Friday, October 30, 2015

Women in Bike Shops Series: Judi Lopresti

I am the owner of Spun Bicycles in Cincinnati, Ohio. I co-own the shop with my husband Dominic. I am the brains behind the business and he is the heart and soul. We make a really good team. I am in charge of the ordering and receiving of inventory. I handle the back office stuff. Ordering, receiving, books, banking, etc. On top of that I am on the floor 6 days a week selling bikes and accessories with my own personal experiences. 

I contacted Judi after reading the article featuring her and Dominic in Bicycling Magazine-

What inspired you to be involved in the bicycle industry?
Bikes have been my main source of transportation since the late 80’s.  I love bicycles and bicycle culture and my passion for the industry helps with the success of our shop.

As a woman co-owning a bike shop, why do you feel it’s important to have women be involved?
Everyone should be able to ride a bike, white, black, poor, rich, female or male. My business is located in a neighborhood where 75% of the businesses are owned by women so it’s not all that weird.

What is your favorite part about co-owning a bike shop?
I have my own business with my husband and we get to work together to make decisions and I freaking love my job so much. We eat, drink and breathe Spun Bicycles day in and day out.

What would be the biggest challenge you face owning your own business?
Competition. DUH!

What do you feel are common misconceptions about women who work at bike shops?
I don’t feel there are misconceptions about women who work in bike shops. It’s 2015 for God’s sake!

Why should women not be apprehensive about seeking employment at bike shops?
If you love bikes, you should work in a bike shop. You can sell your own experience as a bicyclist no matter what your race/gender is.

What inspired you to start a women’s night? Why is it successful?
My buddy in Arizona was doing a women’s night at his shop and I decided it’d be a good idea to do one at my shop.
I love bringing women together who ride bikes – road, mountain, commuter, doesn’t matter. We all have one thing in common besides gender, we are bike dorks.

Tell us about your personal bike(s)!
Well. I have A LOT of bikes.
Surly Crosscheck – this is a custom bike my husband built for me last year. I had bought a set of super cool custom wheels from our old (female) mechanic – White Industry hubs laced up to pink Velocity rims. I had him pull the front end/componenets/groupo off my old Raleigh Cyclocross bike and build it up for commuting. This is my main source of transportation. I have Challenge Griffo tires on it for now but I have a couple other sets of tires for it as well – Scwalbe Marathons 700x40 and Bruce Gordon Rock n Road 700x43s. I am a bit of a tire dork.
Redline SSCX – this is my old race bike turned into a rain bike. It’s a great frame. The fork is a carbon Easton given to me by Cyclocross Magazine for an article I wrote for them. Currently I have carbon BMX cranks on it and set up to climb any hill in the city with a 42x16 ratio. I have a rear fender and I ride this bike if it is gonna rain.
Kona Explosif MTB – when trails are dry that is where I prefer to ride. I upgraded the wheels this year. My husband laced me up a set of Profile Elite hubs to Velocity Blunts. I love this bike so much it makes my heart hurt.
S&M Credence 20” Trail bike – my custom BMX trail bike built for pump tracks. Profile mini’s laced up to Odyssey Hazzard Lite rims, made in the USA, it’s a show bike, too good for me, but perfect for advertising.
Surly Pugsley – my snow bike, set up like a BMX bike with S&M riser bars, 1x9 with Profile cranks.
Voodoo 29’er MTB – currently waiting on new brakes, bb7’s, and Endless Love cog and sprocket. We pulled all the gears off this bike and decided to set it up as a single speed. It’s just kind of hanging around waiting for my husband to have enough time to do the work.
Raleigh Carbon Capri 3.0 road bike – I list this one last because I hardly ever ride road bikes anymore.
Fixed Gear - an old Motobecane frame from 1974ish, repainted by my husband. He converted it into a fixed gear back in 2008 and the wheels on this bike are the first pair he built for me about a year after we met.
Tandem - we bought an old cruiser in 2010 from the local bike co-op. Dominic repainted the frame all black w/ flames on the downtube and "LoPresti Express" in letters. He set it up with matching BMX bars and BMX stems. A really fun bike to ride when we find the time.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
Hmmm. All the women I know ride bikes of some sort.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The freedom to go where ever I want. My experience in road, triathlon, MTB, racing, commuting, all of it helps me sell the sport to other women.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I was a corporate travel agent from 2001-2011. Hated every second of it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Women Involved: Shannon Leigh Kehoe

When I moved back up to the area from Portland (where I used public transportation everywhere), I found that the buses didn't run often enough or to where I needed to go, so I started biking. I'm an environmentalist and graduated in Environmental Studies, so my motivation for riding was to get "one more car off the road". I commuted via bike for 3 years, and then was hired on as a salesperson at Woodinville Bicycle.
(Woodinville Bicycle’s Facebook Page and Website)

I've been at Woodinville Bicycle for almost 3 years. Working here opened me up to a whole different type of riding- it became a passion and recreation, rather than just a mode of transportation. I bought a new, nicer bike and started going on long (100+) mile rides. I fell in love with road cycling and then a couple years ago I participated in a cyclocross race.

Working here, some of my coworkers and a lot of customers are MTBikers and I was finally convinced to get on a mountain bike and head out to the trails. 

I'm still really new at it and have some friends (including Meg) teaching me how to do singletrack and cross-country MTBing.
I have always loved being out in the woods, and my career goal will actually be to work in ecological restoration. It's so awesome to be able to combine my love for nature with my love of cycling. MTBing is way different than road cycling, but I thoroughly enjoy them both.

You work at a bike shop, what inspired you to get involved with the cycling industry?
Just commuting- I thought I was a pretty big cyclist just based on how much I rode. I rode everywhere- I thought that qualified me to work in the bike industry. Boy was I wrong!  I have learned a crazy amount since I started. I don’t know why I was hired in the first place, looking back I knew nothing, but I’ve really grown both in cycling product knowledge and in cycling performance.

What has been the most interesting thing you've learned since working at the shop?
I am really interested in the differences in the men’s and women’s geometry in bikes. I compare every aspect I can to figure out what makes a bike women-specific. It’s really awesome how much thought has gone into the women specific bikes, and I love that the industry is opening the door for women by making bikes that will really perform better for us.

Have you encountered challenges with working at a bike shop? If so, what were they and how did you deal?
The most annoying thing to me is being blown off by male customers. Because there are so few women in the industry, they assume I know very little, and will insist on talking to a dude for something simple. If I feel condescended to, though, I enjoy showing them up. It feels pretty good, but man is it annoying to be looked down on by people who really could use my assistance.

Why should more women consider getting a job in the industry (be with a company or at a bike shop?)
I honestly think that female customers feel less intimidated having a woman in the shop. Especially when it comes to talking about more personal stuff like weight, saddles or chamois, sizing and so on. I am also trained to do bike fits, and there’s a lot of intimacy that comes up in that session that at least I would feel a little awkward going over with a guy. It helps to talk about components and such, too, I know it can be overwhelming, but it can be easier for some women to ask questions to a female than a male. It also demonstrates to men that women have a place in the cycling world.

What would you like to see happen with the cycling industry in the next 5 years?
I would really like to see equivalent women’s bikes come out alongside men’s bikes. In the few years I’ve been here, the men’s bikes get upgraded before the women’s. For instance, women’s road bikes didn’t get disc brakes until a year after the men’s bikes did. I think there should be equal options for both.  There’s also not really a good enduro women’s bike yet.

Why do you feel the Sisterhood of Shred is an important group and why are they beneficial for other women?
The Sisterhood of Shred is incredibly supportive and welcoming of all skill levels. It offers a place for skilled women to ride together and push each other to progress in their riding, while introducing new riders in a non-intimidating community.

Why has being involved with a group been beneficial for you?
I was intimidated to ride with my male coworkers because I’m such a newbie. I don’t know why, but riding with women was less intimidating, and I felt more comfortable getting out there as a new rider with no technical skills. Learning to ride from an awesome rider like Meg has been so helpful to me- I don’t know if I’d have stuck with mountain biking without her encouragement and her patience in teaching me the foundational skills. No judgement in this group, it was really encouraging to start riding.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
Feeling intimidated is my guess. Getting started from ground zero with no knowledge is scary, and I think it deters a lot of people. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think riding clubs are a great way to get both men and women involved. I think women would feel comfortable riding with other women. Having that supportive community to encourage you to get on your bike really helps.

Why is it important for more women to get involved with mountain biking?
Because mountain biking is awesome! I think more of everyone should get involved in it. I don’t like that society has labeled some things for girls and some things for boys. People should be able to enjoy what they enjoy without having any gender guidelines about it. 

It’s important for us to demonstrate to the next generation that you can do whatever you want as long as you enjoy it. I said before that biking is meditative for me, and I think if women get themselves out there, they’ll discover the same thing. Peace of mind- doesn’t even require being butch or tough or anything (goodness knows I’m not tough), you just need to be able to have fun. There are a lot of preconceptions and gender boundaries to get past.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
It’s fun, a good way get some physical activity in, great way to see places you otherwise wouldn’t, but honestly it provides such a relief from stress. That’s huge for me and I think a lot of people need to experience that, to spend some time with themselves and clear their heads. It’s more therapeutic than a spa! I think more women would ride if they knew how great it would make them feel, both physically and mentally. I love encouraging people to get out there, because it’s just so good for your mind, body and soul.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Specialized Motodiva Shoes: A Product Review

The what:
Women's hard sole mountain bike shoe.
The price: $150
What Specialized says:
The best MTB shoes deliver durability and comfort—with the Motodiva, you get that, plus great traction on the trail. As an all-around trail-riding shoe, it’ll take the all the bumps and grinds the trail dishes out while providing a comfortable and supportive fit, with the added security of grippy Slipnot™ traction on rocky hike-a-bike sections. Body Geometry sole construction combines with the women’s contoured fit to provide great power transfer, while the Boa® dials deliver true on-the-fly adjustability. If you’re looking for a great do-it-all shoe, the Motodiva is durable, comfortable, and ready to hit your favorite loop with you.
  • Body Geometry sole construction and footbed: ergonomically designed and scientifically tested to boost power, increase efficiency, and reduce chance of injury by optimizing hip, knee, and foot alignment.
  • Women's contoured Standard Fit last with low collar height for ankle comfort.
  • Injection-molded nylon composite sole with SlipNot™ rubber tread for moderate pedaling stiffness and phenomenal trail traction: Stiffness Index 6.0.
  • Single Boa® S2-SV dial for easy adjustment, backed by the Boa® Lifetime Guarantee.
  • Dial/lace assembly is replaceable in seconds with Snap cartridge system.
  • Hard molded toe kick for protection and durability.
  • Stitched synthetic and mesh upper with asymmetric strap closure for comfortable fit.
  • Replaceable threaded toe studs.
  • Two-bolt cleat pattern fits all major pedals.
  • Approximate weight: 335g (1/2 pair, size 39)

What Josie says:
I have not been riding clipped in on the mountain bike trails very long, what I had been using were the Specialized Tahoe shoes. They are somewhat stiff, stiffer than a tennis shoe, but flexible for lots of off-the-bike exploration.

I've been using Shimano M530 pedals on my Cali- we felt that this would be a good way to go for my newness along with more of a platform for my foot if I couldn't clip in right away. Also to eliminate potential "hot spots" with a small portion of pedal my foot would be on regularly. I have what I would say are "sensitive" feet. I've worked many hours standing on my feet for multiple hours a day. I've also had issues with sensitivity near the balls of my feet. I will not say that with flexing or bending my foot that I haven't hit a spot here or there that would make me go "Oy!" I feel it's figuring out a bit on how tight to have the shoe and remembering it isn't flexible.

Once I'm on the bike, I don't have an issue because I'm not walking around or sitting idle.
The first day I took the shoes out I definitely felt like I had more control. I'm not sure how to describe it other than I felt more sure-footed. My pedal stroke felt more powerful because I wasn't flexing my foot.

One of the things I was unsure about at first was how easy would it be for me to walk around in the shoes. The bottom, outside edges of the shoe have a rubbery platform for you to walk on, which keeps the cleat more recessed, thus reducing that clipityclop feeling of walking on clipless shoes.

These shoes also have toe spikes, which I've never had before and was a bit skeptical that they would do much of anything due to their shape. I imagined more like a football cleat vs. what is on the shoe- but I will say, they do work. I walked up a steep little climb without any slipping, and the ground was a bit loose.

I was unsure that I would like the Boa® system. I'm simple in my needs and really hate the thought of having additional things to wear out, etc. I've not had a problem with laces or velcro, but I was open to experimenting. I'm glad I did!
It's very simple in it's usage, rotate one direction to loosen, rotate the other to tighten. I still get a little mixed up with my right foot vs. left, but overall it's easy. Plus it's secure. It's nice to not have to worry about laces and you can fine-tune the adjustment more so than with velcro.

Would I recommend these shoes if you're looking for riding clipless on mountain bike trails? Yes. I would also highly recommend these over more flexible shoes. The additional support I had for my foot on the pedal stroke was much appreciated. I felt (overall) it was more effective as well. They aren't that difficult to walk in (especially if shorter distances) and can I just say I love the color?!

Yes, these are on the more spendy side, I do feel that it is worth the investment on a good pair of durable and comfortable shoes. If you are in the Decorah area and want to see them in person, we have a pair on display at Decorah Bicycles and are happy to order your size in.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Dina Klancir

Currently I am an Account Manager at a Fitness Education company. I’m a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Model, and athlete! I also have a Master’s Degree in Human Services Counseling and enjoy volunteering.

When did you first start riding a bike?  
Any bike?  Around 4 or 5 years old. A mountain bike- September 6, 2013.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
“Over the years” has been a year and a half for me. I really didn’t ride a bike much from about the time I could drive until fall of 2013. Then I rediscovered how fun it was- especially mountain biking.
Mountain biking always intimidated me just a bit when I first moved to Illinois from Chicago.
However, all it took was one try and I was hooked! I am motivated by fitness and being competitive in races.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
So far my favorite event was the 12 Hours of the Wild West. Although I raced XC my first year, I think endurance events are really where it’s at for me. I enjoy competing because it makes you focus. I ride at a completely higher level when I’m racing- faster, smoother, more aware- and that feeling totally hooks me into competing more.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Oh yes, because it wasn’t that long ago for me! I was a combination of excited and very nervous. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, especially in front of the guy who had been racing for years that agreed to take me on my first ride.  I realized that years of being involved in team sports, tennis, skiing, hiking, etc. kept me in shape, but being in mountain biking shape was a completely different level of fitness. The post-ride feeling was exhilarating, and within a couple of weeks, I started training to race.

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 use CrankBrothers Candy and Eggbeater pedals. I started on them about 2 months after I started riding, which I feel was probably too soon. My advice would be that someone have solid foundational riding skills before they try clipless pedals. Then, the first few times, try them on fairly flat, non-technical trails to get used to clipping in/out. I had problems at first deciding if/when to clip out when I encountered obstacles, and I realized as I became a better rider that my trepidation would not have existed had I known how to ride the obstacle well, let alone ride it and try to decide if I wanted to be attached to my bike as I did it.  Many tip-overs had to happen before I learned that lesson.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Any? LOTS! One in particular, though, was a crash that happened last summer. I was riding on a very familiar, easy flowing trail that I had ridden hundreds of times before. I let my mind wander a little while my speed was way too high. The next thing I knew, I was standing in the middle of the trail calling 911. All I knew was that I hurt everywhere, my helmet was cracked all over the place, and I had no recollection of how it happened. Luckily I just had a mild concussion and bruised ribs. The EMT’s think I hit a rock that was jutting out from the side of the trail and it caused me to hit the ground- and my bike- very hard.  Physically I recovered just fine and did a 40+ mile ride the weekend after. Mentally, I was a wreck. I was already not a strong downhill rider, and because speed was such a big part of why I crashed (I was going 18 mph around a tight singletrack corner), I started becoming a real granny on the downhills. In all honesty, I’m glad the crash happened. It taught me that I really need to know my fundamentals before I approach anything with that kind of speed.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Getting up and over water bars, rocks, etc. on climbs were (and still are) my biggest obstacles. I took a clinic about how to handle these- where my weight should be, how fast I should be going, etc. I learned that I was trying to power through these too much and mashing too hard. I learned to ride them slowly, and I saw my technical ability grow quickly.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding? 
The water bars, etc. still cause some issues for me when climbing and on switchbacks. I try to not overthink things, as there can be SO much to think about technically when you are trying to ride tricky stuff. I do my best to relax, as tensing on the bike will only make things worse, and try to ride it. If I miss it, I try again. I will try something up to 3 times; I find after that I get frustrated. If I don’t make it by the third time, I make some mental notes and remind myself that no athlete is perfect and if I knew how to ride everything, someone would be paying me to do it!

What do you love about riding your bike?
Pretty much everything. Mountain biking is the most challenging sport I’ve ever participated in. Every trail presents new obstacles and puzzles to figure out, both physically and mentally. I’ve seen more new places thanks to my mountain bike- places I couldn’t get to by car and that would take me a really long time to get to on foot. Mountain biking also has its own built-in community, and I’ve made some fabulous friends thanks to our shared love of dirt.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Niner Jet9 RDO. I LOVE it. I demoed tons of bikes from Giant, Pivot, Rocky Mountain, and Juliana. None of them were “doing it” for me. The Niner had the smoothest ride, the ability to get up and over obstacles, and the right size frame (XS) for me. It had a package option that included everything I wanted, and for me, it was a no-brainer!

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love and am sponsored by Twin Six. Their tech gear is bomb-proof, super comfy, and true to size.  I would recommend them to any rider- woman or man, road or mountain.

You are a member of Dirt Divas, tell us why you joined the Dirt Divas club- 
As a new rider trying to ride with my boyfriend who has raced for many years, it was frustrating. He didn’t want to go my slow pace, and I couldn’t go his fast pace. I needed a group to ride with that was at my level, which is why I joined Dirt Divas.

What has been the best thing about having joined Dirt Divas?
Meeting new and like-minded women to ride with!

What advice would you give someone seeking to join a club for the first time?
Find a club that is non-drama and is at your pace (if you are a hard-core racer, join a hard-core racing team. If you are social, join a social club)

What is the best thing about being able to join other women with a common interest?
Exactly that-meeting women with a common love of mountain biking. That’s rare, so it’s an instant bond.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Fear. Intimidation from riding with mostly men.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
Starting them out on the right foot from the beginning- not getting them on black diamond trails trying to follow fast men the first time they start, and giving them a supportive and encouraging environment for trail/error.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Knowing my initial experience as a rider- having no clue what bike to buy, what trails to ride, etc.
I was lucky and had a knowledgeable partner to help me through those things. Not everyone does, and this could lead women to a negative experience with riding if they have a bike that isn’t suited for what they are riding, their size, etc. or riding trails that are way above their ability level.
Knowing that I can assist women through the initial stages and get them hooked on such an awesome sport is super rad!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
In 2012, before I started mountain biking, I was a State and National 3.5 Mixed Doubles Tennis Champion! 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Kelsey Walsh

I was born and raised in Madison, WI, where I currently reside with two opinionated cats. I enjoy playing various stringed instruments, reading, and riding bikes – preferably in the woods. In between the times I spend in the woods I work as a nurse to support my hobbies.

My favorite type of riding is mountain biking and fat biking snow or beach, though I’ll try pretty much anything. I also play bike polo, I’ve tried some touring, I had an alleycat phase at some point, and will generally sign up for anything that sounds fun or encourages costumes. I founded the Brass Nipples about a year ago, a loosely organized bike gang of ladies of the pedal and motorcycle variety.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I’ve been covering up scabs and bruises on my legs as far back as I can remember. I got on a big wheels around age two or so and apparently even won the Badger State Games big wheels race one year.

I graduated up to two wheels around age three or four, and recall a lot of time spent in the woods or trolling the neighborhood on a bike; there was even a super awesome, secret, little dirt/jump track nearby that my older brother showed me. Sometime around five years ago, I decided to try out Cyclocross and I bought my first 700c bike with drop bars. I tried a race or two, quickly realized I have no competitive drive, and became disinterested. It did allow for an introduction into the organized sport of mountain biking, though, which I’m appreciative of. I’ve since been making up time for all the other dirt tracks I had been missing out on.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I like that there’s always a challenge, mentally or physically. You end up looking forward to the challenges because they’re fun. It’s like being a little kid all over again. Sometimes you’re so exhausted you can’t think straight or hold a line well anymore, but you still don’t want to be done - no matter how hungry or dirty or bloody you are.

Even though you aren’t the competitive sort- what is the appeal of joining competitive bike events?
I really like events that cultivate excitement about riding and get a group of people together to explore new and difficult terrain. Sometimes that ends up being races, but sometimes the race aspect can put a damper on an otherwise nice weekend in the woods. I think races that aren’t within a series are the most approachable in that regard, and I’ve even seen some of the best riders in such races. Last year at SSUSA there was some dude who probably came in top five and pulled across the finish line drinking a PBR and doing a wheelie on some terrible, broken-looking, 80’s bike. Seeing that gets me a lot more excited about riding than talking to someone about lap time in an endurance race. Having fun and enjoying the experience will always take priority for me, and some races are really great at facilitating this type of environment regardless of how long it takes you to ride. Events can also be a really great way to spend a weekend with old friends and a cool way to make new ones.

What would be one of your most favorite events?
Tough! For the ladies, I would say Ray’s Women’s Day for sure. There’s a lot of events I’d encourage people to do at least once, though… Gnomefest for sure. Also, in no particular order, SSUSA, Riverwest 24, Ore to Shore, Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival, Pugsley World Championships, Wausau 24 (24/9mile), Santa Rampage Milwaukee, Fat Tire Tour Milwaukee, and Homey Fall Fest.

What inspired you to start mountain biking?
I suppose a lack of self preservation… It looked like a pretty fun way to get hurt. There’s always something new or bigger to try once you’re already out there.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
One thing that helped me the most is riding with someone who was near my skill level – which is a great way to get other women interested if you’re just starting out. I see a lot of people try riding with a significant other when they first start out which I am somewhat discouraging of. It can be very challenging and frustrating – doing that with someone who’s comfortable with everything already and you don’t have much of a filter with isn’t always that helpful. Really though, everyone has nervousness at times. Mountain biking can be very intimidating mentally and physically. When you start out, you’re quite likely riding a bike you’re not very comfortable on, you don’t really know what you’re doing, you’re going to feel horribly out of shape, and eventually you will crash. You really have to learn to be patient with yourself and in tune with your mind and body. I’ll definitely have days where I’m not as fast or as capable as others for no apparent reason. Being forgiving and mindful of yourself – and also proud of what you’re able to accomplish is a process. I think all of that carries over in whatever it is you want to do, though.

What inspired you to start fat biking and why should people try it?
When I first got my fat bike, a friend said to me, “I just find them to be an unnecessary bike - their only selling point is that they have the monster truck appeal.” That monster truck appeal is exactly what I enjoy. They’re fun, they’re easy to ride, and they go over everything. They get you excited to be on a bike. There’s a reason people are into monster trucks…

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. They’re indisputably quite bumbly at first, but they do have advantages once you adjust. If you’re first starting out, or generally awkward on a bike, you shouldn’t worry about what some bike dork tells you about arbitrary percentages of power output or how it makes you and the bike one being or something. If you’re not comfortable riding on flats, riding clipless is likely going to slow you down and be more unsafe – always stick to whatever makes you comfortable and gives you confidence. Ignore advice that goes against that.

If you are thinking about making the transition, I’d recommend getting a pair that has a cage around the clip, so you have something to balance on. I recently had a pair of Crank Brothers break on me for no apparent reason while bombing down a hill. After narrowly avoiding a pretty catastrophic crash, I realized there was nothing there holding me in and I was awkwardly balancing on a tiny metal spindle. Apparently the clips on those pedals breaking was a pretty a common problem so I’d also recommend doing research on what brands are known for their quality. Regardless, a cage will really help alleviate that kind of scenario and having them is also nice if you want to ride in sneakers instead. I personally like SPDs a lot, though I’ve heard only positive things about times always. I would buy a pair secondhand to see if you like them, and go at least one solo ride before you head out with a group so you can practice unclipping a few times before you need to. Now that I’m used to riding clipless, there are times where I feel a lot safer clipped in than I do on flats.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
A lot of my most painful crashes have actually been slow crashes. I was trying to jump a friend’s too-big-for-me fat bike over a big pile of rocks a few years ago while barefoot, and ended up slicing a decent-sized chunk out of my foot. This was painful, but later landed me pretty legitimately hurt when I was trying to unclip on a trail and couldn’t because I was catering to my injured foot. I ended up slow crashing on to my handlebars, spearing myself under my ribcage. I bruised a couple ribs and the sacs that hold your lungs and organs. It was pretty wretched, but I suppose it really could’ve been much worse. I’ve broken and sprained other various things, I think the biggest part is what you learn from crashing and how you can use that. It’s important to know what’s hurt so that you can make an educated decision on whether or not you’re willing to risk permanent damage or delay healing on your current injury. It’s also important to acknowledge that there’s definitely an emotional component to healing, and whether you’re rushed to get on a bike or skittish about it, you have to be realistic with what you’re ready for both emotionally and physically. You need to listen to your body and your mind and have realistic expectations. Sometimes you regress. That should provide you with motivation, not frustration. If you’re never getting hurt, you’re probably not taking chances.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
The thing that actually helped me the most was probably learning that things are scarier if you take them slowly… I don’t advocate pushing past your threshold, but it’s good to know when you’re uncomfortable vs. when you’re unsafe. There’s definitely a point at which things get scarier and even less safe taking something slowly. Otherwise, looking ahead 10-15 is the best advise anyone can give you. With tight turns starting from the outside and moving to the inside helped me a lot – as long as I’m looking ahead. Where your eyes go, your body will always follow. I also highly recommend everyone spend a day at Rays. That also was a huge help. It’s nice being able to build your way up to bigger jumps/ obstacles, etc., and be able to focus on one thing at a time. You don’t really get that riding trails.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
The biggest thing for me is realizing where I’m at when I’m riding. Sometimes I’m too tired/ out of shape/ clumsy for no good reason on any given ride, and that’s not the time to try new things or try things that I don’t feel good about, even if I’ve had no problem with it in the past. I’ve cleared really big jumps before that I’ve later had trouble even riding over. Realizing when to push yourself and when to call it, even if you’re really excited/disappointed, is important.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that I can wear myself out until I’m too tired to stand, and still be disappointed when it’s time to take a break to eat, sleep, drink beer, etc. Being an adult doesn’t always lend itself to fun. Bikes usually do. There’s something to be said for simplicity. 

Could you tell us a bit about bike polo and how it all works?
The game itself is similar to hockey. There are two teams, with three players each. They start at opposite ends of the court, then when the game starts they ride toward the center of the court where the ball sits. Each team delegates a person to try to hit the ball before the other team gets there - or “joust” for it. After that, it’s mostly just a back and forth for 12 minutes, trying to make it in the other team’s goal. You’re not supposed to grab the walls or goal for stability or put your foot on the ground. All that ends up being easier than it sounds, though, because you’re always kinda moving around.

For me it’s pretty reminiscent of playing roller hockey with neighborhood kids as a child.

Bike polo is most appealing, I think, because of its accessibility. In fact, I think the most fun I’ve ever had playing was at a new player day I organized. There was a solid mix of people who’d never played before and people who’d tried it only a couple times and I think everyone made at least a goal or two. It’s nice because you can play on just about any bike, it takes a much lower fitness level than mountain biking, the crashes are slower and less ghastly, and the equipment is cheap. I think for my bike/ gloves/ mallet/ balls my total came to around $150 – of which $30 was unnecessarily spent on obnoxious pink tires. It’s also pretty cool to be involved in something where everyone has such different interests and experience from one another, both with cycling and in general, but can all still coordinate getting together at least once a week.

Favorite riding destination?
Levis Mound near Black River Falls, WI. One day I hope to convince Steve, trail building wizard and adoptive Uncle, to let me live there permanently. I also think everyone should go to Copper Harbor at least once.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Trek Stache 9 29+: aluminum 15.5” hard tail set up 1x11, 29+ wheels; matte black with lime and teal accents. I love this bike. It makes no sense. I was wholly convinced that I would never ride 29” again, then I tried someone’s 29+ for FTTM and at first it felt like riding a horse, after a mile or two, though, I realized it felt light for jumping, and twitchy enough that I could take it around turns a lot tighter than I thought I could. It rides exactly how I always wanted fat bikes to ride on trails, but didn’t. It’s definitely the bike I am most excited about at the moment. I love it.

Gary Fisher Rig: aluminum 15.5” hard tail 650+ single speed, set up 32x20; paint stripped off, two bells and a honker. I’d been wanting to make a single speed for a while, and my amazing boyfriend helped me cobble this together out of parts we both had. A friend of ours, Jenny, built the wheels, and I’m totally in love with it. 650b+ wheels are definitely my sweetspot.

Surly Crosscheck: steel 42cm cross bike/ commuter, set up 1x9 with sweep back handlebars; painted pink with pink fender, Crane Suzu bell, brass, tuned to A#. I love this bike because it’s the most beautiful bike in the whole world. It’s the only bike I have that is named currently. I call her The Death Star.

Marin Juniper WFG trail bike: aluminum 15” hard tail, 1x10 with 650b+; amethyst color, Mirrycle Incredibell bell, black, tuned to A. This was the first mountain bike I rode that felt like it really fit me well. It replaced a small Niner I had, and it was like entering a whole new sport. I love the way it handles, it had be wholly convinced no one my height should ever be on 29” wheels… before I rode the Stache, anyway…

Trek 613: lugged steel 49cm road bike circa 1982, set up fixed/single speed; burgundy color, Crane Suzu bell, brass, tuned to A#. This bike was a craigslist find turned fixed gear because I hadn’t gone through that phase yet. I ride it to bars, brunch, and occasionally the beach to read.

Surly Pugsley: steel 16” fat bike set up 1x9; glittery grape soda color with gold-rainbow-fade rimstrips, Planet Bike Courtesy bell, tuned to D. The bell makes the tires look bigger. I previously owned a smaller, more expensive aluminum fat bike that I could figure out how to get to fit correctly. This bike was cheaper, bigger and heavier, and somehow feels lighter and faster. The wheels have a mesmerizing disco ball effect when in motion that can bring out the misunderstood 80s teen in anyone.

Giant Attraction: steel 18” mountain bike circa 1990s. It’s a 26” old mountain bike that I took some parts off, put new tires on, and set up with a spinney gear ratio for polo. It’s a little big, honestly, but it keeps my other bikes from getting wrecked at polo, cost only $50 and has the best name of any bike I own. I actually threw up after buying this bike.

Schwinn Exerciser: heavy, steel, stationary bike circa 1978, gear ratio 80:15; gold color. Bell looks like a soccer ball, unpleasant sounding, unclearly tuned. I recently acquired a second one of these and keep them in the basement to ride while playing video games. They’re fucking awesome.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?

I’d recommend not worrying about finding cycling-specific stuff if there’s athletic clothing that you’re partial to. You can put anything over bike shorts – yoga pants work fine and alleviate spending a hundred dollars on leg warmers. The shorts piece, though, is important.

Other things I really love… Enzo’s chamois butter; Ergon grips; Wool leggings – they will be the best thing that’s ever happened to you – I like Icebreaker and would advise against SmartWool; a saddle with a ergonomic pressure cut out - also will be the best thing that’s ever happened to you, trust me - I like the Brooks Cambium or Selle Anatomica T Series; Volleyball shorts – for under your dress when you ride around town; a camelback - so you never have to worry about wearing a jersey or remembering to pack it correctly.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?

I think mountain biking can be intimidating for anyone. For women specifically, there just aren’t really a lot of us out there. There’s getting to be more, but it can be intimidating to jump into something challenging and potentially unsafe without any support. Men can certainly be supportive, but it can be awkward or embarrassing to make mistakes in front of a group of guys. Additionally, things like gear are not always transferable, and gear is definitely a tough obstacle to overcome. Starting out is challenging, but everyone was there at some point, and overall over you’re out there trying, it is a pretty welcoming crowd. I think that initial step and the insecurities associated with being the only lady is what deters most women. Being supportive of new lady riders is something that everyone can and should do.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?

I think it’s important to lead by example and get involved (or stay involved.) First and foremost men and women should be encouraging of ladies to get out there and try riding – and take them! Taking out new people – especially women – is really fun. Taking out new riders is also a great way to allow them to try out different gear – which is awesome if, like me, you’re a small lady and nothing is ever your size. Additionally, it’s great to make women aware of the resources out there. In Madison, for example, Revolution Cycles does a weekly beginner-friendly mountain bike ride. They also host a free “We Are All Mechanics” class for women/ by women. Their level of sincerity and enthusiasm is really unmatched, and I like to believe other places have shops as forward thinking.

I think that seeing other women out riding, creating rides and events that are women specific, and encouraging them to push themselves are all very important. It is equally important for men to advocate and support these efforts, as it can be alienating being the lone female. On a commercial level companies can also support and sponsor those types of events, in addition to realizing how they depict women. One easy way they can reflect is by posting ladies with thicker legs in pictures, and discouraging events that award men differently than women.

Additionally, there are a ton of resources out there. In Madison, for example, Revolution Cycles does a weekly beginner-friendly mountain bike ride. They also host a free “We Are All Mechanics” class for women/ by women. Their attention to detail and enthusiasm for new riders is really unmatched, and I really like to believe other places have similar shops with as wonderful a group

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Riding can be very empowering – especially for women. Our society still has a long road to reaching gender equality, and because of this arenas that are traditionally thought of as masculine still have very prominent gender gaps. Unfortunately, mountain biking is one of them, though it doesn’t have to be. When women get out riding and see other women on the trail, it can be very confidence inspiring. Riding fosters mental and physical growth, and provides the foundation for self confidence and a positive self image. It’s important for women to have the ability to test themselves, and going out with other women provides a safe and positive environment to do this while creating friendships between women. It truly is a much different experience than going out with men, I’d encourage all ladies to try out rides or events that are ladies only.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

Once, on a family vacation when I was little, I got picked out of the audience to be on the TV show Double Dare. I was supposed to throw rubber chickens into someone’s oversized pants. I got really nervous when they started rolling the cameras, though, so instead of throwing chickens I just stood there looking scared and played with my belly button. They returned me to my parents and found a new kid.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Jenna Dodge

Jenna Dodge lives in Bend, OR with her husband and two kids.

When she's not riding her bike, she loves to cook, read, hang out with her kids, and do CrossFit. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I started to ride bikes as a kid, of course. In fact, I still remember my first ride without training wheels! However, not until high school did I pick up cycling as a "sport".

I started with bicycle touring, which turned into road racing in college. I also started mountain biking in college, and when I was a senior in college, I gave up road racing and switched entirely over to mountain biking.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I just love it. There's something so incredible about riding a bike that makes you feel completely free! It's the best feeling.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?

I really love downhill racing. I have yet to do an Enduro race, but I think that will be my absolute favorite. I love to go fast, and I am a competitive person by nature, so I think bike racing was just a natural fit.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? 
Yes, absolutely! I was actually very nervous and scared. I was riding a super old Schwinn Frontier, which was a steel fully-rigid mountain bike that was pretty low-end. It was unforgiving! I tried to ride up a certain trail in my hometown, and I ended up turning around and going to ride somewhere more mellow.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?

I just started riding trails that were a little easier, technically speaking, and slowly transitioned into more difficult trails. I also started riding with some girlfriends, which was way more fun than riding alone, and it also allowed us to push each other and we all got better at riding.

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?
No, I don't! I used to. Honestly though, switching to platform pedals has been the thing that has made me improve with mountain biking more than anything else. I always used to be afraid to try to climb a steep rocky section of trail, because if I fell over or fell backwards, I was afraid of getting stuck in my pedals. Once I switched to platforms, I had the confidence to attack the technical sections of trail. I might switch back to clipless in the future, mostly for racing purposes, but as of now I love my platform pedals.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?

Oh, yes! On my first ever day riding downhill, I wasn't riding the proper bike. I went over the handlebars, landed on my chest (ouch!), and broke a rib! I was really scared of super steep trails for quite a while after that. However, I began to realize that once I had the proper bike to ride, the steep trails were no problem. I have since then taken many more falls, including going over the handlebars, and I just shake it off and keep going. I think the thing that helped me the most is that I lift weights. Squats, deadlifts, clean & jerks, and more. The heavier the better. What that has done is give me a strong body that is capable of handling all the crashes, physically, so I can get back on the bike and keep going.

However, there was still one more wreck that I took that I could not shake off. We had just gotten back from a 2 week trip to Whistler. The last few days of our trip, it was rainy and muddy, but we still rode all day every day. By the time we got home, my fingers were so sore from gripping the brakes, and my brakes were shot. However, we had planned to do a downhill race that weekend. We were up practicing the run on Saturday. There was a really steep section of trail with a hard right at the bottom. We were going down, my friend was trailing me and my husband was behind him. My brakes gave out, and I went pretty much full speed down the trail, and I couldn't make the turn, and I catapulted straight into a tree at the bottom of the trail. Luckily, I was wearing my elbow/forearm pads and I put up my arms (in an "X") to break my crash, and to prevent myself from going literally head-first into the tree. I landed in a pile, all tangled up in my bike. I got up and shook it off, but about 30 seconds later down the trail I had an adrenaline crash and just started shaking and crying. I just wanted to go home. That was a hard crash, and I think a big part of it was my exhaustion from the 2 weeks we had ridden prior, plus all the driving and traveling. To overcome the fear I had after that crash, I upgraded my bike to Shimano Saint brakes :)

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 really struggled with jumps and drops. Those things come naturally to a lot of people, probably mostly boys, who grow up doing those things. To me, it was not natural. I took mountain biking lessons up in Whistler and that made the biggest difference for me. After a couple of days of lessons and a week of practicing my new skills, I felt like I had a handle on them, and suddenly mountain biking became ten times as much fun!

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Yes, I still can't turn right! It sounds silly, but I cannot turn right as smoothly as I turn left. If I am going into a drop, and there is a right hand turn immediately before hand, I tend to chicken out. I have to ride a trail like that several times in order to be able to complete a drop like that.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I just love to go fast through the forest and be out in nature. I love to catch air and have that weightless moment or two where it feels like I am defying gravity.

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

I am between bikes at the moment, but my last bike was a Kona Minxy. I loved it! I sold it this winter though because I knew I wanted to upgrade this year to a bike that was more suited for my area. The Minxy was awesome for downhill riding up in Whistler. But where I live now is a lot more mellow and you have to climb to get to any good descents. Currently I am taking different bikes out on demo rides, and I am leaning towards a Kona Process. I love Kona, I think they make great bikes. I also loved my old Specialized Enduro, but they don't make those anymore - at least, not the same as they used to. The Kona Process is a great lightweight all-mountain bike with a long top tube, short rear end, and it's a 27.5 inch wheel so I'll be able to go extra fast.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love Loeka clothes especially for downhill riding. For cross country or anytime I want the padding on the butt, I usually wear Fox shorts. Those are pretty much the only two brands I wear. As far as accessories go, if you're going to be riding downhill or freeride, I think it's super important to have protective gear, and I recommend a full face helmet (I have a Troy Lee Designs), and then knee/shin and elbow/forearm guards. Personally I don't wear shoulder/back/chest protector, but that's because I've never found one that fit, so it was always too constricting and made it really hard for me to ride. They are coming out with more female-specific gear like that all the time though, so if I find something that fits, I'll buy it (especially now that I'm a Mom).

How did you hear about Loeka and what inspired you to become an Ambassador?

(The company closed their doors in July of 2015, we wish them the best of luck!)
I heard about Loeka when I was riding in Whistler in 2007. I bought some of their shorts from a local bike shop and I was in love with them. The next summer, in 2008, I met Rory, one of the founders of Loeka, and I picked up some more gear. It has lasted me so long and is so comfortable, I recommend it to all my riding buddies. I wanted to be an ambassador for Loeka because I love the brand and I love the sport of mountain biking, particularly freeride and downhill.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?

A couple of things - first, it's kinda scary at first because you're going fast and there are all sorts of challenges related to learning how to ride like a pro. Second, it's a male-dominant sport. That means not only is it harder to find females to ride with, but you're going to encounter men out on the trails that are going so much faster, and it can be intimidating. However, having said that, I find that MOST of the time, the men out there are SO excited to see women riding that they are really nice and encouraging and not judgmental. I think it's more our perception as women not wanting to make a fool of ourselves, not wanting to slow anyone else down, not wanting to ride alone, or being scared to ride with men because we don't think we can keep up.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think having more women-specific mountain biking camps, clinics, lessons, trips, groups, etc. will be the key to getting more women in the sport. Where I live, in Bend, OR, there are lots of women specific rides and instructional groups. The only issue I see is that those tend to be geared towards cross country rides, and I would love to see more women get into downhill and freeride. There is a girl, Lindsey Voreis (yes, Kirt Voreis' wife), who is making a huge impact teaching women around the globe about freeriding. And that's great, but there needs to be more.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
It's just so fun! I want everybody to experience the joy of mountain biking, particularly going fast down-hill. I also like to empower women to do things they didn't think they could do.

You and your husband both enjoy mountain biking-what do you love about having a husband who is also a riding partner? 
We don't get to ride together all that much anymore now that we have 2 kids, one of which just turned one. But he is my favorite person to ride with. He's an amazing rider and I love trying to keep up. I used to be able to keep up! Once I had kids, I slowed down a bit, but I know that speed will come back as they get older and I get more practice in. I don't know, it's hard to describe the thing I love the most about it. I think it's just like any sport you love to do...if your best friend also loves that sport, it just makes it that much more fun when you get to practice with them!

Tell us about the trail alliance you are involved with and what you do.
Honestly I have not been involved in a trail alliance the last couple of years, since I was pregnant and had a newborn. There is a great organization here, the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, and they do a ton of work on the local trails. That is one of my goals for this summer though is to get involved with them, now that my youngest is one and not quite as time consuming (or maybe I am just kidding myself!).

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I won the school-wide archery contest in 7th grade. (You can call me Katniss.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Marianne Jeppson

My name is Marianne Jeppson. Everyone calls me MJ. I am a pediatric nurse. I am happily married to my best friend and we have 2 “fur-kids”.
I love riding my bike and being out in nature. This is my third season racing with the Dirt Divas.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started riding a bike when I was a kid and it was wonderful!! I had some version of a hot pink Huffy with a banana seat that had pink and purple flowers on it. I rocked that thing and I could pull some serious stunts on it for sure…

Then I kind of grew out of the bike riding years and played other sports like soccer, basketball, and track. I forgot all about bikes until my late-30s when I thought it would be a good idea to explore mountain biking.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I am a bit of a late bloomer given that I just started mountain biking few years ago. I am motivated to ride by several things. I ride to become a better mountain biker, to stay healthy, to enjoy nature, and for the simple joy felt on a fast flowy trail when the sun and wind kiss my face. I also ride because it restores my sanity by allowing me to work out the “ya-yas” which makes me a much nicer person to be around.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I am not sure I have a favorite biking event. All events are fun but for different reasons. I guess if I had to choose, I would say the Beti Bike Bash is my favorite because there is such great energy associated with this event.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Umm, yes….and to keep the story short…it is amazing I still mountain bike. Note to guys out there—Moab is not a great place to take your girlfriend to teach her how to mountain bike. Porcupine Rim is not a great trail for first day ever on a mountain bike nor for learning clipless pedals…just sayin’….

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I was nervous and had visions of selling my bike the minute we got back to Colorado. Fortunately, I decided I needed to give it a fair chance and actually find some beginner trails to ride before giving up on mountain biking. After all, so many people seemed to enjoy it. I am grateful that I did not quit riding after the first time out.

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 use clipless pedals especially for racing. My advice would be to put them on the loosest setting possible when first transitioning to them and RELAX. Don’t think about them too much. If you are trying to learn some new technical mountain biking skills swap out the clipless for a pair of flats so you can focus on the skill you are trying to learn instead if stressing about clipping in.

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 biffed it in …big shocker…Moab!! I was alone when it happened and had to figure out how to get back to the truck and then go get my hubby who was riding another trail.
Couple lessens here: 1) Do not ride alone or split up---bad idea in places like Moab. 2) Moab has a nice Urgent Care 3) When you fail to clip out --yes—WHEN not IF—the fall will suck and it will hurt. If you are lucky nothing breaks and you only end up with a few stitches. 4) Try not to fall and land on your break lever as it can and will puncture your chest if you hit it hard enough 5) Get back on your bike ASAP and ride!!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Braking skills were a challenge. I would use too many fingers and mostly the rear break which isn’t the best technique. Take some mountain biking skills sessions as soon as you can so that you do not have to spend years breaking (no pun intended) bad habits. Use one finger for breaking and learn how to use your front brake.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
There are plenty of skills I still find challenging. I most days I avoid letting it drag me down by reminding myself that “I am a work in progress and that as long as I keep pedaling, I am still making progress”.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love riding my bike because it helps me disconnect from the fast paced insanity that has become our world. It restores my mind-body balance and reminds me to keep things simple.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a cross country bike for mountain biking and racing. I have a fat bike to help me make friends with winter. I have a cruiser bike because sometimes you just need to chill. I have a cross bike to help me out when I can’t get to a mountain bike trailhead and just need to get some training in. So many bikes…so little time….

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love my POC helmet and my Dirt Divas gear. I love Optic Nerve sunglasses and would recommend them to everyone.

You are a member of Dirt Divas, tell us why you joined the Dirt Divas club-
I wanted to meet other female riders and learn how to become a better rider.

What has been the best thing about having joined Dirt Divas
Meeting other woman riders and sharing new adventures with them.

What advice would you give someone seeking to join a club for the first time? 
Just join, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

What is the best thing about being able to join other women with a common interest? 
Sharing stories and growing into better riders together. Our social rides are super fun.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking? 
I think woman get intimidated by the public perception of mountain biking. Many people think mountain biking is like the “X games” or something that is really extreme or too hard core to learn as an average person let alone trying to learn it as a woman.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride? 
Having more woman only type events may help encourage more woman to join the sport.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride? 
It is a great sport and I think everyone should try it.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am obsessed with pirates. Yeah pirates--as in Jack Sparrow and Pirates of the Caribbean. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The CLUG Bike Clip: A Product Review

A few months ago I was asked if I would have any interest in trying out & reviewing the CLUG, a simple-to-use bike rack. Well, more like a clip that hugs the tire, which they say the CLUG is like a hug for your bike.

We waited until we moved into our house before installing the CLUG as it must be screwed in somewhere. Either garage, wall, etc.

We figured the garage would be ideal as that is where I house my commuter bike most of the time.

The CLUG comes in 3 different sizes based on your tire size. There is a CLUG for Road, Hybrid, and Mountain bike tire sizes. They also come in several color options as well. Of course between the two sent to me, I chose the blue one for my bike!

Travis did the installation, which is quite simple. There are instructions with the packaging however, you can also go to the website for detailed instructions. The illustrations are quite helpful, in my opinion.

You can install the CLUG so your bike either stands vertically or install it so you roll your bike in on the floor.

This is the option we used for my bike as I have shoulder issues regularly enough to warrant not wanting to do a whole lot of "bike wrangling". To insert my wheel into the CLUG I will grasp my tire and roll it straight in. Holding the wheel helps me keep it centered along with keeping my aim. Otherwise I'm just making myself look pretty darn silly trying to push it in. A little pressure goes a long way.

Overall I would recommend this product if you're looking for something simple, easy to install, and not very bulky. Putting my bike in isn't always smooth as silk, but once I figured out my method it's not bad at all. It keeps my bike upright, I have not had it fall over after installing it in the rack. I have not had the CLUG break or show any sign of wear/damage and I'm going on my fourth month of using it.

It's a handy little gadget that keeps your bikes from leaning up against a garage or apartment wall. Much nicer than having to worry about whether or not I propped my bike up at the right angle.

Cost of the CLUG is $25.00 from

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Women Involved Series: Veronika Voracek

I live in Squamish, BC and have been riding for 8 years.

I started out in the Whistler Bike Park on an old Downhill bike which I loved more than anything. In my second and third season riding I dabbled in racing but didn’t have the time or the funds to commit to very many. Since those first two seasons, I have raced BC Cup DH circuits, Crankworx, Cascadia Dirt Cups, Local Toonie races, BC Enduro series and many races in between.

I have my PMBI Level 1 coaching and volunteer with the Trek Series and with a local Squamish women’s riding group as much as I can. I love seeing riders progress and spreading my love of riding with others!

Riding has taken me to so many amazing places and allowed me to meet some of my closest friends; I cannot wait for the next adventure!
I also part of a team of amazing women, follow our team blog at Team Danger Pony

You are a PMBI Level 1 coach- what inspired you to get involved with coaching?
I had a number of friends approach me to help them learn to mountain bike and I took them out and tried to convey what I knew. That really inspired me to teach others and share my love of the sport. After taking my Level 1, I gained a much clearer way of communicating what I knew to others and also found out I had taught a few skills very incorrectly. Oops.

Do you see yourself getting more education to advance in level?
Yes! The Level 1 course taught me so much about my own riding that I didn’t know. You learn so much and how to break everything down and teach it so easily, it’s so fun. I can’t wait to do my Level 2. I hope to do it this summer if my schedule allows.

What is beneficial about receiving coaching education?
Again, I learned so many little things about riding that I didn’t know that I apply on every ride; little details that make all the difference. It opens up many opportunities for helping out with camps and coaching within the community which is a great way to give back.

You volunteered with Trek Dirt Series and a local riding group- why do you enjoy volunteering?
I enjoy sharing my love of the sport with anyone looking into starting riding. When I was volunteering with the Dirt Series, it was always in an all-female environment which is not that common for many of the participants. I think there is a really great, low-pressure vibe in those groups that many women thrive on. I really love being there when someone tries something new for the first time or overcomes a fear. It’s so rewarding.

Why is volunteering something that other women should consider?
Definitely! Whether it be coaching and clinics, or trail building or helping out at local races and events. It’s a wonderful way to meet people and become involved with your local riding group. It also gives a great understanding of what goes on behind the scenes. Trails don’t build or maintain themselves and races would not be able to happen without the power of volunteers. Mountain bike advocacy groups make the (mountain biking) world go around! 

You are part of Team Danger Pony- tell us how you got involved with the team!
Team Danger Pony kind of just happened. A group of us started traveling to events and planning weekends and trips riding together and one lovely member took initiative and created a team. It’s not necessarily about racing so much as just having a group of ladies looking to inspire others with our adventures in biking. 

What has been the best part of being involved with a team?
It’s been really nice to have the support of friends that I have a lot in common with. We all struggle to balance work and riding and life. We do what we can to motivate each other to train and ride and explore as much as possible. 

Any suggestions for women who are starting out and looking to join a team and/or get involved with competing?
Look around in your area for any riding or racing organizations and don’t be afraid to reach out. Go to some local races and check out what’s available. If there is nothing in your area, find some likeminded riders that share your goals and get together to push and inspire each other.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think there are some misconceptions about what mountain biking is all about. Many people consider it to be “extreme” and dangerous. I believe it’s only as extreme as you make it. It’s not about going out there and hucking yourself down crazy terrain as fast as you can. It’s about spending quality time with friends in the outdoors, exploring new places, making lasting memories, being healthy, and pure fun.  

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
As women riders, we can make those changes. Here in Squamish, we have a wonderful local rider that put together an all-women’s riding group years ago. There are multiple rides each month that are accessible to all levels of riders and prove to be a great way to meet new riders and try out new trails. I’ve also participated in a few all-women’s enduro events that have been a blast. There more exposure things like this get, the more women rider participation we will see.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I’m inspired by the pure joy of riding and want to share that with everyone. To be a female in a male-dominant sport is not always easy but it earns you a certain level of respect and solidifies the sense of community in mountain biking that cannot be rivaled. It’s like a not-so-secret society that I feel every women that wants, should be allowed to join. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Women on Bikes Series: Liz Sampey

I’m Liz Sampey, I’m 32 years old, and I live in the beautiful mountains of Crested Butte, Colorado. I am a professional endurance mountain bike racer, competing in ultraendurance and stage races around the US and the world. I am also a USAC and PMBIA certified cycling performance and mountain bike skills coach. I own a coaching business called Vital Motion, where I combine my expertise as a physical therapist (I have a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree) and my experience as an athlete to help other athletes, both recreational and competitive, reach their athletic goals as well as rehabilitate from any injuries they might be dealing with. I coach private athletes, small groups, and for awesome camps and clinics like VIDA! When I am at home in the Gunnison Valley, I also practice as a physical therapist with Heights Performance. My life is full, and I love every second!

Athlete website/blog:
Coaching website:
Instagram/Twitter: @speedylizard

When did you first start riding a bike?
I was too young to remember, but my first memories of riding was on the farm in Minnesota where I grew up. There were trails running all through the woods behind our house, and my younger siblings and I rode our bikes and our horses all over the woods. I didn’t even know that “mountain biking” was a sport back then. I started riding seriously when I was about fifteen.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
For my entire life, riding my bike has always symbolized freedom for me. Nowhere in life do I feel as completely free and in control of my own destiny than on my bicycle. It reminds me, each time I ride, that I am a strong and confident woman who can accomplish anything I put my mind to. Riding has been the one constant through many changes in my life, through great periods and really tough periods. It is the one thing that never fails to put a smile on my face. The year I turned professional, I was also going through a heartbreaking divorce and my life was turning upside down. I can honestly say that without riding, my place where I could focus all my energy on what I was doing at that moment, as well as tasting that freedom that was not present in any other area of my life at the time, I would not be the person I am now. Riding, and racing more specifically, saved me and created the woman I am today.

Besides mountain biking, are there other styles of cycling you enjoy? (road/paved, gravel, commute, etc.)
I love all styles of cycling! I was a road racer for four years before I started racing mountain bikes, and I still love the powerful fast feeling my road bike gives me. Since I’ve been living in the Gunnison Valley, which is snowbound for nearly eight months of the year, I have also picked up fat biking, which I never thought I would get into but makes perfect sense when you live in a place where snow covers the ground for well over half of the year. I did some fun local races, but mostly I used my fat bike to access the big mountains for my backcountry skiing adventures. I don’t own a snowmobile, and it was really fun to strap my skis to my fat bike and ride out the snow covered roads to places that usually only motorized travelers go, under the power of my own legs.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Not my first ride- I was too young- but my first race, definitely! It was a race at Winter Park, CO, and I think I raced in the Sport category- but it might have been Beginner, I’m not sure. I went in pretty nervous, I had been riding mountain bikes for a long time but never even considered racing until I was 28 years old. I had mostly ridden and raced road bikes for the previous four years, so I was nervous getting back on technical terrain. But halfway through I knew that this was where I was meant to be. I was absolutely elated, and when I finished (I have no idea where in the results I finished) I knew that this sport was about to become a huge part of my life. I had no idea at the time how huge… that I would build my entire life and career around it. But I was hooked.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I have worked a LOT on mental skills training to make my mind as “useful” as it can possibly be when it comes to riding and racing. I have read books, worked with sports psychologists, and also learned from my longtime cycling coach (we worked together for seven years) to hone my mental toughness and my mental clarity on the bike. I will say that it has helped me more immensely than any other type of training I have done. I am so solid mentally and because of that I know there is nothing I cannot overcome- on the bike, or in life.

I remember, a few years ago, when I would struggle with thinking negative thoughts during a race when I “screwed up:” crashed, blew a line, went out too hard, got passed, etc. I observed that with each negative thought, I got slower and slower. I knew I had to stop that in its tracks and find a way to make my mind work for me, not against me. I remember very clearly, in one race, yelling STOP! at myself to halt the negative feedback I was giving myself. And then I replaced the negative thoughts with just a mindless mantra that I repeated over and over again- and that is the only thing I let go through my head. It worked, and I still use that technique to this day, when I am faced with something difficult- a long climb, chasing down a competitor, seven hours into a race when everything in my body is hurting,  a scary descent, etc. Mantras are SO powerful, and I definitely recommend using them. It’s great to be able to turn off your brain and focus on what is important in each moment, when you’re struggling or faced with a big challenge.

Do you use clipless pedals? Why or why not and do you have tips/suggestions for people who are on the fence either way?
Yes, I do. As a physical therapist, I am huge on biomechanics. I know how to actively use my core, my hip muscles, and the muscles in my thighs and lower legs, all at different points in my pedal stroke, for maximum power and efficiency. I do this all the time, and I coach it all the time as well. If you are going to have all those powerful muscles in your legs, why not use all of them as effectively as possible?

I do also understand the benefit of using flat pedals to hone proper mountain biking skills techniques, and I do occasionally use them in the bike park when I am specifically going out to work on skills. Some downhill and enduro racers love them. But, since I race in clipless pedals, I primarily train in them also. Except when I’m on my fat bike and it’s -30 degrees outside- then I am definitely in flat pedals and heavy duty snow boots!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
One big challenge for me was that I was only comfortable standing and descending with my right foot in front when my pedals were matched. If I tried to put my left foot in front, I felt like I was trying to speak Chinese or something (and I do NOT speak Chinese!). As a result, my legs were only being used in one way and they would get really tired on long descents. This took away a lot of my strength to get over technical sections, and for climbing. I would just wear out from being in the same position all the time. So, I taught myself to be comfortable descending with either foot in front. I learned that when cornering, if I am going to corner with matched feet, I need to lead with the inside foot forward. So, I practiced by riding slowly enough that every time I would come to a corner, I would force myself to switch feet appropriately, and then keep that foot in front until I reached another corner that necessitated switching. And so on, until I finally became comfortable riding with more speed and over more technical terrain with either foot in front. Now, I am pretty much ambidextrous. It takes a while, and it’s weird and scary at first, but it’s definitely worth it and it will save you energy, and improve your technique, if you can learn to do it!

Have you had any biffs (accidents) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I had a really violent crash two years ago at the USA Marathon National Championships. I botched my takeoff for a drop I had done many times before, because I was exhausted at the end of the fifty mile race and not focused. I smashed my pelvis and dislocated my shoulder. I got back on and finished the race, and only afterwards did I realize how damaged my shoulder was. Between the initial injury recovery and my surgery and rehab, I ended up missing nine months of training, with four months completely off the bike. It was really difficult- but I was resolved to learn as much as I could from the experience, and it ended up being one of the most valuable and empowering experiences of my life. Mentally, it was difficult because on the outside I had to portray confidence to my sponsors, my friends, and fellow racers, that I was going to return to racing stronger than ever.

Mostly I believed that, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my times of darkness and doubt.
When I first got back on my bike and started riding technical terrain again, and especially in my first race back six months after surgery, I was really scared. Like REALLY scared. I rode terribly- I felt like a stiff robot who had never been on a bike before. But, I was expecting that, and I accepted it as part of the process. That day, my only goal was to win the “mental game.” And I did. Even though I was scared and slow, I kept going, stayed strong through the whole four hours, and I didn’t let my head defeat me. I didn’t beat myself up about it. I let myself have my moments of fear, and a bad race. And then, I slowly worked to overcome it. Part of that was understanding my accident as well, what I did wrong, and what I could have done differently to prevent it. I learned A LOT about that. (Read my blog posts about it at if you want to know more about my thought processes around this).

I was really patient with myself, and I trusted that when I was ready, I would ride confidently again. And I did. Two months after I had that horrible first race, and almost exactly one year after my injury, I snagged my first professional win in a 100 mile race over very challenging terrain in the Breckenridge 100. I came back more confident than ever- because I was a much stronger AND much smarter athlete and person for what I had gone through. I will definitely say that all my time spent working with my coach and sports psychologists over the years helped immensely in my being able to do this- I can’t recommend it enough.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My endurance racing bike (and everyday mountain bike) is currently a Niner Jet9 RDO. Even though I am barely over 5’2”, I am a 29er gal, and Niner is one of the only bike companies that makes an extra small frame that works seamlessly with the big wheels. I love that bike and I have ridden it through extremely technical terrain, tight corners, in all types of races, and on my backyard adventures which include every type of terrain you could imagine including road riding. And it’s great for all these things.

My road racing bike (now used only for training and coaching) is a Pinarello FP3. I chose it because it corners like it’s on rails, and when I was a road racer I loved criterium racing- fast, painful, technical, and filled with tight corners and powerful sprints. It also looks and feels like a Ferrari.
My fat bike is a Fatback Corvus, a full-carbon, 26 pound fat bike that is basically a machine and will go anywhere I want it to, but is light enough that it doesn’t weigh me down. I have 4” tires on it that float through soft snow and it’s great for loading down with ski mountaineering gear to get me to anything I want to climb up and ski down. It’s also light, fast, and responsive enough that it’s great for racing- super quick! Again, I never saw myself getting into fat biking, but I absolutely love it and am already dreaming up next winter’s adventures.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love Pactimo chamois and cycling kits/clothing. They are a sponsor of mine, and I chose them because the chamois feels like I’m wearing nothing, while at the same time being supportive of my lady parts. I don’t like feeling like I’m wearing a diaper, and when I’m hanging out on my bike in my chamois all day long (and sometimes all night), having a cycling kit that feels like I’m wearing nothing is a big bonus.

I also love Shredly mountain bike shorts- they’re not a sponsor of mine, but I rave about them all the time. They make super cute flashy baggies that fit strong women well! My thighs and butt actually can move in those shorts, but they’re not insanely baggy in the waist- they make pull tabs so that you can adjust the waist. It’s really nice. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
Haha. What DON’T I love about riding my bike? :) Nothing.