Women on Bikes Series: Suz Forrester
I am a downhill mountain biker who lives in Wollongong, Australia. I'm also a photographer and I do some modeling as well.
When did you first start riding a bike?
I started riding in 2002 when I was 26 and went straight to downhill.
What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I was motivated to start riding at the start after seeing my then boyfriend - now husband - come back from a ride. He was buzzing so much from having so much fun! After seeing his reaction and hearing how good it was I knew I wanted to try it. Riding bikes is certainly not something that comes naturally to me as I grew up riding horses. I lived on a horse riding farm my entire childhood so I probably only rode a bike a handful of times growing up. As I tell people, it’s the coolest thing I ever took up and I love the challenge. I thought of improving my riding and being able to do bigger jumps, and ride faster and smoother. That motivates me! When you see those improvements you feel like you have grown as a rider
What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
To watch I love the downhill world cups. The level of riding blows my mind so I find it very inspirational and it always makes me want to go ride.
I haven’t competed for years now and when I did race I hadn’t been riding very long; I always got so nervous it seemed to make me ride badly. Now I just ride for fun but my favourite thing about racing is the people. I have met so many amazing people from racing that I know will be lifelong friends.
Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Terrified, excited, but stoked! I had no idea what I was doing but I had a big smile the entire time! Not much has changed although a lot less terrified now, haha!
If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I certainly was nervous a lot when I started riding and I used to get nervous every time I rode. I found that when I got a good group of people to ride with who encouraged me, I became less and less nervous. I always try to do that with new riders; you don’t have to be the best rider, you just have to be yourself and find your own groove! I still get nervous doing a jump I have never done, but that’s a good thing I think. You need to learn how to use that feeling by turning it into a positive- thinking I am nervous but I can do this. I find being nervous gives you energy and I like to use that.
What do you love about Downhill vs. other forms of mtb
I always joke I am too lazy to ride uphill so that’s why I only ride downhill. I only own a downhill bike although I would love to own a smaller travel bike & do more xc as we have a lot of cool xc tracks where I live.
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 ride with pedals. It comes down to preference really. The thought of being clipped in frightens me but other friends wouldn’t run anything but clips. I think starting with flats is better so you aren’t worried about being connected to the bike and can bail off the bike easily if need be. If you think you’d like to try clips be sure you get someone who knows what they are doing as you don’t want your clips too tight that you can’t unclip easily. I will be a flat pedals girl forever as I like being able to put my foot out when I want around corners, but if I start riding more xc I would give clips a go as it makes is easier on the climbs
Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Earlier this year I was sporting a cast on my leg after breaking 3 metatarsals after ramming my foot into the back of a rock in a rock garden and the recovery went very slowly due to complications. Of course I have had the token comments like “Has this put you off riding” No it definitely has not! This is what I love doing! Some people think I am crazy for riding because I could get hurt but I know they don’t understand how happy it makes me. Riding isn’t for everyone. I have had a lot of falls and some very hard hits where I have lost all of my confidence, but I see it as a challenge to yourself and seeing what you are capable of. Life throws some hard situations at you, so why not see what inner strength you have and challenge yourself by riding or doing something that is challenging but very rewarding. Like life, you have to get back up and keep going. I have been scared to ride again but I just take it back a notch or two, slow down, and make sure I am riding smooth over fast to get my confidence back. Also arnica will become a very good friend! I used tablets and cream to help healing with muscles and bruises. I have had some good ones!!
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
First and best advice I can give is don’t be stubborn like me and not ask for help! I always said I’ll go last and didn’t want people to see me ride as I was stupidly embarrassed by my lack of skills; so I taught myself. I wish now I would have gotten more help, advice, and a lesson or two as I got in to bad habits that I didn't realize I was doing. It’s all body position so cornering v’s, jumping v’s, doing a drop, and how body position can make a big difference. I still go back to a bad body position when I get nervous and that doesn’t help me. I actually talk to myself as I ride telling myself to stand up and put my elbows out. But a lesson is well worth it so you start off on the right foot with the right advice!
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
There has been so many as I taught myself. I get too far back when I jump, so I need to stand higher and lift the bike more to get better height and distance. It’s all practice. If you want it you will get it! Great advice someone told me was when you get to something that you are scared of and you are tense, the best thing to do is to let a big breath out as that relaxes your shoulders. During a race I kept crashing while riding a rock garden that I had ridden so well the weekend before, I was so nervous! I tried the breathing technique and nailed it!
I am still nervous with air time and rock rolls after previous crashes I have had, but I just ride within my limit and not let it get me down. I have surprised myself with what I have done. It’s not a competition with others, just you, so don’t be too hard on yourself at the end of the day. As I always say more WHOO less boo!
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Giant Glory which I have had for a few years now although it’s had a custom paint job and pink leopard print Giant stickers added to it. I bought it for a couple of reasons. One they are such great value for money and two a friend had suggested it would be good for me as it was a good weight and the angles on it would suit me. I love it and it definitely improved my riding after I got it. It just suits me. Although I would SO love a Santa Cruz V10! That’s the dream bike!
I have a little Commencal hard tail too (I say it’s mine but it’s my husband’s but since it’s pink I just call it mine haha).
What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I wouldn’t buy anything but a Troy Lee Designs D3 helmet. They are so comfortable and apparently they have one with leopard print coming!
As for clothing I also wear Troy Lee Designs shorts for downhill. I wear 661 knee guards which are so incredibly comfortable although starting off I used to wear knee and shin pads as I was always hitting my shins. As for shoes you cannot go past 5-10’s with flat pedals. They have incredible grip so it’s almost like being clipped in anyway! Goggles come down to your head size. I run Oakley’s as I have a pinhead and some goggles tend to sit too far down my nose as they are too big. The newest coolest gear out though is a brand called DhaRCO. They are Australian owned by a good friend and they really do have the super cool stuff for chicks! I love their jerseys as they have great colours and designs and their shorts are the best for riding xc. I have worn them riding downhill too! The materials in all their gear is such good quality, including their t-shirts. We have so many girls wearing it in Australia now it has taken over Troy Lee Design which has had the market here for a long time.
What do you love about riding your bike?
There are so many things I love about riding my bike. I love that I get to ride with my husband and most of my closet friends. That it’s completely different to my job I do and that people are surprised I ride a bike at all (wearing dresses does not make you a girly girl!). I love the challenge and seeing how far you come and that I can be having the crappiest day then I can think of times I have been riding and it instantly makes me smile. I couldn’t imagine a life without riding!