Women on Bikes Series: Tiffanie Beal

I am 32 years old, originally from the Seattle area and a Colorado resident since 2000. Something about Colorado called to me and sight unseen I hauled my few possessions to Boulder and never looked back.
My outdoor passions include mountain biking, trail running, backcountry skiing, camping, orienteering, and basically anything outdoors.

When I’m not outside I am most likely cooking or reading a book. Working full time at IMBA, I get to live my 9-5 weekday supporting one of my biggest passions.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I started riding in 2005. I bought my first mountain bike in 2004 but had to wait out an ACL tear from skiing before I could really start. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I truly love the outdoors and adventure. Being outside, commuting without a car, getting into the backcountry, riding out my door - it's all about fun and freedom whether it's just a normal day or a challenging race. 

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I loved the Dakota 50 in Rapid City, SD. It was a 50 mile mountain bike race in the heart of the Black Hills, and the race support was wonderful, the racers low-key and encouraging of each other, and the most singletrack I've been on in a race of that length. As for competing, it really feels truly awesome to go as fast as possible and get that eye of the tiger feeling. I seem to forget that technical bits make me anxious when there's competition breathing down my neck. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
I remember I was struggling so hard to keep up. I went mountain biking with my new boyfriend and all his buddies, who are all great mountain bikers. I tagged along, probably crashed a bit, and walked a lot. Years after the fact I found out it was one of the most technical trails in the area, and just on the other side of the hill there was an easy beginner trail. I didn't even know it existed! 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I was always nervous at first, but trying to keep up with the group of boys I started riding with kept me too exhausted to think about nervousness. 

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. When starting, make sure they are at their loosest setting so you feel more confident about being able to get out when you need to. And feeling them out for the first time, have someone else hold your bike while you sit on it, and clip in and out so your muscle memory begins to recognize the action.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Switchbacks still get me, but I'm getting better with those. Tight turns and balancing acts (track stands) are the things that are hard for me to this day, but worth working on as they'll help you through the dicey technical sections. A good way to challenge yourself without being at risk on a trail is to start with a parking lot, using curbs and parking lines as your guides and tools. 

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
When heading into a technical bit, some days are better than others. Some days I'm walking, some days I'm confidently riding through it. The more I try and the more I ride, the higher my confidence goes. Those days are tough when I feel ready to explode in frustration and get tired of walking. But it just takes another day and a better attempt at the section that will make me feel so much better. When I finally ride something I have never been able to ride before, I'm over the moon! That just happened this last weekend. You couldn't wipe the smile off my face for the whole day.

You had a post on Dig In that talked of getting lost on a past adventure race (in the dark!)- how do you get past the general nervousness of riding in the dark?
Once you've ridden in the dark, you realize how awesome it is. I think it's just getting over the hurdle of actually doing it for the first time. It's a quiet and focused time on the bike with no one out and you have the trails to yourself. Your world becomes just what's immediately around you and it's actually not scary to me at all. In fact, it's really cool to experience. 

When did you realize you could ride trails at night? (This is my first year of riding mtb trails at night, I'll admit I thought it would be impossible-even with a great light.)
When I first started mountain biking my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) did a 24-hour mountain bike race in Moab. I went to support him, and saw everyone riding throughout the night and loving it. 

Do you have tips or suggestions for someone who is interested in going for a non-race mtb ride in the dark?
It is important for me to have good lights. I have very bright LED lights on my handle bars and my helmet. That's key to incorporate both light positions as you want to always have the path in front of your bike lit, as well as where you're looking at that moment. Also, keep really loose on the bike as you won't see every obstacle on the trail and if you absorb what comes your way you'll have no problem.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have two bikes that encompass everything I need. One full suspension all mountain bike for trail riding, and one rigid mountain bike for commuting. I love them both! 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Most importantly, a helmet. And please wear a chamois, your behind will thank you later. The last thing being gloves. They protect your hands if you fall.  

What do you love about riding your bike?
Bikes get me outside, to feel the air, see the seasons change, experience the outdoors, and take me places I couldn't go otherwise. That sounds a little sentimental, but it's true.