Women Involved Series: Candace Shadley

Photo Credit: Justa Jeskova
Meet Candace Shadley, Founder and Director of the Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camps.

I'm very excited to be able to feature Candace and have her talk a bit more about the Trek Dirt Series and what it's all about!

Learn more about Dirt Series at www.dirtseries.com and Dirt Series on Facebook.

Leading program sponsors: Trek, FOX, Dakine, SRAM, and Bell. 
Additional program sponsors: Sugoi, Luna, Race Face, Kicking Horse Coffee, Maxxis, Five Ten, Smith, crankbrothers, JLL, Kiju Organic, Oskar Blues, and the Whistler Bike Park.

What inspired you to become a mountain bike instructor and why do you enjoy it?
My first real job was as a ski instructor. I was 15 years old and taught kids, sometimes only three years younger than me, for the Whistler Ski School. My first job out of university, when I really should have gotten a proper job, was as a windsurfing instructor for Vela Resorts in the Dominican Republic and Aruba. So basically teaching sports was something I feel like I've always done, and something that I've always loved doing, so once I got really into mountain biking, well, it made sense to teach that too.

As for why I enjoy it, that's easy. It's one of the best feelings ever to help someone achieve their goals, conquer their fears, and see themselves in a new light because of it. I think that everyone wants to make a difference in the world, to make it that little bit happier, and I feel really lucky right now that I get to do my part through mountain biking.  

What were some handling skills that challenged you when you first started riding? What helped you grasp them?
To be honest, nearly every single skill challenged me when I first started riding -- getting over logs, rolling down drops, carving turns on gravel corners, you name it. But I think that those difficulties I had then really help me as a coach now. I know what it's like to learn, in fact I'm always still learning, and I know what it's like to feel like I should be getting something faster than I am. I know what it's like to be scared of something and, on the flip side, to have that kind of something not scare me much anymore. That part's awesome. 

What did I do to learn new skills? I asked people who were stronger riders than me to explain and demonstrate, I practiced, I asked for feedback on how I was doing, and I practiced some more. That's still my approach. That and following great riders. And having fun.
Photo Credit: Logan Swayze

Tell us about Trek Dirt Series and how it got started-
I started the Dirt Series in 2001 when I was working at Cycling BC, the provincial sport organization. We'd been looking into women's participation in competitive events, and came up with the idea that perhaps if we offered skill camps in race venues prior to the actual races that more women would feel comfortable on the courses and therefore sign up for the events.

In the first year we ran three fairly local camps and taught 100 people. Some of the participants did end up racing but many just wanted to improve their skills to enjoy mountain biking more, and all called for more camps in more places too. Now, fifteen years later, the Trek Dirt Series is running over 20 camps through Western Canada and the US, and teaching over 1200 people annually.

What has been one of your most inspirational moments with Trek Dirt Series?
I don't actually know how to pick. Leading a participant off a drop, stopping afterwards for congratulations, and seeing the tears of happiness well up in her goggles. Driving from camp to camp with some of the Trek Dirt Series coaches, and knowing that if I could choose the people I was traveling with, I wouldn't choose anyone else. Feeling like I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing, and getting to make a small difference in my own little way. Those are all top contenders. 

Why are clinics such as Trek Dirt Series so vital for women in the mountain bike community?
I think that a well run professional mountain bike camp provides a new rider with such a fantastic introduction to the sport, and provides a seasoned rider with the extra skills and motivation to be more enthusiastic and committed. I've loved lessons my whole life -- both taking them and teaching them -- and I think that gaining new skills, meeting new like minded people, and just being a part of a supportive progressive environment is super fun. To me that's what the Trek Dirt Series is, and that's part of what makes it relevant and important.  
Photo Credit: Ronny Kalchhauser

Why do you feel it is so important to get more women involved with mountain biking?
I think it's important to get more people involved in the sport of mountain biking. It's fun, healthy, social, challenging, rewarding, and a great way to enjoy the outdoors.

Right now there are fewer women involved in mountain biking than men, so I'd say that if we're going to look at growing the sport overall that women are a great demographic to give some focus to. There's also the added benefit that women, once committed, are so good at bringing others into the sport, whether that's kids, partners, or friends. Women are talkers, organizers, and planners. Once we're enthusiastic about something, we're more than happy to share that enthusiasm with others and make things happen.

What makes getting a group of like-minded women together to work on mtb/handling skills so unique?
We run both women's specific and co-ed mountain bike camps, and while they're both really fun to take and to coach, they do feel a bit different.

If we're going to generalize, women are more analytical learners. We want more information, we have more questions, we're a little more risk averse, and we're a little more keen on having coach and group support. Of course the guys that come to our co-ed camps want some of these things too, and I think that part of the reason they sign up for our program specifically is because they know they're going to get them.

Maybe, though, it's fair to say that there are more questions and answers at the women's camps, more talking about confidence and fears, slightly louder cheering when we increase the former and reduce the latter, and potentially some more giggling overall. No pink feather boas though.  

What advice would you give to someone who is new to mountain biking and wants to give it a shot?
I think it's really important, at any level, to take things step-by-step, and to focus on the things you've achieved at least as much as the things you haven't. Yet

But specifically for someone getting into the sport, I'd say that it'd be great to get to know all the incredible resources that are out there ready to help you have a fantastic time -- friendly and knowledgeable bike shops, professional mountain bike skill development camps, riding clubs, bike parks and trail associations, and of course equipment manufacturers who are making increasingly more amazing product every day. This is such a great time to be a mountain biker. Enjoy it.  
Photo Credit: Anne Keller

Tell us something interesting about yourself that others may not know.
Here are a few:
I love Boggle and Scrabble.

I'm not so keen on sending my heart rate through the roof as I climb up a gravel hill, but put a technical rock and root puzzle in front of me and I'll barely realize how hard I'm working.

I'm super happy in warm water, and completely hooked on learning new kite tricks.

I live in a gothic arch house, built in the 1970s, in Whistler, BC and have a bike trail running down from my front door with a ramp at the end. Most often when people find out that this house is mine their reaction is "ah, that makes perfect sense".