Women Involved Series: Candace Mastel

My name is Candace and I’m a 46 year young female who lives in beautiful (I am biased) Bozeman, Montana. I came here via Pennsylvania and Ohio, searching for
a gentler way of life (haha, that didn’t happen) and freedom from the expectations of the mid-west culture. Typical story. It hinged on starting my new life with just me
and my dog.
Within a year I met my soon to be husband and we got married two years later. I work at the local college, Montana State University, as a Planner and Landscape Designer.

My focus lately has been to make campus even better by focusing on promoting active transportation and biking infrastructure. I am also involved in a local community biking group called “The Dirt Concern,” which was instrumental in restructuring a failing hiking and biking trail into a sweet flow trail and also building a pump track.

You are involved with several local bicycle/riding groups, tell us about them and why they are so important to the community.
I am involved in The Dirt Concern and the Montana State University Bike Task Force. The Dirt Concern is not really an advocacy group, but rather a group that promotes biking opportunities in our area for many different genres of riding. We reach out to the free riding community, the downhillers, the XC folks, and the kiddos that are just learning to ride a bike. We try to be advocates for riding, in general, not any one movement or mission. We build trails, have movie nights, group rides, and built a pump track at a local park.

My work at the university has recently involved a new endeavor as being a member of the Bike Task Force. This group is looking into promoting the culture of biking on campus, improving the bike share/commuting opportunities and working hard to fight for bike facilities in all new construction  or building projects on campus.

Why should people consider joining a group in their community?
If you’re a beginner rider, it helps you develop a network of riding friends. It also helps if you find people who can give you tips and tricks for better riding and lead you to the most fun trails. As an advanced rider it can help you do those same things (improvement is always an option) and also let you contribute back to the community with trail maintenance, construction, advocacy building, etc. And, you can pay it forward to the next generation of riders who are stoked!

Any suggestions/tips for people on what to look for when choosing a group to join? 
Try them all out and choose the one that makes you most comfortable and either rides what you like to ride or stands for what you stand for. If you are interested in road bike riding, seek that kind of group out. If you are into DH, go for that. But, realize that we all ride some sort of two wheeled bike type of thingy (not sure what’s up with the unicyclists…can’t even understand that…and I’m pretty understanding).

Tell us about the trip you will be going on this spring!
In the spring I’ll attending an Active Transportation class in the Netherlands and Germany, which is being offered through the Department of International Programs here at Montana State University. I am so excited. It directly relates to so much that I am doing at my job but also my personal interest in exploring what other countries do for bike facilities. I have never traveled outside of the US or Canada, so this is a big deal for me. I am so excited! 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Men. Men. Men. (I’m partially kidding on this one).They can be intimidating. They can be gnar. They always talk about wanting a girlfriend that rides and then when they meet them, it’s a funny thing. No really, sometimes it’s hard to break into a male dominated activity. And, its male dominated where I ride. Especially DH. I ride with seven dudes and one or two women. It’s tough. A lot of times the dudes leave you in the dust. I try not to make them wait. It pushes me to be a little faster even if I’m not as fast as them. I think the overall price of bikes deters a lot of people from riding bikes these days. Geesh, in the old days you could get a decent full suspension bike for under $3K. Now it’s like $6K. What the heck?

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Women want to ride. They want to experience riding. However, a lot of the groups they end up trying a “beginners” ride with becomes some “leave you in the dust, Lycra-infused, alpha peloton female BS” that a new rider doesn’t want to deal with. Sometimes women are our own worst enemies. I see lots of clinics being held across the country for beginner or intermediate riders that actually ARE tailored to beginner or intermediate riders. So glad someone is doing it right. If a women’s group is going to call it a “Beginner’s Ride” than they should make it one. Just sayin. 

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Knowing that in the future they might be a potential riding partner. And, because it’s so much fun. I see the smiles on their faces. Of course, not every woman is going to get hooked. Sometimes the first ride is a totally nightmare and they don’t ever want to get on two wheels again. But sometimes you see the eyes light up…then you know they are hooked. 

You also commute to work; do you have tips for those who are new to commuting?
Commuting can be a challenge. I mean who wants to be all sweaty when they get to work. You pretty much have to resolve to yourself that you aren’t going to have a perfect Brazilian blowout that morning or that you might need a little extra deodorant that day. I swear by having clothes that you can shed. My commute is almost all uphill, and undoubtedly, always into the wind. Have a decent bike that functions well, that can carry some stuff to change into and leave with plenty of time to freshen up at the office or to grab a warm drink if it’s cold out.

What is the greatest thing about using a bicycle for transportation?
Freedom to take alternative routes like trails, alley ways, etc. to save time in traffic. You can also have some breezy, alone time without dealing with road rage. I will have to say that you still deal with idiots on the road. And, in our town, car drivers can’t seem to understand that we want to be seen as cars, not yielded to like pedestrians, which can create dangerous situations for us. So, I do get frustrated. 

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I always hate this question because I can never think of anything brilliant or amazing. Ha! I guess a relevant random fact is that I have a bad temper. It comes from my Italian heritage I always say. I think it’s the reason why I have such trouble failing at anything I try on my bike. I get really mad, might even have a tantrum, haha. But, eventually I take a deep breath, clear my mind and give it a try. Sometimes I don’t give it a try again…I just put the bike on the rack. That always disappoints me. I really made an effort this summer to not ever do that. I always wanted to leave the trailhead feeling fulfilled. Life is too short to get pissed and have regrets.

As a little background to the last paragraph, almost a year ago I lost my Mom. My Dad died right after I graduated from college in 1996 and that crushed me. When my Mom died last New Year’s Eve, after a two week illness, I was devastated. I was the executor of her estate, I had a house of hers to sell, and a six month probate legal process to go through. She was an eight year survivor of stage 3 lung cancer. She was a fighter. Despite being only 98 pounds she was a strong little woman full of so much fight. I promised myself after she died that I would not waste a single day wishing I had rode my bike or done the things I always wanted to do. And, so, I spent the entire riding season, from May through October, from when the snow melted to when it fell again, riding my ass off. If I can say anything to anyone who is younger than me, live your life now…live it like you don’t have tomorrow, or ten years from now.