Women on Bikes Series: Casey Sheppard
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.
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!!!