Women on Bikes Series: Laurie Citynski

I’m a 25 years old outdoor enthusiast! In May 2015 I graduated from UBC with a major in Kinesiology and a minor in Psychology. 

I’ve been working at bike shops in the summer and ski shops in the winter up until now, but what excites me the most is coaching!

I’ve been working and volunteering for the Trek Dirt Series mountain bike camps in Whistler for 2 summers now, Escape Adventures for a summer, and I am currently a strength coach at Marx Conditioning, helping athletes get stronger for their outdoor sports.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I was a big runner growing up and never overly interested in riding a bicycle until I tore my MCL and then my PCL playing soccer in 2009. I turned to road biking to rehab my knees, and saw a mountain bike for the first time while I was at a shop buying my bike! In 2011 my dad bought a really old cross country bike, so I borrowed it and a friend of mine took me for my very first ride on Burnaby Mountain. I was hooked. I signed up for a Trek Dirt Series mountain bike camp in June 2011 and bought a used bike the next month. The rest is history!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Progression! Every time I ride a trail I go a little faster and get a little better. I’m riding things now that even a few months ago I would’ve walked. Also, I can’t discount the people! Mountain bikers are super fun, rad, accepting people. I love all my riding buddies and how tight the community is. It really makes you feel like you’re a part of something.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
Downhill mountain biking, for sure! My favourite track so far is the Dag’s Downhill BC Cup course in Silverstar, put on by SE Racing! That was my first time standing on the top step of the podium too, so I’ve got good memories there.

For me, competing is about pushing my limits and trying lines I would never take on a “fun” ride. In racing you need to take the big lines or you won’t have much of a chance, simple as that. I really enjoy the camaraderie of racing as well. There aren’t too many girls doing the dh circuit, so you get to know them pretty well. Everyone is generally really supportive of each other and we can share our lines and talk about our fears. It’s pretty cool. Doing track walks and practice runs with other females is invaluable. If someone rides something big it’s like, well if she can do it, I can do it! It’s great to push each other like that.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Terrified! I didn’t know if I loved it or hated it during the ride, but once we got to the bottom, the adrenaline (from riding over my first root, haha) was addictive and I knew that this was something I wanted to get better at. My best piece of advice is to get some professional coaching and make sure you have a decent bike. It really makes all the difference.

 If you have nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
At the top of every race run I feel absolutely sick to my stomach. I ask myself why I’m even there and feelings of inadequacy invariably pop into my head. I’m so nervous that my body is visibly shaking and all I can do is sit on my bike and squeeze my brakes on and off. At this point it’s essential to calm down, because the worst way to ride is scared and stiff! I know the course, I know that I’ve ridden trails like this before and I know that I’m here because I want to be. The mantra I repeat over and over to myself before and during the race is: “riding bikes is fun!!” It’s easy to forget sometimes, especially when you’re trying to win a race or learn a new skill, but we’re here because we want to be. We started riding bikes because it was fun...as soon as it stops being fun, what is the point, really? Also, a smile and a hoot of joy (even if you have to fake it at first!) goes a long way in relaxing you and bringing you back into the moment. :)

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 tried out clips on my road bike for a month, but they aggravated my knee and I had to take them off. In light of that, my suggestion would be to get properly fitted to your bike with your new clips and shoes. It’s very different than riding flats for multiple reasons, but especially because your feet are attached and unmoving, meaning your ankles and knees are getting a lot of that repetitive stress in the same area. Make sure the cleats are positioned right for your body for the thousands of pedal strokes ahead!

I strongly believe that it is more beneficial for beginners to learn mountain bike skills with flat pedals. Yes, they are more efficient for climbing and definitely have their place for high-speed downhill, but after a couple years coaching riders, I see so many beginners using their clips ineffectively. Instead of learning to relax the ankles to stay on the pedals through more technical downhill sections, they get bounced around on top of the bike, unstable but able to stay on because they’re attached to their pedals. I could go on, but just make sure you’ve talked to coaches and considered the pros and cons before you switch over.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
The biggest crash I had was on a step down I shorted in Whistler 2 years ago. I bruised my entire thigh and was on crutches for a week. I’m lucky that I’ve never been injured worse than that, but it still took an emotional toll on me. I remember on the way up to Whistler for the first time since the crash I cried in the car because I was so scared. I was full of negative self talk, thinking I wasn’t good enough and that I should quit biking and questioning why was I even trying to ride. We went down a fun, easy blue trail to start and I was stoked again after that first corner. Step downs are still a bit scary, but I find it helps to break it down so you can put full trust your skills. I always look at new features before I hit them so I can judge the speed and distance. It helps to watch your friends ride it too. For step downs I imagine them being just a drop or a table top (depending on how the lip and landing are). I’ve learned that biking is a hugely mental sport. Positive self talk, trusting in my skills and not comparing myself to others are the three things I am constantly working on. These are key!!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Cornering was the most difficult part of riding for me. There are so many different types of corners: flat, bermed, off-camber, rooty, rocky, soft...they all need a slightly different approach to them. Taking a lesson is honestly the best thing you can do. Getting that immediate feedback that is tailored to you is so important. 
In the meantime, I suggest watching Pinkbike videos! Really! Watching good riders will give you an idea of what it should look like. Be loose and dance with the bike, letting it do the hard work for you. It should look effortless.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Definitely! I feel like there is always something I can ride better or faster. All of us are constantly learning, every ride. When racing, sometimes I catch myself thinking of how I could’ve been faster if I could only do that one thing or take that one really tough line, but it all comes back to positive self talk. Instead of focusing on how far you have to go, think of how far you’ve come. And always remember that mantra: riding bikes is fun!! :)

What do you love about riding your bike?
Being out in nature, exploring, sweating, adrenaline, accomplishment, friends...everything!! The biking community is so fun, friendly and accepting. I couldn’t have picked a better sport.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I am riding and racing the Canfield Jedi as my dh bike and I have a Norco Range as my all-mountain bike. For me it’s all about fun on the downhill. In an all-mountain bike I look for something that is geared towards the down but can still get me up the hill, which is why the Range was my choice in that category. For my downhill bike I’m excited to be on a Jedi, which has a 2.5” rearward travel, meaning that it doesn’t get hung up or slow down on square-edged hits. It propels you out of corners and is a fast, stable race bike! I’ve never felt as fast and confident on a bike before…it’s incredible!

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
For clothes I recommend as much merino wool as possible!! Socks, underwear, shirts, sweaters...whatever you can get! It stays warm when wet and doesn’t smell after a long day of sweating. I barely wear anything else now. Try it. You’ll never go back.

As for bike stuff, Marzocchi suspension is super low maintenance, which is great because when you’re out having fun on a bike the last thing you’re thinking about is the last time you serviced your fork...

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Well, the cost can definitely be daunting when you’re first getting in to it. If you don’t know anything about mountain biking it’s hard to know what to look for and what a good price is. There are so many choices and so many people telling you different things that it’s hard to put down a thousand dollars or more on a sport you’re not even sure that you’re going to love. Women are very practical, and biking doesn’t always come across as practical!

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think the ability to try out the sport with other women is the key. A camp or a day of coaching with people at the same level as you is definitely the way to go. It’s how I got into it! Programs like the Trek Dirt Series (www.dirtseries.com) are important because they have women only camps with coaches that are professional or highly qualified riders that inspire and show you what can be possible on a bike! Also having more exposure for women doing cool things is super encouraging. Groups like the Women’s Freeride Movement (womensfreeridemovement.org) are inspiring and promote women doing rad things and post about women’s only events and clinics on their Facebook page.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I’d never even seen a mountain bike until I was 21 years old. No one ever told me about mountain biking and only after I stumbled upon it did I find out that some friends of mine rode. It’s getting better, but it’s still such a male-dominated sport. Women need to be introduced to it and they need to have other women to ride with. Yes, some of us can feel comfortable ripping it up with the boys, but a lot of us need that female encouragement and supportiveness. I know for me personally I need that support and excited high fives after doing a feature, rather than just hitting it and trying to catch up to the boys ahead of me...it’s anticlimactic! I want other women to be a part of this mountain biking family and to push themselves in ways they would never think they could. It’s so empowering and your confidence transfers over to your everyday life. Plus it gives you a cool topic of conversation at parties!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have a 13 year old Green Iguana named Cinder! He’s just over 5 feet long and likes climbing curtains and eating our cat’s food. J


  1. What a great interview! I'm so proud of you, Laurie. <3

  2. It’s how I got into it! Programs like the Trek Dirt Series are important because they have women only camps with coaches that are professional or highly qualified riders that inspire and show you what can be possible on a bike! Also having more exposure for women doing cool things is super encouraging.


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