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.)