Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Exploring New Trails- Revisiting Levis Mounds

One of our biggest regrets last year for Travis and myself was missing the chance to ride up at Levis on their groomed fatbike trails. I distinctly remember the feeling I had when we had made a solid plan to go, only to have our parade rained on. Literally.

Warmer temperatures and rain/snow were not going to provide the most positive experience for us, so we stayed in Decorah and had worked on my riding the proposed PWC course instead.
Needless to say, our afternoon was not as eventful as we had originally hoped.

So, when winter arrived this year we made a solid plan: get up to Levis before there is potential of it getting too warm. NO EXCUSES!

Travis' birthday is at the end of January, so we figured that sometime in January would be okay for a Levis trip. We scoped out potential weeks that would work schedule wise for me, and it came down to two. January 12th or the 19th- of course when the 12th rolled around it was bitterly cold and we weren't entirely keen on driving out of town to ride trails in below zero weather. That week I stuck to our local trails and had a glorious ride, but Levis was on the brain.

Going on a planned bike trip is almost like waiting for Christmas morning for me. The 19th rolled around and I was so, so ready! The drive was simple and we were well stocked with ample amounts of snacks. Levis day means Hostess doughnuts, a Surly flask filled with Fireball, and a bag of delicious Sun Chips. (Yes, mom, we had some healthy snacks, too.)

The weather did not get as warm as it had been guessed, so we spent a good amount of time the night before planning our riding wardrobe. Of course, true to fashion, decisions fluxed back and forth the morning of. Either way, we had plenty of clothes for during and after to keep us feeling comfortable. Never forget the power of dry socks!!!

When we arrived and were ready to roll, I had Travis take the lead. I had my computer zeroed out, curious to see how much we would ride. With luck, we would be riding a lot and I wondered if I'd hit the 20 mile mark. I haven't ridden 20 miles in the snow and I had signed up for the 20-mile portion of Frozen 40. This would be the inaugural training ride- basically seeing if I could do it.

On our adventure- we hit up a trail that we didn't ride during the fall called Goat Dance. I must say, I think this might've been my favorite. There were portions of it that were super fun, and if I were to describe why- I couldn't tell you. I loved some of the scenery from riding it, which was breathtakingly beautiful. Downside of colder than hoped for temperatures- very few pictures.

Another trail I really liked was named something that had Bear and Dump attached. Either way, some of the downhills on that were SUPER fun. I think I enjoyed them during the fall, but I'm pretty sure I had caught a sandy area and flubbed up. With hardpack snow, I totally aced it. It was a fun up/down/up/down for a bit.

We rode a whole section of trails on one side, and eventually made our way to the opposite end where you'd find Select Cut and some others. We rode those and had made our way back to the opposite end (where we had started.) The question was- ride back the short way or ride all of the other trails backwards?
I voted the long way.

Another thing about riding at Levis was that I had gotten over my fear of some of the bridge structures. Great thing about snow and frozen ground- you have an easy way around if you're not feeling it. The other plus? Snow is piled up under the bridge, so it's pretty flush against it and gives you the perception that you will not fall far.

Without Travis speaking up, I chose to go over a couple. My confidence increased and I found myself gingerly trying a few more. I don't think he knew at first, but once he saw for himself I had taken initiative to do something that had scared me previously- he had strong words of encouragement!

All in all, it was such a treat to ride the groomed trails at Levis. It was a much different flavor than our local trails, but I enjoyed it very much. It was great to be able to ride trails with such flow- I rode fastest that I have ridden in snow this year- coming out with an average similar to when I rode my fatbike before the snowfall.

We rode a little over 20 miles of trail and didn't even mind that we had ridden some of the trails twice- going both ways really can change it up! We had ridden about 2 and a half hours and we were totally ready to have some real food in our stomachs. I know I will need to figure out a way to give myself some nutrition during my ride at Frozen 40. Towards the end of our riding my legs were feeling a bit heavy and I was feeling that trademark feeling in my stomach that indicated I was ready for something. I tend to get so focused with riding I negate all thoughts of fuel- Travis was the one who encouraged it. I would've just pedaled myself into a stupor.

Our clothing choices were adequate for the cold start. It was around -3 when we started and had bumped up into single digits by the time we were done. It took awhile for my hands to warm- it was around the time we hit Goat Dance that my digits were past the burning/frozen feeling. My feet on the other hand, I have not found a great method for those yet.

Winter helmets. Love them but after 20 miles of riding I was ready to kick it. I'm glad I wore it, but man- my neck was thinking otherwise.

For additional face protection I used this nifty stick face balm from JTreeLife: Winter Stick SPF 15
I'm not great with keeping a neck gator or balaclava up and over my nose/mouth, so I use this on particularly cold days to help protect my skin. I had my face out all afternoon- of course a concerned Travis questioned my sanity. I, however, was completely comfortable.

We ate lunch at Re-Pete's. We came at an odd time, so there was literally no waiting around to get served. We had huge eyes and ordered appetizers: cheese curds and fried pickle chips to start. I found out that they make their own pickle chips, they were great! (I'm not terribly picky, but I do like a good fried pickle. These were not at all soggy and the breading was great.)

Travis had ordered a sandwich and I got the Frisco Burger as I used to love them when Hardee's had them (before they got all huge-monster-patty on me.) It was so fresh, medium rare, and fabulous. Travis really liked his sandwich too. We left feeling gloriously stuffed, nixing the original idea to have dessert. There simply wasn't any room.

No trip to Wisconsin is complete without a detour to Woodman's in the Onalaska area. I spent some of my birthday funds on multi-packs of delicious IPA. Just so you know, Flying Dog beers are available. That is a treat for me as I haven't had any of their brews in YEARS.

It was an amazing trip for the two of us, Levis is always a fun time and I can't wait to go back again during the "dry" season. If all goes well, I'm gunning to attend the Sweaty Yeti next year for my out-of-town fatbike event!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Women Involved Series: Roxy Lo

Photo Credit: Elisa Cicinelli
We are pleased to feature Roxy Lo (an owner and lead designer at Ibis Cycles) Roxy was featured on Bike Mag in June of '15 with Breaking the Mold

In this interview you will learn more on what makes Roxy tick, her thoughts about women being involved in the industry and how being a rider influenced frame designs.

When did you first start riding a bike?
​I don't recall riding a bike very often as a child, but I recall sitting on a banana seat and thinking that was a funny thing to call something you were supposed to sit on comfortably.

I really got into mountain biking later in my early 20's. I rode a full suspension bike in the Santa Cruz mountains and was instantly hooked on the fun and excitement.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
​I ride quite a bit because I love exercising and enjoying nature. Also, my experiences make me understand how to become a better designer. The more I ride, the more aware of how a bike is supposed to feel and work and maintain. I like how trails change with time and weather and depending on what bike I decide to ride, I get to decide what different lines to take. Everything is constantly new and different. Meeting and riding with new people has been an added benefit, too. I am more interested in spending time with others hiking or cycling. It's a good way for me to think of new things to design.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?​​
​Speed was a skill that can help you as a beginner cyclist. It is not your enemy. The first skill I learned when riding was that many times being slow in certain situations can mean crashing or the inability to roll over or turn, or causing your body weight to shift incorrectly causing accidents. Many times, you can avoid a lot of mis-steps in handling or technical things if you just have enough speed or momentum. Letting go of the brakes, relaxing and using your body to control lean and angle during faster speeds comes with ride experience and practice trial. Personally, I just try to do things over and over until it sinks in. It also helps to possess some determination and a bit of hard-headedness.

What do you love about riding your bike?
The fact that I design my bikes makes me really enjoy riding them. Also, I really like being alone on the trails and just enjoying the time I get to spend in nature. It's cool to ride with friends, too, but I just feel independent and self-reliant when I'm alone on a ride.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
​I pretty much ride every bike I design, some more than others due to our terrain and my commute patterns. My favorite bikes in the past were an Ibis SL-R (specially covered in silver carbon - clear fiberglass) and a white and blue Ibis Silk road bike, because I really put some elevation on those bikes. Now, because I do quite a bit of commuting, I prefer using my T-29er hard tail for getting through the forest since it's pretty fast and nimble or the Hakkalugi cross bike due to its disc brakes and longer wheel base, which makes riding more comfortable over pot-holes and loose gravel.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
​If people ask me about my clothing, I'll tell them, but I don't often recommend brands to others unless I've personally spent money on it vs getting industry deals or promotions from other bike companies and have worn them for over a year or more. As a product designer, I believe that longevity determines the best performing choices. ​That being said: Bike lights, I recommend "Light & Motion" due to their great customer service and strong record for making solid products in the past few years, Strava app on my Android phone for ride tracking and finding new trails in new towns or cities (not to mention it tends to be more accurate in located me compared to my $400+ Garmin). I mostly wear Rapha ride clothing: shorts and 3/4 bibs have been going strong for 3+ years, now, and the neon pink riding vest and bootie covers keep me warm and visible on the road. My preferred sunglasses are Oakley Radar Locks because they are perfect for keeping out wind from my eyes at high speeds, in either clear lens (for general eye protection) or a jade iridium lens (for forest riding in bright to low light.) My favorite shoes are SIDI's, but Giro has some nice styles, too. I also like smartwool for base layers and Camelbak for any type of hydration. I often buy jerseys from obscure designers in Sweden have them delivered from my friends when they come through town. Twin Six is a cool jersey company and I like socks from DeFeet.

You are an owner/lead designer of Ibis Cycles- what inspired you to be involved with the cycling industry?
​I enjoy working in an outdoor-based company and our company helps me balance work and play. As far as jobs go, it's pretty spectacular to have something you design become something you can turn around and ride. I like making things that are being used on a daily or weekly basis through the life of the product. It makes me really happy to see people excited and happy about getting outside and experiencing nature and discovering new places to go and challenging themselves physically and mentally. I have worked high tech, housewares, fashion and I feel like this industry allows me to feel good about developing products that are meaningful and long-lasting.

What is the mission statement of Ibis and what can people expect from an Ibis Cycles bike?
​We like to say "Ride more, work less", but what that really means to me is that you can work smarter if you've got a clear head and a point worth making. ​There is something about riding, something that you dig out from inside of you and it's what you own and all for you. We here at Ibis are obsessed with riding and providing the ride experience. As humans, we all strive to do more of what we love, and if that works out right, you're never really working. Ibis creates bikes that can cater to a range of terrain and is grounded by strong suspension and the coolest tech we can come up with at the moment. We make bikes for men and women who want to have the best quality experience they can with the precious time off they have. I find that our bikes offer the wider range of fit from a small company. Since I'm 5 feet tall, I make sure all Small frames can fit me safely. The opposite end of the spectrum is my 6'-6" business partner, and I have to make sure he can fit the XLarge, too!​

Why do you feel women are an integral part in the cycling industry?​
Women have a voice in our cycling culture and should be involved in the business. The cycling industry is a small part of the outdoor industry and the bike arena was predominately male for a very long time. Women equally represent buyers, owners, high level management and business owners who make a direct impact on our communities. Cycling is changing our country's infrastructure and way of life in a way that is healthy and independent of fossil fuels or even mass transit. Women need to take equal part in developing this and that means getting into every facet of the cycling industry and engaging in dialogue and committing to things we believe in. ​

How has your personal experience with mountain biking contributed to frame designs?
As a person of smaller stature, I am acutely aware of how challenging it is to find things that fit me well or are useful to me. I try to develop all stand-over heights on our small frames so they fit a person who is at least 5 feet tall (or has a 27" inseam). I also try to make all the areas where you may touch a frame smooth and easy to hold and clean, especially since I've spent many a harsh hours putting my bike on my roof rack or tumbling down with it in a crash. I want people who ride our bikes to feel confident on the trail and happy with what they invested in, and that's why I spend so much time refining the design details. I like making the bikes look like they are leaping forward because that's how the suspension technology makes me feel when I ride. I used to wear a large pack when riding, but sometimes I like to just go for a quick loop after work. Our first Mojo bike design didn't accommodate water bottles, but not having that option ended up making me realize that it was pretty helpful to have in certain situations. I think about new ideas for bike accessories and frame options every time I ride.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
In general, I don't feel that women feel deterred from entering this industry, but perhaps the sport has not historically sought out female riders, engineers, designers / customers, so by way of focus, they inadvertently ostracized women. Personally, I feel like I offered a different perspective as a designer outside of the industry, especially since I have such a diverse work experience. In Santa Cruz, running, surfing, skateboarding, cycling, kitesurfing, riding horses are normal things to do. What I would think would entice more women to embrace the sport is to educate women that there are size specific frames and different suspensions that can make cycling comfortable and safe. Chamois, gloves, good fitting clothing are what can make or break someone's ride experience. Chafing, cold weather, and sweat makes for discomfort, but good clothing alleviates all those things. Eye and head protection is also key. Let's face it, all customers are generally faced with "mass market" frames with components set up for the "AVERAGE JOE", not "CUSTOM JOANNA". Great shops can help set up your suspension, make sure you fit your bike properly and give you a run down on all the bells and whistles that make your bike great. Alas, a bike is more customizable than a car and requires some heavy duty research to understand why or why not a bike is right for your needs and types of terrain you want to ride on.

Industry-wise and locally, what do you feel could change to encourage more women to become involved and/or ride?
Bell just started a nationwide cycling program to help women establish and maintain group rides. Becoming active in your local community by seeking out trails to build or maintain, involving yourself in youth / bicycling activities, holding clinics at stores or gathering people for activities and races is a great way to start small and local. People gravitate around things that they love and will gradually meet others who share the same interests. Many bike shops offer demo-days and I bet if there were women-only ones, those would be interesting to some women. I think having support and a forum to listen or learn from others can be highly productive to those who have never tried the sport. People are finding very social and creative ways to do this.

Click here to go to photo article.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I suppose my hope is that more women will be out there doing what is fun and won't feel limited because it is something they weren't exposed to or introduced to before or at an earlier age. I didn't learn how to surf or mountain bike until I was in my 20's and being a beginner sucks. At some point, we were all beginners at something, so it's just nice to relearn or have the freedom to start anew. I think riding (road or mountain) is just another form of exercise and can be pretty liberating for anyone who wants to experience something new and meet new friends.
As an adult, it's sort of fun to create new relationships that are based off of sporting activities.
I'd much rather meet someone for a ride than just sitting around.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Women's Off-Road Riding Survey

(Click survey link here or find below!)

Riding off-road is something that some women gravitate to naturally while others wonder if they will be confident enough to try.

I was in the latter category. When I started riding, I didn't have a clue that 2 years later I would be delving head-first into the realm of riding off-road.

For one, for the longest time I didn't realize mountain bike trails existed. Then I found out you could ride a bike on them- my mind was blown. I also was certain that I wouldn't be able to ride them without some sort of calamity happening.

With time, care, and patience I learned to ride the trails. It was a learning curve, that's for sure- but I was up to the challenge.

What I wished when I started riding was for a solid core group of women who would ride trails, too. Naturally a couple friends started joining me on rides because it sounded so intriguing- I wished for more!

I created FWD- Fearless Women of Dirt. A group of women who like to ride off-road or are off-road curious. A landing page for anyone to join. A new community of women mountain bikers in Decorah!

At Decorah Bicycles we started having a regular off-road group ride on Sundays in 2015. Anyone of any riding level was welcome to join. We had a great time and are looking forward to more rides this season! However, one thing was said to me several times by women. "Oh yeah! I've been meaning to join your ride!" However for whatever reason they weren't able to join. Maybe it was the time of day, or maybe it wasn't as introductory as it needed to be. Either way- we want to attempt to find out more- what would encourage YOU to ride off-road?

We would appreciate if you would take a few moments to complete this survey. It is targeting  Decorah and surrounding area, but all are welcome to participate.
Keep in mind it is specifically targeted towards off-road rides.
(Not gravel or paved at this time.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Good Ride

Let me just say, that out of the past winters, this one has been one of the most frustrating ones to date. I've found myself on a few more trainer rides than I have anticipated due to the fluxing temperatures/snow conditions. Not that it's all bad, you can catch up on your favorite shows, but it leaves a lot to be desired (nature.)
The snow we received in copious amounts was nothing more than powder. 
I am not involved with a winter sport that does well with literal powder snow, so it left many of us here in Decorah feeling a bit frustrated. (At first.)

The first few rides in this snow, even with our technical single track groomed, was difficult and I left the trails feeling a bit sour vs. accomplished. I'm all for challenging myself, but this was above and beyond the typical "challenge." 

A Tuesday about two weeks ago had me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. The trails were starting to get darn good and packed in, which made riding them much more possible for someone who hasn't had years of experience handling a bike off road, let alone in the snow. I hit up some of my favorite choices in the Van Peenen area and felt pretty alright. I climbed some of the climbs and didn't wipe out around any corners. All-in-all, I felt pretty good with everything even tho it was far from a cakewalk. 

Then I decided to go over to Dunnings- which provides more challenge yet. At that point, I had to ride up...scratch that. I walked the heck out of Old Randy's. Riding was spotty, all things considered, but I managed to get to the top. Once I was at the top I figured I'd give Upper Randy's a go- which had been groomed, but it hadn't had much traffic since. This trail ended up having me hiking my bike the entire way. I had gotten in so far that I felt it was stupid to turn around and go back- this is what you call bullheaded.

Eventually I got back onto ridable snow and hit up Captain's. My curiosity got the better of me and I attempted Upper Mother's Day- which scared the crap out of me in spots. It's not that it wasn't rideable- but there are some spots that up the ante for making me nervous. My trek up Wold's was a trudge fest. Once I got back onto the Ice Cave loop, I figured all was fine, until I ended up going over my bars.

The words that were escaping my mouth would've made my grandma flip. Needless to say, I was glad that I was riding solo.

It made me wonder how the heck my skills simply vanished- tho that really isn't the case. It is a harsh reminder that for many, there are a lot of factors that come into play when you fatbike. Snow conditions and tire pressure can both make your experience better or worse. When it comes to poor snow, really the only thing you can do is suck it up and make the most of it.

Let's fast forward to last Tuesday. Confidence reinstated after a few good rides and I was feeling completely and utterly ready to take on the trails. Nothing says "Awesome" like zero degree weather and sunshine!

I felt so capable. My attitude was so much better because I felt more confident with the trail conditions and my handling. Okay, so this essentially proves that I can ride in the snow and my skills didn't just disappear into thin air.

I event went over to the Dunnings trails (again) to check out and give Travis feedback on the job he did crafting Lower Randy into a rideable section. It was marvelous. Probably the best snow ride I've ever had on that trail. I even did a loop to re-visit Mother's Day and rode that trail without putting a foot down! I won't say that I wasn't a little nervous at a couple spots, but I did my best to just roll thru without a second thought.

That day I had one of "those rides"...you know. The ride you have that pretty much makes your whole week feel awesome. The one that gives you the confidence boost you needed, and the ride that makes you feel like you can conquer just about anything.

Fatbiking in the snow is about the most fickle riding you can encounter, but it is so worth the time and energy spent doing it. You work different muscles, build handling skills, and become a stronger rider both physically and mentally. You really can't go wrong with that!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Heather Cooper

I currently reside in California and am a Director at Clif Bar. Single, 40, and I’ve been mountain biking for 7 years seriously. (Got on my first mtb 24 years ago) I started racing in '15 and I also love to snowboard. IG:heatherecooper

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first started when I was 16. My dad was a mountain biker and he nudged me to go out riding with him. My first bike was a Trek 850 with no suspension and those crazy bar ends that people used to put on their handlebars. After 3 frustrating years of biking in the very technical terrain in New Jersey, I gave up. It was only when I moved to Vermont 13 years later when I picked up another bike. From that point on I was hooked.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I guess it starts with inspiration from my dad. Then when I moved to Vermont I was determined to start up again. I knew no one and had to find trails and go riding all by myself. Turns out, the trails were some of the best I have ever been on. Then 4 years ago I moved to California. A completely different experience. My riding has been driven by friends rallying each other to go all the time. Then getting inspired to race by my friend Erica and now…it is about getting better and exploring new places.

Tell us about your first Enduro at Sea Otter- would you say that inspired you to compete in the California Enduro Series?
It was actually the other way around.. My friend Erica's husband races and she started racing the series a few years ago. She kept telling me how I would love doing these races and finally I decided to check it out by volunteering at the Santa Cruz Enduro in 2014. As I manned the aid station, I saw how much fun people were having. They would congregate at the bottom and talk about the stoke from their last run, then start to leisurely climb back up to the next stage. When I committed to her that I would do the CES, she suggested we do Sea Otter as a warm up race. It was perfect for that.

Tell us about your experience at the California Enduro Series- what did you take away from the experience?
I was scared at the beginning of each race. Usually shaking before the first timed stage. Once I got the adrenaline out of my system after the first run, it was all fun, laughs and some suffering. At the same time, I was looking forward to every weekend. My big take away is that it was 50% about racing, and 50% about hanging out with friends and meeting new ones. You go on 6 weekend vacations together, you practice together, you encourage each other and then you kick each other's asses.

What inspired you to start competing?
As I mentioned above, it was my friend Erica. But I also was going to turn 40 in November of 2015, and have never competed in anything. I figured that if I was ever going to jump into it, this was the time to do it.

Do you have suggestions for those who are on the fence about entering in a race/competition? Just do it. I can't speak for other race formats, but Enduro seems to be super inviting. As long as you would refer to yourself as an intermediate rider, most of the courses were approachable and fun. Get a group of people rallied to do it together and ask for help from people who you know are already racing. I remember saying to myself that I was going to commit to the races, but it wasn't until I started registering that it felt real. Put the race series dates in your calendar, look for the registration times and jump in head first. And if that didn't convince you, get in touch with me!

How do you help prepare yourself for an event?
I didn't take myself too seriously, so I wasn't on any sort of training plan. The biggest prep was that a group of friends would either take a trip to the venue for a weekend prior to the event or went a day early to pre-ride. Other than that, I was committed to riding both weekend days and made a point to do rides with the tougher climbs (which I typically avoid). If I move up to the Expert class next year, I will have to get some more fitness. My biggest downfall is when we have to do a quick sprint uphill in the middle of a downhill track. I lose all of my time there.

When you started out mountain biking, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Everything is challenging and scary when you start. I spent many years developing bad habits. About 4 years ago I signed up for 2 of the Trek Dirt Series clinics. They are taught by highly skilled women in an approachable environment. There are all these little tricks that can increase your skill level fast which you might never figure out on your own. I've gotten much better recently at cornering by forcing myself to look where I want to go, turn my hips and shoulders, and to let go of the brakes. I've also been realizing that speed is my friend when going through technical sections. I used to slow to a crawl and pick my way through rocks and sometimes that is appropriate. But I realized that my bike can navigate through anything if I carry my speed.

Flats or clips? 
I started in clips. When I moved to California and started tackling some harder rock gardens, jumping and steeper terrain I felt a lot more comfortable being able to take my feet off my pedals, so I switched to flats. Then at the Northstar race this year, one of my race friends started heckling me about racing in flats. I figured since she was a Pro, she probably knew what she is talking about. So, I got back into clips and it's been great.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Mostly that it makes me forget about everything. On a mountain bike ride, I always have to be fully engaged so I don't run into the multitudes of obstacles out there. It is the only thing I do that forces me to forget about the stress of everyday life.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I'm a 1 bike kind of gal. I have been riding a Nomad for a year. I test rode that and the Bronson one day down in Santa Cruz. The Nomad seemed to fit me better and felt like I was landing on pillows. I like the fun of going downhill and this bike helps me do things I never would have had the confidence to do. It's great to live close to the Santa Cruz demo factory and be able to demo a bike for free before making such a big purchase. I have my sights set on getting a Juliana Furtado next.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
My all time favorite is my Shredly shorts.. I don't know why it is such a challenge to find clothing options that fit well, but Shredly seems to have nailed it for all different body types. I like my POC sunglasses and also their gloves that slip on (any velcro gloves I've had always seem to fail after a while) my EVOC pack and bike bag. I don't leave home without my Gform pads and have recently started riding with the ISX Flow knee and eblow pads. Lastly, I have a great Giro helmet and I am a huge fan of the Bell Super 2R with the detachable chinbar.

You work for Clif Bar, a company that fuels many different kinds of athletes- what has been a positive being involved with a company that is part of the outdoor industry?
Aside from having access to great nutrition for my activities, I find that there is inspiration all around me. From our CEO who took on America Ninja Warrior to Megan who did the Spartan Beast last year. We have Ironmen and Ironwomen, people who bike centuries on the weekends and loads of other people who are trying new things or super stoked to cheer you on from the sidelines. The people are what makes Clif such a great place to work. Aside from that we have a gym and personal trainers, an athletic stipend to help you pay for races and a generous vacation offering. Lastly, and perhaps the best part, is that I've met the best friends I've had in my life at Clif and we have common interests.

Why do you feel it is valuable to have women involved in the outdoor/cycling industry? Perspective on product development, women control a disproportionate amount of purchase power, women represent the largest growth opportunity in mountain biking and lastly we have different skills and qualities that will round out your organization.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Cycling appears to be much more accessible than mountain biking. With either sport there is a heavy equipment investment, however with cycling you can sometimes go out your front door and start spinning your wheels. For mountain biking there is a high intimidation factor and I think people envision themselves getting hurt. There are rocks, trees, streams, exposed narrow trails and speaking of trails, they aren't always easy to find and you probably don't want to go by yourself. The perfect recipe is to find a friend to "sponsor" you who is going to encourage you, but not push you too far. Demo, borrow or rent a bike and go to a reputable clinic.

What do you feel could change industry-wise/locally to encourage more women to ride?
I think there needs to be revolutionary change. Right now, there are a bunch of bike companies making women specific products and creating their own programs. Those might be ambassador programs, sponsoring female athletes, sponsoring clinics such as Trek Dirt Series or Liv Ladies All Ride. These are all amazing efforts that took a lot of advocating and hard work; however they are individually duplicating efforts.

I imagine there being a more national effort to consolidate all the resources. Those resources might be put towards national education and regional clinics with standardized training and trail access. I see this as building the foundation of women rather than each company fighting for a piece of a small pie.

As I write this from New Zealand, I also have a new perspective on how important trail access is. While riding in Rotorua, I was amazed at how many women and children were out on bikes. They had amazing amenities…showers and toilets, water stations, rentals, bike shops at the trail head, extensive trail maps and phone apps, shuttles, excellent trail signage and a 6 level rating system from beginner to expert. The networks of trails are enormous and hikers, horses and bikes seem to co-exist happily.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
It is simple, when I find something I love, I want to share it with other people. Tell us a random fact about yourself! I'm spending a month biking around New Zealand, living out of a van with my favorite biking partner, Courtney. Oh, and another good one is that I went to college for Music Business.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Revisiting Kelly (Hickey) Erbach

Photo Credit: Pete Stone
Kelly was interviewed two times in '14, you can read her past Women on Bikes and Moms on Bikes interviews by clicking the links!
Kelly is such an inspirational woman, so I thought it would be fun to go back and catch up a little bit on what has been going with her "Life on Two Wheels."

Quick Catch Up- Tell us about yourself and the riding styles you enjoy:
Hello! My name is Kelly, I am 33 years old, and I live in Duluth, MN.

I have a fantastic husband, Karl, who is also passionate about bikes and a little guy named Wyatt (with whom I'm staying home while on a break from my RN career). Wyatt has been showing some serious aptitude in the bike mechanic department (he even added glow sticks to the frame on my Trek Fuel EX), so it won't come as much of a surprise if he joins the family pastime.

As for preferred riding styles, I EASILY am most enamored with mountain biking on single track. There is a place for road riding in my life (when the trails are closed), or on gravel (when there are no trails or good roads), but given a choice I will pick trail riding every time. Last winter, I had the opportunity to dabble in fat biking in the snow and look forward to more of that as well. It is awesome to have so many options!

You have been catching up on riding since you became a parent- do you have suggestions for new parents who suddenly find themselves with limited riding time?
Yes. Take the opportunities when they arise. Even if it means dragging your tired butt out for a half hour of a slow pedal, it is usually worth it. (Usually! Sometimes laying in the yard and staring at a tree is just what the doctor ordered.) Also, be kind and realistic with yourself. You might not have as much time to ride, thus may not feel as fit or skilled as you previously did, but you are out there doing it as best you can during this challenging time. That in itself is enormous. In order to be a good parent, you need to take care of yourself. The balancing act can be extremely tricky, but as long as it evens out over the days and weeks, you are doing something right.

It was quite a game changer for us to go from being able to ride basically whenever and for however long we wanted to "I have this specific window during which my child has someone else to care for them and likely will not need me for food/nap/etc". There are many evenings when Karl and I don't get to hang out much because we take turns riding, but we know that we need exercise and nature to be happy, so we make it work. It is fantastic to have family and friends who are willing to watch Wyatt so Karl and I can occasionally ride together as well.

Were you able to get back into "riding shape" quickly or did it take awhile?
It was ROUGH in the beginning! I had a c-section, thus had to wait at least six weeks before even trying to pedal. I was also lucky enough to have sciatica, pubic symphysis separation, and plantar fasciitis. (What the H, pregnancy?! So much for "being super active the whole time.") As you can imagine, I wasn't in peak physical condition by the time I was able to ride again. We were living in St. Cloud, MN at the time (which is more a road biking than mountain biking place), so when that six weeks was up, I got dressed (in my husband's riding clothes, as mine didn't fit), loaded up the baby and the bike, and set out to find a remote place to give it a shot. In a nutshell, I made it about 7 miles at roughly 11.5 mph, had to have Karl literally hold my seat and run next to me as I tried to get out of the parking lot (which was gravel and uphill and not a good place to be walking in carbon soled shoes).
Not to mention that I seemed to have suddenly developed asthma while trying to make it up a tiny hill. It got better fairly quickly-ish, but struggling through those first rides was tough. It took over a MONTH to not have a sore tush in the saddle. What happened to a week?! Flash forward to last summer, when I could not only wear my own clothes again, but also race. Thank goodness!

What suggestions do you have for women who are getting back on the bike after childbirth?
Keep after it, even if it seems discouraging (both time-constraint-wise and fitness-wise) and be kind to yourself. Having a baby changes your body and it takes a while to figure it all out again. Also, some women recover quickly, but some take months to heal. Listen to your body and take it at the appropriate pace. You will meet your goals over time!

How was it the first few times back on the trails? Did it ever seem like you had left them or did it take some time to get back into the swing of things?
The first few times were okay. It was a bit shocking how much balance had to be relearned after waddling around with a big 'ol belly for so long. I stayed on trails that were well within my comfort range while I worked out the kinks that first summer.

You participated in some events this year- tell us about the events and what you enjoyed about them:
This year was great for events! I was able to make it to three Wednesday Night Enduro Series races in Duluth, which are basically the beer-league of racing for COGGS (our local IMBA chapter) members. Additionally, The Great Hawk Chase and Voyageurs Revenge (both 15ish mile...if you race the sport category...XC races in Duluth) and a short enduro in Copper Harbor over Labor Day weekend made it into the books.

The best part of all the races is the comradery, a feeling of accomplishment after the harder ones (read: I thought I might die of heat stroke at The Great Hawk Chase, but did not!), and the occasional podium achievement. In the female categories, there are often low numbers of racers, which makes top three (especially when there are age group awards) much more obtainable, but it still feels great! Hopefully, as more women join the sport and decide to race, there will be loads more competition! In Copper Harbor, there were plenty of fast ladies, which is awesome. I didn't do so hot on the speed-front, but I also rode Red Trail during the race for the first time ever and didn't get hurt, so I'm calling that a win!

Do you legitimately train for events? If so, what does that entail?
I'm going to have to give that a solid 'no'. I simply don't have the free time. I am very lucky to get opportunities to ride when Karl's in town (he travels a bunch for work) and when family and friends are willing to hang out with my little guy. Some of those rides are hard and fast and others are super casual (those are the times I'm so tired I can barely muster the energy to get out the door). At some point last summer, I was debating whether or not to enter a race because I didn't feel like I was in 'race shape'. I eventually came to the conclusion that if I waited until I was in race shape to do races, I would maybe never race again! So I entered knowing my fitness was at least decent enough to finish moderately well. That approach turned out to be a great decision.

For you, what inspired you to participate in events in the first place?
I was interested in racing for years, but never felt like I was good enough. Then one winter in Wisconsin, some lady friends and I put together a team for the Wausau 24 (we did the 12 hour event) and it was awesome. It took a team (which seemed more comfortable than racing solo...and looking back over all the races I've done, team racing my favorite) to get started.

Why should women consider participating or volunteering at events/races?
Because you feel good! Being involved in the broader community of biking via races provides a sense of community and either accomplishment or purposefulness. Also, it is time to balance the gender scales and get more women on the start lines. The more females in the cycling world, the stronger our influence in all areas of our sport (of which the positive effects will be huge).

How do you incorporate your child into your current biking lifestyle?
My first thought was "I basically don't"! He attends races sometimes, but biking is currently an escape from parenting for me. It is a chance to fill my bucket, so to speak, and spend time clearing my head in nature. I can be a much more patient and happy parent when my needs are met. Breaks from constant care giving is integral to that. Although, we will get Wyatt a kick bike next summer, and family bike outings will become a thing (I hope). Karl and I both really look forward to introducing him to mountain biking (and our niece, if she's into it when she gets older). That's not to say that solo rides won't still be important!

Baby #2! What have you learned with riding during the first pregnancy? Will you be doing anything different the second round?
I learned to listen to my body and build fitness at a reasonable rate rather than pushing too hard out of the gate. The second round will likely be the same, besides having TWO little ones with whom to manage my time. It is super encouraging to know that I was able to rebound after the first pregnancy. I hope this time goes as well!

Any new bikes since your last interview or future new bikes in the works?
Yes! I am still riding my Trek Fuel EX, which I LOVE, in addition to my Trek Domane on those days I venture onto a road. I had a Trek Farley, which was awesome, and will rejoin the stable next year before winter (I won't be fat biking my baby belly around this snow season). Depending on how much I decide to race XC in the future, I may or may not switch my mountain biking set-up to a Trek Fuel EX 650b (rather than the 29er I have now) and add a race hard tail (a Trek Procaliber). We shall see!

Anything else you would like to share regarding bikes or kiddos?
If I had coffee this morning, there would be a bounty of wisdom in this space. The orange juice isn't cutting it.