Monday, August 31, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Rebekah Giaraffa

My name is Rebekah Giaraffa and I am a 5th generation Colorado native. I moved to Atlanta for high school and college, but moved back to Denver in 2002. It is home. I am an avid traveler, having been to 50 countries. My job as an account executive and meeting planner for a global ad agency network allows me to feed this love. I am married to my wonderful husband, Matt, who is co-owner and Chief Engineer of Guerrilla Gravity and we have an adorable Australian labradoodle, Grizzly.

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter!
Find The Dirt Divas on Facebook, Twitter, and their Website!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I started riding bikes when I was a kid. I received a tri-cycle for my third birthday and a bitchin’ purple and pink “10-speed” for my 10th. I got into mountain biking after meeting my husband, then boyfriend, about 8-9 years ago.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Being outside is a major motivator. I loved being outside as a kid. A bike gave me the freedom to ride from my house to my friend’s house quickly. It let me explore and find new adventures. I’m still making new adventures on my bike.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
Well, I am not competitive. The only bike race I have participated in was the Red Bull 12 hour Final Descent. I participated because there were only two other ladies signed up and I wanted to downhill that day, so why not get prize money to do so?! I got 3rd place and that paid more than my race fee. I call it winning in my book!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Scared as hell. I had been riding clipless on my road bike for a year or so. I told Matt that I wanted to try mountain biking, so we went to Golden Gate Canyon. I hopped on his bike, which he tried to make small enough for me, but it wasn’t and clipped in. I then hesitantly ventured from the pavement to the gravel and almost ate it. I didn’t quite understand the concept that these wider tires would be able to maneuver the gravel and dirt where my skinny tires couldn’t. I was elated when I made my first turn and didn’t fall off of the bike!

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I was definitely nervous, but once I trusted the bike and its capabilities, I was able to progress. I look back at my first fears and keep those tucked away in order to remember that mountain biking didn’t come naturally.

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 have used clipless in the past, but am back on flats. I love that clipless help you “cheat” a little when riding and you don’t have to worry about your foot slipping a pedal. I have had both of my hips replaced now (not biking related!) and found that being clipped in held me back on the bike. I got nervous in rock gardens and didn’t try because I was so afraid of falling and hurting my hips. So, I got a great pair of flat pedals and some 5.10 shoes with lots of stickiness and haven’t regretted the transition.  If a new rider is experimenting with pedals, I’d say that some things to keep in mind are: go with what makes you a better rider, don’t listen to the hype, do what is best for you. And, as a general rule of thumb, flats help you improve skills, clipless help you get faster.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
You go into mountain biking knowing that someday, you will crash and it will hurt. You have to accept it and then go ride your bike. I broke my collarbone on my first ride of Memorial Day weekend in 2011. I was downhilling and weighted the inside hand in a corner. While I still have some struggles when it comes to left hand corners as a result, but I no longer weight my inside hand! I mentally prepare myself for corners now by visualizing the move I’m going to make as I approach them, taking the high line and looking through, as the bike tends to follow where the eyes are looking.

My hips were another struggle I had with mountain biking. I was diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia in 2009. My hip sockets were too shallow and I’d worn away the cartilage at the top of the sockets and bone spurs had settled in. Needless to say, it was painful. Riding my mountain bike up hills made it even more painful, as the pressure of riding irritated the socket. It was on a ride in the fall of 2009 that I decided that I couldn’t wait anymore and had my first replacement in January 2010. Getting back to riding afterwards was wonderful and a great way to help with recovery.  

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/switchbacks are still a challenge for me. Looking through the corner at where I want to be has been the best piece of advice.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Rock gardens and downhill steeps are still tricky for me. If I have speed, they are much easier, but that isn’t always an option. I have learned to try sections, but don’t knock myself for walking. For the steeps, looking at the destination, taking my hands off the brakes and pushing my butt back helps me tackle them 85% of the time.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Riding my bike allows me to be outside. It allows me to experience nature. I love being able to ride with friends, but also by myself. I love listening to the sounds, the birds chirping, the smell of the flowers, the crisp air in winter, seeing the critters off the trail, hearing the brook down below, seeing the wildflowers emerge, and just being.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My trail mountain bike is the Guerrilla Gravity Megatrail and my downhill mountain bike is the Guerrilla Gravity GG/DH. 
Guerrilla Gravity makes badass bikes that are a blast to ride. And they make them in Colorado. I was able to customize my bikes from everything from the shock and fork to the colors. Plus, it is pretty cool to be riding bikes that my husband designed and made himself. J

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Merino wool is my go to clothing, both for biking and everyday wear. Everything from my sports bra and shorts to my socks and shirt are merino wool. It dries quickly and doesn’t retain smells like man-made fibers. You can usually find me wearing something from either Ibex or Icebreaker. My first choice is Ibex, since they make many of their clothes in the US. 

You are a member of Dirt Divas, tell us why you joined the Dirt Divas club-
Dirt Divas allows for me to ride and connect with women who have a love for mountain biking. That love may be a new crush or a long-time relationship. The women are supportive and help encourage one another, giving tricks for getting through something tricky, or waiting until the last woman makes it up the hill. No one is ever left behind, and as one of the slower ladies on the uphill, I always appreciate this!

What has been the best thing about having joined Dirt Divas?
The friendships and relationships I’ve made have been awesome. I love that I have a standing date with my bike and friends every Wednesday night in the summer.

What advice would you give someone seeking to join a club for the first time?
Don’t be afraid of being the “slow one” or the new person. We were all new once, and I am still slow up the hill, but after 7 years, I’m still riding and loving being involved.

What is the best thing about being able to join other women with a common interest?
I love that when women ride together for fun, it is fun. We talk, we laugh, and we encourage one another. Our goal is to enjoy our time together on our bikes and we do!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Bikes are kind of complicated. How much air should I put in my tires? What does this lever do? What is that noise? I admit, my husband is still my mechanic, but I have learned a lot about bikes. I’ve also learned that mountain biking is very different than road biking. It requires a lot of leg strength and lung power. You have to be able to look ahead, shift correctly, and maneuver your bike around. It is intimidating. You don’t want to feel like the “new girl”. And many ladies get introduced to mountain biking by guys, who tend to have a “just ride and figure it out” mentality. I like to know why, how, where, etc. Plus, you need someone who is patient and as a culture, women are taught to be apologetic for anything they conceive to be inconveniencing of someone else. I still say sorry way too much when I bike. I really need to stop doing that!

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Having more come as you are rides and mountain biking 101 events would help. I also think that if every woman who mountain bikes invites another lady to the sport, it will grow leaps and bounds. The cost of mountain bikes is quickly becoming a barrier to entry, so having friends who can help ladies understand what to look for in a used (or new) bike is also important.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love seeing another lady get excited at her accomplishments on a bike. It is wonderful to help others learn to love the sport like I do.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I took my first solo airplane ride when I was 4 and haven’t stopped traveling since. I traveled to Poland for the first time in March and will be going to India at the end of May for the first time!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Andrea Cohen

 Photo Credit:
241 Photography
I am a 25 year old lady hanging out in Iowa City, IA. Pretty much every aspect of my life is devoted to cycling. I work full time at World of Bikes in Iowa City honing my bike knowledge and getting more people on bikes daily. At the shop I lead the Women on Wheels. I lead this group of women on social rides and fat-bike rides. I also hold flat-tire clinics as often as possible. The opportunity to get more women on bikes through my shop is one of my favorite things about working at a shop! 

The rest of my life is dedicated to my love of ultra-endurance cycling. I am new to the Salsa Cycles family for 2015 as a sponsored rider. I have been involved with the ultra-endurance cycling scene since 2012 and I am completely stoked to continue down this path as an athlete. I have completed events such as TransIowa, Dirty Kanza, the Royal Almanzo, and countless 100 mile gravel events. Gravel is where I got my start and this year I am going to add in more MTB events. Chequamegon 100 and Wausau 12 hour are on my list.

Check out my Blog and Facebook 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I have always been around bikes, but never really took to them. My family is very active and has participated in RAGBRAI as long as I have been around. I got a Surly Long Haul Trucker when I moved to college in 2007 and it sat around for nearly 2 years because I had no idea how awesome of a bike it was! In late 2011 my car died and I was forced to start commuting by bicycle. At this point I had a road bike also and through a ton of mistakes and hard-times I became a car-less commuter in Iowa City. It was down-hill (because that is better on a bike) from there!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
First it was the need to get from point A to point B. Iowa City doesn’t have the best public transportation so it was a necessity. Then I slowly realized just how many people around this town also bike. So many little sub-cultures and friends to be made! My relentless commuting lead me to the competitive side of cycling in Iowa City and I slowly figured out new routes and trails around town trying to follow these athletes on group rides and at local races. Every new person I met on a bike was incredibly supportive and wanted nothing more than for me to join the fun. I knew I had found the right group.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
My favorite competitive biking event is probably Dirty Kanza 200. This will be my third go at it this year and each year it just gets better and better. Some people will argue that they may be losing their grass-roots touch, but I would say the vibe is still there. You have the option to ride unsupported or supported, which adds to the competitive aspect of the race. This last year I didn’t bring support but I was offered incredible support via the Dirty Dogs Race Pack which gave me an edge I didn’t know I could have, cutting my time by over 4 hours. The course is amazing and pushes me right to the edge of sanity. I am mostly competitive with myself, but if I know there is another lady in front of me I will chase them! I enjoy chasing my own demons around in my head as a race, just as much as chasing another person.

You have been on many cycling adventures- what inspired you to become an ultra-endurance athlete?
I grew up as an athlete. Discipline was instilled early with karate lessons and carried through high-school and part of college as a rower on a crew team. When I quit rowing in 2009 I had no idea what I should do, and had feelings of a lost identity. The collegiate athlete lifestyle left me burnt out and questioning why I would ever want to push myself again. I started riding for fun and I am still riding for fun. I am remembering that passion and love that I had at the start of my rowing career and it feels really great. I found an amazing pair of coaches with the Sprinting Kittens and I am starting to mold my path as an athlete to become a little more structured. As far as choosing ultra-endurance goes it seems it chose me. The long, lonely days are my favorite. I would much rather ride alone that with others. Sorry guys! I still love you, but I bet most days you don’t want to hear the things I say to myself on these rides. I am 100% content in the 11th hour of my ride just as someone is pumped within the echelon of a road race. Finding that peace and pushing beyond it is what I really love though, getting past that comfort and taking it a few leaps and bounds too far is what keeps me going.

You plan to add more mountain bike riding to your repertoire- what do you find enjoyable with singletrack?
I really love the mental aspect of mountain biking. I am not the best at riding single-track so it is a constant head game to not crash into everything. The only mountain bike I have is a rigid single-speed so I am learning quickly what I can and cannot do. It’s exhilarating to accomplish something that I couldn’t do the week before. Grasping that concept of “hesitation is devastation” is probably my favorite part of single-track because when I finally get over myself is when I have the most fun!

Have you had any biffs/accidents that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
The biggest challenge is always mental for me. Trying to get my brain to shut up and let me ride is one of the biggest hurdles. The first gravel race I did this year, Landrun 100, I got lost. Like ride 3 miles out of the way and realize you are all the way lost. I have been lost before, but I would just quit. This time I turned around and followed my path back to the course as fast as possible. I just turned off my brain and decided this was my only option. I talk to myself out loud a lot to help myself accomplish these goals. Music also plays an important role, I have listened to literally the same three albums of music for all my rides in 2014. That is kind of scary, but I know exactly what the music is going to do and how it will help me. Every single ride I learn something new about what works and what doesn’t. Spending that time with myself and learning is how I am hoping to overcome the challenges I set myself up for!

When you started mountain biking, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Handling skills still challenge me! I am always battling the urge to slam on my brakes. Riding with other people always helps me. I have also been trying to put myself in situations where I have to ride what scares me. I completed the metric Chequamegon 100 last year and it was super tough, but I was so proud that I finished. It gave me the confidence to keep pushing the mountain biking and really figure out if I liked it. My suggestion would be to ride with other people who are encouraging and patient. I am lucky to have a strong group of women in Iowa City who are just that, and I bet if you search in your community there are ladies or dudes to get you started too!

Clipless? What do you like about it and what suggestions would you give to someone new to riding clipless?
I do indeed love clipless. It makes the fit between my bike and I much better. I am more efficient and comfortable for those long hauls. I invest heavily in the contact points between my bike and I. Feets, seats, and hands are all extremely important. Find some shoes that fit! Your local bike shop should be there to help out. I personally ride Giro shoes, but I am eyeballing the Shimano heat moldable shoe to get an even better fit. There is no price for comfort! Once you are set up with shoes and pedals practice makes perfect. There are still times when I nearly fall from not getting unclipped, but muscle memory is key for getting used to the new system. Once your body has figured out where shoe and pedal meet it becomes an almost unconscious process.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the freedom. Everything I do on my bike is my choice, and every choice I make affects me greatly. Riding gives me a chance to really try and get inside my head. Even my super short commute is a quiet time to clear my head and start the day off right. The pure, unadulterated passion is what keeps me coming back and searching for that deeper understanding during my long rides. When I have nothing left to complain or worry about and everything is laid out in front of me is when I feel the most real.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have four bikes and no car. First bike is a cobbled together Trek MultiTrack Super Mega Awesome Townie. I built this bike up from a frame. It easily has the most miles on it. I delivered Jimmy John’s for two years on it and have commuted daily on it for 3+ years. Front rack, generator hub and lights, Brooks Cambium, and bright yellow fenders. People notice it around town for sure.
Second bike is a Salsa Warbird. This bad boy is new to me this year and an extremely welcome change. I have been competing on aggressive cyclocross bikes for the past couple of years and it feels amazing to be on a bike designed for endurance gravel events. Salsa is not joking around about owning gravel and you can see it with the new Warbird. The bike is comfortable, smooth, and I can fit my 38c tires on for extra confidence. Plus it’s teal and orange! What more could you want.
Third bike is my Trek Farley. I love fat-bikes. If I was forced to have only one bike it would be a fat-bike. I can ride over everything. I can go bike camping with it. I can commute all winter and not crash. I can ride across frozen lakes with my studded tires. I can bunny hop over curbs. I can crush winter ultras and ride beautiful places I never thought a bike could take me. I am in love with all of my bikes, but I am having an affair with the fat-bike every time I get on that thing.
Fourth bike is a Kona Big Unit. Purple frame with purple rims. My favorite color is purple. I bought it from a friend and I promised to never get rid of it so it’s mine forever (don’t worry Christina!). It is a fully rigid steel single-speed and it dominates me every time I ride it. 30 pounds of pure fun. The longest ride was the metric Chequamegon 100 and I have never wanted off a bike so badly, but at the same time felt so strong and like I could conquer anything over such a short distance. Single-speeds are good for the soul!

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Remeber those contact points I mentioned?! Anything that touches my hands, butt, feet, or hands is tested and tried over and over again. I love my Specialized Ruby saddle in the 155mm width. I have used it for over 4 years. Shoes must fit and I have slowly accepted that I wear the biggest womens size shoe after trying to deny it for years. My go to helmet is a Lazer helium because it fits so well I forget I am wearing a helmet. As far as clothing goes I cannot say enough good things about a drop-tail bib. Gore Bike Wear Xenon bibs are saved for my long rides. Just two zipper pulls away and I can go to the bathroom without completely disrobing. Also give bibs a try. I didn’t start with drop-tail bibs, and a majority of the bibs I own are just normal bib-shorts. My last favorite pieces of equipment is my wind vest. During long rides temperatures can go all over the place, so the vest keeps me safe and warm when it gets chilly!

What suggestions would you give to someone who is considering long-distance rides or wanting to become an ultra-endurance rider?
Just go do it! I started riding long distances by using Google Maps to create routes and writing down the directions on a piece of paper. I still do that pretty frequently to keep my mind fresh. There is nothing stopping you from searching out those old unused roads around where you live. I even own at least 8 county maps of Iowa to help me find these roads, and they cost a whole .70 cents a piece. If you really have a hankering for riding long distances you will find a way. I don’t think it was something I really understood until it was too late. The first 100 mile ride I did I had no concept of what I was taking on. I knew that I loved every minute though and I would figure out how to do it again!
Photo Credit: Mike Riemer

You are sponsored by Salsa Cycles! What are some goals you hope to accomplish this year with your sponsorship?
I will continue down my path as an ultra-endurance athlete and go farther, hopefully just a little faster. I am also incredibly stoked to have the support of Salsa Cycles. They are one of the places I found inspiration for my rides and now I am a part of it all! Being able to spread my passion and love of cycling even further excites me to no ends. I want to use this platform to show people, women in particular, that you can accomplish whatever goal you set for yourself. I am helping plan a women’s only bike-packing trip in the fall to gather strong, inspiring women together so we can learn more and share the word of adventure cycling. Nothing was going to stop my career as an ultra-cyclist and now I feel even more confident in my pursuits!      
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
One of my hobbies other than cycling is music. I love all sorts of music, everything from the heaviest metal to the softest crooners. I like to compare my music to my rides. I seem to have a playlist going through my head for all my different types of rides. My three secret albums for 2014 are, The Flatliners-Cavalcade, Foo Fighters-Wasting Light, and Steve Aoki-Wonderland. I have listened to those three albums so much it should be a crime. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Race Face Khyber Shorts: A Product Review

We do have some select availability to Race Face clothing items, which is really awesome because I appear to have some sort of mountain bike clothing fetish.

Let me introduce you to the Race Face Khyber shorts.

Per the Race Face website: "The little black dress of downhill! Hard-wearing and great looking, Tweedster fabric has a textured outer face for style but takes a beating and shrugs off water thanks to the DWR treatment and waterproof membrane. 
Certainly the burliest women’s short in the Race Face collection, the Khyber Short is recommended for aggressive riding when extra abrasion resistance and durability is preferred. 
Mesh thigh venting enhances air flow. Assymetrical exposed zips and snap closure pocket flaps add style. Inseam is 36cm (14”), below knee, with hem openings large enough to accommodate Race Face pads."

  • Zippered front fly with dual snap closure and Velcro reinforcement.
  • Branded grab tab.
  • Asymmetrical zippered hand pockets.
  • Zippered cargo and back pockets.
  • Raised back panel for additional coverage while in riding position.
  • Inner waistband adjustment system.
  • Soft brushed inner waistband.
  • Mesh lined, zippered thigh vents.
  • Branded zipper pullers throughout for ease of use with gloves.
  • Double reinforced seams throughout.

Then they say these shorts are hard-wearing they are not kidding! If you mountain bike in areas that are very rocky or perhaps DH- these shorts can take a beating. Extremely durable, it will take more than a tip-over to do damage to them, that's for sure.

The first time I wore these shorts out I got wicked hot. I had unzipped the vents but still felt that I had restricted air flow. I came to the realization that for really warm days- these would not be my go-to short. Days where it's cooler or perhaps rainy these shorts will be an excellent choice based on the fact that they have had a DWR treatment and boast a waterproof membrane.

These shorts will be my go-to for fall riding, that's for sure!

Pockets galore! I loved that they had ways of staying closed such as snap buttons & zippers. Pockets without closure or just velcro typically go unused. I never trust they will keep items in check.

I really liked the raised back panel feature of the shorts. It helps eliminate crack attack and assures you that you will be fully covered. The waist band is comfortable, not restrictive in a negative manner- nothing felt pinched or cut off.

Another feature is that the waist band is adjustable! Two tabs on either side customize your fit. The back panel is amazingly soft against the skin, which is a nice feature, especially with how mobile on the bike you can be.

If you're looking for a pair of mountain bike shorts that can take a beating, resist water, and look awesome- then you've found them with the Khyber shorts!

If you are not local to Decorah and wish to purchase these shorts, check them out on
 Dirty Jane!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Janet- Lady Fleur

I'm a Louisiana girl who fell in love with California during a summer internship. So as soon as I graduated college, I bought a car and drove out to Silicon Valley to work in the tech industry. Decades later I'm still here, still working in tech, but now I ride my bikes much more than I drive.

When did you first start riding a bike?
Like so many others, I learned as a 5 year old with my dad running alongside me holding my saddle, and rode for fun around the neighborhood with my friends all the way through college. I only stopped riding when I moved to California and could only afford a studio apartment that didn't have room for a bike. After I moved into a home with a garage I bought my first adult bike, a Specialized Hardrock. I still have it.   

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
The joy of riding. Bicycles are just the right speed: slower than a car so you can see things better and faster than walking so you can cover more ground. 

You have background with both road and mountain biking. What do you enjoy about both those styles?
To me, the road is about going long distances under your own power. Like rolling out of your driveway, riding across town and over the hills to the ocean, then back all in one day. 60 miles and a few thousand feet of elevation gain? No problem.
Riding dirt is all about getting away from civilization and experiencing nature. It somehow manages to be quiet and peaceful as you're rolling along the easy stuff, and then intensely challenging when you hit technical sections. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
All the trails here start with steep climbs, so I was like: "Oh please, let me get up this section without having to walk my bike!" On the way down it was like: "Whee, this is fun!"

How do you deal with nervousness?
I'm very selective about when I choose push myself and I avoid riding with people who push me when I don't want to pushed. Feeling nervous every time I get on the bike would take the joy out of it.

Are there handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? (with mtb)? What has helped you improve?
Switchbacks used to make me crazy and they are really common here. But I took a skills clinic where they taught us how to take the right line and more importantly, where to look at different points in the turn. That helped enormously. 

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 clipless pedals on all my "sport" bikes: road, MTB, cyclocross, touring. For beginners I recommend getting mountain bike shoes and double-sided pedals because they're much easier to clip in and more comfortable walking around. Another trick is to get pedals that are flat on one side and clip-in on the other. That way if you get nervous, you can unclip and put your foot on the flat side. 

Have you had an accident or situation that challenged you on a mental/emotional or physical level? How did you heal/cope?
In 20 years of frequent riding, I've been very fortunate to avoid major bike-related injuries. I think my biggest challenge has been cyclocross and mountain bike racing. Riding alone at night in a 24 hour MTB relay on trails through mountain lion territory definitely challenged me to push my comfort zone.

You commute on a regular basis- what made you decide that it was a viable form of transportation for you?
When I first started bike commuting it was a 22 mile round trip, a nice workout that I'd do 1-2 times a week in the summer. Then I switched to a job 5 miles away which didn't seem worth the trouble of packing my clothes. It wasn't a workout so I rarely commuted at all. Then I got smart and realized that for that short distance I didn't need to change clothes. Now I commute every single day in my work clothes. I take it slow so I don't sweat. Instead of a workout, it's my 20 minutes of zen in the morning.

There is a concept that commuting by bike is impossibly hard, what are some suggestions you have that would be helpful for a first-year commuter?
Keep trying different routes until you find one that you enjoy. What works for someone else may not for you. If the trip is short, consider riding in your work clothes so you don't have to manage the extra clothing. If trip is long, consider combining it with transit. And unless you like a sweaty back, get a rack or basket to carry your things. Backpacks are the worst for overheating.

What suggestions do you have for commuting in less-than ideal weather?
Get the right gear: fenders for the bike, a good coat or poncho for you.  For rain, I like wearing a dress with a trench coat and knee-high boots. It's rare, but we do get rain in California. Also, don't limit yourself to bike-specific clothing. A good wool coat or sweater goes a long way. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love feeling in touch with my environment, whether it's a city street or a trail in the redwoods. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have too many to detail! On the sporty side, I have a Scott carbon road bike that's light and fast, an Ibis full-suspension mountain bike that we custom-built with ruby red anodized components, a classic steel Trek touring bike, a cyclocross race bike and one I converted into an off-road touring machine. 
On the city side, I have a luscious red Viva Dutch step-through, a zippy PUBLIC mixte, and a Brompton folding bike, plus an old mountain bike converted to utility bike that gets locked places I would never trust with my nicer bikes. My sweetie and I also have a tandem. There's a reason I call my blog One Woman, Many Bicycles. 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love thin wool socks and only wear jerseys cut for women with big pockets. I know that sounds random. For city riding, I love panniers imported from the Netherlands. They're water-resistant, good-sized and don't look sporty at all.

You have a blog- One Woman, Many Bicycles- what inspired you to create your platform?
After I started riding to work in a dress and heels every day, my whole view of what cycling could be changed. Because I didn't treat it as a workout, every daily trip became a bike trip. It was mind-blowing. I wanted my road and mountain biking friends to share the experience.

What has been the most fun experience you've had since you started blogging?
Having people I don't know roll up to me and say they read my blog is wild. But the actual fun comes in telling other people's stories on my blog: their bike dates, their big rides, their fashions. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
Having enough places that are convenient, comfortable and safe to ride is the limiting factor for everyone, not just women. After that, the bicycling culture in the US emphasizes the masculine values of riding harder, faster and longer, which does not appeal to all women. I've seen too many women who go out for a ride with a boyfriend or husband only to get dropped in the first 10 minutes, get led down trails they're not ready for, or do maximum effort just to try to keep up. She thought she was going for a pleasant social ride, he expected it to be challenging. Then he wonders why she doesn't want to ride with him anymore, if at all. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Cities that put in protected bike lanes or create low-traffic bike boulevards see a bump in the number of women riding. On the sport side, I think we'll need a lot of women helping women to get started and stay involved. And frankly, we'll need some people in the bike industry to drop some of their long-held beliefs that directly or indirectly keep women from participating. 

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
If I hadn't had groups of women to ride with I would never have achieved half of what I have in cycling. There's no way I would have gone out riding with the guys every weekend, and certainly never racing on their teams. There's something special about riding with the girls: the camaraderie, the shared experiences, and the girl talk.

Tell us a random fact about yourself-
Before I went full-bore with bicycling I was a ballroom and salsa dancer with a four-night-a-week dance habit!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Brandy Wirtz

I'm a single mom of one daughter, daredevil diva, rock star aerial Chain artist, expressing the world through motion and with strength and flexibility. I was born and raised in San Diego and I lived in Montréal, Quebec for 4 years on and off while training Aerial and doing performances. My almost 5 year old daughter and I now live in Escondido.

I’ve always been the quiet type to watch and listen. Arts, dance and movement trough 3 dimensional space was where I was most comfortable. My parents put me into sports immediately as they saw that I thrived on it. Gymnastics was my first love and then soccer for over a decade. I was coached by the same coach as Greg Luganis for diving. I went back into gymnastics as an adult. I was always an extremely competitive person.

This brought me to the circus life where I found my true passion, my POP (purpose on planet).

I created a unique act on chains in the air that has evolved and metamorphosised over the years in many different forms. My life has been filled with feeling and the essence of being in the moment. I practice compassion and empathy for every creature every day. I'm a Vegan Athlete.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding a bike at a young age around 4 years old.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
My family was a huge influence in me riding bikes. I tried Veledrome at Morley Field.  We did 50 and 100 mile rides as I hit my teens. One was Tecate~Ensenada in Mexico. Then my Grandparents took me on a coastal ride where we rode a certain amount of miles per day stopping for lunches and our hotel stays.  My Grandfather John was an avid road biker, and was always helping less fortunate acquire bikes.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
My favorite style bike race event would be Downhill, Dual Slalom a very close second, BMX racing 3rd. I love the exhilaration of gravity pulling me down the hill letting my bike take me where it has flow, massive ruts, and technical rock sections, jump lines and railing berms. I want to be a rad free rider throwing crazy tricks in the very near future. But I need a coach. To me Freeride, Slope Style is the closest thing to flying and I already do that in the circus arts, so why not on a bike?

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
The first time I rode a mountain bike it was a bit intimidating and scary.

If you have nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
If I happen to feel nervous while I'm practicing or racing mountain bikes I will jump around and shake off extra energy, push-ups, do some dynamic stretches, and visualize attacking the trail taking precise lines and clearing everything...seeing myself hit that finish line with 150%  :)

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 Clipless for downhill and every other bike racing I do. The best saying is "Clip in to win". For me the easiest was doing XC rides on long flat lands to get used to clipping in and out. Then I added in technical XC features, then downhill. If I ever feel a new place may be too sketchy I bring my flats as a backup plan. But I feel way more secure with clips. It's 1 less thing I have to think about so I can charge the mountain.

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?
I have definitely gone flying. Hurt shoulder, scrapes and bars to the stomach. Over the bars, and my specialty...gear shifter raking my thighs. Ouch! All of these heal, just some bruises, scrub gravel from the wounds, apply Tagederm and go again. 

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 first started, if I got going too fast, I’d be in the bushes right quick. Also, I would look at the big rock and say "Don't hit the rock" and then hit it. I'm maneuvering much better now. I only look ahead at the line I want to hit. 

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky?
Uphill technical rock gardens, very steep technical, rock waterfalls, and I am starting to clear open doubles. Clearing 27.5 tabletops is easy, take the middle out and it messes with your head. I have learned to follow a person at the speed needed to land it safely and commit!  

What do you love about DH vs. other styles of mtb?
The speed you get flying down the mountains, and having gravity with you. It is the closest thing to flying when you hit jump lines. I'm such a huge adrenaline junkie. Faster, gnarly features with tons of berms, singles, step-downs, and step-ups the better. I love to leave the ground and get air.

What has been one of your most favorite DH experiences?
Clearing the newer jump line at snow summit, I screamed for joy as I was "braaping." Also, getting down the entire Fontana Expert/Pro course the last time I was there. I raced Sport, but worked on growing skills. I'm hopefully moving up a class soon.

What do you love about riding your bike (in general)?
It makes me feel like I'm in the most present state out of anything I do next to doing my Aerial Acrobatics.  

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have an older Airborne Taka. It has a DVO Emerald with 8 inch travel, and the DVO Jade for the rear shock. I call it "The Beast" the frame alone is 40lbs. I can still push that sucker around. I love it, but it is time for an upgrade. I would love the new 2015 or 2016 Airborne Pathogen in Neon Yellow. It is my dream and goal to one day soon be on the Airborne team, a girl can wish. I also have a Santa Cruz Solo or 5010. it is smooth as butter, 650B great trail bike for all around everything, and a great climbing bike. I have a 20' Cult BMX freestyle bike, a Fuji Cyclocross bike, and a 23 year old Cannondale road bike. I love all my bikes. 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love my One Industries Misfits kits. The Spy Optics Klutch Goggles. But I really love to bomb down the hills in Catsuits Meoooow! I'm know as Catwoman or Kitty because I wear Lycra-Spandex Zentai Catsuits fully covered in tiger striping or spots.   

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
That fact that you can really get hurt. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Nothing... It is what it is. There are now meet-ups, and girls go out on girl rides together more often. Also, riding with the guys helps to push the ladies to get faster, which is who I ride with. 

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Learning from the Groms, following those fast tiny shredders down the hill. They inspire me and wow me every time. 

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I've traveled the world for 16 years with my Aerial Chain act I created and have done many forms of Aerial throughout the years. You may have seen me grace the stages with Motley Crue during the "Carnival of Sins" tour from 2005-06

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Women Involved Series: Angi Weston

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.

Angi on Facebook and Instagram

You work for Kona- tell us what it's like to be a woman working in the cycling industry-
Working for Kona is incredible. I feel so fortunate to be a part of a company that places such a high value on fun, autonomy, living your passion, and of course riding bikes! I work as a sales rep but also get to test ride products and give my feedback so I feel like I am treated fairly and that my hard work and enthusiasm is appreciated. It is pretty funny though when customers or consumers call Kona USA and get me on the phone and insist they need to talk to someone else to get their technical questions answered and I have to pry the question out of them. I guess some people still assume that a girl answering the phone at a bike company wouldn’t know how to answer their tech questions. Ha!  However, this is a pretty rare occurrence these days and after 10+ years working in the industry and about 15 years of being a mountain biker I can say that the cycling industry has come a long way in not only accepting women but appreciating their presence and welcoming them in as a part of the “club”.

Why should more women become involved in the industry (in general)?
Because women make the industry so much more pretty! Ha!
I think Mitchell Scott actually said it quite well in his article on Pinkbike Why No Y?  “I know that girls add a certain element of balance to any endeavor. They are smarter, cooler and much more grounded than dudes, especially the athletic ones. Not to mention, quite simply, they represent the other half of our species. We need them, in more ways than we know or are willing to acknowledge…Outdoor sports that are killing it right now have an equal balance of men and women: climbing, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking. Yes, rad dudes are cool. Truth is though, rad dudes shredding with rad chicks is way cooler.
The more female mentors that young girls have to look up to the better chance we have of keeping the momentum rolling and the closer we get to having a fuller more balanced industry.    

What inspired you to become a mountain bike coach?
I was inspired to become a coach after being invited to teach at the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic  ages ago. I had been dabbling in teaching bike skills for a few years already but getting to work with and ride with other female coaches who had far more experience than me made me thirsty to get better as a teacher and rider. Then that winter I was invited to coach at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park Women’s Weekend and was even more blown away by the level of riding and teaching my fellow coaches demonstrated. 

The following Spring I got the opportunity to get certified as a coach by Shaums March along with some of my mentors; Gale Dahlager, Tammy Donahugh, Kat Sweet, and Lisa Tharp. Once certified I was noticeably more effective as a teacher and the momentum started rolling faster and faster. My coaching was having a real effect on women getting into the sport by making them feel safer and more confident on their bikes. I can now say with pride that I have the ability to inspire women to join in on the mountain biking lifestyle, push themselves out of their comfort zones, and realize their true potential on and off the bike. I have the utmost fun doing it all too!

What was your most challenging experience becoming a certified mtb coach?
Well it is a pretty steep learning curve, that’s for sure! Early on I was most challenged by my own riding abilities. I thought I was pretty fast because, for the most part, I could keep up with the boys I rode with and won some Expert level downhill races but little did I know that my technique was lacking some pretty essential basics. Once I started building my technique from the ground up my understanding of movement dynamics, logical progressions, and concise explanations grew and I think ultimately it makes me connect to my students that much better. Basically, I’ve been there, done that, and now I think I have a pretty good eye for spotting problem areas in peoples riding technique and I have developed some great ways to make successful progress.

Why is being a mountain bike coach so important to you?
Being a mountain bike coach is so important to me because I have experienced such significant personal growth centered around riding and coaching that I just have to share it with anyone willing to listen or try. When you finally build your skill and confidence to hit the drop you’ve been eyeing up or that jump that all your friends hit or to clear that root and rock garden that used to seem so impossible – everything in life becomes more possible. For example; that big presentation you have on Monday or that nerve-racking meeting you have with your boss – seem like no big deal compared to that huge hurdle you just overcame on your mountain bike over the weekend. Mountain biking teaches you to face your fears, practice, be patient, find balance, persevere, anticipate, and realize your infinite potential. It is especially important for me to coach women because I feel like a lot of women get lost trying to find where they fit in this world which can lead them to be overly self-conscious, catty, and self-destructive. When you show women that this cycling lifestyle exists they just might let their guard down, set their ego aside, and ease up on the expectation they hold to be perfect. When you feel as though you belong and that you have found your “tribe” you are free to just be your true beautiful self and fully thrive in life.

Tell us about a coaching moment that had a big impact on you-
Ah! There have been so many moments in my coaching career that have had HUGE impacts on me, it is hard to pick just one! But here is a story that is similar to so many significant moments in my teaching that I think it makes a great example. I was coaching a group of women on their home trails in Hood River, OR and after the morning session of skill building and tons of practicing drills it was time to hit the trail. 

One of the women in the group shared with me that she had a crippling fear of steep switchback turns, in particular some of the corners on the trail we were heading out to ride. I reassured her that she had the skill now to be successful and that I would be right there with her to lend some guidance. After we made our way to the top it was time to start making our way down the trail. On this occasion I started at the front of the group and slowly worked my way back through the train of ladies in my class, giving each one specific feedback as she rode. Once I made my way to the back of the pack we were towards the end of the trail and here I was with this fearful woman on the part of the trail that scared her most – perfect timing. She rolled up to the first switchback and before even committing to the turn she came to a complete stop, hopped off her bike, and started walking down the trail.  Ah-ah-ah! I called to her and asked her to come back up the trail to where I was…. I asked her how she felt (I knew she was terrified but it helps to have people put their fear into words and really dissect what it is that is scaring them) and I just listened.  

When she was finished telling me about all the ways she could possibly fail I had her regurgitate the skill progression we had worked on that specifically enabled her to be able to succeed at making that switchback turn. I reminded her of all the successful attempts she had made during our morning session and reassured her that if she performed those skills the same way as she had earlier that day, that she would find success. I then showed her exactly what it took to make that switchback turn by giving her a demo then asking her if she had any questions. She didn’t. So I became her personal cheerleader. By this point the other girls in the class had formed a little cheering squad of their own just a few switchbacks below and together we shouted genuine encouragements. 

You could tell everyone wanted her to succeed and just like that – we were all in this together. With determination on her face she climbed back on her bike and slowly rolled into the switchback, our cheers got even louder. Then she stopped, put her foot down and almost started to cry. I told her it was okay if she didn’t want to do this today but remaindered her that I knew she could and told her that I wouldn’t have been standing there talking her into it if I thought she couldn’t do it. She hopped off her bike, pushed back up to get a good run-in and started all over again. The cheering returned to a full roar. As she rolled down the trail I could see her determination was real this time. She carefully committed her front wheel to roll through the turn and found the perfect blend of momentum and speed control. Her eyes were looking forward and she was in that essential aggressive riding position. She stayed committed all the way through the turn and cleared it beautifully. 

Once she was safely through the turn she stopped, put her foot down, threw her arms into the air and shouted, “MY SON IS GOING TO BE SO PROUD OF ME WHEN HE SEES THAT I CAN RIDE THAT NOW!!”
All of us cheered wildly for her! I mean, there were hugs, high fives, tears, the whole bit.  She later told me that pushing through that fear and realizing her potential that day on the trail changed her life forever.
And that is just one small example of the coaching moments that have impacted me.

Why should women (of any experience) check out a ride clinic? Why are they beneficial?
See the above story. Seriously, though – ride clinics are beneficial because there is only so much that you can read in a book or watch in a YouTube video. Nothing can replace one-on-one feedback specific to you and your riding. Before you just “let go of the brakes and pull up”, praying for luck and success, you should consider the fundamental elements and skill required to perform your next progression. An experienced and well trained coach can be the set of eyes you need to really understand specifically what you can do to hone your skill and technique.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
It can be so intimidating! Most of us didn’t grow-up tossing our bikes and bodies off of curbs and homemade ramps in the front yard. A lot of women get into mountain biking later in life when they realize they are totally missing out on all the fun. However, a desire to have fun isn’t always all that is needed. Sometimes women need mentors to look up to, coaches to encourage them, and friends to motivate them to get out there and ride.  

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Well if you know me well you might not think this is random but most people are surprised when they find out that I am ordained and therefore can solemnize marriages. I’ve had the honor of marrying three different couples and it is something very special to me. 
Another random tidbit about me is that I have a pet box turtle, Keoke, that I got 19 years ago. He’s actually super cute and makes a great (read; low maintenance) pet. Perfect for someone who travels as much as I do!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Zara Kane

I'm Zara Kane, I'm originally from the Isle of Bute in Scotland. I'm a 3rd year student at SRUC in Ayr studying Outdoor Pursuits Management. I started riding mountain bikes at the end of 2013 so been riding for just about a year and a half. 2015 will be my first season of racing DH after racing the Scottish Champs at Glencoe last summer.

You can follow me on Facebook  and Instagram

When did you first start riding a bike?
Well I'm pretty sure I was about 5 or 6 when I first rode a bike. Mountain Bike-wise I started when I was 22 so just under a year and a half ago. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I have always been a self-conscious person - particularly about body image, and mountain biking provides me with a kind of freedom from that. As soon as I put a full face helmet on it's as if I'm a different person, all I'm focused on is what I'm doing and I bloody love it! I'm the sort of person who has to work really hard to be good at anything, I don't pick things up naturally, but mountain biking for me just feels right. I don't drive so unfortunately don't ride my bike as much as I'd like to. 

What inspired you to start competing?
Like most of the girls that race, I'm just a naturally competitive person. I love the extra buzz I get when I know I'm in competition as opposed to just riding recreationally. Seeing other girls, like Rebecca Kennedy, ride the way they do really does give me that extra push to be better. The encouragement/abuse you get from spectators makes it even more fun. 

What goes into entering the world of competitive mountain biking? Have you been surprised by anything? Challenged?
When I entered my first race at the Scottish Champs last year at Glencoe, I honestly was in over my head. I completely underestimated the track and the level of the other girls riding, as well as maybe misjudging my own ability. I thought I was going to get heaps of abuse from the boys for slowing them down in practice or getting in their way but they were really encouraging. Everyone I spoke to said the same thing; You have to start somewhere. Anyone considering entering the world of racing should acknowledge that their first race will probably feel uncomfortable but it's a huge learning experience that everyone goes through. 

What would be your favorite competitive biking event so far?
By far my favourite event so far has been the Red Bull Fox Hunt. Massive bunch of awesome ladies, variety of ability/ages/background/disciplines all there to do the same thing and have fun. The track was long and fun, my bike at the time was having some major mechanical issues so I ended up having to run up the climbs and ride the downhill chainless. Nevertheless it was an awesome experience. I cannot wait for the next one!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
My first mountain bike ride was at the Cycopath All Girls Race Weekend, which is just a fun event where girls help each other out on the Cycopath tracks in Yorkshire. I did not realize how difficult it was to manage a mountain bike over the rough terrain. I struggled but felt really determined, and at the end of the weekend I felt I had accomplished so much. So my first mountain bike ride went through a range of emotions including fear, joy, frustration, relief and excited. 

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I had a lot of nervousness, but the girls helped a lot with that as did Stef Reeves who runs Cycopath Cycles. They were impressed with my riding considering I had zero experience of mountain biking, jumped straight into downhill and chose a race weekend to start my riding too. 

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 ride clipless only on trails I'm confident with at the moment although I would like to where them more often. Seeing as I'm a beginner with clipless myself the best advice I can give is before you go riding anywhere, practice clipping in and out over and over and over again. I can pretty much guarantee you'll still fall over clipped in without even being on your bike yet. It's hard to remember to twist your foot not lift if you're panicking so just try see ahead of you where you might need to get ready to unclip and relax. 

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 used to do long distance running from the age of 20, but from that I've developed IT Band Syndrome which causes me a lot of pain if I'm running or if I'm constantly pedaling, which is why downhill is perfect for me, because it's more about carrying your speed than pedaling non-stop. I seen a physiotherapist for a while but when you're a student and a racer there's little to no money left to pay for physio. It does get emotionally challenging as I want to go out and train on some xc loops but 5 minutes into the first climb and I'm close to tears with pain and frustration. I roll my leg on a foam roller most days and do several stretches and exercises to try overcome the problem but it looks like it's here for the long run. 

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
My biggest problem when I started out riding that I've only corrected in recent months was my body position over the bike. Like a lot of girls when they start out riding I was way too far over the back of the bike meaning I would lose control of the front wheel. I just kept trying to push myself further forward, out of my comfort zone and have other people watch me ride and tell me if I needed to be further forward or not. I kept doing this till I felt I had control of the bike and it became my normal position. So best way to change is either get someone to film you so you can see yourself what you're doing or ask someone to coach you on your position as you're riding.

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 a bit of a mental wall when it comes to drops that I'm struggling to overcome. I find it very frustrating as I feel like I am capable but once I roll up to the drop I just think I'm going to go over the bars. I'll attempt drops or at least have a good look at them and if I'm not feeling it I'll go ride something else and not let myself get too worked up about it. 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have one bike at the moment, a 2012 Lapierre Zesty. I got this to replace my old specialized big hit after my boyfriend recommending I get something more all-mountain so I can ride xc and dh. It took a while to get used to riding downhill on the zesty as I didn't full trust it at first but I've definitely learned a lot more from riding it as it's less forgiving if you make a mistake. I definitely want to get back to a downhill bike for the 2016 season though so I can have a bit more confidence hitting the bigger features. 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Clothing-wise, Flare is a must. Their gear is made to fit women, women with boobs and hips. I struggle to find that in everyday clothing never mind MTB kit so Flare is an absolute godsend. So if you’re a woman and you have boobs and hips, then buy Flare, if you’re a woman and you have no boobs or hips, buy Flare because the materials amazing quality and the colours are awesome. 
Bike Accessories - Uberbike Components is a girl’s best friend. Their components come in as variety of colours to match your bike, your kit and if you haven’t chipped it all off, your nail polish. Also if you’re not great at mechanics they are very informative and will tell you what you need and how to fit it to your bike. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
What don't I love? I love the sense of freedom biking gives you, it's an escape from everyday stresses. If I'm riding downhill, all I can do is focus on the trail ahead of me, there's no room for other thoughts and sometimes it's nice to get out of your own head. I love the fact it removes all of my body confidence issues, because honestly not one person cares what you look like, if you can ride a bike and have a laugh then that's all that matters. 

What inspired you to start blogging about your mountain bike/race adventures?
I felt a bit blind going into racing, and wondered if I would have been better prepared if someone else had a similar blog, showing what it's like to enter the racing world as a female beginner. I thought maybe I could give other girls an idea of what it's like so they can make a more informed decision. 

What has been one of the best moments since you started your journey?
One of my best moments would have to be riding in France last summer. Shredding these amazing trails, riding the best I’ve ever ridden and all in the sunshine. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience on my bike. My confidence was at an all-time high and Chatel was beautiful. Desperate to go back when I have some pennies saved!

What would you like to see happen in the next 5 years for women who are in competitive mountain biking?
More paid sponsorships for female racers and a lot more media coverage of female racers. The girls should be receiving the same level of support as the boys in this day and age. 

How do you plan on being a positive role model for future riders?
I plan on being a positive role model by showing other riders; it's all about having fun, and reminding people that everyone has to start somewhere. I want to show that everyone's progression in the sport is different. I want to show more of the beginning stages or riding where mostly the media coverage of biking is the top riders in the sport, which is impossible for beginners to relate to. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Mountain biking is a male dominated sport, there's no way around that and I think for a lot of women that's really intimidating. Also something I've noticed in the sport is women seem to be more cautious, and more aware of the consequences should something go wrong where as men seem to less worried about injuries etc, so for women it may be more difficult to get involved knowing the risk involved. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I'm sure there's a lot of racers would agree. It's all about media coverage. If women see other women riding they'll become more interested. Constantly seeing images and videos of male riders just reinforces the idea that it's a masculine sport. When I watch race videos from SDA's or BDS's about 99% of the footage is of the boys, it makes you wonder if there even are girls racing at these events. 
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Riding mountain bikes has changed my life. I want more women to see what an amazing sport it is and what a friendly community the mtb world is.  
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am petrified of the dark.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Chyri Jackson

My name is Chyri Jackson. I am married to my wonderful husband, Keith for eight-teen years.

We have two children, Evan (college graduate) and Asia (senior in high school).

I introduced my husband to running in 2008 and in that same year he completed his first half-marathon (The Indianapolis 500 Mini-Marathon; from that day on he has continued to run in local events.

I consider myself as an advocate for helping individuals achieve healthy lifestyles. Eventually I stumbled across the group Black Girls Do Bike on social media and knew I wanted to be a part of the movement.

The group is a national organization with several local chapters. I am the “Shero” for BGDB Indy (Started June 2014)!

When did you first start riding a bike?
When I was younger I enjoyed biking and I didn’t pick up riding again until I was an adult. In 2010, I brought my first road bike and started biking with local groups.  

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I think that most of my motivation comes from a driving desire to challenge myself and enjoying the scenery.

You participate with The Leukemia and Lymphoma society’s “Team In Training.”  Tell us about that and what you do!
Yes, I just love this organization. My journey with Team In Training began several years ago when I was determine to help find a cure for blood cancers and lymphomas’ all while training for a half-marathon. My first event was a success; I raised way over my fundraising goal and finished my event injury free. I was still not satisfied and felt the needed to do more to help find a cure. So I signed up to complete an Olympic distance triathlon; at the time of making this commitment I did not know how to swim. See my confession!  J

What would be your favorite athletic event and why? Bike first! Indy Crit -which is in the heart of Downtown Indianapolis, IN. The Crit Ride allows cyclists a opportunity to race the city streets. I also, enjoy basketball, and track & field.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I enjoy long rides on country roads were I can take in the scenery, and not realize how many miles that I have actually biked.  

Do you remember how you felt on your first ride? Where did you go?
My first ride on my road bike was challenging. I say this because I had to get use to changing the gears, but mostly the adjustment to the seat (saddle).  

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I must admit, I was a bit nervous when I started cycling, because I had not ridden a bike in several years. And anything new brings on some type of anxiety, but you just have to jump out there and try something new! If you don’t try, how you do know if you will like it?  

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?
Yes, I do wear clips. The brand of shoe that I wear is Giro brand, and the clips are a shimano brand.  I do not think it is necessary for beginners to go and purchase clip. For the most part determine your needs. ie.. Is this a sport that I want to make an investment in buying helpful accessories? How long do I plan on participating in cycling? Am I cycling for fun or competitively?   
Before you determine you want clips; research different brands, and consult with the professionals at your local bike shop. When I first started wearing clips I practiced in the grass, because you WILL FALL until you get use to clipping in and out of the attachment.
I wear clips; because they are light in weight, help with climbing hills, and for speed.
Have you had a situation or accident that was challenging on a physical/emotional level? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I have never had a major accident, thank you heavenly father. But… I was hardheaded and thought I could cycle without stretching.  This was a bad habit that I had that was hard to break, until I experience sciatic pain. The pain was excruciating, and I stopped exercising for about three months. I became depressed and overweight. Then I soon recovered with help from physical therapist. They advised me of how to stretch. A lesson was learned! I stretch before and after cycling.    

What do you love about riding your bike?
What’s not to love?
First let me say, I love my bike! I call my bike the “The Stress Reliever”. I enjoy riding my bike, because I literally feel free from everyday stress and humdrum. I capture the scenery and absorb the elements of the weather.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a specialized Dolce that is metallic, red, and white.  I selected this bike because it is lightweight with an aluminum frame. It by far is not the lightest on the market, but I can lift the bike off the ground with one hand, it is easy to transport, and economical.  

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I have more cycling/ exercise clothing than work attire. I have a variety of different brands and buy what is on sale. I live in the Midwest and have to make sure I have clothing for all seasons.  Some items in my collection include light weight cycling jackets, gloves, jerseys, cycling shorts, and headbands. Although, I buy different brands I try to stick to a brand that works best for me. All of my clothing is dri-fit, which absorbs the sweat. I make sure my undergarments fit properly to prevent skin chafing. 
When I am cycling I wear: short or long sleeve jersey, padded cycling shorts (A MUST), cycling gloves -full or half fingers depending on the weather, and smart wool socks. My favorite brand is Bontrager!
When I am recommending cycling clothes to individuals comfort is the key.

You became involved with BGDB- tell us about what you do!
I became acquainted with BGDB at the beginning of 2014, and reached out to the founder Monica Garrison. We discussed the need for the movement in my area and I became the “Shero” for BGDB Indianapolis, IN spring of 2014. As far as my role with the organization as “Shero” I motivate and encourage the group by creating bike challenges. I facility, map, and lead all group rides with an emphasis of having fun!

Why is BGDB such a great group to be a part of?
I am a woman of color and I am concerned about the health of minority women and their lack of exercise. I am not a “gym rat”, but I do exercise. I think BGDB is an excellent avenue to get minority women moving, and on the right track to live healthy happier lives.

What would you like people to know about your group in particular? How can they find you or become involved?
I want people to know that all skill sets are welcome to join the group. The group is like a pep rally for girls on bikes! Our interest is growing and supporting a community of women of color who share a passion for cycling. (The group is not exclusive to women of color)
One way people can find the group is by visiting  and finding a local chapter in your area. Most of the local chapters can also be found on Facebook. I am one of the “Shero” in the Midwest, and mentor the Indianapolis, Indiana group. The group can be found on Facebook at: Black Girls Do Bike INDY or

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
There are several reasons that may discourage women to start cycling:
Fear of trying something new
The expense involved
Weight concerns
Skill set

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
In my opinion it is groups like Black Girls Do Bike that encourages women to get out and ride.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I am inspired by encouraging women to ride because I know part of the process to becoming healthier is changing your lifestyle, which includes exercising and bike riding is a great introductory exercise.                                                              
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
When I was a teenager I participated in a Barbie doll contest and won!