Women Involved: Sylvi Fae

I have a full time Program Management position with Dirt Series and I co-own and operate Moab Mountain Bike Instruction with my business partner, Wendy.

I’m based in Moab during the spring, fall and winter, and coordinate remotely when I’m away.

In the summer I instruct for, and manage Dirt Series camps in the western United States, British Columbia and Alberta.

I serve on the board of directors for Moab’s IMBA chapter, Moab Mountain Bike Alliance.
I volunteer with a local after-school mountain bike program for at-risk and struggling students in Moab.

I feel like, after twelve years, I’m still learning all that this sport has to offer; whether it’s a new place, a new trail, a new friend, or a solo ride to re-focus and gain perspective after a bad day. I guess I’m just in love with mountain biking!

What inspired you to become a mountain bike instructor and why do you enjoy it?
I was inspired to become a mountain bike instructor by two friends: Alison Dunlap, and Angela Houghton. I see instructing as a way to give back to the sport, which has given so much to me. I love helping people conquer their fears, and seeing them grow.  I also really like my coworkers, and enjoy it because I get to hang out with them.

What would you consider the greatest moment in your career so far?
It’s hard to pick just one. I’ve had achievements, both in my riding and in my job, but the greatest moments for me are the breakthroughs my students have because of my influence. This spring I was coaching on one participant’s favorite trail. We approached a technical descent that she knew well, and she was afraid. We took some deep breaths together at the top. She applied what she learned, and gracefully rode the section of trail from top to bottom. At the bottom, she jumped off her bike, laughing, crying and smiling ear to ear with the realization that she accomplished something she previously believed she could never do. That moment was pretty great. 

How did you get involved with Trek Dirt Series?
My friend Angela coached for Dirt Series, and recruited me to fill in for her one year, when she couldn’t make it to a camp. I loved it, and asked to continue coaching with Dirt Series.

What would you like to share about Trek Dirt Series and what it does?  Why is Trek Dirt Series such a valuable tool for future and current mountain bikers?
Dirt Series camps are huge weekends of empowerment, building community, trying new things and breaking through barriers. The women who attend Dirt Series camps forge new and lasting friendships, develop a deep passion for mountain biking, and go out into the world with increased confidence and skill.

You also co-own Moab Mountain Bike Instruction-what inspired the business?
I feel so lucky to have Wendy Palmer as my business partner. She and I worked together as instructors for Moab Mountain Bike Instruction before we owned the business. In 2012, we were presented with the opportunity to buy the business, and the rest is history.

What would you like to share about Moab Mountain Bike Instruction?
We offer every kind of customizable learning experience, from one-on-one private lessons to skills clinics, mountain bike camps, and long-term coaching. Lots of people take a lesson on the first day of their Moab vacation, so that they can ride more of the technical terrain our trails are famous for.

Tell us about one of the most technically challenging mountain bike rides you've been on-what did you learn from it?
The most technically challenging ride I’ve been on was Schleyer to Detroit Rock City at Whistler Bike Park. I rode Schleyer once previously, and walked some sections. The second time I rode it with my business partner, Wendy. She’s one of the most amazing mountain bike instructors I know. We looked at the sections that gave me trouble my first time through, and in that run I rode everything on both trails. I learned that I could do a lot more than I thought I could, and all it took was someone who I trust, and who knows me really well to show me that I could do it.

What would be the most common skill that most people have a hard time with? Any shorthand advice as to how one can work at it on their own? (example- cornering, etc.)
Getting over obstacles on a climb is a common one. Shorthand advice: Look where you want to go, not at the obstacle you’re riding over. Allow the bike to be light as it moves over the obstacle by unweighting first the front and then the back of your bike. Follow through, keep pedaling. Come to one of our mountain bike camps!  ;-)

Why do you feel it is so important to get more women out mountain biking?
Mountain biking is empowering, it’s fun, it shows us that we are strong. It teaches us to take on challenges and conquer fears, and that we can overcome things with finesse instead of force. Women inspire other women, that’s how I got hooked. More women to ride with is always a good thing.

What do you feel deters women the most when it comes to cycling?
I think not knowing how or where to start, and/or not having many other people to ride with. I’d like to change that. Having a boyfriend or husband teach you how to ride isn’t always the easiest way to learn.

What would you love to see happen with women and cycling in the next 5 years?
I am already starting to see more and more women out mountain biking. I’d like to see that number continue to grow, and see more women’s riding groups. In the areas we’ve been teaching mountain bike camps for several years, you will find groups of women out riding on the trails. It’s pretty amazing, actually.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to mountain biking and wanting to give it a shot?
Learn the basics. Focus on having fun. Taking a mountain bike lesson or a skills camp will more than pay for itself, and will give you a solid foundation to build on.  Find friends with similar riding ability, and ride with them. You will improve together, and share your victories.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that others may not know.
I recently discovered that I like swimming. I like it enough to wake up at 5am to go swim three days a week. And I love jokes (I keep a notebook of them). Here’s one for you now: Why couldn’t the bicycle stand up on its own?  It was two tired.