Women on Bikes Series: Stacey Peterson

My name is Stacey and I live in Evergreen – a small town in the foothills above Denver. l grew up in Colorado and love the mountains more than anything. I took up mountain biking at the end of 2012, and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love. 

When I’m not out riding my bike on the local dirt, you can find me hanging out in the hills with my husband and my two demanding but hilarious kids.

I quit a career in engineering a while back to pursue my dream of being an artist, and now I spend most of my days in the studio, doing paintings of the Rocky Mountain landscapes I love so much. You can view my art here –www.staceypeterson.com

When did you first start riding a bike?
I started riding as a little kid and spent a lot of time cruising around the neighborhood with my friends. As I got older, I started doing some longer rides with one of my neighbors, but then dropped it once I got into high school. After college, I bought my first road bike and started to do triathlons, which is probably when I really started to fall in love with riding.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
When I first started road-biking, it was all about fitness, but as time went by I really fell in love with the idea of using my bike to get outside, and see beautiful places. I took up mountain biking a few years ago, and let’s be honest – it’s just plain FUN! Now I ride for a multitude of reasons – it keeps me healthy, it keeps me happy, and it gets me out there in awesome places.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
This has got to be the Beti Bike Bash mountain bike race in Colorado. It is such a well-run, positive event. You have women out there of all abilities – ranging from kids to beginners to pros – giving it their all in a mountain bike race.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
It was awful. Some friends from out of town wanted to ride the lift at Winter Park and ride down, so we all rented bikes and headed up. I crashed in the first few minutes, and ended up taking the access road down instead of the singletrack, then announced that I would NEVER mountain bike again. I look back and wish someone had simply given me a couple of tips about body and foot position at the top!

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I took a few years and when I decided to try it again, I did it slowly and on my own terms – riding easy stuff at first, and slowly gaining confidence. I took a women’s skill clinic within the first month of getting back on the mountain bike, and a few simple lessons about body position and where to look made a huge difference in my confidence level.

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 always use clipless on my road bike, but rarely use them on my mountain bike. I’ll put them on the mountain bike every once in a while if I’m doing a XC race on relatively smooth terrain, but for the most part I’m a big fan of sticky soled shoes and high quality flats. I find that I’m a lot more willing to try new technical terrain when I’m riding flats, and that makes me a better rider. I’ve seen a lot of beginners get frustrated learning new skills wearing clipless pedals, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with switching over to flats for a while to learn new skills. Mountain biking is about having fun, first and foremost. Maybe I’ll switch back to clipless when I start losing my races by a few seconds and need an advantage, but for now I love my flats!

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 fell on a switchback and broke my wrist about six months after I started mountain biking. I knew from the minute I did it that I wasn’t going to let it stop me, but when I got back on the bike after six weeks in a cast, I had definitely suffered a big setback in confidence. I remember riding the 401 trail in Crested Butte, and walking all sorts of easy stuff at the top because I was intimidated. It was frustrating – I felt like I had gone backwards and I was mad at myself. But I stuck with it and took a few more skills clinics, and eventually loosened up and gained my confidence againIt just took time.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I’m a bit of a klutz, so I’ve always been intimidated by the techy stuff here in Colorado – rock gardens, drops, steep descents. I’ve taken a couple of skills clinics and they were great for learning some solid techniques to take the intimidation factor down a notch. The biggest thing for me was learning proper body position – keeping my body low, elbows and knees bent to absorb shock, looking ahead instead of down. You can get through a lot of tricky stuff if you stay low and loose.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I’m still intimidated by bigger rock gardens and drops, and I’d like to get faster on the descents this year. I don’t really let it get me down – I think it’s one of the cool things about mountain biking, actually. There are ALWAYS things to work on, it’s always challenging. It’s why I never get bored with it!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love being outside, on beautiful trails, seeing cool places. And I love the feeling I have after a hard ride, when I know I’ve worked as hard as I could, or cleared something new. It’s confidence inspiring, and it keeps me grounded.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Right now I’m riding a 2009 Giant Anthem that I bought on Craigslist for $800 a few years ago. It’s old school, but it’s been a great bike for me starting out – I wasn’t willing to blow thousands of dollars at first when I didn’t know if I would really like mountain biking or not. It’s light, so it made climbing the hills around here easier, and it worked for what I needed. Now that I’m pretty obsessed with mountain biking, I’m taking the plunge and investing in a new bike. I’ve got a Pivot Mach 4 Carbon on order right now, and I’m looking forward to racing on an awesome new rig this summer!!
I’ve also got a Boris X7 fatbike that I use mostly for riding in the snow, and it has gotten me out on the trails so much more than usual this winter – I love it. I’ve got an old Nashbar road bike that I use for training when the trails are mud.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love Shredly shorts! They’re the only baggies I’ve found that fit my girly curves and make my mountain biker thighs look good. I actually wear them all over the place in the summer – off the trail, they’re cute for hiking and everything else. Also swear by Five Ten shoes for riding flats.

You recently had a post published by IMBA's Dig In blog- Tell us about what inspired you to tell your story:
I think that a lot of women are intimidated to try mountain biking because it has such a hardcore public image. We’re bombarded with videos of Redbull Rampage and people doing crazy stunts, and that’s not completely what mountain biking is about. I wanted to tell my story so women know that there are real people out there who love mountain biking. I tried it, and it changed my life.  

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Like I said above, the public image. You don’t see a lot of videos of people enjoying beautiful cross country trails, or women in general on bikes. So it seems unattainable.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think we need to get some real stories out there about women who ride, and how it changes their lives for the positive. I also think women’s clinics and groups are great for encouraging women to get out there in a non-intimidating environment.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Mostly, having a daughter. I think a lot about what I want for her when she grows up, and number one is a healthy dose of self-confidence. I want her to feel strong. Mountain biking gives me that as a woman – it makes me feel strong and capable and adventurous, and I would just love it if more women could get out there and experience that as well.  I want her to grow up in a world where there are opportunities for women in sport.  

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I’m a really picky eater – I’ve never even tried a cheeseburger.