Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lessons in Mountain Biking- The "Dirtiversary"

Having just made it up Gunnar, solo, for the first time.
5/30/16 (Memorial Day) is my "Dirtiversary," the day that I discovered that I would ride mountain bike trails solo. Prior to, I would go out on periodic rides with Travis, at most, twice a week- and I was starting to feel the urge to explore more. I was tired of riding the paved trail when the allure of dirt called my name- but was I brave enough to venture forth and ride on my own?

In 2014 on Memorial Day, with a full day off of work, what better way to spend it than outside? I had a choice to make. Attempt to hit up the paved trail that would surely be bombarded with foot and bike traffic, or I could attempt to hit up some of the dirt trails. Really? It was a simple choice.

Travis had been asking on our rides if I would lead and I avoided every opportunity I could. I feared  of not being able to make climbs or failing miserably in front of him. I didn't feel confident with the thought of going first. I felt slow, unstable, and didn't know where I was going or what I was doing.

I had to ride solo.
I had to ride alone.
I had to see if I could do it.

I told Travis that once I rode alone, and successfully, I would lead him on a ride.

So I text two girlfriends and let them know my plans. Just in case something happened and I got hurt and didn't make it home. You know, making sure loose ends were tied. I was also worried Travis would be too concerned over my semi-planned adventure, and I didn't want him to fret.

Tears of joy after my first
solo ride! 
I set out on my Surly Krampus for what felt like, the adventure of my lifetime.

I did the loop of trails we had been doing- I know IPT, Gunnar, and both Pines were included. I can't remember everything I did, but I did the loop up to Pines and at some point, made my way back down to IPT.

I had ridden everything I could and I'm sure there were a few parts I had to walk. At the end of the ride, I literally cried. I text my girlfriends and let them know I was successful and was thrilled to share with Travis the great feat I had taken on and overcome.

A fire was lit within me. You could say I was filled with hope, too. Everything for me felt like it had
changed in that very moment- the moment I made the decision to overcome my personal fears and take the challenge of riding off-road head on. I wanted to succeed.

I can't explain how empowered I felt! 

No longer did I have to wait for a Friday or Saturday for Travis to take me out riding. I could sneak out on my own! I could practice and session any time and anywhere I desired- and that was just the freedom I needed.

I did my best to re-introduce myself to a few areas that Travis had taken me to when we went on our first couple rides in '13. I distinctly remember going down Rocky Road and wondering when the scary parts could occur. I remember riding thru what seemed like a river, and riding up a steep hill that seemed high, and if I failed, I would fall into said river.
I rolled thru a creek. I rolled up a small hill. Done.

My mind had completely blown up whatever it was it thought it rode the year prior, good gravy! I was a bit embarrassed yet also pleased. I conquered something that had seemed impossible and discovered I had elevated fears that were not necessary. I have to say, that learning I had blown my worries and fears out of proportion on a solo ride was so much more confidence-inspiring than if I had found it out on a ride with Travis. It made me realize, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could accomplish far more than I gave myself credit for.

A "Dirtiversary" is as important and as special as you make it. For me it was a step in growing up and feeling more confident with myself. Taking life by the reigns and not letting my insecurities and worries stop me from trying something I really wanted to do (and get better at!)

Travis had little expectation that I would fall in love with mountain biking...you're talking about a woman who has extreme anxiety issues, who hates dramatic change, who isn't graceful, and who has exercise induced asthma.
I'll never say that the learning process was easy- but I will say that it was 100% completely worth it.

This is why I write about my experiences. This is why I encourage so many women either in person or online- please give mountain biking a go. I know it can be scary sometimes and I know that we all worry too much about how we look to other people. Fact is- those people who invited you out do not care about how good you may or may not be. They, like myself, simply want you to be out there and give it a shot.

Do something amazing for yourself. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Let go of the control, anxiety, and fear. Give yourself a future "Dirtiversary", and embrace your #BikeLife!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Stacy Chapin

Hi there - I'm Stacy and currently live in Hayward, WI which is home of the American Birkebeiner and the Cheguamegon Fattire Festival (among several other local race events).

My love of biking, specifically mountain biking and fat biking, began when I moved to the area a little over three years ago to be with my (now) husband, Scott. 

Prior to moving here, I was really into running and had completed two marathons but my body was not holding up to the sport very well anymore. I was looking to get into cycling and bought a used road bike (that I knew nothing about). Scott came into my life at the perfect time and introduced me to nordic skiing and biking. 

The CAMBA trail system and the American Birkebeiner “Birkie” trail are approximately 1.5 miles from our home and we are having a blast!

When did you first start riding a bike? 
Aside from a trike as a toddler, I think I got my first new bike around age 8. It was a Huffy girl’s “dirt” bike. I had a blast on it – I remember going over small jumps that my brother made and learning to do “wheelies”. I loved that bike!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?

As I grew older and got involved in school sports, my bike riding waned with the exception of using it to commute to summer swimming and tennis lessons. Eventually tennis and running became my focus. It would be years later that I came back to biking because running consistently became too hard on my body. Four years ago, when I started dating my husband (Scott), he introduced me to all things biking – road, gravel, mountain biking and fat biking.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing? 
At this point, I have only competed in the Fat Bike Birkie which I love! Last summer, I prepared for my first Chequamegon 40 (Fat Tire), however I didn’t compete due to a crash 6 days prior to the race.  I live near the course and ride parts of it frequently. I really enjoy that kind of riding (lots of ATV trails, gravel and parts of the “Birkie” trail). In addition, we ride a lot of single-track on the CAMBA trails and also ride gravel via the forest roads near our home. We’re doing ‘The Race to the Blue Lagoon’ this summer, which is a gravel race in Iceland that looks like a lot of fun as well. I’m finding that I enjoy participating in races because it pushes me to ride farther and harder. Also it gives me a little structure and keeps me motivated to get out there. More importantly the events are so fun – we know many of the volunteers because we live in the area. We really are spoiled in that sense!

Do you have any suggestions for those looking to compete in their first Birkie event? 
Depending on the distance, I would say get in some longer rides and find as many hills to ride as you can! The Birkie Trail has a lot of hills (some pretty big ones) and it can be a bit daunting if you are not used to descending and climbing these types of hills in the snow. Also, knowing how to adapt in different conditions (i.e. soft snow vs hard packed, adjusting tire pressure etc.) is helpful.

This year you are planning to attend Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival, what are your hopes for this event? 
As with every event, I hope to finish safely and enjoy the race. Of course, I do have a finish time that I’m aiming for, but since it will be my first Fat Tire event, having fun and being safe are my two priorities.

Do you have any suggestions for those looking to ride an event over 20 miles? What has helped you out in the past? 

Definitely just get out and ride. If the distance is much longer than you typically ride then I would plan some weekly long rides and gradually increase the distance over the course of several weeks. When I signed up for the Chequamegon 40 last year, I looked at the calendar and planned a long ride every Saturday for several weeks. I tried to stick to the course during those rides and let myself have fun during the week riding single track or gravel rides with my husband. Also, having someone to ride with helps immensely – it can make the ride go much faster and it’s always safer.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? 
I was terrified! Scott put me on a bike with clipless pedals and off we went. I can’t remember the terrain/route we did but the hills were really tough. I was out of shape and Scott didn’t really have a gauge for my strength and ability. Poor guy – he took a lot of whining and a few times there were tears. I really had to keep at it.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I just kept reminding myself how cool it was to be on a mountain bike. I never imagined I’d be riding this way. I had no idea all this fun was going on up here in northern Wisconsin.

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? 
Yep always clipless. I never really had the option of anything else. Like all things – practice, practice, practice. Also, they can be adjusted if they are too tight. I can’t imagine riding on flat pedals now. Plan on tipping over at least once :)

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome? 
Ohhh yes – I have two that specifically stand out. The first was when I was new to mountain biking. Scott and I were riding an ATV/double track trail in Copper Harbor, MI. He rode ahead at one point and I was not familiar with the trail. We were coming down a hill and quickly came upon a rock bed. I panicked and did exactly what not to do - hit the brakes. I crashed so hard that both of my brake levers were bent. Luckily I was not badly hurt (just a huge hematoma on my thigh with some other bruises). I think this set-in some constant anxiety when riding unfamiliar terrain with my husband. It took me a couple of years to overcome it simply by becoming more skilled. The second crash happened last fall, 6 days prior to the Chequamegon 40. I was feeling pretty fatigued that day so I probably should not have been on my bike. Anyway, I went out to do a short practice run of a section that had a steep rocky descent. I was on a gravel/double track road that connects to the part of the course where I was headed. I started to go down a hill and made a poorly timed decision to turn on my rear shock. It requires me to reach down below my seat post and the next thing I knew I was crashing down the hill. I sustained a slight concussion and injured my shoulder pretty badly. No race for me. I was devastated. Also, I couldn’t bike for two weeks (doctor’s orders). I thought that since I didn’t crash doing anything “technical” (it seemed like sort of a freak thing) that I would have no problem getting back to it. Ugh, I was wrong. My first ride back, I rode my fat bike to keep the jarring at a minimum (concussion) and just wanted more stability. It was tough. I had anxiety just going down a modest hill. So I just did some basic gravel riding for a while. Then the snow came and I started winter biking. Fat biking all winter has helped immensely.

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 think one of the first things was simply how I positioned myself on my bike when riding single-track. I had a tendency to “sit” on my bike and once I figured out how to stand and hover over my seat, I noticed how much easier it was to absorb the bumps etc. Also, fear was an issue. I was always looking for excuses to ride anything other than single-track which drove Scott nuts (lol). I had to get over the mental aspect of it.

Originally, I started out by riding (single-track) with Scott who is extremely fast and skilled so I was mortified all the time. Finally, I just forced myself to ride on my own and go at my own pace - which has helped me so much. So perhaps riding with someone who has similar abilities and/or going at your own pace might be helpful.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding? 
Absolutely – I still consider myself pretty “green” when it comes to single-track. Big rocks or rock beds are very intimidating. Also going into banked turns can be tricky for me when leaning to the right. Steep downhills that have turns or some other change in course can be challenging for me especially if I have not been on that particular trail before. Lastly, super steep climbs are tough from a balance standpoint. The notorious “Fire Tower” climb on the Chequamegon 40 course has something like five passes and the first is so steep that it is difficult to stay on the bike. I flipped over backwards the first time I attempted it!

What inspired you to start fat biking? Many people have misconceptions that the bikes are heavy and hard to pedal. What can you share about your experience? 
Scott got me into it (big surprise, right?). When I started dating him in 2012, he already had a Salsa Mukluk. I moved to the Seeley area (Hayward, WI) in the fall of that same year. Learning to ski was naturally the thing to do in Birkie country so I was preoccupied with that. Fat biking was relatively new to the area, but I saw how much fun Scott was having so I expressed interest in it. The next year we were married in October 2013. We bought two Salsa Beargrease fat bikes as “wedding gifts”. They have a carbon frame so they are nice and light. It was a little challenging at first when riding in soft fresh snow, but you eventually learn how to handle the bike. When the snow is cold and packed it is a blast – very fast. We do have studs in our tires to prevent crashing on ice. Scott went down pretty hard once when we went out on a fire lane (forest road) ride. There was a sheet of ice hidden under a dusting of snow and down he went. He immediately bought and installed the studs. They are amazing! Also we put carbon rims on so I think they are about as a light as our mountain bikes. I absolutely LOVE this bike – it was a total game changer with respect to winter. We groom the single-track trails up here and at times the conditions are like riding on dirt. And of course there’s the Fat Bike Birkie – super fun! The sport has really caught on. It seems like everyone is getting a fat bike around here!

Your husband is a rider as well! What is the best part about being able to ride bikes with your husband? 
We have a blast! We’re both total goof balls and this is often manifested on our bikes. I’m not able to ride with him all the time as he is much faster and way more skilled, but over the years it has gotten much easier. Because we both love to bike so much, it’s nice to be able to spend that time together. I’ve learned so much from him and continue to learn. Furthermore, we love to travel and try to incorporate biking into every trip.

Do you have any suggestions for couples who are looking to mountain bike together? Especially if one is introducing the other to the sport? 

Oh my, where do I start?? It took a long time for me to enjoy riding with Scott because I was not as fit, lacked skills and always afraid of where he would take me. When I was new to the area, friends of his would tell me “you be careful out there with him – he’s nuts!” I thought it was funny at first but I had to learn to set boundaries…He was really ambitious to ride with me…and because of my first crash that I described above I didn’t trust him with my safety for a long time. We actually fought a lot at first (I expressed my fear as anger and frustration) but we both hung in there and was so worth it. So I would say be very, very patient with one another. You need to be able to communicate – how the bike feels, if something mechanically does not seem right, if you are having trouble with a skill or if you are fatigued etc…

What do you love about riding? 

I love the excitement, variety of terrain options, speed and the ability to see more of the outdoors. It feels like freedom. With running, I could only go so far for so long. Biking allows for so much more.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them? 
I currently have a LeMond road bike that we are in the process of selling. Because of the dangers of road biking and distracted drivers we no longer do much road biking. My Fat Bike is a Salsa Beargrease, and my mountain bike is the Trek Lush. Also we just purchased “gravel” bikes – the Salsa Cutthroat. Scott chose the bikes so it is difficult for me to articulate why but he has a lot of connections in the industry due to his career and knows a ton about what is out in the market. I’d say the common denominator in these bikes is a carbon frame which makes for a lighter bike. They are all great bikes!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking? 
I hate to say this but I really don’t know – at least in terms of gender. There seems to be a solid number of women who bike where I live so I hadn’t thought about this. Personally, I had never considered mountain biking prior to dating my husband. This is because I didn’t live near any trails or know anyone who rode until I moved here. So lack of access and awareness were my reasons. It is possible that the sport is more marketed to men but they seem to be the majority at this time. When I peek at race results, there is clearly a lopsided number of men vs women doing these events so it’s something to consider.

What do you feel could happen industry-wise and/or locally to encourage more women to be involved? 
I would say more women’s clinics that are well-marketed. We finally have a women’s clinic coming in the Hayward area this fall that is being run by CAMBA.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride? 
Comradery and friendship. It’s much more fun to ride with friends than riding alone (and safer too!).

Tell us a random fact about yourself! 
Hmm… we have two border collies that we adore. A two-year old brown and white male named “Bodo” and a seven-year old tri-color female named “Molly”. We consider them our “children” so they are totally spoiled!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lessons in Mountain Biking- Crashing Happens

It’s funny when you feel like you’re almost on top of your personal world, and suddenly you have a reality check via a tiny spindling of a tree. The left side of your handlebar clips it, and you’re flying in the air faster than you can think. I felt like a crash test dummy in a vehicle, when the airbags deploy and their heads are getting what looks like would be agonizing whiplash.

My shoulder and arm hit the ground in a somewhat awkward angle, to which I felt acute discomfort and the worry of a break or dislocation grew. I laid on the ground for a few moments, more or less to build up courage to test my mobility. I groaned, sat up, and moved my arm and shoulder. All seemed well, but I knew the next few days would be frustrating.

I’m not unfamiliar with discomfort in my right arm. In fact, I have chronic issues with it- after spending around $500 dollars at the dr. for x-rays, a cortisone shot, and a suggested dose for Aleve- I was told that I was just not built “ideally” and I should probably see a PT and figure out different ways to do work. My shoulder was constructed with a shorter outward bone and more sloped than not, which meant that I had less space for my rotator muscle(s) to travel, so when they (or whichever one is most problematic) got inflamed it would lose mobility quickly. My takeaway was less space to travel meant more likelihood of inflammation.

I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt with the “diagnosis”…really, I felt frustrated. It had been tough the last few months to deal with the on/off frustrations of a chronic discomfort. I had been hoping for something a bit more than simply learning that it’s something I need to manage for the rest of my life. Here's to an on-going attitude adjustment.

So imagine how happy I had been on my ride, because it was the first time all day that the muscles in my shoulder felt relaxed. All day I was having stiffness/tightness issues and it felt like nothing was touching it- then I get out on my bike and find myself feeling nimble and free. I had to talk myself into going for a ride, because I wasn’t sure if it would agitate or help- and I was pleased to found that it most definitely helped!

Until I smacked into a tree.

I got up and assessed the damages. My bike was okay besides the handlebars and seat post askew. This is why I would always recommend carrying a multi-tool. You never know when you’ll need it, and there was no way I could’ve successfully ridden the bike down Fred’s had I not been able to realign the bars. (Granted, it still wasn’t perfect, but it made getting home by bike doable.)

I was feeling humbled.

I feel that my season has started off with some really great positives. Time Trials, a fun feature in an Iowa paper that not only highlighted Decorah- but spoke of my wanting to make mountain biking seem more possible to women, trade shows, a women’s mountain bike weekend, and a hopeful application sent in for an advocate program. I feel like there are some really fantastic opportunities lining up this season and I was feeling true excitement.

Temporarily, my self-worth plummeted.

I’m entering my third dry season of riding, which one would seemingly think I’m an “expert” and I very much shy away from that title. By no means am I proficient at every handling skill- not one bit. I’m still fumbling over getting my front end up over logs. If you asked me to manual, I probably would fall over or just not succeed. Really. There is a LOT for me to learn yet.

However, in my mind I think on a subconscious level, I’ve gotten to where I feel pretty good with our trails and my riding skills, so I’m not focusing so much on fine-tuning vs. seeing how fast I can ride with my skill set. Let’s be real- there will come a point where even you, as a new rider, will want to go “fast” on something safe, familiar, and relatively easy. You won’t be able to help yourself. You’ll do it and you’ll probably like it and find that it’s fun. You might not ride that way on a regular, but every once in awhile you’ll push yourself to try going “just a little faster.”

For me it started with doing that a bit last season, and now this season I’m periodically doing that on other trails besides the easier ones. Couple that with a new bike that handles differently than your trusty Cali and you find yourself learning various lessons in handling. However, I had just proved to myself that I will not only crash with testing the limits of my new bike, but also my tried and true.

I won the Women’s Category at Time Trials...
I have local riders (who are male) and who are super skilled/talented talking about how impressed they are of me or how well I did...
People know that I want to inspire and support more women to mountain bike...

I certainly didn’t feel like I was a great advocate for mountain bike women while I was a heap on the dirt.

Thing is, crashes happen. They will happen when you least expect it and it seems it will happen more as you start going through the middle-stages of your learning. I liken myself to a 5 year old that is trying to test their limits with their parents. All of the “Why” questions cropping up and insisting that they can really touch the thing they aren’t supposed to. I keep reaching out to touch and I am getting my hand smacked- but I keep trying. Because at some point, no one will be looking and I will attain the unthinkable.

Growing pains.

One doesn’t learn or know limits until they push themselves. In the past, I was always afraid to let go and “go a little faster.” Travis would often times encourage me by ending up far ahead of me because in certain areas he’d pick up the speed or not use his brakes. He was flying and I was holding back. Eventually I’d ease up on the brakes a smidgen here and there. Eventually I learned to like it, because I discovered I could fly, too.

This moment….

It’s a drop in the bucket and it certainly doesn’t negate all of what I have learned or accomplished. It doesn’t take away my goals or objectives of getting more women involved with riding off-road. In fact, it makes me want to try even harder than before. 

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, be self-sufficient, and shed a tear or two because you were shaken up. Take a deep breath and remember- crashes happen, and you’ll end up walking away learning something new. Be an advocateYou love this too much to let it go. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Women Involved Series: Susie Murphy

I started riding mountain bikes in the early 1990’s in order to follow my husband who had started to ride with our young daughter in a backpack. I just needed to keep an eye on them, but we discovered a family pass time that took us all on many adventures. Some of our best times were camping at Sea Otter, or going to 24 Hour Races with all of our friends.

My first race was at 1995 at Callaway Vineyards in Temecula. I threw up in the first quarter mile, came in third, and won a Rock Shox hat! I did my last race in 2005 and won the Am Cup Series Super D State Championship for Women over 40 while my daughter won the same title for Women Under 18.

In between, I entered a lot of sports division races in California, Arizona, and Baja California and occasionally brought home some hardware.

I have volunteered in the cycling community for many years and am so happy to have landed my dream job as the Executive Director of the San Diego Mountain Biking Association. Meeting and learning from all the dedicated volunteers has been amazing so far. I learn new things every day about San Diego that I never knew, and I was born here!

My goal for 2016 is to work everyday to create, enhance, and preserve great mountain biking experiences, not only for our members, but all trail users of San Diego County. One of the best parts of this gig is that I can ride trails in San Diego County that I have never ridden before and investigate some places to get some new ones built! I get to ride with friends I have known for years and ride with brand new friends almost every week! What could be better!?

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
It is great exercise that you can do by yourself or with friends. It has a great social aspect and you can do it as you travel! It is the best way to see new places and immediately engage with a new community. I have had spells where I haven’t ridden as much, but I always come back and lately have been motivated with a vengeance! It just makes me feel better; like I have accomplished something!

What has been your favorite competitive biking and what inspired you to participate?

I really liked Super D when it was first developed. I switched over from XC because it was funner and didn’t take half the day! The best part of hanging out at the start with all the gals and getting to know them. A lot of are still friends to this day!

Do you have any suggestions for those on the fence about attending their first event?
I say go for it. Maybe attend a race and volunteer without competing. Get to feel the vibe and meet people. That makes it easier when you know people are so nice and helpful. I just got back from Sea Otter and did the mountain bike fun ride and the clinic with Rebecca Rusch’s Gold Rusch Tour. Amazing women sharing their amazing skills.

Can you take us back to one of your first mountain bike rides? Did you feel nervous?
I started riding seriously when my husband started riding with our daughter on his bike in a backpack. I was just nervous he would get too crazy with her. He used as a training tool. When he rode in races without hauling her around he just flew! I was just trying to keep up with them. She developed a keen sense of how to pick a line on a trail. Brilliant!

Thoughts/suggestions on riding clipless?

I have recently switched to flat pedals with 501 shoes. At first, I hated it as I had ridden and raced clipless pedals for years. Downhill was fine with flats and actually made me feel safer but uphills! Ugh. I felt slow and my feet would fly off the pedals on short and steep climbs. But I am trying to work on my pedaling technique and it is going better now. I still have my clips just in case I need to switch back.

Tell us your thoughts on riding with flats-
A few things that got me to try flats. My husband starting wearing them, and once he latches onto something he wouldn't let it die until I tried it. He says it is safer, better on your knees, and that it forces you to ride your bike with skills instead of just relying on begin stuck to the bike.
I also noticed that a lot of the girls I started to ride with ( a lot from LA) were all using flats. So I figured I would give it a try.
Still not totally convinced but I do like that in technical stuff, I can just put my foot down.
The only time it really bugs me is climbing short steep climbs and my foot sometimes flies off. Not so much anymore.

I did a short XC race in Arizona several weeks ago and I think my clips would have been better considering the course was not technical. Of course, most racer girls are still using clips. I get it. But for anything technical I think flats are better. Going to Sedona this weekend, and FLATs all the time for sure. 
Also, it sure makes it easier to get off your bike and go hike around, or get coffee/beer/food without clicking all over the place.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Luckily, I haven’t had any really terrible accidents. I have seen some though! My worst fall was the night before my 10th High School Reunion. I clipped a pedal on a rock and went flying. I was by myself. Rode home, but had broken a few ribs and was all scraped up. My little short sleeveless dress I bought for the reunion wasn’t looking like such a good idea. But it worked out.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?

Steep descents were (are) scary. Especially loose ones. I’d say breaking techniques and timing are crucial. That are body position. Body position so important in cornering also. I think watching an expert negotiate tricky sections helps or even following them down a line is great! The best tip I ever got was to keep my chin up! Look ahead,

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I still have trouble with uphill tight switchbacks. Ugh! I just do my best, trying to remember all the things I tell other people to do. If I don’t make it, no big deal. Try another day.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love being with my friends and showing people new trails.

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

I have an Ellsworth Absolute Truth. It is sort of black cherry red. I like it a lot. I have ridden Ellsworths since about 2004. Love them!

You are the Executive Director of the San Diego Mountain Biking Association- Tell us about your job and what you do:
I started as the ED of SDMBA in August 2015. Since 1994, SDMBA has been an all volunteer organization. Having a paid staff person means that our organization is ready to take mountain biking and trail advocacy to a new level in San Diego County. We are the third largest (possibly 2nd!) IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) chapter in the country with just over 1000 members. This gives us a huge voice with elected officials, land managers, and the industry. My goals are to focus on development, member experience, and fundraising. We have an amazing Board of Directors and advocacy team who are deeply involved in many current and potential projects across the county for more trials and bike parks. Since I was hired, SDMBA has had more community exposure, more events, and logged more volunteer hours than ever. In 2016, we have already opened 3 new miles of trail at Black Mountain and Del Mar Mesa utilizing over 1800 volunteer hours. This is huge for San Diego as access to open space to build new trails is an ever dwindling resource. I am in this position to help support the work of our volunteers and to improve the experience of mountain bikers and other trail users in San Diego.

What inspired you to become more involved with the cycling industry?

I never thought I would have a job so closely linked to the industry. I have met so many amazing people and have gotten to attend Interbike, the California Trails and Greenways Conference and the IMBA California Summit in Mammoth. It is a perfect blend for me of non-profit work linked to cycling and trail development. I can use some of my past retail and marketing experience but do it for the greater good!

You volunteered many years before landing your job- why do you feel it's important for people to volunteer with their local trail organization?
I started as a member of the Mountain Bike Assistance Unit at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park over 20 years ago. As I worked with the park and its staff and organized our annual mountain bike event, I learned a lot and met a lot of local industry people and those volunteers involved in advocacy with SDMBA and IMBA. I know there a lot of riders who take their trails for granted. SDMBA has over 5300 likes on FB and 1000 paid members. Doesn’t add up, right? Trails just don’t happen. There is literally blood, sweat and lots of tears involved in every trail that is built legally. Every rider and trail user should become a member of their local IMBA chapter to help support the volunteers in their advocacy efforts and trail building projects. All riders should educate themselves about local land and access issues. Complaining when your favorite trail is closed does no good. Come and get a shovel in your hands and learn about trails from the ground up! Attend monthly advocacy meetings, learn the issues, attend a board meeting and get to know the leadership. You can help! Just ask.

What has been the most interesting thing you've learned since coming on as Executive Director of the SDMBA?

I have learned that there are many factions of mountain bikers just as there are many factions of folks that ride on the road. I knew this before but when you start delving into communications and forums the different needs of each group are pronounced. It is impossible to make everyone happy, but this is why we need advocate volunteers for each different group. If you are passionate about something, put in the time to make it better. Cyclists can not be lumped together into one big pile, but we all should be involved in making cycling better for all. If you are a mountain biker you should be concerned about bike lanes on the road because you may use them to get to a trailhead.

With being involved with the mountain biking segment- do you have any words of wisdom or knowledge you would like to pass on, especially for those who are not involved with off-road riding?
I would like all mountain bikers to be ambassadors for the sport wherever they are. On the trail, be nice, say hi. Follow the rules of the trail. Yield to horses and hikers. Each positive encounter with other trail users goes a long way in legitimizing the sport. The tide is shifting. Mountain bikers are gaining a lot more respect in negotiations with decision makers. You can improve trail relations each time you go out on a ride.

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

It is intimidating because women get too much advice from guys...their own guys and guys in bike shops, wherever. It is overwhelming. Look for a shop with female employees and shop there. They can connect you with the community.

What do you feel could happen locally and/or in the industry to encourage more women to become involved?
Local grassroots women’s riding groups are the key such as what Wendy Engelberg have done with Girlz Gone Riding in SoCal. With LA, SD, Inland Empire and now, Big Bear Chapters and over 1600 women riding mountain bikes, GGR is doing it right. Great corporate sponsor support and great events and lots of women to volunteer and teach skills to others. Programs with corporate support like LIV/Giant and SRAM/Gold Rusch tour are making a big difference also.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Every time I get beginner gals out on the trail away from their significant others where they can relax and learn, I am inspired. They push themselves and have a great time. They realize that they can do this if they work steadily upon their skills. It is just FUN!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

I was California State Super D Champion in 2005 for women over 40 and my daughter had the same title for women under 18+. Then we retired! Ha, ha!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Holly Windschitl

I am a registered nurse living in Minneapolis. I've been biking for about 3 years. My main disciplines are gravel endurance (100 miles) and mountain biking.

I started mountain biking in July of 2014 and started racing mtbs this year. I'm starting to race cyclocross this fall too which is a whole new challenge and have my first official race on Saturday. I practice yoga as cross training for biking. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I have my older brother, Justin, to thank for teaching me to ride a bike when I was about 4 years old. I rode a small amount as a kid, but often didn't like to due to not having a properly working bike or a saddle to fit my butt or friends who liked to ride. Justin managed to convince me to give biking another try about 5 years ago and said it wasn't as terrible as it was when we were kids and so I purchased my first 'nice' bike, a Marin Muirwoods 29'er in 2011.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?

It took me a year and a half before I actually got around to riding my Marin, but I soon realized how enjoyable it was. I initially used biking as part of a workout plan and I was so proud of myself when I would do a 15-20 mile ride. In winter of 2013 I decided I was going to give Almanzo 100 a try for the first time so used that as motivation to increase my mileage. Having such a huge network of trail systems so close to my house has made it very easy to get out and explore by bike. And by biking around Minneapolis I have learned more about the city than I ever would if traveling by car.

What would be your favorite competition and why do you enjoy competing?
Being so new to cycling and racing I have yet to pick a favorite, but I am definitely looking forward to the Dakota 5-0 in 2016. I had two flats during the 2015 race which was extremely frustrating and greatly impacted my finish time. I enjoy competing because it gives me a goal to work towards and a way to push myself. Without races to train for I would be a pretty lazy biker.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
My first mountain bike ride was in the fall of 2013 along the River Bottoms trails so it was nothing too technical or challenging, but I enjoyed it and wanted to do more of it. My next attempt was the following February on a winter getaway to Tucson, AZ. That experience was much different from the River Bottoms as it was actual mountain biking! I remember feeling scared and nervous, but I also had a lot of fun. In early summer I borrowed a friend's mountain bikes for a few rides before deciding to take the plunge and buy my current mountain bike. The rest they say is history!

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I still have nervousness when riding a new trail. It is the fear of the unknown that gets me every time. When riding a new trail I tend to take the first lap pretty slow to make sure there isn't anything I could launch myself off of or over and get hurt. I have learned the hard way when approaching obstacles/technical features that if I have even the slightest hesitation towards it that I am not allowed to try it. It has been those half-ass, no confidence attempts in the past that have led to some of my crashes. And sometimes the best way to overcome my nervousness is to watch a fellow rider do it first to see which line they pick and to see that it actually can be done.

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 ride clipless, which I have always thought sounds backwards. I would suggest to loosen the tension on your pedals as much as possible so it is easier to get your foot out. This was especially helpful when I was new and super nervous about clipping in. I still unclip my foot if I am coming into a situation that makes me uncomfortable or I want to be able to put a foot down quickly. Even though I have been riding clipless for a couple years I still occasionally have a tipover. The good thing about a tipover is it generally happens at a very low speed and usually only bruises your ego more than anything.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Absolutely!!! I have had so many crashes and each of them have helped me learn an important lesson. In fall of 2014 I had two really big crashes at Lebanon Hills on features I had rode all summer long. As to why they finally got me towards the end, and not the beginning, I have no idea. I also was giving cyclocross a tiny attempt, but on the wrong kind of bike, which led to some crashes as well. After the second big crash at Leb I was talking to a good friend about how stressed out I was about mountain biking and cyclocross and how I didn't want to do it anymore. He looked at me and said "so don't do it then". That small comment was all it took for me to take a step back and allow myself to not do everything when it comes to biking. I had lost that fun feeling I get from riding and was a constant ball of stress and nerves. So I stopped my attempts at cyclocross and I took a break from Lebanon. This year I have worked harder on my overall bike handling skills and time on the trail. It has also been really helpful to talk with other women about mountain biking as a lot of us have had similar experiences or have similar fears. At this moment in biking I don't worry about crashing, but I do know that from time-to-time it will happen, and I am sure I can tell you why I think it happened. I like to remind non-bikers that they didn't learn to walk in one day, and that they probably had falls as they learned. Mountain biking is just a different way to 'walk'.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?

Being so new to mountain biking I feel I have so much to learn. It is amazing to see the improvements I made last summer and I can't wait to see how I improve this summer as well. It was really helpful to attend the Ladies AllRide Grit clinic with Lindsey Voreis. We worked in small groups on very basic mountain bike skills and body positioning. As much as I would like to say I didn't need that kind of instruction I truly did and still do. I didn't realize how many basic skills I lack and it was really cool to work on them with a bunch of rad women. It was after this clinic that I learned how to pump through rollers and really use my body weight to my advantage when I'm out on the trail. One of the simplest things I took away from the clinic was being in the 'ready' position: standing while downhilling, even weight on pedals, one finger on each brake, arms slightly bent with elbows slightly out and legs slightly lose so you're ready to react.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I struggle with short, steep descents and I have yet to figure out the best way to get down them. Giant rocks can always throw me for a loop. A mentor gave me some good advice though; he said just think of it as a giant pile of dirt, which doesn't seem nearly as scary. It helps sometimes, but not always. I don't let myself get dragged down by not doing a certain obstacle because each day out riding is different. Things you accomplished yesterday may not happen today and the obstacles you accomplished today might not happen tomorrow. You never know how your ride will unfold until you are out there doing it. I don't ever feel obligated to try an obstacle just because someone else thinks I should. My ride is not their ride and vice versa. I never look down on a rider for not trying something I tried.

Tell us about why you enjoy gravel riding-
Because it's gravel!!!!! It is so beautiful and challenging in so many ways. It allows me to see rural parts of MN that I wouldn't see by car. I love the supportive atmosphere, whether you finish Almanzo in 5 hours or 12 hours everyone will be so stoked that you finished. It doesn't have the stuck up mentality that I have encountered in some other cycling disciplines.

Cyclocross- What prompted you to give it a go and what have you learned so far?

After feeling like I gave up on cyclocross (cx) in 2014 I decided I wanted to give it a better try this year. I purchased a new bike for gravel races and it just happened to be a cyclocross bike so I felt like I had no excuses left to not do it. I have learned a lot this year with cyclocross and have had a fair amount of success racing as a category 4 (beginner). I feel my mountain bike race experience and my endurance training earlier this year helped get me through my cx races. And although I had successes I find it very comical to look back on each of my races and realize how much I have to learn when it comes to cx. I have yet to figure out how to ride through sand and mud and my dismounts/remounts need a fair amount of work too. I am learning to push through the pain and know that the race is only temporary and I am strong enough to get through it. I have realized that callups (start position) at the race are important otherwise you have a lot of work to do to get past riders in the beginning of the race. Overall I need to become more aggressive with cx racing, and work on my passing game, as I often found myself feeling stuck behind other racers that I needed to get around. When you only have 30 minutes to race each minute and every second becomes extra important. And while I am sitting behind other riders the leaders are only getting farther ahead of me.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything! It can be done for leisure or for a challenge. And you never know how your ride is going to go until you get out and do it. I have felt miserable and dreaded doing a certain ride and then gone out and crushed my hill workout. I've also had the opposite and felt amazing before my ride and then everything was so hard to do on the bike. I love being able to leave my house without a set destination in mind. Biking allows me to clear my mind as I think about all sorts of random things as I push the pedals.

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

I have 6 bikes right now. I ride a Specialized Ruby for the road, Niner Air9 for mountain, Marin Cortina T3 CX for cyclocross, a singlespeed Surly Pugsley for my fat bike, Salsa Vaya for around town and a Marin Muirwoods 29er for my winter bike. I hate to say it but I generally pick my bikes based on their looks. 4 of my 6 bikes are mostly black, which allows me to add colored bar tape or water bottle cages or pedals. I am generally not a fan of super bright bikes or all the girly colors they put on women's specific bikes. My first bike was the Marin Muirwoods which I rode for a little over a year. After realizing I could go faster, but not on that bike I purchased my Specialized Ruby. The next bike was my Salsa Vaya after getting curious about gravel racing and not having a bike to ride for it. Then came my mountain bike in the summer of 2014. My Pugsley came in the fall of 2014 as I was thinking about riding in the winter for the first time. Late summer of 2015 is when my Marin Cortina entered my life as my new gravel racing machine and also for cyclocross. This year I am looking to get a different mountain bike because my current one is not the right size for me.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love jerseys by Twin Six because they are long enough for my torso. I would purchase almost anything by Giro as it is super comfy and they offer neutral colors that work on and off the bike. I often feel with clothing and accessories it just comes down to personal choice and preference. What works for me may not work for someone else. And it takes trial and error to figure it all out. A chamois and chamois cream is a must for anything more than 20 miles for me.

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

I think with anything new it is the intimidation factor right from the start. I have often been worried about slowing other riders down when I've been new to something and that is a hard habit to break. I think the fact that it is a male dominated sport is the largest barrier. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by supportive males when it comes to cycling, but I know that is not always the case. All it takes is one bad experience with some bro to discourage you from trying something new. I think with mountain biking there is always the fear of falling and getting hurt. I've had some pretty rough crashes on the mountain bike trail, but thankfully it has only been scrapes, bumps and bruises at this point. At times though it has been hard to get back on the bike and pedal away because it does shake you up quite a bit. Most of the time I hear women say 'Oh I can't do that', which is so not true!!! You absolutely can be out on the trails and riding, but it is going to be slow and it's going to take time to learn those new skills you need.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride? What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I'm absolutely loving all of the women's specific clinics and rides that are popping up. I will be leading the Women's/Trans/Femme (WTF) ride for The Hub Bike Co-op this summer and one of my favorite things is to talk about cycling with those riders that are on the fence. I think being clear with what they can expect on a ride is super important (pace, mileage, terrain). I love to remind new riders that I was once, and still am, new to cycling. So although they can't imagine doing a 100 mile ride/race that isn't the place we all start from. Lately my Facebook memories from 3-4 years ago are when I first started riding and it is fun to see my first rides of the season were 12 miles and remembering how big of an accomplishment that was for me. We all start somewhere and sometimes we all just need a little more encouragement and support to push ourselves to find our limits.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have delivered a couple of babies and attended hundreds of births.

Most recently I was also featured in the Star Tribune.

I can be found on Facebook or Instagram as lostinmpls. I also have a blog but it has not been updated for a long time Beast-Biker-Beauty.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Tara Reddinger-Adams

You can tell you're ready for spring when you start dreaming of tacky dirt, perfect tabletops and blue skies.

Some people say I am obsessive about riding, I politely disagree. Sure, I spend my free time reading about components, gear, trails, racing and planning the "epic" trip, but in my defense I am only this way when it comes to mountain biking.

I accept road riding as a necessary evil and fat biking as a way to get outside in the winter, but my heart is in the dirt. 

So, as the temps rise and the snow gives way to brown grass, my spirits lift, spring is on it's way and soon it will be time to ride.

Aside from my passion for mountain biking, I am committed to providing opportunities to young people. As a kid, my family (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, great grandparents) expected me to go to college, it was never an if, but a matter of which. My grandparents took me on vacation and the outdoors were my playground. Now, I am fortunate to help a younger generation have some of those opportunities. I am the District Director for AVID, a college readiness system, for the Saint Paul Public Schools. Part of my work involves collaborating with a host of colleges, non-profits, and businesses to provide students with opportunities to learn about and explore potential career paths, colleges, and even go camping in a tent. It is demanding work, but when a student talks about seeing the constellations for the first time, or beams with excitement when they are accepted to college, it makes it all worth it.

When did you first start riding a bike?

I don’t really know how old I was, I grew up riding bikes and really never stopped.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I love the challenge the trail provides. With mountain biking there is always something new to learn, whether it be cleaning a feature you have never cleaned, pinning a new trail, or exploring someplace new by bike, it never gets old. I also love being outside and find it to be very peaceful, restorative and a great way to relieve stress. Another big aspect has been my husband, Byron, who also rides. I do most of my riding with him, it’s great to have a partner you can do things with and who motivates and supports you.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
The Monarch Crest Enduro has been my favorite event to date, it was on some of the best trails I have ever ridden and both physically and mentally challenging. I enjoy how demanding racing enduro is and the mental fortitude it requires. I also really enjoy that it combines technical descending with climbing, I’m not the fastest climber, but I can get it done and I love descending.

You recently obtained your IMBA Level 1 certification. What inspired you to take this step and what are your plans?
Last summer my coach, Jon Casson, suggested I get my IMBA ICP Level 1 certification. I had thought about it some over the past few years, but Jon was the one who pushed me to pursue it. I have wanted to be able to teach others how to ride and encourage more women to get out and learn how to ride and hopefully find it to be an empowering activity and something that also becomes a lifelong activity.

This year I became an Ambassador for Vida Mtb Series, Petal Power and Pearl Izumi. My husband and I went through the IMBA ICP Level I class together and are beginning to create a plan to start guiding and providing beginner level instruction. I am planning on obtaining my Level II certification as soon as possible. 

My immediate plans are to lead beginner level clinics for Penn Cycle’s Ride Like a Girl Cycling and I am also a coach for VIDA Mtb Series and will be coaching at their Flagship Clinics in Keystone, CO in June and at Lebanon Hills in Eagan, MN in August.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
What I do remember is a sense of “I’m out alone in the woods, what if…”, being replaced by “this is awesome, look at that bird, that plant, where does this trail go, etc.” I love being outside, watching the seasons change, the wildlife, and exploring new and old trails alike.
If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
Oh, hell yes. Last year I was racing the SuperD at the Colorado Freeride Fest at Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park, CO. SuperD is like downhill on steroids, with super long, technical descending. I remember pre-riding the tracks and thinking “how the hell am I going to get through this with speed and not F up?”

I walk the trail, I think about the line I will take, I think about the technique I will use, I also vision myself riding it clean, and lastly tell myself, “you got the skills and technique, now go do it.”

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 ride clipless. When I first began, I rode flats. I think there are many benefits to learning on flats. Foremost, they allow you to more easily bail in case you are going down. They also help you to become more aware of foot position and how foot position effects power into the crank. I will still occasionally ride flats when I am learning something new. I will admit though, I hate riding flats for downhill.

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 have had a few over the years, my worst was last year during stage 3 of the Monarch Crest Enduro. I was eight miles into an 11-mile descent on Canyon Creek trail. My run has been going extremely well, I was carrying good speed, clearing obstacles easily and had passed two of the guys who went off in front of me. I came out of the woods and into a left hand turn, I looked at the course marshall and went flying over the bars. My helmet’s chinbar hit first and I rolled. I tried to bounce back up, but it hurt and the marshall made me lay back down to check me over. I remember thinking “I need to finish this stage” and also thinking “be smart, that was a bad crash.” It probably took me five minutes to get back up and going, maybe more. I remember the marshall saying “you’re tough” as I put my helmet back on and stood up. I rode the last three miles out very cautiously (and poorly) and finished the stage. I had an hour plus shuttle back to town and ended up deciding to go to the ER to get checked over. I ended up pulling out of the race, I was sore and was not mentally prepared to race the last two stages. After getting back to MN, I found myself riding a bit more cautiously for a few days, over the course of a few rides I became more comfortable and regained my confidence.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
A lot of things have been challenges over time. When I was first starting out it was logs and rocks, mainly getting up and over them without falling. I did not know proper technique. In 2010, I convinced a friend to fly out to northern CA for a Dirt Series camp, I had been racing cross country and knew it was time to further develop my skills. That was a huge learning experience for me. I was taught proper technique and it really energized my riding. Since then, I have made a point to take at least one clinic each summer so that I can continue to improve my technique, grow and challenge myself as a rider. I would recommend to anyone who rides to take a clinic. You really can’t tell what you are doing unless you have someone watch you or if you video yourself (which I also recommend doing). Having someone evaluate your riding and teach you the proper technique is incredibly valuable, and is something you can apply on every ride.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? What are your methods for dealing?
My focus for this year is drops and jumps, it is something I started working on last year and want to continue working on. I tend to overthink drops over 36”, I know I need to spend more time on them until they become second nature. I have the technique and form, it is just a matter of repetition. I wish there was someplace close to home that had drops of varying heights where I could practice. For jumps, my focus is on getting more pop and air off the lip. These are both areas where I will seek out coaching advice to help me dial in my form more.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that no two rides are ever the same and that there is always something more to challenge yourself with. I also love getting out and immersing myself in nature, listening to flowing water and rustling leaves, seeing birds, foxes and other animals, I find it very therapeutic. I also just love the challenge, I need that type of mental and physical stimulation in my life.

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

I love talking about my bikes and their builds, so if you’re not into components you might want to skip reading this section. I work part-time for Penn Cycle and ride mostly Trek bikes. Right now I have four rides, they are:

2015 Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5 - My Remedy is my do-it-all and enduro race bike. I built up my Remedy to be light, I am running a SRAM X1 11-speed drivetrain, Fox 36 Talas 130-160mm fork up front. The Talas allows me to drop the travel down to 130mm for riding locally and open it up for long descents out west. I have two wheelsets for the Remedy, a set of Industry Nine Torch Trail 32h and a set of DT Swiss XR 1501 Spline, the I9’s are beefier and are what I ride out west. This bike took everything I could throw at it last year and has been a great bike.

2016 Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon CC - I picked up the frame in December and have slowly been buying the parts, hopefully I will have it done by May. I am building it with a 11-speed SRAM XX1 drivetrain and a Rock Shox Lyrix 160-180mm fork up front. I will most likely run I9 Torch Enduro wheels on the Nomad, as the I9 Torch Trails have been great on my Remedy. I chose to buy a Nomad because my Remedy is a little short travel for the bike park and I wanted something with 180mm travel up front. The Nomad also gets great reviews and has better climbing geometry than some other bikes in it’s class.

2015 Trek Farley 9.6 - After years of saying I was not going to get a fatty, Byron and I both got fatties last fall to give us an option for something to do in the winter. My fat bike is mostly stock, I’ve converted the Jackalope wheels to tubeless and have switched out the stem for a 60mm and have carbon bars on it. I will most likely add a dropper come fall.

2015 Trek Emonda SL6 WSD - Mountain bike racers need to ride road for training, so I picked up a new road bike last year. The Emonda fits me really well, is light and fast, all things that are a necessary to me in a road bike.

Fatbikes! Many people have misconceptions that they are big, lumbering, slow tank of a bike. What have you learned from owning a fatbike that others may find useful?
Fatbikes are no longer slow and lumbering. The industry has done a tremendous job in the past few years with getting the geometry dialed in. My Farley weighs in at 26 lbs which is the same as my Remedy, and is no means slow or lumbering. Some tips I have for fatties are:

1) Go tubeless and learn how tire pressure affects your ride. Snow conditions change almost every ride and having the proper tire pressure can really make the ride much more enjoyable.

2) Clean your bike after every ride. Winter conditions can play havoc on your bike, clean and dry it off and lube up the chain after each ride to prevent rust.

3) Wait until the trails are groomed after a 6”+ snowfall to ride. Grooming makes things a bit more enjoyable.

Many people seem shocked that riding in the winter, on snow covered trails is possible. What inspired you to get out during the cold weather months? What would you like people to know about fatbiking in the snow?

Alfred Wainwright said “There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” which is so true, especially when it comes to fatbiking. With proper layering and warm boots, riding in zero degree temps can actually be enjoyable. Winters can be dark and dreary here in Minnesota, so getting out to ride on a sunny winter day is very enjoyable and really helps boost your mood. One of my favorite memories fatbiking this year was riding just before sunset and seeing the golden shadows the trees were casting across the snow in the woods. It was very cool and something you would not even know about if you were sitting at home on your couch.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think there are a variety of factors which deter women from getting involved in mountain biking. Not knowing any women who mountain bike and not knowing how or where to start riding can be a factor. Balancing work, home, family, dog, etc. can also create a time barrier, mountain biking typically takes longer than going for a run from home. I also think money is a real issue for some people, buying a bike and the basics (helmet, pump, gloves and shorts) can be out of reach financially for some.

What do you feel could happen locally or industry-wise to encourage more women to get involved with cycling (and/or the industry)?
I think within the Twin Cities we have a lot of positive things going on to promote women’s riding, however there is quite a bit of duplication of groups, etc. and one of my goals as a Vida Ambassador for this year is to get a better sense of what local women want from the local community so that Vida Mtb Series can better support women locally.

I also think the cycling industry still has a long way to go in terms of making women equal to men. There have been numerous times when I have been in shops and have been talked down to, and treated as if I don’t know anything. That is discouraging. Please ask me questions to learn about me and determine my needs. I also think the industry needs to do a better job at hiring women and positively promoting women in advertising. The industry is very male-dominated and at times sexist, as has been shown in the past year with 661, E3 Harelbeke and Colnago ads. This type of objectification of women is certainly a factor which causes women to feel uncomfortable, feel as if they are taken seriously, and does not create a sense of belonging.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

I want other women to be able to experience the joy, challenge, freedom, relaxation, solitude, strength, accomplishment, perseverance and empowerment that comes from riding. I think each woman gets something different out of riding, and through riding each woman is able to determine what her benefits from riding are.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

I love dogs, I found our dog Oscar as a stray 8 years ago.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Race Day Adventures: Decorah Time Trials 2016

April 30th...the last Saturday of the month which means Decorah Time Trials!

Last year was my first time trial event, which I did surprisingly well at. The weather had cooperated and brought a good number of participants. This year it looked like it would be a "traditional" time trial event: cooler with wet weather. 

I'll admit that during the week I had been going through all of my "phases" of nervousness. By race day I'm mentally closed off until I hit dirt.

I suppose worrying is a trait of mine (yup!) and the fact I'm not highly competitive makes it worse- my desire to do well is high, yet I'm fearful of not skilled enough, but not so scared to avoid trying.

Last year I did surprisingly well, so I had been feeling additional pressure during the week. I had one good fitness loop ride which I was proud of, but I had never been able to legitimately pre-ride the course. The evening Travis and I intended to, the back tire on my Beargrease was having issues holding air. A small hole in the sidewall that the sealant wasn't sealing; a trip to the bike shop remedied the situation and we continued a shorter version of the second half of the course. I feel I'm going into the TT blind.
Travis planned to ride with me again, and we might switch off here and there with leading depending on where we're at on the course. I have the general concerns of how to pace myself, not blow up, etc.

We drove to registration and light rain was coming down. We discussed on how we'd warm up- spin on the trainers upstairs for a bit? Ride around our neighborhood (close to the start)...questions yet to be answered.

Travis was pleasantly surprised on how many people were showing up, he seemed excited. I started going into nervous "shut down" mode. I was excited to see women attending- yeah! Worst part? We registered as soon as we got there, which put Travis at 11th and me at 12th for starting. That was the best move made as we would be getting out  before the all-afternoon rain. Not so good for me who felt that I should be strictly mid-pack and fully aware that I'm in a position which will have passers.

I've ridden in greasy conditions, but I've not raced in them. DTT will be a challenge for me on many levels for sure.
We got dressed, I decided to layer socks to cover the skin exposed from the knicker-length Shebeest tights. For added protection/coverage I wore the Boardrider Capris. Smart move. Upper body I would most definitely be wearing my Race Face Scout Jacket over my jersey and base layer. I would rather be too warm than not warm enough- damp cold is much more cruel to me than dry cold. I picked gloves with some wind-front protection, but not so thick as my Deflect gloves. Five Ten Contact shoes were the choice for footwear. A half Buff under my helmet would be the only coverage other than the hood of the Scout jacket. I decided to not bother with sunglasses (with clear lenses) due to my not wanting to deal with looking thru water. Chancy on my end, but if it was bothersome I'd put them on.

At home is the only time you would see my race number. I had never been at an event with so much moisture. I never thought about my number falling off until we were at the Pre-Race meeting. Chewey had mentioned that riders should memorize their numbers since many were already falling off. Oh no! I haven't memorized numbers since I worked at the Co-Op- would my ability to remember PLUs prevail? Only time would tell. 677 was not an awful sequence to memorize.

Pedaling towards the start. I stood up here and there to get my blood flowing. Early time for us meant we didn't get much opportunity for a pre-ride warm up. I stood in the rain, smiled at a couple people. Watched O'Gara's boy whip Deadpool with a plastic sword. (Haha!) 

Travis was next in line. I followed suit. Under the canopy it was much dryer. Spinner and I chatted a wee bit. I'm not much of a talker pre-race...I internalize my emotions. I focus on keeping myself calm- which the closer I get to the start the more numb I am- I guess it's desensitizing myself to the worry and anxious feelings I experienced up until those final moments. It was go time. I pedaled towards the entrance of the Luge and hoped I wouldn't wipe out on the rocks and root at the start.

My legs felt like led. Each pedal stroke felt rough. Oh crap. This is going to be a rough day. I kept telling myself that the first trail or two of the race were going to be the hardest- because I needed more time to warm up.

I made it out of the Luge and headed to Rocky Road, smiling as the small crew of Death Valley watchers hooted and hollered at me passing. I met up with Travis before the 2nd bridge at Rocky Road and we made our way uphill. We were cautious to take our time and now blow ourselves up at the get go. I hiked my bike up the hill to lower Little Big Horn, knowing I didn't have enough room to make the corner. I took off pretty quick, and kept myself going at a nice clip. Not too fast, but fast enough to truck along. We eventually came to the hill called "Tombstone" and I gave it my best shot. I kept going, my tires dug in, I did my sit/squat, and made my way up that climb as if it wasn't greasy at all. Travis was super impressed and I figured that if there was anything that would make this race complete- it was that. Soon after that I was giving myself a mudslide down the switchbacks to Horsey.

The Time Trial course covered all of the trails in Van Peenen- which was quite enjoyable. I worked on taking in fuel on the go- managing to eat some Clif Bloks while riding one-handed. An impressive feat for someone who isn't keen on moving her hands off the handlebars.

When we hit East Pines I picked up the pace- Travis warned me about using too much energy but I justified the decision by it being the easiest place to pick up spare seconds. Which I felt I needed. Down Gunnar was fast- hitting North 40 felt grueling, but I made the climb a-okay. Up the fire road to West Pines, I picked it up again. Gunnar (the man whom the Gunnar trail is named after) was coming up on us by the time we hit the prairie. I stayed off to the right to let him pass; I felt like riding in prairie grass wasn't so devastating like it was last Saturday. Not sure if the rain had anything to do with it, or I was that jazzed up it didn't matter.

Fred's trail was next. I was nervous and excited- I haven't been on that trail when it's been super wet since the first season I started mountain biking. We had come to the rocky/rooty turns that lead you to a steep downhill hairpin. I had mentioned to Travis during the ride that if my Scout jacket didn't come clean, I wanted to purchase a second one. I said "If I make this corner, I get a new coat." Guess what? I made it.
"I get a new coat!" 
Travis laughed.

The downhill from there past Death Valley was filled with hoots, hollers, and good cheer. I kept going, even tho a beer would've been nice- I had to keep going. Stopping would be the death of me.

The only other thought in my head was "My butt feels SO squishy" (mud.)

The second half of the race featured a good majority of the trails found in Dunnings. As always, there isn't really any good way to get to the top, but the route of Lower Randy's up was welcomed vs. the traditional death march that is Old Randy's.

Heading up Backside was when it became apparent that my energy levels were depleting. I slid out on myself when I was making my way to Cross Country (Upper Randy's). I became a little frustrated because it seemed I couldn't keep myself on the bike. I finally got my "sea legs" back and continued onward. Cross Country can be a challenge both ways, but with greasy conditions it's multiplied. I did well until the last switchback- I chose a poor line and spun out. 

Onward to the turn at the Ice Cave sign. Fatigued, I made a very poor attempt at getting over a log- my tire slipped and I landed square on my butt. Travis worried I might've hurt my tailbone, but thankfully the only thing that hurt was my pride and my ankle (which both feelings went away after getting back on the bike.)

Mother's Day was uneventful, tho I will admit that I was quite reserved going down Middle Mother's Day. There is a section that is fun to blast down, but given the conditions I reigned it in- then you make the climb to Glory Hole up Lower Mother's Day. I poked it- slow and controlled was the only way for me to go. I had a sigh of relief once we hit the top of Boa. YES! Almost DONE!

I booked it.

Then New Backside thwarted me. I took it easy and felt confident that I would successfully get down the trail. Nope. My front tire gave way and I toppled over the side. This is when my top tube got scuffed. I was starting to feel a bit banged up on my legs. We waited for another rider to come down and let him go by- he's a fast fellow and Rattlesnake Cave isn't a ripper trail for me. I made the tough climb but bumbled on the rocks. The downhill from that was done in "Clunker" style and the hairpin into River was jogged. I can say that I did make the hill on River Trail- I questioned if that would be the case, but determination and encouragement kept me pedaling.

I rode River Trail as fast as I could, but it's a lower-lying trail and gets a bit sloppy/greasy. You can't really charge the turns and lean in without sliding so you have to figure out how to go fast successfully. Only one mechanical mishap on my end- a dropped chain, which Travis rapidly put back into place and shooed me off.

The part where I could really turn it on was towards the end on the straightaway. I hammered. Water splashed in my face and it was all I could do to hopefully not get grit in my eyes! I was asked for my number: "677!"

I had my "racer cough" going on. Happy and exhausted, I forgot all about the mud on my gloves and got even more on my face! Travis was continuing on with compliments about how proud and impressed he was of me over what I was able to ride. We met up with the fellow that passed us after New Backside and went to the shop to rinse off our bikes. We had an hour before T-Bock's (beer, food and awards!)...realistically after the fact we had longer than an hour, but we hustled anyway.
The ride home was actually the worst part of the day- headwind and rain splattering me in my face. 
A warm shower was the best thing to ever happen. I did take time to rinse off my clothes in the shower with me- I was a mess! After Travis showered, I took a handful of clothes and threw them in the wash. Time would tell how my jacket would turn out. (Wouldn't you know, it came clean?! So no new jacket for me. Good product right there! Look for a review, soon.)

Beer at T-Bock's was recovery fuel for me. We socialized with Gunnar, his wife, and Mr. Kester for a bit before going upstairs. After we were upstairs I snagged my second beverage and we got our plates of food. Real food tasted amazing

Slowly but surely, more people started showing up- at one point it was hinted that I was first place female. I made myself take it with a grain of salt, because I'm one of those "I'll believe it when I see it" and I felt there was NO way I could've came out on top. Not with how I rode. I mean, I did put forth a good effort, but I still fell a bit and walked some. 

Then...results were posted.
Travis ushered me to go look. I'm shorter and with taller guys around I could sneak my way in.
I saw my name at the top. My eyes got wide, my smile almost fell off my face- WHAT?! ME?!!!
"Travis! Come see!
My finishing time: 1:40:58:65 
I did have to have to alert the fellows to correct my age group category, I might not look over 30, but I sure am. 

Time Trials is the one event where I felt like it would be realistic to have as a "maybe in 5 years I'll be first female" for there are some very talented women who ride the Time Trials- and I certainly didn't put myself in that category. I apparently need to reconsider.

It was said to have been of the wettest, most sloppy Time Trials (so I've heard) so if anyone started later, they experienced some very poor trail conditions. As a friend said "Only the true believers were out there." I went out and did the best I could do which resulted in impressing Travis as well as showing myself that I do have some solid handling skills. (Even if I fall!
Time Trials 2016 is truly an event I will never forget. 
My boundaries were pushed, my determination tested, and my skills were challenged- this is what mountain biking is all about!