Women on Bikes Series: Angi Weston

Joonas Vinnari w/Kona Bikes
Angi is certified through the International Mountain Bike Association’s Instructor Certification Program (IMBA-ICP), and has been teaching and coaching for over 10 years. She gets her kicks traveling around the country riding, competing in, and coaching many disciplines, including; downhill, enduro, dirt jumping, slopestyle, cross country, cyclocross, and coaster-brake klunkers. After growing up in the suburbs of Tacoma, WA, Angi moved to Bellingham, WA to attend Western Washington University. 

It was during her time in college that she was bit by the mountain bike bug and started to really explore her backyard - the majestic Cascadia. Her zeal for cycling and being outside continued to grow, leading her to work at a local bike shop for a few years then eventually to a job with the Kona Bicycle Company. Her work as a regional sales rep for Kona and a certified mountain bike coach keep her living her dream of getting more people riding and loving bikes. In the off-season Angi can be found on her snowboard up at the Mt. Baker Ski Area in Washington and is currently working toward becoming an AASI certified snowboard instructor. Teaching is a great passion of hers and it shows in her enthusiastic and patient approach.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding a mountain bike when I was about 20 years old. I stumbled upon a “beginning bicycling” PE class while in college and since I had a Schwinn cruiser bike and a helmet, I decided to register. The teacher of that class happened to be a mountain biker so his class ended up being my first introduction into riding a bike off road. It blew my mind. I crashed a bunch, learned a ton, and discovered the numerous networks of single track that existed in my backyard. I was hooked. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
The thrill of it all! The adventure, progression, challenge, and reward. The sense of belonging I get from being a part of the riding community and having a sweet quiver of Kona bikes. It sounds silly but it is a motivator – you can’t just let those beauties collect dust! However, I am especially motivated by helping others discover their potential and capabilities through biking and coaching has kept me as fired up as ever to pedal every chance I get (or can make).   

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I’m not too big on competition these days except for always pinning for number one in fun!
I used to race downhill around the region because I loved the exposure to new riding locations and all the great people I’d hang out with who attend races but it got really expensive and I always wanted more time actually riding my bike. So these days I pretty much only complete at the awesome Sugar Showdown events because they are slopestyle events for women only and that is so rare and special. I’ll race the Mayhem Enduro every year because some of my dear friends put on this race as a fundraiser for their local trails and it is a great vibe, awesome venue, and there are some rowdy sections of trail that are too fun not to race. The only other time I really “compete” (I’m really just there to hang out) is at the local enduro race on some of my favorite trails here in Bellingham; The Chuckanut Enduro

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
I think I remember feeling shocked. I had no idea that such a sport existed or that I was capable of doing such a thing. And even though I ended up dirty and a little bruised and bloody, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
My nickname in bike class became Hard Charger, so I think I kept the nerves at bay pretty well. Ha!  However, over the years as my riding progressed and as the trails my friends talked me into trying progressed in difficulty I would feel nervousness and still do to this day. I overcome it by visualizing success and trusting in my ability and equipment to be there for me. As mountain bikers we hone our reactionary reflexes pretty dang well and we must learn to trust in that intrinsic ability to save ourselves. It also helps to practice, practice, practice… Luckily, practicing good technical riding skills is super fun!

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 use both clipless pedals and flat pedals and feel equally comfortable on both. My tip for beginners is to start out on flat pedals and learn the proper technique of being able to keep the bike with you at all times without depending on the clips. As your handling skills develop and you want to pedal faster and/or be more efficient on your bike you can start trying clipless pedals. Start on a stationary bike or  trainer so you get used to the act of clipping in and out of the pedal without losing your balance. 

Then I would recommend putting clipless pedals on your road or commuter bike to gain comfort with the pedal system in a setting with lower consequence. Once you get comfortable with the clipless action you can take it to the trail. Put your knee pads on even for the uphills on your first few rides because those uphill tumbles while learning can be hard on the knees! If you started out with clipless pedals and feel foreign on flat pedals I recommend trying flat pedals on a less technical trail or road first and building your confidence with time and practice. Wear your knee and shin guards too because the first few lessons in keeping your feet on the pedals can result in some shin bangers. Taking a lesson from a certified coach or patient friend can be a great way to break through the tough learning curve of a new pedal system too.

Have you had any biffs or situations that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
In mountain biking (and in life) chances are that if it is worth your time and energy it will have the potential for failure and setbacks. Any big injury that has taken me off my bike for an extended period of time is always very challenging. Not only does one have to be patient and let the body heal, but you also have to restore your mental strength and courage. It takes time to get back to your old self after a big setback but it is possible and sometimes you come back even stronger and wiser than before. 

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I started out riding I was pretty fearless so I’m not sure I really recognized my lack of handling skills immediately. If I bit it really hard I would be pulling myself up off the ground, brushing the dirt away, inspecting my injuries, and scratching my head trying to figure out what the heck happened. Now if I crash I can almost pin-point exactly what went wrong. Working with professional coaches like Shaums March, Gale Dalligher, Kat Sweet, and Tammy Donahue really opened my eyes to some handling skills that I had not only not refined over the years but had never even learned. I have a pretty analytical mind so I went to town devouring my coaching manuals, watching videos of professionals ride, and dissecting photos of myself riding compared to others. Still to this day I analyze every movement, ask tons of questions, and practice every chance I get. Nothing can replace a personalized lesson from a professional coach when it comes to honing your bike handling skills.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
It’s all in your head…. Everybody can find ways to improve their riding and if you focus on those areas that need improvement to the point of it dragging you down while you ride then you need to change your perspective. Focus on your successes, no matter how little or big and ride with people who are patient and encouraging. I know I have plenty of room to improve my riding so that I can ride faster and jump bigger and when I am presented with an opportunity to push my limits I try to take full advantage. However, I know that not every day is going to be my day to improve so I listen to my gut and push it when it feels right to push it. Choosing the right crew of friends to ride with can really make all the difference in the world. Everybody out there should strive to be that friend that people want to ride with because you inspire them to be their best.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Well, I have a lot of bikes so maybe I will just tell you about my current favorite, the Kona Process 134 SE. I chose this bike because of the ultimate fit! I was already in love with the low standover and easy handling capabilities of the other bikes in the Process line-up so when Kona created a version with a parts spec geared towards smaller lighter riders I jumped right on it! I’m 5’4” and the size small fits me perfectly! I really dig the simplicity and ease of the SRAM X1 11-speed drivetrain, the Shimano Deore brakes are super reliable and consistent, the WTB KOM i23 TCS 27.5” rims are superlight but still tough (oops! Did I just case that jump or smash those roots? No worries!), plus the KS Lev DX dropper post is a game changer!  If you don’t have a dropper post on your mountain bike yet, PLEASE do yourself a huge favor and get one. You’ll be encouraged to get even more rowdy on the trails without a seat post poking you in the behind and when it comes time to mash uphill you don’t have to stop and mess around with a seat post adjustment. Brilliant! If you want to see me shred my 134 SE a little or if you want to learn more about the bike check out this little Kona commercial: http://vimeo.com/113100613 

Joonas Vinnari w/Kona Bikes
What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I trust my Smith Forefront helmet with my life and think it’s super cute and comfortable. Plus the easy-to-use Smith Pivlock glasses go smashingly well with the Forefront helmet. I really dig the great ladies apparel I have from both Dakine and Race Face and would recommend those brands to all the ladies. However, when I am really in need of some new gear and want to be sure I am spending my money on the right brands and items I just turn to DirtJane.com for advice, reviews, and SHOPPING because they have it all and I know I am getting reviews on products that are tested by REAL mountain biking chicas. If you don’t know about the Dirty Janes – go check ‘um out!

What do you love about riding your bike?
The thrill of it all! The adventure, progression, challenge, and reward.