Women on Bikes Series: April Morgan

Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph
I'm a Professional Off-Road Cyclist living in the Minneapolis area. In addition to racing bikes year round I balance a full time career and I wouldn't want it any other way.

 When I'm not on my bike or at work it's likely that I'm hanging with my husband Tom (an Ironman triathlete), blogging or posting ridiculous photos on Facebook of our two cats Chubbs and Vito!

 I’m stoked about traveling and just about anything that involves beaches, mountains, bikes, cats and beer!

Check out April's Blog and Instagram: @AprilRides

When did you first start riding a bike?
One of my favorite memories from way back when was my dad teaching me to ride my first Huffy without training wheels – I think I was four?

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Early on I loved bikes because they provided me a sense of independence and freedom. I would ride to my friends' houses and we'd take trips to the local park and ride our bikes through the woods. It was playful and carefree. These days’ bikes fill a major role in my life. I ride for fitness and I ride for fun. Riding provides a release from the daily grind, but even more importantly it gives me a chance to test my own limits…. to suffer, and to persevere.

What are your ride styles of choice and why?
It's hard to decide which style of riding I like the most. I spend a lot of time training on the road and I really enjoy some of our local group rides. When it comes to race however I keep it all off road - gravel, fat, mountain, and cyclocross. It's hard to say which one I like the most, but right now I'm really enjoying fat bike season and the exploding gravel scene. Both disciplines have a fun and festive atmosphere. I love the mass starts and the camaraderie that exists at all of these races.

You compete in a wide variety of events- gravel, road, and snow! What inspired you to start competing?
I swear the day I was born God said “this ginger girl….she shall be a competitor!” Ha! Honestly I’ve always had an innate attraction towards any challenge or any type of competition. I was a total “Tom Boy” growing up - playing baseball and hockey with my brother and his friends. After finishing up a college basketball career in 2006 I knew I needed to replace the daily challenge that basketball provided me. I bought my first Trek 1000 that year and quickly realized benefits of tight fitting jeans (Quadzilla!) and 18 years of defensive slides. I started out racing triathlons and finished 4 Ironmans before becoming a dedicated cyclist in 2012. I get bored easily and am always looking for the next challenge!

What events are your favorite to participate in?
I am always drawn to those big epic events with huge racer turnouts. I am so grateful for those directors and organizations that come together to produce some incredible first class events. Some of my favorites are Fat Bike Birkie, Ore to Shore, Iceman Cometh, Chequamegon Fat tire Festival, Dirty Kanza 200 and Whiskey Off-Road

For those new to competing, any tips/suggestions on how to break the ice with other riders, get over jitters, and just have fun?
Remember that there is nothing serious about riding your bike. It’s supposed to be fun and all of us have been at our first race at some point. Both the bad thing and the good thing about being a female cyclist is that we’re the minority. Therefore many of us have gotten to know each other really well over the years. I remember this being really intimidating early on – showing up to the races with 10-15 women that were all hanging out, high fiving, and I knew none of them!! Have patience as we’re all stoked to have you join us and we’re even more excited about growing women’s fields at the races and generally more women on bikes!

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 love my colorful iSSi Triple II clipless pedals. When it comes to switching to clipless at some point you just have to decide to take the plunge. It will be a big adjustment and there will probably be that one awkward crash moment where you forget to unclip at a stoplight (it’s happened to all of us)….but you’ll survive and eventually unclipping will be “just like riding a bike!” I suggest early on ensuring that you’ve loosed up the adjusting screws as much as possible. This will provide you with the most room for error.

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 remember my amazing bike fitter Chris Balser (Bicycle Fit Guru) taking me on my very first mountain bike ride back in 2012 and being absolutely terrified. The competitor in me wanted nothing more than to keep up but I was seriously scared because I knew my technical skills were not in line with my desire for speed. Early on in that ride we came to a technical step up section and rather than dismounting like a normal person or lifting up my front wheel I rode my tire straight into the rock -- catapulting myself over the handlebars! Ouch!! I was skinned up and totally embarrassed. After that I learned to be patient and to respect my current ability. Over time my confidence and capability grew and I learned that crashing is just a part of this sport and nothing to be embarrassed about. These days when a gnarly crash happens I dust myself off and am generally stoked to have survived unscathed!

Matthew Fowler- Emporia Gazette
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Step ups! I took me more than a year to finally figure out how to properly make my way up a set of step ups. I spent a lot of time that first year really focusing on body positioning and what it means to load and unload the bike. I was a total Bull in the China Shop early on – breaking chains and crashing. Mountain biking requires a lot of finesse and understanding how your body and the bike work together! Practice, practice, practice and whenever you can ride with someone better than you. I’ve become a better rider just by watching those in front of me and mimicking their body positioning around corners and following their lines through technical sections!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that I learn something new about myself every time I ride. My bike takes me outdoors and it reminds me of the miracle of breathe and the amazing life we get to live.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I currently have 3 bikes; a Salsa Beargrease (fat bike), an All-City Macho King (gravel and cx), and a Salsa El Mariachi Ti (mountain). What I love most about these bikes is that I’ve been fortunate enough to build up each of these frames from scratch with the help of my local shop, Tonka Cycle and Ski. It’s about the closest thing I’ve come to being an artist and there is truly something special about making the decision about every single piece of equipment on your bike… weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the costs vs. performance, weight, etc. When it’s all said and done it’s an incredibly rewarding to see and experience your own unique work of art.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends.
45NRTH saved winter for me when they invented the Wolvhammer boots and Sturmfist gloves. They both allow me to get outside and stay outside. I also love the Craft Storm tight for winter rides. Some of my other favorites are the Lazer Genesis helmet, Lazer Waymaker2 shades, Lift Cyclewear Blouson tank, Pearl Izumi Mtb gloves, Sockguy crew socks and my new set of HED Big Deals laced to hot pink Onyx hubs!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling and/or competing in cycling events?
I think the cost of entry is pretty high in terms of purchasing a bike. A trip to the local bike shop is still unfortunately not the best experience for women although it is improving. More so though I think women are looking for a sense of community in fitness and unfortunately there aren’t enough women’s cycling clubs or weekly women’s rides.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
More women in working in the bike industry, more women’s clinics and group rides, and more women specific avenues to obtain cycling related education/knowledge.

You help out locally with Ride Like A Girl events. Tell us your reasons for joining the group and why it's a positive initiative!
I was pretty excited when I heard that Teri Holst was starting up this initiative. I’m incredibly passionate about getting more women on bikes so it was a natural fit to be a part of the effort. It’s really been incredible to see it take off and to realize how many women are really out there looking for more opportunities such as those that Ride Like A Girl provides. This opportunity to get more women on bikes is so much bigger than people realize.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Athletics have played a huge role in my life, and all of my successes and failures over the years have provided me with the confidence to face some of life’s toughest challenges. Growing up I never thought of myself as a girl - I just thought of myself as an athlete. Therefore I never set limits. I played baseball when girls didn’t play baseball. I wore hockey skates and played hockey when girls didn’t play hockey. I lived and breathed athletics and I ate like an athlete. I also looked at myself in the mirror through athletic lens which meant that I was proud of my muscles and broad shoulders even though I struggled to find jeans and t-shirts that fit my athletic body. My body allowed me to do the things that I loved to do. Today, I get so much enjoyment out of cycling and sharing my passion with others in this incredible community – it’s just a flat out riot!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I still sleep with a stuffed polar bear at night! I guess the “kid” in me just doesn’t want to leave.