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!