Women on Bikes Series: 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!

When did you first start riding a bike?
My brother put me on a bike at the top of a hill when I was four. I rode it to the bottom and then flew into a pond. The next time I got on a bike I was eight. My parents gave me a pink bike with a banana seat, training wheels and streamers. I discovered Mountain Biking at age 20 in Durango, Colorado.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Three things:
1. Riding with amazing women. My like for mountain biking turned into love when I found other women to ride with and inspire me.
2. I’m addicted. (aka. the feeling I get when I ride my bike). Challenge, focus, and the success that comes with practice. No matter how much I ride, there is always that next thing seducing me to improve and grow.
3. Sharing the sport with others. Seeing people conquer their fears and accomplish new things is so rewarding.

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
Nope. But I can get pretty competitive with myself. I like to time myself on trails, and that’s the only time I care about beating.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
I’m really not that into it, but there’s a local event in my home town that I love: the Moab Ho Down. It’s a mountain bike festival that includes an enduro race and a dirt jump competition, but it also includes a mountain bike film festival, ridiculous costume party, townie tour, and women’s skills clinic.

What style is your favorite?
I love the rocky ledgy technical trails in Moab.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Yes, determined. I practiced on the bike path for a month or so before going out on a trail.  The trail I was on ended up being way over my head, I walked about half of it.  That trail became a measure for my success, as one by one I conquered each switchback, rock, root, and steep loose climb.

With nervousness, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I take a few deep breaths and mentally walk myself through each step of what I need to do. I look through to the other side of whatever is making me nervous, and see myself there. I believe that whatever you tell yourself, you’re right.

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 love both. I prefer clipless pedals for trail riding, and I like to teach, learn new things, and downhill with flat pedals. A couple years ago I rode with flat pedals for a season, and it made me a better rider. I think beginners will have more fun getting into the sport if they start out with flat pedals first. For riders interested in trying clipless pedals, take your time and practice clipping in and out on very easy terrain. That month I spent on the bike path, before ever riding on a trail, I practiced getting in and out of my clipless pedals.

Were you a natural when you started out mountain biking or did you have some struggles? What motivated you to keep at it?
I had to work for it. I really liked the mountain bikers I knew, and wanted to be able to ride with them.  I would go out alone and spend hours sessioning technical sections of trail.

What was one skill or technique that gave you the hardest time to master?
The follow through after a front wheel lift up onto a big ledge. Getting my front wheel up was easy; learning to follow through with my rear wheel took more time. I remember the first time I made it over a ledge and kept pedaling, without having to put a foot down. It felt pretty awesome.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Yes, I have three memorable crashes. The worst of these, a little over a year ago, is the only time I’ve gone to the clinic for a mountain bike injury. I fractured my radius. Rebuilding my confidence took some time. I gave myself permission to take it easy for a while, but I missed riding interesting and challenging trails. Any mental/emotional trauma that might have held me back was outweighed by my desire to get back out there. I knew what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future. I knew I still had everything I needed: strength, skill, knowledge, and an incredible bike. I think I’m pretty calculated in the risks I take. I love rough trails and riding fast, but I also know what I’m capable of.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My new bike is en route to me right now! It is a gorgeous black carbon Trek Slash 9.8. I chose it because it suits my riding style and the type of terrain that I love. Last year I rode a bright orange Slash 9. Descending on my Slash is as amazing as I knew it would be. What surprised me is how well it climbs. I love love love it.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Essay or short answer?  I love clothing and accessories, and could list dozens of things.  Here are a few.  Stance socks: my favorite pair has a rose print with metal studs. Dakine Amp hydration pack: the air mesh suspended back panel is super nice, and I like Dakine’s reservoir. Topeak Road Morph pump: it converts to a floor pump out on the trail (I like it better than their mountain morph pump). Bell Super helmet: light, comfortable, so vented it’s like air conditioning. Maxxis tires. Shredly shorts: amazing, comfortable, stylish. Oakley Miss Conduct Squared sunglasses: the perfect sunglasses for mountain biking, they’re light, flexible, have a huge rimless field of view, and they look amazing.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Um, everything. Mountain biking has brought me my most cherished friends and experiences, and has been a constant through the best and worst times of my life. I love the way it makes me feel. That state of awareness, exhilarated focus, in tune with the terrain and how to move through it, moving with my bike. Mountain biking offers so many great analogies to life. Taking on challenge, overcoming obstacles. Looking ahead (focusing on where I want to get instead of the obstacles). It reminds me that I can do things that are difficult, and that things that seem hard become easy if I just keep doing them. I especially love riding with other women. And it’s a nice way to experience nature.