Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Women Involved: Rachel Weaver

Rachel Weaver is the founder of Pin it Girls, an all-women gravity race team. She lives in Santa Fe, NM with her husband. Rachel is passionate about mountain biking, and Angel Fire Bike park is her home mountain. While she rides dirt jumps and trail, downhill is her true love, and her favorite discipline to race.

Rachel is currently racing Cat 1/Expert level Downhill and Dual Slalom. In 2015, her goals are to podium at USA Cycling Gravity Nationals, strive towards upgrading to Pro and race as many races as possible while being an ambassador for the sport.

In 2014, Rachel decided to start her own team because she wanted to inspire and encourage women in downhill racing and gravity sports. 

One of her big disappointments was to show up at races and see only a few girls signed up, while there were hundreds of guys. Rachel has gained so very much life experience and joy from riding mountain bikes, and she wanted to share that with other women while bringing together an amazing group of racers who just happen to be girls.

Now with eight team members, four podiums at Gravity Nationals, wins at Central States Cup races, and a sixth place overall in the Big Mountain Enduro series, the team is building momentum. For 2015, Pin it Girls is proud to be sponsored by Angel Fire Bike Park, Schwalbe, MTB Racing Solutions, Sombrio, and Smith Optics.

Check out our Facebook page and our website!
Pin it Girls on Instagram and Rachel's Instagram!

What inspired you to create your team, Pin It Girls?
A couple years ago, I was one of two women on a DH race team, and although all those guys are great people, I just felt that the team was centered around being a guy and that we weren’t really included. The sponsors were ones the guys liked, we were wearing men’s shorts as part of the team kit, and the team housing turned out to be a big party. It just wasn't what I wanted from being on a team. 

I looked around at races and noticed the disparity between the men’s and women’s fields. There would often be hundreds of guys and then only twenty women competing. But I also had a few super talented friends and acquaintances who were women racers. I thought; why not bring us all together in one team?

What did you envision for your team? What do you hope to accomplish?
Our mission statement is to inspire and encourage women in gravity mountain biking. We have already accomplished a lot in our 2014 season. We held four Women’s Ride Days at Angel Fire Bike Park where we introduce women who may be new to lift access biking to the mountain. Our ride days are a chance for the women who might have only been able to ride with their boyfriends or husbands, or by themselves, to connect with other female gravity riders and get stoked to ride.

We got the word out about our team with Pinkbike articles and tons of Facebook media, so I was able to secure some big name sponsors for 2015.

We have lots of plans for this coming season. We will be hosting group trail rides in Albuquerque, a Women’s Freeride Day in Santa Fe, sponsoring three skills clinics with Pro racer Chris Boice that are open to the public, and sweeping some podiums at enduro and DH races. I would like to see us continue to grow and be well known in the greater bike community so we can influence girls and women coming into mountain biking.      

Over the next 5 years, what would you like to see happen with women and racing?
What I want to see is already happening… I want to see women be able to be feminine and tough, and to show that this dichotomy is how women can be successful in gravity racing. Women are never going to be as fast or as aggressive as the male pro riders. It simply is a matter of physiological limitation. So what women racers need to do is find their strengths and stop trying to ride, train, race and look like the guys.

I feel that some of the young women in the World Cup series are doing this very successfully like Mannon Carpenter and Tawnee Seagrave. They clearly have a unique style of riding, and they get off the bike and get dressed up and do their hair and look like a girl, but they also bring home the medals and garner big sponsorships. Hannah Barnes is doing this in the enduro world as well.

What were the challenges of creating a team, if any?
It was a whole new world to me. Fortunately my husband is talented at creating websites and knew how to get that set up, which was kind of the first step beyond asking if all the girls wanted to be on a team. I just dreamed big, and sent out a bunch of sponsorship letters to companies I wanted to represent. Sometimes I never heard back and sometimes if I really wanted it, I had to be persistent.

Angel Fire Bike Park has been amazing to us. A couple of the girls on the team had connections so we were able to get sponsored by them right away. Angel Fire is most of the racers’ local mountain, so we love being partnered with them. It’s like being home.

I do have to hustle all the time- I’m teased by the team because I’m always taking photos of them or getting on social media, but that’s what sponsors want; exposure. It can be a little challenging managing eight people’s jersey orders or team housing, but it’s all worth it in the long run!      

What do you love about your team? Why are you positive role models for future riders?
I just love every one of the girls on the team, and how very different people we all are, but we’re united by our love for this sport. As I wrote on our website, there is nothing better than women riding together and encouraging our growth as racers and riders. The synergy of pushing each other in competition and gaining confidence is magical.

Each of us is an awesome role model in our own way- Jennifer is a small business owner and is naturally talented on the bike. Jill has a PhD in Engineering and is pretty much fearless. Traci is a mom to a three year old, works full time and is amazingly graceful on the bike. Terah just finished her Masters degree in Accounting and could go Pro this year in DH. Kristen is an Engineer and put more miles in racing and training for Enduro last season than the rest of us combined. Lisa is multi- talented on her DH bike and Moto. Makayla got a cycling scholarship to college, and won her category at Nationals.

What would you like people to know about Pin It Girls and how can they support you?
We aren't just about racing. Our biggest joys as a team come from helping other women get out and ride, sign up for their first race, or try that drop they have never done before. We hope women who don't even live in the Rocky Mountains find us on Instagram and Facebook, and get inspired to have fun on their bikes.
As far as helping us out- follow us on social media!  And we are still looking for sponsors, of course!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think women are either put-off by the “just huck it” mentality of many of the guys in the sport, or they simply have never been given the opportunity to see female mountain bikers who are strong, fast and feminine.

I do know that lift access biking can be intimidating to any first-timer, let alone women.
I wouldn't have ever tried it if it weren't for my husband. I recall the first time I went to a new bike park after only riding Angel Fire, it was Trestle in Winter Park, Colorado, and I was so scared about the whole thing I sat on the curb by our car and cried for five minutes. My poor husband didn't know what to do…turns out I had a great day riding and loved it. I was just afraid of the unknown.

I also think women like to do a sport that comes with fun accessories and clothes. Think about the popularity of yoga, and how so much of it is the cool mat, and the cute yoga pants and outfits. Once bike companies realize there is a market for this, I think we’ll see more women signing up. An example of this is road biking where kits, bikes and shoes are increasingly being marketed and made for women. There are so many more women getting into road cycling than gravity mountain biking.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Once again, it’s a change of culture. I’m not talking about watering it down, or taking the danger out. It’s about being strong and fit while wearing mascara and putting pink grips on your bike. It’s about taking the largest drop while the guy behind you goes around it. It’s about riding the lift with three girlfriends and talking about your favorite tire in the same breath as your favorite perfume. It’s waiting at the start line of a DH race being nervous together and reassuring each other, then knowing at the five, four, three countdown you are the fiercest competitors. It’s having videos of female riders ripping it up on Pinkbike. It’s Five/Ten putting out a women’s Freerider shoe that’s just as good as their men’s. It’s bike companies using women riders in their magazine ads. It’s already happening…      

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I see it most clearly with the eight and nine year olds I coach. I watch them be a little scared and then give it a go and see their confidence build. I know from my own experience that confidence built in that moment goes very far. It flows into their school (work) lives, relationships and choices they make to be true to themselves. Nothing in my life has been more empowering than my journey of being a mountain biker, and I am so grateful to be able to share that.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Rose Calzontzi

I'm a 32 year old woman living in the Northern California Wine Country town of Santa Rosa (about an hour north of San Francisco). I ride bikes for both utility and recreation. I stick to road biking/commuting.

One day, when I was 29, I decided that I'd like to try to ride a bike again even though I hadn't been on a bike in well over 20 years. I went the cautious route and bought a beat up Trek mountain bike through Craigslist just to see if I'd like riding. Of course, I totally fell in love.

It's now 3 years later and I have since traded in the beater mountain bike for a Trek FX 7.2, and more recently a Fuji Sportif. I use my Trek almost daily during the spring and summer seasons to bike commute and to run errands, as well as for recreation rides on park/bike trails, for bike camping adventures, and have even ridden it for several metric century rides.

I blog about my cycling, hiking, backpacking, and running adventures at
I’m infrequently on Twitter @roselovescajeta.
You can follow my life in pictures through my Instagram @rosielovescajeta

When did you first start riding a bike?
Like a lot of people, I first started riding a bike when I was a kid, but it was never a consistent thing. I totally stopped riding bikes when I was in the 4th or 5th grade, though I don’t really remember why I stopped riding. I got back on two wheels a few years ago, when I was 29. At that time, I lived in Chico, CA, which is a really big bicycling town. Seeing people cruising through town motivated me to want to ride a bike again. Being the cautious person that I am I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a bike in case I totally hated riding, so I bought a beater Specialized Hardrock off of Craigslist. I shouldn’t have worried though, because I instantly fell in love with riding.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
My motivation for riding comes from the feeling of freedom that riding a bike gives me. It puts me in a great frame of mind, makes me happy, and has turned my everyday into a daily adventure!

What inspired you to participate in events and which would be your favorite?
I love the energy of participating in cycling events. I like meeting other cyclists, sharing the road with them, and just being around the energy of folks on bikes. Though I haven’t participated in too many organized bike events, my favorites have been supported charity rides in the metric century distance.

What kinds of cycling do you enjoy and why? (road, gravel, etc.)
I enjoy road cycling for both utility and recreation. I love road cycling because it allows me to do everything bike commute, run errands, explore the areas around me, and exercise. I love the perspective of seeing life from atop two wheels vs. behind the wheel of a car. I HATE to drive, and cycling has allowed me to spend a lot less time behind the wheel of a car, so much so, in fact, that a few years ago, my husband and I downsized from two cars to one.

Why do you enjoy commuting by bike?
I love that I’m reducing my carbon footprint, saving money, exercising, and creating adventure out of the mundane, all at the same time!

Do you have tips/suggestions for those new to commuting?
Don’t feel like you need to wear a full cycling kit when bike commuting! If your commute is just a few miles, it’s likely you won’t be riding so hard that you’ll end up sweaty and disheveled looking. It’s easier to just wear your regular work clothes in that situation. My commute varies in length, depending on whether I’m going the full distance (see my second tip, below). On my short commute days (6 miles), I wear my regular work clothes. I work in a business-casual environment, so my outfits usually consist of some kind of slacks, a blouse, and cardigan. I’m lucky to live in a part of California where the weather stays mild most of the year, and where I don’t have to contend with snow in the winter, but when it does drop to the 30s, I throw a couple of extra layers over my work clothes. This strategy can work for most people. On days when I choose to ride the full distance to my workplace, I do wear bikespecific shorts or tights with some kind of tshirt and/or jacket, depending on the weather. I then change when I get to work. I do like to wear sneakers on my commute, even when I wear regular work clothes, so I leave a pair of dress shoes in my desk so I don’t have to carry them back and forth between work.

Don’t feel like you have to ride the whole way! I live about 15 miles from my workplace. During the fall/winter/early spring, when the days are short and the temps are cold, I don’t want to have to ride in the cold and dark for 15 miles. Instead, I ride 6 miles to the transit center in my city, and I take the bus the rest of the way.

The last thing I would say to anyone who is new to bike commuting, or thinking about giving it a try, is to try different things out! I’ve found that bike commuting is not a “onesize fits all” endeavor. What works for one person, may not work for you. Try different routes, different clothing strategies, and different ways to carry your stuff. I feel like people often think that bike commuting is too much of a chore. I honestly feel like if it feels like too much work, you haven’t found the best way of doing things for you. Once you figure out what works best for you and your commuting situation, it really does become second nature and doesn’t take a whole lot of extra effort.

Have you had a bike accident or a situation that was challenging? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I’m pretty lucky in that I’ve had only one minor accident, back when I first got back into riding. I was crossing through an intersection, and my chain slipped. I was thrown into the middle of the intersection and tore up my knee pretty badly. Thankfully, it was pretty early and there was not very much traffic. A fellow cyclist stopped to make sure I was ok, and helped me move my bike onto the sidewalk. It was definitely a scary experience to go through, and it took me a few weeks to get back on the bike. Eventually, I asked myself whether it was scarier to have eaten sh*t or to never bike again. It was definitely the latter!

Recently, my most challenging situation has been contending with the traffic along one of my commute routes. There is a certain stretch of road where I’ve come pretty close to being hit by a car about 4 times in after work traffic. Unfortunately, this road is unavoidable and the only road I can take to get home. After being really shaken by the experiences, I started to wonder whether I should even continue commuting. The thought of not riding to and from work really got me down, so instead, I got creative. Now, rather than continue riding on that stretch of road or giving up on commuting altogether, I hop on a bus for 5 minutes and avoid a dangerous road while still being able to bike most of the route.

You are involved with Team Tough Chik, how did you hear about the team and why did you join?
I first heard about Team Tough Chik back in 2013, probably through a blogger or via Twitter. I loved the idea of an inclusive group of women supporting one another’s athletic endeavors. Almost none of my friends are into athletic pursuits, and I really wanted to become part of a community of people who shared that interest, and who were actually interested in and excited about talking about things like gear, racing, training, etc.

Why has being involved with a group been beneficial for you?
Being involved with TTC has motivated me to want to step outside of my comfort zone in the activities I’m involved in. I love seeing people pushing themselves because it helps me to push myself too!

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything! Seriously. There is nothing bad about riding a bike.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love cycling but my biggest passion is backpacking! There’s nothing more amazing than propelling your body with just your feet over mountains, across deserts, along coastlines, and through other gorgeous landscapes, with nothing more than the basic necessities strapped to your back.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Trek FX 7.2. I choose it because, as my first bike, I wanted an affordable bike that could lend itself to different types of cycling. I love this bike! It has served me well in so many different ways. As I started to figure out what kind of cyclist I am, my Trek has been there every step of the way. It is my daily commuter; I’ve ridden it in a couple metric century rides, taken it bikepacking, and taken it all around town on countless adventures. Last year, after figuring out that I like riding longer distances, but wanting something a bit speedier than my Trek, I bought a Fuji Sportiff road bike. I chose it, honestly, because I was able to get a great deal on it! I wanted to try out a road bike but I didn’t want to invest a ton of money into it, in the event that I hated it. It’s definitely different than riding my Trek, and I’ve had to adjust to the way it handles, but all in all, I’m enjoying the way it rides.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I’m not too picky when it comes to bike clothing. I have a couple of basic bike shorts but I don’t love any one more than the others. I do love my Team Tough Chik bike jersey because it’s comfortable, flattering, and just plain awesome!

Bike accessories are a little different. I love my Niterider Lumina 380 headlight because it lights up the road really well during early morning and nighttime riding. I also love that it’s rechargeable via a USB cord, so I can charge it at work after my morning commute.

For hauling stuff, I love my Seattle Sports Rain Rider Pannier. Each pannier holds a ton of stuff and is waterproof. Though I don’t often commute in really rainy conditions, I live in an area where it is foggy during the morning, almost year round. The fog creates pretty drizzly conditions and the Rain Rider Pannier keeps my stuff nice and dry.

On days when I’m not hauling a lot of stuff, I forgo the pannier in favor of a backpack. After trying a few different options in the last year, I’ve finally settled on the Timbuk2 Candybar Backpack. I love that it is roomy enough to hold all of my stuff, but doesn’t feel very big on my back. I also love that it has a flat bottom! I bring my lunch (and often my breakfast and countless snacks) to work, and having a flat-bottomed backpack has really come in handy because it ensures that my containers sit flat on the bottom and don’t leak.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
I think one of the biggest things that deters women from getting into cycling is not knowing other women who are into cycling. If you don’t know other ladies who bike commute or cycle recreationally, it can be challenging to hunt out resources to learn more about cycling. Also, I think it can be intimidating, as a women, to venture into a male-dominated bike shop to ask questions, because you might feel like you are being dismissed or condescended to. That was certainly my experience when I started to shop around for my first bike.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think it’s important for women to create community for themselves within the cycling community to support and encourage one another! This is happening more and more, which is great, but it’s still not enough. As a woman of color, I think it’s really important to build the resources and support to  encourage women of color to ride.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
My mom! My mom was raised in Mexico, and as a Mexican woman, her cultural upbringing discouraged her from participating in most active pursuits. She has always lamented the fact that she wasn’t allowed to learn to ride a bike when she was a kid and now she feels like she’s too old to learn. I never want any woman to experience this!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Meghan Cochran

Local racer, local legend, HA! Just kidding. I am a year-round cyclist : data nerd : pug enthusiast : mama in the Mitten State and I’ve found bikes to be the best vehicle (literally and figuratively) for fun and function of all kinds. I race (fat, gravel, and endurance XC MTB) on various silly-looking steel singlespeeds for the Grand Rapids Bicycle Company, T6 METAL, Fitness XT GS (Kettlebell Sport) Team, and Brass Nipples.

When did you first start riding a bike and what has motivated you to ride over the years?
I lived in Chicago for a few years and started riding a bike to work because the El was unreliable and the parking downtown was way more expensive than I could afford.

From there I started going to the monthly Critical Mass rides from Daley Plaza--
I liked the party vibe and the shenanigans, cruising down Lake Shore Drive or ramping vintage Schwinns into Lake Michigan. After I moved back to the Mitten, I just really easily fell in with a group of similarly-minded velo-misfits. I feel that the bicycle is sport and fitness, art and creativity, individual as well as communitarian. I can spend as much or as little money and effort as I want on bicycling; the bicycle can be anything I want it to be.

You are a year-round commuter, awesome! What inspired you to stay on your bike during all seasons?
No joke, my fat bike has allowed me to stay sane (and probably stay married, too) through the cold months… the winters here can be long and brutal, and being trapped indoors for that long can do some really weird things to the mind.

Do you have any tips/suggestions for those who are new to commuting?
Please, please, ride in the road. You might think that the sidewalk is safer but you’re way more likely to get hit by a car backing out of a driveway, you’re riding through more driver blind spots, and you’re an absolute menace to small children, pets, and the elderly. It ain’t a “sidebike.”

You are involved with a start-up mountain bike program for kids. What do you feel is important about getting kids involved with biking?
You’ll hear hippie parents talk about “Nature Deficit Disorder,” the idea that little ones aren’t spending enough outside and it’s leading to individual squirrelliness and cultural malaise. I think biking is the best way to counter this, to be outside and to be aware of one’s surroundings and to note the consequences of decisions made in a low-key setting. It’s also important to get children interested in environmental stewardship and healthy living early on, that way it’s habit and not a drastic/difficult change of pace later down the line. But it doesn’t have to be biking. If I was super into geocaching, I’d be trying to get kids into geocaching. If I was super into skateboarding, I’d be trying to get kids into skateboarding… that being said, I am so super stoked about this team!!! It’s gonna be a really good time and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

You also involve your own child with biking (either taking along on commuting rides or mountain biking) what suggestions do you have for introducing the younger generation to two wheels?
I’m not sure Badger was ever “introduced” to bikes, if so he can’t remember, he’s been riding in a modified Burley since he was about three months old. But for everyone else (kiddos as well as adults,) I’d say to keep everything as pressure-free as possible and to let the new rider go at his or her own pace. Bikes are waaaaaay more fun than cars, and that sells itself.

Your heart is with endurance mountain biking. Tell us about your first mountain bike ride-
It was awful! My husband was really trying to be encouraging but he kept giving me what he thought were helpful tips and I’m kind of a curmudgeon and I don’t like being told what to do and I was so frustrated! We were that couple screaming at each other on the side of the trail that everyone hates. Disclaimer, it’s gotten infinitely better and Alex is my favorite favorite favorite person to ride with. But now whenever he’s talking with friends who are trying to get their wives/girlfriends into the sport, he’ll tell his friends to back off and let their riding partner make their own mistakes without a bunch of unwarranted input. Everyone ‘gets it’ eventually. Perhaps the two of us should get into Cautionary Tale Mountain Bike Marriage Counseling, heh.

When you started mountain biking, were you nervous? If so, what helped you overcome?
Every time I’m at a trail, doesn’t matter where the trail is located or how technical the terrain, I always see an old fella, usually wearing a polo shirt and khakis or blue jeans, riding a hybrid bike with bald tires and creaky gears and an ancient pie plate and platform pedals and the bike itself is probably twenty years old, and he’s just happily puttering along, and I think to myself, “if that guy can do it, and have a great time, so can I!” This dude or someone just like him assuredly lives in your town. He is awesome. We don’t owe anybody anything when we’re shredding.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Biffs? Not really, although I do injure myself pretty frequently. Last year I broke my wrist, got a bunch of really nasty backside abscesses (TMI?), and a few months ago suffered a severe concussion on the ice about 100 miles north of home. I’m currently dealing with some weird sort of whiplash-like neck soreness from crashing on the trail yesterday. It happens, and it especially happens when I try to challenge myself in new ways. However, I really think the mental butt-kicking of a bad race or not meeting the goals I had set for myself or feeling like I’ve disappointed people I respect, are much harder, and at that point it’s best just to take a step back and focus on something else for a little while. Sometimes I can get really down on myself about things that truly don’t matter. I’ve gotten way more posi about it all this year, maybe it’s that wisdom and clarity I’ve heard about. Not 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?
I didn’t really get good at standing and hammering on a climb until I started riding single. I didn’t get really good at descending switchbacks until I swapped out my suspension fork for a rigid and it altered the turn radius. I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody, but limiting my ability to rely on the bike’s technological bells and whistles has really improved my performance.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky?
Wheelies! But I think this is my year!

You aren't much of a competitor but have participated in races. Which would be your favorite and why?
For someone who always talks about how much I hate racing, I race a lot! And for how much I talk about being terrible at bike riding, I’m really not bad.

This year I’m most looking forward to racing the Hellkaat Hundie (MI), the Lumberjack 100 (MI) and Single Speed USA (WI) with my aforementioned BFFFFFFFFF, Alex. I might also hit up Riverwest 24 (WI), I hear it’s a riot! I think all will be great opportunities to push myself, to enjoy the natural beauty of the Upper Midwest, and to socialize.

Single speed is fairly popular with many people I know, are there any tips or suggestions/ things to know for those who have used gears but converted to SS?
The best thing about single speed riding is that I am simultaneously limited and liberated by my lack of options. I actually find comfort in spinning out, falling behind on the flats, and hammering up the hills. I think, “OK, no worries, this is where I and my bike are at right now, this is literally as fast as we can go, we’ll get there when we get there, and this is the best we can do.” It’s very Zen to me. Once you get that, you’re gonna have a great time!

What do you love about riding your bike?
What DON’T I love about riding a bike? I meet so many amazing people from around the country from both the racing and the bikepacking/touring circuit and on the advocacy side I get to be involved with my community in meaningful ways. I eat all the food and drink all the beer (generally) without consequence. I save lots of money, which is then funneled right back into my bike.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?

2010 Surly Big Dummy

2012 Surly Cross-Check (SS)

2013 Surly Pugsley

2014 Surly Karate Monkey Ops (SS)

…all are practical, distinctive, and endlessly customizable- perfect for letting off steam, racing, light touring and camping, cargo-loading, tot-hauling, and fleeing the impending zombie apocalypse.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My diet is largely based around tacos – Tex-Mex ‘American’ crunchy tacos, fusion tacos, vegan hippie tacos, breakfast tacos, dessert tacos, truck tacos, food stuffed into a lettuce leaf and erroneously called a taco… name it and it’s probably on the menu for at least one meal today. I’m not sure how tacos translate into performance, but damned if they aren’t the most delicious.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Lauren Meisenheimer

I work as HR/Office Manager for a vacation home rental company in Big Bear (a 4 season resort in so cal) and Started doing triathlons in 2008 (didn't own a bike, hated running, and my swim was more like a doggy paddle than anything else but my BFF is persistent and got me to agree to do it with her.)
Love road cycling, and beach cruising, and I ride my mtn bike once or twice a year. 
I love swimming but I still have a love/hate relationship with running.
Other things I like to do are kayak, stand up paddle board, snow shoe, hike, and skiing. I also am a total book worm.

Last year for my last event  I rode my bike 347 miles in 5 days from mammoth mountain to big bear- this year I am not allowed to do any events Intel we figure out if I'm having stokes, have MS, or something else- hanging out in limbo land.

When did you first start riding a bike?
Started riding a bike when I was little bitty. Always loved it but stopped riding during college. I got back into it when my BFF talked me in to doing a triathlon. Which also entailed having to buy a bike. I fell back in love with it the first time I rode.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Riding is my form of therapy, weather I'm sad, mad, depressed, just in a funk it gets me out. I firmly believe there is no bad day on a bike. Some days aren't as fun as others but, some rides don't go as planned, but it's never "bad". 

What inspired you to start doing triathlons?
My best friend is annoying when she wants something so she basically bugged me until I agreed to do it with her. I did so badly I had to sign up for it again the next year to prove to myself I could do better. I did better, cut my time almost in half, and was hooked.

Any advice for those who have a love/hate relationship with running?
It does get better. I'm not to the point where I have the same belief that there are no bad runs. Sometimes they just suck. But if I'm not in the mood to run I always try and pick a route that has good scenery, then normally partway through it's not so bad. And if partway through I'm still not feeling it at least I'm out walking and am outside. 

Which event would be your favorite?
I love triathlons in general. The challenge and being able to do different skills in one event, I get bored when I don't change stuff up. My favorite tri is the Iron Girl tri. They got rid of the one close to me so I'm bummed but it is a great event. It is females only, and everyone is supper supportive of the other racers. Probably the only races when other racers have apologized to me for running into me in the water.

Have you had a bike accident or a situation that was challenging?
If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level? I have not had a bike crash since elementary school (knock on wood). However, I have "mystery spots" on my brain that have been causing issues with balance, strength, and endurance. When my body starts acting up I just slow the pace and try to enjoy the ride, run, walk. Remind myself there is no such thing as a bad bike ride. And try to be thankful that I am back on my bike. As crappy as I think it is, it could always be worse.

You are involved with Team Tough Chik, how did you hear about the team and why did you join?
My friend Angela is co-captain. When she met Shannon and they started talking about a team she told me about it. I couldn't sign up fast enough.
I had already been a customer of Tough Chik and loved the brand, and the clothes.

Why has being involved with a group been beneficial for you?
The group has introduced me to numerous ladies, some who I have never met face to face, that I have a wonderful friendship with. It's a safe place to talk about what is going on in life when you don't want everyone in your daily life to know yet, or just don't know where to turn for advice, or just need to vent. It is a positive place where if someone is having a bad day/month/year they can let it out and have a support group. Anything from family, workouts, nutrition, work, whatever. It's been a nice place for venting and advice about what is going on with my "mystery spots".

What would you feel is the most frustrating thing about having unknown health issues that keep you from your recreational activities? What keeps you in good spirits? 
The most frustrating thing is not knowing. I love knowing why about everything. I probably drove my parents crazy with how often I asked why. I also get frustrated with not knowing how much I can push myself safely right now. One option they are looking at is that I had some strokes and didn't know it so until they rule that out I can't exert myself too much. I normally will take off on my bike or a run by myself, sometimes through the forest, but don't want to do anything like that right now in case something happens. We know exercise make me feel worse but don't really know if it makes the issues as a whole worse,  or how to get around that until we know what causes it. I have to plan my work outs with a bailout plan if my leg or arm go numb, or I just have no energy left. It makes my let’s just go outside, play and see where we end up attitude have to plan a bit. What keeps me in good spirits is that I still get to play, even if not at the level I want to play at, it is still fun. Sometimes I have to force myself out because I am scared at times, but once I am out I am so glad I did.

What do you love about riding your bike?
It makes me feel like a kid again.  I did a 347 mile bike ride last year. It was over 5 days from Mammoth Mountain CA to Big Bear Lake CA. The whole time I was thinking how it was a dream come true from when I was a kid and just wanted to take off on my bike for a few days and camp with my friends. My phone is off most of the time when I ride, I'm not checking my work email, I'm just outside playing.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My bikes are my babies. My mountain bike (A Specialized Mika) was the bike I bought when I signed up for my first tri, it is a basic model hard tail, and works for where I ride her. Mountain biking is my least favorite, mainly because I think trees and rocks are going to jump out at me. I used to mountain bike a lot in high school but that was before the fear factor of breaking bones set in. I got my road bike next a mid level road bike (The White Knight, a Dolci from Specialized). I got her a year after my mountain bike, she is my first road bike and fell in love with road riding the first time. I got her a few months after my divorce so she was my therapy. I don't think I will ever sell her. Last year I got a  time trial bike for racing with (The Jolly Roger, A Giant but don't know the model). Unfortunately I got her about the same time I was starting to have issues so I haven't been able to play with her too much. I also have my mom's beach cruiser that I borrowed a few years ago. I keep telling her she can come over and get it back but she hasn't so I keep playing with it. 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love?
What would you recommend to your friends? I have 5 Tough Chik jerseys that I love. I actually prefer tri shorts over bike shorts, most of those are Zoot. I have to have my Woo Ha Ride Glide on longer bike rides, and runs and whenever I use my wetsuit. It is an anti-chafing cream that I swear by, 347 miles in one week and no issues, I converted a few riders along the way too. I also love my "bento box" its a box that goes on the crossbar on the bike that I keep my fuel (snacks) in. I use Rudy for my helmet and riding glasses, super comfy, and breathable, I get hot supper easy so that is important to me. Sun sleeves, kind of like arm warmers but cooler and they keep the sun off so you don't get sun burned. I have 3 Garmins to track distance, speed, heart rate, etc. And of course Strava, I am a total Strava addict. :)

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
I think a lot of women don't get in cycling because first off as they find it intimidating. Not only do you not know if you are going to keep up with a group ride, but you show up, everyone knows each other, half the time they are in matching kits, and even though they have all been new and (most of the time) aren't judging you, sometimes it feels like they are. Then they start giving you advice, do this don't do that, and it gets overwhelming. I also know a lot of girls that don't want to slow the group down. Most group rides will let you know if it's a drop or no drop ride. If it's a drop ride, just use it as a place to get started, they will leave you but you’re out there. If it's a no drop ride, look at the average pace; find the one that fits you. I started group rides by going to the recovery ride each week, everyone else was taking it easy, I felt like I was going to die, but as the weeks went on it was easier. If they don't have group rides it is still intimidating, you have a lot of gear to get and maintain. If you don't know anyone around to point you in the right direction either you have to go to a bike shop and ask for help (gasp) or get a department store bike that 9 times out of 10 you’re not going to be happy with, unless you’re just planning on cruising on the beach.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Women only rides defiantly help. Although most guys have good intentions when giving advice while riding they get a little overwhelming/ bossy. Also having rides that are tailored to beginners that have a slow pace, and no drop. Everyone is going to go as slow as the slowest rider and they are ok with that. That is why they showed up. Women's only clinics on how to maintain your bike also help.  

What inspires you to encourage women to ride? 
Just knowing how happy riding makes me. I want everyone to be that happy. I remember what it was like not wanting to go to a group ride because I'm slow. Or taking hours to fix my first flat tire because I didn't want to ask for help. I want other women to get past that and just go have fun.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
When I was in college I my senior project was an experiment that was tested on NASA's KC-135 the Weightless Wonder. We went to Huston twice for experiments, the second time I got to fly. It was amazing, being able to float in mid air- there is nothing like it. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Specialized Ambush Helmet: A Product Review

I'm a huge advocate of wearing helmets when riding, be it on the paved trail, to work, or on the mountain bike trails. Over the past 2, almost 3 years I've gone with the Specialized Vice as my go-to helmet for most all riding. It's light, comfortable, and fits my head the way I want it to. I hate helmets that feel like they aren't secure about the base of my skull (occipital area).

Now, I'll be on the lookout for my next go-to helmet as Specialized has discontinued the Vice helmet.

Earlier this year we learned of the new Ambush helmet from Specalized. Will the Ambush helmet be the next greatest helmet or will I be on the lookout for a different style?

From Specialized:
Equally suited for trail rides, enduro races, and anything in-between, the Ambush provides trail and all mountain riders with the lightest and most ventilated extended coverage helmet available.
  • Patented Aramid-Reinforced Skeleton provides internal EPS support.
  • Patented Energy Optimized Multi-Density EPS construction helps to manage impact energy.
  • Mindset 360 fit system provides a secure, customizable fit with 360-degree tension adjustment, five height positions, and an integrated dial for easy, on-the-fly adjustments.
  • Micro indexing visor allows for a wide range of fast, secure on-trail adjustments, as well as convenient goggle stowage.
  • 4th Dimension Cooling System with massive vents, internal Cross-Channels, and aligned exhaust ports increases airflow to keep you cool.
  • Low profile in-molded shell with smooth, snag-free exterior shape.
  • Extended coverage for added protection and durability.
  • Lightweight, quick-drying liner features a Gutter Action Brow that channels moisture away from eyes.
  • Tri-Fix web splitter for improved comfort and ease of strap adjustments.
First thing is first, what excited me about this helmet was the color and interesting graphics. I used to be very basic with my accessories in the past- not choosing colors that were fun and "pop-y" but now I love color. This helmet is one that you would see from a long ways away, for sure! Visibility to drivers and other trail users would definitely be increased by the color.

I love vents. I dislike extreme heat/humidity, so a helmet with good ventilation is key.

Adjusting the fit is unique to this helmet from the Vice that I had been previously wearing for trail riding. the dial will adjust the internals of the helmet all the way around vs. just in the back and side. You have flexibility of adjusting the internals as well to customize your fit.

The visor is another feature that's unique for the helmet- it allows you to adjust it so it's as far down as possible on the helmet, or you can make it tilt up at intervals if desired. This is handy if you are in an area where you are using goggles while you ride. It makes moving them much simpler rather than having to move them up/over the visor. The visor moves up, allowing your goggles room to rest.

The helmet comes with an additional liner, which is nice for when you need launder it after months of sweating in it!

Overall, I will give this helmet a thumbs up for style. The fit, I feel is good, but I like my Vice helmet better. The Ambush is good and I find it comfortable to wear- but I wish it would feel a little tighter around the lower base of my skull. I do like that it is snug around my temples- but I miss the fit of the Vice when it comes down to it. I also liked the security of a bolt-on visor vs. one that is very mobile.

It will be fun to see how the movable visor works when weather is cooler and I'm out with goggles on, in our area sunglasses work fine for protecting our eyes from debris, etc.

The helmet comes in a total of 6 colors, so there is sure to be one that fits your personal style!
MSRP- $180

Friday, September 18, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: English Clough

I’m a 51-year-old Registered Nurse and have been riding a bicycle since I was 5 years old. When I was young it was my main source of transportation in my small hometown. As I grew older it became my main source of exercise. This exercise was done on a road bike until I met someone willing to teach me to mountain bike.

I had always been interested in mountain biking but couldn’t find anyone who would ride with me and had more experience through my female friends. It took me meeting my husband until I was able to a consistent more experienced riding partner who could help me learn the mountain biking ropes.

Now I am able to ride confidently and I find mountain biking brings me joy as if I was a child again.

When did you first start riding a bike?
When I was 5.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Physical fitness, stress reduction and just plain fun

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I love the Beti Bike Bash-seeing so many women riding mountain bikes is great. I’ve ridden the Bash since it’s first year and I love seeing more and more women getting involved and all the men and families out there to support their women.

I’ve competed in sports all my life and I find it motivation to stay in shape and a great way to challenge myself.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Timid and scared-which is a bad combination on a mountain bike

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
Try, try again

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 clipless. When I started mountain biking I was already proficient on using clipless on a road bike. I find the pedals very helpful, they increase your pedaling strength on uphill climbing, and they also keep your foot on the pedals more securely when riding down a bumpy trail. My advice to get use to them would be to practice on a flat surface, make sure they are not too tight so you can release them easily. And know that they will release when you really need them to or you fall down, I’ve tested that theory many times.

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 been somewhat fortunate; I have falling many, many times and lost a lot of skin, but no serious injuries. I just get back on that “horse” and try again-but usually after I’ve healed a bit. As for healing ice, rest and elevation, ibuprofen and some antibacterial ointment are the best treatments. Don’t forget to clean the wound as much as possible and you may have to scrub hard. This is advice from a nurse.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I started everything was a challenge. Rocks moving under your wheel are nerve racking, very rocky climbs (steps) and some tight switch backs continue to be challenging. Words of advice, don’t hold on too tight trust your wheel to find the way, breaking too hard is the best way to crash, look ahead of any challenge not directly at it.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I just keep trying to do them. And ride as much as possible. I will also sometimes try an obstacle over and over again right then-trying the best route through an obstacle

What do you love about riding your bike?
The adventure, being able to get to some beautiful places that many people will never see, being outdoors, the rush of physical activity, the FUN

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My current favorite bike is a Yeti sb95c-A sweet and expensive ride but it has made riding so much harder. 29 wheels really help you climb over obstacles and up hills. I enjoy the smooth ride the shocks give me too.

I have a backup mountain bike a Scott Spark 40-nice little 26er that also likes to climb. Great bike but the wheel size is a disadvantage

I also have a Specialized Ariel cross bike that I use to commute to work and to ride around town on.

And I have a Fuji Superteam road bike, which I don’t ride much anymore since starting on a mountain bike. It sits on my trainer and I ride it in bad weather.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love my Garmin 510 bike computer because it gives me such great information about my ride and my physical fitness. I also like my hydration pack-I don’t drink enough when riding if I don’t wear a hydration pack and have the drinking tube isn’t close to her mouth.

You are a member of Dirt Divas, tell us why you joined the Dirt Divas club-
I wanted to ride with women instead of only men for a change, and the Dirt Divas are a fun group who support each other in a non-super competitive method.

What has been the best thing about having joined Dirt Divas?
Having teammates at the races to ride with

What advice would you give someone seeking to join a club for the first time?
Do it

What is the best thing about being able to join other women with a common interest?
Friendship and others to ride with

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Not having other women to ride with because men can be so intimidating.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
There are more and more, women only riding clinics which will help women to learn and we as women need to be willing to help teach other women how to ride.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I want them to experience my joy

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love to combine my passions-I frequently carry a heavy camera on my rides so that I can take pictures of the beautiful places I get to.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Women Involved: Britney White

I was born in Jackson Hole Wyoming; my father was an outfitter and hunting guide who always took me to the mountains with him from a very young age.  My family later moved to Bozeman Montana and I became an avid skier, and then picked up rock climbing. I was 18 when I first bought a mountain bike and have been totally hooked ever since. 

Check out Britney on Facebook,  Instagram, and her Website

Check out Britney's Videos! Time Machine and Frozen Ground

What inspired you to start racing professionally?
I moved to Bellingham, Washington and started feeling like I needed to make some new goals within my biking. I had raced in the past, mostly local races within Montana where there wasn't many other girls competing. I thought it would be fun to have more ladies to race against. It's also neat being able to come together with other women who love the same sport. 

What challenges have you encountered since racing professionally?
I have never felt many challenges other than financial. I work as server in a fine dining restaurant and giving up my weekend shifts to race definitely hits the ol' bank account sometimes. It is nice though to receive a little podium pay out though from time to time. 

What has been an inspirational moment for you since you started racing professionally?
Knowing that you get out what you put in, looking back at races I didn't do as well in, it was due to lack of preparation, and vice versa. It keeps me stoked to hit the gym and spend as much time on the bike as I can and I know it will pay off. When you read and watch videos of what some of the World Cup racers put into their training, this is what inspires me to do the same. 

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
The dangers of it.  I think it is a bit much for some women to want to take part in. Signing up to do something that at some point will cost you injury to some might seems silly. I do however think it can be an awesome alternative to hiking, running or whatever else you might like to do outside. Long trail rides with your girlfriends are the best, so as I said earlier starting out slow and at your own pace is important.

A topic that has received a lot of attention: women who race not receiving equal payout. What are your thoughts on this?
I think if women say they are racing for fun, then why should the payout matter. Men contribute more money to the race series than women because there are simply more men racing. This also means it is harder for a man to win than a woman. Therefore, I don't think it's fair for the pay out to be the same. You, as a women could show up to a race, and only face one other competitor yet you still would win the same as the pro man who just raced a stacked field and won. When there are more equal amounts of men and women competing, then I think the payout should be the same.

What changes would you like to see in the in the racing industry?
More programs and teams providing the younger kids training camps, clinics and classes. I think Europe does a good job with this and it shows, look who stands on the podium more often than not at World Cups, countries that have programs for kids getting into the sport. Also, I think it would be great if more races could provide UCI points to racers.  It is hard for a lot of people to travel great distances just to get to these races, then get points all in the hopes of racing a World Cup someday. 

What are your thoughts on women using their sexuality to gain attention for their riding abilities?
I think it's lame. I also think it's lame that companies choose to support the lady with the boobs out, over the one who's putting time in on her bike to actually progress the sport. In the end though, sex sells, simple as that. It's one of those unfair facts of life that we just have to get over. Stewing about it does no good. If you shred and you're a good person, good things will come to you too.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride? 
I recently attended a Ladies Nite, hosted by the Burlington Bike Park in Washington and 75 ladies attended. So while competitions are fun and all I think this open format for ladies is more encouraging. It also brings together women of all riding abilities so we can help each other progress.  

What do you feel would inspire more women to compete?
Competing is a hard one, as I feel it isn't for everyone. There have even been times in my life where I felt it wasn't for me. I think if race organizers held a free admission to ladies every once in a while for a race it may get some ladies to come and try it for their first time.  

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
That's easy, it's fun!

What makes you a good role model for young women/women?

I've always felt you should let your riding do the talking. I've had a lot of struggles and it's always my passion for biking that keeps me in the sport. I think this is why we should do anything in life, because we love it.  

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I'm double jointed in both arms, they bend backwards.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Women in Bike Shops Series: Rachel Cannon

I work at BicycleSPACE ( and you can find me kvetching about life on Twitter at @rachelcannon. While I work sales, I dream of someday being a mechanic. In my previous full-time position, I installed bicycle racks (while carrying all the tools, including a generator, on a bike trailer), so I love working with my hands. 

I am also a musician (I play the violin, viola, and piano) and just got my MA in Museum Studies from GW (and am, to be frank, perfectly content to have a job that includes bicycles). 

You work at BicycleSPACE- tell us about the shop and what you do!
The shop has been in DC for about 4 years. They’re generally geared towards city commuters—lots of steel bikes that can double as touring bikes or recreational weekend-type bikes. But we’re pretty laid-back and pride ourselves on not being “that” bike shop. A lot of customers come to us because they’ve had problems with attitudes at other shops…plus we offer a few classes, rides, scavenger hunts…it’s a fun shop, and the owners are bike advocacy-oriented. That’s why I wanted to work here to begin with. 

Are there other women employed at the shop you work at?
Yep! We have 3 other female sales associates and a lady mechanic. Often there will be only one of us scheduled at a time, though. (I should state up front that I love and get along well with my male co-workers. They are a talented, helpful and awesome bunch.

Why do you feel women are hesitant to get involved with the cycling industry?
It's definitely a boys' club. If you look at the number of women at professional races as well as the number of high-end bikes that are available in women's sizes (spoiler alert: it's not many), that becomes immediately clear. I don't mean to paint the genders with brushstrokes because everyone's different, but by and large, men project more confidence in their own abilities and opinions, so they seem more naturally inclined to competitive environments. This translates into everything from racing to basic shop talk ("I got the most recent Shimano XYZ part!" "Oh yeah? Well I got the SRAM XYZ part!" "SRAM sucks!" "Shimano sucks!" Like, oy. Give me a break already.)

I'm not sure what it is, but men are way more into buying cool stuff. Again, this is very generalized, but while my co-workers are drooling over a carbon bike with electronic shifting (that, I would like to add doesn't come in short woman-friendly sizes), I'm kind of thinking "Jesus, how can anyone afford that??" When I talk to women about bicycling, it's more about where we ride and the experience of being on the bike--not necessarily the bike itself.  I realize that a better bike can improve that experience, but some people just don't want or need to spend $5,000 to be happy. 

What inspired you to get involved with the cycling industry?
Honestly, I sort of stumbled into it. I started commuting by bicycle about eight years ago, when I had a job interview for giving bike tours around the National Mall. My friends warned me that I might need a bike—so I went to Target and bought a $40 mountain bike.  (The bike touring company, as it turns out, had their own bikes.)

The guiding job changed my life because I was riding something like 30 miles a day and meeting so many people, male and female, who had incorporated bicycling into their everyday lives. The issue was never gendered for me, honestly, until I started installing bike racks for a bike advocacy group in 2012. They did a lot of great work involving women in the bike industry, and I began to see cycling as a place where I could maybe help break down some barriers.

What do you feel could change for more women to seek employment in the cycling industry?
There's definitely a perception of working in a bike shop as being a slacker-ish job. And I think women especially are under a lot of pressure to do well in school and get a good job. But the industry needs smart, capable, creative people. And women are all three of those things. Obviously, men are too, but we've already got them! The industry could only benefit from more points of view.
I think if more bike shops professionalized and made a habit of hiring for full-time, challenging, well-paying positions, you'd see more women coming in.

What are some challenges you've faced with working in sales?
1. People (men, mostly) often say, “Well, can you check with your manager on X, Y or Z?” Usually it’s because they want a discount. I actually have a ton of retail experience, and I’m training to work in a higher position, so it’s funny to me that they just assume I’m not a manager. My response is usually, “He’s going to tell you the same thing I’m telling you.” 
2. I’m not a brand snob, and I will never be one.  I think cycling should be accessible to everyone, so people should find bikes within their budgets. While our bikes start at a very reasonable $450, I know that’s a huge financial commitment for people. Is that gender-related? Probably not, but it’s definitely empathy-related. 

Why are women so vital to the cycling industry?
This is a generic answer, but any industry can only benefit from introducing different points of view when only one dominates. 

How can bike shops make women feel more welcome (as customers or employees)?
In terms of employment, I’d say keep the (hetero) male-oriented conversation in check. I have absolutely no problem telling my co-workers to shut up when I feel like they’ve stepped out of line or said something offensive, but this might be an intimidating situation for other females. 
Also, it's another stereotype, but I think that women don't like slovenly work places. 
As customers, don’t assume that you know what I want. Please don’t try to foist your own opinions off on me. Let me talk, and actually listen to what I’m saying.  As sales associates, we’re taught to do this with customers in general, but I think it’s especially important to do this for women, who will often be less assertive of their opinions in deference to another person. 

Do you feel your presence at the shop is a positive draw for other women?
I would like to think so. Not always, but often, male/female couples that come bike shopping for the woman are doing so because the guy thinks the woman should ride more. Or perhaps she’s expressed an interest herself, and he’s gotten all excited to take her to a bike shop. It’s pretty clear when women are uncomfortable being there, and I try to make them more comfortable.

Most of the time, he will start off the conversation by saying, “So what size bike do you think she should ride?” when there are so many more important questions to be asking! I’ll often deflect with a, “Hm, it’s tough to say,” then ask the woman why she wants to ride, what kind of bike she wants to ride, and just generally focusing the conversation on her. 
There was one guy who came in with his wife/girlfriend and actually said , He said, " know, or anything pastel." She gave him kind of a quizzical look and said, "I like neon."
And I know a lot of people hate this word, but good LORD do I hear a lot of mansplaining between hetero couples that come in. Oftentimes the guys in these situations have no idea what he's talking about, so I will politely interject and correct.
Some (if not most) males are perfectly fine, but this has happened enough times to suggest that it's a widespread issue. 
It’s also nice because women have lots of fitting issues where bikes are concerned, so as a short woman who struggles with fit, I can provide some helpful pointers. 

What are some of the things you’ve learned since working at the shop?
I got to enter my first cyclocross race! It was at the end of the season, so sadly it was just the one, but I hope to pick that up as a hobby. :) I've also learned a few mechanical skills (although I keep bugging the service staff to let me learn more, it's tough to juggle sales with trying to train up as a mechanic.) Obviously I've learned a ton about different bikes/brands/styles/components, and the shop is sending me to train on how to fit people on bikes. 

Tell us about your personal bike(s)!
I own a Surly Disc Trucker and a Trek/Gary Fisher Lane. I love them and ride them everywhere, but I'm currently trying to replace the Lane with a better cyclocross bike.... 

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
TERRY SADDLES AND SHORTS ARE THE BOMB. Seriously. I recommend them to every lady. For clothing, I like casual, comfortable, riding gear. Not necessarily bike-specific (while that can be nice, I disagree with the premise that you need to have money to ride, and, well, bike clothes are expensive).  

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
Perhaps because women tend to be more risk-averse, they're more hesitant to get involved with an activity that involves pedaling a little machine around roaring two-ton vehicles? 
I also think it's very easy to get overwhelmed by the potential financial investment and the competitive cycling culture...although that's not unique to women, I think they're more likely to shy away for those reasons.

I have also heard that women are less likely to bike commute to work because it involves getting sweaty and messing up their clothes/hair, especially for jobs where they are expected to look super professional. While I find this argument slightly insulting, I could understand how it might be a deterrent. But honestly, changing clothes is a super easy thing to do. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Do what feels right for you! While bike shops can definitely provide good advice (we try very hard to get customers on the best bike for them), don't listen to any sales person who isn't listening to you. Don't worry about what other people think, either. Bite the bullet, get yourself a bike, and go from there. That's the first step! 

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love it! It's just plain fun, and it's pretty easy (especially if you live in a city) to work it into your everyday life.
Bicycling can also provide a really positive change in terms of rampant societal body image issues. When I was a teenager, I had a really unhealthy relationship with food and my own image, and both improved drastically once I started riding. Rather than being ashamed of my naturally gigantic legs, I'm now really proud of them--they're my engine, after all. And calories are a good thing--they give me the energy to do what I do.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I can bend my thumbs all the way back to my wrists. My sister is the only other person I have ever met who can do this.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Casey Sheppard

I was born and raised in Nebraska. In my 20’s I moved all over : Jamaica, Miami, NYC, Vermont, California, Pennsylvania maybe more, not sure. Both sides of my family have traveling spirits so I guess I come by it naturally.

Self taught metal smith, freelance writer, mountain biker, community gatherer, adventure seeker, classic cocktail maker, entrepreneur, adventure dog owner : these are just a few of my trades/passions that influence and create my life, my art.

I currently live in Los Angeles where I work as part of the bar team at Bestia in the downtown arts district, am a freelance writer and jewelry maker.

Instagram: @caseofthenomads

Twitter: @caseofthenomads

When did you first start riding a bike?
I road as a little kid then gave it up after I out grew my big wheel. I didn’t get back on a bike til 4 years ago. Wish I had never outgrown that loving beast of a bike.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
At first I was just trying to keep up with everyone else, so I rode as much as I could. This was the beginning of the addiction. I just wanted to go and do as much as possible with the bike. I fell in complete and utter love with being in the middle of nature, flowing through singletrack and seeing what I’m made out of. Plus it’s fun to run shit over!!!

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I’m not picky, just give me a trail and I’ll ride it. But I prefer the events where my friends are racing too, nothings better than sharing a cold beer with your friends after a long day of bike racing.

I started competing to increase my skills, which is still true. It’s crazy how fast you learn and just get in the grove of a trail when you are trying to beat the clock. I don’t care about being fast or placing, it’s all about having fun, pushing myself to the limit and finishing the race, hopefully without DNF but it happens sometimes.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Oh yeah, that was just a few years back. I was kind of thrown into it. I remember I had a SS 26” ridged steel bike named “Boogatron” (which my friend now has in Denver) with a metal basket on the back. I was wearing skinny cords, leg warmers and chucks (I know I totally sound like a hipster but I assure you I’m not!! But all hipsters say that, right!?!?). I didn’t know how to read the trail, I steered with my handlebars and just tried to hang on and follow everyone else. It was a blur but I kept at it.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I was a ball of nerves for the first year of riding. Especially when riding with other people. I wanted to get over this so I decided to teach myself how to be comfortable with riding. I would go into a section of singletrack ride it again and again until I understood the trail. I watched others to see how they did things, which resulted in a lot of crashes for me but I was learning. The best way to get rid of your fears is to face them, head on. Before my first time racing Syllamos Revenge in Arkansas I was so nervous that after a hardy breakfast I ran to the bathroom to throw up. As I hit the toilet I realized I had a ¾ mile climb to start out and I’d be screwed if I had an empty stomach. I started yelling “No!!! Not happening!!!” over and over til it worked. You should have seen the chicks face when I came outta the stall, priceless!! Just remember the fear scares you more than the actual ride. It just takes time and practice. And I still get a little nervous at times but it’s a good nervous now.

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’m one of those riders who crash, a lot! At first I would be so nervous about crashing that I would do it on purpose to get it out of the way. Even though this worked for me I don’t recommend it. My best friends for the first four months of riding were an ice pack and ibuprofen. The way I overcame it was by going back out and riding.

I felt so much pressure cause I was a late bloomer. I started riding at 32, I would ride with kids 10 years even 15 years younger than me and they would make shit look so damn easy. I struggled to figure it out but I was tough, that’s my strength. I may not have the best technique but I can sure take a beating!

I’ve shed tears and blood, had temper tantrums and melt downs, it’s part of it sometimes. After I took some pressure off myself and started to have fun I got better. I just tried to remember why I was out there and why I ride, for the love of it!! I’m happy to say I no longer have temper tantrums; those were a waste of time and energy.

Now when I crash it’s cause I want to try something new and I don’t have the skills or I’m not sure how to ride it. No better way to learn than by doing.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Skills are not my strong point. I learned fast cause I rode with advanced riders, it was the only way I could try and keep up. I also lived in a bike house where bikers were in and out all the time. The house was huge so we would ride bikes inside, doing hot laps and figure 8’s. We’d also put tables, chairs and other obstacles all over the room to see if we could ride through them without putting a foot down. After a few beers we’d start throwing cushions, tires, pillows and other randomness at each other, trying to knock each other off the bikes. Now this might have just been a drunken night of fun and bikes but it taught me handling skills. We also road a tandem in the house, talk bout learning handling, it was a bitch going around some of the coaches while trying to keep the bars outta the glass windows. I now put items around my living room or in my driveway as things to try and crank my way round them. This helps teach me balance and how to maneuver on the bike.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Hell yeah! I’m always learning. I suck at cornering!! But going downhill, I can rock it!! I try to ride with more advanced riders and ask for tips. I also know that it just takes time on the bike. I’m over trying to prove something; I just want to have fun. But if I do find something tricky I will go back to that part of the trail and check it out. I start by walking the bike over it trying out different lines. Then I ride it over and over until I get it. At time’s I feel like I’m learning to read and until I understand the structure it doesn’t make sense.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The freedom and the sanity it gives me. I’ve never felt anything like the flow of mountain biking. Nothing compares, in my mind. Plus being in the middle of nature with no one around makes me giddy. Riding has also taught me about myself and life. It’s amazing what you learn about yourself after spending 11 hours in the middle of no where just trying to finish a race or ride. You truly find out what you are made of.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Since I moved to LA I sold all but one bike. I had “Boogatron” my SS 26” ridged beast that I still love and miss everyday!!! I also had a Trek cx bike “Walter” that I mainly road on gravel and I trained on this bike during winter to help with my handling skills. I currently have “SkidMark” my Surly Karate Monkey, 29er tubeless steel broad. She’s currently geared but soon will be converted to SS thanks to Shanna at Endless Bike Co for the rad equipment. Skidmark and I have been through a lot together. I chose Surly because I like their products and they are based outta Minnesota, I dig that.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I like wearing clothing that supports my friends and either their bike companies, races or organizations. I’ve picked up this new habit of wearing a bandana while I ride, which is usually my Surly bandana. Since I’ve been living in LA for the past few years I wear one almost daily, helps protect from the sun and has become comforting. Plus ya never know when it will come in handy! For shammies I love Pearl Izumi, they are a little expensive but totally worth it!! I’ve gotten use to wearing a camel pack while riding in LA too. The trails here are usually long fire roads up and steep downhills, I don’t mess with water bottles while very much any more, well at least for rides.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
In my case, I didn’t even know this sport existed. I knew about bikes but riding them in the mountains, I had no clue!! I didn’t know if this sport was for me til I dove in, over the bars headfirst most days! I think getting the word out is key. I wish I had found this sport sooner.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
For anyone learning something new I feel knowledge, community and accessibility are key. The more you learn the more you ride, the more cool or like minded peeps you ride with the more you ride, the more you’re accessible to trails…..can ya guess….yep, the more you ride.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
If I could pass along even the smallest amount of joy, freedom and pure radness that biking has given me over the years that’s inspiration enough!!!