolution. I would suggest focusing on creating a smooth rotation; like you are stepping over a beach ball and then scrapping mud off the bottom of your shoe. Thinking about this makes the new experience less nerve-wracking. Oh, and expect a few bruises because you will fall a few times! I recommend practicing on the grass.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
            I have had many, many wipeouts; some of which were hilarious and others not so much. I had two of my worst crashes in one race earlier this year. My foot clipped a rock and I landed at the bottom of a steep grade. My bike smacked the back of my legs so hard that they seized up, forcing me to sit on the trail for a good minute. I knew that getting back on my bike was the best thing I could do to loosen up my legs from the impact. I crashed again during that same race and most of the impact went to the side of my face. I was bloody all over, but I learned that I could endure a lot of pain and keep a positive attitude. I have to admit, I was a little emotional at the finish but it didn’t last when I realized I was fine and happy that I finished a tough race. Crashes are bound to happen and you learn from every one. You learn how much risk is too much – a necessary lesson to perfect the art of mountain biking.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Natural Progression Vol. 2

Slowly but surely I start to relax when I'm out on the dirt. It took awhile for me to not have anxiety or nervousness as soon as my tires hit something other than pavement.

One of the things that bothered Travis last year was my lack of conversation while riding. This is something that is all part of my learning process. I'm one that likes to observe and concentrate, being on the off-road trails and feeling all of the lumps and bumps. I had to concentrate on what was in front of me; keep my focus. Conversation was too difficult and I tried several times to explain this to Travis; not as easy as it seems.

Eventually I found myself relaxing and talking a little bit more. Before long I had my first conversation on a mountain bike ride! That was pretty amazing and helped Travis and I communicate better on our rides.

I'll never forget my first dabless ride. That is something every beginner mountain biker wants to achieve.

The trail I rode was IPT, which I feel is a good, solid beginner trail. Yes, there are some technical sections but once you master them-they are similar to sections on several other trails. It's a challenge and sometimes intimidating when you're riding an area with technical aspects.

Figuring out how to ride a trail without putting a foot down is one of the first rites of passage. I didn't even realize that I had accomplished this goal until Travis noted it. I wanted a photo to capture the moment. Pure joy.

The more I went riding the more confident I became. I started to crave the mountain bike trails rather than the paved loop trail I rode daily. There was challenge, obstacles, rewards, and solitude out there...something that I needed for myself on multiple levels.
Travis and I rode the trails about two times a week. I got to a point where I needed to try riding by myself. I had to.

I had curiosity and a pull so great that I knew I was ready to try this solo. I remember coming to the start of IPT, a feeling of nervousness came over me but it wasn't enough to deter me. It was different to ride for the first time by myself and not have a body in front of me to observe and mimic. I worried I wouldn't remember some of the trickier areas, having used Travis' vocal commands and visuals to pinpoint spots.

I did it!
What I posted to Facebook that Memorial Day: Someone found out what she could do by herself today. Rode IPTV, Gunnar (only time I had to put a foot down was getting up Gunnar, spun out), Pines, back down Gunnar, back through IPTV.
I did IPTV another time as well as part of the North 40 that Travis introduced to me. However, I wanted to prove to myself I could do Gunnar dabless-so I did IPTV to Gunnar and back down successfully without any foot-downs.
I cried.
So happy.

Never did I expect myself to head out on the trails by myself. It was a huge, eye-opening experience for me. We started riding mountain bike trails in May and I went on my first solo ride closer to the end of that month.

Here I am. A small-town farm kid mastering the art of riding mountain bike trails.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Wendy Davis (aPabstSmear)

Meet Wendy Davis, blogger at APabstSmear and LivingOutLoud.
I contacted Wendy after discovering her blogs and loved her honest writing.

She is a woman who can admit to her past choices (the unhealthy ones) with the ultimate goal of inspiring others to make more positive/healthful decisions. It's wonderful to see someone who has worked hard to make her life better and show others it is not impossible to loose those spare pounds or quit smoking.

Keep in mind- you hold the key to your future, it all depends how you turn it!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I rode as a child but started again after the birth of my daughter. It was 2007 and I was 38.

My first ride ended with a cliff launch 12 ft into a ditch. ER visit, broken elbow. (She was still breastfeeding so I covered my boobs as I fell, I thought “Oohhh no, the milk!" Hence, broken elbow.) 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
My daughter, now 8, motivates me to stay healthy, I want to meet her children and go on bike rides with them. I want to live (out loud) as long as possible.  

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
I have done many races, short, 3hour, 6 hour, 12 hour, 24 hour, and 200 plus gravel grinders. Not one race was for a trophy. I ride to be around like minded people, if I net a trophy GREAT! But it’s not my reason for being there. I like to race/beat my own times from past years. I race to see improvement.  

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
I like to watch cyclocross but won't participate because it's not my thing. I like LONG stuff, not 30 minutes of feeling like I am going to puke. Mountain bike races and gravel grinders are very competitive; I just try to do my best. At this year’s Dirty Kanza 200, I did not podium but I knocked 2 hours and 33 minutes off last year’s time. That feels like a podium to me. 

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I like riding everything. If I have a choice I will choose dirt over gravel, even though it is a close second. Gravel over paved for sure. I haven't ridden in the mountain yet but can imagine it would be wonderful. 

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 know exactly how I felt in the first 1 1/2 miles...I was not a Mom or wife, even though I enjoy being both. I felt free, like a bird, just floating along the trails and smiling. That was until I launched, lol. I couldn't wait to get back on and try again. Three months later I did, and signed up for my first race... a 60 miler in Arkansas. Being on a bike for only 4 months didn't stop me.  

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I feel nervous every ride/race. I think that is my gut check and I listen to it. Being nervous is not a bad thing in my opinion, it keeps me grounded and reminds me I have people who depend on me to be safe and not do anything stupid. The feeling usually fades once I start pedaling; if it doesn't I sing in my head or out loud if no one is around.   

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 started clipless pedals about 8 months after I started riding. I came back with bloody knees and fell nearly 20 times on an 8 mile trail. I would suggest trying them out on the pavement first to get a feel for them, loosen the pedals so they are easy to get in and out of. Move to gravel next, then to the dirt. Learn how to fall before you actually fall is the best piece of advice I can give. Tighten up the pedals once you start to get comfortable. Practice getting in and out of them MANY times before going on a trail ride. I fell over more than once while clipped in. 

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I ride to my daughter’s school and do some grocery runs. I wear a glo-vest and ride defensively, constantly looking behind me on busier roads and not riding with music. I do not run stop signs and follow the rules of the road.   

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?
There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. I have a job I can do from home though, LOL!
I have purchased some quite expensive gear to help keep me warm and my skin protected from the harsh Midwest Winters. I bought some items in the off season and saved some $$ 

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
My first bike ride at age 38 put me in the ER after a mile and a half. I launched over a cliff, (about 12 ft) I was hurt but wanted to get back on, that was 3 months later. I was very nervous but stuck to flat stuff and trails that were easier. I also spent 7 days in the hospital after a fall, almost lost my arm to a horeshit infection, seriously. I was scared to get back on, honestly thought about quitting after that.  My daughter was 4 at the time, I thought I might kill myself out there, I should stop. And then just as quickly I thought I would just have to work harder and get better. (This question could be a blog in itself

What do you love about riding your bike?
. I love the wind on my face and just pedaling. Doesn't have to be super fast, it just has to be. I love how accomplished I feel after I get off the bike. Maybe I tackled a technical spot, or was finally strong enough to pull my wheel up over that big root/rock, possibly the distance too. I get these amazing adrenaline rushes after I ride long.  All of a sudden I get this second wind and can't relax. I feel wound up instead of exhausted. I love that the bike has empowered me to stand up for myself, helped build my character, helped make me strong, and finally helped me come out of my shell as a writer. I feel most creative on my bike, I should tape a recorder to my handle bars and then I would have blog posts for months. 

My bike makes me feel sexy and beautiful too. What's not to love about a strong woman out shreddin' a mountain bike, especially those of us in our 40's and beyond? We get the pleasure of showing the next generation how it's done, or not done, LOL! 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a '12 Kona Big Unit singlespeed and an '11 Kona Jake the Snake crossbike. My husband bought me the JTS so I could try to complete DK200. I had to learn how to ride gears, it took me nearly 3 months but I finally got comfortable. I love that magnificent machine, we have over 10,000 miles of smiles and 3 DK200 finishes, I am really proud of those and I couldn't have done it without that bike. It fits me perfect and I have an awesome saddle on it. My Big Unit is special since it was my 43rd surprise birthday present, it would replace a singlespeed I had been riding that was too big. This bike fits like a glove. The color is absolutely gorgeous. The design is simple and I can work on it myself. I seem to float up and down the trails on this.   

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I recommend wearing bibs if you are riding long, just figure out how to pee before you head out. I love Buff headwraps too; they keep all my hair under the helmet. Lizard Skins bar tape is awesome too. It doesn't get all nasty and lasts forever. Double wrap it and you won't need gloves.   

What inspired you to start your blogs? What do you enjoy about sharing parts of your life?
APabstSmear I started this one after I complete my first 24 hour Mountain bike race. I thought it would be a fun thing to do during recovery. I had no idea if anyone would even read it. Once I had a few followers that sealed it. I found a voice while riding the bike; I was an aspiring writer inside. My husband convinced me after he showed me had it set up already. I love to share the good and the bad experiences I have on the bike and off. I love to inspire women to ride and encourage them to push themselves every once in a while. I tell them they will feel better, look better, and gain confidence riding a bike; I am a prime example of that.

 LivingOutLoud This blog has been around for about 2 years. I have many friends who struggle with their weight, health, and lives in general. I write to let them know that they are not alone, and that I get it. I understand struggle, I understand working my ass off to get what I have now, and I get feeling sad and empty and fat. It is something that doesn't disappear when you lose the weight either. Being fat, over 100 pounds overweight, is horrible. It sucks every day to get out of bed and robot the way through the day, like a zombie, not living, not caring, and not creating memories. I lived that for 5 years. I can't get that time back but I can do some great stuff with the time I have left. That is why I live it loud, tell others they can overcome and get their lives back too.  We have the power and control; we just have to learn how to use it.

What does apabstmear mean?
It was the punch line of a joke: Girl takes huge gulp from a can of Pabst, wipes upper lip and says "Guess what that was?"… "aPabstSmear"  Giggle,giggle!

I love how honest you are in your blog-no sugar coating of things (like the post where you had to buy a PRO cut kit) I particularly love this post because I know there are other women out there who have the same frustrations. Have you had any other moments when it came to cycling gear? What has helped you?
When I buy gear I often think who the hell are they fitting this too? Surely not an average cyclist and surely not an average woman. Some of us need a little extra room in the legs, hello; some need some room in the waist. Either way we have to do something about it.  For goodness sake... give us room for our boobs! We are all not pencil thin and boobless, no offense to anyone. When I find something I like I do not hesitate to buy two.  You never know if it will be around again. I wear men’s shoes too since they are wider. Are there any other women out there with wide feet having trouble finding shoes that don't require cutting off a toe?

Why do you feel some women are uncomfortable with the idea of riding a bicycle?
Be commuting/gravel/paved/mountain? What would you like to say to those who feel they "can't" ?
Find a riding buddy and get your butt out there. Start slow, add mileage over time; give yourself time to get to know your bike, get a professional fit to avoid unnecessary injuries, and remember to smile. You control the distance, the effort, and if there is beer in your pack.  

What would you like to see happen to encourage more women to get involved with cycling?
I think if more women just gave it a chance they would like it. I think having very vocal role models will help. I believe that the women who blog and FB their bike experiences influence other women they can do it. I don't mind putting myself out there if it will encourage another woman to ride. Riding makes me happy; it makes me who I am. I am a better person, mother, wife and friend because of two wheels. I just wish I hadn't been 38 when I found it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Anka Raskin

Meet Anka! She is the woman behind the online shop, Dirty Jane. Dirty Jane focuses to provide functional and fashionable gear for women. They offer several different brands and have everything you could look for: jerseys, shorts, helmets, pads, and much more!
The future for Dirty Jane is to support all women who ride: the shredders, commuters, road riders, and everyone in-between.

I haven't known Anka long as I've only recently become a Dirty Jane Ambassador, but what I can say is that she is a passionate woman who really cares about women in the cycling world. She's been encouraging, kind, and ready to give advice or be an ear. She wants the women who represent Dirty Jane to be successful with their endeavors as well as ensuring Dirty Jane thrives so more women can feel confident on a bike.

Connect with Dirty Jane on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, and Instagram!

When did you first start riding a bike?
Aside from my four-wheeling My Little Pony bicycle, my first "real" biking love affair began in 2003 when I moved from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and saw a gang of girls blasting out of the trees past me on the North Shore Mountains. I remember thinking "what the hell was that? I want to do THAT!"  

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Most people in my life mountain bike regularly, so when it comes time to make plans - be that camping, road trip or weekend excursions ... a bike is usually in the mix. Every trip I have ever gone on in North America with my girlfriends has always involved bringing our bikes. In fact, we rarely travel to places where there are no trails. Fitness and meditation also come into play here. If I am feeling like a slug, a bike ride will usually get me out of that funk and feeling a lot better in my body.  

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
Just a handful and totally for fun. I love participating in clinics though to brush up on my skills and improve my riding. I would rather head to the bike park with my husband and friends and run laps all day that end with a frosty beverage on a patio somewhere. Competing looks amazing and when I've done it I am left feeling like a million bucks. Every picture of me at an event shows me with a shit-eating grin mid-run. Perhaps I should do it more ;)   

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
The ones where the guys are half naked volunteering and the women are dressed up in costume. I am a great spectator at the serious and gnarly events, but for myself I prefer to laugh and cheer each other on. I completed at Dixie Trix Jump Jam last August 2013 and we all had a blast encouraging each other, but also competing against each other. I got podium as there were only 4 of us. Yahoo!  

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
Mountain all the way - preferably fast and flowy with some techy DH sections that help my lady balls grow.  

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.)
Excited and also nervous that I was going to disappoint the dude I was with. Crazy! I rented a mountain bike that was too large and a helmet that was too loose. I saw him hop over a tree stump so I thought I could too. I raced towards it as fast as I could and jammed my front tire into where the ground met the stump. My first real mountain bike ride ended up in me learning how to fly. Clearly it was not enough to stop me though and I tried biking again, and again, and again. I had no idea that by saying yes to mountain biking, I was also saying yes to brutally bruised legs. Totally worth it. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
The fun FAR outweighs the fear. I truly wish I had more to say about this one, but when it comes right down to it, I just have a blast exploring the outdoors on my bike with friends. The alternative is not participating and being left out. It is not an option. 

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?
Nope. I need to put my foot down. I tried it once and fell in a parking lot filled with Fox Head dudes standing by their factory truck. That was awesome. Can we just talk for a moment about the word clipLESS? That was a weird one to learn as a newbie for sure.  

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I commute to my gym every morning. It is about 3 miles. I LOVE riding on the city streets at 6am when they are quiet and the road is basically mine. It also makes me a stronger mountain biker as I just get to spin my legs more often now that I bike to and from the gym. I wish I could bike to other locations, but Phoenix is a huge city and it is a timing issue. I feel like I can't spend hours on my bike getting to one place. So instead I drive the blue machine baby!  

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?
Oh yah! In British Columbia it rains. A LOT. If you don't ride in the rain, you don't ride. Now that I am in Arizona part time I see 110 temps. For longer mountain bike rides I head out at 6am or 6pm and bring as much water as I can carry.   

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I suck at this. I will always get back on my bike immediately after a bike biff, but it may take me months before I even try the part of the trail that biffed me. I have a really good buddy who knows my riding style and pushes me. If we stop at the part in the trail and I watch her and then follow her through it, I am golden after that.  

What do you love about riding your bike?
I would never go to the places I have been that my bike has taken me too. I love being in the middle of the forest with people I consider to be my family. Speaking of family, biking is how I met my husband and getting on our bikes to explore is just what we do.  

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
If I showed you a picture of my garage I may have to kill you. I've got everything in there that a biker would need. The only bike missing is a road bike. That is up next for me. Have you seen a roadie's legs and butt? I need that.  

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Eekk - there are SO MANY now! I love how the industry has grown and the options are really out there now. I really can't choose as it would be like saying who my best friend is in front of all my GFs! #1: get yourself a really good chamois. This is one of the only cases where more moola $$$ will equal better quality and help protect your hooha. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Colorful Ride!

(Written September 5th)

I had the feeling that the trails were getting dry enough that I could take out my other mountain bike dubbed Erza. The Trek Cali Carbon that I have ridden a handful of times now, a bike that I love, but also a bike that I am yet learning my full potential and capabilities on.

I will say that as far as human/bike relationships go, we have a pretty good one. However, there are still some areas where we’re hashing it out on.
(Look at me, humanizing a bicycle.)

I have done a majority of my mountain bike learning on a bicycle with 29+ tires, so being on a regular 29'er with slightly larger tires than typically used, is a learning curve. You don’t have as much tire to roll over things, you have to pick cleaner lines, and there are some things you just do not roll over.

I had just accomplished riding through the rock garden of IPT the day before, so it was time to show myself that I could pick a line through there with smaller tires. It took a few tries and finessing for me to get myself through-but I did! I decided to do it a second time, figuring the more times I do it the more confident I’ll be.
Next test would be the hill on North 40, which I have accomplished a couple times on this bike. It was a little drier I believe, so I was intrigued to see how it would go today.
Well…not as awesome as I had hoped.

I worked hard but felt like I wasn’t getting very far at all. I would over-aim my bike and want to ride off the trail or I wouldn’t aim far enough over and spin out on the root. I had a moment where I spun out, my foot slipped, and my pedal thwacked me hard on the knee. It was a solid hit, hitting over already bruised flesh. I had a pretty deep pinhole that started to bleed. Bright red, sweat diluted blood trickling down my calf.
I had a very low, groan-filled “OOoooOooowWWWwww” escape my lips and was a little gimpy after that.
Then I hit the side of my shin at another point, leaving a welt on my leg.

I made it most of the way up the hill, but spun out within feet of the top. I tried again many more times, assuring myself all I expected of me was to make it to the top one time. Right after my pep-talk I made it to the top and continued on. My legs were sore and feeling tired, but I had plenty more riding to do.
I tried the hairpin hill, but after several tries I called it and went onward to further trails. I had already spent a good number of minutes (likely about a half-hour or so) to accomplish the hill. It was time to ride and have fun.

Per Travis’ suggestion of a technique, I wanted to go back to Little Big Horn and work on my log riding. Apparently I still struggle with getting my tire up high enough and I have not yet figured out how to lift my rear tire up. (When it’s explained to me, it seems like I would have to superglue my shoes to my pedals! Honestly….) Another way to help get your back-end over a log is to get your front tire over, lightly “lock” up your front brake, and that will help pop your rear tire up and over the log. Of course, you don’t want to “ram on it” and make yourself endo-it’s about the right amount of momentum, braking strength, and being aware of what you’re doing.
I found success! It took me a few tries to get it figured out, but I managed to get my rear tire over without sending me over the bars!

Deer on Little Big Horn
I decided to ride down Fred’s and ride up Rocky Road, since I heard that the fallen tree on Rocky Road was now gone. My legs, however, were not thrilled with the rocky climb; wet rocks also made it difficult. I did manage to get to the portion where there is a trail called “First Right” that will take you to the East Pines. I thought for a moment of either ending my ride and going back down Fred’s and to the Luge-or going through part of the Pines and re-doing the top of Little Big Horn, then Fred’s and the Luge. Legs were achy, I was getting hungry…but I was already there…so why not?

When I made it back to the log on Little Big Horn that I practiced on, I decided to practice some more. The first few times I kept flubbing up, but eventually I got the knack of it again. One more small skill acquired, now it’s time to master it!

When it was time to ride down Fred’s, I was ready to go home. The Luge was fun, fast, and exhilarating (like usual) and I felt really good about what I had accomplished for the day. I also attained some more bruises, scratches, and holes.

Later that evening Travis started to chuckle and said “Oh honey! I love you even tho…” and I looked down…there was a golf ball sized bruise on my thigh. “You love me even tho I beat myself up!” I said.

I guess you could say mountain biking definitely makes life more colorful!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Men Involved: Nicholas Pearch

North 40
When did you first start riding a bike? 
I do not recall the first time that I rode a bike, however, like most people I learned as a child. I enjoyed making ramps and riding around the neighborhood. My freshman year of college I began mountain biking. I may not have been good at it, but I stuck with it and now it has turned in to one of my passions.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years? 
At first, mountain biking was mostly for fitness. I was looking for a way other than running to lean out and get some cardio in for wrestling. After a while, mountain biking just became fun, making the workout aspect secondary. The bike community in Decorah does a great job of getting rides together to keep things fresh and to have people to ride with.

You enjoy mountain biking, are there any other styles of cycling you enjoy?
I also enjoy riding gravel roads. I generally hit the gravel roads when the trails are too wet to ride.  

Gravel roads may sound dull; however there are some great views of the countryside that not many people get to enjoy. I’ve never been too enthusiastic about road riding. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? 
Haha yes, I do! When you have never done something like mountain biking before, there is a lot to learn. On my first ride I had no clue where I was going.  I ended up doing a lot of walking, as there are some nasty climbs, and I was a clumsy rider.  I felt like I was exploring the woods by myself in the wild. Yes, some of the down hills and other parts of the trails were frightening, but that was part of what made me fall in love with the sport. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I’ve never dealt with that much nervousness out on the trails. To me the fact that you are in the woods up on almost wiping out is what makes it fun for me. Almost anyone can go out and ride a bike on flat ground. Riding on a small dirt path is hard and is what makes it fun.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level? 
Well I have had lots of that’s for sure. I’ve never broken anything, on my body at least. I have been pretty sore following wipe-outs and not been able to finish my ride. Occasionally after hard crashes there are times when on my next few rides that I do not take corners or bumps as fast. The only way to get over it is to get back on the bike and keep riding, just realized it is dirt not concrete you are falling on to. Also there are plenty of people who ride harder and wipe out as well but don’t get hurt.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Like I stated before, getting out in the woods and exploring while hitting corners and bumps fast is the greatest pleasure I get from the trails. Almost crashing is what makes the trails for fun for me.
Fun log pile (built by Pearch) on Little Big Horn 

Tell us about your bike!
The bike that I ride everywhere is a Surly Karate Monkey. It’s the perfect ride for me. I love the steel frame and I feel comfortable riding it hard and doing foolish stuff even though I am a larger guy. It needs improvements but I can get on it at anytime and ride hard on it. I would love to invest in a fat bike or some sort for the winter so I can keep rolling through the snowfall.

Sometimes a person may randomly come up on your out on the trails doing some work, like adding in shoring and smoothing out spots. How did you land that job?
I Guess I was just in the right spot at the right time. One of my wrestling coaches, Jeff O’Gara, is very involved in an organization in town called Decorah Human Power Trails (DHPT). After talking trail riding with him through the first couple years of wrestling he asked me if I would like to do the trail work over the summer. He took me out and showed me how to do some shoring for an hour or two then the rest of the work I kind of just learned myself.

What about mountain bike trail maintenance sounded interesting to you what inspired you to want to help keep them in good shape?
What really got me interested was the fact that I needed a summer job. It worked out well because I love to ride the trails. Basically the work I do I get to directly enjoy. So, if something is not riding right I will spend the time and effort to make sure it rides good.

Little Big Horn

Tell us about your top 3 favorite mountain bike trails in Decorah. Why do you enjoy them.
This is a pretty hard since we have a lot of great trails. My top favorite has to be Little Big Horn. Big Horn has nice corners, climbs, descents, logs, and it’s a pretty good length. The second best I would have to say is lower mothers day. If you were to start from the top of boa and ride that to lower mothers day then turn back on to boa to the road makes for a super flow ride. The third best in my opinion would be public television. It makes for a easy fun ride to get up to all the trails and at the same time is a super fun downhill route to finish a ride off right.
Since you work on the trails a lot, which ones would you say are better for new riders?
Well of course the River Trail is the easiest for children or beginners. It’s pretty flat and does not have a lot of climbing. Also both the pines are super fun for beginning rider. The pines are smooth and pretty much flat plus are super cool around with all the pines trees around. I also believe that the trails higher up in palisades are flat and easier.

What do you enjoy about maintaining the trails and what kind of trail improvement is your favorite to do?
I enjoy being able to work outside all day and not having a boss telling me what to do all day. I also enjoy the fact that if I see something that I think needs work I can go and fix it up myself. Recently I have been putting in a lot of burms to make corners faster and smoother. Making burms keeps me pretty interested since it makes riding more fun.

Sometimes it seems there is so much to do all at once for maintaining trails, how do you decide which ones get gussied up first?
Pretty much I try to keep everything spread out. I keep notes of where I have worked so I can keep things spread out. I also get input from people around town. If I can’t think of anything that needs to be done I usually go for a ride and see what things can be improved. I am always open to suggestions since people ride things differently than I do. So if anyone has any suggestions please don’t hesitate to tell me!
Little Big Horn (?)

What goes into creating the shoring and nice, smooth corners?
Some planning does go into trail work. First of all you have to get to the spot. Depending on the type of trail work this could be a pain. Typically I carry a small chainsaw, fuel, bar chain oil, four pound sledge hammer, and a chainsaw tool in my pack. At the same time I usually carry four post in one hand then a hoe dag in the other. Sometimes I need an extra hand for a shovel or other items but I usually just have to make two trips.
Once you get to the spot the first thing to look for is a good tree in which you can use for backing for the dirt. I like to use dead trees for this that are not too rotten but occasionally you have to cut down a half living tree to make sure that the shoring or burm last. Finally the most important is dirt work. It is easiest and best to pull down the dirt from the high side of the hill but occasionally you’ll have to dig holes off the trails somewhere.
I have been recently looking at the way water runs down the trail to try and stop some muddy stops or erosion on the trails. Some planning does go into that but the biggest thing is to look to where the water has been running and then angle in a water channel to shoot the water down hill and not down the trail.

What do you feel would be good information for new riders to know about our mountain bike trails? 
Not every trail is going to be awesome your first time. Around here you have to pay to ride, meaning there will be some climbs and as a beginner you will have to get off your bike and walk occasionally. Starting out is the hardest part of mountain biking. 

The best way to start would be to have someone that knows the trails show you some easy trails. After that go ride those trails on your own. Don’t forget to push yourself! Once you get comfortable with those trails that you know begin to start to explore on your own. Keep in mind that you are riding the trails for fun, not for anyone else and not solely for exercise. Over time if you actually push yourself you will become a pretty good rider. Other than that make sure to have fun!  

What has been the most interesting experience or encounter you've had when you've been out maintaining the trails?
Hard to narrow down one experience that really stands out, I’ve seen countless people pass by and they all make sure to thank me for the work, some even ask to help. I always see tons wildlife, some get pretty close. The closest a chipmunk has gotten to me is within eight feet. This whole job has been an awesome experience. The community here is just so great, I am very lucky to have ended up in Decorah where the community can raise the money to pay me for a job this cool.

How can cyclists and other trail users keep the trails in good shape?
The biggest thing that can be done to help is to help volunteer. When there is an announcement for a trail building day don’t be afraid to help out. It’s good to see what goes into the building of a trail. Other than doing dirt work on your own the easiest thing a person can do is to help with any sticks or branches hanging into, or laying on the trail. Whenever I am working I make sure to clear any of those branches or sticks. When there are a lot branches on the trails after the storm it can take a long time to just get down one trail clearing branches trying to get to a spot to work. There are a lot of miles in our trail system and helping clear trails of brush and what not makes things easier for me.

What would you like to tell everyone about our mountain bike trail systems here in town? 
We have an awesome set of trails. Do not abuse them. Many hours of work and money have gone into maintaining them. Ride hard, ride fast, and have fun!