Women Involved Series: Lindsay Currier
I'm honored to feature Lindsay Currier, founder of Shine Riders Co.
Lindsay founded Shine Riders Co. in 2008 after she had a mountain biking accident in the Santa Cruz mountains. The mission statement of Shine is to Illuminate and Inspire female Gravity mountain bikers across the globe.
When did you first start riding a bike?
I've been riding bikes for as long as I can remember. My dad was a competitive cyclist when I was a baby, and got me into riding at a young age. That being said, I had no formal training until 2011.
What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Cycling in general has always fed my need for freedom and fresh air. I've never really been goal oriented or competitive with my riding, I just have a passion for feeling the flow and freedom that riding a bike delivers. I've tried my best at times to stray, but my industry family, as I like to call them, always keeps me on a pretty tight leash, it's really impossible to quit. My life is constructed of cycling.
What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
My favorite race series is currently the Bootleg Winter DH Series put on by Downhill Mike and All Mountain Cyclery in Boulder City, Nevada. I love this series because of the incredible people from all over the world that it draws. I also enjoy how technical and challenging Bootleg Canyon is.
I used to loath competing. It made me really nervous to be timed and I did not like being compared or judged against others. Then I started to not care at all, and wondered what the point of me competing even was.
Today I enjoy participating in timed events because it shows me the progression of my riding. Sure I may have an injury here or there that makes me take steps back, but over time I still see improvement. I feel like we all have to do our part, to train and do our best, for the overall progression of mountain biking.
Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
The first time I went mountain biking beyond the trails behind my parents house in rural Connecticut, was when I was 16. A mechanic from the local shop I worked at, Valley Bicycle, took me. I had been challenging leaf piles and jumping off a small rock in our yard, but this guy, he could float over roots and rocks and hit drops with ease. I wanted to do that. I tried to follow him and his friends through everything but kept crashing everywhere and bloodying up my knees and elbows. It was really humbling, but I never gave up, just kept trying.
If you have nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Oh my. People seem to think I am all cool and calm, but if you really know me, I can be an emotional storm and a nervous wreck. In the past I honestly used alcohol to cope with this, which always provided great entertainment for my peers, and never allowed me to properly face my... demons. Now that I have been cold sober for nearly 3 years I see that my nervousness usually stems from having too high of expectations for myself. Firstly, I now try my best to be as prepared as possible for whatever is making me nervous. Practicing skills drills, public speaking, and race courses helps put my mind at ease when its time to get the job done. When the nervousness sets in on race or clinic day (and it always does) I remind myself I am not the only person that has these feelings. I tell myself these feelings are just.... feelings, and not really who I am. I systematically go through a plan in my mind. This is who I am. This is what I have done. This is what I am about to do. I focus on the task at hand and before I know it, I'm having and creating a GREAT time. Having positive friends and a great support system definitely helps! Good friends know how to see your weakness and help you be strong. I am so grateful for the great friends I have.
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 started clipping in on a road bike very very early, so of course when I began mountain biking I thought I would use that too. I stopped clipping in for a while after I broke my back in 2008. I was scared. I went back to the clips for longer rides and races in 2013 and 2014. If I was jumping, or learning a technical line with crazy consequences, I used flats. After working in Sedona this winter (2015) and realizing the consequences of messing up even on an uphill, I quickly went back to 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?
I've had so many biffs, but two really stand out... I felt that I was dying, and that if I survived I might never ride gravity again on 2 separate occasions, once in 2008 after getting out of a 12 hour surgery to stabilize a burst fractured vertebrae in my spine, and second last summer (2014) with a delayed ruptured spleen. Both incidents were from silly riding mistakes and mental issues, and both left me with the fitness and strength level of a 100 year old women... or worse. My spleen is doing lots better today (they let me keep it!), but my back still gives me lots of pain and hinders my flexibility and mobility. Each morning I struggle just to get out of bed and limber up my stiff spine. And each ride, I definitely feel it. When my back is really tight, I can't corner, I tweak to the left while jumping, and climbing is horrendously painful. I consistently practice yoga, which really helps. When I have fear of being re-injured, I use the same techniques for overcoming nervousness. When I feel really bummed out and sorry for myself I think of Tara Llanes and other athletes who are still smiling and living life, no matter how "bad" their situation. I think of everything I am grateful for, I give thanks for being alive! And of course I spend time with my friends who have positive and encouraging attitudes. I believe a positive attitude, a clean diet, plenty of fun activities, and the proper amount of rest and recovery can help our bodies heal naturally. I am happy to say I only use herbs to combat my pain!
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 had no clue how to land a drop or jump. The advice I was given was: no brakes, get back and just send it. I was lucky enough to have some boys in Santa Cruz give me advice about dirt jumping after breaking my back. They told me it would be a good way to learn skills. They told me how to claw my pedals and to try to arc the bike and match the landing. I am thankful for those guys, especially Mike Schaup who is no longer with us.
Completing my coaching certification with Shaums March helped me break down exactly what I needed to do taking off, in the air and landing. I love science and physics and knowing how things work, so this really helped me.
As I mentioned before, I have trouble with cornering when my hips are tight and my back is giving me trouble. I just do the best I can and smile. What else is there to do?
What do you love about riding your bike?
Gosh what is there not to love? My bike has always been my vehicle to FREEdom. A bike can take you further than your feet, way out into nature to some of the most awe inspiring landscapes. The common ground of cycling can take you to places you only dreamed of and bring you to meet some of the most amazing people on earth.
Plus it keeps me healthy and feeling great!
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them-
Well... right now I am rocking a Canfield One, sponsored by the Bender Brothers. Its a 7" beast that can pedal pretty well and is fun to jump and descend technical trails on. I was riding a Devinci Spartan and Troy and was very spoiled with their carbon frames and fancy components. I wasn't able to keep them (so spendy!) and fortunately my fiance and his brother got the One shipped to me. Its not a perfect setup but I am so grateful to have it! I do have a Jedi frame hanging in the garage that I hope to resurrect for the Bootleg series.
What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Clothes are a personal thing, but we are so blessed to have so many choices. I am really pumped on the Zoic clothes that are coming out for 2016. The fabrics, cut, and color are just amazing and they even have some pieces that will be great for DH and yoga (leggings!!). I recommend the ladies also check out Shredly, a Colorado company owned by a woman. Shredly has some seriously sweet patterns this year. And of course, if those don't suit you, again we have so many options so I recommend checking out Dirty Jane because of their amazing selection and product knowledge.
For protection, I've been wearing Kali since 2012 and I have been very very happen with their products. They are a newer company but have lots of great people in house constantly improving and developing products, and they listen to their customers requests! I am really happy with my Kula and Vaza hard plastic knees. They are very breathable and lightweight even though they are a full elbow/forearm and knee/shin combo respectively. I wear the Aazis soft kneepads for shorter rides or dirtjump/pumptrack sessions. For helmets I have been super comfy and safe in my Avatar Carbon (fullface), Avana (enduro) and Maha (dirtjump). When the going gets super rough I rock a Scarpa back/chest protector. And I am hoping to try their new padded ride shorts as soon as I can... the Trika I believe, hopefully they come small enough for my little butt!
For footwear, I've been a devote Five Ten wearer since 2008. The brand has come a long way since the clunky but still awesome original Impacts. I have a pair of the new super sticky Impact VXi for aggressive gravity and colder riding, the Freerider Canvas for dirtjumping and and cruising, and the Freerider Contact for Enduro and general trail riding. There are so many sizes and colors now, it is so amazing and great to see the options grow. I love these shoes because they give the best contact with my pedals, ensuring I have control (which gives me confidence) in any terrain. Nothing is worse than slipping a pedal, you can be seriously injured!
For eyewear I love the Smith product line. I wear Pivlocks for Enduro/Trail Riding as they have exchangeable lenses for many conditions, are lightweight, and shed my super sweat. If I am wearing my Kali Avatar fullface then I wear goggles and have typically used the Fuel. The most important thing about eyewear is that it is action sports specific (so not glass), stays on your face without wiggling, and doesn't conflict with the fit of your helmet.
When did you realize that you wanted to coach mountain biking?
After watching so many other women (and men too) fling themselves blindly to an unnecessary accident. I wanted to help others avoid the self inflicted pain that I suffer. Yes we are going to fall down sometimes, but wouldn't you want to eliminate the unnecessary trauma and damage to you and your bicycle?
What has been one of the most surprising things to occur since you've started coaching?
It has made me want to teach so many other skills and knowledge to others. I was a little scared of teaching, when academic advisers in college asked me if that was the direction I would like to take with my degree. I was worried I would have trouble with public speaking and that people wouldn't understand me. I was also concerned that I might not have patience when people get it. Coaching unlocked that power for me. I love helping others find happiness and to succeed on and off the bike!
What inspired you to create Shine Riders Co.?
When I was initially healing from the back injury in 2008 I was thinking of ways to stay connected and give back to all of the amazing mountain biking women I met when I moved to Santa Cruz, California in 2005. I saw a lack of promotion for the ladies that were racing (no photos and sometimes no mention of their results). I wanted to find a way to create more opportunities in mountain biking for women whether they were coaches, athletes or just enthusiasts. I knew there were so many more ladies to meet and that creating Shine would eventually attract them to me which would lead to... bigger and greater things for us all. I'd like to give a big shout out to Rosie Bernhard, although its been a while since we got to shred together, Rosie was one of the first ladies I met in Santa Cruz who could charge the downhill and jump fearlessly. She's been injured and through nursing school.. and is still doing it! Women like Rosie are what make me stick with it.
Tell us about Shine Riders Co. and your philosophy-
Shine has been through some evolution in the past seven years. We've tried going the route of having a professional team, a junior team, and exclusivity with sponsors. I found through the positive and negative experiences that a grassroots approach is truly the best for Shine. Being INclusive brings everyone together, which fosters community, something mentor Joh Rathbun has tried to gently hammer into my mind over the past 4 years. I'm happy to say we will be bringing back every coach and athlete that has been involved in 2016 and will be opening up to many more riders, even recreational riders. We need more voices to share the story. And we need something to not only bring, but keep us together, because there are now literally millions of us!
What benefits do women (experienced riders or not) get from attending a mtb clinic?
For experienced riders spending some ride time with an experienced technical skills coach has many positive aspects. A great coach can watch you ride (while they ride behind you or standing beside you) and give you feedback on what you are actually doing. Like many things in life, what we THINK is happening, is not always the reality. A super great coach can also help you conquer the mental hurdles of fear, pain, jealousy, and many other negative mindsets. Attending a clinic is a great way to meet other riders, and work together through challenges. My clinics have a curriculum much like college... you take a basic class first, and then move on to more advanced classes once you have mastered those skills. I really enjoy working with riders over a course of time because then I see the progress. I ride with many of my former students and give them pointers here and there to help them stay on track. If you are brand new or just getting back into it, FUNdamental skills is your ticket to staying SAFE and having more FUN on your bike.
Do you have any advice as to what women should look for when seeking out a mountain bike clinic or coaching session?
I can't stress it enough, be sure your coach is certified (or has an extensive resume) and has liability insurance (for both you and their protection). Plenty of riders, with the best intentions, are offering clinics with very little knowledge, experience, or training. Ask for references, look for feedback. And like all other teachers, find the teacher who's style fits with you. There are lots of great coaches and you will learn something different from each one, how exciting is that?
What advice do you have for someone looking to start up a women's mountain bike ride?
I have a blog post on this somewhere but... Again, make sure you have enough experience and fitness before you begin. You need to have some minor mechanical skills to help the newer riders out should they have a flat tire or other issue on the trail. Basic First Aid knowledge is a must. Be sure you know the trail system like the back of your hand, and always keep your group together. It really helps to have a sweep (someone who follows in the back). But most of all keep it fun!
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Many women that I've worked with were turned off or intimidated by the sport because it seems so macho. Additionally, like most retail industries, SOME sectors of the cycling industry love to use SEX to sell, and that is a big turn off to those who don't jive with that. I stress SOME because for every company doing that there are so many more, and for every lady who doesn't like booth babes or boobies in marketing, there is another who just does not give a hoot.. Another major deterrent is FEAR of injury, loss, or failure. This is where skills coaching and having positive riding buddies that will encourage you to succeed becomes really important. And lastly, the cost. Bikes and all the gear can be really expensive if you are on a limited or low income, have other financial responsibilities, etc.
What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I'm happy to say it all happening. More great companies focusing on making mountain biking more attractive and welcoming to ALL TYPES of people, not just ladies. More coaches and programs to help you learn and keep moving forward. And there are lots of companies making super sweet entry level bikes that wont break the bank, but you can still shred on!
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I didn't have other women to encourage me when I was young. I rode with men from a young age. I felt distanced from girls my own age because they did not share my passion. I grew up feeling like the last unicorn. When I made the commitment to move west in search of greater things, I got to experience what it was like to have a group of ladies, stoked on riding gravity. Each woman brings a strength or two to the table. By sharing experiences and encouraging one another we ALL grow. I want women everywhere of all ages to have this privilege, so I'm just doing the best I can to help with that in my small way :-).
Take a skills clinic and practice those skills. Start slow, smooth and skilled before getting speedy and sending things. Find a group that resonates with you to ride with. If none exists, create your own!
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I'm a total introvert and minimalist. I currently live off the grid with no running water, power, telephone, or cell service on 20 acres with my fiance Josh Bender and our two doggies June and Sarah. We both work hard to reduce what we have by giving away, and reduce what we use and the waste we put back out into the world. I love seeing my peeps and making new friends in exciting places, but I have a great need to balance the fast paced social life my career brings, with some hardcore solitude. I enjoy being completely alone from time to time to get in touch with my self, and recharge my energy. Sometimes, okay a lot of times, I will seemingly disappear after an event or long weekend of social time. I'm just up on a mountain top somewhere, or in a hotspring recharging. If I don't do this I turn into a raging B, I promise you.