Women on Bikes Series: Marika Arnold

I am a young passionate woman who likes to take up great challenges. I am a dental student, now in my last year and a bit, soon to become a successful dentist.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I began in 2005, after spending a summer working as a nanny in Vancouver. I visited Whistler and fell in love with the sport. It was a long journey to becoming the rider I am now. Back then I was so scared, I was afraid of riding on gravel paths with very little incline. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
There is something extremely rewarding about doing something that scares you, to then succeed, pushing your limits each time a little further. But mostly, because it is really fun!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
I felt absolutely out of control and in pain going up, and scared as ever on the way down!! The bike was also way too big for me, which made the scary part even worse!

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I kept going. But I also attended women’s specific mountain bike camps for 3 years in a row. I think that riding with other women as nervous as I was helped me realize I was not a weirdo and that together we could help each other overcome the obstacles. I do not think riding with men or women makes a difference; you just have to find someone that can analyze the terrain with you in order to find the best lines.

Why do you enjoy DH and XC styles of mtb?
I think they complement each other. I was really scared going downhill. DH allows wearing more protection and gaining more speed than XC. It made me learn how to handle high speed, jumps, bigger rocks, drops and roots. Then I was able to apply the same confidence and technique/skills I gained on my DH to my XC rides. By riding both, I gained so much more confidence that it made me a completely different rider. Buying the DH bike was the best idea I have ever had! 

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 have the Shimano XPD. I think they are very flexible and easy to adjust. The system is fairly simple and does not require much strength or skill to get your foot out. You don’t even have to think! I tried the egg-beater (Crank Brothers) at first, but kept falling without the pedal unclipping, I then went back to flats. But I’m stubborn, and really wanted to ride clipless, so I bought the XPD and I only put one clip on for almost one season. I had my strong foot unclipped and the other clipped. I gained confidence and at the end of the season I was able to ride both feet clipped. 

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 broke my left hand on my third ride ever. I then cried each time the terrain would get steep. I must have thrown my bike in the ditch many many times from frustration, especially when someone with a crappier bike than mine would go by me as if it was nothing at all. But I kept trying, I wore more protective gear like elbow pads and knee pads, and I gave it more attempts, until I was able to ride it all. I kept doing the same trail over and over and over again and would memorize which descent I would still have to overcome, until one day, I did it all entirely, without walking any sections.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Anything that was going fast and down…which is very challenging when riding a mountain bike on a mountain! I took women specific mountain bike camps – “drill-the-skills” type of thing really makes a huge difference. Really being a mountain biker was not something natural for me. I worked hard and now it’s paid off. The “fun-o-meter” was a little lower at first and now; it is high most of the time. 

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Switch back turns…..I am still working on these, I heard practice makes perfect. To not let it drag me down? Hm, well I just keep going and some day, it will become easy. I also like to follow my friends really close to get their line and mimic their position on their bike and get to the same speed. It sometimes helps, other times it is useless. If I don’t feel like it, I just don’t do it and I smile. I like to joke about it and say I like to take my bike for a walk in the mountains. It is okay to put a foot down, and after all, I’ve come so far that I’m usually already super happy to be able to ride with really good riders!

You commute regularly- any tips or suggestions for those new to commuting on how they could get started?
I guess it depends where you live. I live in a big city so I needed to get a shitty - oops, I mean city!-  bike, an old crappy one in a yard sale. Mine is from the 1980’s, a beauty! I changed couple of features and got my brother to help me with the mechanics. It is ugly enough that it won’t get stolen (even with a lock, it does happen here). Aside from the bike, you just have to do it. It is nice to bike in the city but you have to be extremely careful, as car drivers are not very considerate towards bikers. I learned to be aggressive in my riding, be confident in changing lanes, and stay visible at all times. 
Be aware of taxi drivers! 
They are the least predictable of all! In terms of commitment, it just take one day and then you are hooked. The benefits are felt instantly.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I feel free, and powerful. And it is just so so fun! 

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Well I had to sell my road bike and my downhill bike for lack of space and mostly lack of time. Being a dental student comes with a huge workload and I couldn’t afford to have all 3 bikes sitting in my apartment unused. I kept the cross country as it is the one with which I can share the most rides during bike season.  It is a Specialized Safire 2008!! It’s getting old and tired but it is still riding really well. Last Summer I got a dropper seat post as a present from my boyfriend and it made a huuuuge difference! Riding in Utah is very different then in Quebec, as it is more flowy terrain rather than all up and all down. Some girls want jewelry, I could not have asked for a better gift than this new upgrade. I’m shopping around for a new bebe, but I’m not in a position to make a new acquisition yet. I’m planning on a sweet graduation present to myself :)

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love Sombrio. Really do. They are comfy, stylish and not girly flowery like other companies. Just love it.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think women are getting more and more into mountain biking and also cycling in general. The only pattern I can observe is that the reproduction cycle kicks in at some point and women take a break from biking for obvious reasons, and going back might be more difficult after having kids, especially the first couple of years. But this is strictly an observation; I do not have enough data to say whether or not it is significant.  

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Companies are already targeting women more and more. Women’s camps are all over the country too. Maybe some school programs for younger girls could help.  

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I want to ride with girls! We ride differently compared to men and it is fun to be surrounded by our peers. 

It is also a great way to be in shape 
(not for the sake of being thin or fit, just because you ride so much better!)       
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
 I’m a nerd.