Women on Bikes Series: Veronika Voracek

I live in Squamish, BC and have been riding for 8 years.
I started out in the Whistler Bike Park on an old Downhill bike which I loved more than anything. In my second and third season riding I dabbled in racing but didn’t have the time or the funds to commit to very many. Since those first two seasons, I have raced BC Cup DH circuits, Crankworx, Cascadia Dirt Cups, Local Toonie races, BC Enduro series and many races in between.

I have my PMBI Level 1 coaching and volunteer with the Trek Series and with a local Squamish women’s riding group as much as I can. I love seeing riders progress and spreading my love of riding with others!

Riding has taken me to so many amazing places and allowed me to meet some of my closest friends; I cannot wait for the next adventure!

I also part of a team of amazing women, follow our team blog:Team Danger Pony

When did you first start riding a bike?
I rode a bike my whole life in some form or another. I didn’t get into mountain biking until I was about 25 years old and had moved to Squamish. I remember seeing girls on downhill bikes in Whistler and just feeling the most painful jealousy. That was enough to motivate me to buy a beater downhill bike and the rest is history!  

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
At first I think it was the adrenaline and the amazing feeling of progression and scaring myself. Then all of a sudden I had a whole new circle of friends that rode bikes and kept me motivated. I got into different styles of riding, not just downhill and that kept things fun and interesting and now, it’s just a way of life. My schedule is worked around bike events and races in the summer.

What inspired you to start competing?
I am a very competitive person. I’ve never done a sport just for fun; I don’t think I know how! It was a natural progression for me to start racing. My first event was the Crankworx Air DH; I came 4th in Amateur and felt pretty darn good about it. It was only my second season riding so I figured I could only get better.  

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
My favorite one has always been the Sunshine Coaster DH in Roberts Creek, BC. It was the first race I ever won but that’s not why I love it. The course is one of the most fun trails of all time; it’s so great for beginner racers and experts alike. It’s a totally casual grassroots race and we’ve always made a camping/party weekend out of it. The riding there is so fun that we barely practice on the race course because all the surrounding trails are so great too!  

Which event are you looking forward to for 2015?
I’m hoping to get another crack at the EWS at Crankworx. I had a spot last summer but due to a slight injury and the massive intimation factor I pulled out last minute. I really didn’t feel ready fitness-wise and although I was hugely disappointed in myself, I believe I made the right decision. Hopefully, I can secure another spot this season and give it another go.  

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Addicted. I felt addicted. I never once questioned if this was the right sport for me. I started out in the Whistler Bike Park and loved it. I only had male friends that rode, no female friends were into it but riding with the boys really helped push me to become faster and braver I think.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I’m always nervous when I race, that never really goes away. Downhill was the worst, I’d have the craziest butterflies in my stomach! I would try and breathe and tell myself that it was just another ride and that my friends were just around the corner ahead of me, I just needed to catch them.

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 do use them. I switched over on my all-mountain bike and the following season used them for DH as well. I love them! It takes all the guess work out of where your feet should be, and they are such a help when climbing. Also, say goodbye to bleeding, scabby shins!

My advice would be to BE PATIENT! Your riding confidence will regress quite a bit and then you have to slowly build it back up. Start with pedals with a bit of a platform around the clip for those moments you want to have your feet unclipped, eventually you will never feel that need and can progress to a more streamlined pedal. Shoes with minimal tread are great to start with too because they allow you to wiggle your foot around a bit to clip in, I find shoes with an aggressive tread make it really hard to clip in on the go. But seriously, just be patient, it sucks at first, I won’t lie, but stick with it.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I’ve had plenty of falls and been fairly lucky with my injuries (knocking on wood). I’ve had periods where I’ve been injured and had to be off the bike; the key is to find something you CAN do to fill the time that biking did. The mental recovery from injuries is by far the hardest obstacle to overcome. I try and focus on easier, slower rides and find the joy and fun it them and eventually, your mind allows you to try harder and harder things. It’s a slow process for sure.   

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
For the first couple of seasons riding, I didn’t stray far out of Whistler Bike Park. I could ride almost every trail there with confidence and genuinely believed I was a great mountain biker. It wasn’t until some friends took me riding down some super gnarly trails in Squamish that it hit me, I had all the bike park trails memorized but had no idea how to transfer my skills to other trails that I didn’t know! Racing really helped me overcome that. It forced me to work on my technical riding and skills so I could apply them on any race course.  

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I have many weaknesses in my riding. The key is recognizing them and working on them constantly. Every ride I go on, I try and work on something that will improve my riding whether it be a new obstacle, a new tip for cornering, a more aggressive approach to a familiar trail, whatever. Different riding friends inspire me as well; I love following friends down trails and finding new lines and styles!

Any tips/suggestions for someone new to mountain biking?
Take a lesson!! I had no formal coaching for my first season and it was hard to go back and change all the bad habits. There are so many pieces of advice that people try and give beginners that are generally wrong. Do yourself a favor and spend a few bucks getting a lesson with a certified instructor and you will have all the tools you need to get started properly.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I am currently riding the 2015 Giant Reign 1. It climbs great and feels like a mini DH bike on the descents. Amazing! I will hopefully be rocking a hard tail in the spring as well, that will sure be different! I also have a road bike and a dirt jumper neither of which get used as much as I would like.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I’m a fan of Sombrio shorts and jerseys, Troy Lee shorts, Dakine jerseys, Sugoi makes great a chamois, and Dissent socks will change your life! 

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the places that it takes me and the people that I meet. The mountain bike community is so wonderful and welcoming. I’ve made some of my best friends through racing and riding and never lack riding partners or travel companions.